I play a Kaiu Engineer (Battle being a School Skill for me) and I enjoy playing the strategist part a lot. So far, my GM has allowed me to use the Battle Skill for a couple other uses apart from as a strategist during a Mass Battle, like playing Go (with Battle/Intelligence) and to make a plan for the party before engaging a group of enemies (with Battle/Intelligence as well). I'm worried that as the campaign progresses, my character will be less useful in combat so I'd like to know if there are any good uses for the Battle Skill during skirmishes, like helping out my teammates to avoid attacks, or give them raises when attacking, etc.
Battle is a poorly written skill, in the entirety of the core book I can only find 3 example usages;
- A generic contested roll between Generals to determine which side is winning a Mass Combat.
- A Heroic opportunity involving a contested roll to track down a specific enemy within a Mass Combat.
- A Battle/Intelligence roll to determine how an NPC died and what killed them.
This doesn't give you much to work with, but it does leave it open to interpretation. Personally, I would allow it to be replace Lore(War) entirely.
- Try using it to evaluate terrain for potential ambushes (either avoiding an unfavourable fight or setting up one of your own) and defensible positions where you can only be attacked by a few enemies at a time or their archers/cavalry are hindered in some way.
- Determine where the bandit camp is based on reports of where they attacked from, then systematically cut off their access to supplies.
- If you know who you are fighting you can gain insight on their military history and favoured tactics, allowing you to counter them.
- "If it were me, I'd have the archers fire a volley right about now, take cover"
It's up to your GM what mechanical effects these have on the skirmish as there aren't any specific rules for the situations I have outlined. The existence of a Skirmish emphasis for the skill does indicate that it can be used to aid in smaller fights but finding a use for it within one is likely situational.
Perhaps ask your GM if you can create an Advantage together using Leadership (Core, p.151), Tactician (Core, p.154) or Sage of Sword and Fan (Sword and Fan, P.202) as a base. You make a battle roll and if you succeed you give a benefit or hindrance to one participant in the skirmish.
That I can confirm with RAW, I know Mastery 5 adds Battle skill to skirmish initative. And more on the assumption side than explicitly stated, emphasis in skirmish should take effect on initiative rolls in a skirmish
As for tactical applications, by having such a high initiative, your character can use that high initiative to grapple, entangle, or other ways of interfering with an opponent's action which helps your party by proxy. To directly aid your party members, you can immediately choose to Guard them, or otherwise alert your party to other opportunities. However, a lot like a Knowledge, Battle is a good way for your GM to tell you things that your character might know, that you don't. Examples include, but are not limited to:
Detecting enemy forces (whether they've seen you or not)
- Predicting enemy movements, which beyond the obvious can include things like patrol timings, and ways to avoid/find scout parties
- Assessing terrain, which if you don't play with a board can "create" things to play off of
- Assessing quality of enemy training, or things you might have overlooked when planning aloud with the party.