A battle is a conflict between two forces, both of which are attempting to gain or maintain control of a particular battlefield. Most battles occur between rival clans as a result of raids, but battles can also be fought against other enemies, such as trolls and Alkothi.
Each battle plays out as a series of turns, where each side chooses their action for a turn and then take those actions simultaneously. The battle begins in the Planning Phase, where you select your objective and choose whether or not to commit magic to the battle, then moves on to the Skirmish Phase, where both armies are within missile range of one another but have not yet engaged directly. Once the battle moves to the Melee Phase, the two armies will begin to directly contest one another for control of the battlefield.
There are two ways to win a battle: either inflict so many casualties on the enemy army that they are no longer able to continue the fight, or successfully gain complete control of the battlefield during the Melee Phase.
In the Planning Phase, you select your objective in the battle, and choose whether or not to commit your clan magic to the battle. The army which invests more magic into a battle will gain a strategic advantage over the other, and an army that invests no magic at all will be unable to seek blessings in the skirmish phase. Each point of magic invested in war during Sacred Time will count as one point of magic invested into every battle that year.
In the Skirmish Phase, both armies attempt to ensure that they will enter the Melee Phase on the most favorable terms possible. It is theoretically possible for a battle to end during the Skirmish Phase, but quite rare.
You have several options available on each turn of the Skirmish Phase:
- Skirmishing shoots arrows at the enemy, attempting to inflict casualties and reduce their numbers. It is not possible once you have exhausted your arrows. The effectiveness of skirmishing is improved by Dostal's Sureshot blessing and Osara's Firearrow blessing, and your stock of arrows can be increased using the Fletchery venture.
- Seeking a blessing will allow you to attempt to buff your troops for the battle. Battleglow will improve your troops in the Melee Phase, Strongbow will increase the casualties you inflict through skirmishing, and Firehoof will increase your effective numbers in melee. You cannot seek these blessings unless you have invested magic into the battle.
- Intimidate will send your riders out to attempt to demoralize the enemy by whooping them. If successful, it not only debuffs the enemy, but also prevents whatever action they attempted to take that turn. It is more likely to succeed against clans that fear yours, and less likely to succeed against clans that mock yours.
- Parley allows you to either negotiate the defender's surrender in exchange for a one-time tribute of cows, or to engage in an exchange of insults. Such an exchange will give the victor a buff to their troops and an improvement to their clan mood, and have the opposite effect on the loser.
- Reserving a portion of your forces will reduce the number of troops you go into the Melee Phase with, but will give you the ability to call in your reserves for a powerful one-use option once the Melee Phase begins.
In addition to these options, you have three options for how you choose to end the Skirmish Phase and begin the Melee Phase:
- Charging can potentially prevent the enemy's Skirmish Phase action on that turn.
- Maneuvering, if successful, will give you a significant advantage in the Melee Phase for the rest of the battle.
- Advancing will likely disrupt enemy maneuvers.
Once the Melee Phase begins, the two armies will close to engage each other and will begin to struggle to effect the balance of power. Each turn, both armies inflict casualties one one another, and one army will "win" the turn, based on its numbers, morale, buffs, and the Combat skill of its war leader. Small differences in numbers are not particularly significant - one side needs to outnumber the other by roughly three to two in order for the difference to matter. The army that wins the turn will swing the balance of power in their favor, indicated by the position of the two army icons at the bottom of the combat dialog. When one icon has been completely pushed to the edge of the dialog, that army is defeated.
Most of the options available to you during the Melee Phase concern a balance of risk versus reward - in general, fighting aggressively will leave you open to more casualties, but will also increase your chances of winning quickly.
- "Hold your ground" and "press the attack" are neutral options, which have no effect on the outcome of the battle that turn.
- "Fight cautiously" reduces the number of causalties you take.
- "Fight fiercely" increases the number of casualties you inflict.
- "Fight cleverly" reduces the number of casualties you inflict, but increases the degree to which the balance of power will swing if you win the turn.
- "Take risks to win" increases the number of casualties you take, but increases the degree to which the balance of power will swing if you win the turn.
- "Wait for opportunities" decreases your chance of winning the turn, but increases the degree to which the balance of power will swing if you do win the turn.
- "Berserk attack" increases the number of casualties you take, but greatly increases the number of casualties you inflict.
- "Conserve your strength" decreases the number of casualties you inflict, but greatly decreases the number of casualties you take.
In addition to these standard options, you may also see special options arise. Choosing these options will give you a choice regarding how to respond to certain conditions on the battlefield, which can increase your chances of winning the battle and also have an effect on matters outside the scope of the battle. Resolving a special option does not take up your turn.