Whenever a unit makes a deliberate Melee Attack against an enemy unit, the enemy may be able to retaliate by performing a Counter Attack. In other words, while the attacker is delivering Melee Damage to the target, the target also delivers Melee Damage to the attacker.
This occurs in almost all circumstances. The only cases where the target of a Melee Attack is not allowed to Counter Attack occur when the target is incapacitated in some way, for example due to the Unit Curse "Black Sleep".
Barring special abilities of the attacker or certain negative spell effects on the defender, Melee Damage from the defender is calculated the same as Melee Damage from the attacker, and they are also delivered simultaneously. This means that the attacker is in as much risk as the defender in most cases.
Some Special Attacks, like Gaze Attacks, may be performed by the defending unit as part of its Counter Attack. These stand some chance of killing several of the enemy figures, thus weakening the enemy unit and subsequently reducing damage to the defender. Conversely, Breath Attacks, Thrown Attacks and First Strike (if at all available) may not be performed by a defending unit - only by the attacker.
Unlike Melee Attacks, Counter Attacks cost the defender no Movement Points. A unit may Counter Attack even if it had spent all of its Movement Points during the previous turn. There is no limit to the number of times a unit may Counter Attack - it may do so each time an enemy unit attacks it in Melee. However, being attacked multiple times during the same combat turn does impose a penalty on units, that will affect their subsequent Counter Attack(s) (see below).
When a unit makes a Melee Attack against an enemy unit, it is said to make physical, face-to-face contact with its target, using hand-held weapons like swords or halberds, claws, teeth, or whatever other close-combat weapons are available to it.
The required close proximity to the defender allows that defender to retaliate, in an action called a Counter Attack. The defender in effect uses its own close-combat weapons to deliver damage back at the attacker.
Due to Counter Attacks being a reaction rather than voluntary, the defender may not use all of its Special Attacks. Breath Attacks, Thrown Attacks and First Strike all require the unit to deliberately engage an enemy, and so cannot be used when Counter Attacking. Nonetheless, defenders may use Gaze Attacks and Touch Attacks against their assailant, as these are considered to be a natural part of the way they deal damage.
Triggering a Counter Attack Edit
Counter Attacks are automatically triggered whenever one unit makes a Melee Attack against another unit. While the attacker performs a Melee Attack, the defender simultaneously executes a Counter Attack.
This will always occur unless specific conditions are applied - such as the defender being under the effect of the Black Sleep spell, which specifically prohibits it from Counter Attacking.
Other than this, there are no prerequisites that the defender needs to meet in order to be able to deliver a Counter Attack. It may Counter Attack as many times as it is attacked during combat!
Dealing Melee Damage Edit
- Main article: Melee Damage
In fact, unless the defender has any special abilities, its Counter Attack will consist only of attempting to deliver as much of this Melee Damage as it can to its assailant. It will try to kill off as many of the enemy figures as it can, or otherwise injure the enemy unit as much as possible.
Melee Damage is explained in its own article (see also Physical Damage for a thorough explanation of the process). In general, the Counter Attacker is required to make a number of To Hit rolls in order to determine how many times it has struck the enemy successfully. The enemy then gets to make Defense rolls to try and block or dodge some (or all) of these hits, minimizing damage to itself. After all rolls have been completed, "unblocked" hits are translated into Damage Points and inflicted directly at the enemy's Health score.
Special Attacks Edit
- Main article: Special Attack
During a Melee Attack, combatants get the opportunity to utilize several additional attacks, called "Special Attacks", in order to cause extra harm to the enemy and/or neutralize it in some way. However, many of these require the unit to be the initiating party to the Melee, and are thus not available to a defending unit.
The defender is limited to making only Gaze Attacks and Touch Attacks, since these are the only two attacks that could be considered "integral" to the way it fights - not requiring any deliberation or a stand-off stance, which a defender does not enjoy. The defender may not use Breath Attacks and Thrown Attacks, and may not utilize the First Strike ability.
The sequence of attacks is also somewhat different between the attacker and defender, as explained below, to the detriment of the defender.
Counter Attack Sequence Edit
As explained earlier, both the Melee Attacker and the Counter Attacker may use various Special Attacks, if they have any, to cause extra damage to the opponent. The sequence in which these attacks are performed is of paramount importance. The Melee Damage itself is only exchanged between the attacker and the target at the very end of the Melee Attack process!
A Counter Attacker's options for Special Attacks are, however, somewhat more limited (as explained in the previous section): it may only make Gaze Attacks and Touch Attacks against its opponent, if it has any at all - whereas the opponent may use many additional attack types if available.
Furthermore, the sequence in which Special Attacks are executed by either party is biased against the Counter Attacker. The defender's Gaze Attack comes after the attacker's (assuming both units have a Gaze Attack), making it somewhat less useful.
Here is the sequence of attacks as it is normally executed:
|1||Thrown Attack OR Breath Attack||--|
|4||Fear Attack||Fear Attack|
|5||Melee Damage||Melee Damage|
As explained in the article on Melee Attacks, the purpose of this stage-based process is to give the combatants a chance to kill-off or neutralize some or more of the opponent's figures, reducing the opponent's overall strength before the next stage begins - especially before the opponent can deliver any of its Melee Damage (at stage 5). Thus, a unit with plenty of powerful Special Attacks - particularly Thrown Attacks, Breath Attacks, and/or Gaze Attacks - has a chance of completely preventing the enemy from dealing Melee Damage, and thus minimize or eliminate any risk to itself.
The reason for this is that any figure killed off during any of the above stages does not get to participate in the subsequent stages of the attack. For example, if a target loses half of its figures during stage 3, its overall strength by step 5 is half what it had at the start of the process, thus significantly reducing the risk to its opponent.
As the table shows, the Counter Attack only begins at stage 3. Prior to this, the assailant unleashes any Breath Attacks, Thrown Attacks, and then Gaze Attacks. Only then can the Counter Attacker unleash a Gaze Attack, if available at all.
When no Breath Attacks, Gaze Attacks or Thrown Attacks are present however, the fight is not biased towards neither the attacker nor the defender (steps 4 and 5). In such a case, the Melee Attack and Counter Attack overlap entirely, and are executed simultaneously. Thus, both units must exchange Melee Damage and/or Touch Attacks at the same time, offering the defender just as good a fighting chance as the attacker.
Either unit executes only Special Attacks that are available to it, and only at the appropriate stages in the process. For example, if the defender lacks a Gaze Attack, step 3 is completely skipped. There are many instances where only step 5 is executed, with both units exchanging only Melee Damage since neither possesses any Special Attacks whatsoever.
Altering the Sequence Edit
For the most part, the sequence of a Melee Attack and the enemy's Counter Attack is set in stone, as described by the table above.
|1||Thrown Attack OR Breath Attack||--|
In this sequence, the Counter Attacker's Melee Damage and Melee Touch Attack occur at the end of the process, which is a serious problem for the defender. The more defending figures are killed off or neutralized by the assailant in step 5, the fewer remain to deliver attacks and damage in step 7. In fact, it is possible for a First Strike attack to eliminate all opposition by the end of step 5 - preventing the defender from causing any further harm to the assailant.
Note that First Strike is never used by a Counter Attacking unit. This is a major reason why it is imperative to maneuver on the battlefield in order to prevent enemy First Strike units from making voluntary Melee Attacks - forcing them to Counter Attack instead. A First Strike unit that is allowed to exercise its ability can often cause significant damage without taking any damage of its own (aside from the defender's Gaze Attacks). To engage them on more even terms, you must make your own voluntary attacks against them, in which case the First Strike ability is not used and the sequence remains unchanged (as described above).
Ground vs. Air Edit
A unit may Counter Attack against any target, regardless of their respective Movement Types. Thus, while a Walking and/or Swimming cannot initiate a Melee Attack against units that Fly, it can Counter Attack when such units initiate combat against it without issue.
Therefore, while Flying units have a maneuvering advantage and can pick their targets easily, they are not invulnerable once they actually engage the enemy. The entire exchange of Special Attacks and Melee Damage operates the same even if the attacker is Flying.
Thus, powerful ground units have less of a problem fighting against weak air units, since all they need to do is wait for the air unit to attack them - in which case the Counter Attack may be able to destroy the air unit easily.
Temporary To Hit Penalty Edit
Usually, a unit's Counter Attack is as powerful as when the unit initiates the attack (unless First Strike, Thrown Attack and Breath Attack are involved). However, if a unit is targeted by too many enemy units in the same enemy turn, then it will receive a temporary To Hit penalty to its Counter Attacks. For every 2 incoming attacks, the unit will receive -10% (more precisely -10 percentage points) to its To Hit rolls. Thereby, every Ranged and Melee Attack count as an incoming attack. The temporary penalty is removed after said enemy turn and a roll will always have at least a 10% chance to succeed.
- Consider a Magic Spirit which is attacked by 2 Bowmen and 2 Barbarian Spearmen (in this order). The Magic Spirit has no innate To Hit bonus, so each of its Sword icons have usually a 30% chance of inflicting damage (which can be parried by the opponent's Shields). Now, the 2 Bowmen units use their Ranged Attack. After the second attack, the Magic Spirit will receive a temporary -10% chance to its future To Hit rolls. It plays no role, if the Bowmen inflict damage to the Magic Spirit or not. Now the first Spearmen unit initiates a Melee Attack twice. For both Counter Attacks, each of the Magic Spirit's Sword icons have only a 20% chance of working. After the second attack, the Magic Spirit will receive a temporary -20% chance to its future To Hit rolls. For the calculation of the Counter Attack's To Hit penalty, it plays no role that the Spearmen unit also had a Thrown Attack. Now comes the second Spearmen unit and initiates a Melee Attack twice again. For both Counter Attacks, each of the Magic Spirit's Sword icons have only a 10% chance of working. Now, the enemy turn has ended. All temporary To Hit penalties are removed and each of the Magic Spirit's Swords icon would have a 30% chance of working again.