Rock, Paper, Scissors; Or Analogies of a Mad Man

Written by HG Dongal Eriksson, Originally Published in the Bird of Prey Online, Volume 7 Jan-Mar 2003 Issue

See, I was going to go with The Backyard Napoleon’s Pocket Guide To Melee Tactics, but HE Fernando was SO gracious,

Basically it breaks down to the three basic ways of fighting in a fixed front battle.

Shield walls = rock.
Spear work = paper
Charges (including pulse charges) = scissors
Shield walls (rock) beat charges (scissors).
Spears (paper) beat shields (rock).
Charges (scissors) beat spears (paper)

This is generally true for any type of battle situation, and more so for controlled frontages (Bridges, Gates, etc.) It tends to hold true in more open situations, as well, ON A LOCAL LEVEL.

So you have this knowledge, now, how do you put it to use?

We can assume that the other guy also has at least an instinctive knowledge of the same rules of battle, so they will try to tear your walls down, pulse charge your spears, and crush your charges on a hard wall. The KEY is transitions.

You need to anticipate the need to transition from any mode to any other, and you need to do them as seamlessly as possible.
By anticipation I mean both: having the people tasked and in place to make the transition; and also getting a read on what the opponent is trending into. It is important as well not to telegraph your transitions. If your sergeants are screaming “spears out, spears out!”, they bad guys have time to line up the pulse charge they need to knock them down.

Another thing to remember about transitions is that even success in a given evolution probably means that you have changed the face of your opponent, so you should change up to take best advantage of the new situation. What I mean is, if you send a line of spears up and pull over the bad guys’ wall, you are then in a situation of either paper on paper, if they don’t have a lot of secondaries, or paper on scissors if they do, and sooner or later those secondary shield guys are going to tire of being targets and charge. Conversely, if you pulse charge (scissors) their spears (paper), what is behind that is probably a rock, which is why we’ve been drilling on a pulse charge being exactly that, go out, and come back.

Another point to remember is that there are optimal contact ranges for these transitions. If two walls are facing, there are three basic ranges they can be at. At the longest range, there is enough room for both sides to send spears out between the walls, and you end up with a pure spear duel. While you can win the duel, it is a manpower victory (either skill OR numbers), not a tactical one. It is also brutally boring for the majority of your army, so stay out of it as much as possible. At medium range, one side or the other has enough room to send out spears, but not both. If you are at this range, what you should do depends on whether you’re the side who can get your guys out there. If so, great, but if not, you need to either shorten or lengthen the range. The reason is, if they have just enough room to get their spears out, your pulse charges are going to be costly, because their spears have a wall to retreat into, and backup to hit the guys charging them. Moving under fire at this range sucks, but it is less costly than maintaining it with the opponent having the advantage. Take the fight to them, or back up so you have room to pulse. At close range, neither side has spears out front, though some are probably fighting between the shieldmen and over them. Again, your response is dictated by the makeup of your opponent. If they are a tight wall, with their spears and poles fighting mostly from behind their shields, you gain fire superiority by filtering a few spears and poles into your front rank. Conversely, If they are a loose mix of spears and shields, then get right up into contact, and let your polearm maniacs really go to work.

So, when does it NOT go like this?

Sometimes you, or the other guy, has a mission that precludes being able to transition to all of the forms, like having to stick to a certain piece of terrain. Sometimes time constraints limit your options. Sometimes you simply don’t have the manpower, or the weapons mix available.So there you go. It’s quick and dirty, but keeping these points in mind as a commander or sergeant will help you keep tactical superiority over your little piece of the battlefield.


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