I guess it depends on the situation.
If this is a siege, then Stilton (edit … correction … wanderer makes this point) makes a great point … essentially “if you can’t attack the archers in the tower, you should probably attack the tower”.
If this is an “ambush” where the infantry was not aware of the tower being occupied, then the conflict would be more about escaping the ambush.
As a GM … I’m a bit more loose with the rules, regardless of the system … sooooo…
I’m beginning to think of the entire conflict mechanism as being just a framework, with the “test skill” table as just “standard operating procedure” suggestions. I think I would be very open to having the players use alternative skill tests in a conflict if they were able to make a persuasive argument for it.
To take the “Infantry Mouse Patrol besieges the Archer Mouse Patrol” example a bit further…
Let’s turn it into a regular fight conflict. Use the normal Fight+Nature as starting disposition. Infantry’s goal is to capture/subdue the Archers. Archer’s goal is to drive away / subdue the Infantry.
GM decides that Infantry was spotted by Archers at a distance, so he allows for an unopposed volley as action 1.
In action 2, Infantry manuevers to the base of the tower. Archers keep attacking. The desired effect is an opposed roll, which fits the narration.
In action 3, GM allows Infantry to use either Stonemasonry or Carpenter skills as a manuever to break down the tower. Archers were unaware of this possibility, so they keep attacking. Again, the desired effect is an opposed roll, which still fits the narration.
For the next set of actions, the archers successfully persuade the GM that they be allowed to use their Stonemasonry or Carpenter skills as part of Defense actions against any other “attacks or manuevers” on opening up the tower.
In essence: the “health” of the mice and the “strength” of the tower defenses has become an abstraction we call “disposition”. Depending on how far down to zero it gets, either side could end up losing this “battle”.
If both are low enough, the GM could conclude that neither are able to fulfill their goals – the archers were not able to maintain their tower and drive the enemy away, but neither were the infantry able to maintain enough unit integrity to capture/subdue the archers. In that case, neither side have control over the area, and both are dispersed away.
to Luke C, and others … would this be “too loose”, or does it fit the spirit of the game?
(edit: I was in the middle of my reply when wanderer submitted. Feel free to cut my post out as a separate discussion if that helps. I apologize if I keep butting into rules explanations… I just feel sooo empowered by MouseGuard to go back to the “good ol’ roleplaying” methods rather than the highly structured methods imposed by many other RPGs)