Light Cavalry Tactics

Being a forum for the free exchange of ideas, tactical ploys, solutions for problematic situations, and discussions of our generals' approaches to the art of strategery.

Please send any comments, suggestions for future articles, and tactics contributions to: John Bianchi.

Thank you for returning to my corner of the website, dear reader. Since we looked at an effective way to use heavy cavalry and infantry in combination, I thought this time, we'd discuss the other cavalry on the board. Yes, I'm talking about light cavalry, which almost every army has available to them. Light cavalry, which so many consider a dirty word - well, two words.

I asked myself "Federigo, why is this?" At between 11 and 19 points per model, why aren't more generals using light cavalry? I hear complaints. "It's too pricey." "It gets slaughtered in hand to hand combat." "I could spend the points on cheaper and better infantry troops." I asked a couple of other generals and they were more honest with themselves and me - "I don't use light cavalry because I really don't know how they'd contribute to my strategy or what they'd do to help me win." Ah - there's the rub!

So, for the two generals who told me the truth, which is rarer then hen's teeth, here now is...

Before we begin, please once again ask Jocoppo to pass the grappa my way, per favore. You know, I have to warn you friends about the Grappa. That eminent Slavemaster-General Zhatan the Black knows I do like my grappa, so he ordered some in a tavern the other night with his lovely girlfriend. He said it burned worse going down than a pitch-soaked Protestant martyr trying to quit smoking. Well, I digress. Next time, Zhatan, I recommend a nice red Burgundy or perhaps an unpretentious Chianti; much easier on the large intestine.

Grazie, Jocoppo.

I have on contract a small company of Mameluke light cavalry, armed with spears and led by a trumpeter. There is nothing remarkable about them other than this: they are mounted on horses. Here's what they can't do:

    • They can't charge the front of a formed enemy regiment and expect to cause much damage.
    • They can't win a combat alone, usually.
    • They can't speak French, unless they were Brettonian light cavalry.

But, they are mounted on horses. Here's what they can do:

    • They can, in one turn of combat, work their way into a position that prevents march moves.
    • They can, in two turns, get behind the enemy lines.
    • They can charge the exposed flanks and rears of enemy units.
    • They can draw powerful enemy units away from the battle.
    • They can take out war machines very quickly.
    • They can create diversions, or sow doubt in the enemy general's mind.
    • They can draw charges or pursuits out of the enemy line of battle.
    • They can screen larger, more important units.
    • Not only can they move and shoot; now they can march and shoot.
    • They can serve as a bodyguard for characters - though you need to be careful about this.
    • In large numbers, they can actually be devastating on the charge.

They have the virtue of being pretty cheap - yes, you can afford them! Because they're cheap, they can be used for a flat-out sacrifice.

In some cases, you can't afford not to hire them - especially if you only field infantry.

All right, so I look around and I think, maybe I'm not being fair. Maybe somebody's using light cavalry in a way that creates successful battles. And I find a couple of generals I can tell you about.

Some months ago, I fought a Green-skinned warlord, I believe he went by the strange name of Coal Man, with quite a large Goblin army. In it, he fields not one, but two big units of goblins riding on wolves. Now here was a general after my own heart. The bulk of his line moves forward to engage my line, but his light cavalry (one unit of 10 bow-shooting cavalry, and one unit of 20 cavalry armed with spears and shields - and carrying standards - don't forget that for bigger units) tries to sweep around my left flank to catch me in his pincers. If it hadn't been for the sacrifice my own small unit of five light cavalry (first to slow him down and then to draw him off) and a foolhardy attempt by me, personally, to slow him down, he would have crushed me completely. As it was, he only slightly crushed me - I'm still in some pain over that, but my cavalry at least proved its usefulness!

Anyway, he beat me good, and turned half my army into salsicce. He succeeded in making the flank maneuver complete with one unit of light cavalry and it looked like this:

You will have a lot of trouble if this happens to you, and it doesn't matter if they're the finest High Elven light horse with gilded armour (Che Bella!) or the least skilled, nose-mining gobbos from cave #32 (Infama!), they are taking away your rank bonuses, they are costing you two combat resolution points by attacking you in the rear, a point for the standard, and probably another point against you for outnumbering you - and causing you to take a big ol' panic test! You haven't got a prayer unless you're a Slayer!

This is a perfect example of application of superior force - in other words, more than you can handle. I hear all the time, "it's a waste to put too much into one attack" - WRONG. You can almost never put too much into an attack. No one ever crushed a foe by lightly engaging him on all points of the line simultaneously. Light cavalry can help apply superior force - or remove the enemy's ability to apply force against you. You can do this in ways described below.

Someone once told me the place for my best troops was facing my opponent's best troops. He was probably some noble, Brettonian, and no doubt, now deceased. It was either him or a Games Workshop catalogue.

The best place for your best troops is facing your opponent's weakest troops or most vulnerable position; superior application of force, remember? And what faces his best? Your light cavalry.

This flanking move by Brettonian Knights was guarded against by placing a light cavalry battalion out on either of my flanks (back when I had two units to spare). The Brettonians, full of Sancere and smelly fromage, charged in against my left.

Boom! My light cavalry has done two things here. They have stopped a unit of Brettonians, who likely will beat them and chase them off to the left, away from the combat that matters. If they win the combat or lose and stick it out, they've robbed the second lance of its speed; it now cannot march. Those crossbowmen on the hill are putting down their playing cards, winding up their crannequins, and starting to lick their chops over the extra turn of firing they get against the now vulnerable knights. Yes - I remember this unit of light cavalry pretty much won the battle for us that day. Too bad we had to have the Florentines kill them over that contract dispute - oh wait, I'm kidding about that one. Yes, they died in a fire.

Requiescat in Pace.

When I employed Hobgoblin riders from the steppes, they used this technique almost routinely. We once faced an Orc horde, and the Hobgoblin captain ran his dog soldiers straight up to a big unit of Savage Orcs in the center of the enemy line. When the orcs charged them, the intrepid wolf riders turned tail like little girls face to face with an old, smelly uncle. Thanks to their musician (Always take one with light cavalry, the standard is really only necessary in bigger units), they rally pretty much right away.

Now the savage Orcs, having failed their charge, are standing exposed with their codpieces flapping in the breeze (though, I don't really think theses bambini wear any codpieces�if you know what I mean.). As you can see from the below diagram, they are now past the copse of trees and are open to the big, hungry tribe of Ogres, who have been sharpening their axes all day for an opportunity like this one. Well, the ogres charged, killed, and ate a lot of green meat that night - though I can't understand it when they say it tastes just like Griffon. You know it doesn't! What a lie that is.

This is pretty straightforward. Send the cavalry around or through the enemy's line (yes, you can go right on through - amazing!), line up a charge against his bolt throwers (yes, you can target both of them if they're that close together), or whatever else he has and use your spears to treat that elf like a piece of spiedini on a skewer (mmmmmm...spiedini.)

The same goes for characters. If your opponent insists on using a flounced up Wizard (kind of like a priest, but without the thing for the bambini) or general who walks or rides along behind his lines, he is a fair target. OK, some of you, especially those who received the classical knightly education in Brettonia or the Empire are a little squeamish about this one, and I can understand that. But if your opponent is dumb enough to allow his officers to get separated from the men and charged by you, you really should oblige him with a spear in the patoot. I've actually won a couple of battles that I was losing by my light cavalry killing or routing my opponent at the last minute - well, his last minute anyway. I've also not been paid a couple of times by the same thing happening to my employers�ah well - Fortuna! La Putana!

After taking out war machines or officers, you can set up rear charges into enemy units, and if you're armed with bows or pistols, you can harass and annoy your enemy. You may even get him mad enough to send troops back to deal with you --- that's the highest compliment the captain of a company of light cavalry can get. Buon Fortuna!

Sometimes, you need troops for a sacrifice. Small units of light cavalry, at less than 100 points, are well suited to this. They can die in foolhardy frontal charges to further draw out a charge. They can be used to trigger traps laid by Goblins or *^*%*$&*#(@*&*! Waywatchers or $%#&^*^*~! Warprancers. And, because of their great mobility, they can trigger these traps AWAY from you. Be ruthless in committing them to battle - yes, you lose the troops, but look on the bright side - You don't have to pay them, do you?

By the way - Goblin Fanatics should be considered superior enemy units. IF ya gotta, ya gotta. Use your light cavalry to draw them out when you want, not when Ken,..uh..ur .. I mean, your opponent, wants to. However, I always thought ogres were better for this - after all, they may just not care if they take a steel ball to the head - hell that's fun for 'em, the big vitelloni!

I see the bottle's running a little dry and so am I, so I conclude by saying - I like light cavalry, whether in big or small units. They are useful, a relatively good bargain, flexible, fast, maneuverable, surprisingly effective if used correctly, and disposable. Give them a try if you can - even if you're a dwarf, you can hire a mercenary unit, just to see how it works for you. By the way, my boys are available for trial use at extremely competitive rates. Allow me to get you a rate card from my camp desk. I've got it here somewhere... Hey, where did he go?

Ah, well. Until next time -

~ Count Federigo ~

Created by: ZiggyQubert. Last Modification: Sunday 25 of January, 2009 01:17:44 PM EST by ZiggyQubert.

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