Sieging a Castle

Sieging a Castle, or a Fortified City. That’s something fascinating about medieval warfare – to say the least.

The attacking troops had to spend days marching towards their target, then days besieging it. The Noble who founded the expedition had the responsibility to replenish their troops: food, water and everything needed to force the march of hundreds or thousands of soldiers towards death, or glory.

Before meeting their enemies in battle, maybe on open field then at the Castle’s gate, Medieval Lords often had to traverse the Land, visiting Cities and looking for military support. Some support was merely provided by the Lord’s private Army, purchased with gold (either private, or public in case of a King campaigning). Some other support was gathered by visiting those Cities and raising Levies. Those Levies could come from the populace, or brought along by an ally, such as another Noble faithful to the cause.

If it were a King’s campaign, soldiers may have enrolled simply out of their faith to the crown, but if the campaigning Lord were a Noble with no regal rights, he had to do something before venturing into a campaign, to receive support in exchange. Sometimes a Noble couldn’t even be sure to receive help by Cities in its own homeland.

1460 – During the Wars of the Roses, the City of London closed its gates to the Lancaster – legit sovereign of England

I can think of a few games simulating a Castle’s siege. First of all there’s Stronghold obviously. In this 2 players game, the two challengers will meticulously micromanage the components needed to attack and to defend a Stronghold from a siege taking into account, from BGG Decription: they’ll build war machines, equip soldiers… manage troops roles, replenishments, wall breaches in a precise fashion.  

Stronghold’s Box Front

Focusing on a much higher level I could think of two other games that use nice and thematic mechanics to simulate the dynamic of a Castle Siege.

The first is Fief; here a Lord attacking a Castle without sieging it has a penalty to his dice rolls, putting the defender at an advantage.
If the attacking Lord decides to spend a turn or two sieging the castle – building Siege Engines – then that penalty reduces, actually disappearing after two turns. This simulates the construction of sieging engines that – after some time – grant an advantage to the attacker.

In Fief you have to spend a couple of turns to be able to attack a fortified site with ease

Warrior Knights abstractions goes even a bit further. A Lord sieging a Castle does not even need to spend time to build Siege Engines, he just needs to have an attacking power superior to that of the defending City, and spend 2 turns camping outside the walls. Since Warrior Knight’s combat is more deterministic than that of Fief (here the players need to decide which cards to play, while in Fief the two opposers will roll dice) this level of abstraction fits perfectly.

In Warrior Knights to be able to siege a Fortified City, the lords just needs to have an army stronger than the City’s defense, and spend 2 turns sieging it.

The idea of sieging a Castle is fascinating, cause Castles are fascinating. And to be able to melt with the spirit of the Middle Ages we just need to visit a Castle. For example Mad King Ludwig Neuschwanstein’s Castle is something that deserves a visit – should you happen to travel to Europe. And Castles of Mad King Ludwig lets us re-experience the construction of a Castle as if we were King Ludwig’s architects. Of course we need to build the castle with a touch of madness in heart. If Mad King Ludwig did some mad things to have this castle built, the players will build the craziest castle layouts ever in this tile-laying game – trying to mix and match cool room-tiles to make fun combinations.

Neuschwanstein Castle – a Pic I snapped a few months ago
Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Will the craziest layout grant you the victory?

Leaving micromanagement aside, can you think of any other games that use nice thematic mechanics to simulate a Castle siege (or even a Space Fortress siege – here the setting doesn’t matter)? And what about a game that simulates the struggle to gather Levies\support from Cities faithful to you along the route to battle? Would it be a mechanic a bit too burdensome?

Civita di Bagnoregio – A City sitting atop a plateau of friable volcanic tuff overlooking the Tiber river valley – Italy. Would you imagine laying siege from below those rocky walls? Img courtesy and Copyright by Stefano Vichi.

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