Memoirs of a Northshield General

by Sir Tarrach Ulfson


WOODS BATTLE

Our mission in the woods battle was to hold the downward slope on the left of the pines if we had gained the two banners. If the East had gotten the central banner, we were supposed to be more aggressive and begin pushing them back. We were to be supported by Pentamere who was to hold the pines and thus protect our right flank. This is why I kept us held back at the end of the pines for the first half hour of the battle until I got solid word that the East had gotten to the middle banner first. Although we did not know it, the East had the banner essentially hidden and lightly guarded only a few hundred feet from where we were set up. However, although the banner was poorly guarded, the East did a very good job of keeping us occupied by keeping a very strong force in and along the pines. At no point in the battle did the Middle determine where the banner was, and thus we were reluctant to push as hard as we should have on our side. This was my bust. There were a number of times that we should have pushed more enthusiastically (as we did near the end of the battle), but I held us back and conserved our strength. This was a mistake. If we had pushed as hard in the beginning as we had in the end, we would not have run out of time and would have taken back the second banner and thus been able to fight a nice defensive fight like the one we enjoyed early in the battle. However, I think it would have been important to coordinate such an early push since we would have gained nothing without Pentemer's support in the trees as we observed on several occasions when the East struck our right flank and pushed us well down the hill. However, with Brannos up on the hill a few yards away, this could have been accomplished in the early part of the battle before we were well engaged. Also, we need to have more and better scouts out to find and inform us of the location of the banner. Had we just known where it was, we could have easily taken it back very early in the battle. We should work on getting scouts to focus more on the banners than on enemy troops. We ourselves can see the enemy. They are large and noisy and highly visible. Gaining the banner however is what determines who wins, and that needs to be the focus of the scouts.

MAZE BATTLE

Northshield's mission in the maze battle was to work with the allied armies to hold the barn side of the field. We were on the weak side of the field, and were not expected to do more than hold off the east and keep them from breaking into the back side of the maze. Specifically, we were given the mission to anchor the left side of the line against the maze as far up as we could. To do this, I chose to use House Argus (which was spear and polearm rich) as a skirmisher unit to run as fast as they could and engage the enemy and force them to form up, thus slowing their advance. While they were doing this, I planned to bring Northshield up in column as deeply as I could until they either met with resistance or got to the enemy side of the barrier. This strategy work VERY WELL! The spear rich skirmish unit had the appropriate "bogga bogga" effect, and the eastern army (even though it greatly outnumbered the skirmishers) stopped well ahead of our target point. I was able to order the Northshield line and get us well set and tied in with our allies on the right long before we were engaged. This resulted in our side having a distinct advantage early on and allowed us to not only keep the east from breaking into the back of the maze, but kept the banner in our possession until the very end of the battle. Some things I learned from this battle: 1) The pennsic battle field should not be considered flat and featureless. Where we held the line was flat, but up hill from our resurrection point. Multiple trips by our fighters back to ress and up the hill into battle took its toll. Also, when the east did press us at the end of the battle, they got the advantage and momentum of fighting us down the hill as they pushed us back. 2) Timing is everything. I was not aware that the end of the battle was so near when the east started their press. Consequently we still had a large number of our fighters back at res point when the press came. I think if I had kept better track of the time, I could have met the east with enough mass to stop their initial press and we could have won our side of the field as well. This lesson in timing was key to our success on the bridge (see above and below). 3) Spear heavy skirmishers are really effective at slowing or stopping an advancing force. Although any well trained unit knows it should rush and destroy spears, in my experience, nearly every unit I have seen will stop, form up and lock shields when engaged by even a small number of spears. I was personal part of a skirmish unit of 20 people that met the combined forces of the Tuchux and the Great Northern Army (about 70 strong) in the field battle 3 pennsics past. I was stunned when both units stopped, formed up and allowed us to poke at them for a good 2 minutes (a significant length of time in the field battle) before they realized what was happening and charged.

FIELD BATTLE

The overall plan for the field battle was to set up the midrealm forces in three large sections. The left flank (mostly Michigan Ohio and Indiana) was to control the left side of the field and engage as much of the eastern army as they could and prevent them from breaking through on that side. The center was the new kingdom of Aethlemark whose mission was to determine which side the east was going to commit most of its forces to act sort of as the hammer with either the left or the right forming the anvil. The right flank was to do the same thing as the left (only on the right). All units were strongly encouraged to form up in a columns by the Aethlemark commander. Northshield was at the far left of the right side section. The Plan: Since we were on the pivot point of the whole battle, we didn't know whether we were going to be caught in a big crunch between the east and Aethlemark or if we were going to be rolling the right side of the smaller section of the eastern army, or engaging some eastern unit that was trying to shoot the gap between Aethlemark and the right flank. I chose to form our army up in a column 7 men wide with the first two rows of the main body and the outside rows on both sides with shields. Inside the main body I had polearms and greatswords. I kept a 10 fighter unit in the rear of the column as a reactionary force/reserve, I had Bluerose in the front as a punch unit, and House Argus and the Lost Boys in front as well to serve as skirmishers. I felt that this organization would be the most versatile and maneuverable. The skirmish units were to be the key to our success if we were to form the anvil or if we were to engage and destroy an isolated eastern force. Also, they were our security blanket if any small fast moving eastern unit tried to attack us while we were moving. Their orders were to move as fast as they could in front of our main body and engage (and immobilize) the biggest unit they could find, or to slow down any enemy force that might try to take us in the flank and prevent us getting to where ever we needed to be. By having the skirmishers engage the east first, I would have time to assess where the weak spot was in the target unit and lead the main body of the Northshield army into it at that point. The punch unit of Bluerose was to leap hard into the enemy and disrupt their shield wall, the main body was to then impact the broken shield wall, mushroom out and the polearms would kill mercilessly. The reserve would then either flank around if were engaging an isolated unit, or wait until we broke though and attack targets of opportunity in the rear of the enemy. It was my goal that the reserve would be a nice tight intact unit that, upon a breakthrough, would be able to decimate the disorganized enemy backfield with little loss to itself. The skirmishers would either slip around the side and keep the enemy from flanking us if we were engaging an isolated unit, or bring their spears to play in the killing pocket that would form if Aethlemark was pivoting around us on the left. The skirmishers would also serve to keep the east from mushing out to our left until Aethlemark wheeled into position. I really didn't have a plan for rolling the eastern flank. What Happened: Two minutes before the cannon went off, it looked like the east was going to put the bulk of their forces on our side. I talked to Belrix and we decided to hit a particular unit. Then, the East changed it's mind, and moved the bulk of their forces to the left, and we were left without a clear target. Before I could get a handle on any change in plan, the cannon went off. The East pushed hard and fast to our right side. We moved out in the wide gap between Aethlemark on our left and Calontir on our right. Foolishly, the east did not try to send anything throughout this large gap. About 10 seconds into the battle, it was very clear that Northshield did not have any force to engage. The skirmish units moved off to the left and were unfortunately followed by Bluerose. I suspect they were drawn in by the very obvious action caused by the large mass of engaged units on the left side of the field. At that point, I had to chose if I was going to follow them into the main portion of the battle, or continue the mission of right flank security that we were given. In the 5 seconds or so that I spent thinking about this, the East had spread out thin and engaged the allied forces all along the right side and we had moved out past that line of engagement. As soon as I realized we had gotten behind the enemy, and the opportunity that this presented, I immediately chose to pursue the original mission of protecting the right flank and led the main body of the army into the rear of the enemy forces engaged with Calontir. This worked wonderfully, and we were able to devastate the eastern forces with very few casualties to our own (with the exception of a few friendly fire losses caused by overzealous calontirii). The small unit commanders were very effective at bouncing over each other as we moved to our right destroying the east from behind. It took very little time to roll the entire left side all the way to the end of the field. Shortly before we reached the end, I was slain. Arslan saw me on the sideline, and during a hold, correctly realized that just a mop-up job was needed to finish the few remaining Tuchux left facing Calontir and Meridiase. When the lay-on was called, he took the imitative and led the Northshield army off to help with the main focus of the Midrealm effort. However, by the time they got there, there was little left to do. Some of the lessons I learned from this battle, was that it is difficult to keep aggressive units from running off and attacking the first available target. I suspect that if I were not infront of the column that the main body would have followed to the left as well. This could have been very bad for the Midrealm. If the eastern forces had been able to break through the allied forces on the right flank, they could have gotten to strike the midrealm forces on the left side of the field from behind. Thus, leadership out front was crucial for controlling the direction of the army. The loss of the punch unit could have been very dangerous had the east sent a major force our way. In the future, I would place the commander in front of everyone (instead of simply in front of the main body) so they can help position and guide all of the forces (except the skirmishers who should separate from the army immediately). Control from behind is next to impossible! The other thing I learned was that it is better to hit the enemy on the flank rather than directly from behind. We had some problems getting engagements since we essentially had to wait for individuals to turn and face us before we could kill them. Also, we would have suffered fewer friendly fire casualties if we were not directly facing our friends, but rather coming in from the side. If I had it to do over, I would have snaked the column back around so we were perpendicular to Calontir. This would have served us better if the East had been smart enough to try to slide a force off to the left of Calontir so they could disengage and move off to strike the midreal forces engaged on the left side of the field from behind.

THE BRIDGE BATTLE

The Midrealm plan for the bridge battle was to have Northshield along with the allies take and hold the left bridge, Aethlemark was to take and hold the center bridge, and the rest of the army was to take and hold the right bridge. For our bridge, I arranged to have Bluerose lead the charge onto the bridge and stop the east from taking the center right off. They were to be followed by Calontir who would set up the initial front. We organized the spears in a column on the right side of the bridge so they could be fed in as needed. The polearms were arranged in a column in the center of the bridge, and the extra shields were arranged in a column on the left. Our primary goal was to establish a front, somewhere past the center point of the bridge, get our spears out front so they could begin picking at the enemy and also provide protection for our shields. To protect the spears, we also had a two man shield team out in front of the main shield wall. We had practiced in the rehearsal, a maneuver to counter an Eastern charge on our spears. This maneuver worked wonderfully every time it was used. Basically, if the east charged our spears, they were to fall back and go through a "door" in the right side of the shieldwall. In order to give them time to get there, the two man team would countercharge diagonally across the bridge. This maneuver was designed not only to give the spears time to get behind the shieldwall, but also to disorganize the enemy charge since they would be tripping over or passing around the small countercharging team. The polearms would step up behind the shieldwall, and pummel the disorganized enemy as they impacted on it. This maneuver was fairly complicated, and thus required a few walkthroughs before the battle. Calontir was kind enough to meet us on the field early so we could both practice. It was in this rehearsal that it the need for the countercharge team was discovered. Thus, the extra half hour on the field undoubtedly saved a great number of losses to our spears which would have occurred if we had to discover the problem and then fix it in the middle of a battle. The only problem we had was that not all our spears made it out for the rehearsal, and some tried to push their way back through the middle of the shieldwall on the first eastern charge. This had the unfortunate result of disrupting our shieldwall and interfered with the polearms trying to move up behind the shields as practiced. The actions during the rehearsal emphasized again the need to keep a good distance between the front line wall and the columns of extra shields, polearms and spears. This space was needed to give the spears room to move into, and the polearms room to fill in up behind the shieldwall if charged. Once the charge was broken, we were to get our spears back out in front of the shieldwall as quickly as possible. This plan essentially went off as described. We quickly took the center of the bridge and gained spear superiority. As soon as the east realized this, they backed off and formed a killing pocket to cap the end of the bridge. As our objective was met, we ignored the eastern forces and held our ground outside of reach of the killing pocket. Eventually, a few easterners got bored and came within range of our spears and were rapidly dispatched. At one point, we experimented with sending the two man countercharge team into the eastern spearmen that had moved out in front of their wall to engage our spears. This proved to be ineffective, and after two attempts to kill eastern spears with this small unit, we stopped and just settled in to the game we had planned. We executed a very nice replacement of the Calontir shieldwall with the Northshield forces about halfway through the battle. At about the 2 minute warning for the end of the battle, the east sent in two push units with the hope of pushing us off the center. A charge from the Tuchux drove our spears back, and they started to half heartedly engaging our lines. Unfortunately, they realized the strength of our wall supported by polearms and chose not to feed themselves to it. With about 30 seconds to go, I realized that the east was probably going to try to just push us back since they were not able to attrit us. Thus, I called up Calontir and Ironwolf to just start pushing and not bother with killing the eastern forces. Almost immediately thereafter, the East indeed started pushing, but with our mass already on the way in, they were stopped in their tracks. I did have time to watch some of the action on the middle bridge, and saw Aethlemark make the classic blunder of letting the East get their spears out while Aethlemark kept theirs behind the shieldwall. The east did a remarkable job of attritting the Aethlemark forces. Every time that Aethlemark tried to charge to drive off the eastern spears, a few easterners (usually polearms or shields) would stay in place and force the Aethlemarkers to fight them. If there was lots of room, often a spear or two would slay 3 or 4 of the attackers as they retreated back to their shields. Any hard charge by Aethlemark impacted on the eastern shieldwall and was cut to ribbons there. On the far bridge, it looked like a close toe-to-toe fight with not much action for the spears, but lots for shields and polearms.

BROKEN FIELD BATTLE

The original plan for the Broken field battle was to have Northshield (with attachments) work with the allies on the left side, and all the rest of the Midrealm forces and Aethlemark take the right side. On the Northshield side, there were two "banners" one closer to our res point, and one closer to the east's res point. We were given the mission to take and hold one of the banners. The rest of the Midrealm forces was tasked with taking the single banner located in the center of the right portion of the battlefield. Since our mission and the layout of the field was nearly identical to the Maze battle, I set up Northshield the same way, and told the skirmishers to the same thing they did for the maze battle. At the starting cannon, things happened the same way, and we were able to take our banner with ease, and set up a line a bit past the 1/2 way point on our side of the field. We remained in this position all the way through the battle. At about 5 minutes until the end of the battle, I gathered all the Northshield forces around our banner. The east did the same with a force of about 20-30 fighters. With about a minute left, I realized the Middle might not be able to take the banner on the right side of the battlefield, and I sent Ironwolf off to help. Unfortunately, I waited too long to do this, and the move was not decisive. Thus, when the battle ended, We had our banner, but the east had theirs and the heavily contested banner on the right. The major mistake I made came probably about 4 minute prior to the end of the battle. At that time, both us and the east had gathered our defensive units on our respective banners. It was then that I should have gotten the left side commander (Sir Dilion) to make a very strong push on the eastern banner (even if it meant committing the Northshield forces which were gathered around our banner for security). At the very least, it is likely that we would have forced the east to draw off some of its forces on the right side to deal with our push. At the best, we might have taken both banners on our side of the field. One other possibility would have been to send Northshield along with their attachments off to the other side of the field. This probably would not have been the best choice though since it we would have had to maneuver a long way (thus losing time and surprise), rather than forcing the east to move some of its forces to deal with an attack by us. This is a clear example of how following orders, instead of taking the initiative and risk can guarantee failure when it is clear that the first plan is failing. I could have and should have committed Northshield forces to a push on the eastern banner at the 3-4 minute mark. Doing so could only have helped since the east did not have sufficient forces to penetrate our lines and take our banner. Even if they did do this while we were pushing on their banner, then we would have essentially swapped banners, and lost nothing. Finally, Northshield would have gotten the chance to get into the fight one more time as a unit. Thus, even if we failed miserably, and the east took all the banners as a result, we really would have lost nothing, had fun, and gained some experience in battle. One other mistake I made was that I only started to concern myself with what was going on on the other side of the field at the 5 minute mark. Thus, by the time I came to realize that the other side was not doing as well as expected, there was very little time to deal with the problem. When I did try to do something, I did not act boldly enough.

ARMORGEDDON

Armorgeddon was a good test of how effective Northshield could be on their own facing a force of similar size and composition. I had learned from Conn that Calontir liked to arrange itself into two wings with a strong side and a weak side. Thus, my plan was to arrange our forces into three elements. One small aggressive unit (I chose House DeBohun for this) was given the mission to slow the advance of Calontirs strong wing The main bulk of our forces were to smash into and through the weaker Calontir wing, and a third fast aggressive unit (The Lostboys) was to swing around the side of Calontirs weak wing and hit it in the flank. It was my hope that we could quickly overwhelm or blow apart the weak wing and roll into the back of the strong wing as it was engaging the DeBohuns. Unfortunately, in all but the last attempt, this plan failed. Hose DeBohun did a spectacular job of delaying on the left, but our right side was never were able to blow apart or penetrate the weak wing. Eventually, the strong wing swept around behind us and we were defeated. I forgot one of the sayings of Sun Su "If you know the enemy and you know yourself, then in a hundred battles, you will not be defeated." I was trying to do a maneuver that required a reasonable level of aggressiveness, and I did not have aggressive troops. I might have done better to arrange our forces in a like manner to theirs and meet strength with strength even though that is very rarely the best choice of action. On the bridge, we did far better. In every case, we gained spear superiority shortly after the archers were dealt with, and used this to defeat the Calontir forces. The only loss occurred once, when we had clearly gained spear superiority over the Calontir forces. However, we had roughly equal numbers of shields and great weapons (though Calontir had more experienced great weapons). Unfortunately, someone gave the command to charge thinking that we could blow through them (I had been taken out earlier by an archer). But, again, we did not commit aggressively enough, and the spears were not horribly effective in the charge. Thus, we lost that battle. In the castle, it pretty much came down to those defending had a great advantage over those inside, and whoever was inside won. We did attempt to break into the castle once by setting up a strong boarsnout to break past the doorway. This almost proved effective as the punch unit made its way well into the castle. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the follow on forces lagged behind and did not follow the punch unit in. Thus, all was lost.

1) Arranging the army in a column.

This was very effective and allowed great ease in controlling the direction, speed and maneuver of the army. It was easy to organize the army into discreet elements for various sub-missions (reserve element, point element, flanking element etc.). Also, by arranging shields along the sides and front of the column, we were able to maintain good security when we moved as we could easily orient ourselves to a flank just by facing everyone left or right. It also opened up nicely when we met the enemy head on since the sides would mushroom out and the polearms would automatically fall in behind the shields. The reserve element could easily separate from the main body and maneuver to support or take a flank or hold back and wait for a breakthrough to take advantage of. I was able to direct the army easily from the front as the narrow line of shields could easily follow me as I lead the way. Thus, I did not have to yell orders to change direction if I saw any obvious targets of opportunity or particular dangers and was able to quickly and easily able to maneuver the army into the best possible position. I also did not have any difficulty slipping to the side of the army when contact was imminent since we initiated contact on a narrow front.

2) Pushing instead of killing the enemy to take ground.

This was most obvious on the bridge. I found that when we attacked to take ground by killing, both us and our enemy often fell to the ground and effectively tripped our second line troops. This often inspired the marshals to call holds, and we ended up with fewer troops and very little ground taken. However, when we just pushed into the enemy going completely defensive, nobody fell or tripped, and we had fewer casualties and took more ground in the charges. Once we were past the point that we needed to be, and I had stopped the push, I found the enemy would continue to back up into a comfortable killing range on their own. As we were set, we were able to inflict more casualties on them as they backed up. Also, this tactic saved us right at the last seconds of the battle as we were able to keep pushing without stopping due to holds or fallen foes and comrades and thus were able to push the enemy well past the half way point right when it counted. I noticed that this was also the Eastern tactic, so make sure you have lots of mass (even unarmed cripples work) right at the last 30 seconds of the battle. However, this tactic only works when the goal is property rather than destruction of the enemy (see # 8 below).

3) Using scouts to keep time.

We lost the first timed battle this last year because I did not know how close we were to the end of the battle. From that point on, I had several scouts whose job it was to know the exact time of the battle and give me a half way point, a 20 min, 10 min, 5 min 2 min and 1 min warning. This saved us on the bridge, because at 30 seconds with the Tuchux facing us, I was able to call the mass of Ironwolf and Calontir into the fray and we just pushed the east back off bridge.

4) Rehearsing movement and tactics before the battles.

This is a technique I borrowed from the mundane military. This was most useful when practicing for the reserve to move away from the column in the field battle, and for practicing dealing with charges for the bridge battle. With the rehearsal, the reserve had no problem figuring out when and how to break away from the main body upon contact. The first trial runs were very rough, and a majority of the reserve did not have a clue as to what they were supposed to do. Had they engaged the enemy without the rehearsal, they would have almost certainly been an ineffective strung out unit upon contact. After several run throughs each individual knew exactly who was to go where and what they were supposed to do once they got there. This I think is essential since we all do not play together on a regular enough basis to do maneuver without practice. On the bridge, the rehearsals made it very obvious that the spears would not have time to make it back through the "side door" unless we could blunt the charge with one or two shields slamming into the side of the charging force. Had we not rehearsed this maneuver, we would have lost several good spearmen the first time the enemy charged. Then we would have been forced to try to come up with the appropriate countermeasure while in the thick of battle rather than having the luxury of being able to talk it out and work on it with the aid of the Calontirie who were practicing with us. I should note, that it is important to get all of the troops who are going to be working with you out for the rehearsals. There were several spearmen who nearly died and put our shields in danger and reduced the effectiveness of our polearms because they did not know about the "side door" and tried to pass through our line of shields.

5) Using line Sgt.s works.

I did not see much action by lance commanders, but the few recognized line sgt.s were very effective in helping me set the battle lines and keep things open and organized during the bridge battle. I found that they were most effective when they were in charge of a specified group (like polearms or spears or reserves).

6) Using skirmishers out front and early.

I was very fortunate to have House Argus and/or The Lostboys as skirmish units in every battle. The Northshield army was able to reach every initial objective or position on the field without a fight because the skirmish units moved out very quickly and engaged the enemy well forward of our objective thus halting or slowing the enemy so they could not engage us before we were set and ready. Amazingly, they seemed to take very light casualties when they did this. I believe this was due to the fact that they were very spear heavy and were able to simply intimidate the enemy so they stopped and formed up. The skirmishers only had to then stand out at spear range and keep poking at them while slowly retreating back to our lines. In the long fronted static battles such as the broken field and maze battles, this had the added advantage that we had our spears out front right from the get-go (see below).

7) Getting spears out front early and not grounding shields.

Remembering Conn's (actually Donagal's) rock/paper/scissors talk, and the horrible experience of having three Atlantian spearmen pick the whole Northshield army apart two years ago in the town battle, I refused to set up a static line without placing spears out in front of it immediately. Spears beat shields Charges beat spears, and shield wall beats charge. I have seen the truth behind the statement that a spear with no shield in front of him is more effective than one with a shield in front of him. This tactic proved most effective in the static battles such as the bridge, maze and mountain pass. We enjoyed spear superiority throughout the entire battle, and our spears were able to do the East what they had done to us in the town battle the year before. We had made and practiced defeating charges by arranging a way to rescue our spears and bring polearms up behind shields. Since I made a point of getting our spears out front first, I never had to deal with charging into a set enemy but instead had the luxury of making countercharges once the enemy expended their strength on our shieldwall which was well supported by polearms. As soon as the enemy fell back in disarray, I immediately got our spears back out front so they could wreak havoc on the Eastern shields and Eastern spears which were entangled and hampered by overzealous polearms and shields.

8) Starting out at a trot: Northshield has always had a problem with aggressiveness. This was very clear at Armorgeddon, when we were facing an outnumbered Calontir force. In every battle, we out maneuvered the enemy and rolled them into a ball. However, at that point, we just stopped and went defensive on them rather than wading in to destroy them. This gave them time to fight back and pick us apart since they swung their weapons more than we did. When we did push, we didn't kill, and Calontir just killed us with great weapons as we pressed up against their shields. After about the 3rd time this happened, I tried to start us off at a trot rather than just walking towards the enemy. This seemed to add a bit of fire to our troops, and we went through Calontir with no problem.




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