A question from a reader today:
I do have a specific military question. I have heard of a maneuver where a bunch of cities send cats to a target set to attack rather than siege. Just prior to the wave of cats, a clearing army would hit the city to destroy the troops inside and allow the cats to hit. The idea is that the percentage of successful hits would be the same as a siege, but the large group would drop the pop really dramatically and the cats would not be vulnerable to destruction and no troops would be needed to protect them. I am sure you have heard of this before, but have you ever seen it used? Also what are your thoughts about it good vs bad.
In SIN, we called that technique a siege train. As my final operation in the SIN-TUF war, I ran a triple train against three Public Relations cities. He lost a serious amount of population. However, while siege trains can be damaging and demoralizing, they suffer from several drawbacks.
- In order to actually raze the city, you must still have a siege that was set up at least 12 hours prior to the siege train. Otherwise the best you can do is inflict damage.
- The technique is slow. The fastest your siege engines will march is 7.5 for dwarves and 5.625 for everyone else.
- At medium range, the slow speed means a single operation can take two weeks round-trip, minimum.
- The enemy has a long, long time to prepare and reinforce.
- The attack is incredibly obvious, with multiple slow armies moving from a dozen different cities.
- The timing sequence is critical. If your clearing forces aren't out front, the siege engines will pile up and die. If the clearing forces are too far out front, even by 10-15 seconds, the enemy will reinforce in the timing gap, and your siege engines will pile up and die.
- Your clearing forces will always hit a full wall, which can cause enormous casualties if the defenders are using equipped troops.
- If the enemy can clearly see that they cannot repel your attack, then they know that exodus will inflict less damage than letting your attack land. They will move. Marching for two weeks to an empty square is frustrating.
- The cost to maintain 120-150 catapults in dozens of cities is extremely expensive for the whole alliance.
As a tool, I do not prefer siege trains. They are risky, expensive maneuvers that can tie up dozens of armies for two weeks or more. They are hypersensitive to launch precision. There is a high probability of exodus, and a small probability that you might lose everything you send at terrible kill ratios. There is a medium probability that you will inflict moderate but non-fatal damage to an enemy city.
All that said, siege trains are a tool in the military toolbox. I have seen them work extremely well. I have also seen huge "pile up and die" scenarios, and situations where sustaining damage did not sufficiently demoralize the defenders. Siege trains can be invaluable against opponents who are low on defensive troops, but who still have remaining cavalry and cities surrounded by plains. A standard siege under those conditions is suicide. At short range siege trains can be especially devastating. My preferred way to use them is as siege support, set to arrive after the wall is badly damaged, to accelerate the existing siege.
Thanks for the question!
Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.
<^^^^^^^^==O Skint Jagblade