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Total war absolute beginners guide part 2

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2.2 Principles

Your aim should be to give your men as many advantages as you can while negating them to the enemy. There is no best way to go about commanding a battle but identifying the dangers and ceasing the opportunities as fast as possible will get you a long way.
Here are at least some principles to get you on your way.

Place your army well

If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is attack some other place that he will be obliged to relieve. If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent the enemy from engaging us even though the lines of our encampment be merely traced out on the ground. All we need do is to throw something odd and unaccountable in his way. Sun Tzu

The deployment of your troops will go a long way towards winning the battle ahead. There is some difference between the deployment of an attacking army and a defending one. An attacking army will most likely have to dislodge their opponents from their defensive deployment while a defensive army can just sit there and try to withstand the oncoming attacks.

A defensive set-up is easier. Find the best protection for your men considering all the influences talked above. Chose the high ground, protect flanks with impassable terrain or obstacles, Ö Secondly make a beaten zone that the enemy have to cross in order to reach your men. In other words make a large area where your missile units can harm the enemy without much risk to your men. This will casualties and a morale drop, ensuring that the impact of the attackers will be lower when they finally reach your lines. Try to make the time the enemy has to spend in the beaten zone as long as possible. Be mindful of the fact that the top of a hill may not always be the best place to deploy if this means that your beaten zone shows a few blind spots due to different inclinations.

If you are attacking deployment is trickier. Height for example will probably in your disadvantage. Trying to entice them to abandon the high ground can be a first step while on the attack. Outflanking them while out of range, massive missile fire or offering them an supposedly easy target can cause them to move to a less advantageous position.. If they donít move then you will have to search for some slight reduction of the height penalties and/or attack from several sides.

Hold the line

Move not unless you see an advantage; if not, stay where you are. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. Sun Tzu

Your ability to hold the line will go a great way towards winning the battle. An army in disarray is easy pickings while a determined one in an ordered formation can support each other. In order to achieve this keep a constant eye on moral. Reinforce a weak spot at the right time. Avoid dissolving the general form of your formation. And always keep some kind of base of operations to start from or regroup.

Protect the flanks

Be on the lookout for flanking opportunities but also for flanking attempts made by the enemy. Horses to the flanks of your formation are ideal to take advantage of opportunities and to see off threats. High morale troops on the flanks to avoid a chain rout are also a staple tactic.

Keep reserves

Should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left, he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak. Sun Tzu

Perhaps counter intuitively but you shouldnít throw everything you got at the enemy right away. Keep units in reserve to plug gaps in your line or to react to new developments and threats. Once a unit is engaged it really hard to disengage until the opponent routs or another unit takes over. So keeping one or more units back until there is an extra unit needed somewhere is a tried and tested tactic.

Obtain local superiority

On the battlefield itís faster and less expensive to rob the opponent of their will to fight than to totally destroy him. This is most easily done by obtaining local superiority. You can get in this situation by outflanking your opponent as a whole, taking advantage of gaps in the enemyís lines or isolating enemy units.

Keep the enemy on the back foot

The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him. Sun Tzu

Donít unnecessary abandon a good position but it can pay off to keep pressure on the enemy. Routing units may rally and regroup if left unharassed. An advantage may be lost if you give the enemy the opportunity to reorganize. An army in disorganization, for example when forming up, present a great opportunity to attack.

The importance of timing

Donít throw everything in at once. Donít execute your master plan at once. When the enemy sees it coming, it can adapt to it. Wait for the right time when most of the soldiers on the field are engaged.
A good example of this is the hammer and anvil technique where you pin an opponent with one unit and charge in its flank or rear with another. Postponing the charge until the enemy is wavering at certain places can start a mass route where an immediate charge would only result in the rout of one unit.

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