BRCS:Chapter six/Armies and warfare » Tactical warfare

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In tumult and uproar, the battle seems chaotic, but there must be no disorder in one's own troops. The battlefield may seem in confusion and chaos, but one's array must be in good order. One who is skilled at making the enemy move does so by creating a situation, according to which the enemy will act. He entices the enemy with something he is certain to want. He keeps the enemy on the move by holding out bait and then attacks him with picked troops.
- The Art of War

Tactical warfare is resolved using a battle area divided into three lines (from the perspective of each player, these lines are the friendly line, neutral ground, and the enemy line) and two reserves (the friendly reserve and the enemy reserve). Each line consists of five areas (spaces where War Cards representing units are laid): right flank, right center, center, left center, and left flank. Thus, the tactical battlefield is divided into 15 areas and two reserves. The friendly and enemy reserves are considered to be adjacent to all areas on the friendly and enemy lines, respectively. Any number of units can be placed in the reserves, but each side may only place one military unit per area. An area can contain at most two units, one from each army; this indicates that the units are engaged in combat.

[top]Battlefield setup

The first step in playing out a tactical battle is to determine the initial battle conditions. The following battlefield factors must be determined before battle can commence: 1) Terrain, 2) Weather, 3) Visibility, 4) Fortifications, and 5) Initial unit placement.

[top]Tactical effects of terrain

One of the most important factors in warfare is the nature of the terrain. A unit of knights is a force to be feared in the open plains, but is relatively weak if engaged in a bog. In general, armies tend to meet on open battlefields. All provinces, no matter how wild, have large open sites that are suitable for war. However, each province also has a major terrain type (plains, mountains, swamp, forest, etc) and optional minor terrain types (determined by the DM) in which either general may attempt to force the battle. Both generals must select a terrain. If both sides agree, then the battle takes place in that terrain. Otherwise, the generals of each army must attempt to manipulate the other into meeting on their terms.

The generals of the opposing armies may make an opposed Warcraft check to determine which general is better able to force the site of the battle. A general fighting in his home realm receives a +4 bonus on this check. A general that is attempting to force the battle to an open terrain receives a +2 bonus to his Warcraft check. A general that is attempting to force the battle into a minor terrain of the province receives a -4 penalty to their Warcraft check. In the case of a tie, the armies meet in the open.

The terrain type of the battlefield affects all units in every area of the field. Units (such as Scouts) that have the special ability to "move freely" are not affected by terrain movement penalties, but are subject to terrain combat penalties. Potential battlefield terrains include:

Open: This terrain represents plains, scrub, or any other terrain in which movement is relatively free and unrestricted. The open terrain is considered the default battlefield and provides no adjustments to tactical combat. Movement: No effect. Combat: No effect.

Forest: This terrain can be used for any area forested enough to interfere with visibility and mobility. Movement: Mounted units have a maximum movement of 1. Combat: No units can make charge attacks. All missile attacks suffer a -4 penalty to their attack rolls.

Jungle: This terrain can be used for any area with dense, constricting undergrowth. Movement: All units have a maximum movement of 1. Combat: No units can charge or make missile attacks.

Swamp: This terrain can be used for any battlefield with exceptionally poor or dangerous footings, such as a bog, tundra, an ice field, or a sandy desert. Movement: All units have a maximum movement of 1. Combat: No units can charge. Mounted units suffer a -2 penalty to their Defense and Melee attacks.

Hills: This terrain can be used to represent any battlefield with areas that provide advantages to the first unit to occupy the area. Movement: No effect. Combat: Units moving into an area occupied by hostile forces cannot charge. The preexisting units are may charge the engaging unit normally. A unit stationed in an area has a +2 to defense and all attack rolls during the first round of the engagement against a unit moving into the area. These bonuses do not apply against Dwarven units.

Mountain/Cliff: This terrain can be used to represent a battlefield with highly defensible passes that are difficult to attack. Movement: Mounted units have a maximum movement of 1. Combat: No units can charge. Missile fire from adjacent areas is impossible. The unit first stationed in an area has a +2 to defense and all attack rolls against a unit that engages them in the area. These bonuses do not apply against Dwarven units.

Deep water: This terrain represents a naval battlefield in which movement is unrestricted. Deep water is considered the default terrain for naval battles and provides no adjustments to tactical combat. Movement: No effect. Combat: No effect.

Shallow water: This terrain represents coastline, rivers, shoals, or any other area that might restrict the movement of large naval units. Movement: No effect. Combat: Units cannot charge. Heavy naval units suffer a -2 penalty to defense and all attack rolls.

[top]Tactical effects of weather

Inclement weather can have a major impact upon an armed conflict. The battlefield is affected by the weather conditions prevailing during the strategic war move.

Normal: This weather condition represents relatively clement conditions. The normal weather is considered the default and provides no adjustments to tactical combat. Movement: No effect. Combat: No effect.

Abnormal weather: This represents conditions that are unusually harsh to the affected armies. Generally, abnormal weather only has an effect on a unit in its homeland during winter (cold) or summer (heat). For example, abnormal weather in Rubik's fall would have little effect on the Rjurik, who are well equipped for their seasons. However, an Anuirean unit might be affected adversely by abnormal weather in the Rjurik fall. Combat: Affected units have a -2 penalty to all attacks.

Inclement weather: This represents conditions of precipitation or wind that hinder movement and reduce visibility. Movement: Movement ratings are reduced by 50% (to a minimum of 1). Combat: All units have a -4 penalty to missile combat ratings. Units affected by abnormal weather in the climate also receive an additional -2 penalty to all attacks.

Storm: This represents conditions of strong wind or precipitation that hinder movement and reduce visibility. Movement: Movement ratings are reduced to one. Combat: Units suffer a -2 penalty to melee attacks and cannot charge or use missile weapons.

Major storm: Combat is impossible.

[top]Tactical effects of visibility

The cover of darkness, fog, or other conditions that affect visibility may turn the outcome of a tactical encounter. Most battles take place in conditions of full visibility. If the players desire different visibility conditions then the players must make an opposed Warcraft check to determine which player best controls the timing of the battle.

Full: This visibility condition represents normal daytime visibility. Full visibility is considered the default and provides no adjustments to tactical combat. Movement: No effect. Combat: No effect.

Limited: This visibility condition represents limited visibility due to darkness, heavy fog, or other impediments to vision. Movement: No effect. Combat: Units may not use missile attacks against units in adjacent areas. Units receive a -1 penalty to all attacks. Units composed of races with special sense may overcome the penalty. For example, dwarves, elves, and goblins, do not suffer visibility penalties at night.

[top]Tactical effects of fortifications

Unlike terrain, weather, and visibility, some features may apply to only a portion of the battlefield. For example, an armed camp, a city wall, or a cliff-top castle may provide significant bonuses to some areas of the tactical map, but do no necessary apply to all areas of the map.

If a province has a fortification, the owner of the fortification may use it during the battle if they are attacked. If they declare the attack, they may not use their fortification. If neither side wishes to attack, both armies remain in the field, but the hostile side cannot advance though the province unless they neutralize the fortification.

If a fortification is in use, then the tactical effects of fortifications apply to the entire friendly line of the army that possess the fortification. The remainder of the battlefield may be subject to other terrain conditions, depending on where the fortification was built. Full fortifications can only be built in open terrain - thus any battle in which a full fortification is used always takes place in open terrain. Limited fortifications can be built in any terrain, but the terrain modifier does not apply in the fortified areas.

Limited fortification: A limited fortification represent a temporary or partial fortification, such as those at an entrenched armed camp or the walls of a village. All armies are assumed to construct reasonably fortified positions at the end of each day's march - such minor fortifications are equivalent on both sides, provide no tactical benefit, and are not considered to be limited fortifications. In order to build a fortification significant enough to qualify for a limited fortification bonus, an army must occupy the province for four war moves. Movement: No effect. Combat: Units cannot charge in fortified areas. All friendly units receive a +1 to all defense ratings (this does not apply vs. artillerists). Friendly units in the fortification receive a +4 bonus to morale saves. This defense bonus does not apply against Artillerists units.

Full fortification: A full fortification represents a permanent structure constructed with the build domain action and maintained through a seasonal maintenance fee. Castles, major walled cities, and fortified holdings provide full fortification benefit. Full fortifications can only be constructed in open terrain and all battlefields that involve full fortifications must use the open terrain modifier.

Movement: Hostile mounted units cannot enter the area. Any attacking foot unit attempting to enter a fortified area (even from another fortified area) is immediately subject to an attack by the fortification defenses; this free attack is a missile attack with a bonus equal to the fortification level. After resolving this attack, the foot unit may attempt to enter the area.

In order to enter the fortified area, the attacking commander must make an opposed Warcraft check against the commander of the defenses. The offense receives a bonus equal to the melee score of the attacking unit. The attacker receives an additional +4 bonus if they have a unit of Artillerists traveling with their army (to supply siege ladders/towers, covered rams, etc). The defense receives a bonus to this check equal to the double the fortification level, plus the melee rating of the defending unit present in the area (if any). If the check fails, the foot unit fails to enter the fortification; they remain in their previous area and their movement ends. Routed units recover immediately if they enter a friendly fortified area.

Combat: No unit can charge in the area. All friendly units add the fortification's rating to their defense (this does not apply vs. artillerists). Friendly units always make morale saves.

Special: A commander defending a fortification receives the fortification level as a bonus to Warcraft checks to determine tactical initiative and initial unit placement.

A hostile unit that is unopposed in a fortified area during the attack phase may "take the fortification" as its attack. That area is no longer considered fortified. The defender is not forced to withdraw from the field of battle (even if they have no units on the field) until all fortified areas have been taken.

[top]Initial unit placement

The order of unit placement is determined by an opposed Warcraft check, with the winner setting up their forces last. Each side places their units in any of the areas in their friendly line or reserve. Thus, at most five units from either side (one per area in their friendly line) are initially on the battlefield. After the initial units of both sides are placed, the battle is ready to commence.

[top]The battle

After the battlefield is setup, the battle begins. Like character combat, tactical combat is cyclical. Each side acts in turn in round. Each tactical round consists of the following phases:

Table 6-6: Sequence of tactical battle
  • Movement phase
    • Tactical initiative is determined
    • First side moves all unengaged units
    • Second side moves all unengaged units
    • Battle magic declared
    • Routed units attempt to recover morale
    • Units attempt to evade or retreat
    • Surrender or withdrawal

  • Attack Phase
    • Resolve stationary missile attacks
    • Resolve charge attacks
    • Resolve melee attacks
    • Resolve moving missile attacks

[top]Movement Phase

Initiative: Unlike character combat, tactical initiative is not guaranteed to be in the same order each round. Every tactical round the generals of each army must make an opposed Warcraft check (Profession (Sailor) at sea). The winner of the check decides which player moves first.

Unit movement: A war card is a counter representing a military unit on the battlefield. A unit can be moved a number of areas equal to its movement in one round. For example, a unit of archers (move 2) could march from the friendly center to the enemy center in one round. All units can move forward, backward, or sideways (but not diagonally) a number of areas equal to its move rating.

A unit may pass through areas that contain unengaged friendly units. If a unit enters an area with a hostile unit, the units become engaged. Engaged units are locked in battle and neither side can move from the area until one side evades, retreats, or is destroyed.

Reserves: Moving from any area in the friendly line into the friendly reserve counts as moving one area and ends the unit's movement for the turn. Likewise, moving from the friendly reserve into any area in the friendly line counts as moving one area and ends the unit's movement for the turn (note, however, that if the unit has a move greater than one, it may still use that movement to charge, withdraw from a slower unit, or any perform any other action which requires unspent movement). Units may never move into the enemy reserve.

Routed units: Unengaged, routed units must attempt to return to its reserve by the shortest path and as quickly as possible. Routed units never attempt to engage an enemy and thus may not enter areas containing an enemy unit.

Battle magic declared: Any units containing a spellcasters capable of battle magic (see Magic on the battlefield, below) declares any special bonuses/penalties for the tactical round.

Recover from rout: All units that are currently routed may attempt to recover their discipline. Routed units can rally with a successful morale save against DC 15. Routed units receive a +2 circumstance bonus to this check in their reserve.

Retreat: Instead of attacking, an engaged unit may attempt to disengage from combat and retreat. A unit that retreats is immediately subject to an attack of opportunity (melee or missile) from the hostile unit. A unit that retreats is not allowed to make any attacks in the attack phase of the war round.

Retreating does not allow a unit to exceed its normal movement for the war turn; thus, units that have already moved their maximum move cannot retreat. Retreating units may only move through empty areas; they cannot pass through areas containing friendly units nor can they engage hostile units. Retreating units may not move towards the enemy's side of the field or from the direction from which the enemy attacked.

Evasive retreat: In the first round of an engagement (before either side has made a melee attack) a eligible units may make an evasive retreat. The hostile unit does not get an attack of opportunity against an evasive retreat. To be eligible for an evasive retreat, a unit must have a higher move rating than its opponent. Evading unit may retreat only one area. Evading units, like all retreating units, are not eligible to make an attack in the attack phase.

Routed units: Routed units must always attempt to retreat unless they have no area in which to make a legal retreat move.

Surrender or withdrawal: Either player may surrender his army (terms are negotiable) or attempt to withdrawal from the field. An army with no units on the battlefield must immediately withdraw. The DM can also call a halt to the battle if there is a clear stalemate (both sides refuse to move, one side is capable of evading the other indefinitely, etc.). See Ending the Battle, below.

[top]Attack Phase

After all units have been moved, each engagement and missile volley is resolved in order. The steps of this phase are resolved in order, so a charging cavalry may rout or destroy an infantry unit before the infantry takes its melee attack, and so on. Attacks within each step are simultaneous, so two units charging each other can kill each other in the same step. Each unit can attack only once during the entire attack phase sequence. See the subsection on Combat basics in the Military units section for description on how to resolve attacks, damage, and determine rout condition. Routed units suffer a -4 penalty to all attack rolls.

Stationary Missile Attack: A unit with missile capability that did not begin the round engaged and did not move during the current round qualifies for stationary missile fire. The unit may use its missile rating to attack any unit(s) in an adjacent (non-diagonal) area. The unit may also use its missile rating to attack a hostile unit during the first round of an engagement (effectively giving the missile unit a 'last missile attack' before they draw their weapons and engage in melee battle). If missile fire is directed against an area in which forces are engaged then two attacks must be resolved; one against each unit (friendly and enemy alike), but at a -2 penalty to each.

Charge Attack: Any unit that begins the round unengaged and ends the round engaged and with at least one area worth of movement left may use its charge/ram bonus to its melee attack. Thus, a unit that moves its full movement rate across the battlefield to engage an opponent cannot also make a charge. It is possible (likely, in fact) that two units of knights (move 2) that begin a battle across the battle board from each other will both move to the center of the board in order to charge each other. Routed units may not charge. Pike units attack damage during this phase for the first round of any engagement only. This attack inflicts double damage against charging units.

Melee Attack: All engaged units can make a melee attack unless they have already acted in this attack phase.

Moving Missile Attack: Units with missile capability that have moved, but that (1) not currently engaged, and (2) have at least one area of movement unused, may make a missile attack against units in adjacent areas. If missile fire is directed against an area in which forces are engaged then both units (friendly and enemy alike) must resolve an attack against the incoming missile fire.

[top]Ending the battle

A battle ends when one army is destroyed, surrenders, or withdraws from the battlefield entirely. Only units in the reserve may withdraw from the battlefield; units on the battlefield must attempt to return to the reserve in order to join the withdrawal. A commander is forced to withdraw if all his units on the battlefield are currently in the reserve; in effect, he's lost the field. Terms of surrender are negotiable; units may be taken prisoner, stripped of weapons and returned to their homelands, traded for captured friendly units or gold, or put to the sword. Arranging for a trade or random of capture units generally requires a Diplomacy domain action.

When an army withdraws, they are allowed to make an immediate move to any adjacent friendly province in which no hostile troops are present. If no such province exists, then the army is forced to surrender. The army must pay the standard cost for this movement, thus, if units in the army have already expended their full movement they may have to make a forced march or be unable to withdrawal. Any units that lack the movement points necessary to leave the province must surrender instead.

[top]Naval battle

Naval tactical battles are conducted with the same general tactical rules as land-based battles. The principle difference is that each naval unit may carry with it a contingent of soldiers. The "bunks" rating of a vessel determines the maximum number of army units that a vessel may transport. These army units can make additional attacks to represent boarding actions.

Once two naval vessels are engaged in the same tactical area, army units on the vessel may attempt to board the enemy vessel. After the first round of engagement, all units aboard both vessels are considered to be engaged with all hostile units. Each attacking unit may choose any enemy unit as its target; if the defending vessel has no military unit then the boarding unit may attack the vessel itself.

Generally, boarding units attack to subdue opposing naval vessels. A staggered warship with an army unit aboard surrenders and is taken prize. With an army unit aboard to keep the sailors prisoners, a captured vessel can be sailed to a friendly port, crewed with friendly forces, and added to the victor's navy. A ship is recrewed by healing the vessel to maximum of damage, using the standard rules for healing unit damage. Alternatively, a warship can be sold for profit on the open market (generally for 30-80% of its muster cost).
See Also: Weapons of the Waves - AD&D II article on Birthright naval warfare from Dragon 232

[top]Characters on the battlefield

[top]Heroes unit

The overall efforts of a group of heroes, monsters, and other powerful individuals on the battlefield can have significant effect on the course of battle. The general of an army, along with his or her companions, retainers, or bodyguards may form a Heroes unit. Likewise, a powerful monster or group of monsters can act as a Heroes unit. The effectiveness of a Heroes unit lies primarily the exceptional battle skill of the heroic companions and its high mobility that allows the heroes to be present at critical points in the battle lines each war round.

Unlike normal army units, a Heroes unit does not engage in combat directly, instead, the hero's unit joins a normal military unit and provides bonuses to that unit for the tactical war round. A Heroes unit moves using the same rules as normal military units, but it must end its movement on a friendly unit. The friendly unit receives bonuses to its normal combat ratings to represent the aid of the heroes during battle.

Table 6-7: Hero unit bonuses

In order to be effective, a Heroes unit must be small, mobile, and skilled. A maximum of eight individuals can be part of a Heroes unit. Each character must also be of at least 3rd level in order to contribute to the Heroes card. A character that is casting battle magic cannot also be part of a heroes unit during the same tactical round. The effective EL of the group determines the bonuses provided by the Heroes card. These bonuses are applied to the unit the Heroes aid during the tactical round.

Mobility is a critical factor in the effectiveness of the heroes. The Heroes unit's movement rating is determined as follows.

Table 6-8: Hero unit move
All heroes are mounted or have a movement rate of 30"+
All heroes have at least one rank of Ride and are mounted on war-trained steeds
All heroes have at least 5 ranks of Ride and are mounted on war-trained steeds

A Heroes unit's movement during a tactical round affects the types of attacks that the unit can support. For example, if a Heroes unit moves during tactical round, then it cannot provide an attack bonus to stationary missile fire (only moving missile fire). Likewise, if a Heroes unit has exhausted its movement for the tactical round it cannot provide a bonus to charge.

If a unit containing a Heroes unit is destroyed, each hero should make a character level check with the following results. Characters that are captured are usually held for random or as hostages, but may be slain by merciless adversaries. Survivors that return to the reserve may reform a new heroes unit.

Table 6-8: Defeat on the battlefield
4 or less
Character is slain on the battlefield
Character is captured by the enemy
Character escapes the rout, but is exhausted, wounded, and may not participate in the remainder of the battle.
The character escapes the rout and returns to the reserve in 1d4 + 1 tactical rounds.
The character escapes the rout and returns to the reserve at the end of the tactical round.

[top]Variant: Role-playing battle encounters

Instead of providing fixed bonuses based on the EL of the heroes, a DM can also pause the War Card battle to run encounters when the Heroes unit is engaged. Based upon the outcome of the skirmish, the DM can have the Heroes unit provide a greater or lesser bonus than indicated by the heroes' EL. In this case, the unit attack roll should not be made until after the skirmish is complete.

When two units with Heroes cards engage, a battle between the opposing heroes can be resolved as a standard encounter. After the combat is resolved, new ELs for each Heroes card should be determined before apply bonuses to the unit attack roll.

[top]Commanders and Lead

A passionate and skilled leader can lead a unit to feats of bravery that might otherwise be beyond it. A unit receives a +1 to its morale bonus for every 5 ranks of Lead possessed by a character that is fighting as part of the unit. Only one character can provide this bonus per unit. This character may also be part of a Heroes unit, and these bonuses stack.

[top]Magic on the battlefield

Realm spells can be used to bless, charm, teleport, or destroy entire armies, but require a month-long casting time that makes them impractical for many defensive purposes. Conventional spells can have significant impact upon a battle, but such impact is no more or less profound that the skill of a heroic warrior of equivalent level. Thus, the Heroes unit adequately represents a spellcasters use of their normal spell list.

Spellcasters with the Battle Spell feat can provide even greater benefit to the armies with which they are allied. Battle spells are meta-magically enhanced conventional spells powerful enough to provide tactical bonuses to army units. While specific spell effects used in battle magic vary greatly, the tactical effects are always represented as an abstraction; battle spells provide a bonus to a unit statistics of a unit for one tactical round.

The effect of the bonus is determined both by the power of the spell, and the tactical skill of the caster. When a battle spell is cast, the caster must make a Warcraft check (DC 10). If this check fails, the spell provides no benefit. If the check succeeds, the battle-spell provides a base modifier equal to 1/2 x the spell level. This base modifier is increased by + 1 for every 5 full points by which the Warcraft check exceeds DC 10.

The caster (with the aid of the DM) determines how the bonus provided by the battle spell is applied. The bonuses/penalties of a battle spell last only for the current tactical round. The bonus provided by the spell can be used to either increase or decrease the offensive (melee, missile) or defensive (defense, moral) statistics of the target unit. A battle spell used as a ranged attack can provide a missile rating (at the battle spell bonus) to a unit otherwise without missile capabilities.

For example, a spell caster traveling with a unit of Elite Infantry casts a battle magic fireball and rolls a Warcraft check of 18. The spell provides a + 2 bonus (1/2 x 3rd level spell + 1 for being five full points over DC 10) to the unit. The DM rules that a battlemagic fireball is equally effective in impede an opposing charge (providing a defense bonus) as it is in blasting the front line of an enemy's defense during an advance (providing a melee bonus) or during a ranged attack (providing a missile bonus), but that it cannot be used to provide a morale bonus. As the unit is currently unengaged, the spellcaster chooses to use the battlespell to provide a +2 bonus to allow the unit to make a missile attack (at +2 bonus). This missile attack is resolved using during the attack phase as per a normal missile attack.

In the next round, the unit is engaged in battle against an overwhelming opponent. The spellcaster feels that his only hope is to help rout the enemy. He casts a battle magic confusion that was prepared using the Empower Spell feat as a 6th level spell. The DM rules that the heightened confusion spell would produce a more effective battlespell, and thus allows the spellcaster to count the confusion spell (normally a 4th level spell) as a 6th level spell. The caster's Warcraft check result is DC 20; thus the total modifier provided by the spell is 3 (1/2 x 6) + 2 (for being 10 points over the minimum DC) = 5. The target enemy unit receives a -5 penalty to their morale save for the upcoming tactical round. If the caster's unit is able to successfully damage the unit, there is a very good chance that they will rout.

Channeling battle magic is time-consuming and draining. While preparing a battle spell, a spell caster cannot safely cast conventional magic. Likewise, after casting a battle spell, a caster is incapable of casting any spells for a few minutes. During the tactical round in which a spell-caster casts a battle spell, they cannot cast conventional spells. This leaves them largely defenseless unless they are well guarded. Thus, a spellcaster cannot also contribute to the EL of a Heroes unit in any tactical round in which they cast a battle spell.

Battle spells require bulky ritual components. For arcane spell casters this includes books of arcane lore and massive amounts of material components. For divine spellcasters this includes portable altars, oils for anointing, prayer books, and other expendable material components of magical or religious significance. These components are generally transported in a war wagon dedicated to support battle magic (see Special training, under Military Units).

See Also: Cry Havoc (Sir Tiamat) - alternative battle system
See Also: Skirmish rules (KGauck) - combat rules for smaller units

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