Heavy Cavalry and The Pivot Point

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.

Welcome, reader, to the first installment of our regularly updated forum on tactics and strategy. Both here at Neutral Ground, and throughout our collective travels, we've faced some of the finest generals to push lead across the battlefield, and I hope, through this modest forum, to bring you the best of their winning techniques (or the ones they don't use anymore and which they're willing to share with you). I hope that herein you will find the answer to why your carefully laid plans oft gang agley (go down the tubes).

I reckoned I'd begin our discussion with a technique that I learned when fighting in the retinue of Giscard d'Escargot, Le Duc d'Aquitaine. His very effective use of small numbers of cavalry has almost always worked for me, and once his trap is sprung, there is little your opponent can do. Here now is...

Before we begin, ask Jocoppo to pass the grappa my way, per favore. Grazie.

Here's how it worked for d'Escargot, but it will work with almost any army that combines cavalry with infantry. The Duc one time faced a long line of 7 units of Orc infantry. Doctrine and experience told d'Escargot that a frontal assault with his three units of Bretonnian Knights against his numerous enemies would fail unless he was lucky. Frontal attack will result in holes punched in the enemy line, after which the enemy reserve will fall on his knights, which take at least one turn to recover - and, if they run off the table in pursuit of broken units, two turns to recover. Since a good general makes his own luck, d'Escargot came up with the following tactic to roll up the enemy line, making full use of his outnumbered troops.

To take full advantage of your cavalry, they should not charge in unsupported; this often turns out badly for the cavalry (even Bretonnians) and wastes its full destructive potential. Knightly units should fall on the flanks of the enemy's regiments at the same time these regiments are engaged or threatened from the front by your infantry. This concentration of offensive force takes away the enemy's rank bonuses and ideally wins the combat before any wounds are scored. If this happens with just one unit, you have a good chance of rolling up your enemy's line. Ideally, knightly cavalry runs into fresh combats with every enemy unit they crush, going straight down the enemy line. This can only happen if your opponent is prevented from changing the facing of his troops at one extreme flanks or another key point of his line.

To achieve this, make use of everything you have. You must support your cavalry offensive with other cavalry (heavy and light), skirmishers, and most importantly, your lowliest conscript infantry. Use light cavalry and other expendable troops, like skirmishers, to engage enemy cavalry and keep it away from your assaulting troops. Use heavy cavalry to support the flanks of and take part in your attacking force, and finally, use blocks of cheap infantry in units of at least 20, with at least four ranks each. Take two of these units, perhaps more, give them each a lovely standard and sends them forward toward the front of the enemy line. Addio! Between their advance and your cavalry offense, your opponent will torn about which threat to deal with first.

On turn one, all units move forward with the object of converging on the enemy flank by turn three. The two units of knights and any supporting light cavalry move to the side and rear of the enemy's extreme flank, while the men-at-arms march to the front of the same position. The enemy may not be worried about the men at arms, armed with hand weapons and light armour, but he should be.

By turn two, the gallant knights on the flank are most likely in charge range. Here's where novice generals sometimes get into trouble. They should not charge, but they should instead move to the perfect position for shortest possible charges on turn three - say 9 inches away from the enemy. This allows your infantry the time they need to move into charge range and sets up the assault on the next pivot point.

Do your cavalry get hit with missile fire - no, they're out of most of your enemies' lines of sight by now. Magic - yes, a problem, so now is the time to use your dispel scrolls. The men at arms regiments directly to the front of the units anchoring the flank now move into charge range. You have achieved the pivot point.

In the current situation, it doesn't matter what the poor enemy general does with his flanking units. If he changes facing toward the knights, he will get charged in the flank by the men at arms - and the front by the knights - panic test! - Total destruction! - Very Bad. If he charges the men at arms, they flee! Next turn - he's charged in flank by 10 knights! To tell you the truth, it's better if you simply threaten the enemy's front with your infantry and don't charge them in at all! Then the knights will be the unit the enemy flees from, right into his neighbor! Mal voisine! Obviously, use your judgment and soon you will direct the enemy's flight like Michelangelo directs paint across a fresco.

On turn three - the flank will start to collapse. The knights on the flank will now be charging into unit after unit, with your men-at-arms moving up to help destroy the key 'corner' units at these pivot points. By turn four, la commedia e finito!

After that, its time for plenty of fine Tilean wine and a healthy helping of Brettonian cheese (as if there isn't enough of that in the Brettonian army already, eh?).

Does this work with any army? Yes, I think it does, but you have to have patience and use your troops wisely, putting the most destructive and fastest (heavy cavalry, frenzied troops, chariots) on the flank, and the dregs to the front (spearmen, swordsmen, men-at-arms, gobbos). Just have faith that it will lead to panic and total collapse. If it doesn't, in the words of d'Escargot, "ce'st la guerre!"

Until next time - Ciao bambini

~ Count Federigo ~

Created by: ZiggyQubert. Last Modification: Sunday 25 of January, 2009 01:16:38 PM EST by ZiggyQubert.

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