Out there, they were the only reliable food source that wasn't marsh root. In the city, they were the food of the poor and the canal rats, too plain, too simple and too basic for city tastes.
That was the problem laid out on the planning table. Since the Red Devils had arrived the forces of Mars had forgotten the basics. What worked for beating down a rebellious hill tribe wasn't going to water the crops here. These off-worlders knew what they're doing and with arms better than any seen on Mars since before Seldon. Far too often, brash warband leaders had charged the Red Men head on, trusting force of will to overcome force of arms. Far too often they had failed - cut down by measured rifle fire. That many of these officers were militant members of the Ground Cleansers was something of a bonus - there is no room for fanaticism on the battle field.
He picked up a sheaf of papyrus covered with rows of figures. They covered every battle and skirmish since the arrival of the Red Men that his agents could find data for. The solution to the off worlder menace was somewhere in those numbers. He had sent a house servant down to the human quarter to purchase an assortment of toy warriors - in metal no less. To live in a world where good metal was wasted on children's toys...
No matter. Beginning with what was known, he laid out the first problem: A head on charge into the Red Men's line.
Unlike the massed unit tactics used in the old wars between the city states, the Red Men usually formed their men into a line two deep facing the enemy
This was vulnerable to being broken through in melee, but allowed all of the rifles to fire.
The Red Men's guns had so far proven to be most effective starting at about 320 paces* This was just beyond the distance a regular cutter column could be expected to charge in one battle phase. So a measured move of just under 160 paces would be required to stay out of the most effective range. (regular foot move is 18", close range for rifles is 16") He shuffled through the sheets of reed paper. There it was: with the normal unit of 20 Red Devils firing against a column, there was a 1 in 6 chance of each red man hitting something but also a chance each hit would be harmless. (base hit 6, long range +2, target in column -1 for a final to hit of 7 which is 6 with saves on a 1 or less = 20 x .167 (1 in 6) = 3.34 less save of 3.34x.167 (1 in 6) = .5 therefore 3 hits ) So that would be... about 3 warriors taken out of the battle. Having taken casualties, trained troops can be expected to falter in the attack.... (morale 8 - 3 hits = morale 5 2d6 for 5 or less =27.8% ~30% ) a little more than 2/3s of the time and stand idle and possibly receive round after round of fire until they break and run. (Check on a 6, or 7 - 29% combined, Shaken on an 8+, 41%)
Not good. But running away might be their best option anyway. If the Red Men gain the upper hand, that is another round of fire for another 2 warriors down and another chance to for them to break and run. Even if the warriors keep the initiative and charge in... that's 20 rifles with those infernal magazines at point blank range... (base hit 6, target in column -1 and charging -1 for a final hit of 4 or .667. 2 dice per rifle at short range so 40 x .667= 27 hits ) and the warriors are completely wiped out. An inglorious and pointless death whatever the Worm Priests might say.
Now where are those reports - ah here. For open order after the first move we have can expect: (base hit 6, +2 for long range +1 for open order is a to hit of 6 with saves on 3 in 6. This give around two unsaved hits. Morale 8 -2 hits for final morale 6 ~41.6% . As above check on a 7 or 8 ~30% and shaken on 9+ ~28% ) two warriors injured and a failed attack 3 of five times. And these numbers are for Canal regulars, the mercenaries would be less steady in the fight. As expected, frontal assault was not the way forward.
The temple bells sounded across the city marking the midday meal and prayer. The pungent smell of smoked river eel drifted up from the kitchen below. Oh'ktava'an neatly stacked the reed sheets. There has to be a better way, but first lunch.
*Yes, I am throwing a 0 on the end of the range in inches and calling it paces and changing turn to battle phase just to make the story work. ;)