Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Stay on Target - Realms Archery Part 3 by Carol "Charwindle" Eddy


In a standard Realms war maneuver, a decent bow will have the range of the entire active field.  That means from the moment "lay on" is called, each and every enemy combatant is a viable target.  That's a lot of people you can shoot.  The aim of this section is to give some guidance on your target priorities.

(1) Know the battle pace.

An armored field battle is fast paced: you will die before you fire all your arrows. This means you want to shoot back to back as rapidly as you can On the flip side, an armored castle battle is slow paced: you will run out of arrows long before you're dead. In this case, you want every shot to count, and count fully, or you will "lose" the efficiency war with the enemy archers. Every arrow you fire at them that does not hit is an arrow they can fire back to kill. Extrapolating further, every arrow you fire at them that hits, but does something ineffectual - taking the leg of a pikeman, which is rapidly healed, for example - garners the same result.

In a line battle, you have less luxury of choice.  By default, you should shoot at the easiest targets to hit that present themselves to you.  This will narrow your options in the line to those closest to you; field positioning becomes vital. You will want to place yourself in a position that (1) offers many enemies close by, so you can fire arrow after arrow with no down time as you search for a viable target, and (2) provides a thick buffer between you and the enemy in the form of many friendly troops, which will give you more time to fire off your arrows and have an effect on the battle.  Essentially, you want to be right in, or right behind, the thick of battle.  Archers have a very low rate of fire compared to melee weapons.  Putting yourself in this position means you will be maximizing your rate of fire, every arrow will strike an open target, and you can maximize your contribution by providing it to the greatest number of your teammates in the middle field.  Additionally, because there is so much melee combat, few enemies will have the chance to focus on you.  Many enemies will not even be able to attempt a block because they will not see the arrow coming.  (More on this in the next session, Field Positioning.)

In a bridge battle, which does not have the same breakneck pace, you have the luxury of choosing your targets more carefully.  In general, as an archer, you want to weaken the biggest threats on the enemy line, which allows your friendly line to successfully push forward.

(2) You are playing the support role: choose targets that pose the largest threat to your team.

The general rule of thumb is this: shoot the longest weapons first.  In theory, following this maxim, your target priority would be:
archer > pike > 6' > 5'/4'6" > spear > florentine > shield > other.

The reality is slightly different.  One, you should not be targeting enemy archers unless a golden opportunity presents itself - ie, the archer is obviously not looking at you, and you have enough firepower (friendly archers) that you can burn through their armor and kill them with one volley.  Archers make poor targets in unlimited combat for four reasons:

1. They're mobile.  If you hit an armor and peel away a point of armor (or armored cloak), they will respond by immediately taking cover and getting the situation repaired.  It is difficult to kill an archer outright because they are not trapped in by the crush of melee bodies or required to hold a certain part of the field.  They will move somewhere else without affecting the heart of the battle.

2. They have low rate of fire.  Taking out an archer will help because they will not be able to harass your own line, yes, but a lone archer is not going to turn the tide of battle in the same way an aggressive pikeman or florentine fighter can mow down enemies.  The change will be incremental at best.

3. Archers will never cause a push.  This reason is closely related to #2.  While an archer can be a deadly and effective addition to any team, they are completely unable to charge, counterattack, or turn the tide of battle with a sudden aggressive move.  Archery may have the longest range, but it is also the most passive weapon combination.

4. Archers are the most likely to see the shot coming.  Because they themselves are looking for long-range targets and not at all concerned with close combat, they are already looking farther away than the average melee fighter, and are more likely to see your arrow coming.  Firing an arrow at an archer who is looking at you is, basically, a wasted shot: an archer will not be standing in melee range of an enemy, so when they focus on you, they will not open themselves up to getting struck by a sword, unlike a fighter enemy who not only has to contend with your archery, but also with the enemy line he is currently engaged with.  (A note: the best time to shoot an archer is when he is focused on aiming at another enemy, arrow to the bow and attention pointed completely in that direction.  This is also one of the reasons an archer should spend the minimum amount of time possible lining up a shot.)

If, in a bridge battle or choke point situation, an enemy archer is proving particularly effective, you might find it worth your while to target their bow. Bows can be repaired via repair item, but dedicated support casters would rather spend that spell keeping fighters up.  Breaking a bow is an effective way to take an archer out of combat for longer than just shooting them. If the archer repairs the item by hand, it will take them out of combat for a ridiculously long time.

Dropping archery from target priority, you are left with:
Pike > 6'6" > 5'/4'6" > spear / florentine / archer > sword/board > else.

If you do not know your opponents well, this is a good baseline to use.  It is always a good idea to shoot a greatweapon wielder. If he is slow on his feet and you are fast, you can peel 2 points of armor or even kill him.  On the flip side, it is usually a waste to shoot a shieldman in a line.  He will be able to secure a repair long before you get a second and third shot.

Because in a choke point you can choose your targets, the best option is to locate all of the enemy greatweapon wielders in the line, and then ~pay attention~. A s soon as they get struck by one of your team's pikes, put a second hit on them.  Yes, it is a brilliant and lovely thing to wait for a call of "armor 2!" before shooting and killing.  However, a good enemy pikeman will rotate off the line as soon as he loses a point of armor.  By shooting him immediately after the first blow lands, you will strip him of both points and give one of your pikemen - who has a higher rate of fire than you do! - a golden chance to bring him down.  (Coordinating archer fire from 2 archers also works here. Unlike casters crouching behind the enemy line, front-line pikemen can often be shot from multiple angles, making it easier to coordinate fire.)

(3) Controlling pace – eliminate aggressive fighters.

If you do know your opponents well, you will be able to refine your threat analysis.  A more aggressive target is always a greater threat than a passive target, because killing them buys you more time.  As an archer, time is your most precious commodity.  You will find that it is better to kill a very aggressive 5' than a passive 6'6", for example, or (in a line) to kill a fast-moving florentine fighter over a more cautious 5'.  In general, I have found you may shift a passive fighter down one category and an aggressive fighter up one category on your threat analysis.

In this way, in a chokepoint battle, an aggressive florentine fighter is an equal threat to a passive 5' fighter - but never more of a threat than a pike or a 6'6".

(4) Casters.

You will notice that casters are not mentioned on this threat list.  That is because casters are targets of opportunity.  They will often be hunkered down behind the enemy lines.  If you have an open shot on an active support caster, take it; if they have to spend the time getting their armored cloak back up, they are vulnerable to a push. If they do not spend the time to restore their armored cloak, they are just begging to die at the next opening you can shoot them.  A shot at an active caster is always worth it.

On the other hand, don't bother wasting arrows on people standing aimlessly in the back field.  It may help when you break through, but it won't help you to break through.  You are feeding the other team arrows they can use against more appropriate targets.

There are of course exceptions to this rule - but they are just that: exceptions.

To recap:
1) Shoot the longest weapons first (excluding archers),
2) Shoot aggressive fighters before passive fighters, sometimes even in defiance of Rule #1,
3) In an unlimited line, your shots are better spent towards the center (targets are not moving as fast / are not as aggressive); in a limited line, your shots are better spent on the flanks (slows the speed of battle),
4) Always take a free shot at a support caster;
5) Resist the temptation to shoot at an idle backfield.

The longer you spend time as an archer, the more you will learn to prioritize your targets for very specific and particular circumstances.  An article that tried to cover all these possibilities would go on for years and involve a fair bit of sheer hypothesis: my only advice is, follow the general rules of thumb when you go out on the field, and then - through trial and experience - perfect your own threat analysis by observing the ebb and flow of battles of different paces and different force compositions.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I forgot one part of my article. "If you see Tuilli, make sure you shoot him first. In the throat." There. My article is complete.
    -Totally written by Charwindle.