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 and Touch 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 Strikes (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.
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 it deals damage.
Triggering a Counter Attack Edit
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 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, the attacker gets the opportunity to utilize several additional attacks, called "Special Attacks", in order to cause extra harm to the target and/or neutralize it in some way. These include Breath Attacks, Gaze Attacks, Thrown Attacks and Touch Attacks.
The target (i.e. the Counter Attacker) also gets to use some (but not all!) of its Special Attacks, if it has any, as part of the Counter Attack process. Again, this allows it to cause more damage and/or neutralize its attacker.
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, Thrown Attacks or the First Strike ability.
The sequence of these extra 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, however, are 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, Touch Attack||Melee Damage, Touch Attack|
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 retaliating, and thus minimize or eliminate damage to itself.
The reason 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 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.
Note: A unit executes only those 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.
When the attacker possesses First Strike, the process is rearranged as follows:
|1||Thrown Attack OR Breath Attack||--|
|5||Melee Damage, Touch Attack||--|
|7||--||Melee Damage, Touch Attack|
In this sequence, the Counter Attacker's Melee Damage, Fear Attack and 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 steps 4 and 5, the fewer remain to deliver attacks and damage in steps 6 and 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 First Strike 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.