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Total War campaigns began mainly as a way to tie battles together into a narrative structure that allowed players a sense of advancement rather than fighting endless battles with no overall sense of accomplishment. This campaign structure has gradually evolved with every 2-3 TW games adding something new.
Sieges have been a contentious issue as they represent the expansion of player/AI territory on the campaign map and also capture or deny resources between the competing factions. Sieges are basically battle maps with more chokepoints and terrain which makes sense from a narrative perspective. From a campaign perspective, sieges represent the linear progression of expanding territory while marking player progress and compared to many other games are sort of like mini-boss battles where a victory gives new levels/progresses the narrative forward.
Economically the way the game is currently structured there is very little benefit to taking the time to send an army to lay siege and NOT capture the settlement being sieged while historically that was fairly common and often had the aim of distracting an enemy or forcing concessions or creating a buffer zone ruled by a weak 3rd party who vacillated between appeasing the stronger neighbouring powers.
If an army's upkeep is 2000 per turn, 3 turns marching + 2 turns laying siege is a 10,000 investment- the attrition timer is so slow it almost always makes more sense to auto-resolve or manually assault the city even if an army takes 80% losses because that army will be replenished in 3-5 turns + gained the city income 1 turn later after repairs. That 10,000 cost increases much higher if you use attrition to continue a siege past a 6th turn as not only the upkeep cost for that army is a factor but the future lost income incurred by using that army to lay siege for more turns rather than generating additional income by capturing another settlement some turns earlier.
Attila with siege escalations and city barricades being somewhat optional was a nice advancement in sieges but still limited to the battle phase of sieges. ToB and 3K added innovations so far are in how armies form and are recruited- still need a bit of work there but it is going on the right track so that capturing territory becomes important from a mobility and recruitment perspective as much as an economic/resource gain since the development of income from cities is proportionally slower in those games but allows replenishment and recruitment instantly in controlled territories making controlling the settlement in a region a large advantage to repelling an enemies response to invading armies.
From CA perspective as a developer, the campaign map is slowly evolving from a structure to hang battles onto into the political and historical story that players develop playing the game- this means there should probably be options to resolve a siege in a few ways other than battle and for purposes other than capturing new resources or delineating progress in the campaign.
For some examples:
Options for a player that can occur as soon as an Attacker besieges a settlement;
The Defender cedes the city to the Attacker in return for 5 turn truce with the option to trade regions in the rest of the province for a longer-term peace with diplomatic repercussions for the breaking that peace (trade agreements with non-allied factions broken and an aggression penalty that rises occupation PO for 10 turns counting down each turn so the AI should never consider if it is in any other wars but might be willing to break such a peace if only fighting 1 war and had less than half its trade with non-allied factions).
The Defender surrenders with occupying army allowed to leave which translates into army/heroes inside moved outside and 3 turn +10 morale bonus for surrounding regions as gentleman's rules of war seem to be in effect.
The Defender gives independence to the garrison commander as a neutral faction creating a buffer state at a small prestige cost. A small diplomatic advantage is given to the former ruler but the new faction can be forced to become a vassal or DoW'd separately after 5 turns for no penalties by either side. If attacked in less than 5 turns similar penalties apply as if the city were ceded.
Attacker options if Defender chooses not to Cede or Surrender or make the city independent,
Bribery- based on the commanding general's traits 3 different kinds of bribes are possible- fake orders delivered from the bribed officials inside the city that confuse the garrison lowering their morale before a siege assault, a gate is opened and no defending units can be deployed within a certain range of the gate pre-battle at a higher bribe cost, or the governor is bribed completely where the garrison disappears and the city is now owned by the attacking faction with low occupation PO. This costs the attacker significantly more money but preserves the attacking armies ability to move onto the next target but opens a dilemma for the occupier- leave the garrison commander in charge for a higher bribery chance for the former ruling faction or remove the commander at the cost of prestige and higher desire for independence from characters for 5 turns.
Blockade- where attritional warfare is the goal, attackers set up siege lines and set to sapping the walls, while engaged in blockade the sieging army gain 2x raiding bonus and every turn of blockade there is siege escalation where first turn both garrison and besiegers have 5% attrition, 2nd turn besiegers have 5% attrition and defenders 10% 3rd turn the besiegers have no attrition but an option to try and undermine the walls which costs a further 10% attrition but knocks 4 holes in the walls while defenders get 10% attrition regardless if the attackers opt to knock walls down or continue the siege. This would mean defenders are at -25% attrition after 3 turns while attackers could have either 15% or 25% with knocked down walls to make the assault easier.
The main point is that while engaged in a siege the upkeep of the besieging army is offset by the 2x raid income- usually, still less than the total army upkeep cost but maybe slightly about 50% of the upkeep cost so waiting for an extra turn or two and the defender attrition to escalate is not so obviously the worst option.
The final part is that the longer a siege goes on the longer a region takes to recover and reach full income. 2 turns siege a region can reach full income in 4 turns, 3 turns, 6 turns, etc. The advantage is that the longer a siege goes the lower the PO penalty from sacking so that a long siege followed by a sack gives the same PO as a short siege and occupation. Sacking still lowers infrastructure, population size, and additionally will reduce replenishment for the sacking army for 1 turn.
For the Defenders, a few options if choose not to cede the settlement, surrender, or make the region independent as a new neutral faction-
Sally- basically an ambush battle on the siege map where defenders can forward deploy some units to try and take out sieging artillery/equipment but the gate is open and can only be closed once so any units outside the gate when it is closed will be lost. Usually, a defender's best chance to sally is on the 1-2rd turns of a Blockading siege when attrition is relatively equal to damage vulnerable attacking units/siege equipment.
If the besieger's siege equipment is destroyed the Blockade timer is reset. IE if a siege is moving from turn 2 to turn 3 and the defenders who are at 90% strength during their 2nd turn under siege (75% on the start of their 3rd turn if doing nothing) manage to destroy the attacker's siege equipment (potentially losing some units in the attempt) the besiegers continue to lose 5% attrition for the next 2 turns (80% strength after 4 turns rather than 90%) and delay the besieger's ability to undermine the walls plus slow the defender's attrition back to -5% per turn (rather than -10% after 2 turns) giving more time for a relief army to arrive and also making the defending garrison proportionally stronger as both units lose the same % of casualties for a further 2 turns but the defender's walls and towers remain undamaged for those turns allowing a relief army more time or the future siege assault on slightly better terms. Successful sally will also temporarily stop the raiding of the besieging army for 1 turn giving a small extra monetary cost for the besiegers.
Bribe- with 2 options, bribe to delay the start of the blockade (giving more time for a relief army to arrive and having a similar effect as a Sally but at an economic cost rather than risking the garrison. 2nd option for a bribe is the enemy to look the other way as part of the garrison army retreats (settlement garrison goes to half strength but any army behind the walls leaves the region). 1 turn recruitment cost is lowered for the defender's faction-wide and muster time decreased so a relief army gets a small boost as the escaped garrison and men from the region have a better chance and the incentive to join the relief army. The besieging enemy has a much better chance of capturing the settlement vs a weakened garrison plus is richer from the bribe. Mostly used when you are likely to lose the settlement anyway but can get a relief army there a couple turns earlier from lower recruitment cost/muster bonus.
Fight to the death- morale bonus and experience bonus for everyone involved (attacking units, heroes, and lords as well as defending units, heroes, and lords). The only option for the attacker is a Blockade then siege assault if the defender chooses this but the winner gets some extra experience. If the attacking army has at least 2:1 odds they still retain the bribe options but less of an advantage than that and the defenders feel they can take the risk of fighting. Higher morale bonus usually helps the defenders more but either way increases the casualties though even if the besiegers are defeated they will gain extra experience.
The fact that armies laying siege can gain some income from raiding while in siege stance will offset the costs of using attritional sieges and also raise the costs for defenders doing nothing and relying on the settlement defences to ward off any attack as province income does down during a siege and remains low for several turns afterwards proportional to the length of the siege.
Raiding income is rarely covering even half the cost of an army's full upkeep so 2x raiding income while in a siege (since the attacker is vulnerable facing garrison both from attrition + potential of relief army) seems fair given that the siege will almost always still cost money in both the army upkeep not covered by the 2x raiding income and the lost future income of having restricted resources due to leaving the attacking army in a siege rather than assaulting and moving on to a new target.
The choices to spend money vs time (which is usually worth money/resources in a strategic game) and that sieges cost the attacking army some attrition no matter what (-5% + the siege assault casualties) reflects the difficulties of attacking a fortified location but the bribery options allow an overwhelming force to still capture a location with low manpower cost.
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