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- For catapults and ballistae, see Siege engine.
Sieges are large scale assaults on your fortress by other civilizations. They are usually announced with the message screen "A vile force of darkness has arrived!" (the message screen differs depending on the attacking race), and the main screen shows "SIEGE" tag along the top for the duration.
A civilization will be unable to lay siege if it can't reach your fortress site, meaning you'll never get sieges if you embark on an island or in a valley which is completely surrounded by mountains. If you want to make sure that a certain civilization will be capable of laying siege to you, then look at the "neighbors" view of the Embark site finder when selecting your fortress site.
Structure of a siege
Siege forces usually consist of several 'squads'. Using the goblins as an example, each squad consists of several goblins of one military class (swordsman, lasher, etc.), and often one 'squad leader' (typically an Elite or better, which need not be the same class as the squad it leads).
Occasionally, a squad will be mounted - this means each of its members will be riding a suitable creature, though the creatures typically vary between members. The squad leader can be mounted, even if his squad is not. These mounts can change the combat dynamics, since some can fly, are building destroyers, or have substantially different combat traits than a goblin (for example a Jabberer tends to grab body parts and tear them off).
After being sufficiently "successful" at defending against the siege (killing sufficient attackers, waiting them out, or some combination thereof), the attackers will retreat. All of the remaining squads and groups will head for the map edges and leave, typically favoring the edge they entered from. Once all of the remaining attackers have decided to retreat, the "SIEGE" tag will go away.
It is possible to have multiple sieges at the same time. If the attacking civilizations are at war with each other, they will start to fight with each other as well.
Different races will favor different styles of attack during sieges. The following attack styles were observed in .40d; it remains to be seen if these traits are still present in 31.
Goblins will start laying siege to your fortress when you reach a population of around 80 dwarves. [Verify]
Sometimes goblins will charge blindly toward your fortress and attempt to kill your dwarves.
Goblins sieges often include groups of Trolls or Ogres, that can break buildings. Unlike the squads, however, these 'groups' usually enter the map in single file, somewhat akin to arriving migrants, usually possess random civilian classes, and show little of the organized behavior of the squads.
Goblins may bring elite human or even dwarven fighters as leaders of their squads. Sometimes goblins come with cave crocodiles or giant olms, or rutherers for mounts. Any underground animals with MOUNT_EXOTIC, really. Giant olms and crocodiles can breathe under water, which means they are able to swim through your moat, often resulting in the death of the goblin riding said animal. Goblins can also ride tamed giant bats or Giant cave swallows making them able to fly over your fortress walls. Other possible mounts include creatures such as the voracious cave crawler. Some squads may enter the screen underground, making the underground workings of your fortress vulnerable to attack if you are not patrolling underground caverns.
It is possible to have elven attacks as well, but that usually requires some effort on part of the player, or for your starting civilization to have a pre-existing conflict with a nearby elven one. You can check this when you embark while looking at nearby civilizations, where it will read WAR next to the elf civilization, though it seems to be entirely dependent on how world gen plays out and embarking at a time when a war is happening. Another, possibly simpler (and more amusing) way to elven siege is to blatantly provoke them. If you don't want to be attacked by elves you should not offer them wooden goods or goods stored in wooden barrels or bins. You might also avoid clearing too much woodland, as elves will be offended if you do so.
Elven sieges are announced with the message, "The elves have brought the full forces of their lands against you.". Elves use stealth squads, a la goblin ambushes, to hide their numbers and locations. [Verify] It should be noted, however, that unlike goblin ambushes which cap at four squads, elves can come in vast numbers, atop mighty (and tasty) unicorns or other exotic beasts. Fortunately, unlike goblins and humans, who wear heavy armor and wield metal weapons that can cause considerable damage, elves fight with flimsy wooden swords, and march into battle wearing nothing but cloth robes and trousers. That isn't to say the attack should be taken lightly, because their melee forces aren't what you should be worrying about, as their bowmen are still deadly and can perforate your dwarves with hails of arrows in very short order.
Humans may also siege you should you let their diplomat die while visiting your fortress, if too many of their trade wagons get destroyed or if you trade with an elven nation the humans are at war with. Human sieges are announced with the message "The enemy have come and are laying siege to the fortress.".
Humans would sometimes set up a camp near the map edge they arrived on, harassing wandering dwarves and waiting for you to come to them instead of blindly charging toward your fortress.[Verify]
Humans often ride animals like horses, camels or war grizzly bears, and may bring along further war animals like trained cheetahs.
Be warned that human siegers know of all traps that their diplomats have seen before, even their war animals are immune to those traps. If you had a human diplomat in your fort, best assume that your traps are useless against the invaders unless they were built after his last visit. A removed and rebuilt trap counts as "new", even if it's the same type of trap in the same tile.
- Enemy squads will never abandon their caged or dead leader. Bug:1598
- Amphibian invader mounts drown their riders. Bug:926
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Military and defense