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The Attack on Akesoli by the Master in X10

by LoZompatore.

This is the second part of the article about Akesoli (first part available here), this time trying to figure out the attack plan of the Master's forces and devising possible actions by defenders and PCs alike. The Akesoli city map created in the article above is used as a reference.

Hulean units involved:

According to X10 the attacking force is made of a Regular unit plus part of the flying regiment of the Legion of Doom (4 flying longships out of a total of 10 available).
Actually at least a Guards reserve division must also take part to the attack otherwise there wouldn't be enough bugbears to perform all the tasks described in the "Invasion of Akesoli" section of X10. Namely, at least three regiments of bugbears are needed: one guarding the conquered gate, another sweeping the streets of Akesoli and a third one guarding the captured peasants outside the city walls; the Regular unit has only two bugbear regiments available.

Given the magical nature of the sandstorm that covers the sky above Akesoli during the attack I'd say that Alrethus (the powerful mage second-in-command to the Master) is leading the operations. I assigned to him a retinue of arcane assistants taken from Regiment 3 (Zafiries) of the Legion of Doom which could help him with some initial stealth operations and in the summoning and control of the sandstorm.

For details on the composition of the Hulean Regiments attacking the city see the invading forces breakdown listed below.

X10 Hulean battle Plan:

The description on X10 is not very clear about the Master's attack plan for Akesoli.
How the Huleans manage to break the city walls and enter the city in large numbers is never explained, except that it is a surprise attack by the nomads on the overconfident Akesolian garrison.
Moreover two companies of Hulean humanoids hold the (supposedly only) city gate of Akesoli but they let people flee the city; nevertheless those fleeing are later captured and corralled into a wooden stockade at the Hulean command post outside the city walls. What is the logic of this behavior? I guess the Hulean garrison at the gate could simply block the exit and prevent anyone to leave, so that the other units sweeping the city streets may easily capture the citizens while they are still inside the city walls.
Moreover the use of the flying longboats looks like a waste of elite resources: according to X10 the airboats are merely stationed above the sandstorm looming over the city, actually doing nothing. The sandstorm blocks the line of sight of any embarked archer and the airboats cannot cross the storm without facing a high risk of crashing (according to X10 description of the effects of the sandstorm on airborne units). The only function of the airboats in X10 seems to prevent any attempt to flee the city by air, something that the same magical sandstorm is already enforcing thanks to its raging winds. Moreover, as the only people able to fly in Akesoli are possibly the PCs, the airboats looks like some "ad hoc" obstacle tailored to the player characters for dramatic effect but with little logic. At the beginning of X10 the PCs should be mostly unknown to the Huleans as it is clear from X10 in case they are captured and attempt to escape the makeshift prison at the Hulean command post (the PCs are just sentenced to death the day after their failed escape, just like everyone else trying to leave the detention camp).
In case the PCs are already a target for the Master's forces, possibly due to the events of X4 and X5 then I guess the airboats could be used much more efficiently to send an task force through the city roofs in order to capture or kill the PCs before the sandstorm hits the city, or to spot and single out the PCs as they flee Akesoli among the other refugees.
Finally, notice that during the attack the PCs are not prevented to flee through the captured gate (see above) or by embarking on some ship leaving at the city docks, so such a display of forces to prevent them leaving from the air looks like superfluous to me.
All of this does not make much sense to me.

A revised Hulean battle plan:

In the following I suggest what I believe is a more sound battle plan which could also leave room for the PCs to intervene at earlier phases if they are skillful and clever enough.
According to the city layout I used as a reference, Akesoli has two city gates; the Master attacks by surprise the least obvious and the less defended of them (the Southern Gate), which is effectively held by Hulean troops and through which no citizen of Akesoli can escape. This gate is used to dispatch Hulean units inside the city walls; as per X10 module, these units are divided in small groups to seed chaos, terrorize people and prevent organized resistance.
Citizens fleeing by land will push through the other city doors (the Western Gate) which, being heavily fortified, is not immediately attacked by the Huleans but will be left to handle the wave of fleeing people and will be sieged at a later time to crush the remaining resistance. Other Hulean units will roam the countryside at a safe distance from the city walls and will hunt and capture as many fleeing people as possible, corralling them in makeshift detention camps at the Hulean command post outside the city.

A likely sequence of the actions performed by invaders and defenders (and possible counter-actions by the PCs) according to this revised battle plan is provided below. If the PCs do nothing and flee to safety the city is doomed and all resistance will be crushed in a couple of days. The only hope to get a different outcome lies in their hands.

Phase #1: Night before the attack

The night before the attack the four Hulean airboats embark all the low level mages of Legion of Doom Regiment 3. The mages use "levitate" spells and the like to stealthy drop half of the archers of the airboats on the roofs surrounding the Southern Gate and in the wooded part of Umbarth Hill. The archers are dressed as commoners or as Akesoli City Watchmen to avoid immediate detection as enemies. They assemble in small groups in strategic locations and infiltrate the fortifications surrounding the Southern Gate and the Umbarth Castle. The ariboats leave before dawn to load the other half of the archers for protection during later phases of the attack.

What the PCs can do: If they are light sleepers or if they are awake late at night they could detect some movement on the roofs close to their inn. If they investigate they could manage to intercept a small group of archers dressed as City Watchmen who speak a pretty bad Darokinian. If they manage to capture a few of them and deliver them to the City Watchmen for interrogation, the archers will be quickly identified as spies. The Watchmen then will increase their alertness, patrol more often the city walls and delay the changing of the guard. All of this could delay Hulean penetration in the city, reduce the number of free infiltrators and provide a larger number of available defenders in later phases of the attack.

Phase #2: Late night

During nighttime, the main force of the Master approaches the city of Akesoli. For a few days the invaders have marched from the Sind border behind a magical sandstorm conjured by Alrethus and his assistants. The storm front is 2 miles wide and moves at ground level, masking the bulk of the Hulean forces approaching the city. The airboats fly at low altitude behind the storm front and are hidden as well. All peasants found on the storm path and nearby are captured or killed by fast Hulean scout units (light cavalry and goblins on dire wolves) to prevent an early discovery of the invasion.

What the PCs can do: Animals will sense the approaching sandstorm some time in advance and become nervous; a druid or a ranger may correctly interpret the cause of their agitation; the same could be true for characters possessing magical abilities or exceptional senses. This could induce the PCs to stay vigilant, equip themselves and exit the inn. They could also discover some Hulean infiltrators leading to the same results of Phase #1, albeit with less time available for the City Watchmen to organize.

Phase #3: Just before dawn

Just before dawn the infiltrated archers quickly dispatch the Darokinian city guards at the Southern Gate, taking their positions in Darokinian uniforms. A fire is started in Umbarth Castle to pin the local garrison and divert City Watchmen away from the Southern Gate. This is also the signal to the approaching invading forces that the Southern Gate is in Hulean hands.

What the PCs can do: If they are awake and outside the inn they could help in putting out the fire at Umbarth Castle - possibly discovering some of the infiltrated archers nearby (see Phase #1, albeit by this stage the City Watchmen will have little extra time to use) - or they could discover that the Southern Gate is now manned by impostors. If the PCs try to attack the Southern Gate they will likely be repelled by the entrenched enemy archers. A fight at the Gate or an alarm sent by the PCs will lead to a major alert by the City Watchmen and at least a hastily prepared regiment of guards will be sent at the Southern Gate; in this case all infiltrated Hulean units will converge to the gate in the desperate attempt to hold it until reinforcement arrives, easing the situation at Umbarth Castle. The rest of the Watchmen in the City will prepare for battle.

Phase #4: Dawntime

Alrethus sends the storm toward the city walls; the whole Regular unit follows hidden behind the storm front, entering the Southern Gate which is opened by the infiltrated archers. The Hulean Reserve unit establishes in the hamlet in front of the Western Gate (the Gate is not attacked) and sweeps the Sindhis Slums; those who not flee are captured or killed. The Command Post is established at the local watch tower.

What the PCs can do: Magic users may study the approaching sandstorm and deduce its magical nature. If they fly above the storm they will easily discover the Hulean army and may be able deliver the information to the City Watchmen, provided they manage to dodge the mages and archers on the flying airboats. If the PCs are fighting at the Southern Gate (see Phase 3 above) they could help rebuffing the invading forces together with the local watchmen, providing much needed time for the defenders to organize and send other units to the gate.

Phase #5: Early morning

Alrethus lifts the storm some 30 feet above ground level and centers it on the city docks. The storm is kept in place by the efforts of the mages of Legion of Doom Regiment 3 which floats above the sandstorm on the airboats and control it. Visibility at Umbarth Castle and on the hill is close to zero and strong winds hinder movements and communications, at the same time nourishing the fire started by the infiltrated archers. Regiments 5 and 7 of Hulean Regular Unit garrison the Southern Gate together with the rest of the Hulean archers, while the other regiments of the Regular unit sweep through the city streets to create chaos and isolate the defenders. Regiment 3 (light cavalry) is dispatched to the city docks to burn as many ships as possible. According to X10 module by this time the PCs realize the city is under attack.

What the PCs can do: They can flee the city with the rest of the population, they can help isolated groups of refugees or City Watchmen against superior number of enemies, they can rally the population against the invaders, they can try to close or collapse the Southern Gate to stop the inflow of enemies, they can fly to the airboats and attack the Hulean mages there in the attempt to disrupt their control of the sandstorm (if they manage to down at least two airboats the sandstorm starts moving randomly following the dominant winds and then dissipates in a couple of hours). The PCs can also try to stop or delay the attack by the Hulean cavalry on the city docks to allow the ships of the local Naval Group to set sail, disengage and send distress calls to Fort Anselbury, Fort Lakeside and Akorros. This could shorten by a few days the time Darokinian reinforcements arrive to Akesoli, with important consequences for the final outcome of the battle. If the PCs are defending the Southern Gate following an early alarm they could help the Watchmen to recapture it if they succeed in slaying the commanders of Hulean Regular Unit regiment 5 and 7, leading to a Hulean retreat from the Gate and a more standard siege of the city.

Phase #6: Morning

Command from Umbarth Castle is made ineffective by the fire, by the sandstorm and by random attacks from the infiltrated archers on those who exit the castle reaching the clear area below the sandstorm (the same fate awaits messengers sent to the castle by other City Watchmen strongpoints in the city). Spontaneous resistance points are established at the Western Gate, at the Dock Guard, at the Temple district and at the Central Market. Hoping to escape from the invaders people across the city try to reach the Western Gate or the ships at the docks. Under the mounting pressure of the growing crowd, the Captain of the Western Gate (it could be Boris Staffleheim from GAZ 11) decides to open the city doors and let the people flee. Hulean Regiments 1, 2, 3 and 6 of the Guard unit are dispatched to the countryside, capturing as many as possible among those fleeing from the Western Gate. The captured people are imprisoned in the livestock corrals around the Command Post, guarded by Regiment 5 of the Guard unit.

What the PCs can do: The same as point 5), plus they can try to connect with Umbarth House to debrief the Lords and help organize the city defense, or they can take command of one of the resistance points to organize a counterattack. If the PCs are captured an imprisoned at the Command Post they may try to escape as described in X10 module. If the PCs managed to recapture the Southern Gate then no invasion by sweeping Hulean troops and no escape of citizen will occur; moreover the City Watchmen will have enough time to organize a proper defense. Ships with messengers will be sent across Amsorak Lake to Akorros, Fort Anselbury and Fort Lakeside asking for reinforcements. They will be possibly chased by one or two Hulean flying airboats. The PCs will be seen as heroes by the troops and will be encouraged to contact the city leaders at Umbarth House, where they will be offered commanding positions.

Phase #7: Midday and early afternoon

Once the Southern Gate is firmly in Hulean hands part of the enemy units garrisoned here and part of those sweeping the city streets converge at Umbarth Castle and seize it, capturing or killing the lords of Umbarth House.

What the PCs can do: The same as point 5) and 6) plus they can organize the defenders of Umbarth Castle or try to extract the Lords of Humbart House out to safety. If the PCs managed to recapture the Southern Gate they will be asked to lead raids in the enemy camp to gather intelligence or free captured citizens, to repel enemy attacks along the fortifications or to find a way to dissipate the magical sandstorm.

Phase #8: Later events

The remaining resistance points come under siege by the Hulean invaders and fall within the next 1-2 days. The city of Akesoli is conquered by the Master's forces.

What the PCs can do: By this time the city is doomed; the PCs may only help defenders and refugees to fight their way out of the siege and flee to the nearby Darokinian garrison (fort Anselbury, fort Lakeside or Akorros across the lake). If the PCs managed to recapture the Southern Gate they will be asked to do the same things of Phase #7, the strategy of Umbarth House is to resist and hold the city until reinforcements arrive.

Comments on the PCs actions:

PC actions may change the course of the battle, especially if they intervene at Phases #1, #3, #4 and #5.
As a rule of thumb, the earlier their intervention, the greater the impact on the final outcome of the Hulean blitz on Akesoli.
If the PCs are accommodated at the Next Door Inn before the beginning of the attack they will have the opportunity to spot some of the infiltrated archers moving on the roofs of nearby buildings. If they are suspicious and fast enough they could send some early warning to the City Watchmen. If they are inquisitive they could discover the treachery at the Southern Gate and could face some 40 enemy archers hidden in elevated and fortified positions. If they manage to resist and put up a fight then the city defenses will wake up. If, after the stand against the archers, the PCs behave like true heroes and stay at the Southern Gate when the Hulean reinforcements arrive they have the opportunity to turn the tide of the battle. If they manage to defeat two enemy leaders - a hill giant leader and a bugbear leader with their retinues - then the Southern Gate is recaptured by the City Guards and the city is most likely saved. The PCs have earned it.

If the Southern Gate falls and the battle rages on in the streets of Akesoli, PCs actions can make the difference anyway. They may succeed in rallying the population and the dispersed city guards around themselves (this scenario is contemplated in X10 module) and join one of the City Watchmen strongpoints at the Western Gate, at the Docks, at the temple complex, at Umbarth Castle or at the Bazaar (or they could establish a new strongpoint for themselves); with the help of their followers the PCs could lead sorties against the invaders and secure other parts of the city; albeit difficult, if they manage to repel the Hulean attacks for a few days - and early distress calls are dispatched such as those described in Phase #5 - the city of Akesoli will be saved as well.

In any case, if Darokinian reinforcements manage to reach Akesoli when large pockets of resistance are still active in the city then the Huleans will retreat and the city will be safe in Darokinian hands, for the moment.
Most of the reinforcements will likely come from Fort Anselbury; they could be Regular Legions XII, XVII, XVIII and a Reserve Legion chosen among XXVIII, XXIX and XXX (the other two units will be left guarding the Fort). Moreover, further relief may come from the rest of the Darokinian VIth Naval Group: 14 warships sailing from Akorros plus all other warships of Akesoli that managed to leave the city at Phase #5 - up to a maximum of 27 warships overall - carrying as many Legionaries as possible.

Hulean forces Breakdown list:

Actions by the regular unit regiments are detailed in X10 while I added actions for the regiments of the Guards and of the Legion of Doom special units according to the Battle Plan above.

Hulean Headquarters:

Alrethus M 19
Alrethus assistants: M7, 3 M5
Regular unit commander: F 10
Regular unit deputy commander: F 8
Guards unit commander: F 10
Guards unit deputy commander: F 8
Heroes (both units): M6, M5, C8, C6

Hulean Regular Division:
Personnel: 994 + 20 non combatants

2 stone giants --- stationed at the command post
2 wood juggernauts: crew of 10 non combatants --- both sweep through the streets alone
Regiments 1-2 (Fangriders): 124 goblins on dire wolves --- Both regiments sweep through the streets divided into 12 groups each
Regiments 3-4 (Faris): 124 light cavalry on war horses --- One regiment attacks the docks trying to burn ships, the other sweeps through the streets divided into 12 groups
Regiments 5-6 (Foe Shredders): 165 bugbears --- 1 regiment guards the gate, the other sweeps through the streets divided into 16 groups
Regiments 7-8 (Reavers): 41 hill giants --- 1 regiment guards the gate, the other sweeps through the streets divided in 20 groups
Regiments 9-10 (Devourers): 41 trolls --- Both regiments sweep through the streets divided into 20 groups each

Hulean Guards Division:
Personnel: 892 + 20 non combatants

2 wood juggernauts: crew of 10 non combatants --- stationed at the command post
Regiments 1-2: 124 goblins on dire wolves --- Both regiments patrol the countryside capturing fleeing citizens
Regiments 3-4: 124 light cavalry on war horses --- One regiment patrol the countryside capturing fleeing citizens the other is stationed at the command post
Regiments 5-6: 165 bugbears --- One regiment guards the imprisoned citizens, the other patrol the countryside capturing fleeing citizens
Regiments 7: 40 hill giants --- stationed at the command post
Regiment 8: 40 trolls --- stationed at the command post

Legion of Doom special detachments:
Personnel involved: 244 + 80 non combatants

Regiment 3 (Zafiries): 80 combat mages --- used to deliver half of the archers of the flying airboats inside the city the night before the attack and to help control the magical sandstorm the day after
Part of Regiment 8 (Doomflyers): 4 flying airboats with a crew of 20 non combatant skeletons and 41 archers each --- Half of the archers drop in the city the night before the attack to open the southern city gate at dawn, while most of regiment 3 is embarked the day after to help Alrethus control the magical sandstorm from above.

Akesolian forces breakdown list:

This list is the same appearing in the introductory article about Akesoli.

City Watchmen Company (4 units; commands at Southern Gate, Western Gate, Dock Guard and Umbarth Castle)

Personnel: 214
Commander: Captain, F6, except for Boris Staffleheim, which is a F10
Deputy Commander: F5
Hero: F4, C4
Regiments 1-2: each with 30 light infantry F1 armed with swords, 1 sergeant F2
Regiment 2: 40 archers F1 with long bows, 1 sergeant F2
Regiment 3: 40 archers E1 with long bows, 1 sergeant E2
Regiment 3: 40 light cavalry F1 with short bows, 1 sergeant F2 on war horses
Regiment 4: 30 light cavalry E1 with long bows, 1 sergeant E2 on war horses

House Umbarth Home Guards (1 unit at Umbarth castle)

Personnel: 81
Commander: Captain E6
Heroes: E5, C5
Regiment 1: 30 archers E1 with long bows, 1 sergeant E3
Regiment 2: 30 light infantry F1 , 1 sergeant F3
Regiment 3: 15 light cavalry E2 , 1 sergeant E4 on war horses

VIth Darokin Naval Group (1/2 unit, the other half is stationed at Akorros)

Personnel: 423 + 80 nonfighting sailors
Commander: Captain, F5
Regiments 1-6: each with 53 marines on two small sailing ships (10 nonfighting sailors each)
Regiment 13: 104 marines on a large sailing ship converted to troop transport (20 nonfighting sailors)