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Defending Hilly Terrain

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While we all have an instinct to hold the higher ground, especially on defence, I've found there are actually advantages to surrendering the elevated position to the enemy and defending at a position below them, at the back of the hill.

This is an application of the Reverse Slope Defence, which was used with great success against France by the Duke of Wellington in the Napoleonic Wars.

Uses: On defence, especially against an artillery-heavy army with direct fire weapons (i.e. cannons.) This is ideal for armies with grenadiers and/or outnumbered/inferior artillery.

Here's a sample of how you set up:

The enemy is approaching, and they've got a LOT of cannons. Your first instinct will be to try to hold the higher ground, but doing this will expose your infantry to his artillery. You know your infantry will be cut apart if they're out in the open, so:

Give up the hill. Instead, move your army back, and deploy on the far side of the hill. Note that the reverse side of the hill has to have a steep enough slope- a gradual slope won't work nearly as well. The front of the hill will protect you from cannon fire, and, to a lesser degree, howitzer fire. If their cannons aim low, their shots will impact at the front of the hill. If they sight high, the balls will sail harmlessly overhead.

But if they brought a lot of high-trajectory artillery like mortars, though- sucks to be you.

And here's a handy-nasty tactic for reverse slope defence, if you brought grenadiers along (don't leave home without them!)

Deploy your grenadiers below the crest of the hill, at the front of your lines. They're safe, don't worry - approaching enemy musket infantry can't shoot them without direct line of fire. It's a good thing we've deployed our grenadiers so that they're in range to throw their grenades the moment the enemy infantry crests the hill to try to shoot them.

You can also apply this tactic to puckle guns and cannons loaded with canister shot: just have them wait below the crest of the hill and open fire as soon as the enemy crests.

Hopefully, this will give you an early edge in the battle, especially if you're outnumbered. Audaci Favet Fortuna!

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