Meaning, as part of an army, and as critical targets for the enemy to take out.

We're all familiar with the hocuspocus fireballs, curses and enchantments magicians bring to the field of battle in Warhammer and other fantasy world, as well as the risk of miscast and Daemonic possession in the more grimdark settings. We are likewise familiar with how the wizards outside of Tolkien are often part of an institutionalized education system, or participants in tribal traditions. Other times they are loners seeking power, carving out their own fortune as in the Chaos Wastes. On the battlefield, they are generally portrayed as lone figures of otherworldly powers raining death upon the enemy. And normally, wizards are just plug-ins into a kind of warfare taken from some period of history.

Rule of cool and convention stands, obviously, but let's turn the tables for a while and take wizards (with their lethal and useful abilities as portrayed in fantasy settings) as a jolly free-for-all thought experiment.

One could ask how likely magocracies would be* (Chaos Dwarf society is obviously a priestly magocracy) and be welcome to speculate based upon this, or one could brainstorm based upon standard fantasy settings where wizards as a rule are not the rulers at least in human societies.

So, how would fantasy battlefields be transformed by the presence of wizards able to cast fireballs and so on? How would armies go about protecting their wizards and killing the enemy wizards? Both on and off the battlefield. If perils in the Warp-style dangers are present, how would wizards be deployed as a rule?

Tell us what you think!


Some random thoughts here would be that battle wizards generally would benefit from good vantage points and line of sight unless witch-sight mumbo jumbo can compensate for lack thereof fully; meaning high terrain might be scaled before a battle or during it, watchtowers erected and even fortified wagons with raised platforms fielded. Flying monsters ridden by wizards would of course be highly valuable.

A common battlefield sight could be lone wizards, or small clusters of them deployed on hillocks. If casting magic meant considerable danger for anyone close by, wizards deployed together would probably be spread out to not destroy their neighbours from mere proximity in case anyone goes haywire (unless some powerful ritual requires a gaggle of mages to link up in a ring or so). Likewise, unless arcane tactics of enchantment, daring element of surprise or whatever dictates otherwise, one would not expect wizards to be part of large regiments, as a rule, if that would leave fried gaps in the expensive ranks of soldiers in the middle of battle. Naturally, this is speaking from a scientific military standpoint prone to textbook clean scenarios, while real life with its excentric generals, accidents, terrain, ambushes and other freak encounters will play havoc with any textbook stuff.

Instead each wizard, being a valuable military asset, and whether riding a mount on land or on foot, would likely be accompanied by a retinue. Hangers-ons, healers and apprentices might be expected, but most importantly bodyguards. One would expect many of them to carry pavises if on foot, or at least high shields if on horse. These shields might be enchanted to better protect against magic, dragonfire and suchlike. Their pay would be better than ordinary soldiers and they would be sworn and expected to protect their wizard with their lives, or failing that to cluster around another nearby surviving wizard.

Some of the bodyguards would not be shield bearers, but watchful men with lighter shields at most, ranged weaponry and close combat weaponry. Their task would be to take out skirmishers, light cavalry and battlefield assassins (since that is a thing in fantasy) sneaking up on the wizard. Quite likely, the wizard bodyguards would often be corps of their own, with uniforms or modes of dressing and armament styles somewhat apart from ordinary soldiers (meaning modelling and painting opportunities arise). At other times their looks might not differ from the rank and file of the regiments. They might even be mercenaries.

There might also be small units of soldiers attached nearby the wizard to guard the arcane battery's rear or sides, preferably at a somewhat safe distance, or else ordinary reserve forces could be deployed like this until it's their time to enter the fray. If light torsion war engines (scorpions) or swivel guns could be built for ease of swivelling around and aiming up and down at flying opponents, then these might also be deployed around the wizard battery to deter and protect against winged monsters. If harpies or other swarms of smaller flying enemies are known to be fielded, then contingents of archers and lots of torches on poles might be placed as protection.

If wizards can perform their arcane arts while lying down, then camouflaged wizards sneaking through the bushes into advantageous positions to unleash their barrage at opportune moments from an unexpected angle for maximum schock and bewilderment might also play a part, particularly with wilder armies.

Wizards being valuable assets in war would see them become primary targets for enemy clandestine dealings and skirmishers. If they can be taken out while on the march, then all the better. Poisonings or other assassination attempts in camp could have considerable payoff, meaning bribed prostitutes, lovers and other camp followers could play a part. Paranoia on the part of many wizards would be common, and add to the commonplace disgust at their witchery, and some bodyguards would almost always cling to those taking the threat seriously (which not everyone would do, given devil-may-care attitudes and different personalities). Likewise, smaller ambushes with the intention of taking out battle wizards on the march could play a part, although if a small ambush can be set up, then a larger one might as well be attempted and devastate the entire enemy army at once.

Deception is always a factor. Some tricks might include dressing up false wizards with retinues to give the impression of stronger force than actually possessed, or just trick the enemy scouts or army on the battlefield into attacking false targets while the actual wizards are part of a flanking force, implanted in the regimental ranks or otherwise hidden until unleashed without warning and causing panic by the unexpected assault.

Just some thoughts. I'd like to hear your ideas about wizards on battlefields.

* Very likely in my opinion, with wizard warlords lording it over harems and followers in many parts of the world. Might makes right. Although this doesn't exclude non-mages from holding power and passing it down to their descendants, it does suggest that the holders of power are dependent on the loyalty of the wizards of the realm, and any pretenders for the throne wishing to duke it out in a civil war would ordinarily need to assure the backing of sizeable numbers of battle wizards to not be at a critical disadvantage; meaning institutions focusing on bringing up wizards loyal to the crown as well as educating them in their arcane craft would be likely.