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Monday, March 13, 2017

The Wardog's Coin, in detail

And considerably more detail than you're probably suspecting. It's rather like the start of a wargame ruleset.

In the interest of speed, Ulgor left his siege train behind but still possessed a potent force of heavily armored orc boar riders. Unless a means was found to neutralize this force the elves and mercenaries would be forced to retreat. In desperation, a risky plan was hatched and the ensuing night raid is an exciting part of story. The Sergeant and a companion are drafted to raid the boar corral, carried aloft and inserted into the camp by hawks, flown by elven mage/scouts. Depositing the conduits for elven magic around the boar corral, the Sergeant accounts for half the boar order of battle but his companion’s efforts are fruitless. This is enough to convince the Elven king to chance his luck and make a stand, defending the first village in his realm instead of abandoning it to the invaders.

Despite the loss of half his heavy cavalry Ulgor continues his advance the next day. The story resumes after the Sergeant rejoins his company and prepares to meet the final wave of attacks. The initial attacks only consisted of goblin conscripts whose sacrifice was intended to tire the defenders. This last wave consisted of goblins in the vanguard immediately followed by the boar riders, heading direct for the mercenary company, holding the weakest part of the line (despite being in the center the section of ditch to their immediate front is the most shallow). Ulgor’s tactics are simple, easily anticipated but still feared by the elves and mercenaries alike. The goblins are to soak up elf defensive fire, the boars will punch a hole in the line, followed closely by heavily armed and fresh orc warriors.

 The map below shows the positions of the various units as the goblins begin the final charge. Of note, this is the only battle map, fictional or historical, to contain the words “Big Arse”



The Wardog's Coin is included in Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy & Other Stories.

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17 Comments:

Anonymous Precious March 13, 2017 1:08 PM  

I read that story years ago, and I still remember the moment when the orc boar charge crashed into the mercenaries. And it still brings a smile to my face. Thank you.

Blogger Hauen Holzwanderer March 13, 2017 1:13 PM  

The quality of stories in Elvetica convinced me to buy the series...so hop to it! (I bet you get that a lot) To be fair, I have no idea when you sleep.

Anonymous Gecko March 13, 2017 1:14 PM  

Wardog's Coin convinced me that you've read Glen Cook's Black Company series, and I liked the way you brought out the best of that style.

From the picture, it looks like the elf swordsmen on the right flank have their work cut out for them.

Anonymous BBGKB March 13, 2017 1:52 PM  

I thought i remembered the fight in an area that funneled the enemy into an area that could be completely covered by the starting humans as a front line. Can you tell us if the second fire spell failed because of the human or the elf mage?

Blogger bob kek mando ( Death To The Boor-geois, Keks To The Lol-etariat ) March 13, 2017 2:13 PM  

eh?

you show catapults and ballista on the far ends of your lines.

is there a terrain reason which renders them unsuitable for direct attack? otherwise, it seems as though they would be highly susceptible to flanking maneuvers, especially by cavalry.

Anonymous Gecko March 13, 2017 2:19 PM  

Can you tell us if the second fire spell failed because of the human or the elf mage?

What I took away from that part is this: in war, countless mistakes are made and shit happens. (Consider the PoV's companion during the charge.) Sometimes you can't know who is at fault, and sometimes it doesn't matter. You just have to move on and deal with it if you want to succeed.

I also like how the other spell came down to a "coin toss." How appropriate.

Anonymous Gecko March 13, 2017 2:28 PM  

is there a terrain reason which renders them unsuitable for direct attack? otherwise, it seems as though they would be highly susceptible to flanking maneuvers, especially by cavalry.

From what I gather, there was no significant light cavalry, and this particular brand of heavy cavalry was not suitable for flanking. Also, I think BBGKB was right in his recollection about the terrain. The PoV didn't seem to care about flanking, but he was in the center.

Anonymous Stephen J. March 13, 2017 2:41 PM  

The "orc boar riders" reminds me of an article from DRAGON Magazine back in the day, about the development of the "Bloodstone Pass" mass combat rules for AD&D, where the developers were playtesting the magic rules: one player had mustered up a force of orc riders on war boars, while the other side had a single 10th-level wizard and a mob of 0-level commoners. "Sure, he might drop a fireball or lightning bolt into my ranks," wrote the developer, "but orcs mounted on war boars are tough. I anticipated some losses but knew that I would give far better than I got.

"To make a long story short, you won't
believe how much area can be affected by a simple transmute rock to mud spell. My entire war boar unit -- the vanguard of my army -- sank into the ground right in front of those 0-level villagers. All of a sudden, the battlefield looked very different. After I retrieved the dice I had thrown across the room, we sat down to discuss the implications of this unexpected magical potency."

If you don't laugh at this you are simply not a gamer.

Blogger Resident Moron™ March 13, 2017 3:51 PM  

Wardog's Coin was my first Vox story.

It may or may not be your best work (I wouldn't claim to know) but it is still my favourite.

Blogger Happy LP9 March 13, 2017 4:54 PM  

What Wonderful Reading! Awesome!

Anonymous ScottatCastalia March 13, 2017 5:10 PM  

Great comments. Not much is said about the other forces holding the line but a key statement is the SGT saying "I estimated the goblins was about 2k in this wave, 500 of which was coming for our part of the line". I gave each wing the same composition as the center, infantry supported by archers.

As for the funneling of the enemy into the mercenary portion of the line key is this sentence "The elven machines kept up their barrage, but they wasn't enough to slow the orc assault down, forget stopping them. Worse, none of it was hitting the cavalry coming right at us. By hitting both flanks, the elves was funneling the charge right at us".

Gecko is right. Ulgor did not possess light cavalry and even if he had a full compliment of 300 boar riders my guess he would have sent them directly forward as a group and not split them up for a flanking maneuver. This is why I the Elf right wing didn't have an issue as the ballistas easily helped repel double the normal amount of goblins. There was some heavy orc infantry behind them so it wouldn't have been a picnic but Ulgor's intent and the main danger was a direct smash in the middle of the line.

Anonymous Wooly March 13, 2017 6:17 PM  

Years from now, when all the Selenoth games start coming out -- the big, open-world TES-killers, the RTS and Turn-based strategy and hack/slash ones -- it's going to be a blast reading Polygon.

Blogger Joe Keenan March 13, 2017 8:52 PM  

Tolkien had toyed with the idea of creating a more adult version of The Hobbit, closer to LoTR in style and attitude, I wished he did. Vox, has such an idea ever crossed your mind regarding your Summa? How does Vox near 10 years on see this work?

Blogger Hen March 13, 2017 9:28 PM  

I wish I had time to do a better job of this comment. I just want to say this short story was deeply touching to my way of thinking as well as interesting, authentic. Definitely a favorite.

Blogger bob kek mando ( Death To The Boor-geois, Keks To The Lol-etariat ) March 13, 2017 10:36 PM  

pffft.

you know where the safest place to stand in regards to a ballista / catapult is?

well, okay, SAFEST place is outside the range of the projectile launcher.

the 2nd safest place is ... right next to the arty piece. and this still holds true today, so long as you don't stand in front of the muzzle ( and there's no misfire ) you're never going to suffer anything more than hearing loss.

much the same goes for archers, less the hearing loss risk. unless you're somehow catching your ear in the bowstring ...

arty and archers both suck pretty hard at melee combat.

and this applies whether they're being flanked with infantry, light cav or heavy cav. if you've got unscreened ( that is, with no melee force ) between arty and enemy, the arty damn well better be positioned such that it is terrain inaccessible, otherwise you're simply depending on the opposing general being too stupid to notice the precarious position the artillery is in.

which, okay, he's an orc. maybe his best-in-army 85 iq isn't going to notice the obvious.

the battle map shows very little in the way of terrain feature and the only note on this subject that i noticed in the post was Vox saying that "the section of ditch to their immediate front is the most shallow".


now there's ditches and there's ditches. but according to the map there doesn't seem to currently be any water in this ditch.

nor does it seem that anyone actually expects any part of it to prevent the orcs/goblins from initiating melee with any particular part of the defensive line.

which means arty pieces being positioned forward and on the flanks, ESPECIALLY that right flank ballista look pretty damn tasty.

another point about rolling the flank, it pretty much nullifies all the other Blue arty on the field, so far as trying to support the salient is concerned.

this is because any arty fire from the left and center arty pieces will now be landing on their own troops as well as the goblins.

worse, armor tends to be thicker on the front and light on the back ( don't want to encourage cowards to run away ) ... and your Blue troops are going to be facing *away* from you.

therefore, firing arty / arrows into a melee furball is likely to be MORE effective against your own troops than it will be the attackers. which, you know, is the very definition of "self defeating".

by attempting to break the center of the line, the Orcs are actually playing to the strength of the strange arty positioning.

you see, as the center retreats while the flanks hold, this effectuates a bubble of Red forces in the center of the line. while the center ballista may go down ( arty don't move very fast and is not suitable to attempt an orderly fighting retreat with ), the flanking arty will be able to fire on concentrations of Orc forces in the center of the line *and towards the other flank*. ie - the left flank catapults can target center / towards right flank and the remaining ballista can target center / towards the left flank.

because you've now reversed the personnel armor issue i've already mentioned. Blue melee forces will not merely have the benefit of incoming friendly fire impacting their heaviest armor, the Orc forces themselves will be serving as body shields for your Blue troops.


i note that the Elvish center line forces seem to be comprised of the most seasoned / highly skilled troops, which is exactly what you would want to have to attempt such a retreating envelopment maneuver as i'm describing.

after all, "orderly retreats" can all too easily turn into "disorderly routs" ... at which point you've lost the field.

Anonymous Gecko March 14, 2017 9:49 AM  

which means arty pieces being positioned forward and on the flanks, ESPECIALLY that right flank ballista look pretty damn tasty.

This is the main reason why I thought, at least as far as the image is concerned, that the swordsmen on the right had their work cut out for them. That, and the positioning of the goblins, the orc general, and the seemingly shallower ditch.

I suspect that the image can be improved, but it is a nice starting point.

Blogger JP March 14, 2017 11:59 PM  

Sounds like the setup to Cannae.

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