On Assassins

By EnemyofJupitor.

Last time around, I introduced the spy. Now leaving the shady building he lives in, we must go slightly more up-market - a nice inn perhaps. For here is another useful man to be used in our quest for domination - the assassin. Buy him a drink, and he shall be happy to discuss business over a pint. Watch your back, though - there are all sorts of shady types here...


The Subtle Knife

Assassins are perhaps the most violent of the agents, dealing directly with death. However, they can be either invaluable or a dead weight to your cause depending on how they perform. One of the easiest ways to get the best out of your knife-man is to use in tandem with a spy - the latter steals into settlements and identifies a target, the former takes care of it. The assassin is usually used prior to an invasion, taking out military leaders, diplomats and buildings in order to put the target nation at an immediate disadvantage. Even in peacetime, merchants can be made to disappear, priests of a different nation found dead in their churches, and a seat on the College of Cardinals can become available. The effects of actions such as these can have benefits to you - the enemy economy looses an outlet for florins, inquisitors can appear to find out why your rival is slacking in religious duties (Keep in mind you're going to be taking over that settlement later), and the last gives your priests the chance to shine.

Assassins aren't just offensive tools, though; many times has a player found a heretic or priest of a different religion in their lands, and invading armies suddenly lack a leader - convenient, as it makes it so much easier to defend your cities.

Thug to Artist

As I'm writing this I can already hear people sit back and say "But they're useless!" Well, so are your generals when you first gain them, so just like them you need to train up your hitman a bit first.

Start low - there's no way you can kill the king with only a couple of eyes. Rebel captains, princesses and diplomats are often the first port of call - the first are traditional fall guys in this business, but the others often have low traits due to often failing to get the deals and negotiations wanted by their king. Send a few of these to judgement, and your man is ready to start making an impact on your policies. Enemy assassins aren't good people to run into, however - since roman times they have become decidedly trickier to get rid of.

Merchants, priests, imams and the odd drunk general are acceptable targets during the middling stages of your assassin's career. If you get lucky, there may be a spy or two due for a knifing. However - be aware that he can loose traits just as easily (if not easier) as gaining them. Pick your targets well.

There are several places to 'train', where there is such a large concentration of characters on the campaign map it's screaming out for an assassin. Places such as this include (but are not limited to) northern Italy, with three or four factions vying for control, the Middle East and Constantinople. It is worth a quick scouting with a spy to see if you could benefit from sending a killer over.

A few ancillaries and higher-level traits gained through jobs should set your assassin on an even higher pedestal - something you should intend to exploit. Do not be afraid to ship one killer halfway around the world if he's good enough to cause some real damage, or swing something in your nation's favour. The world is your assassin's oyster - Kings, commanders; even the Pope isn't safe from a well-aimed crossbow shot.

Remember, there is no limit for assassins in the game, so go out and use as many as you wish.

Pyromaniacs Apply Here

So much for assassinations, but there is another use for your thug. Commonly known as sabotage, the art of burning stuff is one that may be used instead of the knife each turn, limiting or removing the effects of the targeted building for the turn, depending on how much damage your assassin causes. Indulging in this skill does not usually gain your average subterfuge points as assassination does, but instead grants 'sabotage' skill points. This only affects the chances to fire a building, and so this is not a way to train your assassin - except if you want a man who is very handy with a lighter.

Usually it is much more effective to assassinate a character than take out a building, although there are exceptions - if you're trying to make a settlement riot, take out happiness buildings, or if you wish to spread your religion take out a church. Bear in mind the AI can repair the building in a single turn. Generally the church is the easiest building to burn, and the rest of the options have the same percentage to succeed. This chance is affected by the skill of your assassin and any traits of the governor of the settlement to do with public security - it is possible that if your spies and assassins get repeatedly executed in a settlement governed by one man you will find it that much harder to go about your dirty business.

The Guild of Killers

The assassin's guild is perhaps the best thing that can happen for your killers. To gain it, you need to be training a lot of killer, preferably in one place. Other conditions that help cause the guild to ask to set up in your cities are successful attempts at sabotage and assassination and the settlement's governor having high (4+) dread - for those who like to crush and burn their foes this shouldn't be hard to achieve. Middle Eastern factions and Hungary should really gear towards gaining this guild tree, as they are able to recruit the fearsome Hashashim or battlefield assassins - a godsend against crusaders, jihadists or hordes. These powerful units should be protected and used when the enemy is least expecting it - perhaps hiding in front of some juicy exposed cannons, behind your units on the flank or even in the street next to the city plaza to 'shut the gate' on your foes.

A Note on Assassins and Faction Leaders

Using assassins - even failed attempts - reduces your faction leader's chivalric traits, such as 'fair in rule' and gains him dread traits like 'mean leader'. If you wish to have a highly chivalrous faction leader use assassins sparingly or send your king on holy wars (And win them using him) - I have once managed to keep my faction leader stable at 7 chivalry while assassinating everything in sight in Italy, but it is a stretch. Also, the use of assassins is prohibited in 'saint' or 'chivalry' iron man rules.

That about wraps it up for assassins. A big thank you to everyone on the forums - they have been most helpful, digging up all sorts of things for me, and I hope you can 'enjoy' watching your assassins doing what they do best in the in-game movies. See you on the battlefield!