Light Horse Stable

Light Horse & Shooty Cavalry Stable

1000. This Part focuses on Light Horse generally as well as using armies entirely or primarily of Light Horse and their bow-armed Cavalry (“Shooty Cavalry”) cousins. This type of army is commonly referred to as a “Steppe army,” but actual Steppe armies have considerable variety as they can also include armies with LH and large numbers of other complementary troops such as Cavalry Lancers, Knights, Elephants or even infantry. This Part focuses on common aspects of doctrine, battle plans and tactics for Light Horse and armies based around Light Horse and/or Shooty Cavalry.

Life Cycle of a Light Horse Army:

Life Cycle of a Light Horse Army:

1001. Light Horse are easy to manoeuvre and if they get in trouble they can usually slip out of it, making them user-friendly for new players once they learn the basics. They are also fun to play with (if not against!) as swirling Light Horse wheel, turn and dart around a plodding foe who becomes frustrated by his inability to get to grips because you move or evade out of reach while peppering him ceaselessly with arrows. Skirmishing is entertaining, but the problem is that it doesn’t put out a lot of shooting per army list point spent and winning is by slowly shooting down the enemy’s cohesion, a plan too often impeded by enemy armour, rear support and the Cohesion Test bonuses of Inspired Commanders.

If “pure” LH seems too slow and one-dimensional you may find yourself deciding to pick up the pace with something that has enough punch to dare a charge against unfragmented enemy. So you may recruit some Shooty Cavalry that can play the skirmish game but also effectively charge when opportunities arise. You might also raise some LF for cheap shooting, BG count, and to do something about the difficult terrain many opponents insist on putting down. You might even pick up a BG of cheap MF for the same reasons, plus it can provide rear support and maybe flank charge something.

So the Cavalry is working OK but doesn’t have enough punch for you and can still be beaten by opposing Cavalry – maybe something more is needed? You try a BG of Cavalry Lancers, Knights or Elephants that can put some fear into the enemy and draw his attention. It can work nicely in conjunction with the LH and Cavalry, but a lone non-Skirmish BG presents an obvious target and you find it liable to be caught by the enemy. So you decide you need another heavy BG to create a more solid strike force or add punch to two separate brigades. Then you add another. Suddenly you realize you are only a short step away from having a true combined arms army with many spears to feed, a horse mortgage and armour payments, with only a few BGs of frisky LH left to remind you of your carefree skirmishing days.

1002. This is the typical direction of evolution but not a harmful one since it’s a good learning path. LH shooters in force are a threat because their ability to dance around heavy and undrilled troops allows them to concentrate shooting on vulnerable BGs with relative impunity. The LH suffer a -1 POA shooting against Heavily Armoured troops or Armoured Foot, but even those can be damaged with enough dice being thrown. What LH can’t do is dare a fight in close combat except against enemy who are Skirmishers or have lost cohesion. This lack is what motivates the recruitment of troops with close combat power, and tactical experience enables the added BGs to be used effectively as they are recruited.

Cavalry are a good complement to LH. They are manoeuvrable, although less so and need different tactics from LH. Nik Gaukroger, winner of the 2008 Field of Glory World Championship with Seljuk Turks, recommends approximately equal numbers of shooting Cavalry and shooting LH, pointing out that LH is easier to use, but Cavalry more effective when used skillfully. Adding Cavalry BGs to LH step by step as your skills improve is an effective way to perfect Shooty Cavalry tactics.

1003. This can expand to other troop types – the more versatile Skirmisher armies have enough heavier striking troops (heavy horse, Elephants, or good medium or heavy foot) so you can use screen-and-smash tactics (see Tip 837), skirmishing along the line and trying to use shooting and manoeuvre to develop gaps and vulnerabilities in the enemy line or envelop it in standard Skirmisher fashion. Well-led strike troops are then committed at the right time while your opponent is out of position and your lights help keep him from responding effectively. There is a set of 5 interesting Numidian photo battle reports in the AAR forum that provide examples of the use of a light/heavy army: the first report in this thread.

There are many armies which offer Shooty Cavalry and Light Horse along with heavy horse, Elephants, or medium foot, allowing a variety of combined arms tactics. They are popular, but not the easiest for new players.

Light Horse Battle Groups:

1011. 6-base groups are much better than 4s at generating a Cohesion Test on a single target by themselves (see Tip 202), but they are less nimble than 4s at shoot-and-scoot manoeuvre on a field crowded with LH and have a harder time avoiding having their shooting split among enemy BGs. 4-base LH are more easily manoeuvred at an angle to target specific enemy BGs even in the middle of an enemy battle line. They are also able to evade back more flexibly through other troops provided they have at least a one-base width gap in their evade path. With enough room and good tactics, more numerous LH BGs should be able to defeat fewer but larger similar BGs by ganging up on one target from several directions. For scouting or screening to delay enemy, a small BG serves as well as a large one. However, 6s are more loss-resistant than 4s and good for riding down opposing Skirmishers, preferably with a Light Spear or Swordsmen POA in their favor.

1012. Superior always has advantages, but because much of the utility of Light Horse lies in pinning, screening and harassing, and because they are all highly manoeuvrable, fielding Poor and Average Light Horse is relatively safe and effective so long as they are not pushed beyond their limitations. A cheap BG of 4 Poor LH also adds BG count and can participate safely in combat to a degree that Poor LF fielded for BG count can’t risk. Javelins are fine for Poor LH –the added 2 point cost of Bows is partly wasted. The rare Light Horse able to have Bow, Light Spear, and Swordsmen capabilities all together are pricey but very effective Skirmisher killers, and in my view are well worth toughening to Superior.

1013. Bow/Swordsmen LH are solid against other Skirmishers, but simple Bow is cheaper and more streamlined for skirmishing purposes. Bow-armed LH don’t really benefit from armour – it is more useful to Javelin/Light Spear LH who are more likely to find themselves in close combat.

Handling LH as a Combat Arm:

1020. This section is a general discussion of LH as a combat arm in an army of multiple troop types. On the single BG level, LH primarily shoot, usually only charging when at an advantage such as against LF or worse or less numerous LH, charging enemy in the flank or rear who are already engaged to the front (forcing them to fight in 2 directions in Melee), or charging fragmented targets. Fragmented targets are particularly attractive since when charging they take a Cohesion Test and may rout, while if they receive the charge their dice are halved while Skirmishers fighting against them are no longer halved. Some charges require a Complex Move Test.

1021. On the army level, the LH arm is useful to approach enemy to prevent Second Moves, countering or defeating enemy Skirmishers, pressing through gaps and around the flanks, and seeking to use shooting and manoeuvre to distract, disorganize and disrupt the enemy in support of the fighting troops. If you have LH superiority, their likely roles in the battle plan after the typical first turn advance will be to crush enemy LH and LF or drive them either to the baseline or to shelter behind their own heavy troops, then screening, harassing and shooting up non-missile mounted (or even missile Cavalry if the odds are good) while avoiding shooty foot. Although some Shooty Cavalry can face or beat MF foot archers in an exchange of arrows, LH can’t stand up to them in a sustained shooting exchange unless they can bring superior numbers to bear or manoeuvre so the archers (typically Undrilled) can’t wheel or turn to bring all their shooting to bear, and
attempts to turn to face the LH will disorganize the archer line. If not Armoured, most Cavalry are better off either staying clear of massed foot archers or charging in.

1022. Disposing of enemy Skirmishers is important both for Attrition Points and freedom from their interference. It may be worthwhile to concentrate your LH on one wing for this purpose even at the cost of allowing temporary freedom of action for enemy lights on the other wing. LH with Light Spear or Swordsmen POAs are useful for this task, though superior numbers also work well. A BG of friendly Cavalry or LF brigaded with LH can provide useful support if the enemy Skirmishers don’t simply take flight. Cornering an enemy LH BG is best done with two BGs or with the benefit of blocking terrain or a board edge, although sometimes you can lure LH to attack LF or weaker LH and flank it in combat, or, as a backup in case you lose that fight quickly, position another light BG where in the event of a rout the enemy LH is forced to pursuit-charge into it, unable to evade later chargers.

1023. LH alone can have a tough time tactically pinning down heavier troops since their restricted area is ignored, their flank or rear charge does not cause cohesion loss, and LH have half the dice of their opponents in close combat. With a decent number of shooting dice they can, however, do considerable damage if given free rein to roam and shoot into the flank or rear for a number of turns, and they can also serve to block enemy evades, break offs and routs and prevent rallying of routers. LH can put the opponent on the horns of a dilemma – hunt down or chase off the LH, ignore them and proceed with the battle plan, or divide efforts between engaging frontally and fending off the LH? You can exploit any of these choices by the enemy.

1024. Often flank or rear charges by LH won’t slow the progress of enemy foot at all. If the foot are undisrupted after Melee, the LH break off in Joint Action and the foot in their own turn simply reform and continue on their way with a normal move. If, however, the enemy is also engaged to the front, then flank or rear charging with LH gives the entire enemy BG a -1 POA for “fighting enemy in 2 or more directions” that can tip the frontal Melee in your favor.

1025. Being outnumbered or outclassed in LH is a serious disadvantage in that it limits what your LH can achieve. If your quality is worse, your BGs can be hunted down on a one-to-one basis. If you are better but less numerous, you can achieve an advantage if you can bring up supports such as shooters or MF, but the first key decision is whether to try to keep your lights in existence for later in the battle or to risk losses in a decisive Skirmisher fight. LF are vulnerable to LH and can be effectively supported by heavier troops able to intercept LH or intervene in Melee against entangled enemy LH.

The best counter to LH is numerous Shooty Cavalry which can drive them off the field, but LH have 1026. enough of a movement and manoeuvre edge to often slip out of reach, while Shooty Cavalry have to mind their flanks and avoid exposure to converged archery. They also need to watch their distance and angles with respect to dangerous close combat opponents in a way that LH don’t. Cavalry don’t back up easily like Skirmishers – it’s a full move to do a 180 degree turn, and after turning they are subject to being charged in the rear by any enemy in range in a charge direction that can evade them someplace uncomfortable, or if unable to evade they are in trouble in close combat.

Even if skirmishing in one rank, Cavalry have a high risk of being caught if the enemy move up close to them before charging. The only way to prevent this intimate encounter (other than friends intervening) is to turn around to retire before the enemy come into charge range. Cavalry are also vulnerable to enemy Skirmishers slipping behind them, shooting at the Cavalry and blocking evades.

1028. Commanders: LH are light work for Commanders. They need Commanders mainly for Second Moves and Cohesion Tests, usually caused by being shot or bolster attempts. Unlike most troop types, LH can easily move to meet the Commander for bolstering, meaning less Commander dead time transiting from BG to BG and the ability to cycle LH in and out of the front line. Shooty Cavalry has much more need of command influence, for close combat and as they can rely heavily on manoeuvre and need help with CMTs. ICs are ideal to steady troops against shooting over a broad area and for bolstering, but shooty mounted armies are often so dispersed they can’t take full advantage. ICs are also important to gain maximum Pre-Battle Initiative if that is desired, but a hindrance if the army is seeking to lose the PBI roll and gain first move.

1029. Terrain: LH and Shooty Cavalry armies usually prefer Steppes terrain, but can do well in other regions. Indeed, many players prefer to lose the Pre-Battle Initiative roll and accept enemy choice of region because their doctrine is based on getting the first move. Uneven ground favors LH since they are unaffected while many enemy troop types are hindered. Roads and Rivers on the side edges can be used to help keep the board edges clear. Otherwise, Open Areas are generally desirable for Shooty Horse, although pieces of bad terrain can be used tactically to disrupt or slow an enemy advance and create combat opportunities, or to pre-empt an opponent’s terrain choice. This use of terrain is particularly useful against an attempted sweep by Undrilled opponents. See Part 6 for more on Terrain and some detailed strategies.

LH-Only Armies

1030. Pure LH armies generate pressure through shooting, plus some charges against Skirmishers and Fragmented troops. They can exert strong pressure only when concentrating shooting, which can be done only against a few enemy BGs at one time. LH armies are not quick battle-winners – without heavier troops to force breaches or directly block certain enemy, the soft pressure of shooting takes a long time to wear down an opposing army. LH army players will often feel the lack of a “hammer” and many opponents view LH armies as an easy opponent to deal with, although frustrating or tiresome.

1031. Skirmishers don’t suffer threatened flank penalties on the edge of the field, but do need to be wary of being trapped against the side edge or evading off the rear edge (unless the alternative to evading off and losing 1 Attrition Point is to break and lose 2). That said, LH are slippery devils and can often find a way to turn and move out of very tough situations. Charging them often just gives them a free evade move taking them farther towards safety, but, if you don’t charge them, they just move to a good shooting angle and pepper you with arrows.

1032. LH army battles tend to take a lot of turns and this can allow time to move around a flank or bring in a flank march, but against a time limit can lead to a draw. An active opponent will usually push you hard rather than allow time for your plan to develop. The faster the enemy heavy troops, the more pressure they put on you and the easier it is to make mistakes. Drilled MF move as far as mounted can shoot and can easily turn and move, so can pull some nasty surprises if you don’t pay attention. Even Mobs can be large enough to take up frontage, soak up arrows, and push you back.

This kind of army needs to fit the player’s style - impatience with slow results can lead to fatal rashness.

Shooty Horse Tactics

1041. A couple of shooting dice is not a dangerous thing, while massed shooting causes repeated cohesion and base losses. A 4-Cavalry BG can shoot with 3 or 4 dice, giving a good chance of forcing a Cohesion Test (see Tip 202). 4-LH BGs shoot so few dice that it is critical to brigade them together with other BGs – brigades of 3 LH BGs or 2 LH BGs and an extra BG of LF or missile or other Cavalry are ideal. Cavalry Lancers provide extra punch, while a BG of LH Lancers is a nice complement to missile LH.

1042. Your battle plan is usually to stake out as much ground as possible to block enemy Second Moves, at least in some sectors, and leave ample manoeuvre room behind your lines. Getting first move is very helpful so losing the PBI roll is preferred by some players, although the more willing your Cavalry are to face the enemy in close combat the less critical the manoeuvre room to the rear. Sometimes you are lucky and the enemy deploys with a hanging flank you can readily outwing and envelop, or a good flank march opportunity presents itself, but often the terrain and enemy dispositions limit you to a frontal approach of disrupting, loosening and disjointing the enemy line of battle with shooting, threats, and uncontrolled enemy charges in order to expose gaps, flanks and other weak spots you then exploit with concentrated shooting or timely charges.

1044. Enemy foot BGs in battle line abreast limit the number of elements you can bring to bear on a single BG in the middle of the line. You can fairly easily angle Skirmisher BGs and use Cavalry in 2 ranks to concentrate shooting, but even so it is hard to generate a lot more than 1.5 dice per enemy base frontage except where there is an isolated BG, or a gap, corner or end in a line of battle. The tactical goal is to use manoeuvre and threats to create such corners and other opportunities. Turn the enemy flank or work his BGs out of solid line into a looser arrangement that allows you to converge shooting on particular BGs and force Death Rolls as well as CTs. The temptation for your opponent is often to adjust the position of troops in his line to split your shooting or protect vulnerable targets, or advance parts of the line of battle voluntarily in order to drive back your shooty horse. This can create other opportunities, so try to force the
issue. Destroy or flee his Skirmishers, draw his mounted and aggressive foot away from his other troops, pick off isolated detachments, and provoke charges where possible. Work around his flank and hunt his BG count filler such as Mobs and LF. He is likely to hunt yours as well and consider grabbing your immobile Camp, so think doctrinally how you can use these as bait for your foe to overextend himself.

1046. One of the advantages of shooty mounted armies is that you don’t need to occupy a continuous front, allowing you to deploy wide with large gaps in some places where a single BG can slow or pin several enemy BGs and elsewhere mass several BGs for an attack. Spreading out this way may induce the enemy to spread out as well in deployment or during the battle, foregoing solid formations and rear support, and you can exploit this dispersion and any gaps. As the more nimble side, you can gain tempo by making successive threats that force the enemy to commit to responses, causing him to fall further behind you in tempo and be out of position when you launch your decisive attacks. Although shooty mounted armies look freewheeling, these tactical plans favor thinking well ahead.

1047. LH can sometimes pop through gaps and shoot the enemy from the rear – even if this does not seem like a big advantage for your LH, their presence behind the lines gives you options that create additional pressure on the enemy and complicates his decision-making – increasing his chances of making mistakes.

1051. The most direct way for your adversary to stop you from shooting up his line is to advance or charge to drive you off, where possible forcing evades at angles that disorganize your formation or evade you into other troops as well as costing you at least one round of shooting. If he manages this poorly, or you force him to hang back in one sector while he advances in the next, his advance loosens his line and can offer you corners, gaps, or flanks.

1052. Some players with suitable troops who face shooty mounted will simply try to create a cluster of bad terrain where they can hole up and wait for the clock to tick down while eating a sandwich and snatching a few Attrition Points if you get aggressive. Look for weaknesses and BGs you can pick off and do what you can, or if it’s a losing proposition offer a draw and use the spare time more profitably.

1053. If the enemy has a fairly small army with suitable troops and the temperament for it, pivoting from the center and turning the axis of battle 90 degrees to narrow the cross-table potential frontage and sweep your horse off the table is potentially dangerous. Some troops are solid enough to advance one-rank deep when facing only LH – it is risky against Cavalry. A sweep takes a long time, can easily end in a draw in a timed game, and can often be disrupted or stalled. Have terrain placement and battle doctrine ready for an enemy sweep. Areas of opportunity are the pivot point of his advance, the need for him to manoeuvre and extend his line to clear your flank corner as he wheels past it, and any terrain features. The enemy will be looking for opportunities to catch you out against Difficult or Impassable terrain or other BGs, or force burst throughs or unsafe evades, but competent LH play should avoid these risks. A fighting retreat with
Cavalry is a more difficult situation requiring more advance tactical contingency planning for evades, restricted areas, and interceptions, but they can also mass to punch a hole in his line and exploit.

1054. A flank march is useful against a sweep if you guess right and it comes in behind the enemy. Even LH behind him is handy to shoot up part of his stretched line, or take his Camp. Heavy mounted can pose the lethal threat of hitting his line in the rear if it can reach it in time - even Poor Cavalry is a ++POA cohesion buster against an enemy flank or rear.

1055. Larger armies don’t even need to turn the battle to squeeze you against terrain or the rear edge – even HF plodding 3 MU/turn take only 12 turns to get across the table. Some armies have enough solid affordable foot to do this easily, but most run the risk of unduly thinning or loosening their line unless they can take advantage of terrain to narrow the frontage they must clear. In addition to continuing to try to disorganize the enemy, counters to sweeps include trying to punch a hole you can push troops through or stalling them on a wing or in the center so they can’t advance elsewhere without losing the benefits of a continuous line. Terrain can sometimes help corner shooty horse but often hinders the sweep by slowing down or breaking up the advance and providing favorable shooting or charge opportunities. I don’t have a link showing a full sweep, but for an interesting fight with Spartans pushing the LH part of a Graeco-Bactrian
army off the table see Spartans vs Graeco-Bactrians report.

1056. Sweeping is a lot more difficult against good Shooty Cavalry that has enough strength to stand up to the sweeping force. Shooty Cavalry is less nimble than LH but a lot tougher. It can concentrate more shooting, inflict dangerous flank and rear charges, and successfully charge disrupted or even steady troops. This makes it easier to stall the enemy on terrain and/or punch an exploitable hole in a sweeping force.

1060. General Shooty Cavalry tactics include the above approaches also used by LH to draw the enemy out and create shooting and flanking opportunities, but it is also a viable strategy to engage enough to pin along the line, work for an opportunity, then concentrate to forcefully exploit it. Ghilmanquality Shooty Cavalry can effectively frontally shoot, disrupt or fragment, and then charge the enemy. Many players use LH and a few skirmishing Cavalry to pin in some areas and mass 2-deep ""Ghilman" for maximum effect in others. Being Superior Armoured troops, they don’t fear close combat against foot since they have good chances of breaking off without serious damage if the foot remains undisrupted after Melee.

1062. The best way for your opponent to neutralize the effects of your shooting other than wearing armour to the fight is to provide rear support and Commander influence to boost CT rolls – odds of disruption are much reduced and bolstering is much easier. If your targets are also Armoured or Superior, the fight is even more discouraging. Faced with this, consider either converging shooting to focus on scoring high hit numbers and force base losses or shift to more vulnerable targets.

1063. Where you find yourself facing off against multiple groups of armoured (or even worse, heavily armoured) foot with javelin armed LH, chances are your shooting will not do any real damage as the HF can charge you away, and will usually have a free turn to recover cohesion as a result. Even with LH with Bw with their ability to shoot from outside range, as soon as you are shooting at a coherent line needing 5's or 6's it starts t get unlikely you will be able to achieve a decisive (ie FRG) result. In this situation make a clear decision to use your LH in their primary role of delaying an enemy advance and limiting enemy foot to 1 move per turn - if you try too hard to manufacture an unlikely shooting result by moving in at strange angles to concentrate fire you can often end up in a mess and put your LH's ability to evade at risk, whereas simply falling back in a tidy line perpendicular to the enemy will delay hem just as effectively, but at less risk to your own formations.

Working with Other Troops

1070. Common supporting troop types for LH and Shooty Cavalry in Steppe-type armies include Cavalry Lancers, Knights, Elephants, and a variety of foot. Shooty Light Horse or Cavalry can combine well with Lancers to catch enemy Cavalry by making it unsafe to evade or pinning a target in place under archery by using charge or interception threats. LF are often cheap and useful, even if primarily for BG count.

1071. Heavy and Medium Foot are also seen. You should know what you are doing before taking a contingent of slow foot that presents the enemy with an obvious target – if you have enough for a substantial battle line then you have more of a combined arms than a light or Shooty Horse army.

1072. For a light army it is important to have the supporting assault troops safely behind the lines so they can present a flexible general threat and when ready move up without interference to engage the chosen target area. They can manoeuvre and threaten, but be circumspect about pre-mature commitment as that forecloses their pressure elsewhere along the line.

1075. Suggested Counter-Armies: Suggestions of armies to counter LH armies or Shooty Cavalry armies (your mileage may vary):

Shooty Cavalry + Knight such as Hungarians or Lithuanians.
Shooty Cavalry + Cataphract such as Sassanids.
Shooty Cavalry + MF Bow such as Ottomans or Yuan (Mongol) Chinese.
Shooty foot, such as English Longbowmen, Indians, Christian Nubians (Superior Bow), or
Early Achaemenid Persians.
Massed Armoured Cavalry Lancers.
Those Hellenistic Pike armies able to expand frontage to turn the battle.
Armoured HF such as Late Republican Romans, Greeks etc. that can expand frontage.
Armies with many cheap massed MF foot + supports, such as Dominate Roman, British, Dacians, Thracians, warbands, etc. using large shooting-resistant BGs and ICs.
Walls of Spears.

PART 11 – Tactical Miscellany

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