The previous two posts have explained a bit how the units and the leaders function; all of this comes together when two armies meet on the battle map. The result is that the player is taken to the battle resolution window, where the player has the opportunity to set up the army and select what “encounter strategy” to follow. Depending on which side manages to grab the tactical initiative, this will result in one of four situations.
Perhaps the most common situation when two sides meet is that one of them withdraws from battle. In this period, it was almost impossible to force a battle on a reluctant enemy, and the same will be the case in Imperium. Withdrawal comes with a price, though; whenever a General withdraws from battle, it will affect the “imperial morale” of the empire and the prestige of the General. The price will depend on the size of the forces and the relative strengths of the armies involved. The people are obviously not going to be as concerned when a force of 4000 men refuse to fight with 40,000 men, as they would if the opposite was the case. This is one more mechanism which I expect will make skilled enemy commanders like Hannibal a nasty proposition in the game. Imagine the 20+ Roman units that you have finally collected down in Apulia suddenly running into Hannibal with his 16 or so units. You might not fancy your chances too much, knowing that a large proportion of your troops are still recruits, that Hannibal is the best Commander of the period and leads a veteran army… nevertheless, you will have to make a choice: do you run away, further depleting Roman morale and the prestige of your General? Or do you face down the Carthaginians on the banks of the Aufidius?
(NB: Imperial morale is an important aspect of the imperial system; somewhat similar to “stability” in the EU games. Time and victories raise morale; withdrawals and defeats lower it. Low imperial morale may result in the empire’s forces becoming demoralized, lowered force quality, and revolts in the cities of the empire. Imperial morale at its lowest will literally force a dynasty to its knees. Prestige is the reputation of a character in the game; a vital aspect of the game).
Ambushes are a special ploy; possible only in very particular situations; namely when one side significantly outscouts the other. Rough terrain (such as will be found abundantly in Spain) will improve the chances. Given the opportunity, the potential ambusher will then have to decide whether to ambush and what proportion of his force to dedicate to the ambush. An ambush is not automatically successful (it depends on the relative Guile skills of the two commanders), and a failed ambush could have serious consequences for any subsequent battle (especially if the ambusher has overcommitted forces to the ambush). This will hopefully mean that ambushes will tend to be small-scale, with the large-scale full army ambushes only attempted in especially favorable or desperate circumstances.
Defenders in appropriate terrain will be able to attempt to maneuver, to defend a river crossing, block a mountain pass, or to seize the high ground. In these circumstances, the attacker will have to make the choice of whether to attack at a disadvantage, or withdraw from the confrontation. The mechanism allows for Thermopylae-like battles, where a smaller force may be able to beat back a much larger force.
If there is no ambush or withdrawal, then a battle occurs. Battles can be either pitched affairs where both sides line up on a selected battlefield to fight it out, or it may be limited to skirmishing. Regiments can be assigned the skirmish role (manipular legions will automatically send forward their skirmish detachments); if the battle is limited to skirmishing, only these units will be involved in the fighting. In a pitched battle, all units (who have not been placed in “reserve”; i.e., out of the fighting) would be involved. Skirmishes can end up quite bloody, considering the limited number of units involved, but have the advantage for the losing side of being of less consequence than an open battle. This makes, of course, skirmishing a favored tactic of the weaker side in any conflict. Similarly, states with lots of light cavalry (that usually have high skirmish factors and quite low combat values) will also favor dealing death with a thousand cuts.
In the next and – I think – final post on this subject, I’ll briefly step through the combat mechanics that the game willÂ use to determine the winner and loser of a battle.