Thing Two: Run the Right

corby's picture

As described in Thing One, charging is easy. Everyone knows what it means, even if they need some guidance on how to do it. Every other Thing (including this) is much harder than just charging, and each is harder than the last.

Running the right is, however, the simplest way to execute the tactical goal of bringing as many of your forces into contact with as few of your opponent's at once.

This is the tactic Atlantia has been rightly famous for for as long as I can remember. I still vividly recall this being done to my melee team way back when I was a newbie. Four of us were standing there, facing four Oldcastles, and then at lay on suddenly their entire team had enveloped our left side. We lost in record time.

Running the right is just what it sounds like. The purpose of tactics is to apply as large a portion of your force to as small a portion of their force as possible. It works with units of 4 people and units of 300. Done correctly, all of you end up fighting about half of them, an obvious advantage to you. Done wrong, their unit in good order hits yours while its strung out and disorganized.

Why is it easier to run right than, say, left? Because about 70% or so of SCA heavy fighters are right handed. That makes them more comfortable and safer when they run to their right than to their left, because when they run to the right their shields are still mostly in front of them. The reverse is true when they run left. It is also easier to see the guide person on the far right front than to see one on the far left front, again because of the natural turn that shield bearers make.

If, through some strange twist all or most of you unit is left handed, then by all means swap the order of Thing Two and Thing Three.

Running the Right is not the same as steering a charge differently. Rather than penetrating, most Right Runs are envelopments. It's true that the members of your line who are between #1 and #3 below hit the side of the target pretty hard, but notice that #2 & #4 don't. Instead, they cut around the right side or slide into the front of the opponent, much deeper than those who are hitting the side. Think about what this does to the opponents. If you're facing #3, you can't just worry about the attack coming from those lined up next to #3. You also have to worry about guys who are coming at you from a broad arc of engagement. When that happens, the natural reaction is to back up. In most melees, the people who back up are the ones who are going to lose.

Note #1 in the figure below. This should be an experienced and preferably tall shield fighter who can run pretty well. While he doesn't have to run fastest, he guides everyone. He needs to not trip and fall!

Note #2 below. This person has to run fastest of everyone in the blue unit, and if he's slow or not sweeping outside #1, then much of the blue unit "clogs up" behind him and the whole unit strings out as those ahead of him lose touch with those clogged behind him.

But for now, let's assume that #1-4 go where they're supposed to and arrive at around the same time. Here's what happens.

Your target often drifts toward your forces as you flank them. This is natural. With luck, the side nearest you gets hesitant and slows as you run past them. If your luck is very poor, the side farthest away from you goes very fast and whips around to hit your #4 in the butt. (That means they know how to run the right better than you do.) But that rarely happens. As they drift, they almost certainly lose cohesion with any group further to their right, which is another bonus for you.
The hardest thing to achieve here is getting #4 to the fight without the front line of the opponent engaging first or wrapping around. The most physically demanding thing is having #s 1 & 2 run fast enough to get where they need to go before #4 gets run over by the center of the opponent's line.

The other big advantage that you get here is that the opponents near numbers 1 & 2 have to turn around backward to watch the members of your unit that are about to attack them. Obviously this upsets them, distracts them, and makes them lose the good order they had back 10 seconds ago when they thought they were going to charge you. And of course, the people at the back of the formation where #1 attacks are probably the little spearmen and poles who thought they got to hide behind the big shieldmen in the front. But best of all, note that if you've gotten where you want to go in good speed, fully half of the opponents have no one to hit, while almost all of your guys are about to hit something red.

Now momentum starts to make a big difference. For you and yours to move toward an opponent, everyone just keeps going the direction they were moving, pressing into the enemy. For the reds, many of them must move through their own (often engaged) companions before they can engage blues. Also, the shortest route to an opponent is not the clearest for them. Only the reds along the very front side of the engagement may keep moving directly along the same path toward their foes. However, they tend to be hesitant about this because as they turn to their left, they see blues on their left. At this point of engagement for the reds, there is a powerful tendency to stand and fight rather than keep moving. This helps the blues, who conversely have a powerful motivation to keep moving deeper into the red ranks.

Let's look at it another way. Here's a simplified version of the planned direction the blues started out to do.

Notice that the blues have continuous motion throughout the unit. This is good for them.
Here's the planned direction the reds wanted, with their actual direction in pink.

Notice how the red momentum needs to all but reverse in part of their unit. That is very hard to do in good order.