Principle III: Attack By Stratagem

Art of War in Middle Earth

Principle III: Attack By Stratagem

Sun Tzu starts this Principle with the following:

In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact;
to shatter and destroy is not so good.
So, too, is it better to recapture an enemy entire than to destroy it.

- Sun Tzu

As with many of his Principles, the scope of much of the advice in his Third Principle is at a higher level than most Lord of the Rings games play out.  However, several key points are made regarding overall strategy which are in fact very applicable.


Thus, the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plan;

- Sun Tzu


This may seem soft or perhaps not very lofty at first glance. However, this is probably the result of the fact that the word "balk" falls short of expressing the full force of the Chinese word as I've come to understand it from the translations and comentary.  It should not imply an attitude of defense or being content to simply foil the enemy, but rather an active policy of counter-attack.

The commentator Ho Shih puts it this way:


"When the enemy has made a plan of attack against us, we must anticipate him by delivering our own attack first."

- Ho Shih, commentary on Sun Tzu


Now you may begin to understand the application of this principle.


The Rules of Numbers

It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy's one, to surround him;
if five to one, to attack him;
if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two,
if equally matched, we can offer battle;
if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy;
if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him.
- Sun Tzu

We in the gaming community have a few advantages which Sun Tzu and his contemporaries did not have (beyond the obvious that we are not risking life, limb and nation in our exploits nor commanding others to do so for us).  One of these is the fact that "game math" is far more direct than "life math".

Since many Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game and War of the Ring games are "point matched" where the starting forces are equal when deployed onto the field, this should be viewed at a more granular level.  As armies begin to maneuver around the board they often divide up into multiple teams. This may be an intentional division or a result of terrain or combat losses.  Either way it is important to constantly observe the way the oponent is managing thier units across the field. Use these rules as general guidelines when maneuvering your own forces in oposition and when deciding where to engage the enemy.

Always remember that a small difference in number or strength is often more than counterbalanced by superior tactics.

Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made by a small force, in the end it must be captured by the larger force.
- Sun Tzu

Unless you have a specific plan such as diverting or slowing an enemy advance or are making a final "do or die" attack, allow the Rule of Numbers to help guide your decision on when and where to engage the enemy teams.


Employing Officers Properly

In his Third Principle, Sun Tzu lists three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune to his army. Two of these focus on the overall governing and command of an army at the higher levels.  One though is very applicable for the selection and usage of any Heroes that you wish to have accompany your forces:

...By employing the officers of his army without discrimination

- Sun Tzu


He speaks directly of placing the right man in the right place to manage and lead the forces.  There are several techniques for building your Army in the game, and I will go over some of mine under the appropriate Tactics articles.  But the key point to take away from this is to properly select your Heroes based on the situation.

Based on the overall composition of your Army, do you have a Hero that can provide special benefits to that Army?  Or do you have a Hero that can help mitigate a weakness of the army ( low courage, for example )?  Does your strategy involve employment of magic? Is your enemy likely to employ magic?  With all other things being equal, how many Might points can the Hero bring to bhe board?


Essentials for Victory

Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
1. He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
2. He will win who konws how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
3. He will win whos army is animated by the same spirit througout all its ranks.
4. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
5. He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.

- Sun Tzu


Know the Enemy, Know Yourself

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

- Sun Tzu