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William Knowles
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William Knowles

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The general goal is to be able to concentrate your attacks while, especially, keeping the enemy from doing so. A line is the best way to do that if your guys are homogeneous. If not then more questions come up:
1) How do you distribute the good fighters in the line? Split on the vulnerable flanks, concentrated for a decision in the center, evenly spread? In front with the less good hanging back?
2) How do you maintain the line and still take advantage of retreats?
3) For DF fantasy, where the Mentalist is levitating, the Barbarian is charging, the Thief is hiding, the Wizard is casting, and the Knight is trundling, is it all just hopeless?
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1) Concentrated with the best fighters in front and the weaker fighters behind or on the flanks. It's more efficient to have the best fighters focus on one foe and overwhelm his defenses every turn then for them to sometimes get lucky and each take out a guy on the same turn but generally just waste their attacks.

2) You don't take advantage of retreats if you want to maintain the line. =) If you have a reserve or a second line, you may want one of the front-liners to retreat in hopes that the other guy will advance into the gap and make himself vulnerable to 4+ attackers. But generally, if you're in the line, you don't get to retreat except for maybe the guys on the end.

3) Tell the Barbarian to stop being a special snowflake and to get his oversized butt back beside the Knight's shield where it belongs. That's the part that requires discipline, and I can't provide that. The wizard is casting from the side/over everyone's shoulders; I already accounted for that upthread. The thief backstabs and hopefully gives Team Baddie the choice between leaving themselves open to the thief's next attack or turning in place and trying to secure their flanks. This may result in the thief running away =)

But really, skirmish tactics for a group of 5 special snowflakes with all kinds of wacky powers fighting against whatever fever dream the GM came up is not something that can described in a comment section. Tactics for a group mostly consisting of low-tech melee fighters, sure. But not tactics for the entire delving band which may or may not include any of Martial Artists, Psionics, summoned Fire Elementals, Flying gargoyle knights, half-ogre knights, cute nymph ninjas, gnomish artificers firing fully automatic crossbows, wizards, or ogre scouts firing siege weapons. =)
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