Assault the Orc Fort!

The players in my campaign have discovered a way for Marshall Roehm (the local noble in my campaign) to retake a key strategic position away from the orcs. There is a wooden earthworks fort guarded by a palisade with two gates roughly a day's walk away. It likes in woods, being the site of an old Inn.

We have about 6 weeks until the next game, which gives me plenty of time to plan and strategize, but I'm always interesting in learning new tactics and tricks, so I thought I would share the situation with you folks, my readers, and see what you think.

Here's the layout of the earthworks and surrounding area:

The green is the surrounding forest. The gray line represents the former road, overgrown in the woods. The brown represents about a 100 yard diameter area where the Inn used to be and is now enclosed in a wood palisade. Two gates - one to the east (the direction of the main Orc army), one to the west, facing the direction of the human town, Enonia. The white is a cleared out area of about 100 yards from the palisade to the woods edge. The orcs felled trees to construct the palisade and provide an area to see around.

The grey circles are two crude "towers", little more than the rubble of the inn piled up, with wooden platforms on top. These are manned by 1 to 2 orcs as lookouts watching to the west. The gates are fairly robust, as is the palisade itself - the walls of the earthworks look as below. 

Here's what the humans know:
  1. There are "dozens" of orcs in the earthworks, maybe up to 100. There may also be an unknown number of goblyns.
  2. The orcs have some number of horse-mounted cavalry. They maintain patrols of up to 10 at a time, and it's been known that they've sent 20 at a time to face human cavalry probes.
  3. There is a secret way into the palisade, through a series of tunnels that lead into the basement. They don't know what is in the basement, if it's been sealed over, or is open, but it would lead into the middle of the area inside the palisade. 
  4. There is probably a shaman and orc war chief in the group. 
The noble would like the adventurers to sneak inside and blow the western gate open. He believes that when he shows up in force, the orcs will probably send the cavalry out the eastern gate and sweep around on both sides to attack. ("At least, that is what I would do!" he says.)

Here are the available human forces:
  • 20 Military Knights (including two higher level nobles - the Marshall and Sir Reynald, plate/sword, more HD in these bunch than the levy knights)
  • 60 Levy Knights (levies are nobles and hired mercenaries, plate/sword)
  • 20 Cavalry (chain/sword)
  • 100 Light Footmen (Leather/spear/sword)
  • 20 Light Archers (Leather/bow/shortsword)
The objective for the humans is to get the orcs attention and possibly to commit forces while the adventurers get into the palisade and blow open the door. At which time, the mounted forces would sweep into the fort. If the adventurers fail, the human forces would withdraw. 

So... armchair wargame generals... here's your chance to influence my campaign. To be the Marshall and inject some randomness and unpredictability into the campaign. I know what the orcs' response will most likely be, but I'd like the human plans to be unpredictable.

How would YOU have the Marshall prosecute the battle from the side of the humans? How would you use your forces to give the adventurers enough time to blow open the gates (one of the PC mages pretty much sold his soul for fireball scrolls) and then be able to crash into the fort? How would you factor in the orcs cavalry and unknown size? The fact that orcs are not stupid, but extremely cunning, willing to fight to the death in many situations and completely committed to the annihilation of the human race, so that this will be a difficult battle?

Ask me questions (I'll put answers in the post as edits for future readers) and let me know what you think! 

As an aside, I'm going to be mixing 1:1 D&D standard combat with Delta's Book of War for the mass-combat portions, when we have this fight on the tabletop in November... and I will have the palisade in miniature!

Edited to add:
1. In my campaign, orcs and goblyns are not affected by sunlight.


  1. Cool and fun assignment.

    a) are the 20 human Military Knights mounted / can act like cavalry?
    b) are the 60 human Levy Knights mounted?
    c) Is the clearing around the fort suitable for cavalry? I imagine many stumps and dead-fall...
    d) does the palisade have a rampart, battlements? Or just the two watchtowers. Can the Orcs defend from within the palisade? (shooting through gaps, etc.)

    1) plan for mid-day attack when Orc's are most affected by sun-light

    2) stealthily advance scouts/skirmishers/woodsmen to the North, South and West edges of clearing to clear out any Orc early warning and to put eyes on the enemy. They have bright red flags to wave if they spot Orc cavalry emerge from East gate. Yellow Flags if Orc infantry or fleeing Orcs in general.

    3) stealthily advance archers to tree line, have them stay hidden until Orcish cavalry appears.

    4) Once screen is in place, I'd march 30 Levy knights (dismounted with shields) and 90 Light footman into clearing, assembling in ranks to either side of the road, near the treeline.

    5) 10 of the Light Footmen I would convert to Fire and Pitch sappers, making a BIG show with Burning Pitch bombs, Fire torches etc., giving the impression I intend to put fire to the wooden Palisade. If there are siege catapults or ballistae, all the better.

    6) 10 of my Military Knights including the Marshall and one Noble also ride up the road and assemble to either side of the road.

    That should leave my mobile reserve (back on the road out of sight)

    Mobile Reserve:
    10 Military Knights, led by one remaining Noble
    30 Levy Knights
    20 Cavalry

    Holding force:
    10 Military Knights mounted (including Marshall and Noble) .
    30 Levy Knights on foot
    80 Light footmen
    10 fire sappers/bombardiers
    20 Archers to engage Orc Cavalry, or advance behind footmen if no enemy Cavalry appears.

    7) Once force is ready, our trumpeters signal a parley. Marshall and 3 Knights advance 20 yards and bellow out surrender terms (basically, flee the fort now, or die in the fires of justice..They have until next trumpet call - 2 turns). This is also he first signal to the PCs in the fort to make ready - assuming they are hiding and cannot see the forces outside. The pre-arranged signal being to blow the gate on 3 short trumpet calls.

    8) If Orc Cavalry sallies forth, trumpeter signals second long call as he sees the Orc riders approaching the holding force. This signals friendly forces that battle is engaged. We let the Orcs come to us. Footmen set spears to receive charge, Archers engage the Orc cavalry and mobile reserve rides forth to engage Orc Cavalry once the archers have let loose 2 or 3 salvos.

    Once Orc Cavalry is engaged and hopefully destroyed or routed (falling under arrows, Knights and cavalry), trumpeter signals three short calls. The gate should blow at this time.

    Hopefully the explosion at the gates will deal the Orcs a blow to their morale. At this time the Mobile Reserve should have dealt with the Cavalry Surviving Cavalry of Mobile Reserve charge into the fort, taking advantage of the confusion sown by the PCs.

    9) If no Orc Cavalry comes out to attack, the reserve force waits for the gate to blow after the pre-arranged trumpet call. The gate blowing up being the signal to charge into the fort.

    10) the footmen and Levy charge into the fort's western gate behind the mounted cavalry and knights of the Mobile force, however,

    11) The Marshall's unit of 10 men, along with the 20 Cavalry of the Mobile Reserve remain outside of the Palisade, riding around to seal off the escape of any Orcs fleeing to the East. Scouts, skirmishers and woodsmen also move to eastern road to help cut off retreating enemy.

    Primary goal: Entice enemy cavalry out into open by appearing weak on foot. Destroy enemy cavalry in open.

    Secondary goal: Enter into fort after gates blown to destroy Orc garrison, support PCs.

    Tertiary goal: Eliminate all Orc forces that are broken/retreating to the East

  2. Hi Jon!

    a) Yes.
    b) Yes.
    c) Iffy, but I'm not going to let that stop a good assault. :)
    d) The humans don't know. They haven't seen anything that indicates such, but then, the orcs might have surprises.

    1. In my campaign, orcs and goblyns are not affected by sunlight. Would that affect your plan?

    2. What if the PCs can't hear the trumpets? Would you want the PCs to act based on the outside forces, or the outside forces to wait for the PCs to act? There is the possibility they may have to fight through resistance... or that there may not be an exit to the outside from underneath, if the Orcs have closed it up.

    It's a great plan, something along the lines of what I first imagined, with a few details like fire (and someone elsewhere mentioned mantlets for archers to shoot through.)

  3. ahhh . . . interesting.

    The fact these orcs have no problem with sunlight is not a problem. I would still attack during the day. Better vision for archers, horses and men. Though I may send my skirmishers out before first light, to secure forward positions.

    If the PCs are in danger of not hearing the trumpets, one of the PCs capable of magical communication could stay with the Marshall. Or, runners could be sent up the hidden passage to alert the infiltration team that the assault had begun. Or, once the PCs hear / sense the Orc Cavalry has departed, they could launch their fireball(s). If one of the PCs has an airborne familiar (hawk, etc.), it could assist with important intel / communications. Once the PCs are inside, one or more of their numbers might disguise themselves as Orcs, in order to gain intel on the progress and timing of the battle.

  4. The PCs had already come up with the idea of using hourglasses and coordinating on a particular time. So I think they might be able to make that happen.

    Definitely an interesting plan! I could see Roehm in elements of it, for sure.

  5. Wooo, punch all the orcs!!

    I stumbled on the new blog while looking for some of your old stuff. Good to see you back sir!

  6. I'd threaten the west gate with the infantry to draw the orcs to that side, cavalry on both flanks to defeat the orc cavalry then ride on to the east gate, have PCs blow up east gate, cavalry ride in, fight way to west gate, open for infantry.

  7. I'd have Sir Reynaud go back to the Monastery. He needs to find the "mud demon", beat him down, shovel his gooey corpus into an appropriate container, and bring him back to the fort. Then let him loose within the walls, preferably via catapult. Have the cavalry standing by to conduct a pursuit.


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