Cavalry Defence – Dynamic Sally Attack
I propose a universal defence that allows defending of cities, castles with vastly lower numbers of garrisoned troops at hardest mode AI. The scheme relies less on having the right composition of troops and superior castle defences, but more on sound cavalry tactics and superior movement based defence. You must have a superior cavalry force. This is only ever a problem against the Mongols who arrive in hordes. I will list a unique tactic against them.
Before sieges even start, you have the uttermost advantage in having a "Knight Chain" whereby a contingent of veteran knights (because you keep winning) can easily reinforce 5-6 different front line positions with one turn of movement. The mobility allows a low cost upkeep defence as well as less money spent on structural defences, right troop composition, and worrying about cities on the frontier.
The setup is simple. Usually at the peak of your frontier, place around 2-3 archer and 4-5 normal infantry groups in the most heavily attacked cities (preferably ones that can be retrained where they are). Towers never run out of ammo, so it is important to garrison wall sections, rather than worry about what troops specifically you use. Then complement this with at least 2 siege weapons (usually 1 Trebuchet and 1 Mortar, but be aware of overcrowded cities: stick to Mortar as your Trebuchet will have no room to deploy). This garrison will be the bread and butter and easily repaired and maintained at low cost.
Mobile Reinforcement Cavalry
The key lies in this mobile force and how you use it in the battlefield. A large contingent of no more than 10 and no less than 6 (including your General) is required to serve 3-4 defensive positions. These are preferred to be Feudal Knight tier cavalry, but you can even win end game defensive games with the earliest basic veteran light cavalry! I usually keep (out of 10 units): 1 General, 2 Feudal Knight, 3 Mailed Knights, and 4 Light Cavalry. Since that is a natural build up as you progress in the campaign. They tend to be veteran and have decent upgrades.
They also can serve a rapid attacking option (usually counter attack). A general leading these can ride rapidly up to enemy territory, hire infantry mercenaries and immediately take enemy settlements that are poorly guarded.
Deployment is vital to the success. No matter if you are in a city or a castle, as long as your walls have no holes, you can't loose. Ballista or Canon Towers are a help, but not necessary, as they will pose almost as much a danger to you as to them (you will see). You must have superior cavalry force.
Your goal is to sally out in 2 or 4 cavalry forces and really pin the enemy down with waves of rushes and withdraws, whilst your defences rain hell down on vital enemy troops (siege equipment and heavy infantry). Every second you delay enemy siege weapons breaching your walls is one more second of defensive fire rained down upon the attackers.
None LOS Artillery such as trebuchet and mortars are vital. You need 2 to be safe without having too much to sacrifice troop numbers. 4 is the maximum. Place these not directly behind your main gate, but slightly to the sides. This is because they are accurate horizontally but not laterally, so by allowing them to fire from the sides, they will always hit something! If the enemy have towers, these always get hit quickly and usually collapse fast! Place them usually 100 metres either side of your main gate, but not too far so they run out of range!
Archers and Musketeers should be placed to avoid enemy ladder landings and possible places of enemy artillery bombardment - Usually centrally between 2 towers, and to the side, just above your artillery positions. Enemy artillery likes to bombard the wall sections just adjacent to the gate, so I usually have no troops placed here at start, until I destroy their artillery (next section).
The idea of Miltia / basic infantry is the low upkeep and their low role played here. If the enemy break through in force, chances are you have lost with this strategy. It is imperative that we avoid high cost slow infantry at multiple locations; therefore we must utilize low cost militia this way. So this low reliance is vital to deployment. Use them to cover wall sections to man extra towers, since your cavalry will be running around and chased around a lot. Ladders are the biggest threat as they are not vulnerable to damage.
Here lies the crux of your victory. Deployment is not essential as long as they can get out quickly from the city/castle. If the enemy is deployed afar, you can use side gates to emerge to avoid congestion. Otherwise all rush out from the front gate. You can only do this if you have superior cavalry to the enemy, otherwise your task is many folds harder!
The objective is to utterly vanquish the enemy siege towers and ranged siege weapons as soon as possible. Then proceed to destroy their missile troops and cavalry. Sallying out and rushing vulnerable enemy equipment will have 2 devastating effects:
- Morale and physical damage to low health ranged and siege troops
- delay enemy advance
Attack in this order
- Heavy Archers and Heavy Siege Equipment first
- Peasant Archers and Enemy mobile cavalry next (some cavalry never do much, depending on situation and AI)
For every minute that the enemy is stationary or not breaching your walls, it is more unlimited ammo towers raining hell down and one more minute of mayhem. Your trebuchet and mortar should aim in a cross firing arc to knock out enemy towers and rain down hell. Their lateral placement means they rarely miss. Only halt fire as your cavalry charges and resume afterwards. Your archers should be set to use fire arrows on the densest enemy concentrations, especially against cavalry and spearmen. Never have fire at will on.
Phase I begins with either a full frontal charge by all your cavalry or they first run to the side or then charge from behind/side. This depends on where the enemy ranged siege weapons are. Usually they push them forward to attack your gate, so as they separate away from main troops, rush in and disrupt this! This will no doubt prompt a rush reaction by enemy troops to come to their aid. Your aim is not to vanquish everything, but to harass enemy vital siege units. Each rush forces them to halt their attack and contend with you. If you have elite archers (especially Longbowmen), here is a chance to wear them down at extreme range. Withdraw immediately to the enemy flanks. Repeat this whenever enemy push unprotected siege or missile troops forward. You can get ratios of 4 cavalry vs. 1 enemy siege equipment/troop battles, dealing massive damage. Whenever they chase your cavalry in numbers, retreat to your walls on either side of the gate. You can counter cavalry charge against pursuers if you have a 2-1 advantage against melee and 1-1 against missile troops.
If the enemy just charge everything + rams/towers at your walls, then here is the way. This is likely to happen if they have lost all their ranged siege gear or just push hard at start. If they have ranged siege at back, whilst rest push forward, send your light cavalry to back and destroy these! The rest of your cavalry should be focused on 1 thing: Delaying the towers/ram. You can never accomplish destroying the enemy with your cavalry, but delay guarantees that the towers and rams won't make it in one piece. Short range means accurate trebuchet and mortar attacks and whilst the bulk of enemy troops remain in tact, their siege equipment will not.
At this point the enemy AI is likely to have 80% of troops still alive, a few rams to spare and maybe ladders. However, you have routed their entire ranged siege and destroyed their towers. Now aim to eradicate enemy cavalry and archers.
Future rams will have defensive fire all focused on them, so they stand no chance. Ladders pose the only threat. Focus your heaviest overwhelming charges on ladder troops. Your focus means that you can destroy the enemy is piecemeal. If they over protect ladders, your archers and artillery will have a field day. Either way, the objectivity is delay, and not a straight win. If you can lure the enemy cavalry / general away, then finish them off quietly in a corner! Ballista fire, canon fire, trebuchet, mortar, flaming arrows, cavalry charges will eventually wear the enemy down to 30-40% from 80%. By then you probably have ran out of ammunition and can start sallying out your infantry really pincer them in and rout the reminder.
I had the pleasure of destroying the entire Mongolian waves playing early Byzantine. Neither did I have decent infantry/archers, nor did I have decent Cavalry. Even if I did, my tactics would not change. I had peasant archers, the most basic militia spearmen, and only light cavalry archers (not even lancers). Yet I repeated (on very hard mode): 800 Byzantium peasant army (40-100 losses never more than 15%) against 1800-2000 Mongolian elites (at 90+% losses). You might have done this too, you might think I am lying. I stuck to my cities walls and wore the enemy down with hails of fire arrows whilst harassing the enemy siege equipment with my mobile cavalry riding around the city in circles. Every city tower had been garrisoned and raining ballista fire. Within 5 minutes, the enemy casualty was 20%. My archers on walls sustained minimum casualty whilst the real danger was my outrageously out numbered cavalry making daring quick attacks. The key is don't even think of making any melee or face to face contact unless you have 6v1 ratio advantage. That was because I had crappy militia men (only way to get every city with 800+ strong force in a few turns and have a decent economy to fight both Egyptians and Venetians!). Ballista towers are vital to kill the enemy general as soon as possible. Routed enemy you do not want to come back again!
Conclusions are the English are great for this tactic. In fact the crusades and the English relied on this during their campaigns. The mobile defence is extremely flexible and reasonably cheap. Your enemy will need to prepare for an extremely amazing siege force to counter this. Such preparations take time, money and can be spotted in time for you to give a more comprehensive defence in addition to this. Should the enemy loose, you can backlash immediately with your mobile cavalry force and hire infantry mercenaries as you lay siege to their emptied settlements.
Strength of your victories in defence and attack lies in: Mobile + Strong troops. Only Knights can achieve this. Any preparations for a decent force are often undone by things you can't foresee (ambushes, another attack elsewhere) and preparations (enemy reinforcements, counterattacks) made against you.