Intro to Armati
Playtesting in Progress
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TERRAIN AS A WEAPON
Most Armati players see terrain as a meaningless add on to the rules that injects a little color but has little impact on play. In fact, terrain is the most powerful unit on the table. Properly used terrain can determine the course of play and determine winner or loser. The following is intended as a thought piece introducing basic concepts of terrain use. When finished, I think that you will agree that terrain is more powerful than either the potent cohorts or the awe inspiring knights of Armati.
Armati la Deuce (Armati 2d Edition) has a greatly altered terrain system from its predecessors. The predecessors were often criticized for permitting too little in the way of terrain. The new rules address that criticism quite nicely.
Each army is given free core terrain in its army list. The core terrain consists of one gentle rise, steep hill, woods, or rough ground with maximum dimension of 4 inches by eight inches in the 15 mm scale. In addition, each army is permitted to purchase various additional pieces of terrain of the same size by its army lists. The cost of terrain is exactly 100% of its former cost. With the total points provided for the purchase of troops and terrain being increased by 250% with troop costs increasing by 200% or greater, the relative cost of terrain is less than 50% of its former cost. Expect to see a great deal more terrain under the new rules.
All terrain gives a tactical advantage in melee to defending, stationary infantry. All terrain blocks missile fire and sight. However, troops may see and fire three inches into most terrain. Gentle rises block sight and missile fire. Steep hills reduce movement by 1/3 for heavy troops and deny impetus to all troops thereby decreasing their offensive value. Good places to defend against cavalry. Woods reduce movement by 2/3 for all save light foot, are prohibited to elephants and chariots, and deny impetus to all troops. Rough ground is prohibited to all mounted, reduces movement by 2/3, and denies impetus to all troops.
For the non-cognoscenti, a unit with impetus that outscores a unit that does not have impetus destroys the non-impetus unit in Armati. Typically, heavy mounted units, elephants, chariots, and warbands have impetus.
The playing table for 15 mm is 64 inches from left to right flank and 40 inches deep. The central deployment area is 32 inches in width. It is flanked by left and right flank zones that are 12 inches in width. There is an area to the side of each flank 4 inches in width in which deployment is prohibited. The depth of all deployment zones is 12 inches reduced by a 4 inch deep table base no go area. Heavy infantry, with rare exceptions, must set up in the central deployment area. Other troops may set up in the central deployment area or in either flank zone.
Each player receives one free piece of terrain defined by the army lists. For most armies, it is a gentle rise, the least significant piece of terrain. For loose order armies based on light infantry or warbands, the free terrain piece is frequently the more significant woods or rough ground.
A controlling player may place his free core terrain anywhere in or touching the flank deployment area. If one intends to place further pieces of terrain, the best position is near to the table edge to the right or left of the flank deployment zones. If this is the most important or only piece of terrain, it should be placed so that it barely touches a flank zone and extends as far as possible into the central deployment area. It should be placed so as to block sight and hostile archery while still acting as high ground for defending foot. In the alternative, put it entirely in a flank zone and hide cavalry behind it.
Bonus terrain is placed randomly in or touching one of the army deployment zones as defined on page 5 of the rules. On a die roll of 1-2, it is placed in or touching the left flank deployment zone. A 3-4 sees it placed in or touching the left flank deployment zone. .A die roll of 5 sees it placed in or touching either flank deployment zone. A 6 sees it placed completely in the central deployment zone. On a 6, the terrain may not be placed with any part outside the central deployment area. As you can see, not too much terrain in the center.
Flank attacks are devastating in Armati. The first and most obvious use of terrain is to anchor a flank by placing an appropriate piece of terrain on the appropriate flank. If one intends to attack on the left and refuse the right, place the terrain on the right and vice versa. The long side should run towards the foe with the narrow side roughly parallel to your base line but canted just enough to squeeze extra distance out of the lateral depth. Use woods if you feel a need to move cavalry through them. It will take at least 2-3 turns but is possible. Use rough ground if you want to prohibit hostile cavalry from doing the same.
If your infantry is inferior to that of the enemy, terrain defending a flank should be placed deep in the deployment zone to make it take longer for the foe to get to it. Presumably, you will be acting offensively with mounted troops to one flank or the other. This also stretches out the depth of your opponent's flanks giving more openings for your cavalry.
If your infantry is roughly equivalent to or superior to the hostile infantry, a forward placement allows one to move up to the attack with at least one secure flank.
Not only does this type placement secure a flank freeing up your mobile troops for maneuver rather than flank defense, it serves as a defense against archery. Many armies have large numbers of bow armed light cavalry. While most light cavalry armies have 12-16 archer units, there are outstanding numbers reaching 26-29 archer units in some like the Hsiung-Nu. If they can concentrate missile fire on vulnerable troops, they are unbeatable. With far and away most cavalry and a great deal of infantry with a Prot of +1, there is a 10 in 36 chance of hitting. With better protected infantry and cavalry at Prot +2, there is a 1 in 6 chance in hitting. So, Hsiung-Nu kill 2-3 figures per turn in average armies and 1-2 units per turn in better protected armies with average die rolls.
One can always attempt to screen with skirmish infantry in the open but skirmish infantry die when contacted in the open without even slowing the light cavalry movement. The answer is to stuff skirmish infantry in those woods or rough ground and advance them quickly.
Skirmish infantry in woods beat all cavalry in melee. Furthermore, most skirmish infantry have some form of missile weapon. Most light cavalry receive hits from 10 in 36 shots and die with 2 hits. It does not take too many skirmish infantry to kill a light cavalry unit per turn. In Armati, archery must be directed at the closest unit. If one pushes that skirmish infantry as far forward as possible, the closest unit is frequently the skirmish infantry. They receive a hit when in woods or rough ground 1 in 12 times. Although they die with just one hit, that is pretty good odds. Moreover, the loss of skirmish infantry does not affect victory conditions while the loss of light cavalry most frequently does.
The same tactic can be used with armored infantry and with cataphracts in woods. Both are virtually untouchable by archery when in woods.
The same rough ground or woods acts as a limiting factor on the size of the table. When facing light cavalry armies, it acts as a hinge on which the whole army pivots sweeping the table clean of the foe and forcing the light cavalry to a table edge or corner in 8-10 turns. When facing superior infantry or cavalry, rough ground and woods provide either a refuge or channel the attack into a limited frontal area.
Roman cohorts normally massacre warbands, However, if one hides a warband in a woods and refuses to come out and fight in the open like civilized Romans, the cohort commander is faced with attacking or losing in 15 turns due to Armati's must win rule which very basically provides that better armies or armies which are mostly cavalry must win in 15-20 turns or lose. In the open, the cohort wins in three turns with average die rolls. The warband wins the first three melee turns in the woods on average, loses the fourth, and kills the Romans on the fifth. Interesting change in dynamics.
Cataphracts and knights cause fear to every foe. They beat all other cavalry and beat or are a great danger to all infantry. If one sets up deep with terrain forward, one can direct the cataphract or knight charge onto a more defensive and more narrow frontage while setting up flank attacks from the woods or rough ground virtually guaranteeing the destruction of the cataphracts or knights.
Terrain is a powerful weapon. In a recent tournament in America, the several players tossed their terrain anywhere on the table. They might as well have thrown away their armies. Think of terrain as potentially the most powerful unit in either your army or that of your opponent and you will not go wrong.
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