Winning a tactical advantage

In games, 'winning' an encounter for a unit typically means destroying (or severely damaging) the opposing unit. In contrast, real life battle tactics frequently see heavy damage to a unit traded against a tactical advantage - such as gaining an important position, or breaking through an enemy line.

Fundamentally, battles are fought for control of the battlefield - whoever can cause the opposing force to move where he wants to (or ultimately to break up and retreat) is the winner of the engagement. A victory in a war of attrition in which both sides grind down their units is possible of course, but rarely desired.

Tactical advantage

A central notion in the battle engine is the tactical advantage. Basically this determines which unit 'won' the last minute of encounter and gets to dictate the movement of the opposing unit - and to what degree. Tactical advantage is determined from a comparison of the attack value of the unit to which a random number between 0 and 100 is added (we'll abbreviate this as R(0,100) in the following), compared with the same quantity for the opposing unit. Whoever has a non-zero net value holds the advantage.

Dependent on the chosen fighting tactics and aims, this directly translates into a distance over which the other unit can be displaced, and having tactical advantage means that more damage is inflicted on the emeny. If one side is trying to engage in close combat while the other tries to break contact, tactical advantage also dictates who succeeds.


Yet another dimension is battle morale. It is frequently said that a battle is over once one side acknowledges defeat, but not earlier. Historically, few battles have been fought till the infamous 'last man standing' - often early events in the battle caused a rout of one army, and only that was followed by copious casualties as the retreating army could not organize and effective defense and was mowed down by pursuers.

So morale is a crucial ingredient in any notion of 'winning' - and yet, since it deals with psychology, it is somewhat different to parametrize. If soldiers are malnourished, freezing, tired, underpaid or pressured into service, they start with a low morale to begin with. Yet usually military discipline means this isn't apparent till they actually get into combat - then, when faced with the choice of a dangerous enemy or the idea of 'just getting away alive', the latter may win out.

Events which cause such a shock that may (or may not) lead to a rout are for example significant losses taken in a short time, being attacked from the rear, an incoming cavalry (or war elefant) charge or the sense of being pushed back and being on the losing side. But morale is more complicated, as it is based on perception - just witnessing that some events have occurred (or eben just believing that this is so) may also have an effect. For instance, observing how a nearby unit is anihilated or flees can influence battle morale, and so can the loss of the trusted leader (be it a general or the king).

In the simulation, morale starts with a value that represents 10% chances (so 'morale 8' means that when morale is checked by an event, the unit has an 80% chance to remain unaffected). When a morale check fails, the unit acts more cautiously, i.e. ceases to follow orders for offensive combat and rather fights to minimize own losses (morale is 'shaken'). Only if at that stage a morale check fails again, a rout occurs and the unit flees.

Continue with Movement.

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