The Art of Good Deployment

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 strateegery.

Buona sera, amici. Aha' It's been a long while since our last meeting. Since then, it's been very quiet on the Tilean front, and I've had plenty of time to canvas you all to find out what you want to discuss. Deployment was what came up the most frequently with terrain placement coming in second. I'll be taking a stab at deployment today, with reference to terrain (after all, it's kind of hard to separate the two), but terrain is deserving of a column all on its own. It's already written - along with two other articles - so look for that in the near future.

Before we proceed, allow me to remind you that any time you have questions or comments, you can always get me through the e-mail of my friend john bianchi. And let me also ask Jacoppo to pass the Grappa, per favore.

Ecco � that's a grappa, all right. Smooooth.

Now, we move on to...

The Art of Good Deployment

Let me repeat something that has been said maybe a million times since before Romulus and Remas first threw back the wolf's milk:

Battles can be won or lost at the time of deployment.
Battles can be won or lost at the time of deployment.
Battles can be won or lost at the time of deployment.

I repeat that for emphasis � and also because I often need reminding of this inescapable fact.

An instinct for good deployment is a gift some generals have. I have to work at it. Many times, I have committed horrible sins during deployment and spent the rest of the battle working to overcome the obstacles I've created for myself � and also trying to beat the enemy's army. Mille grazie for pointing that out, Lord Gary of Ulthuan...

Now you know there's been a time when you thought it would be a great idea to put your missile troops down on the front and center of the line, figuring they would be charged, they'd flee, and your big defensive spearman unit would be able to absorb the charge.

You remember when you did this and your opponent did not oblige you? He just let you do it and then, avoided you. Now you have at least two units not doing anything, and not going anywhere. A waste of perhaps 500 points, all due to a mistake of deployment.

If you are reading this far, I assume you've done the same thing once or twice.

I'm afraid there is no trick to creating the right deployment for each situation. But there are some rules I think you can follow � a mental (or physical, if you need to write it down) checklist of points to reference as you determine your plan, and to review as you actually deploy, making adjustments in your plan in reaction to enemy deployments. Let's call it:

Count Federigo's Lucky 7 Deployment Checklist
1. What is your plan, offense or defense, and how will you make it work?
2. Have you taken terrain into account?
3. Where do you need to place your troops to contribute to your plan? Can they do what they are supposed to do?
4. Have you placed your troops where they can be protected?
5. Will your deployment keep your opponent off balance?
6. And once placing units, have you allowed options to counter your opponent�s placement?
7. Review! And pray.

Primo � Have your plan in place
Good generals don't approach a battle without a plan. Let's say I have an Empire Army. A plan for it can be this simple � and should be. It may go like this:

Attack: knights go for points of weakness, supported by pistoliers; mortars and missile troops soften enemy line; infantry counters moves aimed against my cavalry attack.

You might also deploy using a tested plan and formation, designed to put the enemy on the defensive from the start, like Attack in Echelon, or Greek Deployment:

There are literally dozens of deployments you'll find in history books, written by the educated and wise men and women of the old world. You might crack one once in a while, ya know. Che bruto! Chingale!

Segundo � Take terrain into account
Many of you asked about terrain. As my colleagues know, terrain and the Count haven't always been the best of friends. If you want to deploy effectively, however, recognize when terrain is your friend, and when it's your enemy.

If you place your own terrain in battles, don' fall into the trap of trying screw your opponent with placement. In my pitched battles, we go by the book and always roll to see who gets the choice of table edge AFTER terrain is placed. You may have given your opponent the hill he needs to shoot over his troops at YOU, or, intending to drop a wood in front of a hill your opponent placed, you find you got the side with the hill and the wood. It's an equalizer, and it forces you to place terrain accordingly.

Therefore, ideally have a third party place terrain and then roll for a side. If you have to place terrain, do it with some sense of moderation; do what gives you an advantage, not what screws your opponent, then roll for a side. Treating terrain like troop movement is no fun for your opponent, or you.

Once you can survey the field, use woods to screen troops or anchor flanks. Use hills and impassable terrain to channel movement or provide your troops with advantages, such as the aforementioned shooting and also, uphill bonuses, which even experienced players frequently forget, and they DO make a difference in close combats.

Also...Sun Tzu warned you about it, so has the Orcboy, and now, so will I:

Stay off bad terrain. IT will only hurt you to try to get your troops around a rock for three turns, or through a big wood, or over broken ground, or into a stream. If you can avoid it, avoid it. It will do you in everytime.

Tercio � Place your troops where they can contribute to your plan
Ecco � now you have a plan, but to make it work at all, you need an appropriate and complimentary strategy for your deployment.

If your strategic approach to building and wielding an army is basically defensive, you want your missile troops and war machines in positions where they can begin to do damage to the enemy immediately at the beginning of the battle. Taking a turn to move missile troops, unless part of a clever ruse, robs you of their effectiveness. I don't know about you, but I'm not that clever, so I try to put them in range of the enemy at the start of battle.

If you decide on the attack, you want to place your troops in positions where they can begin to get to grips with the enemy in the right places AND at the right time. Placing formed cavalry to the rear of your deployment may protect them, but it slows them down, making it necessary for them to maneuver out of deployment. The time and space you take to do this means your troops are not contributing to your plan.

I'll never forget the time � try as I might � when I fought Elven Lord Gary Essig, who placed a monstrous wood to my left center. I realized that I'd be fighting on two fronts � against his infantry coming around the woods toward the center, and against his cavalry, coming around the woods to hit the left of my line. Only trouble was, I had already placed my crossbowmen to command the open terrain of the right, which, it turned out, my opponent had no intention of using at all. The crossbows spent the entire battle moving to get into range. Doh! I should have placed them over on the far left, or the in the rear center, to control that part of the field at a distance.

Keep fields open for movement. Keep fields open for shooting. Keep options open if you need to move defensive troops forward to get into the fight. It's a balancing act, and it takes some practice to get it right.

Quattro � Have You Placed Your Troops where They Can be Protected?
Say your troops are formed up, waiting to be deployed by you, and you start placing them according to your plan. Things look good, but you have an important though vulnerable unit, like a heavy cavalry company, or a unit of flagellants, or a large flying monster you need to place. It's an artillery/bowfire/magic magnet, and you want to protect it. Where does he go?

If you have a wood in front of your line, put the unit behind it. If you have a hill in front of your deployment area, place him behind that. If you have no terrain to assist you, refer to part of point 7...the praying part.

Just the other day, the Black Prince and I hired Asarnil, you know - the 'Dragon Lord', to assist us against a large army of Chaos Dwarves (please don't ask how that went.). Well, he was protected from a couple of war machines by us using a wood to screen him, but not from others. We should have moved him all the way down to the corner so that only one war machine could have targeted him, but, hey we forgot to. His dragon mount was dead before the army moved off the line, and the poncey dullard spent the rest of battle showing off his purple outfit to the passing throng.

Don't forget to protect vulnerable troops.

Cinque � Throw Your Opponent off Balance
Doing something unexpected, or something that is difficult to counter, will help you gain that important advantage of time and space � and perhaps a psychological advantage as well. This is the fun part of deployment, since it give you a chance to really think about actively messing up your opponent before the battle even begins.

If your army has access to scouts, use terrain and deploy them where they can mess things up immediately.

Perhaps you might deploy all your missile troops in the center, creating a bastion that will be hard to attack, but impossible to ignore. Perhaps you place them all on one flank, and place all your heavy cavalry over on the other flank; which to attack is a choice no infantry general wants to have to make.

Another possibility: when facing a war machine-heavy army, don't deploy units close together, which helps avoid multiple units being pierced by bouncing cannon shot, caught in blast templates, or immobilized by earthshaker radii. You might also stagger your troops' distance from the table edge to throw off your opponent's aim somewhat.

Also � avoid known distances in deployment. Many times, generals like to mark out their deployment zones with dice. I don't. Your opponent, who has deployed a cannon six inches in from his table edge, can see that your general's unit is sitting on the front edge of your deployment zone because he's next to a little blue D6. He knows that you're 30 inches away from him �

Hey, YOU can help your opponent out if you want to...

Sixto � Keep Flexible to Counter Your Opponent�s Deployment.
Alright, so you've got your plan in place, you're using terrain to your advantage, you know where you want to put your troops, you have clear avenues of attack or good defensive strong points, and a plan to put your opponent off his balance.

Now you place your troops, and everything your opponent places makes your plan go straight to hell like a heretic caught by a Dominican inquisitor.

To avoid this, you need flexibility. Give yourself options in deployment. If your plan calls for a unit of heavy horse to move toward the enemy flank, screened by a wood, remember that a unit of 20 thunderers may get placed opposite you before you put down your troops.

You need to be able to react to this. You may need to adjust your point of attack, or you may want to screen those knights with an expendable unit of light cavalry. You may also have placed the troops already and then find the handguns or even a hellblaster facing you. Leave yourself options so that you can move out of danger, or exploit your opponent's kind offer of completely unsupported troops (which, thank God, sometimes also happens).

Septimo � Review!
Review!...and pray you got it right.

In conclusion...
Alright, so this is not a magnum opus on deployment, nor is it even a guide to deployment. So I lied.

All this is � is a checklist. But, it might be a useful checklist. By helping you to take the time to focus on your plan and what you want to do to accomplish it, the list might help you find the deployment genius within you.

I certainly hope it helps me...Don't laugh if you see me around the command tent with a list of seven lucky tips in my hand...

Until then, Ciao bambini...and good deploying.

~ Federigo da Montefeltro ~


Created by: ZiggyQubert. Last Modification: Sunday 25 of January, 2009 01:25:09 PM EST by ZiggyQubert.

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