Stack Bonus Comic

By LTD Comments (42) (Tipped by 4 people!)

It looked like this inside


It's been a frustration to me for the last five years that I (and my forum gaming associates) cannot come up with a system to apply a stack bonus that actually motivates players to form stacks of 8 units that also aligns with the comic canon.


This comic celebrates this reality.

NOTE: User was awarded 25 Shmuckers for this post. -Rob


    • OneHugeTuck

      "When 2 stacks attack 1 stack, the 2 stacks both get a flanking bonus to their rolls. "

      Why in the world would both attacking stacks get a flanking bonus??  Why in the world would all 50 stacks be 'engaging the flank'??

      • ArtyD

        @OneHugeTuck: Flanking in Hex is not as simple as attacking from two adjoining hexes.  There is the front, left, right, left flank, right flank, and rear hexes.  In order to flank you must lock the enemy front facing down one direction.  Since actions within a single hex do not adjust for this you would need to consider them attacking from both hexes at the same time.  After which flanking would very likely stop on the second engage.  In order for this to work though it would very likely need communication between the sets of stacks to strike at the same moment in turn.  It would be massive, brutal, and quick slaughtering of a few units.  Then the flanking bonus would be gone because the stack is aware it's being attacked from multiple directions.

        My guess is it would be unable to force the fight and the seriously wounded micro stacks could always disengage, re-stack the injured out and go back in with the healthier units due to the massive stack being unable to follow without exposing itself to another flanking assault.  The smaller stacks would then have near if not zero losses as they chip away at the larger stack.  Parson abused this very effectively on the siege units.  No battles were won, but the damage was insane.  More so due to the fact that the enemy didn't have air power covering their siege.  If the tool didn't "bug out" the next round would have been spent finishing off all the siege, putting them on a level they would be unable to breach the walls while being hit with all the ranged from GK without direct and expensive CC additions.  Their only hope would be the marbits getting thru the tunnels vs Sizemore or GK running out of upkeep for Parson.  Either way as the SCV says "Job finished."

        Now if these stacks were divided equally then any direction is equally reacted to by a stack negating the flanking bonus entirely as each stack of 8 reacting to attacks from all directions acts at once.  This would be where the warlord bonus (as opposed to leadership bonus per stack) would be best applied to the defenders.  The 8 stacks could force the battle to prevent disengagement by the attacking 8 stacks and thus any combat benefit of retreating would result in more of the attackers losses.

        TL;DR: Flanking is free hitsies bonus and free disengagement.  This is negated by not putting all your units in one stack.

        • OneHugeTuck

          Why are you insisting that forces must be attacking from other hexes?


          "Since actions within a single hex do not adjust for this"  

          Do not adjust for what, specifically?  I'm confused by the 'two hexes' thing on a variety of levels as that's new to the conversation but you're referring to it like it has something to do with my question or the post I'm questioning.  Maybe it does, but at the moment I'm confused by it.

          • Morris

            This may need to get deleted if it clashes horrendously with the rules already in place, but I'll point it out anyway...Perhaps the problem is not so much the stacking bonus, but more so the additive abilities in large stacks, and the (lack of?) leadership dilution with stack size.

            If you are the 100th piker standing in the middle of the column, you are of zero benefit to the waves of people in your stack that must be croaked before you'll reach the outside edge of your column and be able to start stabbing something; whereas if you're piker no. eight of eight, you are likely to see action in any engagement and be able to assist anyone in your stack. A column should perhaps have an attack capacity proportional to its attacking surface area and ability to see the enemy, while the hits of the stack are proportional to summed hits alone (i.e. stack independent). This might work for archery units as well as stabbers. If you were an archer in a massive blob of a stack, you could have trouble peering past your peers to aim at the enemy; better you all be broken in to smaller groups and spread thinly.

            Assuming eight as the 'golden number': two stacks of eight can be considered equally dangerous to a stack of 16, provided they are attacking a stack/unit of somewhat similar size. The stack of eight could receive the full attack bonus of their eight members, whereas a stack of 16 may only receive marginal (or at least delayed) benefit from the ninth-onward members, since they may not even be able to reach the enemy to attack them until other stack members croak. In action: if your stack engaged a stack of 16, it should only have to deal with eight at once (unless you were huge, like a dwagon); the attack capacity of the enemy should 'max-out' on surface area. If your stack was instead to be engaged by two stacks of eight, maybe only half of each enemy stack could hit yours whilst you were dealing with them; half of each enemy stack has to 'wait' again.

            In this way:
            - there is no benefit to choosing one x 16-stack vs two x eight-stacks based on an engagement of a single enemy stack.
            - max stack size is arbitrary, but relative stack size is relevant; e.g. 20 spidews could surround but might struggle to each lay their attacks on 8 pikers (they couldn't squeeze past each other/the surface area of pikers is small) but 20 pikers may more easily surround 8 large spidews
            But there may be the advantage of commanding two x eight-stacks to do different things (flexibility) provided enough Leadership/Orders.

            ... which is perhaps worth considering too; can Leadership be diluted? Should stack bonuses be a function of leadership bonuses or v.v.? If a commander can give orders and leadership bonus to 20 units in the same stack as well as he/she could to just eight units, then there is probably not a reason to split into two x eight-stacks. But if, for example, two commanders of equal level could do a better job separately (i.e. provide stronger bonus) in two x eight-stacks than if both warlords and all units were combined, then there would actually be a good reason to split into two stacks.

            • ArtyD

              And back to Hex combat with flanking I go...


              First to bring back the attacking that Parson did vs the enemy siege.  From the planning above to the execution below.


              And finally the aftermath


              The air units ability to choose their targets (vs ground units but only with leadership) allowed them to take out 40% of the incoming siege.  It was not all the siege vs all the dwagons.  A large chunk of dwagons were intentionally left out of the fight.  With all those high health dwagons waiting for next turn being a distraction Ansom couldn't see thru.


              With the way Parson was going to be able to abuse the heck out of it.  Without leadership for the dwagons it would have been a very close fight.  With it and the fully healed units Ansom would have been easily captured or croaked.  Still would have taken Zamussel also.  With full stacks facing each direction the flanking bonus would be negated.  Vinny saw this as option 2.  This would have been "The warlord wants to engage a target personally (using their own combat power)" format.  Would be using his bats to screen for him and take hitsies while dishing out his own damage.


              Option 1 would have been using all the bats as a distraction to (hopefully) allow Ansom and Vinny to get thru the large stack with less damage.  The extra micro stacks of bats would allow the enter of the hex to take their initial hitsies (ranged) and exit the hex to rejoin the column.  The exit of the hex would have given the dwagons flank attacks without the bats to screen for the warlords.  As per "The warlord does not want to engage, but wants to put a lot of meat into battle" format.

              This is one of the many benefits of having multiple stacks with leadership rather than one massive stack.  Both of these options were high expense little gain effects.  Both were also planning to use as much as possible stacks to negate flanking bonuses.  Option 2 was to prevent it on defense, and Option 1 was to use it on offense.  Parson forced these two not even knowing he could have veiled the wounded stack.  That's how powerful proper flanking can be and how much the stacks need to be split instead of in one large pile.  The column was just a very large pile of units.  It didn't have multiple small stacks (slows movement down) to deal with the dwagon air raid properly.  It could have but time is bunk and the alliance didn't know Parson existed yet.  They were more interested in getting to GK and starting the siege.The loss of Ansom, Zamussel, and Vinne would have produced the most devastating problem the alliance could have had.  Nobody to lead a dancefight.  Funny that we saw such prime examples of flanking early on.

              • Silversought

                I'm pretty sure that those links aren't grounds for assuming that being in a particular hex grants you a flanking bonus against targets. That pincer formation was intended to block movement, not grant a bonus; Parson doesn't even know much about how to get a bonus at that point. I'm not convinced that hexes, as such large terrain divisions, are really going to affect microcombat scenarios.

                • Amakar

                  Ok. A bit late, but I have it:

                  Assume the following mechanics:

                  A) Stacked units attack as a group, with damage equal to their combined power + a flat stack bonus.

                  B) The stack bonus applies once, to this unified strike.

                  C) The bonus for stack size is   Geometric (1+2+3+4..) or quadratic (2^2, 3^2, 4^2)

                  D) The 9th+ units do not change the bonus

                  Now image a quadratic bonus so 8 units give +64 to the stack's attack,

                  Each units is essentially contributing its power +8 to the damage total.

                  The 9th unit would contribute only its power, squandering the +8 bonus. However, if placed in another group of 8, it would contribute.

                  By keeping units in groups of 8, you maximize their potential damage output.  This math requires geometric or exponential stack bonuses in order to avoid calling groups of 2 the best.

                  • ArtyD

                    The pincer formation allowed both movement blocking and if Jillian didn't join Ansom (or find the rest of the dwagons) a very large flanking bonus.  It was off turn so he couldn't actually start an engagement.  The unlead stacks would have struck the alliance stack from all directions at the same time.  The linkup would have allowed it to happen.  This was actually drawn as Option 2 where you could see dwagons coming at them from all directions.

                    In addition the "being in the hex" isn't giving the flanking bonus.  It's attacking from the hex at least 2 away at the same time that causes the mass flanking bonus to happen.  It helps on initial combat rounds and retreat.  With all six hexes being initiated from at the same time each attacker would be given a bonus of 3 flanking.  Rear hex (directly opposite) Right flank, and Left flank would all stack up bonuses.  If the units were all in one stack all the damage would be dumped upon the single stack croaking as many units as the damage output would allow.  If you had max 8 stacks facing each direction the flanking hits that stack with obscene effectiveness if they can get hit from behind, and then the rest of the combat is without flanking bonuses.  This is not like a surprise round.  Transilvito did that vs the tool.  Failed spot checks FTW/L?  Side effect of having only 3 units which speak with him.

                    That's how multiple stacks eliminate flanking.  With 6 stacks effectively you CAN'T be flanked as you are facing every direction.  You would still get hit initially from all directions but the bonus is lessened from +3 flanking to just first strike.  Then it turns into a scrum.

                    Parson used his warlords in a cycle to prevent flanking hitsies on his retreating dwagons.  A would enter the hex, take the ranged hitsies, engage.  B would enter the hex, no ranged hitsies this time, engage to allow A to retreat without being hit by flanking bonus attacks.  A would restack the wounded dwagons out with fresh dwagons in while B was in combat and C was ready to go.  If B's stack got too damaged before A was fully resacked C entered so B could retreat without the free flanking hitsies and then A would need to be ready to go again while B restacked.

                    It was brilliant, simple, effective, and probably completely an accident that it was presented as a way to prevent flanking to kill the dwagons.  It also makes me wonder why the tool could only bring 3 of his best units with him rather than the full 6 mounted units, and Jack.  My best guess is that not all dwagons have the mount special or the tool actually considered upkeep if he had to be a barbarian for a turn or two.

                    • Silversought

                      Problems with your argument, ArtyD:

                      1. Having more than 8 units in a single stack -does- reduce the stacking bonus. Your base assumption is actually countered by Rob's response in this thread.
                      2. We are never told that a flanking bonus would have been contributed had they managed to close the trap on Ansom. The big awesome part of the trap was that Ansom was made strategically vulnerable: he didn't know where he needed to go to find the critical target (wounded dwagons) and if he punched his way back to the column, he'd lose a lot of good units -and- his remaining siege. No flank bonus was even mentioned. To try to restate this point shortly: they -told- us why it was a good strategy, and your idea wasn't mentioned as a factor, let alone a huge advantage.
                      3. There is no mention of any particular strategy being used to minimize damage to the dwagons during the assault on the siege engines. No mention of using a new unit to guard the retreating one. The whole strategy was "hold a few fresh dwagons back to use as a shell guard, send the rest of the dwagons into combat against the siege engines until they needed to withdraw to a relatively safe rendezvous to wait for the next turn"

                      As to the Tool only bringing a few knights with him, we still have a possible answer. Stack size limitation. Rider/mount combos don't get treated differently in those rules, just when determining stack bonus.

                      • TomaO2

                        Here is a question, are only some infantry types, like knights, able to ride a mount and count as one unit? Or are infantry able to as well.


                        In the big battle of Stanley and Jillian, Jillian has riders on all gwiffens but they are not knights, or "lancers".  So how does that work, is it


                        A) Any unit riding gets this bonus. Not just knights.

                        B) Jillian is taking regular infantry along and is accepting the stacking malus, rather thebn splitting into 4 stacks to keep the bonus.

                        C) special infantry that have the rider special. 

                        • Silversought

                          Any unit can ride, and can benefit from a stack bonus without hurting the stack.

                          If there -are- special riding units, those are probably the lancers, and they'll get a bonus on top of your typical stacking stuff.

                          Parson was verifying that Jillian didn't have specialty units (strong units like knights, or riding oriented units like Lancers)

                          • TomaO2

                            You mean you THINK any unit can ride and get the bonuses from it. There is no proof that this is the case. Seems odd to me that the fliers frequently went without riders in book 1 if what you say is true. We also know that there are scout units, that are visually indistinguishable from the normal variations. Not all infantry can scout, so why would all infantry be able to ride properly? Units pop up all the time with certain specials. Like sea units. They are exactly the same as normal units except they have bonuses when in a ship. Having just one normal unit can make the whole crew suffer a bit.


                            I personally prefer the idea that you can specifically pop ordinary infantry with the rider special at a reduced cost. Maybe 2/3rds of the normal output.

                            • Silversought

                              I've never seen a unit unable to ride, with the exception of the heavy classification. This is not proof, but I feel it is a solid inference.

                              Also, there is no -bonus- for riding. There is simply a lack of penalties. Fliers going without riders seems perfectly reasonable to me.

                              Scout units are specifically mentioned as a type of unit in that they are mechanically inclined to take a different course of action than other unled infantry. That we have no comparable description of a unit that exists only to ride would seem to me to be an appropriate response. More to the point, a unit type yet unknown has been introduced as the lancer - this unit was only ever mentioned when Parson was concerned about a mounted battle. I suspect if -anybody- has your "rider" unit, the lancers do.

                              I disagree with your seafarer example. For starters, a seafarer is not a stabber or piker - it is a class of infantry defined by its special, like an archer.

                              Warlords and casters are not exempt from the need for a special to do something, but no Warlord we have seen has declined the ability to ride a mount into battle. Even Ansom's preference for the carpet was because it was more versatile, rather than a lack of proficiency with riding.

                              • TomaO2

                                "Also, there is no -bonus- for riding. There is simply a lack of penalties. Fliers going without riders seems perfectly reasonable to me."


                                Fliers that go into a combat zone without riders makes no sense to me. Honestly. Archers, in particular, should be used. Why send out a fleet of dwagons with the intent to attack without giving them the best odds you can get? I would have had all 33 archers on board during that attack, being able to use long range attacks. Flying is much more useful if you don't need to close the distance with the target. Why send dwagons, without riders? There is no reason to not have that boost in combat strength that I can see.

                                My understanding is that the rider special, assuming there is such a thing, allows for the lack of penalties, while a non-rider unit would not count as a single unit, for stacking purposes.

                                If we go by book 1, nothing but knights and commanders seemed able to ride. I don't recall a specific mention in book two that this was not the case as well. Only in the battle with Stanley and Jillian do we explicitly see riding units, that appear to be basic infantry, riding.

                                Lancer probably has extra bonuses on top of this though. Alternatively, there might be 3 upgraded infantry types. Stabbers become knights, pikers become lancers and archers become... something else, longbowmen?


                                 For starters, a seafarer is not a stabber or piker - it is a class of infantry defined by its special, like an archer.


                                The recent backer story has seafarer units called stabbers and pikers. This is the story that tells us, for the first time, that pikers have a bonus while defending and another one against stabbers.


                                You're wrong on this one. They are normal units with an additional special. Captains/admirals are warlords with the sea fairer special. That's the only difference.

                                • Silversought

                                  Book 1, Waste of Mount Space: There is such a thing as a max stack. It may be that Gobwin Knob had sufficient dwagons for each uncroaked warlord to lead a max stack (not too surprising) and that a dwagon max stack is a functional 8-stack (not entirely out of the question). That said, I acknowledge that if there is a weak point in my argument, this is it. I'll think some more on it.

                                  Book 1, Commanders and Knights can ride: Warlord Bart from Book 0 has no non-leadership specials. He is considered perfectly usable by Jillian, who leads campaigns with an entirely aerial force. Jack is also lacking this "rider" special. 

                                  The Backer Story: The backer story never describes a unit as both a seafarer and a stabber (or piker), -but- I did find a mention of a non-seafarer stabber. Your argument is plausible, whoops. I'm no longer certain you are wrong. (Harpooners are definitely seafarers, but they may actually be stabbers, which would certainly blow my rebuttal away. During the battle, the enemy units are referred to as 'sailors', 'soldiers', and 'crew' for the most part. That said, the pikers are never referred to as sailors or any other applicable term. Forecastle's stabbers are never -also- referred to as harpooners.)

                                  I may have gone a little more confidently against your suggestion than I should have. Sorry!

                                  • TomaO2

                                    My idea is that commanders and knights both have the "rider" special, which simply mitigates the stacking penalties and allows the unit to properly control the mount in a battle zone (scouts don't seem to ride mounts so I speculate that this is because they can't stop them from fighting like I knight could). Assuming such a thing exists.

                                    As for the stabbers, Duke Forecastle is the only non-seafarer unit on the entire fleet. Just having one non seafarer causes movement penalties. I think you are looking for too many details when the critical information was given right up front. Land units don't sail ships.

                                    No worries about stating things to definitively. I do that a lot, myself. Important thing is you can look at new evidence and change the theory of how things work. That IS the goal after all.

                                    This information Rob has provided has inspired me a bit. I'm actually tinkering around with a mechanics model on how Erfworld might work. It's clearly not completely correct and I won't claim I'm trying for 100% accuracy. Some stuff feels contradictory, so I'm keeping models until I get a clearer picture.

                                    Basically, I'm just trying to model how it could work for a player to roleplay things. No replies so far. I think I came up with a pretty good working framework. I'm especially proud of my ideas on how damage works. I thought up that the reasons heavy units can wade through heavy, unlead, infantry stacks is because they have damage reduction but some units, like knights, would have 'armor ignore' special, so they can do a lot more damage. I also noticed how the only units that seem to kill more then one unit a turn are heavies. Like when Sizemore's golem killed the two jetstone warlords in the tunnels. So Heavies could have some sort of a cleave feat.


                                     if you want to look it over.

                                    • Silversought

                                      Actually, Forecastle isn't the only non-seafaring unit in the fleet. A good deal of the "soldiers" (approximately half, according to Chequer) are not seafarers. Forecastle's special element is that he is the only non-seafarer actually crewed to a ship.

                                      I've seen your model, and I think it seems a bit on the complicated side. Good luck with it though!