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The New World of Deployment

 
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Mark Stone
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2015 5:11 pm    Post subject: The New World of Deployment

We've all enjoyed the new deployment rules that have been in effect these last few years: simpler setup, quicker close to action, faster games. All good stuff. But we're also finding that our thinking has to change about how we strategize around deployment. We've already seen impact in some areas: greater value associated with scouting, leading to an increase in the use of light cavalry, for example.

I'd like to talk about another area of deployment that's been on my mind for quite a while: vertical versus horizontal command structure.

Say what?

Here's what I mean: most of us tend to think of our commands as organized horizontally: a left, right and center command when you have three commands for example. This squares with much of what we read from the history of this period, and it's an easy way to think about things.

I'm here to argue that horizontal thinking is all wrong. Here are three problems that result from horizontal thinking:
* A vulnerable command. Your opponent is going to make a big, aggressive push somewhere along your line, and typically follow the Napoleonic dictum of greatest concentration in force on a narrow area. Taking all the resulting losses and waver tests in a single command because only one command occupies that horizontal piece of your line is bad. It can quickly result in a command going into retirement.
* A lack of prompt points. Often when we need to prompt one charge, we need to prompt multiple charges. We don't send units in in isolation, but need an entire "pod" to act in a combined arms fashion. But even if your general is right there, getting off prompts for even two charges by irregular bodies in a single bound is not guaranteed. When all the units in a horizontal area are from the same command it's easy to run out of prompt points just when you need them most.
* Improper placement of key shock units. Often a game hinges on getting your shock units to the right place on the battlefield quickly. With the current deployment rules, there's very little time to march across the table if your units are out of position. Battle lines close too quickly for that. Given that units are essentially going to fight in a narrow cone directly in front of them, it's crucial to get those shock units set up where they need to be. But in a horizontal deployment, even if you've held those shock units back for the last command deployed so that you have maximum knowledge of your opponent's setup, you've already constrained yourself to (in this example) just 1/3 of the horizontal frontage in which to place those units. If they're in your right wing command but you need them on the left, the situation is pretty hopeless. If they are in the center command but you need them on the wing the situation is difficult at best.

All of these problems can be solved with vertical deployment. Instead of left, right, and center, organize your three commands as forward, middle, and rear. Look how each of these issues changes with this approach:
* Mixed commands on any given frontage. As you close with the enemy, you "close the accordion" of your three commands with the result that your line, on any given segment, contains troops from multiple commands. Your losses in a weak spot are thus much more likely to get distributed across multiple commands, making it harder for you to end up with a command in retirement.
* Multiple generals available to prompt. The same mixing of commands along a segment of frontage makes it much more likely that more than one general is available to prompt. For example, one general prompts your elephant unit to charge, but a different general prompts your pikes to charge because they're in a different command.
* Precise placement of key shock units. In this vertical model, each command deploys anywhere from table edge to table edge within its vertical band. That means when you place your last command, containing those key shock units, you can place them in exactly the right position horizontally, assuring they will be in place to fight where needed. Your only challenge is moving them down the table to engage the enemy, but with current deployment rules that is both quick and easy.

Vertical thinking requires a real shift in command design. Typically you'll want a pod of units that are designed to operate together to be split across commands, which is the exact opposite of our intuition. For example, I might have a three unit pod of a screening light infantry unit backed by an SHK unit and an Almughuvar unit as shock troops. Instead of putting them all in the same command, I put the LI unit in the forward command, the Moogs in the middle command, and the SHK in the rear command. After initial march moves these three units will all end up clustered together as a pod, but they're still three separate commands.

And look at the benefits this yields. In a single bound I can, for example, prompt the LI to retire so they're out of the way, prompt the Moogs to charge and prompt the SHK to charge simultaneously without any risk of running out of prompt points because each of these prompts comes from a different general. The odds that this will strip me of prompt points elsewhere on the battlefield are pretty low, since when the action gets heated it tends to be concentrated in a single area of the battlefield.

So free yourself from conventional thinking. Stop thinking horizontal, and think vertical!
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Frank Gilson
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2015 3:18 pm    Post subject: potential issues

I agree that Mark's points are valid, but emphasize the need for practice and care.

Why?

Vertical deployment can end up with traffic jams if you're not absolutely careful about placement and movement.

Vertical deployment can 'strand' some units you need for frontage coverage without proper support or more likely, any available prompt points (given distance of general from the far flank).

Finally, taking full advantage of this almost requires 3 generals. In particular with just two commands you will need several units that don't care as much about being 'stranded' (as above), such as Reg B light cavalry. Such units make counters easily and if regular can still be prompted (as a sole prompt that turn) from some distance.

Frank
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Mark Stone
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2015 4:53 pm    Post subject:

Following up on Frank's point:

We're still seeing evolving adaptation to these new rules. For a long time the norm has been two commands, given the expense of generals. But more generals have a lot of value for current deployment rules, and I think we'll see a shift to three commands being the norm.

Indirectly this will put some value on lists where the net expense of generals is minimized, so armies who can get SHK, SHC, or El generals will feel the cost of an extra general less so.
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Ed Kollmer
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:37 am    Post subject:

I think I will have to see this on the table to fully comprehend this.
Interesting. I might try this on my next game; at least with what I think Mark is proposing.
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