Truth rune The Genertelan Art of War Death rune

by Sandy Petersen

[This follows Sandy's review of The Art of War in the Western World]


The Lunars, who use an Alexandrian style of warfare, have all four types: heavy infantry (the Heartland corps), light infantry (Thunder Delta Slingers), light cavalry (Erigians), and heavy cavalry (Cavalry Corps). Plus magician units, of course, whose function appears to be threefold:
  1. Boost individual units, making them more effective in combat than their rivals. In effect, making "heavies" more heavy.
  2. Disrupt and break up enemy troops. In effect, setting the stage for the heavy infantry or cavalry to attack the enemy much more successfully. This disruption is especially good for keeping opposing light troops from being able to retreat easily, so your heavies can catch them.
  3. Titanic effects to kill opposing troops, such as summoning demons or fire from the sky or whatever. In effect, artillery. This kind of magic is rare, but since it's the most spectacular it gets all the press. Note that the two areas in which the Lunars are weakest are light cavalry (especially) and light infantry. This is probably because their magicians make up for this failing in large part.


The Praxian tribes are, in effect, cavalry. There are few large bodies of infantry among them. When such bodies do show up, as with the Cannibal Cult, Sun Dome Templars, or Men-and-a-Half, they demonstrate significant dominance over the nomads.

Now, there is a large difference between the Praxians and the Earth analog. Namely, the Praxians don't ride horses. This means that their interactions with one another are not quite the same as the typical Light Cavalry > Heavy Cavalry set up.

For one thing, the "heavy" and the "light" warriors of the various tribes wear about the same amount of armor. The only real difference is that bow-armed warriors generally don't carry shields (though javelin-armed ones might). This means that heavy and light Praxian mounted warriors are about the same speed, which would appear to invalidate my theories. However, light cavalry normally fights and moves in a rather open, relaxed order. Heavy cavalry, to be at its most effective, must fight in a close-ordered mass. This mass, of necessity, must move more slowly than a mob of individuals, because they must keep their order. In addition, to form up into the mass takes time. As a result, Praxian light warriors can generally get away from heavies, unless the heavies are willing to break up their formation and run, in which case the lights are still just as fast (and so hard to catch), plus if the heavies do catch the lights, the lights can pull out axe or club and fight back with almost equal facility to the heavies! The only way heavy Praxian warriors can keep a melee advantage over light ones is by maintaining formation, but if they maintain it, then they can't catch up to the lights. It's a catch-22.

Let's look at the major tribes.

they entirely consist of light cavalry. As a result, they are able to defeat unsupported heavy sables or bison, but if they are caught such that they cannot easily retreat, they are in big trouble.

these are both the same, really. Both are composed partially of heavy cavalry and partially of light cavalry. The light sables are a tad better than the light bison, and the reverse is true for the heavies. Why aren't they light cavalry only, which is generally the solution for earth's nomads?

(1) Because of the High Llama folk (see below). (2) Because when facing fortifications (even the puny circles of brush that pass for corrals in Prax), heavy cav is better than light. (3) because of the Morocanth (see below). (4) Because when light cavalry is ambushed by heavy cavalry, the lights get massacred unless heavy cavalry is nearby to countercharge and save their tails.

So the heavy cavalry of the Sables and Bison serve three functions -- to battle the morocanth and high llamas, to accompany the light cavalry in places that might hold ambushes, and to lay ambushes for enemy light cavalry.

High Llamas are in a peculiar position. They are so fast that they can run down anyone else's steeds. This means that unlike all other heavy cavalry, they tend to be able to both keep their formation (admittedly not as tight as Bison Riders) and still run down light cavalry. Yowza! They actually reverse the normal relationship between heavies and lights! At first glance, this would appear to be bad news for Impala people (for instance).

However, the High Llamas are so large and gawky, and comparatively ill-armored, that they make fine targets for missiles. This doesn't mean that they can't still run down sable-archers, but it means that they take somewhat more casualties doing so than would true light cavalry. In the end, the result is that high llama folk, are still somewhat superior to missile-armed warriors, but the gap is narrow enough that experienced or well-led archers can beat green or poorly-led high llamas. Or if the archers can obtain a terrain advantage, etc. The impala folk generally react to a high llama charge by taking advantage of their greatly superior numbers -- dispersing and running in all directions. The high llamas must select one group of impalas to chase, and the other groups can either get away, or ride along behind and shoot at the high llamas, trying to distract them from their main target.

The sables and bison don't have enough superiority in numbers to use this technique (which does result in losses for the impalas, but on the other hand the high llamas can't afford the losses as much as the impalas), but on the other hand the sables and bison have heavy cavalry in their tribes, which can accompany their light cavalry and defend them against a high llama attack.

the morocanth, as non-humans, are naturally enough the weirdest. As skilled heavy infantry, a serried mass of morocanth can generally stand off heavy cavalry. They are vulnerable to light cavalry, and make up for this by emphasizing ambush, fortifications, and difficult terrain. They have a herd to support their numbers, pathetic as it is, and this enables them to support many more individuals than the other non-mounted tribes.

The minor tribes all have troubles.

pure heavy cavalry and as such vulnerable to light cavalry. They're so heavy, however, that they can even bust up heavy infantry. Still, it's easy to see why the rhino riders are so few, since bust-upable heavy infantry are rare in Prax, and there's heaps of mounted archers.

pure light cavalry. One would think they could do as well as the impala riders, but sadly no, because they are both tied to helpless eggs during the laying season. A baby impala or bison can walk within minutes after birth, and can run within an hour or two. But an egg just sits there, vulnerable. Hence, during the laying season, the bolo lizard folks and ostrich folks are forced to stay put and defend fixed positions, no easy task for light cavalry which by its nature emphasizes the fighting retreat. And they're totally unsuited for use as heavies. No wonder they're a minor tribe.

Cannibal cult, baboons, Basmoli, and men-and-a-half all act as stout heavy infantry, to withstand the charge of the animal nomads. Presumably each group also includes some missile troops, to protect themselves from light cavalry. These tribes have two major handicaps. First off, they have no herds to support them, and must exist solely by hunting and gathering (which limits overall numbers). Second, though they can usually beat off mounted attackers, they can't carry the battle to those mounted attackers. Which means that the animal nomads can choose the time and place when they want to pick a fight. Hence, despite the foot warriors' defensive advantage, the animal nomads need only fight when circumstances make it apparent that the odds are evened out, or are in the nomads' favor. Again, this is not a recipe for success.

Thus, we can see why certain tribes have prospered, and why certain tribes have failed to prosper.

Last updated 11 Jul 96 drd

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