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This article is about an older version of DF.

(Disambiguation - see also the ambusher skill)

An ambush is a sudden event in fortress mode when a small force of enemies attempts to attack your fortress. While smaller in scope than a full siege, ambushes are not related to the number of dwarves in your fortress, and so can be triggered by relatively small populations. An ambush is not announced immediately, but instead is announced when your fortress becomes aware of the attackers, such as when they come close to your dwarves or pets. In this version, no types of traps will reveal ambushes, but you can still detect invaders from checking your traps "visually" - if the trap killed an invader, the corpse and gear will be there.



In this version, Goblin ambushes consist solely of thieves attempting to capture your children. When discovered, the game will announce "Snatcher! Protect the children!" and they will immediately attempt to flee. Goblin thieves appear to be extremely stealthy and can sneak past adult dwarves with ease, but once they capture a child they will typically be discovered in short order.

Goblin thieves are unable to navigate traps safely and can easily be killed or caught by simple weapon traps or cage traps. They also can not pass forbidden doors.


Kobolds will test your fortress by sending thieves dependent on your fort's population and wealth.

Kobold thieves are very crafty at finding unpatrolled venues into your fortress, and will not set off traps or stop for locked doors. It is wise to chain animals near possible entrances to detect kobold infiltrators. War dogs (and probably other animals) will detect a kobold up to 2 tiles away, and will stray up to 1 tile in any direction away from their restraint - to make sure, bracket a 3-wide hallways with two animals, one against each wall, so no thief can pass without being within 1 tile of an animal. If they are detected, the game will announce "Thief! Protect the hoard from skulking filth!" and the thief will attempt to flee.

Kobold archers will begin to arrive if the Kobold thieves successfully steal any items; the number of successive soldiers and thieves who arrive will depend on how many items were stolen previously. If discovered, the game will announce "An ambush! Skulking vermin!", at which point they will fire at anybody nearby and then flee once they run out of ammo.


Hostile humans will not ambush - they only siege.


Hostile elves will send squads of archers to ambush your dwarves if they are mildly unhappy - if discovered, the game will announce "An ambush! Curse the forest!" and they will fire at anybody nearby, fleeing once they run out of ammo.

At higher levels of hostility, they will attack openly and also send druids - see siege for more information.

Invaders from within[edit]

Not all ambushers come from outside - many can come from the very heart of your fortress, generally from the cave river, chasm, or magma flow.

When such invaders are spotted, the game will typically announce "A [creature] has sprung from ambush!" and the creature will either attack your dwarves or flee back to its home (e.g. back into the chasm). Early invaders from the cave river may be injured and will announce "An injured [creature] has sprung from ambush!", though if the creature is injured badly enough and has fallen unconscious, the game will instead announce "There is a [creature] hidden away here."

A special exception is the gremlin which, when discovered, will announce "A gremlin! Drive it away!".

If your fortress was destroyed by a megabeast and you attempt to reclaim it, the megabeast will be waiting for you - once discovered, the game will announce "An ambush! Drive them out!". Similarly, if your fortress is conquered by goblins, their soldiers may be waiting for you, generating the simple announcement "An ambush!" when you return and find them.

Last but not least, the inhabitants of the eerie glowing pits will announce "Horrors! Demons in the deep!" when encountered.


Active Defense[edit]

  • The very nature of an ambush makes it difficult to actively defend against one. If an ambush is detected and heads towards your fortress, standard siege tactics and defenses apply. However, until an ambush is detected, there is oftentimes simply too much ground to cover without spreading your forces too thinly to do any good. If you want to actively defend friendly workers and caravans and whatnot from potential ambush, probably the best way to do so is to deploy your forces strictly to areas that you want to keep secure. Stationing Marksdwarves near sensitive locations is proven to be a very effective way of doing so.
  • One of the largest advantages an ambushing enemy has is the fact that they go undetected until they encounter something. This means that active detection can be extremely helpful in minimizing the damage dealt by an ambush by actually letting you react to the attack. One such way of doing so is by placing dwarves or chained animals in the direction from which an ambush is expected, sacrificing them to bait the ambushers into attacking them and thereby revealing their position.
  • War dogs and Siege weapons are much less effective against an ambush than they are against a siege. Trying to cover large areas with war dogs is liable to do little more than get them killed and an ambush out in the wild will often be too far away for a siege engine to attack. When ambushers do get into range, insufficient detection measures may let them get close enough to scare off the civilian siege operators before they can fire a shot.

Passive Defense[edit]

  • Traps work against any ambushers (except kobolds and other creatures with the trapavoid tag), though they will not alert you to their presence.
  • Creating chokepoints in which to place detectors like chained animals and cage traps can greatly increase their effectiveness by reducing the number of ways the attackers can simply bypass them. If an ambush manages to make it to the outer edge of your defenses, a chained animal placed in such a chokepoint and backed up by several rows of traps is often enough to break the enemy and send them into retreat.
  • A moat - especially combined with drawbridges - is just as effective against detected ambushers as against a siege. However, it can also help keep outdoor workers such as woodcutters safe by sealing off access to areas that hold valuable resources. Note that water-filled moats in cold or temperate climates can freeze during winter, so in those situations, filling that moat with magma might be a better idea.


  • One of the best things you can do to increase civilian survivability in ambushes is to assign war dogs to them. In case of an ambush, the war dog will charge the enemies while the civilian runs away. The war dog will almost certainly die, but it is easier to replace dogs than dwarves. Plus, if you're lucky, the dog will maim or kill an important enemy before going down. Train every dog that reaches maturity and request them from the human caravan (costs about 35¤ base and you get to keep the cage they come in). Then, simply go down the military menu and assign war dogs to every legendary dwarf, woodcutter, or child (guard from snatchers) that you see. Hunters, obviously, work best with hunting dogs instead. Do note, however, that assigned dogs are considered pets, so if a dwarf's guard dog dies, he will receive an unhappy thought and want the pet buried properly. As an alternative, you can have your woodcutters and other important dwarves train the dogs themselves; the dogs will follow their trainer until reassigned and are not counted as pets.
  • Like a siege, your normal dwarves will still attempt to do their jobs during an ambush. Even worse is the fact that ambushes are all too often detected when the ambushers reveal themselves by slaughtering civilians working outdoors. Standard siege measures will reduce further casualties, but that is little comfort to the woodcutters, hunters, etc. that are already full of arrows and stab wounds. To minimize the casualties taken in the first place, active and passive measures like those described above can be used to detect and combat incoming ambushes, giving you time to get your civilians to safety.
  • The best way to keep ambushers from killing your workers, however, is to keep your workers from going outside in the first place. Since dwarves naturally congregate outdoors even when provided with indoor meeting halls, you'll need to order them to stay inside. If you do this, you'll need a way to gain "outdoor" resources without actually going there (such as getting wood from Tower-cap farms or getting water and fish from the cave river).