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Terrain & Reconnaissance



The Terrain and Reconnaissance chapter of the Stormwind Army Field Manual details the art of map making and the importance of terrain analysis in a strategic and tactical sense.

In civilian life, it is possible for a stranger to find their way from Point A to Point B by merely asking a Guard or a friendly local citizen. They may possibly have to overcome a few wrong directions, but eventually they will find their way.

In a hostile environment, a soldier may not have that option. They will need to depend on their map, and if one doesn’t exist then they’ll need to make one. A map is a drawing, a drawing of the land and the things people have built on the land. A map is flat, and when we look at a map, we’re often looking at a drawing of the ground from a spot high in the air. That view is different from the one we’re accustomed to, on the ground looking at one point from another point. The view maps give is a view as though you were hovering over the ground in a gyrocopter.

To understand a map, you must speak its language. A language of signs and symbols that represent various things on the ground. This guide will teach you that language, not only so you can read a map, but also create one when you need it.

Credits:
  • Sir Thomas Reignsford, Lieutenant of the Elwynn Brigade.
  • Duke Maxen Montclair, Marshal of the Elwynn Brigade.
This document was heavily inspired by Sun Tzu's The Art of War, and adapted to Warcraft fantasy.

Note: This page was last updated on 12/23/2018.




The key to reading a map is it’s Legend. A Legend is an explanatory table of symbols used on a map or chart. Just like your house key opens your front door, a map key or legend opens up a map. The map key is what gives you all the information you need for a map to make sense.

A map legend may look like this:





Once you understand the map and what the symbols mean, now you need to know how to read it. To read the map, you must first orientate yourself with the map. Most maps are orientated North, or with have a marker indicating which direction is North, or both. You can either find North, via a compass or other means, or you can orientate the map to the direction you’re facing by recognizing landmarks on the map and rotating it accordingly. Congratulations, you should now be able to find your way to your desired destination.




But what if you don’t have a map? Maybe you’re on a scouting mission and need to create one. Standard Issue Deployment Kits include Ink, a Quill, and Parchment. A bit of charcoal or burnt sticks from a campfire work as well. There are four types of maps: Scout PoV, Bird’s Eye, Local Strategic, and Continental Topographic.


Scout PoV

A Scout PoV (Point of View) map is hand-drawn in the field with the supplies in your kit. It is drawn as you see it from the ground. Details are limited to visual obstacles: buildings, vegetation, changes in ground elevation, and potential threats. Here is an example of a Scout PoV map done near Saldean’s Farm in Westfall.


Notice the inclusion of obstacles like the fence line which could affect troop movement, the hills that could be used to avoid detection, the location of nearby buildings and open fields. And in the bottom right corner is an indicator of which way is North.


Bird’s Eye

A Bird’s Eye map is quickly derived from one or more Scout PoV maps, consolidating all of the obtained information to create one “top down” map of the immediate area. Some minute details are lost in the creation, but a “bigger picture” can be seen. Note how buildings, fields, trees, and fence line are still included, but details such as the small hills are lost. But additional information is gained like the mountain and the mine, and spatial locations of buildings in relation to one another that was not seen in the first map.




Local Strategic

Further enlarging the mapped area, a Local Strategic map is a combination of several Bird’s Eye maps to facilitate in planned troop movements or supply lines. Locations of cities, mountainous areas, cliffsides, and other various landforms and dangerous areas are marked on these maps.


Local Strategic, Bird’s Eye, and Scout PoV maps can all be created in the field to aid military command to determine objective points, potential threats, and safe routes.


Continental Topographical

Topographical maps are more commonly seen either in libraries or war rooms. These are artistically drawn or painted by professional cartographers. These are the maps you will likely see legends on as they can contain a myriad of information and symbols, but not always. They will typically be no smaller of an area than the Local Strategic, but could be as large a County, a Duchy, a Kingdom, or even the whole world.




Mapmaking with Inkarnate (OOC)
Inkarnate.com is a free-to-use site that gives you the ability to make maps. Simply create an account and sign in to begin. Reignsford compiled a Guide to Mapmaking in Inkarnate!




When tasked to scout out the enemy, it is your main mission to obtain accurate, clear and complete information, and you have to get it to your commander in time for them to use it. A situation report to command can be done either orally or written, in person or via messenger. However the report is done, there are six kinds of information your command wants to know about the enemy. These are: size, activity, location, unit, time, and equipment. They key word to remember what information is needed on the enemy is SALUTE.

    Size - What is the exact or rough estimate of their numerical strength?
    Activity - What is the enemy unit doing at the time of report?
    Location - Where is the enemy located or heading, use landmarks or coordinates if known?
    Unit - Is there any identifying iconongraphy? Banners, regimental colors, etc.
    Time - When was the report completed?
    Equipment - What sort of equipment do they have? Supply wagons, catapults, horses, etc.

Number and place in a separate paragraph each item of information you write. This makes it clearer for your commander when it is read.




The terrain and grounds that an army traverses while on campaign can significantly affect the combat effectiveness of its soldiers. In terms of strategy, the difference between grounds and terrain is that grounds describe the strategic value in their provided natural environment, while terrain describes the strategic value in relation to your army versus your enemy’s army. A wise commander will attack his enemy where they are least defended, exploiting his enemy’s weaknesses while avoiding revealing his own weaknesses. He will consider the properties of the grounds he marches upon and shall avoid exhausting his reserves of troops, materials, water, and beasts of burden. He will maneuver his troops so that the grounds and terrain they fight on are favorable to their combat effectiveness. He will defend favorable positions while waiting for the enemy to reveal exploitable weaknesses.



Every battlefield maneuver draws its effectiveness from the terrain upon which it is executed. An army shall be exhausted if charging up a hill; lose the capability of line-of-sight artillery in hilly terrain; and be forced into close-quarters combat in narrow passages. The same can be said in the grand scheme of a campaign. Depending on what paths a commander marches his army, the combat effectiveness of his troops shall be bolstered or hindered when they finally meet the enemy in battle.

The importance of selecting advantageous terrain should be capitalized upon through the following means and concepts:

Observation

Cover and Concealment
Obstacles
Key Terrain
Avenues of Approach


Observation

An army in the field should always have personnel dedicated to mapping the local terrain and determining the tactical and strategic advantages that can be gained from it. Scouts should be assigned to seek out and report back on enemy movements so that the enemy cannot gain the element of surprise. Observation of terrain and enemy elements allows an army to leverage its strengths, minimize the exposure of its weaknesses, and act on favorable conditions.


Cover and Concealment

Cover is physical, material protection against enemy ranged attacks, either from direct missile fire and artillery bombardment. Some examples of cover are walls, fortifications, hills, trenches, and rocky outcroppings.

Concealment offers visual obstruction which hides your army from view, but does not necessarily give protection against missile attacks. Examples of concealment that do not provide cover are dense fog, vegetation, forests, and ravines.


Obstacles

Obstacles are geographic or man-made impediments that will hinder an army’s maneuvers or inflict casualties. Destroying bridges and blocking narrow passages with barricades or walls create obstacles that will hinder an enemy’s movements. Laying traps such as caltrops or digging spiked wolf holes may inflict wounds upon your enemy. Be warned; for most created obstacles will also hinder your own troops should you need to traverse the same lands. An army should have personnel capable of disassembling or repairing paths of travel to restore them from obstacles.


Key Terrain

Key Terrain is land which is deemed strategic or valuable to hold. Settlements, defensible passages, key resources, and fortifications are all examples of terrain that either grant tactical benefit or further the objectives of a campaign.


Avenues of Approach

A commander should consider all avenues of approach when either defending a position or attacking an enemy. Some grounds force frontal attacks while others permit flanking and encirclement. Utilizing all of your own avenues of approach while blocking an enemy of theirs shall ensure tactical dominance of a battlefield.





The types of terrain and their strategic advantages shall be detailed below:


Accessible Terrain

Accessible terrain is that which can be easily traversed by both sides of a conflict. A much larger and stronger army will likely prevail on accessible terrain as it will be able to utilize all of its resources in battle. However, an army on accessible terrain is likely open to attack from all sides. This includes one’s supply lines. Extra troops should be assigned to guard supply lines on accessible terrain.


Entangling Terrain

Entangling terrain cannot easily be re-occupied once abandoned due to its difficulty of securing. Rocky hills, forests, marshes, and other grounds that provide cover and opportunity for insurgency are considered entangling terrain. Fortifications which you own and can be taken by the enemy are considered entangling in that they are typically difficult to recapture. One should defend what entangling terrain they hold unless it is absolutely necessary to abandon it. An enemy will suffer in its combat effectiveness if it attempts to seize entangling ground. Beware being drawn out of entangling terrain by your enemy, for the benefits of holding such grounds can easily be lost.


Temporizing Terrain

Temporizing terrain is inconvenient for both sides to traverse. A steep mountain range with no clear paths through it gives no benefit to the one who controls it, as fighting on uneven grounds will hinder both defenders and attackers. If two armies entrench themselves in entangling ground to equal defensive positions, neither side shall benefit from attacking the other. Temporizing terrain shall ensure a stalemate in both battle and campaign if armies fight over it.


Narrow Passages

Narrow passages should be occupied first - both within and above the passage. In battles of infantrymen, the advantage of greater numbers is lost if soldiers are forced to fight a smaller number of elite troops in a narrow passage. Those who control a high ground above a narrow passage may rain projectiles down upon their enemy with impunity. Narrow passages should be fortified and defended, and should be prioritized to capture in a greater campaign. Attacking a narrow passage held by an enemy poses extreme risk to your soldiers, and should be avoided.


Precipitous Heights

Precipitous heights should be occupied first, or not at all. He who holds a higher ground shall have an advantage over his enemy in infantry, missile, cavalry, and artillery attacks. Charging down a slope is always easier than climbing up, and an attacking army ascending high ground will exhaust itself in comparison to those defending at the top. The best way to capture high grounds from an enemy is to lure them from the position, or to sneak troops into their fortifications to ambush the enemy at night.


Great Distance From Enemy

Occupying terrain a great distance from your enemy is unwise as traveling to your enemy will exhaust your army. You should establish outposts and camps as you travel towards your enemy so that your troops will be rested when the time comes for battle.





The types of grounds and their strategic advantages shall be detailed below:


Planes

Planes are the simplest example of accessible grounds, and are often the sites of field battles between large armies. They offer excellent visibility for long distances and can be easily traversed. Maintaining supply lines over planes should be done with caution and additional troops. Wood, stone, and metal may become scarce resources when constructing fortifications on planes, so expect to source such materials from afar.


Marshes

Marshes are lands that are saturated with water, making them extremely difficult to traverse. Establishing fortifications on a marsh requires extensive use of earth and stone to give stability to otherwise unstable ground. As the very definition of entangling ground, marshes are very difficult to fight upon but may be used as an advantageous defensive position.


Forests

Heavily wooded areas are considered entangling grounds due to the cover they provide to infiltrators and insurgents. Dense forests are very difficult to traverse, especially for supply trains that field large beasts of burden and artillery pieces. Be wary of any creatures or animals that may lurk within a forest, for predatory animals may attack your beasts of burden or even your troops. Forests provide natural protection from most artillery pieces, but extended bombardments will level a forest if permitted. Wood may be harvested in abundance from positions established at the edge of a forest.


Deserts and Tundras

Lands which are in the extremes of heat or cold which also lack drinkable water are known as deserts and tundras, respectively. Deserts and tundras are very difficult to traverse and are to be considered temporizing terrain unless oases of drinkable water can be found. Positions where drinkable water can be sourced should be treated as entangling grounds due to the necessity of water and the harshness of the lack thereof in the surrounding lands.


Valleys

Valleys are excellent passageways. They are optimal for maneuvering troops and supplies, especially if you establish garrisons at their openings to prevent enemy infiltration. You can hide a large army from your enemy within a valley and enjoy the benefits of a narrow passage if facing a larger army. If garrisons cannot be established, you should at minimum post sentries at the entrances of a valley so that you may be warned of ambushes.


Mountains

Mountains are temporizing grounds that provide natural barriers between nations and armies. Passes between mountain ranges are of strategic importance and should be captured if the enemy has not garrisoned troops within them. The foothills of mountains can provide precipitous heights that may be fortified and used to an army’s advantage. Be wary, for any fortification constructed on or near a mountain range shall be considered entangling grounds that are difficult to recapture if abandoned.


Rivers

Rivers can be considered entangling grounds if fortifications are made on their banks. Unless the enemy has suitable watercraft, a river can provide a barrier which forces the enemy to attack from inland with minimal risk to those closer to the coast. Bridges and shallow, traversable water are narrow passages which ought to be defended. If you come across an enemy army, pushing them towards a river will deprive or at least hamper their ability to escape.


Coasts

Coastlines of large bodies of water such as seas and oceans share many of the same properties as those of rivers, with the exception that an enemy can bring to bear naval assets to assault a coastline. Fortifications made on the coast of a sea or ocean should be hardened against that inevitability with artillery pieces that can counter naval bombardments and landings. Chasing an enemy army made up of infantry into such a coastline will completely deprive their means of escape, and shall most likely inspire them to fight to the last man.





There are nine ground situations to consider when traversing any terrain, in regards to how your army will perform in battle and what you should expect in terms of local resistance.


Dispersive Ground

Dispersive ground is that which your nation or faction controls with a friendly native populace. An enemy should be easy to disperse and defeat in lands which you know and are supportive of your efforts.


Facile Ground

Facile ground is the land you take when first invading an enemy’s territory, often on the border of your own lands. While facile ground is often easier to supply due to its proximity of access to your homeland, the enemy shall defend facile ground fiercely in order to repel invaders.


Contentious Ground

Contentious ground is that which is strategic to gain control over. Key settlements, fortifications, capturable resources, and narrow passages are all contentious grounds which will likely see battle before a campaign is over.


Intersecting Highways

Intersecting highways are a form of contentious ground which control a key intersection which allows access between several lands. Often consisting of narrow passages such as valleys and bridges, these lands must be taken and controlled if your army is to travel freely.


Open Ground

Open ground is terrain that is easily traversible by both sides of a conflict, often consisting of sparsely populated and accessible terrain. Open ground is easy to capture and hard to defend. As accessible terrain, he who fields the larger and stronger army will likely prevail.


Serious Ground

Serious ground consists of lands deep behind enemy lines which are hostile to your invading force. Enemy armies may ambush you from behind your marching lines and local natives may openly attack your troops. Serious ground requires constant vigilance.


Difficult Ground

Difficult ground is hard to traverse, be it dense forest, marshes, or rocky hills. It will slow down your army in its maneuvers, but it shall likely have the same effect upon your enemy. Drawing an enemy into difficult ground with one force while attacking elsewhere is a well-tested strategy.


Hemmed in Ground

Hemmed in ground is terrain where passages are narrow and few, forcing an army to stretch itself as it traverses the land. This ground situation can either be very defensible or a death trap if an enemy has insurgents emplaced. You may be ambushed and trapped in these grounds.


Desperate Ground

Desperate ground is that which your army must fight on to survive. Landing on enemy coastlines, being surrounded by the enemy, or being forced into an engagement where retreat is impossible will deem any terrain desperate ground.