Wistrics Weekly Warfare 29: Melee Math

In 5-on-5 melees, a certain threshold is reached where the group of fighters actually becomes a unit.  This is important because, even should one of the 5 die, the other four have a decent chance of surviving as they still have enough manpower to shift resources and create temporary numerical superiority while delaying their opponents’ exploitation of their real numerical superiority.  Confusing?  I’ll try to translate: If you have 5 on 5, and you’re in team A, and team A loses a fighter, team A can still have two fighters jump one of team B’s fighters while the remaining two As occupy the attention of three or four Bs, engaging lightly to preserve themselves until numerical equality is regained.

At smaller unit sizes, however, the loss of a fighter is a much greater disadvantage (representing at least 25%, if not more, of your functional fighting force).

The Maths

If you have 5 on 5, the loss of one person cuts you down by 20%.  That’s a little more than one slice of a pizza, if a pizza’s cut 6 ways.  If I steal that slice of pizza, you’ve still got most of a pizza left, it is still identifiable as a pizza.  In other words, whatever, let Wistric have that slice of pizza, it just doesn’t matter.

But if you’re in a 4 on 4, and you lose a fighter, that’s 25%.  Only a little more, but cognitively a huge loss.  If I take a full quarter of your pizza, you’re going to notice the loss.  It is no longer a round pizza pie, it is Pac-Man hopped up on Magic Pellets, with a wide open mouth looking to eat him a ghost.  And you might well feel put out with your old friend Wistric the Pizza Thief.

Now, if you take the instance of a 3-on-3, and you lose a fighter, that’s 33%.  For a moment, let’s step away from the pizza slice metaphor (don’t worry, we’ll come back to it).  33% is approximately the highest effective tax bracket.    Think of every word you say when you’re doing taxes.  This is worse.

At 2 on 2, one fighter lost is 50%.  Wistric took half your pizza.  That fucker.  I hate that fucking Wistric, ‘cause I love my fucking pizza.  Dinner of champions.  Also the next-morning breakfast of champions.  And lunch.  But not if Wistric took fucking half of it.

At 1 on 1, if you die, you’re dead.  No pizza for you.  Not even for Zombie You (no good recipes for Brains Margheritta).

Of course, if you do all the killing, you don’t have to do any of the math.  So, how to go about killing the enemy so they have to worry about this and not you?

Step 1: Don’t Die

In 5 on 5, a certain risky aggression is permissible because, hey, it breaks down to a 50/50 chance and you might come out the winner.  Anything below that, though, and your life actually means something, possibly for the first time ever.  Don’t waste it.  Never again will your little world be this full of people thinking “I hope Wistric doesn’t die… Christ I hope he doesn’t get his dumbass killed.”  It’s a real warm fuzzy.

So don’t let them down.  Be careful, be cautious.  Don’t throw your life at an attack you know won’t work.

Step 2: Make your opponent screw up

Does this mean don’t be aggressive?  Well, no.  Now is the perfect time for controlled, well-thought-out aggression.  You don’t fight defensively until your opponent figures out the hole in your defense.  That attitude is generally thought of as “letting your opponent make the first mistake” and it rests on the assumption that your opponent will oblige you before you make a mistake.  Instead, you move your opponent, you make him make a mistake.

Think of all the ways you can make your opponent move his blade in swordplay: throw a feint so he has to parry, change the line of your attack so he has to change his guard, fake an opening for him to attack, and beat or bind his blade offline.

Now to stretch these into horribly overwrought metaphors:

Feint: In a 3-on-3, if one fighter presses hard, either pushing a flank or feinting in, the opposition will change their formation to respond.   As in fencing, pay attention to how they respond, and if you feint again, you’ll know where their weakness will be.

Change line: By changing your formation’s shape or position, you will force them to respond.  In the time they take to respond, they will be weaker.

Fake an opening: A fighter who plays stupid, new, slow, or dumb will be more likely to be attacked.  A fighter who steps back from a line, creating a weakness, will be more likely to draw an attack.

Close the line: If one of your fighters can occupy two of theirs briefly, that frees two of yours to attack (thereby preventing their strength from attacking you while attacking with your strength).

Step 3: Don’t Die

Hey, is that familiar?  Yeah.  All of the four metaphors above have their liabilities.

Feint: A repeated feint sets a pattern that your opponent can respond to.  Your formation will still be vulnerable during the feint (just as a feined attack requires closing in to range).  As with swordplay, your feint must be convincing so that your opponent has no thought of attacking you.

Changing line: As you change your position, you will be exposed to their attack.

Fake an opening: A feigned weakness can still be exploited by a wily opponent.  If they see the hole for what it is, they will feint for the hole, and attack into your trap as it springs.

Close the Line: Just as one of your fighters may be able to keep two of theirs occupied, the singleton you attack with two may be able to do the same.  Or your singleton may just die outright from an overdose of stupidity, and then you’re boned.

Step 4: Don’t be Stupid

What’s more, be smart.  When you make an opening, when you make your opponent screw up, don’t stand there admiring your handiwork.  Strike.  Kill one of them, and follow it up by killing everybody who’s left standing.  Then salt their fields, shatter the gravestones of their ancestors, and enslave their children.  Or, just see if they’ll share their beer with you.

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