Monday, March 23, 2009

Mercenary Tactica: Crossbows

Mercenary Tactica – Crossbows

If Pikes are the iconic combat weapon of the Dogs of War, then the Crossbow is certainly the iconic missile weapon for mercenary armies. The crossbow is essentially the only long range missile troop that Dogs of War players have access to. Duelists may have pistols and throwing knives, but these both lack range. The mercenary general does have access to core troops armed with bows in the form of light cavalry but it is obviously impractical to field enough sizeable units of such light cavalry to make an impact with their shooting. The major benefit of light cavalry lies in its mobility and thus using them as static shooting platforms is practically pointless. The only other troops with access to bows are Halflings, who are quite able archers, but that is best left for a future discussion. Crossbows provide a relatively cheap and powerful long range missile unit that should find a place in nearly all Dogs of War armies, aside from themed armies such as an all cavalry force. Like Pikes units, the Dogs of War player can choose between regular mercenary crossbowmen and various Regiment of Renown crossbow units. The player also has the choice between Human crossbowmen or Dwarf crossbowmen.

As with most of the units available to the Dogs of War player, the stats for crossbowmen are not impressive, in short they are your average human trooper. They are fairly cheap though and being a Core Choice means you can field several sizeable units of them. The minimum unit size for crossbowmen is ten. Typical unit sizes will range anywhere from ten to twenty depending on how and where the unit is being used. While crossbow units can have a full command it is best avoided as the full command will cost you an additional thirty points, which would be better used adding more regular crossbowmen to the unit. As with all missile units you really do not want to add a standard bearer to a crossbow unit as you will be essentially giving the enemy a big chunk of victory points should the unit break from combat. If the enemy is engaging your crossbow units in combat then you are likely facing enough problems as it is and there is no need to give the opponent extra points. The only member of the command group that could be worth adding is the musician to help with rallying.

The decision on how many crossbowmen to take in a unit depends on where and how you intend to use them in your overall battle plan. Small units of ten crossbowmen work well to cover the flanks and the combination of their range and hitting power should be able to deal with most of the fast, lightly armored units typically found there. Larger units of around twenty crossbowmen deployed ten wide and two ranks deep can work closer to the center of your lines and can pump out a large volume of shots if you’re lucky enough to get them on a hill. The volume of shots will make up for their rather average shooting skill. The large size of the unit means you can also take a few casualties before having to worry about panic tests. Deploying such large blocks of crossbowmen may also cause your opponent to change his deployment and battle plans as they will have to carefully consider placing any valuable units in line of sight of the crossbows. If an enemy unit does manage to close on your crossbow unit it may be advisable to reform the unit to gain more ranks, especially with a unit of twenty. Reforming into five wide with four ranks provides some useful static combat resolution and you will hopefully still have outnumbering on your side. This will maneuver is situational though as sometimes it may be better to keep the wider formation to gain more shots for a stand and shoot charge reaction.

The same rules for Human mercenary crossbowmen apply to dwarf warriors equipped with crossbows with a few minor differences. While their shooting skill is the same the Dwarfs have several much better stats overall, although you will be using up valuable Special Choices should you decide to hire some Dwarf crossbowmen. Unlike the Human crossbowmen the Dwarfs are rather resilient with their higher toughness, are less likely to run due to their superior leadership, and can hold their own in combat due to their higher weapons skill. The Dwarfs also come with light armor and can be equipped in any number of ways to further augment their combat abilities. A typical combination is to equip Dwarfs with crossbows and shields making them both a solid missile unit and fairly able in combat as they will gain the hand weapon and shield bonus. All of these upgrades do drastically increase the cost for even a small unit of these warriors so you will need to weigh their use against the Human crossbowmen.

Deploying your crossbow units can be tricky as long, thin lines of missile troops can have a fairly large footprint and the terrain will of course affect your deployment as well. You will want to maximize the number of shots you can get with the crossbowmen without cutting off valuable maneuvering space for your mobile units. It may happen that you will have to deploy your crossbows in a smaller frontage or even behind other units. In general you will want to avoid moving with crossbows as much as possible – they need to be shooting virtually every turn to gain the maximum use from them. If necessary you may need to have your crossbowmen sacrifice themselves to ensure other units in your army aren’t exposed to flank charges or to simply buy some time while your other units get into better positions. In my army every unit has a definite role and every unit is also expendable. If you are in a position where sacrificing a small unit of crossbowmen will prevent an enemy from rolling up your battle line or just simply breaking through to vulnerable war machines or lone characters, then the crossbowmen will make a sacrifice for the greater good. Try to angle enemy chargers so that it will take them several turns to get into a position for further charges. After all it is better to lose an eighty point unit of crossbowmen than having a big unit of pikes or your Paymaster’s Guard unit flank charged. In a typical 2000 point army I would suggest taking no fewer than two units of ten crossbowmen. As an example, my typical 2250pt army uses two units of twenty crossbowmen deployed ten wide and two ranks deep. I found that these large units just had a far greater and noticeable impact on the game, or at the very least give my opponents something to worry about – 40 potential crossbow shots is nothing to sneeze at. When I first started playing Dogs of War, I used two units of ten, and while they generally performed well, they never quite managed to kill enough enemies and were easily panicked which opened up big gaps in my battle line. I may be switching things around after a year or so of going with this setup and will try to give my unit of Marksmen some more time in the spotlight.

Hopefully the above tactica has been useful to you. Now get out there and hire some crossbowmen!



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