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Thread: BailianSteel's Art of Siege

  1. #1

    Default BailianSteel's Art of Siege

    Not so long ago I decided to undertake a few campaigns where I manually fought through siege assaults. As these are usually guaranteed to be time-intensive, I've preferred to autoresolve, even though autoresolve does not seem to realistically account for the force multipliers of fortifications. Over time I've noticed a few things that are not immediately obvious. This guide also assumes that you are working on limited battle timers. Sieges are probably the only battles that can time a battle out before you're finished.


    • You can run with ladders. For a long time I've assumed you couldn't, because you can't run with any other form of siege equipment, but then I saw the AI running with ladders. It may tire out your soldiers at a quick rate, but if you're racing to get a unit onto a weak spot on the walls, it might well be worth it.
    • You can reuse siege equipment that isn't broken or occupied. Battering rams, siege towers, and even ladders. Once one unit has scaled a wall or broken through a gate, another unit can equip the siege engine and use it again. This can help greatly with putting multiple units on a wall, or through it, if you're besieging a Town-level settlement.
    • If you're defending, it is better to try and stop a unit from moving freely rather than try and crush them at the point of entry. Unless you're confident that you can destroy/break a unit quickly, units scaling a wall with ladders or siege towers can push aside your units if you try and stop them at their point of entry. It almost always turns into a slog, in which case it is better to stand to the side of a besieger's ladder and wear down their numbers and stamina. The same principle applies to gates, in my game the besieging AI always pours their army in after breaking the gate, like a human battering ram. A few times I've underestimated the weight of numbers, and this got the units I posted at the gates annihilated.
    • I've found Phalangitai to be quite useful at sieges. The lack of lethality that hounds their implementation in Medieval 2 is still here, but EBII pikemen are durable enough that they are very good at tiring out enemy units, whether you're defending or attacking. In the cramped streets their strengths are maximized.


    The principles to my Art of Siege are as follows:


    1. Maximize points of entry. Controlling venues of movement is the key to winning siege battles. The more units you have on a wall, the better. Also try and attack multiple walls at once, ideally from at least 3 sides.
    2. Shepherd your stamina. In siege battles there's very few opportunities to flank and the AI moves too fast for arrow towers to make a great difference (or if you're on the offense, the arrow towers will be working against you.) In which case you must make up for any deficiencies in armor, skill, and numbers with the stamina of your soldiers. Whether you're attacking or defending, always endeavor to have fresh or mildly fatigued soldiers attack tired enemy forces. Rotate out tired soldiers, delegate different tasks to fresh units, sometimes you might find it to your benefit to rest your units.
    3. Preserve your elite units. Think before using your elite units carelessly. Although heavily armored elite units using shields are an ideal choice for scaling the walls with fewer losses, it is critical to keep them in good shape to let them bolster the morale of your units, oppose enemy elites, or finish off the enemies in the center.
    4. Seize the center. While I rarely manage to hold the center for the 20 minutes required to score a victory, threatening to seize the center will cause the enemy to divert forces to reclaim it. This provides a golden opportunity to allow some slacking elements to push through or the movement allows you to entrap the enemy. I often prefer to march Phalangitai to the center when I can, as they are effective in barricading the enemy from reaching their center. A few times I've slain the hostile FM/General when they rush to reclaim their center and are skewered by the Phalangitai I've posted there.



    My minimum recommended loadout for a besieging army (assuming an evenly balanced opposition of over 10 units):

    1x Elite Infantry (Ideally heavily armored infantry, eg. Hypaspistai, Dranik Gund, Arkoi, Sacred Band, etc.)

    3x Heavy Infantry (Hoplitai, Keltoi Retainers, etc.)

    3x Line Infantry (Kingetos Uisuparanon, Thureophoroi, Payadag i Kardakan, etc.)

    3x Cavalry. Yes, cavalry. Even in the case where spies haven't compromised the enemy's gates, they can still be useful. Post them to your secondary avenues of assault and rush them in once you have the gate open. Obviously they won't be too useful in street fighting, but the mobility they grant can allow for riding down fleeing units, which would be invaluable for reducing the amount of opposition you'll have to cut down in the end. This can also allow for flanking maneuvers that can break a cluster of enemies.

    Skirmishers...I honestly find them a little useless, with the exception of the last stage of the battle, the grind in the center. Naturally the vast majority of them are no good at seizing the walls, those few that are should be counted as one of the infantry categories listed above. The cover that walls usually grant the enemy renders them nigh useless as far as I'm concerned. I rarely find that putting them on top of the walls to fire at the enemy to be worth it. There are still two ways they can contribute to the battle. The first is that should your infantry be making no progress, the skirmishers can attempt to scale an unguarded section of the wall. The second is in the final grind, where you can position the skirmishers to fire into the backs of your enemies, which should appreciably thin them out. They also have surprising utility in tiring the enemy out, if you're defending and post them in the center.

    I don't have much use for Siege Engines. They're just too weak and slow. The stone-thrower isn't that good at tearing down walls. At least, not good enough to justify expenditures worth 3 Line Infantry units. The anti-personnel weapon may be more effective than skirmishers, but it still can't match up to good ol' fashioned fast and coordinated assault.

    If you're playing Romani...well, you don't really need a guide for unit composition. You'll have Heavy Infantry to spare at all times.

  2. #2

    Default Re: BailianSteel's Art of Siege

    Excellent insights. I'd like to argue though that siege engines are quite useful if you must take a settlement on the turn you besiege it, especially if it's a settlement that benefits from the garrison script. In that case your point of creating as many points of entry as possible ties in. It's going to be a lot more grindy because your solders can't overwhelm the defenders on the walls, but rather slowly fight them at breach points, but at least you can create more of those breach points against smaller walls.

    Also, skirmishers are vital if you're a scummy player like me who orders them to unload their ammo on the backs of their enemies. Do whatever you can to establish good angles to do so - moving your skirmishers around the settlement for level 1 walls, or having them lend fire support on the ramparts after they've been cleared by your heavy troops.

  3. #3

    Default Re: BailianSteel's Art of Siege

    Personally I find skirmishers very useful in sieges for quickly capturing gates and city squares. Disclaimer: good quality skirmishers capable of stand and fight.

    I also find lithoboloi useful, but they require experience grinds so those fine man can hit anything without wasting half of their ammo. Recruited when there's spare income for this, then used on non-essential targets like pallisaded towns just so they can get experience before being sent to serious sieges. With a unit trained enough you can punch more holes in the city walls than the enemy can defend.
    Last edited by Satapatiš; August 13, 2020 at 12:49 PM.
    Furthermore, I believe that Rome must be destroyed.


  4. #4

    Default Re: BailianSteel's Art of Siege

    If you're defending, it is better to try and stop a unit from moving freely rather than try and crush them at the point of entry. Unless you're confident that you can destroy/break a unit quickly, units scaling a wall with ladders or siege towers can push aside your units if you try and stop them at their point of entry. It almost always turns into a slog, in which case it is better to stand to the side of a besieger's ladder and wear down their numbers and stamina. The same principle applies to gates, in my game the besieging AI always pours their army in after breaking the gate, like a human battering ram. A few times I've underestimated the weight of numbers, and this got the units I posted at the gates annihilated.
    Can you explain this one more, I'm not quite sure I understood you. Btw if I am defending a gate, I try to create a "mouth", so the enemy units are encircled from three sides, so its never one unit defending but several.

  5. #5

    Default Re: BailianSteel's Art of Siege

    I've done another round of testing with the Lithobolos (rock thrower,) and it seems like I did something horribly wrong with my usage of Lithobolos in sieges, or I completely misremembered the results. My conclusion back then was that it would take up to ten minutes and half of it's ammo to open a single breach. I recently tested the Lithobolos on some generous Galatian volunteers and it takes a handful of hits in a few minutes to open a breach on a 6000 household level wall. So I'll have to retract my statement on the Lithobolos being too weak.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shoebopp View Post
    Excellent insights. I'd like to argue though that siege engines are quite useful if you must take a settlement on the turn you besiege it, especially if it's a settlement that benefits from the garrison script. In that case your point of creating as many points of entry as possible ties in. It's going to be a lot more grindy because your solders can't overwhelm the defenders on the walls, but rather slowly fight them at breach points, but at least you can create more of those breach points against smaller walls.


    Also, skirmishers are vital if you're a scummy player like me who orders them to unload their ammo on the backs of their enemies. Do whatever you can to establish good angles to do so - moving your skirmishers around the settlement for level 1 walls, or having them lend fire support on the ramparts after they've been cleared by your heavy troops.
    Thanks. I admit that my perception of the siege engines may suffer bias from the...sub par results I've gotten from their use on the battlefield. I am very much a fan of fast-moving, micro-heavy flanking and surrounding maneuvers, and these have often left siege engines vulnerable to flanking attacks or I get annoyed by how static the flank guarding the siege engines is.

    By the same token I prefer to break the enemy's morale whenever possible so I don't have to go through the final grind in the center. I often march Phalangitai to claim the center, as they have the mass to physically bar hostile reinforcements from reclaiming it, which gives me time to send them all into flight. Though even when I do try for a cleaner approach, I still have to go through that grind most of the time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Satapatiš View Post
    Personally I find skirmishers very useful in sieges for quickly capturing gates and city squares. Disclaimer: good quality skirmishers capable of stand and fight.


    I also find lithoboloi useful, but they require experience grinds so those fine man can hit anything without wasting half of their ammo. Recruited when there's spare income for this, then used on non-essential targets like pallisaded towns just so they can get experience before being sent to serious sieges. With a unit trained enough you can punch more holes in the city walls than the enemy can defend.
    A speedy capture of the center has it's appeal, but how do you handle the AI falling back to the square to recapture it? Even professional-grade skirmishers will suffer from FM bodyguards and whatever heavy infantry the AI has in the settlement.

    How many chevrons does an engine need before it sees a marked improvement on accuracy?


    Quote Originally Posted by The Despondent Mind View Post
    Can you explain this one more, I'm not quite sure I understood you. Btw if I am defending a gate, I try to create a "mouth", so the enemy units are encircled from three sides, so its never one unit defending but several.
    Sometimes not even several units would help, since if the AI is putting you under siege they'll usually have the edge in both quantity and quality. The human battering ram they form swamps your men and dogpiles them like zombies. You have to give the AI army space so that they don't crush your units.

    The gist of that point is that it is better to let the enemy get a foothold in and try to stop them from further moving further in than it is to try and prevent them from from getting onto your walls at all. I imagine people's first instinct to seeing a siege tower or ladder approach their walls is to directly oppose the landing, but like with the gates, it is better to give the enemy space to get on the wall and stop them from moving further in, assuming you have the manpower to surround the breach from both sides. If you try to directly oppose their landing then they will physically barge your units aside, compare that to the usual wall-to-wall fighting which is incredibly grindy.

  6. #6

    Default Re: BailianSteel's Art of Siege

    Quote Originally Posted by BailianSteel View Post
    A speedy capture of the center has it's appeal, but how do you handle the AI falling back to the square to recapture it? Even professional-grade skirmishers will suffer from FM bodyguards and whatever heavy infantry the AI has in the settlement.
    Considering that I rarely assault cities without having numeric advantage over the defenders (otherwise I besiege and wait for their sallies if the defenders are roughly equal in numbers), for taking the square I pair skirmishers with a faster line infantry unit following them. If there's too many defenders, then skirmishers just limit themselves to shooting at the defenders back and flanks. But the biggest advantage of having skirmishers is to have them running along the city walls and taking all towers and opening all gates on their way. If the timing is right then I can enter the city with cavalry units and attack the defenders in their backs.

    The commando units don't have to be skirmishers. Faster line infantry like Machairophoroi can do this too. But usually it's skirmishers who's the fastest foot in the army.


    Quote Originally Posted by BailianSteel View Post
    How many chevrons does an engine need before it sees a marked improvement on accuracy?
    About two bronze chevrons and I was able to reliably count on them to knock down the city towers and walls in a timely manner. Before it was taking too much time. It's a waste of ammo to try to destroy the gates, though. No matter the accuracy, lithobolos missiles collide with the gatehouse hitbox and deliver to the building instead of the gate.
    Siege artillery gets experience fast, though. They almost always deliver kills and almost never take casualties.
    Last edited by Satapatiš; August 14, 2020 at 04:25 PM.
    Furthermore, I believe that Rome must be destroyed.


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