GURPS Newbie Post: Questions on Small Unit Tactics for GURPS Fantasy

Here are some small unit tactical questions for the GURPS-type people:

Is there anything out there online or in print that gives information about small unit tactics for GURPS in a medieval fantasy setting? I was thinking about this after our last GURPS Majestic Wilderlands session when our group, like many tabletop RPG groups, rode around on the field of battle very much independent of one another. While we prevailed, it put me in mind of my early gaming days (back in the late 1970s with D&D) where the players had set formations and marching orders written on paper that covered various physical spaces and scenarios. The group had also worked out some basic tactical plans so that at the start of melee combat we knew who would be casting spells, who would be engaged in front line melee, and who would be using ranged weapons. The assumption was that they had trained a bit together and had developed some basic formations, marching orders, and plans.

Three of the four people in my first gaming group were wargamers prior to our discovery of D&D and its discovery of us, so the tactical aspect was interesting to us. We did this because it made sense, not because D&D rewarded this type of planning. Tactics matter in the early editions of D&D, but not nearly as much as in GURPS.

Tactics matter a great deal in GURPS. It is why I love playing it, but, like most RPG groups, our current group sucks at group tactics because no one plans ahead and no one is the combat commander of our group. We started out with 75 point characters and are now just a bit over 100, so we really need to fight as a unit to take advantage of our strengths and, more importantly, cover our weaknesses. I have some of the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy stuff and that is helpful, but I am just wondering if there is something else out there (and here I'll admit that I could have easily missed something in a GURPS publication that I already own).

Do any of you GURPS people have any advice for a group of mostly GURPS newbies on how to approach small group tactics, based on your own experience? That is my follow-up question. And here I am mainly looking at GURPS fantasy with a TL of around 3. However, even advice based on other GURPS genres and settings would be helpful.

I have a few thoughts on my own on this but I wanted to hear from more experienced people before tossing things out there. I don't think my thinking is coherent enough yet on this topic to put together a blog post (not that a lack of coherence has hindered me in the past...incoherence is my M.O.).

1 comment:

  1. The one thing I've never seen a group do is exploit Lanchester's Square Law. By the group collectively concentrating on a single target, the group can knock down opponents faster, which results in a quicker errosion of enemy power. While at TL 3, this usually requires a mix of short range melee weapons in front with shields and heavy armor backed by longer range weapon wielders, like spearmen or pikemen. Ideally, they would get backed up by marksmen archers, so that when the melee troops move in formation and engage, one second of combat results in one enemy removed from combat (more if weaker). All the attcks will overwhelm active defenses like parry and block, and dodge just isnt as good. When hits start landing, the person will almost certainly die. Then move on to the next.

    Compare this to everyone pairing off: it becomes a more even fight for everyone, and individual fights drag out longer, since each has to overcome enemy defenses on their own and then whittle down their HP, all the while risking having this done to them.

    Thus if you can utilize Lanchesters Square Law, your advantage is maximized.

    The con to using formations is that you have to be extremely careful not to get outflanked, which can spell disaster. Of course, simple practises like always clearing your six, and leaving traps and warmings in your wake can provide a crucial warning of any such flanking or ambush.

    Thats not really Gurps-specific advice. It should work in any system, really, but it should definitely work in GURPS. It's something my monsters do when I need something to provide a disproportionate challange. And I can say that if the party starts seeing its members removed from ck.bat effectiveness by virtual mooks, they take pause. I'm waiting for them to start doing it back....