Does Size Really Matter? Small Units vs Large Units

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.

Bongiorno, mi amici! Molto grazie per tutti de mio respondenti from our last meeting. I appreciate your suggestions and comments. Remember, I'm still looking for ideas for the topics of future Strateegery Corners, and any questions you may have. You can always get me through the e-mail of my friend john bianchi.

Benvenuto to this week's installment, in which we ponder the question:

Does Size Matter?

Over the years, I have fought with armies large and small. I've come to the inescapable conclusion that bigger is better. It's a stirring thing to be part of armies so large that they blackened the fields they passed over on their way to victory after victory. Since taking command of mercenaries, however, I'm not so lucky in the number of troops I can afford. Like many men, what I got is a little smaller than I'm comfortable with � troops wise, that is. In the other department, I'm a little over-blessed, if you want to know the truth.

I�ve come to the conclusion pretty quickly that you have to handle small numbers of troops differently to make a victory. After about two or three battles where your troops come stumbling back across the field, riderless horses flee wild-eyed past the command tent, and the familiar heads of your trusted and valued lieutenants grace the tips of pikes in the enemy camp, you understand that if you field small numbers of high-quality troops, you need more than fighting spirit and good luck. You need a good plan. A really good plan.

It's not the size of the sword, it's what you do with it.
IF you've got large numbers of troops of average to below average skill, say you command troops from the Empire, or you're a Goblin warlord, or a Skaven marshall, or one of the summoners of the Undead, you can start with your plan, but you can react to any contingencies or developments without too much trouble. If things go wrong, you can suck up a certain amount of losses.

IF you have a small elite force, you don't have this flexibility. You need to do things right, and your plan should be well thought out. Your margin for error is a lot lower.

When facing an enemy that outnumbers you, you can be surrounded. To counter this, you need to limit the number of the enemy you face at any given time. Use the maxim: "Divide and conquer!"

Take advantage!
The general of a smaller force will use whatever advantages he has to divide the enemy. A Brettonian duke has a small force, but he has great speed and offensive wallop; a High Elf lord has even greater speed and great weapon skill; a Dwarf general has toughness and implacability. A dark Chaos-tinged general from the barren north wastes might have the smallest force of all, but he has toughness, speed, strength, skill, and leadership in extremis! To win, generals of these smaller forces need to use all these options in their plans to divide the enemy.

Here are a couple of ways to divide an enemy, either by physically splitting his force, or by engaging only the part of the enemy you choose to destroy before he can bring the rest of his force to fight you:

Stick your hard unit right up the middle
Do you have a really hard unit? An unbreakable regiment is most desirable, but a stubborn regiment will do in a pinch. Swarms, slayers, elite guardsmen, undead troopers � anything that can cause an enemy to bog down in a swamp of seemingly endless close combat is your friend for this tactic.

While your unit of slayers or skeletons or flagellants runs up the middle and starts to break heads, almost your entire army runs into half of the enemy's troops. You have now achieved what every general strives for: local superiority! You now outnumber and flank the enemy, and unless you've got the worst luck in the world, you should break him.

The unengaged half of the enemy army has to slog around your unbreakables (VERY slow going) or jump in to help kill them all. While he moves across the field, you should be shooting everything you have against him. Either way, by the time he gets around to your main force � you should outnumber him and should be ready to attack him or defend against him effectively.

Tickle the soft bits on the end
Ever wonder why they call them the flanks? That's because whether they are the flanks of a particular unit or the flanks of an army, they are vulnerable and soft, and they need to be anchored or protected. Hit your enemy here, and he will feel it!

While some of your army demonstrates (that means � are they in? are they out? will they charge? won�t they? You get the idea) to the front of the enemy line, the real punch of your army goes for the exposed flank of your enemy. If there is no real exposed flank, you can make a hole and exploit the breakthrough, especially with lots of heavy cavalry. Then you roll up the enemy, unit by unit.

The demonstrating troops should prevent the enemy from moving the bulk of his army to face your attacking force. They can do this by fleeing his charges, using light cavalry to prevent marches (and to harass and shoot at him), and, when you want to stop one of his units cold, charging in even if you haven't much chance of winning that combat. Remember, to make a fritatta, you gotta break some eggs.

Let your unit hang out
Sure, maybe sometimes your opponent won't oblige you. Perhaps he goes into a refused flank defense, or deploys on a ridge in a fortress-like situation, with missile troops backed by hard troops, backed by more missile troops and warmachines. Defense in depth it's called and it's hard to unseat a big army using the tactical defensive.

One way to draw the enemy out is through baiting. You can try this in a few different ways, but the most effective involve weak-seeming, apparently vulnerable units that in actuality have no chance of causing you any worries if they are defeated.

Light cavalry charge in, cause some damage, take some damage, get beaten and flee. An inexperienced general will try to run them down and open his line up for you next move, which should be charges into the gap. Bene, but, experienced generals won't take this obvious bait.

Now, small units of heavy cavalry (say 5 with a musician) actually make excellent troops for drawing out the enemy. Go forward and plunk down within 8 inches of the part of the enemy line you want to open; on the same turn, move more, bigger units of horse troopers up, but out of charge range. If your enemy charges you, flee: he will not catch you, and the musician will allow you to recover on a ten or an eleven if you're near your general. If he doesn't charge you, break through him with one of the larger units, charge into the second line troops with the bait unit, and follow up with more charges for the rest of your troopers. This is pretty much creating a breakthrough and exploiting it at the same time.

Make them expose themselves
Alright � so you don't have a cavalry force. Even better than that is to use your infantry as bait to make them expose themselves.

Advance to within charge range of the part of the enemy line you want to open with small units that look like easy prey: say units of ten to 12 crossbows or bowmen, but back them with large infantry blocks about two inches behind and to the sides � like a checkerboard.

If the enemy leaves his defensive position to take the bait, flee. If your sacrificial units get away, the enemy has failed his charge and is open for your charges. If they're caught, chances are the pursuit will be close but won't reach your infantry blocks � although if they hit spearmen, Elven spearmen, or pikes, that impact is not a bad thing at all!

Rear Penetration
I know, these sexual innuendos are getting silly and childish, but hey, I write for myself too, you know.

Seriously, getting behind your opponent when it counts is a good thing. A hero or general on a flying monster, or a flying unit, or special troops like miners, will open many possibilities for you.

Landing behind the enemy line with a flying monster will cause terror and fear checks � all to the good, but not to be counted on. What you want to do is get into a charge position with flyers at the same time you're preparing frontal and flank charges with the rest of your army. On the next turn, there should be a headlong flight into fresh enemy units, and that, as they say, is that.

Build to a fantastic climax
Ok, I really got nothing here. I just kind of said that to say it. Yep, nothing here. Just the Count basically spinning out of control...wheee...

Now, go and try this out when you face the huge hard blocks of goblins, or the big skaven horde with their fluffy pelts, or even the enemy who wisely pays a low price for plain-jane core troopers and eschews the charms of pretty, high priced professionals. Ecco! The Count will see you again next time, right after he goes and takes a nice, cold shower.


~ Count Federigo ~


Created by: ZiggyQubert. Last Modification: Sunday 25 of January, 2009 01:23:23 PM EST by ZiggyQubert.

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