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Once More unto the Breach Dear Fiends

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The best way to defend a settlement or area is with a fort or fortifications. This makes walled forts a common sight in Empire. The only problem is that forts are designed to keep out attackers, and therefore it can be a nightmare attacking them. I reckon there are a few people out there who can’t get into a fort without suffering crippling losses. Those people should consider this just the thing.

When facing a fort, you are facing cannon (even though it is of small calibre), and musket fire; both from the tops of walls and they are very hard to hit with counter-musket fire. I recommend one thing when taking on a stone fort or larger, artillery. Artillery is a key element in the destruction of the enemy’s defences. There are times when it is easier to destroy an enemy building, rather than suffer heavier losses in order to leave it undamaged.

Out of all the types of artillery there are, the best to use against enemy fortifications are howitzers and mortars. They can lob shells over walls and plunge them into the midst of enemy troops. In the case of star forts, they can also lob them over the outer buttress and onto the inner wall. If the enemy are too crowded on a section of the wall, shells can be lobbed down at a vertical angle to cause massive damages. These are the best uses for each ammunition type. Shell shot is best used against walls and buildings. Explosive shot/percussive shot is best at clearing walls of defenders, as well as damaging the wall itself. Carcass shot/quicklime shot is good at killing defenders inside the fort.

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Howitzers can lob shells anywhere.

Any breach in the wall should quickly be filled by infantry armed with bayonets; when storming a breach there’s no room for musketry, only the cold steel. Enemy fire shouldn’t be too much of a problem because if your artillery has done its job, there shouldn’t be many men on the walls.

If you don’t have any artillery, there is still a way to achieve easy victory, but expect to suffer heavier casualties. No matter what forces are in your army, chances are your infantry will have to scale walls. This is done by climbing up grappling ropes that leave your men exposed to enemy fire. Once the wall is reached, then it comes down to who are the better soldiers. It’s getting to the base of the walls that can be the key to victory. How you arrange you units depends on what the strengths of your enemy are.

It is better to send men off in a column to lessen the target offered to enemy cannons. If your men are in column, then all your forces are concentrated in one place, increasing the chance of breaking through rather then dwindling away on a wide front. If the enemy walls are crowded with light infantry and/or riflemen, then it is better to deploy each unit is blocks rather than line. This puts fewer men in the front rank to be exposed to fire. Enemy fire is always concentrated on the front ranks of a unit, even if it is coming from above. This way, the first ranks can soak up the fire and leave the men behind unharmed.

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Blocks put fewer men in the front ranks and therefore decrease the amount of men exposed to musket fire.

If the enemy only have just enough men to man the wall-mounted guns, then it is better to put the units in lines. Blocks of units will only give the enemy longer files to be hit by cannon fire. In line formation, only three or four men are in each file and that gives cannons less of a target to bounce the shot through.

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Lines put fewer men in each rank and therefore decrease the amount of men killed by a cannonball.

The trick to being a good general is to find the right balance between lines and blocks depending on what part of the enemy army is more dangerous; the artillery or the musket fire.

There is always one thing to remember when it comes to attacking a wall unsupported by artillery; always expect to lose the first unit. If there aren’t killed by the muskets and cannons, then the fact they‘re the attacking the full enemy force alone will destroy them. Once units reach the wall and start scaling, don’t worry if the first thirty units are instantly killed. It is not until about 100 men on each side are dead that you will see which way the battle is going. The enemy will throw all they have at that section of the wall, so you must do the same. Any reserves or secondary attack forces must be thrown at this fight if you want to survive. Alternately, free units not engaged in fighting can be ordered to scale another section of wall, and hit the enemy from the rear.
Secondary attacks can be useful but when the fighting starts there is no such thing as a secondary attack. All units will be engaged when a real storming begins. A diversionary attack can be the best solution if you want to suffer fewer casualties. Light infantry, or preferably riflemen, can be sent out to distract the enemy while the real attack is launched. The units are to be sent out until they enemy are in range (This is where riflemen are useful as their weapon outrage the defenders muskets, although all types of light troops will be in range of enemy cannon.). Your units should be spread out in light infantry formation to minimise losses. Their fire will not only distract the enemy into concentrating on the unit attacking them, but will also hopefully bring down and few men, especially with the rifle’s accuracy.

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Skirmishing makes the enemy concentrate on the immediate threat of enemy fire and distracts them from the real attack.

Cavalry may be the master of the medieval battlefield, and do play an important part in Empire: Total War, but cavalry is one unit I don’t recommend for siege battles. Dragoons are the only cavalry I would bring to assault a fort and that is because they can dismount. The walls are off-limits to cavalry and most forts are too small for cavalry to manoeuvre properly. Dragoons aren’t bad for attackers as they offer players highly-mobile infantry that can ride around the fort and launch an attack from a different position, but a good general would compensate for the loss of cavalry with superior tactics.

These are just a few of the tactics that can be used and almost certainly there will have to be changes for each battle, because each battle is different. Different generals prefer to use different tactics and different units, and so will do different things to achieve victory. Do what you think is right, and I’m sure you will that victory is only a step away.


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