WAB – Gimmicky Tactics

WAB – Gimmicky Tactics

These are tactics which I’ve seen employed at various venues and thought I’d share my thoughts on them.

1- The Inclined Skirmish Screen

This is a tactic used to expose a formed enemy unit’s flank to another friendly unit waiting.

The skirmish screen can be fairly small (even to 5 figures) they are lined up before the enemy unit such that they face the enemy units front at a 45% (or what ever angle is required).

The enemy has two options;-

  • Hold, and endeavour to counter the skirmishers with other means. Unfortunately, unless the player has created a list to deal with these penny packet skirmisher road blacks he will likely have larger skirmish units that have already been neutralised elsewhere. Options at this point may include missile fire.
  • Charge the skirmishers, since they cannot be by-passed, since the block the possible route forward.

Should that enemy unit decide to move forward it must engage the skirmisher.. To do so the enemy unit must charge. Under the rule that maximum figures must be brought into contact the enemy unit is forced to wheel and bring its front rank into contact with the skirmishers.

Combat subsequently ensues, with the formed unit probably winning and either; –

  • Pursuing the enemy skirmishers and probably exposing it’s flank to the waiting opponents unit, or
  • holding, allowing the skirmishers to flee and probably still exposing it’s flank to the enemy unit waiting. This may be the more preferable solution since the opponents unit then has to consider being hit in it’s flank should it engage by enemy units which are on either flank.

Recognising its use

The enemy has multiple units of 5-6 figure cheap skirmishers. These will be deployed away from the enemy’s shock combat troops – since the player will not want the skirmishers to block any potential flank charge created. The enemy’s shock troops will likely be deployed to a flank, whilst the skirmishers take the centre field, likely in front of normal troops.

Countering this tactic

Various options are available

1-Bow Fire
Obliterate the enemy skirmishers with bow fire. Small units take break tests at 2 casualties. They rarely have high leadership, and once they are below 5 figures and broken, they cannot rally and have any further impact upon the game. They may even take nearby skirmish units away with them through panic.

2-Counter with your own skirmish killers
Most lists have troops types that seem designed for countering enemy skirmishers. These will include your own skirmishers, most light infantry types, as well as light/skirmishing cavalry. These can be used to remove the enemy skirmish threat before your main line is in a position to engage the enemy.

3-Suck the skirmishers into your own lines

Why not use your own troops to engage the enemy skirmishers and draw them onto your main formed units. Have specific skirmish units which are designed to lose combat. No leaders, no real combat capabilities. These units would shadow your formed troops, and once the lines are close, your skirmishers charge the enemy skirmish screen, lose combat, and then pull them onto your battle lines when they pursue. This way the enemy skirmishers must conform to your frontage. Now you have the enemy skirmishers aligned with your combat troops, which should now win the next round of combat and then be able to pursue forward into the enemy battle line, reducing the risk of your troops exposing flanks at funny angles to the enemy. IF the enemy wishes to save his standard foot troops in the line (since his own shock combat troops are off to the side) he will have to either send in the shock troops to your front where his advantages are reduced, or hope that his line holds sufficiently long enough for him to get his shock troops into position to engage your troops in the flank on a subsequent round of combat.

2 -Sucking frenzied troops away from battle

This can be used by any relatively cheap and fast moving unit. The target is a large unit of fanatical frenzied troops. It relies upon using the rules for frenzied troops against the frenzied unit. The expectation is that the cheap unit being used will lose combat, but have at least one figure remaining at the end of combat.

Frenzied has one rule which stipulates that the troops will always pursue a fleeing enemy whether the player wants to or not (WAB P52)

The objective of the cheap unit is to get into a position to be able to charge a flank or the rear which would mean that when the frenzied unit wins it is drawn away from the battle. If the cheap unit remains in play, then the frenzied unit will be obliged to charge it in it’s next turn, taking it even further away from the battle.

This tactic is not intended to defeat the frenzied unit, but to neutralise it whilst the rest of the army is defeated. Where frenzied troops are used they are often tooled up with weaponry and characters, so represent a sizable chunk of the army.

Countering this tactic
Ensure that your frenzied troops are sufficiently supported by troops that can either cover their flanks/rear, or engage these troops with your own light troops.

3- Stupid Roman Tactics

“Stupid Roman Tricks” is a joke based on Dave Letterman’s ‘Stupid Human Tricks’ on his TV show… The tricks involve the free usage of disengage, FBIGO, and changing facing before a charge.. The most effective of their tricks is the ability to form column by right facing and zipping 12″ in any direction, thus being able to intervene almost anywhere on the table at will… Which is why I refer to them in WAB as ‘foot cavalry’.
JeffJ – Taken from WABlist

Most Roman Legion units have the option to be drilled.

A- Free use of disengage
Disengaging from Combat (page 37)
Units engaged in hand-to-hand combat at the start of the turn may attempt to disengage from combat in their movement phase.

Charge phase:
Declare units that wish to disengage during the charge declaration phase, turn models around 180 degrees to show this. This turn around is free and does not affect further movement.

Compulsory Moves phase:
Move the disengaging units, before charging units are moved.
Roll a Leadership test, if passed the unit may move up to double its normal movement away from the combat. The enemy is not allowed to pursue.

If the Ld check is failed then the unit flees its normal fleeing movement- 2D6 or 3D6. The enemy may attempt to pursue the same as if the unit had broken in hand to hand fighting.

Cavalry and Drilled troops may disengage without rolling their Leadership if all engaged enemy troops are slower than or equal to their movement.

B- FBIGO (Fall Back in Good Order) (AoA page 46)

  • Units that FBIGO don’t cause panic checks.
  • Units that FBIGO rally automatically and may reform.
  • Units that FBIGO may be pursued, but if caught they’re not wiped out, they counts as being charged in the next round.
  • Units that FBIGO may not declare a charge in their next turn. They may move and shoot normally.

Overwhelming odds:

A unit that outnumbers its opposition by over two to one gains an ‘overwhelming odds’ advantage.

If the side with ‘overwhelming odds’ loses a combat and fails its break test, they Fall Back in Good Order rather than flee.

Drilled troops, units in skirmish formation, and cavalry that lose a combat but pass their break test may FBIGO instead of remaining in the combat.

C – The Free Turn or Rank change Drilled troops may make a free 90 or 180 degree trun at the beginning of their movement. This is made after any charge declarations have been made, but before movement takes place.

If the Roman unit is 3 figures deep, this means that it may make a turn which now makes it a column 3 figures wide which can fast march. Hence the reference from JeffJ that they are foot cavalry, since this will mean that Romans without heavy armour can move 12 inches in their turn.

In a similar manner, if the Roman unit has been fast marching across the battlefield in it’s 3 figure wide column and finds itself with 8 inches of the enemy at the beginning of the turn, it may now charge. Using its free rank formation change to reduce the unit’s length by 2 ranks and so increase the unit’s frontage to four or five figures wide. This means that the most effective unit size for a Roman unit would be between 12 and 18 figures (a multiple of 3). A unit could be as large as 24, but would find itself wasting many of it’s figures in combat as it would be unable to change it’s formation sufficiently before the charge. (it would go from a 3 wide 8 deep unit to a four wide 6 deep unit, so wasting 2 ranks of figures which would lend no benefit to the combat)

D – Testudo

A roman unit may form a testudo at the start of its turn. This lasts until the beginning of the Roman players next turn where if they wish to remain in testudo they must again declare their intent to form it again.

A unit must be at least 4 figures wide and have at least 2 ranks. The unit then has a 2+ armour save against missile weapons.

The downside of the formation is that the unit cannot charge or march.

You will need to clarify with the other player whether they allow the Romans to throw their javelins in this formation, since this is not clear within the rules.

E- Other Benefits of Drilled Troops

  • Don’t have to take leadership tests to avoid pursuit of a defeated enemy.
  • Open lanes to avoid charging elephants or scythed chariots.