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Taking a Castle with the Dark Elves. 
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Silver Khaine Winner
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Joined: Fri Jun 20, 2003 7:04 pm
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Location: Contemplating the construction of my fleet.
This article was written specifically for the sieges that are happening all the time during the SoC. With the change of targets to hit Bohsenfels I thouht that this would be a good time to release it. So without further ado I give you Ash010110 and hit siege tactics.




Druchii Siege Tactica. Part 1: Attacking.

Greetings and salutations, fellow Druchii generals. Today I would like to share with you my thoughts and experiences on besieging a fortress. This first installment of the Druchii Siege Tactica focuses on attacking; next month, we shall explore the strategies and tactics for defending a fortress. We shall start this discussion with a review of overall strategy. The siege is a very different scenario from the normal field battle, so it is vital that we understand these differences and play accordingly.

First of all, cavalry is next to useless for a Druchii besieger. Unlike the Empire, our war machines are not strong enough to topple the walls, so there is little chance that knights will find an opportune charge. However, there are some situations where a small squadron is useful (more on this later). In addition, Druchii missile weapons are not effective against troops hiding behind the walls nor on the walls itself. For the most part, we should keep our reapers and repeaters at home. This may seem counter-intuitive, but in my experience, only gunpowder weaponry or massive stone throwers have ever proved beneficial. As besiegers, we have the advantage of numbers, and it is folly to compromise this advantage for items that do not hasten our victory. With these preliminaries out of the way, we now turn to the general strategies and specific tactics for each of the three stages in an assault: approaching the walls, assaulting the castle, and securing the courtyard.

APPROACHING THE WALLS

The first stage is the easiest; we must close with the enemy before his firepower and/or magic can reduce our momentum. For this reason, flyers are worth their weight in gold in a siege. Not only do they allow us to charge the ramparts on turn 2, they bypass the defended obstacle rule, meaning that the chances of winning are very good. On their own, harpies and Pegasus-riders can take out war-machine crews. Acting together they can sorely deplete troops defending a rampart, making the subsequent infantry assault more likely to succeed. Dragons and manticores, in addition to the above, can deplete or destroy those defenders waiting in the courtyard, but the inclusion of these missile magnets should be weighed against the defender you plan on assaulting. It is my humble opinion that these monsters should not be brought unless you have the option for at least 2 lords in the assaulting army. In conclusion, flyers are the first of several keys to successfully approaching the walls.

The second key to a successful approach is unit strength. Unlike a field battle, the principles of baiters and flankers are diminished to near-insignificance. It is better to bring 24 elves in a regiment than two regiments of 12. The greater number will allow us to withstand the incoming magic and missile fire, as well as greatly improve our chances or battering down the gates and successfully storming the walls. Most important of all, it allows us to have units of sufficient combat strength to confront the elite defenders that are usually reserved in the courtyard. Remember, if we do not annihilate the defenders completely or occupy any quarters inside, the defenders win by default.

The final key is bringing a unit (or two) that can deal with the defender’s outriders. With most of the defenders behind the walls, we have unobstructed access to march full-speed at them. Notice I said ‘most;’ a few armies have flyers or fast cavalry that will sally forth to distract attention and prevent marches, thus buying time for the defending missile troops to whittle our ranks. Some of these troops (for example, Bretonnian Pegasus knights) are tougher than others (for example, Dwarven Gyrocopters), but both will slow down the advance. It therefore behooves us to bring a unit or character that can eliminate these nuisances. This is where that small unit of medium or heavy cavalry alluded to earlier comes into play. If a defender sallies out with a flying or fast-moving unit, cavalry may be the only option to catch them. One turn of blocked marches is unavoidable if the enemy puts his mind to it. . . but more than one is inexcusable for a Druchii commander. A line of knights deployed in reserve behind the advancing infantry lines can reduce the march-blocking options of the defender greatly. A character with appropriate magical or mundane equipment can also do the job admirably. A note on distances: if elves are march-blocked once, they can STILL charge on turn 3 (5” move + 10” march + 10” charge). If we are blocked twice, then we must wait till turn 4 to charge. This means we only have 3 turns to overcome the walls and secure the courtyard.

Before moving on to the next stage, we present a few specific tactics that enhance our approach. The inclusion of flyers has already been touched upon, but an additional factor is the inclusion of significant magical might. Since we will outnumber the defenders, our sorcerii will not face as much resistance as on an open field battle. The lore of choice for our deadly maidens is that of Death. Hand of Death and Wind of Death work wonders on rampart defenders which are very difficult to hit with mundane missiles. Drain Life can affect several enemy units. Steal Soul (especially on multiple wizards) can eliminate characters. Doom and Darkness increases the chance of panicking a unit off the ramparts completely. Even the usually ignored Death Dealer will allow our wall-climbers to strike as they die. For this reason, having a two-three sorcerii (or two sorcerii and a Dark Emissary) is a good investment. With the abundance of dispel dice, we can focus on aggressive equipment (such as power stones) rather than scrolls. Giving these sorcerii steeds allows them to get into range on the first turn. Of course, if we do so, a squadron of dark riders must be recruited to escort these ladies to their targets. This is not too much of a problem because the riders can double as march-block eliminators. Simply march the unit up and then about-face; the riders now have a clear view to anything that may try to harry our lines. The sorcerii should be outside the unit and slightly away so as to focus their attention on the walls while being shielded from incoming missile fire.

ASSAULTING THE WALLS

Ah, the sweet scent of blood in the morning. . . ahem, this is arguably the most fun stage of the siege. With both sides being ‘stubborn’ for all intents and purposes, the ramparts are where the most memorable of battles occur. However, this is not what we Druchii desire. Tales of valor and sacrifice provide the true definition of romantic drivel. What we wish is a quick, brutal, and efficient take-over. This means that we do NOT send our troops in piecemeal. All gate- and wall-assaulters must charge as one. As the ladders go up, the rams must strike home. So much so that it is often preferable to hold back flying characters so they can charge on turn 3 or 4 with the infantry, rather than on turn 2 with the harpies. This is another reason that it is so important to scatter any and all march blockers. If our troops assault a castle one unit at a time, the enemy will achieve local numerical superiority. In other words, while our army may outnumber his, our assaulters at the wall will be outnumbered by his troops defending the wall. If, on the other hand, we keep your march-blocked troops together with the non-blocked ones, it will be next to impossible to take the castle in 7 turns. We must keep our line together and hit the walls with an all-out rush.

In a similar vein, wall-climbers should be sent against weakened or (even better) undefended ramparts. Druchii have the maneuverability to strike the walls where the defenders are weakest. This almost always means the wall without characters and usually means the one that has already suffered from flying or magical attacks. A unit of shades with grappling hooks can easily find a section that is unmanned and that is safe from a courtyard countercharge. After spending 3-4 turns getting here, we want to spend the rest of the game securing the courtyard, not getting over/through the walls. The theme is to overwhelm the enemy. While it would be ideal to break the defenders on the assault, remember that we need only beat them in combat to swarm the ramparts (and count as charging in subsequent turns). To beat them, we need to inflict more casualties than we take, it is as simple as that.

To this end, fellow Druchii, we should bring several of ladders for each unit that will go over the walls. Two or three ladders does not equate overwhelming. It is better to have a ladder for each model in the front rank (five to seven). When the charge finally happens, we set up the ladders so they are next to each other. This means that our assaulters are fighting adjacent defender models. So rather than 2-3 defenders fighting each of our assaulters, our 6-7 assaulters are fighting 6-7 defenders. Including a noble or two on the ends so a few defending models must ‘waste’ their first-striking attacks on the well-armored hero will tip the odds even more in our favor. In larger assaults, an assassin is another cunning ploy to ensure victory. While siege rules forbid special deployment rules like scouting, it does not forbid an assassin from hiding in a unit. When he is revealed, his first-strike ability trumps those of the defenders, allowing us to surprise the defenders and clear a substantial portion of the ramparts. However, it is not prudent to include him in the smaller assaults as we must have sufficient masses of troops to take the fortification.

Regarding the gate, there is not much to say except that the log ram is more efficient than a battering ram in my experience. The movement penalty is painful, and the elves saved are more expensive than simply recruiting more elves. With Ld9 or Ld10, panic tests are mitigated, and as long as we bring 24 or more elves to carry it (no, I’m not kidding), all is well. However, I will point out that having another log ram or two to hit the walls is not a bad idea. Consider: a wall or tower section needs a 13+ to score a shaken result. With at least 8 elves carrying, the ram has S8 and does d6 wounds. Thus, on a roll of 5+, the walls are shaken, and next turn one only needs a 4+ to shake. Next turn, a 3+ is needed, and so on. So we recruit three units of warriors, give each a log ram, and deploy each unit two-elves wide. These three units then co-charge a wall or tower with their narrow frontage. Remember to roll for ram damage one at a time: the first unit that rolls a 5+ will improve the chances for the next unit to shake the structure. Three rams per combat phase will topple a wall/tower in about three-five phases. The gates will fall in similar time because these weaker structures can only be attacked by one ram at a time. Now, while this might not be a good idea to use on a wall section that we’ve taken. It works rather well on wall sections that we are losing or that we’ve ignored. Knocking down a wall the hard way may seem a waste of time, but as we’ll see in the next section, anything that allows us to secure courtyard quarters should not be ignored.

Finally, a word on siege towers. The main disadvantage of these constructions is that they do not march. However, with the pre-game move, it is possible (as long as we roll at least 4+ on two dice) for the tower to co-charge with the ladder-bearers. Deploying them is mainly a matter of personal preference, but the following races deserve extra thought when making this decision. Against skaven, I would make one tower almost mandatory, as we need something that will attract their fire. Troops manning the walls will be easily beaten by our ladder-bearers, so the only true difficulty is surviving the no-man’s-land in front of the castle. Thus, if the defenders spend their time bringing down the tower, our ladder-bearers will arrive relatively unscathed. Since we expect the tower to be destroyed, we give the tower-troops many ladders as well. Against nasty infantry forces (saurus and chaos warriors come to mind), towers will not only survive the trek, they negate the advantage of the ramparts. While ladders are sufficient for less formidable foes, it is practically suicide to employ against such aggressive foot troops. Against these enemies, it is advisable to take as many towers as possible, and we should attempt to bring as many as possible (usually two or three) against a single wall section. Against dwarves or empire, their inclusion is more hindrance than helpful. Their many war machines can easily destroy the tower, wasting the investment, and leaving the troops stranded. However, unlike skaven, those war machines cannot so easily earn their keep against foot troops (especially with flyers leaving them but two opportunities to fire). Therefore, I would advise against taking them so you can bulk up the besieging force.

In regard to selecting siege troops, corsairs are a very solid choice for scaling the walls. Their cloaks minimize incoming casualties, and the extra attack and armor in combat means that with enough ladders, they stand a slightly above average chance of beating the rampart defenders. Witch elves, however, are the ultimate in storm troopers. Their frenzy means they will shrug off casualties, and their weapon skill and numerous poison attacks means the end of many rampart defenders. These ladies excel whether assaulting with ladders or with siege towers. Inclusion of a noble and an assassin, for corsairs and witch elves, respectively, will swing the odds in our favor. As for warriors, they are best kept without repeaters (and sometimes even without shields) so that as many as possible can be recruited. These are your log-bearers and cannon-fodder. They are there to bring down the gates, perhaps even a tower or wall, and to draw enemy fire. Harpies and monstrous flyers, as have been previously discussed, are very strong in a siege, picking apart key points on the wall, or assisting the infantry with taking the wall. Shades are also very good at finding undefended wall sections to exploit. They cannot be march-blocked, and once they’ve found an empty wall to take, they can fire the troops within the walls or on nearby walls from hard cover. Finally, black guard and hydras are formidable assets, but their skills are more suited to the last stage of the siege. . .

SECURING THE COURTYARD

This is where everything comes together. After surviving the rush across the field and the breaching the defenses of the fortress, we must now pound the final nail in the coffin of our prey. This is the most difficult part of the siege. After suffering the casualties of the approach and the assault, our units will no doubt be much reduced in strength. More importantly, the defender can see where we shall break through first; this means that he can re-deploy his reserves for a devastating counter-charge. There are three strategies that Druchii may employ to secure the endgame.

The Purge: This is the most straightforward and efficient method to secure the courtyard. However, it requires considerable investment in monstrous mounts, and is thus relegated to larger sieges. The basic idea is to use a pair of highborns and a beastmaster, each riding a manticore to swiftly descend upon the courtyard defenders early in the game. The efficiency of this method is that while the foot troops are approaching and fighting on the walls, the enemy forces are being eviscerated from the inside out. The disadvantage, of course, is that against a foe that is particularly hard to rout or one that has several heavy-duty war machines, the monster-riders will not survive the approach or the protracted combats within. The second disadvantage is that in smaller assaults, those where less than two lords will appear, recruiting these flyers will leave us deficient in the mass of our infantry and the concentration of our magic. Even worse, in such small sieges, the flyers will not be numerous enough to decisively beat the courtyard defenders. For these reasons, this stratagem is reserved for large sieges; however, bear in mind that in very large sieges, the defender will have more troops available that may nullify or resist the flyers.

The Sweep: This is where hydrae, black guard, or that single unit of knights can contribute to a siege. The premise is to use these hard-hitting troops to charge thru any breach in the castle, be it gate or wall, sweeping the defenders aside. In the case of a gate-breach, the black guard are the prime choice. For leaping over crumbled walls, knights are optimal. Remember that it only takes half of their normal movement to clear an obstacle, so knights charging over a collapsed wall have almost the same range warriors charging over open ground. The hydra, being a large monster, cannot go thru the gate, but it can go over the wall ruins. While it ignores the defended obstacle movement penalty, it does not ignore the difficult ground penalty. Thus, be aware that our only choice may be to move it just over the ruins, have it breathe fire on the enemy, and hope that terror does its work in the following turn. This tactic works best when the defenders within outnumber you. By coordinating multiple charges from the black guard in the gate, the knights or hydra over the wall ruins, and the witch elves or corsairs from an intact wall, you can usually break the first unit, follow-up to several other units, and thus bog down the more numerous enemy. However, this tactic can also be used in a reverse-psychology way. Using the black guard as our central “warrior” unit to batter down the gates, when they rush thru two-wide, the enemy will surely countercharge. The black guard will hold, and the knights or another warrior unit can countercharge back with significant force.

The Dodge: This final method works best when you face three or less very formidable combat units inside. We use our superior mobility to contest each courtyard quarter while staying out of charge range or line-of-sight. As you can see, if there are only three units, one of the quarters will be empty, so if we contest the three that the enemy occupies and secure the one that he does not, we win. If there are more than three enemy units, but we still outnumber him, we can use our characters and multiple units to overwhelm one while running circles around the others. Obviously, if the courtyard defenders are as maneuverable as us or more so, this stratagem will not work.

Regardless of which method you employ, there are a few things that should be done by every besieger. First, when the warriors have breached the gate (or a wall), we do NOT cross the threshold unless there are no defenders left inside. Rather, we advance one unit to serve as bait while the other two units reform into combat formation (four files wide) and prepare to countercharge. If we are feeling extra efficient that day, we assault the walls/tower with the central unit deployed two files wide and the right and left units deployed four files wide. In this manner, when the gates crash, the central unit can rush thru that same turn, and the remaining two are already in combat formation to countercharge the defending troops that will surely rout the central spear unit. Secondly, when we’ve seized a rampart, we do NOT descend into the courtyard right away unless there are no defenders that can countercharge. Rather, we skirt from one wall section to the other, seeking an advantageous position in the courtyard. The last thing we desire is to have the wall-climbers’ losses be in vain.

This concludes the attack section of the Druchii Siege Tactica. To summarize, we exploit our speed and flyers to hit the walls hard. We use our magic to deplete the wall defenders. We use our maneuverability and high-attack warriors to attack the weak points of the castle and win them. Finally we use the hardest of our combat troops to secure the interior. Next month, we shall discuss defending a castle. Until that time, may your sword always wound and may your armor always save.

May peace be with you
Ash

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Mon Jul 12, 2004 6:10 pm
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