The Battle System
In King of Dragon Pass, a battle has two stages, as follows.
|“||The initial clash is when the two sides size each other up or try to force their vision of how the battle should be fought onto their enemy.||”|
–King of Dragon Pass Manual
During the initial clash, the tactics you have decided to take are compared to the enemies' tactics. Winning this initial stage will give you a bonus for the second stage. However, it does not guarantee victory, the tide of battle is unpredictable.
|“||Melee begins when the warriors have moved from missile weapon distance into sword-and-spear range. The melee ends when one side breaks and runs.||”|
–King of Dragon Pass Manual
If you win this second stage, you win the battles, and the spoils are yours!
Sometimes, during the melee stage, one of your nobles will face a decision in Heroic Combat. The action you choose will play a part in deciding their odds of survival, the outcome of the battle, and other effects.
At the top of the screen, you will see an overview of your forces and your enemies'. Judging by this, you can tell whether you are outnumbered or not, which will help you determine which course of action to take.
The magic bar will allow you to decide how much magic, if any, you want to spend. Spending magic points during sacred time increases the odds of victory significantly more than spending them in the battle screen. That said, spending magic can give just the edge you need to overpower your enemies' magic during the initial clash. This can turn the tide of battle.
Magic has a somewhat limited effect here. It's worthwhile to use 1 to 3 points to help with a critical battle, but the bravery of your warriors can overcome even powerful magic.
You can use one of your battle treasures, if you have any, to help with the battle. Some battle treasures guarentee success, no matter the odds, like Humakt's Raven Banner, some simply improve the odds of winning, while others help you capture thralls.
Some treasures are single-use. Most others can be randomly be lost after a battle.
- Sacrificing to Orlanth: Increases odds of winning the initial clash, thus netting you a bonus for the melee stage.
- Sacrificing to Humakt: Increases the odds of winning the melee, thus the battle. Also reduces the effectiveness of the enemy's auxiliaries.
Foregoing sacrifice can be useful at times though, because it is time-consuming. If one side charges while the other side is still sacrificing, then that sacrifice is nullified.
Note that the time it takes to sacrifice is cumulative. For example, sacrificing to both Humakt and Orlanth will take twice as long as sacrificing only to Humakt. This can give a big advantage to a side that sacrifices to one god and charges, compared to a foe who is interrupted sacrificing to two.
|Objective||Casualties||Works well with||Notes|
|Drive them off||Normal||Skirmish & Charge||Typical objective|
|Kill as many as possible||Higher||Maneuver & Charge||Suffer more casualties|
|Take captives||Highest||Maneuver & Charge||Low success rate|
|Survive||Lowest||Evade & Skirmish||
More likely to be plundered
|Burn steads||Few||Minimal||Weakens population, future attacks are easier||5|
|Kill as many as possible||Highest||Some||Significantly weakens population, future attacks are easier||3|
|Destroy fortifications||High||Some||Significantly weakens population, future attacks are easier||4|
|Seize their land||High||Land + Some loot||Usually takes a few attacks to seize land, can only be performed on adjacent clans.||1|
|Take captives||High||Captives + Some loot||Weakens population, future attacks are easier||2|
|Survival||Lowest||None||More likely to lose the battle.||7|
* The success of attacks is rated from 1 to 7, 1 being the hardest/most prone to failure and 7 being the easiest/most successful.
Tactics affect the outcome of the initial clash. Due to the uncertainty of battle and influence of magic and treasures, it is possible for most tactics to succeed against most tactics, with the special exceptions named below.
For example, if you choose to Skirmish, and your opponent chooses to Charge, you could win the initial clash: "They had to charge through a withering hail of missile fire."
Or, you may lose the initial clash: "They charged us before we could fire more than a few volleys."
Regardless of the result, each tactic has a special effect.
|Skirmish||Slightly reduces casualties. Slightly reduced chance of victory.|
|Maneuver||High-risk, high-reward. Slightly more successful when defending.|
Standard Orlanthi combat tactic.
Interrupt enemy sacrifices (if you made fewer sacrifices).
|Evade||Moderately reduces casualties. Moderately reduced chance of victory.|
If the two sides take particular moves, there will be unique results with no melee.
|Your Tactic||Their Tactic||Effect|
|Skirmish||Skirmish||Both sides exchange missile fire and never close.|
|Skirmish||Evade||You harass them with missiles as they retreat.|
|Evade||Skirmish||They harass you with missiles as you retreat.|
|Evade||Evade||Neither side enters combat range.|
|Elmal||Shield||Reduces the number of deaths and wounds among weaponthanes.|
|Elmal||Steadfast||Improves chances when defending|
|Humakt||Battle Luck||Improves chance of winning a battle|
|Humakt||Morale||Improves the ability of warriors in battle|
|Humakt||Truesword||Weaponthanes fight with the strength of two|
|Orlanth||Lightning||Deals out more wounds in battle|
|Orlanth||Thunderstone||Improves the effectiveness of skirmishers|
|Orlanth||Woad||Reduces the number of deaths and wounds among farmers|
|Urox||Berserker||Increases the chance of victory, with more deaths and wounds on both sides|
|Vinga||Fyrdwomen||Allows the women to defend the tula|
After the initial clash, one of your nobles might be selected for Heroic combat. He or she is faced with one of several situations depending on their main god, the type of enemy (Orlanthi, Horse-Spawn, Trolls, etc.), and their highest skills. There are too many variations to list here, but some general advice might be useful.
- Orlanthi nobles are expected to be brave and set an example. Choosing a cowardly option may keep the noble alive, but it reduces the chance to win the battle. If the noble is on the ring, they might even resign in shame.
- Any time you see "Fight bravely, press the enemy hard," or a similar middle-of-the-road option, it is likely for the noble to either succeed or be wounded. Rarely, they may be killed.
- "Take insane risks to win the battle," "Go where the fighting is worst," or similar options can succeed surprisingly often, especially if the noble has Renowned or Heroic combat skill. However, failure usually results in their death.
- There are numerous other variations with unclear options. Do you keep fighting, or do you organize a retreat? Do you care if the chosen noble lives or dies? Are they nearing death of old age, anyway? Is it really a good idea to take on a Uroxi berserker alone? The choice is yours, and all outcomes are uncertain.
- Loot (cattle, food, goods, horses, prisoners) can be acquired when successfully plundering another clan's tula.
- You are very likely to plunder food if your clan is approaching starvation.
- If you asked an ally for help, they will take a share of the plunder.
- On defense, you can get horses or prisoners from a victorious battle.
- When you inflict more casualites, you average more captured horses if you win. The number of horses you can capture against Orlanthi foes is limited (only weaponthanes have horses), but against horse spawn it will occasionally be quite high.