Flanking Focus

Approximate time to read: 4 minutes.   

Symbaroumcombat-scene-2 benefits from a loose mechanical framework that means you get just enough structure to run the game without the straitjacket craziness of having a rule for everything. I’m a firm believer in applying some common sense, but you also need to run with the rules as they best work for you. If you come from a background of wargames or tabletop with hard-and-fixed combat rules for everything you will handle things in a different way to those with a more loosey-goosey pedigree.

RoomieTorin posted a question at the weekend about Flanking on the Symbaroum forum at Reddit. He asked:

Let’s say two elves approach a ranger and engage him in close combat. One of the elves sacrifices his combat action so that he can move into a flanking position behind the ranger. We now have both elves on either side of the ranger. The next turn, the ranger’s comrade shows up and engages the elf behind the first ranger. If we were to represent this with text it would look something like this:

Ranger Elf Ranger Elf

My questions are:

1) Would you say that both the ranger and elf in the “middle” are flanked? Or just one of them?

2) Do you think that a combatant that is currently being flanked can also help an ally flank another opponent?

I can see a couple different interpretations, but I feel like this scenario would come up somewhat often if your players tend to try for flanking maneuvers. What does everyone think?

For reference, the core book has various sections relevant here, but the key one to start with would be the definition of flanking:

Flanking. To flank an enemy already engaged in melee with a combatant allied to the flanking person. This gives both flanking allies the advantage against their enemy.

From here I pick out that you flank someone who is already engaged in combat. If you only have one attack – or can attack multiple times with one target – then you will engage with only one adversary. When someone attacks an engaged combatant, that individual becomes the target of a flanking move – and any additional individuals flank, but do not engage, as the target cannot reciprocate their attacks. Therein lies the purpose of flanking and the benefits to those who use the action.

My quick response to the two questions posed would be:

  1. It depends on the focus of the individuals in the middle within the context of the overall battle situation
  2. Yes, depending on their focus and flexibility to target attacks

I’ll explain with that example:

That Flanking Example

This would be the way I would handle the outlined situation, based on the rules around the use of Combat / Movement Actions, Flanking, and the number of attacks / Active Abilities (see Actions, 158; Reactions, Free Attacks, 159; Disengage from Melee, Flanking, 161).This is my opinion based on reading the

This is my opinion based on reading the Symbaroum core rules and seeking to apply them logically. I cannot claim to be “right”; I would handle the situation this way, but you can reach your own conclusions!

Note that no member of the fight has any Abilities that allow attacks against more than one target – which would include the capacity to flank (which is a means to deliver an Attack).

Round 1
Let us assume we have a Queen’s Ranger (C13, V15, Tactician) vs two Spring Elf assailants (Q13, V11, no Abilities). The combat has not started with Surprise. The Elves engage the Ranger directly. I’ll assume the battle takes place in an open clearing amidst trees; essentially unhindered terrain.

We start here:
v Elf 2
v Elf 1
^ Ranger 1

  • Ranger 1 has initiative, Moves to reach an enemy and engage it in melee combat, attacking Elf 1
  • Elf 1 responds, attacking Ranger 1.
  • Elf 2 places herself in a flanking position in regard to this enemy (Ranger 1), who is already fighting an ally (Elf 1). The Elf comes up behind the Ranger using an extra Movement by sacrificing her Combat Action (see Flanking, p161) and avoids a Free Attack.

We end Round 1 here:
v Elf 1 (engaged R1, flanking R1)
^ Ranger 1 (engaged E1)
^ Elf 2 (flanking R1)

Round 2

At this point, Ranger 2 arrives at the rear of the clearing, behind Elf 2. Both Rangers have initiative (C13, V15) vs the Elves (Q13, V11).

  • Ranger 1 continues to attack Elf 1
  • Ranger 2 Moves to reach the enemy and engages Elf 2 in melee combat
  • Elf 1 continues to attack Ranger 1 – and does so with Flanking bonus intact
  • Elf 2 has a choice:
    • continue the original plan to attack Ranger 1 with the benefit of a Flanking bonus; in this circumstance, Ranger 2 will get a Flanking bonus next turn unless circumstances change
    • take up the Engagement with Ranger 2; Elf 2 experiences no Free Attack from Ranger 1 as he was not Engaged (R1 engaged in attack with E1); next turn Elf 1 will lose Flanking bonus as Ranger 1 is no longer having to split her attentions; Ranger 2 will lose Flanking bonus as he will be Engaged directly

So, we either have:
v Elf 1 (engaged R1, flanking R1)
^ Ranger 1 (engaged E1)
^ Elf 2 (flanking R1)
^ Ranger 2 (flanking E2)

v Elf 1 (engaged R1)
^ Ranger 1 (engaged E1)
v Elf 2 (engaged R2)
^ Ranger 2 (engaged E2)

At this juncture, you either have two separate combats or you have a pair of Elves beating up Ranger 1 while Ranger 2 takes swipes at Elf 2 who must rely on Defense alone – or the possibility they take down Ranger 1 and can then gang up on the survivor (which seems unlikely).

Abilities and Thoughts

The situation could be different if you had someone involved with attacks that could target more than one individual – as presumably you could then engage two opponents. That wouldn’t stop flanking – so the two Elves would still Flank Ranger 1 in Round 1; but, if Ranger 1 could target both Elves with an attack, he could get a strike on both in Round 1 and provide a Flanking pair with Ranger 2 in Round 2 against Elf 2. I think?!

Does this all concur with others interpretation of the rules?

Does it make sense – or does my slightly loosey-goosey approach play havoc with the crunchy reality?


  1. Yeah, this is how I’d interpret it as well. In my game I emphasise enemy focus a lot, to highlight whether our rogue is in Advantage or not.

    And yes, I’d say that attacking two different targets would mean focusing on both, which could lead to a double-flanking situation.

  2. That’s probably how I would run it as well. Without any abilities to attack multiple opponents, who you’re focused on should be important.

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