Tips for Siege Battles
In multiplayer and single-player alike, siege battles are almost inevitable, for the simple fact that towns nearly always need to be taken over at one point or another. How you do it is entirely up to you, but following some of these suggestions might increase your effectiveness in such battles.
Attacking a fully built-up town that contains high-level heroes and large stacks of long-range troops is never an easy task, even if you have the same. Despite their great expense, the Citadel and Castle vastly improve the defender’s effectiveness in siege combat. Unfortunately for you, the sieger, there isn’t much to help you other than what you bring with you. Here are some general tips:
- Never attack a ranged stack on a Castle tower with one of your ranged stacks, unless there is either a way to get full damage (like Ballistae, Precision, or Master Archers) or the defending troop you are shooting at is puny (a group of 147 Elves won’t take much damage from the three Halflings you’re attacking). But generally, the stack on the tower will do 4-8 times as much as you will do if the stacks are of equal strength.
Avoid attacking a strong stack on a castle tower
- If you have a chance early on, and there is a Hero on top of a siege tower with no long-range capabilities, kill it if you think you’re going to win the battle. If you don’t think you can win, save the Hero until later, because it will just get resurrected in the town after the battle ends.
- When playing against the AI, don’t open the drawbridge until none of their units can hurt you from where they are (i.e., no Heroes, spellcasters, or long-range units), because if the drawbridge isn’t open, or if none of your troops are in the moat, they usually won’t come out. However, in multiplayer, your enemies won’t show such mercy, and will often come out to attack you soon. In that case, send out any double-attacking units you have (Berserkers, Crusaders, Wolves, etc.) to knock down the drawbridge. Remember that in one strike a hit to the drawbridge can do no more than 50 damage points, but a double-striker can do 50 x 2 = 100 in one attack.
- Do whatever you can to stop the ranged units/spellcasters on the towers from doing anything useful (or at least limit their usefulness).
- Don’t stay in the moat too long. Your defense and damage are lowered there.
- Once you break into the town, get your troops onto any empty towers. You still gain the benefits from them, although you’re defending. The same goes for staying right inside the castle walls.
- Never underestimate the effects of Poison, Plague, or any mass cursing spells.
- Any area-effect spells/attacks targeted at a castle tower will also affect nearby units on the ground surrounding the tower.
When you’re defending, everything’s playing out in your favor. Just don’t do anything stupid! No, but seriously, if you act like, say, the AI, you’ll do considerably worse than you would otherwise. Here are some general tips for siege defense.
- Consider buying the Citadel/Castle only if they’re needed for a creature dwelling (Thunderbirds, Griffins, Titans, etc.) or if you know you’ll get attacked. Otherwise, it’s a waste of 7500 gold each.
- The Castle’s towers are your best tools in siege defense. Ranged troops attacking you only do one-quarter to one-eighth of their normal damage when attacking troops on the towers, while your own ranged troops always do full damage. However, they are more vulnerable to spell effects and (weakened) ranged fire. Do whatever you can to keep important ground/flying troops off the towers, and reserve those spots for Heroes (with offensive magic or ranged capabilities), offensive spellcasters (like Faerie Dragons, Magi, Genies, and Evil Eyes), and ranged troops.
- Remember that Fireballs, Clouds of Confusion, Cyclops attacks, and other area-effect spells or attacks will affect not only troops on the towers but also ground troops surrounding that tower. Make sure you spread out your troops on their first turn.
- If you become poisoned, either have the poisoned troop kill whatever it can before it dies or heal it (Dispel, Exorcism, Anti-Magic, and Bind Wound don’t stop Poison).
- When should you leave the confines of your town walls? It really depends on the circumstances. Generally, due to the defensive bonuses obtained from remaining inside them, it’s best to stay in as long as you can. However, if you think that you can win with fewer losses by going out, by all means go for it!
- In Citadels and Castles, the defending troops just inside the wall get a defensive bonus. When attacking troops in the moat, don’t go all the way around; stay inside the walls to do some extra damage.
- Don’t let your enemies climb up onto your own Castle towers. They will receive the benefits you could’ve gotten.
- With Forts and Citadels, any ranged troops or Heroes will be automatically placed right next to your walls, regardless of front/back rows. Spellcasting troops don’t get that luxury (or is it a bad thing...?).
In Heroes IV, each town is unique in its theme, spells, and creatures. In this section I’ll highlight the troops and spells that perform the best in siege combat, and how to use them more effectively.
The Haven, the town of defensive and healing spells, is quite good for siege defense. With Ballistae, Crossbowmen, and Monks on the towers, the enemy troops will have a fun time trying to get you without dying. Of course, in most situations you won’t be choosing both Ballistae and Crossbowmen; in that case, you can replace the missing ranged troop with a Knight with the Archery skill (or an Archer, if you hired one of those). Also, remember the helpful mass Ward spells. Since your enemy’s army will usually be mainly of one alignment, having the right mass Ward spell will make it much harder for your enemy to kill you. Combine that with Celestial Armor when need be, and if you picked up some Order or Nature Magic, try casting Precision, Slow, Displacement, and Create Illusion (on a ranged troop, preferably). Taking over a town with only Life troops is a different story. Due to their defensive nature, you’ll be hard-pressed to do that much damage to the enemy troops. Song of Peace is a helpful tool against enemy ranged-attackers and spellcasters; against the AI, they will often take the ranged troops off their Castle towers and bring them right next to the wall for some reason. While that’s the only “curse” spell in the Life spell book, Monk heroes will be happy to use some of their Order spells against the enemy, including Forgetfulness, Displacement, (Mass) Precision (always do full damage, plus a 25% bonus!), Blind, Berserk, Hypnotize... take your pick! Remember that Crusaders can do two blows to the drawbridge, and that Pikemen can sometimes attack through the walls without standing in the moat. Angels’ Resurrection ability should be used with great care, and when the enemy least expects it!
This town just wasn’t built for siegin’. While Waspworts, Elves, and Fire/Water Elementals can be useful on the Towers, they’re often too slow to want to take with you elsewhere. Giant/Dragon Strength can be used to pump up your ranged troops or Archer Hero (hopefully with Grandmaster Archery), but everyone knows that Nature’s strong point is summoning. Until you get to the higher levels of Nature Magic, you won’t summon too much useful for defending sieges. If you do in fact get the chance, summoning Faerie Dragons, Fire/Water Elementals, or Waspworts and placing them on your towers can be a great boon to your defense. In fact, Faerie Dragons are one of the few saving graces the Preserve has in siege defense. Being able to cast Confusion several times, these guys will keep strong, reflecting harmful spells and taking little damage from ranged troops. Good luck in attacking. With primarily ground troops, the Preserve sieging army will have to make do with the less-effective ranged attackers it has. Use the Faerie Dragons’ Confusion and Fireball as much as possible (remember that Fireball effects both troops on towers and surrounding them), and also the Druids’ Wasp Swarm. Summon Phoenixes or Griffins, if you get that much expertise in Nature Magic. Also, when attacking, get Griffins (preferably with Snake Strike cast on them) to go up on the Castle towers. They just won’t die! Also keep in mind that Wolves can attack the drawbridge twice (if you have enough to do 50 damage points each time...)
With everyone’s favorite Black Dragon residing here, the Asylum has many tools for both attacking and defending. For defending, get your Orcs up on those towers to do up to eight times more damage than normal, surprising your human enemies quite a bit. If going for Medusas, get them up there too, to take out first their Heroes, then their high-level troops. Sorcerers/Sorceresses can cast (Cloud of) Confusion to disable their enemies, and hopefully cast Cat Reflexes on the Medusas. Minotaurs are not a good idea for siege defense, since Medusas are so darn effective. Bandits are practically useless, except as fodder. While both Efreeti and Nightmares are useful troops, due to Nightmares’ Terror ability and higher durability, they are the better choice for siege defense. As for siege attacking, it’s back to the Medusas again. While it breaks my general rule concerning never attacking another ranged troop, you might want to with Medusas. Attack Heroes, Cyclopes, Monks, and Titans first, while Terror-izing and Confusing their troops at the same time. Black Dragons’ Breath Attack will sometimes allow you to get the drawbridge and another unit simultaneously; go for it! Don’t even think about using the Orcs’ ranged attack on anyone on the towers!
The “Infernopolis,” this town isn’t the best for siege defense. Most people overlook the Venom Spawn in lieu of Vampires, so that leaves most Death-aligned armies without a ranged attacker except a Death Knight with a bow or Archery skill. Death is also surprisingly without a disabling spell. However, Mass Weakness/Curse and Plague are some really nice harmful spells, and you might even want to go with an occasional Raise or Animate spell to add some lost troops. Don’t underestimate the use of Imps on an arrow tower; they’re easy fodder that give your Necromancers some extra spell power. Make sure you don’t do anything stupid to waste your Vampires.
On the contrary, the Necropolis is quite effective in starting the sieges. While Death itself is without disabling spells, a Shadow Mage might find Order’s many disabling spells (see Academy) quite useful. Devils (especially with Aura of Fear and/or Vampiric Touch) are awesomely effective, being able to Teleport over the walls on turn one to attack whatever enemies might be on the Castle towers; still, Bone Dragons are very nice units with built-in Fear. Vampires and Venom Spawn are nearly equally effective in this respect, with the Venom Spawn’s poisoning ability giving it much higher points than normal in the usually-lengthier siege battles. Imps’ Mana Leeching is especially helpful in these long sieges, potentially wiping out some mana-dependent creature abilities: Resurrection, Terror, Rebirth, and Summon Ice Demon, to name a few. This ability also gives your Necromancer some extra spellcasting time, or possibly gives your Devils another chance to Summon Ice Demons.
While only two normal ranged attackers, the two spellcasting units also give Order a slight edge in the field of siege combat. Unfortunately, Halflings, Magi, Genies, and Titans won’t fit onto three Castle towers, but chances are you won’t get all three of the aforementioned units. If you do, keep the Magi on the ground to Poison the enemy, or keep the Genies low to Create Illusion after illusion. Magi have a wide range of helpful spells for siege defense, including Mass Slow, Mass Dispel (sometimes), Berserk (always nice, regardless of the combat), and some borrowed spells from Life and/or Death. However, the Academy’s strength lies not in siege defense, but siege attacking.
Order is probably the best faction when it comes to pillaging a town. Genies’ Song of Peace and the wide range of disabling-type spells (Forgetfulness, Blind, Berserk, Hypnotize) plus the silent killer, the level 1 Displacement to kick ranged troops off of the towers, aid in attaining this high rank. Mass Blur is also good to assure that even if the ranged attackers can attack, they won’t do much. Precise Halflings and Titans will do a surprising amount of damage, in surprising numbers due to the Lords’ Nobility. You may choose to purchase Golems, for their durability, or Magi, for their Magic Fist, Blur, and especially Poison. It’s really based on the player’s style. But pretty much regardless, the Academy is an excellent sieger.
The mighty Stronghold can be a very nice defending town. By placing Cyclopes and Centaurs (x8 normal damage) on the Castle towers, you have one free spot you may choose to devote to an archer Hero, or to Harpies to slowly pick away at the enemy while still maintaining their spot guarding the enemy from stealing the tower. Whether you choose Behemoths or Thunderbirds, wait until the gate is knocked down or until there are enemies in the moat before you come out and attack, because of Thunderbirds’ fragility and Behemoths’ tendency to be targeted. It is also good to note that Berserkers won’t attack anyone until the gate is knocked down or there is a troop within the walls.
While not great in sieges, Might holds its own. Cyclopes can attack both a troop on the tower and on the ground without fear of retaliation. Harpies can either go for the drawbridge or if lucky, get some troops behind the wall. Berserkers, once they finally reach the drawbridge, can deliver two mighty blows to it. As for the Centaurs, they will do practically no damage to anyone on the towers, so don’t waste their 4 shots. Instead, bring them closer so once the drawbridge is down, they can do half or full damage to the enemy, rather than one-eighth.