Sunday, October 25, 2015

Siege 101

The central stratagem in Illyriad PvP is siege. Nothing sends your enemy a message like a well-appointed set of catapults at his doorstep. In this post we will discus the principles of sieging in Illy. 

The Basics

You have built up your barracks up to level 20, completed siege encampment and war machines research, borrowed a handful of siege blocks from your neighbor and built siege engines out of them. You are now ready for mayhem and destruction.

You pick a city on the map, click on it, choose “send army”, and choose “siege”. You will be offered to select a tile near the city on which the siege camp will land, and set the time for occupation. That's right, instead of attacking the city directly you will be occupying a spot next to it, like an occupying army does.

Here is what a siege camp looks like on the map. It is different from an occupying camp and a blockade.

After your siege army lands, there is a 12 hour period before bombardment starts. As your siege engines fire they will destroy buildings in the city thus reducing its population. When population is reduced to 25% of what it was at the start of bombardment, you will be able to storm and raze or capture the city. Mission accomplished.

You can check out who is sieging whom in Illyriad Herald.

Why Sieging is Difficult

After days of waiting, your army finally has arrived to the gates of your enemy's city, only to be completely wiped out by an army 1/6th its size about an hour later... True story!

There are several aspects of Illy mechanics that favor the player under siege, not the sieger:

1. Attack units (cavalry and infantry) have higher attack points than defense points of any unit in the game that a player can build, making defenders inherently weaker than attackers. Somewhat counterintuitively, in a siege camp you are playing defense, not offense. Furthermore, terrain modifiers can further increase the differences between defense and offense.

2. Siege engines have a very slow speed. Your enemy may have several days' or even weeks' worth of notice.

3. Launching a siege is not unlike launching a rocket into outer space. There is no way to adjust it, move to a different square, or increase its size (other than send additional armies). Thus, when sending out the siege you have to plan ahead of time for defense against attacks from multiple cities of your opponent, his alliance mates, and sometimes other players who decide to jump in.

4. Your opponent will be able to rebuild his city under siege in order to increase its population and buy more time for clearing armies to arrive from longer distances.

This is why sieging is not a one-player show. It involves coordination between multiple armies and players, planning everything ahead of time, and exploiting any weaknesses that your opponent may have. 

Anatomy of a Siege

Here is what you need to have a shot at a successful raze or capture:
1. A siege army that has a large amount of offensive troops (infantry or cavalry) and both wall and city siege engines (rams and catapults). Wall engines are often forgotten, but they are essential for reducing the city's defenses. A level 20 wall adds a 115% bonus to defense of the troops inside the city. When you reach the raze population level the army will need to storm the city. If your army remaining after 24-30 hours of attacks is not sufficient to defeat the troops in the city the siege will be aborted.

2. A defensive camp is set up on the same tile as the siege, to protect the siege army. This consists of multiple armies with mostly defensive troops (spear and bow units and sometimes infantry), sent to occupy the square on which the siege will land on.

3. A blockade is set up on a different tile, also with defensive troops, for intercepting vans with basic resources that the player may attempt to use for rebuilding the city.

4. Ideally, both the siege camp and the blockade should be set up on tiles with terrain that favors defenders and penalizes attackers, such as a mountain, buildings, forest or hills. Anything is better than plains! 

5. Attacking armies are sent to both the siege and the blockade tiles. If your opponent knows where the siege and blockade are landing (by scouting or because there are obvious bad tiles) he may attempt to set up defensive armies there, to force your defensive troops into attack mode and incur big losses.

6. Clearing armies are sent to attack the city with two purposes: 1) to clear the city of any troops; 2) to diminish the amount of basic resources available to the player for rebuilding.

7. Magic attacks are used to reduce the city's food supply (blights and a basic resource spell to replace the food spell such as gift of wood). This works well for high-population cities that rely on the food spell.

8. Various diplomatic unit attacks are used to help with taking out basic resources (t1 thieves), kill reinforcing commanders (assassins), and frustrate the player's rebuilding attempts (saboteurs). Diplo attacks are an icing on the cake, and depending on your opponent's sophistication they may utterly fail.

Timing is Everything

It is paramount that all the armies arrive to the camp in sync and land in the correct order. Pre-clearing armies to the tiles should be slightly ahead of defensive troops, followed by defensive armies, then followed by the siege army (with intervals no larger than 1-2 minutes).
Your reinforcements have arrived.
Clearing of the city should start after the wall is reduced. In an ideal scenario this happens several hours after the start of bombardment. Thus, the earliest clearing armies need to be timed to 16 hours after landing of the siege. It is effective to land a clearing army each hour right after catapults hit, to remove basic resources that get salvaged from demolished buildings. Heaviest clearing hits should land by the expected raze time, potentially boosted with assassins. Magic is used after bombardment starts.

The Bottom Line

Take advantage of favorable terrain and plan for overkill. Your siege must survive for at least 24 hours. To ensure that it does, it needs to be supported by occupying defensive armies, a blockade, and well-timed clearing forces. When the city's population reaches the raze target your remaining siege army must be big enough to deal with troops remaining inside the city.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Building a Standard Military City

How do you build a good military city? It's probably the most common question that was asked in Night Squires. This is a very short guide to describe the basics. It is NOT a replacement for asking questions in alliance chat.

There are five factors for a good military city: a defendable location, cost reduction buildings, correct resource distribution, matching military sov, mission-specific commander builds.

There is one key to the remaining four factors: PICK YOUR UNIT SPECIALTY BEFORE SETTLING A MILITARY CITY. Before, before, before. Hey, when should you pick your unit specialty? Before you settle the city. Skint, what's in that bag labeled City Units? A delicious cat named BEFORE!

Got it?

Good military players don't mix unit types in a city. Everything is optimized to maximize the effectiveness, production speed, and support cost of a specific unit.


I've already written an extensive guide on how to select a city location for proper defense. A warrior who picks a vulnerable city location can pretty much ignore the remaining points, because they're already dead meat. Non-warriors can probably survive without that, but you never really know if or when a real Illyriad war is going to arrive on your doorstep.


Picking the unit type can be a challenge. Each race has one or two superior units, but big military players rarely build all their cities for the same unit type. Choosing a porfolio is done at the account and the alliance level, and requires careful thought and discussion.

The traditional "best" unit types by race are: dwarven axemen and stalwarts, orcish kobolds and fangs, elven sentinels and trueshots (and possibly marshals), human knights and chariots.

Players might also dedicate a city to diplomatic units; thieves are by far the most common, as they are much more effective in large numbers (10000-30000 in a specialized city is not uncommon, some players have even more).


The unit type you pick will determine the cost reduction building. There is a specific building for military units (spears, bows, cavalry, infantry) and for diplomatic units (saboteurs, thieves, spies, scouts, assassins).

Cost reduction buildings reduce unit costs by -1.5% per level. Each additional building is half as effective as the last one: the second is -0.75%/level, the third is -0.375% per level, and so forth. Most military-focused cities will have two high level cost reduction buildings, and possibly a third mid-level cost reduction building.

Archers Field: 135 wood, 55 iron
Cavalry Parade Ground: 55 wood, 135 clay
Infantry Quarters: 135 stone, 55 iron
Spearmen Billets: 135 clay, 55 iron

Assassins Abode: 155 iron, 95 stone
Saboteur Sanctuary: 135 wood, 75 clay
Scout Lookout: 35 wood, 75 clay
Spies Hideout: 35 wood, 55 clay, 55 stone
Thieves Den: 85 wood, 55 clay, 85 stone


Cost reducers consume basic resources at an impressive hourly rate. Therefore, it is important for the city location to have 5 resource plots in the major and minor resources consumed.

People will tell you that a 3 plot is acceptable for the minor resource. I will tell you right now, I've hit the limit doing that, and it is very frustrating. Just don't do it. A military-focused player will push their taxes, sovereignty, and cost reducers to the maximum, and you don't want an artificial barrier to optimization. Even tournament-only players will want to ramp production to very high levels during tournaments.

5 plots for the major and minor resources, period, The End.


Sovereignty is used to increase the resource, unit, or item production of a city.  Mature cities will claim up to 20 sovereignty squares. Sovereignty (or "sov") costs 100 gold and 10 research points, per level, per hour, multiplied by the distance from the city. If you turn sovereignty on in the Tactical Map, you will see a circle around most larger cities. That's their sov. Typically sov claims are limited by the library's maximum research points per hour, adjusted downwards for 50-65% taxes.

A city focused on size will want several nearby squares in the 10-20 food range. Just be aware that using sovereignty for food sov will cut into the claims for military unit production. A bigger city will be able to support a larger standing army, but a military-focused city will outproduce it considerably when making replacement troops (which is what really counts in a war).

A military-focused city typically uses 16-20 sov squares for military units. Each level of a boosting structure gives +5% to unit production, plus any bonuses from the underlying square. Military cities usually have 8x Sov III immediately around the city, and 12x Sov II outside that. This will provide about +240% to unit production for the selected type.

Military sovereignty also consumes basic resources per hour, per level, of stone/iron/wood/clay. The rates are: 150 (I), 300 (II), 600 (III), 1200 (IV), 2400 (V). Production sovereignty competes for basic resources with the cost reduction buildings, which is why you need the overhead of 5 plots per major and minor resource. At 50-65% taxes, you will begin to strain basic resource production, even with every resource plot at Level 20.

A smart player looks for city locations that have nearby bonus tiles for their selected unit type. A +2% tile will give you 7% per level (5% base + 2% bonus), making it 40% better than a regular tile, for the exact same cost. It is common to have 3-5 bonus tiles at a good location, but the map has zones where entire areas are +3% for a specific unit. For example, deserts and snow plains are both spear production heaven.

In practice, even a military player will mix cities for size and pure production speed. It is also common practice to have 1-3 big food boost tiles near a military city, to increase the size without sacrificing too much unit production sov. It's a fine balance, and should be discussed thoroughly prior to settling a city.


Commanders are optimized to support the troops in a particular city. Since I've also written an article about this topic, I don't feel the need to repeat it here. Look it up, and memorize those rules. I can't tell you how many times I've seen armies of 25000+ units led by a badly built commander. Don't be that guy.

But Skint, you say, I've got this yeoman commander from when I first started, and he's level 3297! Yeah, so here's the thing, your commander is lame and needs to be killed. Don't keep lame commanders around, or you'll just get attached, and keep making a dumb investment in a military dead end. Retire him, and imagine him happily quaffing a beer in the local tavern, but don't keep wasting your time.


This article describes the basic approach of a 7-food military city on a plains square. That is the standard configuration of 95% of troop-producing cities in Illyriad. The astute will immediately notice that many recognizable warriors in SIN and other military alliances have built cities that vary considerably from the basic template. More complex builds will be discussed in an upcoming article, particularly 5/5/5/5/5 cities, and 6/4 cities on 5 food squares. These cities are built to push the limits of troop production sovereignty, but the devil is in the details. Those builds are not recommended as a template for brand new military players.


It's easy to build a basic military city. Follow these basic rules, ask questions about potential settlement locations, and be patient. Don't take shortcuts; once you place a city, all your problems are 1000x more expensive to correct. Do it right, do it once. Until next time:

Misbehave, everyone. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

The Basics of City Placement

City placement is probably the single most important decision you will make in Illyriad. It's easy to screw up, and if you make mistakes, it can be painful to correct them. In some cases it will be nearly impossible. I will write this short guide from the perspective of a military-prepared player. Even if you don't intend to fight in Illyriad, unexpected wars can break out and drag you in. It's wise to follow good practices.


Illyriad cities sustain damage by sieges. Sieges are alliance-scale battles, so please give up any notion that you can break a siege by yourself. A properly executed siege is an avalanche of force that will crush your personal defenses. Therefore, try to stay within 150 squares of your allies. Your friends are the only hope you have of breaking a siege before it wrecks all your buildings and weeks of careful construction.

All the other sutbleties of city placement are irrelevant if you are off by yourself, unreachable by your allies when you come under enemy fire.


If you are besieged, it is best to be surrounded by plains. Cavalry is the fastest attack unit, and gains a +30% attack bonus on plains. In addition, defending bows are already weak against cavalry, and defending spears (the best anti-cavalry defender) suffer a -15% penalty on plains.

In short, it is by far the easiest for your allies to break sieges on plains.

Absolutely, positively DO NOT EVER place your city adjacent to a building or mountain. Ever. Not even if you're an elf. Just don't do it, period, the end. These tiles amplify spear and bow defender units in the siege camps, and heavily penalize attacking cavalry coming to your rescue.

Avoid large hills, large forest, and small forest tiles whenever possible. Lots of people think they are clever by building infantry, and surrounding their city by forest tiles (which gives infantry attackers an advantage). This is not clever. Infantry is slow. Once the local infantry forces are depleted--very common in prolonged wars--you will be stuck waiting for rescue by very slow units which might not arrive before your city is destroyed.

You can place your city next to impassable or water tiles, but these are often bad choices that limit your troop production speeds and overall flexibility.


Many non-military players want to have big cities. The +2 food from 7-food plains tiles and 7-food jungle forest tiles will help you to accomplish that. But remember rule #1? Plains tiles are easy to clear with cavalry, and that includes the defenders inside your plains city. Just understand in advance that if you ever get into a war, the armies in your city might constantly get destroyed by fast-attacking cavalry armies.

What just got said about plains cities and cavalry, happens to apply to forest cities and infantry. Slower infantry attacks will give you more time to react, but the assaults themselves will be extremely expensive to defend.

In contrast, a city on a 5-food mountain will limit its final size. However, from rule #1, you should remember that defending spear and bow units are amplified on mountains, and attacking infantry and cavalry are penalized. With a City Wall 20, a mountain city is easier to defend, and much harder to attack directly.

Since your gold taxes are directly dependent on city population, it should be obvious that a 7-food city can support 40% more standing troops than a 5-food city. That tends to be less important in military alliances for two reasons.

First, cities built for size typically use the nearest 8 tiles for Farmstead structures, boosting food production and therefore size. This leaves only 12 other tiles for military production boosts, and a small pool of research points to maintain them. A mountain city tends to be built for pure military advantage, and so typically sacrifices size to maintain a full 20 military production boost tiles

Secondly, extended wars are about production, not standing forces. Once your 50000 infantry army is down to 5000 troops, the replacement rate becomes far more important than the standing army size.


If you are building a city for size, then you want a nearby food boost tile in the 12-18+ range. The most common food boosters are dolmens and coastal water tiles.

If you are building a city for a specific kind of military unit (recommended for all serious military players), then search for bonus tiles 1-3 away from your city location. These tiles will grant a +1%, +2% or +3% troop production bonus for every sovereignty level maintained. This adds to the standard +5% structure bonus, so finding a good cluster of bonus tiles can significantly accelerate troop production.


New players are advised to terraform 7-food mountains. Terraforming combines the size potential of a 7-food plains tile with the pure defensive power of a 5-food mountain. You will need a second, disposable account to terraform. Illyriad rules only permit owning two accounts, so the best time to terraform is when you are just starting out.


Specialized cities have cost reduction structures that make it cheaper to maintain specific types of units like archers or cavalry. These buildings consume a lot of certain basic resources. Decide your city's specialty BEFORE you build, otherwise you might find yourself short of a specific resource, which will limit your ability to reduce costs or accelerate unit production.


Since city placement is such a big deal, be sure to ask questions of experienced players. Also, I recommend asking several players, because you will invariably get different responses to consider. Always remember: take advice from players you want to emulate. You will be bombarded with lots of well-intentioned advice from General Chat (GC), but taking military advice from a non-military player is a recipe for disaster.

  • Locate your cities near your allies.
  • Always surround your cities by plains, impassable squares or water.
  • NEVER place cities next to buildings or mountains; avoid hills and forests as well.
  • Build on 7-food plains for size; build on 5-food mountains for defense.
  • Decide your city's specialty first, then pick a square with the correct allocation of basic resources.
  • Keep an eye out for food boosts (for big cities) or military production boosts (for military cities).
  • If you are new to Illyraid, using a second account slot to terraform 7-food mountains will provide a large military advantage.
  • Always consult with experienced military players prior to deciding on a particular spot.

Originally posted as a Night Squires training article. Reposted here because it's my article and I feel like it. Until the next training post:

Misbehave, everyone. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Don't apologize for war.

If you are a new player in Illyriad, you have no doubt endured several attempts by the Global Chat (GC) crowd to indoctrinate you on why war in Illyriad is bad, and why new players shouldn't be allowed to play with armies or diplomats.  The peaceniks will wax on at length about the evils and terrors of Illyriad war, and admonish you about how negative it is for the game, and oh please don't make war just think about the kittens or magic bears or sparkles or whatever other insipid rubbish is getting peddled that day by the chat-gamers.

If you're an Illy "veteran", you've probably discouraged new players about war yourself. Shame on you.

So straight off for all you peaceniks: I don't apologize for war.

War in Illyriad is great. No, really. It's different from many other MMORTS games. You can't pay to win, so the playing field is largely determined by skill. It's a team environment, so you can't just be a solitary titan. The slow motion nature of battles means that strategy, map placement, preparation, and military deception are far more important than reflexes. The combat system is straightforward, but it has just enough crunch to keep things interesting for experienced wargamers, especially the way that units and terrain interact.

When Illyriad war has sucked, it was because non-combatants got involved in wars. I really, genuinely mean that in the worst way possible. There are many tournament players in Illyriad, and some of them nurse grudges for a very long time. It's entirely possible to batter down a superior opponent by applying sheer mass, but that isn't what I'm talking about. Like knights in the age of chivalry, the elite fighters in Illyriad have a code of honor about warfare. They don't zero the accounts of defeated opponents, nor do they batter defeated alliances into extinction. Surrender is offered generously to almost all opponents. In fact, historically the people who outright obliterated accounts were almost always from the ranks of the peaceniks. Curious how that worked out.

If you're reading this blog, you are probably from the ranks of SIN, its allies, or its affiliated training alliance. Many of the lessons I will teach here are reprised from my days as an instructor in Night Squires, back when it was the finest military training alliance in Illyriad. If there's one thing I want you to take away from the very first post on this blog, it is this: war in Illyriad can be an invigorating test of skill and teamwork, but only when both sides of the conflict are honorable combatants.

Planned topics will include:

  • Building a military city for defense and troop production
  • The importance of city specialization
  • Troops vs terrain
  • Upkeep vs build time (standing vs wartime armies)
  • Basic siege execution
  • What to do when you have incoming enemy armies
  • Magical defense, including blight shields
  • How to match commanders to armies
  • Using crafted equipment: why and when
  • Composing and deploying elite divisions
  • Building specific elite commanders
  • War of walls
I'm sure other topics will eventually come to mind. Until then:

Misbehave, everyone. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade