Wistric’s Weekly Warfare #9: Foreplay

This week, Wistric’s mind isn’t digging up much in the way of a good metaphor.  This is possibly because Wistric’s mind is, well, limited in the number of tracks it follows.  So we’ll pick up a metaphor from a couple weeks back and talk about how one sets the mood for a good bit of combat.

 

Pre-event prep work

When you show up to a date, you can be holding the movie tickets and a dozen roses, or you can be saying “Whaddaya wanna do?   I dunno.  Get, like, coffee?”  One of these, at least in my experience, is a more effective guarantor of a successful date.  I’m sure you can figure out which.  There is, of course, something to be said for spontaneity in romance, but there’s a whole lot more to be said for “spontaneity” that, due to thorough prep work, goes smoothly.  Yeah, I’m not sure how that last bit relates to melee, either.

So, how do you prep for melee before the event?

First, figure out the format of the fighting (blah blah what movies are showing blah blah).  E-mail or IM the marshal in charge.  You know all those stupid questions you’re not supposed to ask at the melee?  Well, if you feel you absolutely must ask them, THIS is a great time to do so.  I did exactly this last night, dropping a message to Dante about Defending the Gate to find out if I’d read something correctly.  And, yes, I did, and yes, it would be a stupid question to ask in public.

Next, figure out who’s going to be there.  At the very least, know who from your local group is going.  Once you know that, and what the format is, you can actually train for the scenarios and get all the more awesome. 

Sell the event!  Get your local group all pumped up about it.  Knowing is half the battle!  Showing up is the other half!  Actually fighting is somewhere in there.

If you are not the one in charge, but nobody else is doing this, harangue your local fearless leader until the event is well-published and all of this information is available, or just offer to take over the job.

 

Resource management

Let’s say you’re a poor college student.  You can’t take your girlfriend out to an expensive dinner to propose to her.  So what can you do?  Well, let’s say she’s saved up just enough money to go back out to Colorado with you and spend the summer.  Now you have non-liquid assets.  You have all sorts of tools.  You can, like, get the stewardess to announce your proposal over the intercom as the plane descends.  Or if you have to drive and, say, your Freshman roommate’s dad owns a construction company and can control those roadside digital signs, you could have him post your proposal on the side of the interstate where it’d be nice and convenient to have the engine overheat.

So, maybe you don’t roll with a bunch of white scarves.  You still have resources.  You still have assets.  Look around, analyze them, figure out their strengths and weaknesses, and work on improving the condition.  If you have a fighter with only a single sword, and you could loan her a dagger, do so! 

 

Know the Terrain

You might find out the layout of the melee field prior to the event, from the marshal or from well-informed friends, or you might not know until you show up.   Whichever happens, once you get to the event take a good long look at the field.  Walk the woods, inspect the field for foot traps.  Keep this information handy.  Think about how you’ll move around it.  What points will be easy to defend?  What parts of the field will slow your own advance or your enemy’s?  What’s going to be the natural flow back from rez point?  What parts of the woods screen movement of forces?

 

Threat assessment

Now that you know your assets and liabilities, take a look at the enemy.  What are their assets and liabilities?  What do you know about them?  Some of this you can do prior to an event: For small melees assume certain units (Dragoons, Tir-y-Don, Gardiner’s Company) will show up.  Know their skills.  For wars, it’s actually pretty easy to find out the strengths/strategy of the opposite kingdom/barony.

The rest of the details can be filled in with an inspection of who is at the rapier field.  Remember that WWW about Threat Assessment?  Yes, revert to that.

 

Make a plan

“The first victim of battle is the plan” –Some guy
“Well that’s just crap” -Celric

You’re in charge.  Time to make a plan (actually, show up with a plan prior to the event.  At the event, it’s time to modify your plan). 

Just what is the goal?  How are you going to achieve that goal?

Will you match your strength to your enemy’s strength?  Or your weakness to your enemy’s strength and vice versa, in the hopes that your strength can overcome your enemy’s weaknesses before your own vulnerabilities fail?

How will you use the terrain to your advantage?

If your plan does not survive first contact with the enemy, it was an insufficient and over-limited plan (your plan should not be “we’re going to engage them here”, it should be “we’re going to engage them here and push through on the right to get to the flag in their backfield, and if they stack up against our right, we’ll shift our reserves to the left and push the left”).

The best plans are complex in the mind of the commander, but can be communicated simply.  At “Lay on”, your average Atlantian doesn’t remember much and needs a clear message to override his natural impulse to kill.  I have a general “Ten words” rule, though five words are better.  “Press right, rally in backfield” does great for this.  Of course, this assumes an ability to effectively press the right.  What screws up plans is not so much the action of the enemy, as the mistakes of your own forces.  So train well.

 

Communicate your plan

When you get to that rally point, if the world’s gone to crap, you or your lieutenants can issue new orders.  I say you or your lieutenants, because you might die.  So, anybody in the chain of command who is not at the bottom rung should probably have a good grasp of the overall plan, including “why are we running the right and rallying?”, “what’s our goal?”, and “what do we do after we rally?”

Before lay-on, do two things:

1) Follow Corby’s rule and march your forces uphill and into the shade, have them sit and grab water

2) Gather up the commanders of each of your sub-units.  5 people is about the maximum size for any sub-unit, so if you have more, split them up.  If you have a gaggle of unaffiliated fighters, they’re now their own subunit, grab one of them and make him the commander (or you can mix them in with existing units, though it may screw up those units).  And then step off to the side.  Give the who, what, when, where, why, and how.  Who are you fighting (including all of your threat assessments)?  What’s the goal?  When will the units execute your orders (‘Lay on’ or at your signal of ‘Now!’)?  Where will the units go?  Why are you even out there?  And how… er… well, how something or other.  There are lots of other WWWWWH questions to be asked and answered. 

And by the way, now is a GREAT time to ask stupid questions, as long as there aren’t marshals or opponents in ear shot.

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