A friend of mine asked a good question about how to win in a 2 vs 3 scenario as the pair. He left it rather open ended, but I thought it was a pretty solid basis for a blog post.
I've talked about fighting while outnumbered a few times before, but what makes a 2 vs 3 interesting is that it is still a small enough fight that you won't have as many vision gaps or confusion on the larger team to work with. Since my friend left it a bit open, lets look at a few different cases.
The Base Scenario
Lets consider for a bit the most basic encounter like this we might see. All of the fighters are equipped with a large round shield, and a moderate length sword and no armor. The skill level of all fighters shall be considered roughly equal. Heck, lets even say they are all right-handed fighters (dirty lefties always trying to mess up examples).
From the pair's perspective, what are their options?
1) Keep it a line fight: stick together and try to whittle down the other team.
2) Divide and Conquer: split up and hope the larger team is slow to react or their third hesitates.
3) Pin and Split: have one fighter try to draw two of the other team into a 2 v 1 fight, so the other can get a 1 v 1.
4) ? Suicidal rush ?: most strategies I can think of are one of the above to one degree or another.
Case 1 isn't bad, but if the skill level is equal, it isn't going to be good either. By keeping it a line fight, all advantage rests with the larger team. The pair has to fight on the defensive, and the larger team is usually going to be free to send one fighter off to attack from an angle. One thing to keep in mind though, is that by using better positioning (similar to a 1v2 fight), the pair can mitigate most of the offense of one of the triplets. By shifting to the right a bit, the triplet on their left flank can't swing as easily at the pair. In order to win the line fight, the pair has to move together really well to sort of approximate the same approach a single fighter would when outnumbered--changing directions when one of the triplets is out of position, without splitting up enough to get overran individually.
Case 2 has some potential. Start the fight off as a line fight, then split quickly in opposite directions. The person in the middle of the three person team has to decide which direction to go in a hurry. By going in opposite directions, each of the triplets end up having to show their backs to one of the pair. When the third person chooses a direction, if the pair member doubles back from the opposite side, it could be a chance to kill one or two outright.
Case 3 isn't much different, but it is a more intentional attempt by the pair to choose which direction the third person goes. One member throws swings and feints at two of the enemy while his partner shifts away a bit to draw the 1v1 fight. The drawback here, compared to case 2, is that it doesn't force any confusion in the larger team. There isn't as likely to be a moment where the 1v1 fighter can get free to backstab the two people his partner is fighting.
So it would seem that for our little base scenario, a divide and conquer approach might be the way to go. It gives the pair a little more control over the fight and puts the triplets on the defensive for a second. There is also a chance that sticking closer together can work, but it really depends on how well the two of them can move and act together to contain the triplets.
Support Weapon Scenarios
Now that we've looked at a simple scenario, lets see how support weapons might shift things. Swapping one of our triplets to a polearm doesn't really change things too much. The pair still is better off trying to divide and conquer if they can because facing a polearm head on isn't favorable for them at all in a line fight or as a pin for a pin/split.
However, if we give one of the pair a support weapon, things get a little more interesting. If the two tried any strategy that required them to split up, the support weapon might be easily overran. So, in this particular case, the pair should try to stick together and do their best to keep it a line fight. By leveraging the extra reach of a polearm, the pair has a much larger advantage in the range game if they can keep the triplets from splitting up too much. It actually reminds me of one of my favorite stories.
What if both sides had a polearm? The triplet's polearm negates the range advantage the pair might have had. If they try to split up, the pair's support is still in danger of being overran; OR the pair's sword & board fighter ends up taking on a polearm and friend while the third triplet fends off his support. Even though the situation isn't favorable, it's still probably best for them to stick together and line fight as best they can.
What if all three of the triplets have a polearm? Both of the pair? Okay, I'm not actually going to go through every combination here. I think we can kind of see the pattern already. The real choice for the pair is all about how well they would survive individually if they would split up.
How might our little scenario change if we swap around some fighters and add in a more skilled fighter or one that is fully tanked out in armor?
As our support weapon example indicates, if we give advantages to the pair that can help them win a line fight, they might be better off sticking together. Put a top-tier fighter in full armor on the pair, and they might as well stay close to each other. However, a pin/split might also work, as the more skilled fighter will have an easier time both drawing the extra fighter and surviving/winning the 2v1; OR have a much higher chance of beating the single fighter if his buddy can pin two in place for a second.
- As always when outnumbered, mobility is key. The pair must keep moving, always attempting to get one of the triplets out of position. "Keeping it a line fight" probably requires the pair to back up, at the very least, but more likely requires them to strafe back and forth.
- Typical line fighting teamwork techniques are important to keep in mind. Feinting towards the middle fighter might move their defenses over so your partner can take a swing at them. Faking for a swing might draw out a counter that allows your partner to snipe an arm.
- By getting even a single leg hit, the pair can turn the fight into a 2v2.
- Teams of fighters fight differently than individuals. The larger group may not swing as often per person as the smaller group. When outnumbering, they often look for counter swing opportunities . Feints may be particularly effective at drawing them out.
- Targets of Opportunity: if the triplets mess up, punish them for it. Regardless of the plan, killing one outright because they have a poor guard or turned incorrectly might happen. Be on the lookout.
- Communicate! Even simple words like "split" or "shift right" can help a ton.