Campaigns vs Battles: Consistency of Siege Outcomes

After playing through a siege using the tactical rules in Battles, I was struck by how decisive the effect of multiple breaches really was. During a few turns with a single breach, it was fairly easy to just sit on the far side and smack whatever stuck its nose through with Readied attacks from three sides. But after the second portion of the wall was cracked (I totally underestimated how quickly War Mastadons can take out a wall!), the defenders had to quickly resort to attempting a lucky strike against the enemy general.

I’ve noticed that the fast-resolution combat system in Campaigns doesn’t seem to value breaches in the same way. On page 80, the only effect I can find for creating a breach is that it allows an extra unit beyond the “one unit per point of capacity” limit. It doesn’t negate any of the usual defensive advantages, so far as I can tell.

For example, let’s suppose a small army of 5 companies of tough ogre infantry and goblin wolfrider cavalry, plus a couple catapults (but no other useful siege equipment!), besieges a huge stone tower defended by a force of 3 companies of human infantry and archers. The commander needs to decide whether to attack, or to wait until the walls have been breached by catapult reduction and siege-mining.

With a tactical battle, this fight is basically impossible until they’ve breached the walls. Otherwise, the infantry and cavalry will just mill helplessly around the base of the tower and provide target practice to the archers. With a single breach it becomes feasible, and with two breaches the odds have swung heavily in favor of the attackers.

But in the Campaigns system they’ll already get to include all their infantry and cavalry for free, just because a Huge Tower has a unit capacity of 5. This means that there’s almost no point in waiting for the creation of a breach, since they have no effect on the outcome of the battle.

For battles that involve a sufficiently large fortress being besieged by a small force of powerful creatures (the scenario I ran two weeks ago), breaches don’t seem to help at all in the Campaign battle resolution method. That seems exactly the opposite of what I’d expect, since a small army of elite troops ambitiously trying to storm a large keep defended with mediocre troops would benefit substantially from some way to get inside.

I think the best way to rationalize the current rules would be to rule that the portion of the troops that are allowed to participate solely on the basis of unit capacity would always need siege equipment in order to participate at all, but the portion that participates based on breach formation can bypass the need for siege equipment. At least, that’s the way the tactical battle seemed to work out for us.

In practical terms, that could amount to a rule that the BR of the non-breaching units would be capped by the BR from their siege equipment, in a mirror image of the way that the BR from the siege equipment is already capped by their BR in the rules.

I suspect that there is an implicit assumption in the Campaigns battle system that besieging armies will bring ladders and other equipment for attempting to cross the walls, and that breaches are advantageous because they are easier and less perilous to traverse than the direct route.

That would certainly explain why ladders are the only siege equipment excluded from the table. Although I’d rather seem them tracked, if every other piece of siege equipment is already being tracked, and if it’s necessary to track them at the tactical level.

I still think that breaches ought to be better than ladders and ought to confer some additional advantage for an attacking group of any size, even one below unit capacity.

To confirm Jedavis’s point, the D@W: Campaigns rules do assume that assaulting units are assaulting via siege ladders. In actual play this is a fine rule as siege ladders can be built quickly by any unit in almost any circumstance. A Judge who disagrees can certainly handle it on a case-by-case basis.

There is a bit of wonkiness in the Campaigns rules for sieges, though.

One of the problems is that in D@W: Campaigns, you are allowed (de facto) to have your high-BR cavalry units equipped with siege ladders and attack. You also can equip your cavalry units with siege weapons.

I didn’t worry much about this because of the following assumptions:

  1. High BR units are brittle and you wouldn’t want to expose them to the vagaries of +2 attack throws from +1 BR defenders
  2. Most battles will have historical proportions of infantry v. cavalry with normal sized forces involved and it will wash out
    Obviously this hasn’t been true in your playtest EHamilton, and judging from the requests I got for units from the backers (“flying mages on hippogriffs!”) it probably won’t be true of many campaigns.

I need to add some additional rules and modifiers to the Campaigns rules to account for this.

Here are some rules updates to test. We are getting VERY LATE in the production cycle so immediate feedback would be helpful.


  1. The besieging army’s leader selects one or more units from his army to serve as assaulting units. A maximum of 1 unit per point of unit capacity plus 1 additional unit per breach in the stronghold may be assigned to the assault. The leader must designate which units are assaulting through breaches. Other units are assumed to be assaulting with siege ladders. The leader does not have to assault with the maximum number of units if he doesn’t want to. Units not assigned to the assault are kept in reserve, and do not participate this turn. The besieging army leader should also decide what artillery and siege equipment, if any, is being used in the assault. Artillery and siege equipment do not count against the maximum number of units. See Artillery and Siege Equipment During Assaults (p. XX).

During an assault, unit attack throws are modified by the following factors:
Attack Throw Modifiers Modifier
Attack by an assaulting unit other than artillery, siege equipment, flyer, or a unit assaulting through a breach: -2
Attack by a defending unit: +2

All defending infantry units have their BR increased by 1 due to the protection of the stronghold. For example, a unit of heavy infantry (BR 2) defending a stronghold has its BR increased to 3. It will roll three attack throws and will take three hits to eliminate.

Except when assaulting through a breach, assaulting cavalry units have their BR reduced to one-quarter their base value (round up). This represents the fact that they must fight dismounted as half-strength infantry.

So breaches now provide two advantages

  1. An assaulting unit attacking through a breach avoids the -2 penalty to hit
  2. An assault cavalry unit attacking through a breach keeps its full BR

Obviously this hasn’t been true in your playtest EHamilton, and judging from the requests I got for units from the backers (“flying mages on hippogriffs!”) it probably won’t be true of many campaigns.

This is totally true. I was using the estimated siege outcome from Campaigns to see if I could replicate the battle we fought two weeks ago. That battle (1) was using screws/rams in place of ladders/hoists (I wasn’t even sure if ogres could use ladders at all!), and (2) was based on a small number of high-HD assault troops (ogres, giants, and war mastadons) which were well below the stronghold’s unit capacity but deadly once past the walls.

So it was really the perfect storm to create a mismatch between the tactical Battles outcome and the Campaigns fast-battle outcome.


I really appreciate your detailed and thorough playtesting. D@W has a lot of rules and - unlike ACKS - I haven’t been able to playtest all of them in live play in my own campaign.

Let me know if the changes I added below make sense in light of your tests.

These changes seem sensible.

I like it. I had been worried about nomadic-styled armies with horse archers and medium or heavy lancers being rather obscene in siege warfare, but the quartering of BR will make it more likely that they’ll stick to raiding less defensive positions unless they also have infantry and/or siege weapons.

Yup. I had a player who built an all-cataphract force (because they had the highest BR, ergo must be best) and then proceeded to use them to lay sieges. Much headbutting ensued.