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Offline Max

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Siege realism and sapper class.
« on: July 28, 2017, 05:31:01 pm »
One of the main problems with sieges in Napoleonic Wars was that many maps relied on walls destruction through artillery. On some maps, you couldn't even find a way in without destroying the walls, and sometimes had to wait a very long time in front of the walls while players were trying to kill each other to decide who could man the artillery.

The gameplay was boring and very repetitive.

The Italian style fortifications were of course very strong, and couldn't be destroyed by cannons. Artillery was used to kill people over the walls. Sometimes you could weaken the walls with your artillery and create small gaps that could be used to set up explosives and destroy the walls. But there was no way to actually take a fort without sapper work:
- Digging a big network of trenches as close to the walls as possible.
- Digging tunnels (sape) in which you would eventually set up explosives or, for defense, also digging tunnels to set up an explosion under the enemy's tunnels (contre-sape).
- Filling the moats with fascines.

Vauban himself was known for one main invention: placing artillery in a perpendicular angle to the walls and letting the cannonballs roll over the top of the wall, killing many. It was called "tir en enfilade". He also invented a defense against his own method: some small blocks would be built over the wall itself to prevent cannonballs from rolling.

I saw that holdfast uses the old unrealistic Napoleonic Wars system were you would just destroy the wall with artillery. This is a pity as the most important class in a siege should be the sapper. Of course I understand the funny thing in destroying walls with artillery, but it's also possible to give sappers the possibility to play an important, maybe the most important part, in sieges (without the spam of sandbags that you could find in NW).

- They could dig tunnels. That's something that I added on some maps for my Minisiege server on NW. It took hours to make because of the map editor and the lack of possibilies, but imagine what you could do in a new game.
- They could set up explosives in tunnels that would destroy the walls over it.
- They could build fascines on preset locations to fill the moats, especially used on forts surrounded by water and wetlands.
- You could add wetlands to the game that would simply slow down the players ?

You will find many ideas in Vauban's La conduite des sièges.

I believe that this would add a lot more fun to sieges, and many more possibilities to mapping, and wouldn't require so much work to be added to the game.

Offline SwydeBarca

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Re: Siege realism and sapper class.
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2017, 07:16:07 pm »
I am not a siege expert, but I think you could tear down the walls with artillery. Granted, not in 10ish minutes like in NW, but after days and days of bombarding the walls would eventually weaken and start to crumble. Like the Theodosian Walls, who eventually collapsed after more than a month of artillery barrage.

But I would really love to see more realistic siege and better use of sappers. Sappers were indeed an important part of sieges, and a lot of breaches were created by sappers placing explosives at certain weak spots. This is a truly good idea.

Offline Max

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Re: Siege realism and sapper class.
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2017, 10:25:19 pm »
I am not a siege expert, but I think you could tear down the walls with artillery. Granted, not in 10ish minutes like in NW, but after days and days of pounding the walls would eventually weaken and start to crumble. Like the Theodosian Walls, who eventually collapsed after more than a month of artillery barrage.

But I would really love to see more realistic siege and better use of sappers. Sappers were indeed an important part of sieges, and a lot of breaches were created by sappers placing explosives at certain weak spots. This is a truly good idea.
Well your example is completely different. The theodosian walls were not built to resist artillery, so of course with heavy artillery fire they would completely collapse. The walls were straight and there was nothing behind the walls.



A fort à l'italienne was built to resist artillery, behind the wall you would find tons of earth. There was no way to completely destroy one of these walls with artillery, it would be like pounding a hill. You will also notice that  while the theodosian walls were protected by a stave dug a few meters in front of the wall, the walls of the Italian-style fort are part of the stave itlsef, which allows the fort to keep a very low profile.

Take this Portuguese beauty for example:


Cannonballs would most likely bounce on the walls. You could damage it, but it wouldn't crumble. And imagine the cost of powder and cannonballs! Money is very important in wars and you can't afford everything. You would better use your artillery to clear the troops and artillery on the walls while your men advance in trenches and your sappers dig tunnels to set up a big explosion that will actually destroy a part of the wall.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2017, 10:27:29 pm by Max »

Offline SwydeBarca

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Re: Siege realism and sapper class.
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2017, 11:54:58 pm »
Take this Portuguese beauty for example:


Love it :D Seriously though, I really appreciate when people share their expertise on certain subjects.

However, I'd like to raise two points if that's not a problem. First, the angle of these walls don't seem enough to deflect a cannon ball, I've seen ship with way curvier hulls be penetrated by light cannons (18lbs-ish), a heavier one would penetrate that wall easily I would think.

Also, can't the attackers simply "destroy" the upper section of the wall and let the dirt fall down to create a sort of ramp? Again, the inclinaison don't seem to be enough to hold back the dirt behind if the wall were to tear off.

(Disclaimer: I totally agree with you with the fact that assaulting a star fort using only cannons is ridiculously expensive and difficult. I also think that sappers are underpowered and should be given a much bigger role in sieges.)

Offline Max

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Re: Siege realism and sapper class.
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2017, 05:48:59 am »
Take this Portuguese beauty for example:


Love it :D Seriously though, I really appreciate when people share their expertise on certain subjects.

However, I'd like to raise two points if that's not a problem. First, the angle of these walls don't seem enough to deflect a cannon ball, I've seen ship with way curvier hulls be penetrated by light cannons (18lbs-ish), a heavier one would penetrate that wall easily I would think.

Also, can't the attackers simply "destroy" the upper section of the wall and let the dirt fall down to create a sort of ramp? Again, the inclinaison don't seem to be enough to hold back the dirt behind if the wall were to tear off.

(Disclaimer: I totally agree with you with the fact that assaulting a star fort using only cannons is ridiculously expensive and difficult. I also think that sappers are underpowered and should be given a much bigger role in sieges.)
You are right and I must admit that I underestimated the strength of artillery. You could indeed pound the wall to take the dirt out, and make important breaches in the wall within a few weeks or even days depending on the wall. But you would target the bottom first, not the top. That's what Vauban says in his Traité des sièges et de l'attaque des places, because if you damage the bottom, the parapet will eventually crumble. The wall would be partly destroyed, then you would still need sapper work to build defenses up to the breach and then to take down the parapet. According to Vauban, you would attack the demi-lune before attacking the bastions. Basically the cannons make breaches and the sappers do the rest of the job, widening the breaches and allowing passage, under protection from artillery fire. Still according to Vauban, when the enemy understands that it's time to abandon the demi-lune, they might blow up the mines and kill 3 or 4 sappers. Setting up mines was common, that's what the French did at Badajoz, but they killed much more as Wellington tried to rush the breaches.

Fort the bastions, the stave might be filled up with water, so there again cannons would be useless without sappers, even if they managed to make breaches in the wall. Sappers might have to do a much longer work under heavy fire, but they will be defended by the artillery set up on the sized demi-lune.

Yet it's true that you could take down a wall without mines. Vauban favours cannons over mines as they were more reliable according to him. Yet he admits that the best way to take a fort is still to combine mines and cannons. At Burgos cannons failed and the breach was made with a mine.

At Badajoz, the three breaches were made with cannons. Here is a good article wich states that more than 31,000 round shots were fired with 2,523 barrels of powder. Yet it clear that the attack on the breaches was a big failure, probably as there wasn't enough sapper work to reach and prepare the breaches and not enough fire support from the artillery.

Offline SwydeBarca

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Re: Siege realism and sapper class.
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2017, 04:10:22 pm »
Fort the bastions, the stave might be filled up with water, so there again cannons would be useless without sappers, even if they managed to make breaches in the wall. Sappers might have to do a much longer work under heavy fire, but they will be defended by the artillery set up on the sized demi-lune.

That's interesting to know. I wonder if the forts in the game are gonna be as realistic as this. Probably not, at least not until the sappers are added to the game as you intended.

To raise another question, why would they target the bottom wall? I find several problems with that.
First, the bottom wall is harder to see and hit. The bottom of the wall of the bastion is partly blocked from view by the demi-lune, it must be challenging for the artillery to hit.
Secondly, the top wall as a much better efficiency overall. If you aim too high, you hit the defenders on the wall and if you aim to low, you hit the bottom of the wall. You said sieges were very expensive, so wouldn't they try to make every shot count?
Finally, after the siege has gone on for some time, every shot must send a cloud of dust in the air. That would block the view of the defenders, maybe even blind them, thus protecting the artillery, sappers and infantry.

So why did they target the bottom wall? What significant advantage did it have that made all these drawbacks I mentioned irrelevant (or at least less important).

Aussi, t'es-tu français? Si oui, good job le kid, t'es vraiment bon en anglais. Also, je trouve ça vraiment enrichissant de parler avec toi, merci c'est smat.

Offline Max

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Re: Siege realism and sapper class.
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2017, 05:48:10 pm »
Fort the bastions, the stave might be filled up with water, so there again cannons would be useless without sappers, even if they managed to make breaches in the wall. Sappers might have to do a much longer work under heavy fire, but they will be defended by the artillery set up on the sized demi-lune.

That's interesting to know. I wonder if the forts in the game are gonna be as realistic as this. Probably not, at least not until the sappers are added to the game as you intended.

To raise another question, why would they target the bottom wall? I find several problems with that.
First, the bottom wall is harder to see and hit. The bottom of the wall of the bastion is partly blocked from view by the demi-lune, it must be challenging for the artillery to hit.
Secondly, the top wall as a much better efficiency overall. If you aim too high, you hit the defenders on the wall and if you aim to low, you hit the bottom of the wall. You said sieges were very expensive, so wouldn't they try to make every shot count?
Finally, after the siege has gone on for some time, every shot must send a cloud of dust in the air. That would block the view of the defenders, maybe even blind them, thus protecting the artillery, sappers and infantry.

So why did they target the bottom wall? What significant advantage did it have that made all these drawbacks I mentioned irrelevant (or at least less important).

Aussi, t'es-tu français? Si oui, good job le kid, t'es vraiment bon en anglais. Also, je trouve ça vraiment enrichissant de parler avec toi, merci c'est smat.
Thank you. I'm French indeed.

Well the point of attacking the demi-lune first is that you would set up artillery directly on the demi-lune to attack the bastions. Once you have breached the bastions, you can also bring some artillery to the bastions themselves. They would bring artillery very close to the walls as you can see there:



I highlighted artillery positions on the map and also added the one on the demi-lune where you are supposed to set up some mortars. So once the demi-lune is taken the enemy wall is completely covered.

Regarding artillery shelling, If you have enough precision to hit the top you can probably hit the bottom too. It seems clear from Vauban's work that it was possible to aim at the bottom with enough accuracy. According to him: "The parapet will follow the collapse once the coating has fallen." Thus aiming the bottom is more efficient. He recommends to keep pounding the wall for some time to widen the breach. He sees this as a long process that mustn't be hastened.

« Last Edit: August 17, 2017, 06:01:58 pm by Max »

Offline SwydeBarca

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Re: Siege realism and sapper class.
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2017, 04:56:47 pm »
Last question. I thought star forts were design so that every position on the lower levels were in range of muskets and could be shot at from at least 2 angles at a time? Isn't setting up artillery there suicidal, considering the rain of musket shots that would rain down on the attackers?

http://imgur.com/a/JSz3w

Alright, I only provided a link and I only drew the demi-lune because I'm a lazy bastard, but my point is still valid.

As you can see, even if every men were to fire directly in front of them, all places would be under fire from at least 1 angle, probably 2 if you were to include every option. The demi-lune itself is under fire by 3 angles, setting up artillery there would be quite foolish in my opinion.

Also, sorry if I'm a tad insecure, but I am not doubting your claims. You obviously have a lot more experience than me on this subject. There are simply certain siege tactics that, using common sense, would seem not to work and I would like to know why they work out in an actual siege.

Offline Max

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Re: Siege realism and sapper class.
« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2017, 12:19:40 am »
I'm merely repeating what can be found in Vauban's work, but if the siege operations are prepared properly:
1.  A tremendous amount of fire is actually falling on the defenders.
2. Your trenches offer a very good protection.

I will use the drawings from Vauban's work to illustrate this.

First you would have a line of long-range batteries that would bounce over the defending walls to kill defenders and destroy their artillery, thus it's "Ricochet" name. Note how the line of fire is parallel to the attacked portion of the wall (enfilade), allowing the cannonballs to ricochet over the parapet.




Then a second line of batteries set directly in the front trenches. The breaching batteries (in red) would aim at the spear of the demi-lune and bastions to create a breach. Vauban recommends to fire the whole battery at the same time and to hit successively from the spear to the shoulders of the bastion. Attacking the spear makes sense because it's obviously weaker both in terms of architecture and defense.

Note the dots between the (C) batteries. They represent mortars.




Now if we have a look at the trenches, we can see that the sappers will build with sufficient protections. They will first put gabions in front of them as they advance behind a mantelet (on the left), then fascines over the gabions, and finally earth over the whole stuff, creating a parapet. The result is that you have a trench that is elevated above the ground. Some trenches called cavaliers would be made even higher and cover the stove itself. If you look at the pictures above, you will notice some perpendicular black bars along the trenches, those are called traverses, defending the parallel axis of the trench (just like you would avoid making linear trenches in WWI).



Now if we go back the Badajoz example, it's clear that the British didn't follow Vauban's advices:



1. There was no trench close to the wall.
2. The area was flooded. It seems that they tried to shell the water retention to alleviate the flooding, but I guess that the infantry attacked in the mud. There is no sign of sapper work on those areas.
3. The breaches were made on the sides of the bastions instead of the spear.
4. They don't have any ricochet batteries or close-range mortars. So of course setting up a defense must have been really easy.
5. They attacked from the south-west in open field. I guess that many must have been killed by defending artillery before even reaching the walls.



If you look at this map, you notice the Pardaleras redoubt in the south. I believe that an attack from the south-west would have been more interesting if they had sized this redoubt. They could have taken the Pardaleras and opened fire on bastion 6 from both redoubts, but they only considered false attacks against the Pardaleras.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2017, 12:23:36 am by Max »

Offline SwydeBarca

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Re: Siege realism and sapper class.
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2017, 02:32:17 pm »
Pretty impressive. Thanks for the awesome lesson :D

Offline Gurkha

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Re: Siege realism and sapper class.
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2017, 03:32:24 pm »
Devs listen to Max, he knows his shit.

Most of the 33rd_NW_Siege maps were maps that relied on walls destruction through artillery. While it was cool maybe into the first year of NW's release, the playerbase quickly gets bored of it and many problems arise from it. This is why 33rd siege went on a decline and players moved to the smaller Mini_Siege which had better ways for attackers to you know... attack?


Offline SwydeBarca

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Re: Siege realism and sapper class.
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2017, 11:30:01 pm »
Devs listen to Max, he knows his shit.

Hear, hear.