Monday Morning Quarterbacking

If it were up to you, what strategies would you have employed in order to overcome our opponents’ numerical advantage in the Pennsic battles last week? (Namely the flag, field, and woods battles)

20 comments to Monday Morning Quarterbacking

  • Giovan

    Giovan is looking forward to hearing what strategies we *did* use. Or even how bad the size ratio was?

  • Gawin

    The scenarios are detailed here: http://www.midrealm.org/trm/Pennsic_XLI_Final.pdf

    For most of the battles I think there was something like a 3:2 ratio of East/Mid to Atlantia/Aethelmaerc, but may have been as much as 5:3.

    The town battle was really a foot race and no actual fencing was really required.

    Flag Battle: Aethelmearc fought for the flag in the building on the right, Atlantia fought in the open field on the left, some Atlantia + other allied kingdoms fought in the center for the flag in the broken field. Both armies formed lines spanning the width of the field. We were stretched pretty thin in order to cover the space (i.e. single rank with fairly loose spacing).

    Field Battle:
    1st pass: Attempted to defend much of the width of the field. Aethelmaerc advanced a bit and got demolished on the right, Atlantia was more slowly killed on the left.
    2nd pass: Aethelmaerc advanced and Atlantia shifted right to defend a corner of the field together. Atlantia formed a block and a “pike line.” Once again, we were all killed without dealing significant casualties.
    3rd pass: Atlantia moved to formation like the second round, but then charged (unfortunately at the same time as hold was called). After resetting, we charged again, broke through Calontir’s line on the other side and destroyed their entire right flank before we were all killed.

    Woods: Aethelmearc on the right, Atlantia on the left, Atlantia + allies in the middle. Flags were positioned the same as last year’s woods battle. The middle and left flags were fairly close together, but the path was broken by a roped off area (big hole). The right flag was across a road and in a different segment of woods, so it was a bit more isolated. Once again, this battle mostly revolved around two lines opposing each other across the field, however there were far fewer fencers in this battle and the lines were far less continuous.

  • Tibbie Croser

    In my genuinely humble opinion, we should have used DFB and deep flanking much more. We have some very fast people who could have wrought havoc if they’d gotten into the enemy backfield to DFB. Even a less-skilled fighter can be useful in a deep flanking maneuver to draw enemy attention away from their main line. Distract them, harass them, force them to watch their rear.

    Our lines often seemed a bit too dense; fighters sometimes bumped into each other, and there wasn’t enough room for everyone to stand in line or to step into line as dead fighters retreated to the rez point.

    I think we also needed better command and control behind the lines. Caitlin made an effort to direct people where they were needed, but we needed more people doing it. In the town battle at Pennsic 39, Atlantia had superb command and control; we had multiple senior fighters playing traffic cop.

    A thought: is there a way to better coordinate fighters so that a body of fighters can advance into the enemy line with short/less-skilled fighters fouling/blocking/parrying blades while the tall/advanced fighters land hits? (As one of those short, not-a-rapier-goddess fighters, I’m always thinking of ways that fighters like me can be used to best advantage.)

  • Wistric

    The joy/bane of being somewhere in the command hierarchy is that I don’t get to wait till Monday morning.

    Flag battle:
    After the first run, where our side, targeting the right, lost, I noticed that our run team had to run a diagonal slant to get to the first turning into the town. A^2 + B^2 = C^2 and all that, and it meant we had a longer path.
    For the second run, the marshals at first said they’d open up the side access into the town, which would shorten that run considerably, then decided not to, with two minutes left. We shuffled left, and I grabbed the run team and put them in front of Trimaris, which had the shortest route to the first turn into the town. We got the bag that time, and I think we won.
    The third time we also got the bag, but our left side failed and the enemy got the left and center bags (after the marshal told me we’d got 5 out of 9, bah!).
    I checked with our run team: they were accomplishing their job with ease, which meant we had too many resources committed to it. I sent Hawkwood to help out on the center since Taurs was outrunning Benjamin that day, but it wasn’t enough, still, and we lost the fourth run.

    Then they did that stupid “we’re going to fight for 30 minutes just to fight for 30 minutes.” The armored war point was approaching, so I decided I’d fight, but wouldn’t bother rezzing. At Lay On, Celric and I got in to a foot race and were in the far house before the other side reached it. Then it was a bunch of falling back and pressing forward until they finally dropped me, and off to hit people with sticks.

  • Ruairc

    One of the mildly unfortunate parts of our game is that several unavoidable necessities of safety and scope greatly restrict the character of strategies one can attempt. The upshot is that when faced with considerable asymmetry, little can be done to even the odds. Most of the historically effective tricks are implausible, illegal, or irrelevant. As such, any backseat driving here is going to be highly speculative, and at best, probably just a slightly better way to lose.

    Town Battle: first up in the slightly-better-way-to-lose category. Remember Matteo at Assessment? I would have done that. Charge (Atlantian calibration) their collection point at Lay-On with two-thirds of the army, leaving a couple fast units to grab the near-side macguffins and run them to ours. Best case scenario: we take their collection point, which is roughly equidistant from their rez and ours, and hopefully squash a couple of their runners in the confusion. Likely scenario: we can’t break through their line quickly enough to make a difference, since the damn thing lasts a minute max.

    Flag Battle: this one was a little frustrating, because the rez lines were close enough that any good holes or flanking squads were pretty quickly countered; no lasting progress could be made. I might have abandoned one flag outright from the very beginning, leaving a token force of fit and dedicated fighters to keep the enemy occupied there. Because rez occurs behind a line spanning the entire field, fighters could continually reorganize and redeploy; we stay mobile and yield whichever flag has the most enemy on it, focusing on the other two. That would require outstanding direction from the leadership elements and is probably impractical given that Atlantian fighters don’t know who the Aethelmearcian commanders are, and vice versa. On such a small field, even a well-executed guerilla strategy like this may not succeed.

    Field Battle: there’s not much to do here. Sitting back and waiting to die was ineffective, but charging forward wouldn’t have worked more than once, and even then, there were too many of them to have realistic expectations of victory.

    Woods Battle: I was a bit surprised that we didn’t try to use their backfield more. The woods are really the only fight where you can come from unexpected directions, and the command’s insistence on “holding our flag”, with a sort of understood “well we did OUR part, and damn the rest of them”, strikes me as shortsighted. Diverting a couple elite units to the center flag (or the no-man’s-land between center and top) at key intervals would make a breakthrough simple, and then they could roll up or down as they pleased. We were trickling too much over the course of this fight.

  • Gawin

    Ruairc, I like your plan for the town. I hadn’t even thought of that tactic from Assessments.

    For both the flag battle and the woods, I think we got a little too focused on rule 3 (kill the enemy) and not enough on rule 4 (remember the objective).

    The flag battle is the one where I think a different strategy really would have paid off. Each of the flags was located on different terrain (building/limited front, broken field, and open field) and I think we could have been successful if we had focused all of our efforts on the building and broken field flags (using terrain to counter their numbers) and largely ignored the open field flag, we could have won. The listed victory condition cites 2/3 flags for 2/3 checks as the win condition (not 5 flags total, though this plan would work for both). In order to defend our flank, we’d end up forming a sort of “L” shaped line (aka inverted killing cup) which would have required us to heavily reinforce the point, BUT, that formation would be anchoring our left flank on our rez line and would essentially deny our opponents a right flank. They would be forced to assume one of 3 formations.

    1.) Match our “L” leaving their right flank on our rez line and allowing us to resurrect behind them.
    2.) Form a line across the middle of the field, expending fencers to cover ground (and there was a lot of it even beyond the left-most flag)
    3.) Keep a skirmish force at the third flag, only match the part of our line that runs horizontally to the rez points, leaving gaps on their right flank and restricting the battle to the limited fronts.

    The first option would be the worst for them, as a sizable portion of their force would be extended to take ground that would simply be stupid to try to maintain (and there’s a long run to rez). The second option would at least negate some of the numerical advantage. The third option plays to Atlantia’s strengths as a group with some highly mobile units that could reasonably defeat their skirmish force and/or punch through the gaps to disrupt their main line.

    In the field battle, I’m not sure there’s anything we could have done to win, but our only hope was really to be maximally disruptive to their unit cohesion. At the very least, it’d have been a better show if we’d have attacked in all 3 rounds.

    In the woods, the whole rez point aspect of the flag battle isn’t there, but again, I argue, we’d have more safely met the victory condition by ceding one flag in order to guarantee the other two for each check (Aethelmaerc on the left, Atlantia in the middle. Mobile units from Atlantia disrupt flag three and provide support as necessary to other two flags). The flag on our right was further from our rez point than theirs, and was also spaced much further from the other two flags. Once again, I think a mobile skirmishing unit could have provided enough threat to the third flag to pin down some of their fighters, giving the left and middle flags a local numerical advantage.

    TL;DR: We needed to focus our limited numbers on covering vital ground rather than spreading ourselves out to try to cover the whole field. We needed to force our opponents to cover the whole field by using mobile skirmishers.

  • Alric

    Hmmm, After reading these entries maybe it’s time to rethink how we deploy kingdom forces for a battle. Currently each kingdom stay together and gets one objective IE Left Flag or left flank on a field battle. Perhaps we need to talk about specific units within kingdoms and their abilities and deploy them properly. Running units from Atlantia and AE leading off with support unit coming up from behind. Selecting a pair of objectives, as Gawin pointed out above, that are mutually supportable.

    Yeah this is a totally radical idea and who knows it may surprise the hell out of someone, esp if it works.

    • Ruairc

      I’ve never really understood the deploy-with-your-kingdom mentality. It seems like a very unanalyzed approach. Are the differences in melee tactics and training among kingdoms really so great that an Atlantian cannot integrate effectively into an Eastern line? Do commanders frequently redeploy units during the battle, and have to be close by to give orders? What, exactly, is the advantage of sticking with one’s kingdom?

      The only thing I can think of is that it gives each kingdom’s warlord a single specific objective to focus on. So it’s simple.

      That has value, but we are fencers. We thrive on small-unit tactics. There are places (and times) on the battlefield that are more ideally suited for fast units, or elite units, or skirmisher squads. I see no reason to throw these units into suboptimal fights because the better option happens to be “the East’s responsibility”.

  • Gawin

    Alric, I’ve actually been quite surprised that our approach to Pennsic battles seems to be to take care of our part of the field, let our allies take part of theirs, and hope we’ve met the victory condition at the end. We’ve had trouble in both previous Pennsics as well due to this approach.

    Pennsic 39: Town battle – Atlantia went right, Dragoons + Gardiner’s went to the left, East in the middle – East got beaten to the middle flag (which was in a building) and had a lot of difficulty maintaining the middle in the early parts of the battle. About 15 min in, Dominyk started sending some Atlantian units to help in the middle (as we’d pretty much locked down the right flag and 6 ranks deep is downright inefficient). Up until that point, the East was really collapsing in the middle (at one point, the line was saved by Ysanne filling a gap 20 ft wide and growling at the advancing Midrealmers) and if he hadn’t reinforced our allies, we’d have been in much worse shape, though I think we still would have pulled off the victory.

    Pennsic 39: Woods battle – (the 2hr rez battle with the left flag way out in the boonies) – Atlantia regulars + allies got sent to the middle flag, Dragoons + Gardiner’s got sent to the left, East took the flag on the right (which was pretty close to rez with a short, clear path). Aethelmaerc ended up lining up against the east (giving the East a respectable local numerical advantage) while the rest of our opponents decided to come play with us at the other two flags (giving them an approx 3:1 local numerical advantage against us). We won due in large part to Master Giacomo’s vain glory and pre-pennsic cardio. Later that evening, I heard one of the EK’s higher-ups commenting to one of Drachenwald’s fencers that it seemed like they outnumbered their opponents that day and wondering where the rest of the Midrealm army had gone.

    Pennsic 40 – Woods battle – Last year we had a sizable numerical advantage and we actually lost the woods battle. We had captured our flag just fine (2/3?), but our allies had a bit more trouble it seems. The woods were the same as this year, with Atlantia heading left, Aethelmaerc going to the middle, and the East going to the right (I may have switch those two). From the left flag, its pretty easy to support the middle flag, as there’s a nice clear slope down to the middle and the position of the flags means that a group coming down from the left will hit the flank or come up behind the opposing army (if they have captured the middle flag). Throughout the battle, we were attacked in waves, and after we’d repulse a wave, we’d sit up on the hill, reform a little, and wait for them to return (like this year, but we had more time last year). During any of those rest periods, we could have safely spared some fencers to flank the force at the middle flag (and make them go rez too). This also brings up a tactical consideration that may need to be explored more fully: How do we capitalize on the “resurrection cycle” of our opponents? Can we force them into a pattern where they’re only really fighting with half their army at any given time? This could be especially valuable if our opponents aren’t communicating with each other and each kingdom is fighting alone for a single objective.

    • Ruairc

      Using “rez cycles” is an interesting idea. I’m not sure how one would go about it. It’s possible in, say, World of Warcraft battlegrounds because the enemy’s rezzes occur at predictable intervals and known locations. When rezzes can occur constantly (and the enemy always has enough space to reform freely) it gets a lot more tricky.

      I have some embryonic ideas. Maybe I can make a post of it later.

    • Alric

      ” I heard one of the EK’s higher-ups commenting to one of Drachenwald’s fencers that it seemed like they outnumbered their opponents that day and wondering where the rest of the Midrealm army had gone. ”

      That is hilarious! Where did they think they went?

      As far as I know for Pennsic 40 East went to the same flag AE went to this year leaving the center flag to the smaller allies. Unfortunately this creates the problem I believe has been mentioned here, split forces not mutually in support of each other and no focus on the goal (majority of flags held for the battle).

      As for Rez Cycles I have been talking about a part of this IE not dying off to a man when overwhelmed on an objective. If we pull back after the loss of 1/2 our force against a clearly superior force, only 1/2 are making that walk to rez and return unless the opponents pursue and try to kill of everyone. Of course that would put their forces in jeopardy. I think we have some good ideas here and should keep working on them and start training them.

      Ruairc, I look forward to your thoughts.

      • Gawin

        I think that she was under the impression that they hadn’t taken the field (*facepalm*).

        Your thoughts on not dying to the man is definitely one way of resisting the exploitation of rez cycles. In the situation I mentioned earlier, we’d kill Kingdom X at the left-most flag and the wait period was the time it took for Kingdom X to reform as a group and take up their attack on the flag again. In order to exploit that rez cycle, we could have sent a portion of our force (lets say 0.5 Kingdom A) to reinforce our ally Kingdom B by flanking Kingdom Y. If Kingdom X had maintained a portion of their force, they could defend Kingdom Y or, more likely, keep Kingdom A from ever sending that detachment.

        I think the best way to put that into action, and also to exploit our opponents is to focus on how we form and use units on the field. We talk a lot about rejoining your unit when you return from rez, or reforming with your unit at some gathering point, but we rarely put that into practice after “Lay on”. At Pennsic, our traffic cops often send individual “Atlantian” fencers to reinforce the “Atlantian Line” rather than sending fencers as a unit to complete some objective (specific to the abilities of that unit). Exploiting our opponents relies heavily on being a flexible and dynamic force, and the only way to do that is to stop thinking of the whole kingdom as a single tactical unit. It makes us fight as a big block with tactics suited to our least experienced (stand in line, don’t die, don’t let the guy next to you die. Don’t lunge, but stab them if they get close).

        At this year’s Pennsic, we were heavily outnumbered, but that didn’t stop us at Pennsic 39. I think we went to Pennsic this year missing some of our key players, but more importantly, I think our opponents were greatly improved in terms of skill and organization. We were giving better than we got, but we’ve been relying heavily on individual valor for at least the 3 years I’ve been fencing. If we want to maintain our supremacy on the rapier field, we’re going to need to get organized and fight more dynamically.

        TL;DR: Lets start thinking about war points the same way we’d approach a 5-man melee. Lets play off the particular strengths of our units rather than simply advancing as a single line.

  • Alric

    Gawin, No time like the present. Lets see what we can do on a smaller scale. Cleric was able to change the way Atlantian Rapier was seen in melee, a lot pissed off some folks. Time for another game changer.

    Our biggest challenge right now, a Rapier Warlord that is willing to really push for doing new things. Not saying Celric won’t he may just need a really good reason to.

    Alric

  • Tibbie Croser

    Gawin and Alric, interesting ideas. I don’t know how Warlords get chosen, but doesn’t it rotate from year to year? Do the White Scarves and the Crowns have input? Seriously, perhaps you two should volunteer. It’s apparently a considerable amount of work and you have to give up your own fighting time, from what I saw with Celric. It’s probably worth also talking to the current and previous Warlords to determine what they tried and what succeeded or failed.

    One way to demonstrate new ideas (and demonstrate your worthiness to be Warlord) might be to recruit, train, and field some new melee units to show off your preferred tactics. Train them year-round, every week, not just in the few months before Pennsic.

    Gawin, I’m one of those short, slow, line fighters (“least experienced” in your terms). I’ve been saying on the Atlantian RapierNet for a long time that fighters like me could be much better utilized. We could be useful in a defensive position. For example, the fast, deadly guys take the ground or the flag, the defense unit then holds it while the fast guys run for the next objective. Or use us for deep flanking and light engagement. Give us the job of distracting, harassing, and annoying the enemy while the elite units do the major killing. Not every rapier fighter is a god of death, but every rapier fighter can contribute to victory.

    • Alric

      Tibbie,
      The War Lord servers at the discretion of the Crowns. I believe the White Scarves are asked for their opinion though. Often the War Lord is a White Scarf, rarely not. Celric may have been the only one who was not.

  • Tibbie Croser

    Well, we have a few new White Scarves in the past year, e.g., Wistric, Arghylle, and Caitilin. Wistric might be a very interesting Warlord. 🙂

    • Wistric

      I’m pretty sure the result of me as warlord at Pennsic would mean the next Pennsic was “World vs. Atlantia”, whether we wanted it to be or not.

      Still, that first Pennsic would be funnnnnnn…

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