301. Know your troops, know your army, know how it loses, and know how it wins. Plan how youâ€™ll make it work, write it down, and practice it. Drill involves practice, doctrine involves the rest.
302. Doctrine guides your army composition, order of march, terrain selection, deployment, battle plan, formations, manoeuvres and other tactics. It is the result of your experience and of thinking through your potential battles in advance and helps you shape battles the way you want them. It is a reference point that keeps you on track, avoids known mistakes, and that you can fall back on when in doubt or suffering from fatigue rather than always having to improvise under time pressure. Doctrine provides clear purposes and roles for every BG so you always have a clear idea of what it should be doing to improve its position and contribute to the battle.
303. Doctrine can be written or unwritten, simple or complex, molded mainly by the nature of the army and opposition but also by player taste. On the simplest level, it can be a single â€œcannedâ€ order of march, default deployment and battle plan, on a more complex level it provides if-then alternatives based on terrain, opposition, and how the enemy deploys. With experience, a doctrine develops and becomes fully internalized by habit, but a written doctrine early on can give a new player a jump-start on learning from analysis and experience and can help pass the benefit of analysis and experience from player to player.
304. A good doctrine should be clear and easy to implement, making use of terrain and each BG, with clear organizational structure and roles within the capacity of the troops. It speeds planning and set-up at the beginning of the battle, which can disconcert the opponent or mislead him into overconfidence based on your inattention, either of which is useful. Bear in mind that any tactical task requires one or more BGs, so you must be selective in prioritizing which are worth the commitment. More BGs allows more tactical flexibility, but the BGs then are on average weaker so may be unsuitable for some tasks. Sometimes a BG can perform several missions at once, such as a mounted BG providing rear support and flank protection to friendly troops, and an indirect threat to the enemyâ€™s open flank that requires him to commit a BG to watch it.
305. Some people find painting a good time to think about doctrine. There was a player who chatted with his troops about their role in the armyâ€™s battle plans and doctrine as he painted them. He said his armies fought better (or maybe it was just that he did).
306. Just for illustration, hereâ€™s a simple starting point for one type of default Medieval French offensive doctrine: Our goal is to deliver a lance charge en haye (in one rank) on an open battlefield against several non-Spearmen/non-Pikemen BGs and break through the enemy, then exploit. Knights in line abreast charge a picked target area, Cavalry in echelon back to protect Knightsâ€™ flanks by tying up any flank threats, Archers try to guard Cavalryâ€™s flanks, and Mob â€œguardsâ€ the camp.
311. BG Swarm Doctrine is an intriguing approach that attracted recent notice due to its success in the hands of an expert player. Indeed, pulling it off requires skill and with complex tactics can go horribly wrong even for the best players. Swarming is based on the idea of fielding a large number of small but reasonably capable and manoeuvrable BGs (e.g., 4-base Drilled Armoured LtSpear/Swordsmen, supported by Light Horse to help the MF catch enemy skirmishers) and then using greater articulation due to number of BGs and tactical skill in manoeuvre to find or force exploitable gaps and flank opportunities against the enemy by placing enemy BGs, ideally subject to uncontrolled charges, in situations where they are double-teamed by enemy from two directions. If executed perfectly, the enemy BG is going to suffer a flank charge or flank interception no matter what they do, as their friends are tied up by other swarming BGs. The swarm BGs are favored by gaps and irregularities in the line of engagement.
This does not require perfect sequencing to work, and even if the attempt to achieve a perfect swarm fails there are still advantages to having more numerous and agile BGs even if forced to a relatively frontal fight. With more BGs, swapping BG for BG is a good deal. However, small BGs are more fragile and MF are fast but suffer POA and CT disadvantages fighting in the open.
One counter to this approach is to tighten up your line of battle using terrain or turning the battle 90 degrees, a plan best reflected in deployment if you can recognize the problem at that point. Then advance in a solid line and shoot or hack the swarm down. Armies that have been suggested against the Dominate swarm include HYW English, Shooty Cavalry armies, or armies with enough BGs to equal its articulation.
See Part 8 - â€œBattle Planâ€ below for more specifics on battle planning to fit into doctrine.
320. Drill is dry-run practice in battle manoeuvres in accordance with your doctrine so that troop handling in battle is easy. Some rules have manoeuvre so flexible that drill is not very important â€“ it is important in FoG, more so for some armies. An hour of table drill deploying and moving the BGs of a new army will pay ample rewards. You want to have down cold how different BGs move, turn, contract and expand alone and along with others they are brigaded with. You donâ€™t ever want to confront an unexpected Complex Manoeuvre Test. You want practice in deploying and manoeuvring battlelines, echelons with refused flanks, rear supports, reserves, and both close and far flank guards, in performing an army wheel, formation of a front to the flank, and tactical withdrawals.
321. Work with alternative orders of march and deployment doctrine so the troops donâ€™t get in each otherâ€™s way. Write in the army list the deployment concept for each deployment group and the alternative roles of each BG (I create a text box below the list in the Excel file). Focus on ensuring front-line troops will have an appropriate spot, pre-planning gaps to allow later troops to deploy, avoiding slow troops blocking faster ones, and keeping options open for the first deployment rounds.
322. Special attention should be given to handling Skirmishers and missile Cavalry effectively. Set up an opposing force and practice manoeuvre and evasion with obstacles including terrain and troops until you master each situation.
323. Multiple line or deep packed battle line formations can be important when deploying around terrain or to allow flexibility in rearranging your front line or shaking out troops to right or left. I urge drilling with such formations so you can quickly improvise formations that can be readily unpacked in battle without obstructing each other.
324. If you have more than one troop type in a BG, the initial formation is important since opportunities to rearrange bases in a BG are limited. The only ways are (A) reforming if you are not in a legal formation or (B) formation changes, including Orb, Turns, Contractions & Expansions. Contractions can occur in normal movement and also in dropping a file in a charge, evasion, rout, or feeding bases into melee. Switching front and rear ranks doesnâ€™t work in a 90 or 180 turn since the old and new front ranks are the same if possible. Expanding out the rear ranks to a flank and later contracting the original front rank to the rear works, but that takes 2 turns (assuming you have room and no failed CMTs).
325. Most players learn set up from doing it once before each game and figuring out mistakes after the game â€“ this can be slow and painful compared with drilling to avoid mistakes. Itâ€™s helpful to drill with a cooperative live opponent â€“ rather than fighting a battle right off, do the setup and deployment routines repeatedly and you will greatly accelerate your comfort level with battle preparation until it flows easily. It makes more of an impression if the process is for real, so roll a die at the point the battle would begin to randomly decide whether to fight the battle or restart the setup process. By talking through the decisions you put yourselves in each others shoes and educate each other.
340. Solo play is also useful in working out doctrine and drill, although if there are two sides it is hard to outguess oneself so one way is Charles Grantâ€™s old method of defining several plans per side and rolling dice to choose between them. In DBM the PIP system injected a lot of opportunistic improvisation, which made solo easier than in FoG, where more pure pre-planning of moves is possible.
NEXT - Part 4. BG Sizes
Created originally by Mike K and posted on the Slitherine FoG Forum, and appearing here with his kind permission. This is a live WIKI version of the document and so you welcome to edit or add to the content on any of these pages.
If you are adding totally new items to the list of tips, or putting an opposing viewpoint forward for one of the existing tips please do so by adding a new section using letters to supplement the original numerical sequence. ie:
(original point)-407. Non-skirmisher horse are usually 4 bases for shooting Cavalry and good Lancers, while other Cavalry and Cataphracts are often preferred as 6s if affordable.
(new addition) -407.a Fielding large numbers of low-grade cavalry in 4's can allow you to greatly increase unit count, and improve your chances of initiating flank attacks in which their lesser quality/armour becomes irrelevant.
You can use colours if you wish but it's not obligatory. If you are clarifying or enhancing one of the existing tips, feel free to edit the existing point.
The "locked" Original FoG Tactical Tips is available through that link.
1. Army Choice
2. General Tips
3. Doctrine and Drill
4. BG Sizes
8. Battle Plans
9. Troop Types in FoG
10. Light Horse Stable
11. Tactical Miscellany
12. Visualizing Battles
13. Wisdom from the Experts