Standing orders allow most types of training/transfer orders to be implemented between standard turns on production day. Production orders issued to population segments are implemented before production and standing transfer/training orders are implemented after production. The L2 rules mention this as a good way of redistributing items and equipment prior to training soldiers (soldier training can also be a standing order, the character action to do so is deducted from the next turn), and also as a way of moving characters around between guilds and forces in the same province to confuse enemies. Standing orders can be issued either in your normal turn or in a production turn.
1. reinforcing a garrison
However, standing orders have other, less obvious, uses. For example, let us say that you are in a game with turns every 14 days and production once a month. Before your last turn of the month an ally of yours sights a large enemy army nearby. You have your main legion a couple of provinces away from your home location and want to use it to reinforce the garrison. Normally this will take 2 turns, moving your legion back to the home province and the turn after transferring them in. But the one turn delay may well be fatal. So if your legion arrives back in your home province on your last turn before production, you can save them twiddling their thumbs outside your walls for a whole turn by writing a standing order to transfer the soldiers in on production.
It helps to know enemy process dates for this. Lets say production is on the 20th of each month. Your last turn before production in this particular month is the 15th. If you know that the threatening enemy position processed last on the 10th, you therefore know his next turn is due at the earliest on the 24th which means that he can't attack your home location until after production. You may learn of the enemy legion from an ally's scout reports or scries after your turn on the 15th but before production on the 20th. In that case you can still issue a standing order by sending it in a production turn.
Standing orders are very useful in this situation, but of course only if the enemy's next turn is after production.
It is worth remembering that you can also re-equip slots in standing orders. This can be handy to combine slots if you need to make space for a slot you want to transfer in. You can also put smaller and weaker slots containing incompatible soldiers out of the way by transferring them into a guild.
This is a handy security measure even if there is no obvious threat, and the more so the greater the gap between production and your subsequent turn - its always safer to use a standing order to transfer in soldiers that have arrived outside your walls. But this is only the start. You can do more complex things with standing orders. One is the ambush.
2. the ambush.
Lets take the same processing dates as the above example. Your next turn is the 15th, production is on the 20th, and the enemy's turn is on the 24th. Lets suppose an ally of yours (who processes after the enemy's turn of the 10th but before your turn of the 15th) sights the enemy army that you suspect is going to go for your home location about a turn's move away (and don't forget he may be able to cast the charm of movement spell). You have 2 smallish legions, neither of which can quite reach your home location. If they could, you could send them to your home province and transfer them in using standing orders. However, what you can do is to interpose them between the enemy army and your home location by sending them to a province they can reach ( assemble the army) and use a standing order to put them in one force (concentrate the army). In that case, in your turn of the 15th you can do the following:
- Find the route the enemy legion will take to your home province by preparing a dummy movement order for the enemy legion. You can do this by preparing an LPE movement order for that unit by selecting "other force" as sponsor (which requires that you write in the force ID) and then plotting the route but aborting the order once the LPE shows the route it would take.
- Find a province on that route where your legions can rendezvous (hereafter called the ambush province).
- Activate a force in the ambush province.
- Set the retreat percentages, reserve slot options and allocate combat slots for characters that the activated force will need.
- Plot and input movement orders of your two legions to that province.
- Give the activated legion appropriate encounter orders (see below).
- Then in the standing order part of your turn transfer everything - soldiers. items, characters, from both legions to the activated force.
(Note you can simply transfer everything into one of the existing legions, but a fresh force ID minimises the risk that an ally of the enemy will do a routine tracking scry on it and see what you have done).
If the combined legion is not strong enough to offer the enemy legion battle but is strong enough to block, then issue blocking encounter orders (like, "block any force when the race of soldiers is X and is more than/less than n soldiers", or if the legion is mixed race "block any force up to Y soldiers", where Y is 10 times the number of soldiers in your legion).
You can fine-tune this by, for example, sending a third legion with reinforcements from your HL to join the force-hop. You can also train extra soldiers in the standing order to strengthen the garrison. You can even send some unskilled population, crowns, equipment and a troop trainer to the ambush province and have the character train troops into the new legion.
If your combined legion is still too small to even block, you could sacrifice it by setting a high retreat percentage, give it sacrificial encounter orders and hope to trigger a battle (which uses 15 movement points (MPs) rather than a skirmish which uses no MPs and pray that the 15 MPs charged to the enemy is enough to prevent him reaching your home province.
If your combined legion is big enough to offer battle with a good chance of winning you can issue raid orders. If you defeat the enemy army this way it is forced to end its movement right there. This means you can hit it again in your turn as a mil1 raid (the encounter battle takes place in the enemy's turn, of course), or even hit it twice, moving back into the province which will trigger your encounter orders.
All this requires timing. You need to know when the enemy processes. Standing orders work best when your last turn of the month is not too long before production and when you know that the enemy's next turn is soon after production. The longer it is between your last turn and production the less useful standing orders are, as it gives the enemy faction time to probe, scout and scry. The closer your last turn of the month is to the production date the better, as it reduces the likelihood of scouts allied to the enemy sighting your legions gathered together, alerting him to what you are up to. In fact, it might be advantageous to delay your turn a day or two to achieve this. By the same token, the sooner the enemy processes after production the better, because it reduces the chance of one of his allies' scouts sighting the new combined ambushing legion. Timing is of the essence.
It is worth bearing in mind that you can transfer anything at all in standing orders with one exception - prisoners!). You also need to do all the basic orders to set up your force in your normal turn. So you cannot use standing orders to activate forces, set retreat percentages, allocate combat slots, set reserve slot options, issue encounter and military orders, open slots for an ally or accept external transfers, all of which must be done in the basic orders of your last turn of the month. A quick check of the menu under standing orders will show you what you can and cannot do.
3. luring the enemy into an ambush
Even the inability to transfer prisoners can be turned to your advantage, by attempting to finesse the enemy into an ambush. Say you have a prisoner of the enemy in your legion. You do a standing order force-hop that necessarily leaves the prisoner alone in what had been the legion, while the new legion is much stronger than before. The enemy scries the original legion, thinks you have forgotten to transfer the prisoner and sees it as an easy way to grab him back. He sends his army in to raid the legion, which triggers your encounter orders. You could, of course, achieve the same end by deliberately leaving a single slot or important character.
4. getting your main character safely into a module location.
If your main needs to go to a module location to try to influence it, the period it sits in its party inside the location is a dangerous time. An enemy may have a party there as well, and if he processes after you he may be alerted to your arrival and call down onto your party an ally who has a flying lairbashing party to enter the location and do an "attack party" military order (mil order 11) in order to do you over and hope to capture you. Even if you are too strong to kill, the wounds are likely to be enough to give you a one in seven hells chance of influencing the location owner.
Use a standing order to transfer your main in, choosing a guild with the most soldiers in it. If you sense the situation is particularly dangeous and there is a long gap between your last turn of the month and production, it will mean you are going to be exposed for a long time anyway before you can transfer in using a standing order. It may not then even be worth transferring in on production if you know your enemies process before this. In that case you may need to take other measures to protect your main (like having a bodyguard and invisibility to prevent capture) or simply postpone going there to influence until next month when production is soon after your last turn of the month.
Keep it simple! The very first occasion I used my standing orders strategically like this, I took the opportunity to do a lot of transferring round of items, characters and soldier slots and re-equipping hoping to make use of weapons produced that could just as easily have waited until my next turn. As a result, in my subsequent turn I found it hard to keep track of what I had done in my standing orders, even after I printed them out. I was also unsure about what had worked or failed, especially involving complex slot re-equipping and soldier slot transfers and subsequent potential error cascades. This was something of a nightmare when preparing my first turn after production. So a golden rule is to keep your standing orders as simple as possible - the minimum to achieve your ends - you can do the rest of the routine stuff in your next turn.
Standing orders give you a lot of scope for inventiveness and the use of imagination. Their use should become a regular part of your strategy. Its worth devoting part of the planning of your last turn of the month to seeing how you can best use standing orders to squeeze the most out of them.