Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Running in steel plate mail

My soldiers pretty well can't be harmed at this point, in their steel armor, and they're pretty good with their short swords, spear, and axe. But they still have a fairly serious problem in a certain combat environment.

I'm building a magma pump stack in one of the caverns. I also had to go in there to chop some wood for charcoal, so that I could make enough magma-safe parts for the pumps. (I'd sort of been squandering my wood supply in anticipation of having magma, and didn't save enough for the pumps. Oops.)

My woodcutter and his hauling team are constantly harassed by enemies in the cavern. The enemies aren't serious. We have troglodytes, who try to single out one worker and then punch him, but they aren't very good at it. And we have naked mole dogs, who smell liquor and scavenge around the place hoping to get some. The naked mole dogs aren't often interested in attacking anyone, but the dwarves see them and freak out, and interrupt their work to run around screaming. Kind of like me when I see a bee.

So, enter my brave soldiers. They're happy to guard the place. They love participating in a good bloodbath. They have steel plate and steel weapons and steel shields, and they're all right at using all of the above. Just one problem.

The steel armor is so heavy, it makes them run slow. And their opponents are basically unarmored rogues who only live to hit and run. The troglodytes and mole dogs run in, perform some harassment, and run out before they get in range of harm. I don't blame them; it's clever.

My soldiers are reasonably good athletes, but they can't catch the little bastards with all the steel weighing them down. They chase the enemies around, all over the cavern, in wide loops. But the enemy will just loop back and keep interrupting work while easily outrunning the soldiers who are strung out behind.

It's funny because I've found that the steel plate normally has a particularly good advantage in narrow corridors. A dwarf equipped with such is a great defender. He can go toe-to-toe with quite fierce monsters, and hold a corridor by himself for quite a while, while the weaker dwarves escape, for example. I guess steel is great for holding ground in narrow spaces, but awful at fighting opponents who don't want to get hit. (I guess we need some horses. But dwarves don't do mounted combat. That's for goblins.)

I considered reforming my squad in some way to be more effective in this type of combat, but I haven't come up with a way. I know you've* fought with swords and armor before and know a lot about medieval-style warfare, so maybe you know a tactic for busting up rogues when you're a knight? Here are the ideas I've come up with, but each one seems even more flawed than my current setup when I think very hard about it:

((* The story's original audience was a swordsman and expert in medieval combat.))

1. I could employ a more lightly-armored wrestler to chase down enemies and grapple them, catching them for their steel-plated buddies. I've found this is very dangerous, though, because the wrestler runs ahead even when he shouldn't, and ends up taking all the punishment. If he's going to "tank" in light armor, I may as well put lighter armor on everybody else too so they can keep up and save him. This seems like a really bad idea if something actually dangerous comes along, since people will almost certainly get killed.

2. I could try to use bows/crossbows somehow. I could station the archers on the pump tower a floor above the cavern bottom, for example, and let them shoot stuff below. Archers are certainly good at pinning down enemies while the armored melee soldiers cross to melee range--when the archers are actually working right, that is. A bolt through the leg or an organ will slow down a rogue like nothing else.

However, my experience with crossbows in this version is that the dwarves have all kinds of ammo problems, and usually just melee if they can path to the enemy. I have crap-tons of ammo (for melting, after I bring the magma to the top, but I don't mind using it up). However, I do not trust the dwarves to reload after they use their first stack. It's very buggy. And the crossbows are very ineffective as melee weapons.

And I just realized the likely answer. I need to give the soldiers some war dogs. The dogs are fast and for grappling, like the wrestler in #1, but expendable.

I think that's what to do here. And my soldiers get to keep their plate. They won't get as many kills, but that's fine. They all have four names at this point from slaughtering all the stored-up early-plague goblins**.

((** A very violent and well-designed trap system at the outdoor entrance killed or caught all of the goblins besieging the fortress from the outside, while I dealt with the plague inside. During the plague I stored a hundred or so goblins in cages, stripped naked, to release for military practice when times were better.))

Let me know* ((*see original note)) if you have any other thoughts about knights chasing rogues. This particular cavern's characteristics are a little different from my previous ones--it's about 60% smooth, open rolling hills, and 40% small areas of narrow corridors that only fit one or two dwarves shoulder-to-shoulder.

(Of course, I can wall off the tree-chopping area or something, but mushrooms take years to grow. I'll be done chopping and building in here, long before the wall is done. And next time I come down here for wood, it'll be in a different section while this section of mushrooms is allowed to regrow.)

1 comment:

  1. Dogs are expendable, yes, but if you set aside a breeding pair and train them for war soon as they hit adulthood, they are very good at grappling and slowing the enemy. Assign one or two to each dwarf. Preferably male, or you'll have a big train of puppies following too. Be careful though: it's easy to have puppysplosion.