A good combat system should be able to scale effortlessly from individual combat, to leading a small unit, all the way up to commanding an army. With this system, keeping the focus on the perspective of the character is what allows it to scale with ease. It’s even possible for characters to participate in different scopes of conflict in the same battle at the same time.
When a character is the commander of a unit, that unit can be treated as one combatant for the purpose of selection of tactics and rolling. A fight between two squads can be handled the same as a fight between two people, from the commanders’ points of view. Because multiple people are treated as one combatant, what a particular tactic or goal represents changes slightly, as each person in the unit moves independently, opening up new possibilities that don’t exist for a single person.
(For this same reason, the idea of range in melee combat – Engaged, Disengaged, or Grappling – is not a useful distinction at this scope; different elements of a unit can be at various levels of engagement, so the idea is not used outside of individual combat.)
A larger force composed of many units, each commanded by a player, can be resolved the same as a typical fight with 3-4 combatants per side. If a character is the equivalent of a general, with no other characters under his command, the entire army can be treated as one combatant in the same way that a single unit can. Obviously, as the scale increases, the amount of time that elapses before a new roll can be made (and tactics changed) increases as well.
What each tactic represents will scale with the scope of the character’s perspective. Offensive tactics are easy to imagine. An Overwhelming Offense represents a unit charging in, or every infantry and cavalry unit in an army charging, while bombarding with archers or artillery fire. A Combination attack could be a grenade that precedes gunfire, or volleys of arrows or artillery before sending in infantry. Likewise, defensive tactics are fairly straightforward. A Defensive unit might dig in or take cover behind a wall of shields, spears, or pikes, while an army could keep its units consolidated and alert. Cover and Move requires training and coordination – a unit could employ a mobile shield wall, or each member could lay down cover fire (or be prepared to) while another changed position, and an army can do the same thing, with units supporting each other’s progress or egress.
Counter-offensive tactics are more specialized. A unit that Targets Extremities might concentrate its attack on combatants that stray too far from their companions, and an army might focus on eliminating units around the edges of a formation or separated from the main force. A Draw and Counter may involve feigned weakness or inattention in order to smash the attackers from another side, a baited ambush, leaving a target seemingly under-guarded, or allowing the middle of a line to fall back to draw the attackers into a double envelopment. Counter-defensive tactics also require great coordination. Beat the Weapon Aside might represent someone occupying the opposing unit’s heavy hitter while the rest of the squad attacks, or an army sending out skirmishers to disrupt enemy formations and draw them out. An Indirect tactic always involves a feint, although on the army level it could involve paratroopers or special forces, or the illusion of many forces in a position where there are few.
Additionally, the goals scale with the change of scope. The idea of disarming only translates directly if the unit or army has more than just personal weapons, such as a siege engine or artillery, which can be destroyed or disabled. It can also represent capturing a force without killing it, if the means exist, or destroying a unique force like a detachment of wizards. Forcing movement is common, in the form of breaking through a defensive line, taking a hill or other ground, or routing the enemy. Likewise, preventing movement is important, such as when halting an advance, trying to hold a pass, or preventing reinforcement or escape. Most importantly, as the scope of a conflict increases, reconnaissance becomes more and more important. Smaller units can be sent out to scout, and skirmishers can test defenses and reactions.
Different scopes can be handled in the same battle, if players want their characters to participate in different ways. For example, one character is a leader and thinker, and ends up as a general. Another is more of the lieutenant type, who leads a unit in that same army, and another is more warrior than soldier, who wants to get in the thick of it and fight on his own. The general sees the overall picture, approximate enemy army composition and position, decides the objective (take control over the bridge spanning the river), and how to do it (use infantry to take out units embedded on hills overlooking the bridge on this side of the river, while firing artillery on the enemy on the other side of the river – Target Extremities).
The lieutenant gets his orders to take a hill with his unit, but gets to decide how to do it (feint head-on with one squad, while another comes in from the side to hit them hard – Indirect). The general could decide to personally take command of a unit as well, deciding how they carry out their part. The warrior might just pick a hill and do his own thing, or if he’s part of the lieutenant’s unit, he might be part of the squad that is the real assault on the hill, and can decide to just charge it (Overwhelming Offense). Each could also decide whether they’re attempting to kill everyone or drive them out, in order to fulfill their objectives.
In carrying out his orders from the lieutenant (Indirect assault), the warrior would have several chances to roll again and change tactics if he’s unsuccessful or the situation changes. Seeing that the Indirect assault is failing, the lieutenant would have the chance to change the tactics of his unit, perhaps ordering the initial squad to move forward to support (Combination). The warrior would then be allowed another set of chances to change his tactics to carry out his new orders. After the assault on the embedded units on the hills succeeds or fails, the general would be given a chance to choose new tactics to continue his mission to take the bridge. The rate at which new rolls can be made, and new tactics can be chosen and carried out, depends on the army’s communication, discipline, and speed, giving better-trained armies an advantage.