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Author Topic: Siege engines and enemies: how close is too close?  (Read 2512 times)

hinric

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Siege engines and enemies: how close is too close?
« on: February 23, 2016, 08:52:02 pm »

I recently tried out ballistas for the first time. I quite enjoyed the combat reports.

The problem is, once the enemy gets close to the ballista battery, the siege operators get scared and take off, which always seems to happen after the first volley. This makes the ballistas more of a novelty than a useful defense, since they at most knock off a few of the most eager trolls before becoming inoperable for the rest of the siege. I've been trying to solve this by forcing the invaders down into a roof-covered tunnel some distance before reaching the ballista battery so that they'll be out of sight of the ballista crew, but so far without success (i.e., the ballista crew still runs off). Obviously I don't want to bring them out of sighting distance of the ballistas too soon, since that would reduce their effectiveness. Does anyone here have much experience with this? How close can the enemy get to the ballista crew before they run off?
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khearn

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Re: Siege engines and enemies: how close is too close?
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2016, 09:46:32 pm »

<snip> This makes the ballistas more of a novelty than a useful defense, <snip>

That about sums it up. They're not fully implemented, and are more of a placeholder than anything else. Same for catapults.

Best technique I've heard of is if you ever end up with a blind dwarf, make him/her a siege operator. They won't see the enemy and get scared and run off. Yet they'll still be just as accurate.

Some have even experimented to find ways to blind dwarves without otherwise causing too much harm. I believe some FB syndromes can be useful, if you get lucky. But I haven't played much with that sort of thing.
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steel jackal

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Re: Siege engines and enemies: how close is too close?
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2016, 10:00:22 pm »


Best technique I've heard of is if you ever end up with a blind dwarf, make him/her a siege operator. They won't see the enemy and get scared and run off. Yet they'll still be just as accurate.


dwarf fortress, where blind people are better at shooting tree sized steel arrows at gobbos than sighted people
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Re: Siege engines and enemies: how close is too close?
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2016, 10:05:30 pm »

Not tree-sized anymore. Trees are big now.
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PatrikLundell

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Re: Siege engines and enemies: how close is too close?
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2016, 03:04:38 am »

Make a long corridor where the enemies enter at the far end and place the ballista at the near end. Just out of sight from the ballista (20?) tiles, make a bend in the corridor and place a fortification to enable arrows to fly though. Build a drawbridge in the bend so you can stop the siegers from reaching the operator. Build the remote entrance to the corridor to the side and close it with a drawbridge so you can lock the siegers in. Channel down one one tile beyond the end of the corridor to catch the arrows hitting the wall and falling down. Arrows hitting a wall and then falling directly to the ground are destroyed, while arrows falling down an additional tile can be recovered.

When you've done this, you realize ballistae aren't particularly effective against sieges... They're great for removal of inaccessible fungal trees in water, though...
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Saiko Kila

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Re: Siege engines and enemies: how close is too close?
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2016, 05:11:29 am »

How close can the enemy get to the ballista crew before they run off?

I was testing that recently for my setup. The dwarves were noticing the enemy when around 24-25 tiles away, while they were OK 26 tiles away. I build my siege engines so their centre tile is 27 tiles from the enemy, and it seems to work fine. They fire repeatedly and don't give a damn.
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Diamond

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Re: Siege engines and enemies: how close is too close?
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2016, 09:28:44 am »

Ah, ballistas, my favorite defense equipment. In my previous experience the inoperable distance was 20 tiles, I think it has correlation with ranged weapons range. I doubt it is changed now.

The semi-proof is here. Ballista battery to the left was designed to work (and did work) in a way, that only invaders that make it across the bridge spook the crew (exactly 20 tiles away) which then retreats to safety, while military squads come up from barracks to kill enemies that make it across the pit. Also, when bridge is retracted and invaders outside lose path, they just stay there, getting shot by bolts which fall into the ditch behind and are recollected afterwards. This ensures that ensures the masterworks are preserved.

Another - minimalistic - design is to put a bridge over a pit (multiple levels deep with smoothed walls will do) and placing ballista 20 tiles away from it. When needed bridge is retracted, crew can take as long as it wants or invaders decide to leave. Put it closer and it just allows your crew to flee safely.
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Sanctume

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Re: Siege engines and enemies: how close is too close?
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2016, 09:38:00 am »

A few of notes.

1. Wouldn't Observer skill affect the aim radius of the siege operator?
2. Wouldn't Discipline skill affect the likelihood the siege operator run away instead of shooting more?
3. Targets that are prone will not get hit by ballista bolts.

Niddhoger

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Re: Siege engines and enemies: how close is too close?
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2016, 10:44:39 pm »

Keep in mind that catapult and ballista skills are the same, but training catapults is far quicker.  Thus, you can make a catapult range with two cata's facing each other and channels lining the sides (to preserve stone) to quickly train siege operators by playing "catch" with each other.  Just set them to "fire at will" and occasionally un-forbid their ammo behind the catapults.  When they get legendary (or you need them for war), un-assign them from their burrow and make sure their ballista are made from masterwork pieces and are capable of firing at least 100 tiles away.  Remember, ballistae have OVER 100 tiles of range... so if your ballistae fire less than that you are doing it wrong.  I think they can hit targets at 130-150 tiles, but 100 is a good benchmark (consider using burrows and minecarts to keep your operators near by and fully supplied).  '

Also, to help leverage their extreme range keep a buffer zone of ~15-20 tiles (or train your operators in discipline first) in front of the ballistae. Don't forget you can overlap 3 ballistae in a single 3 tile wide corridor as well.  It doesn't matter if they are a little innacurate, if you funnel enemies down a narrow tunnel with three death-rays, each shot will hit multiple foes and very little will make it through. 
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Loci

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Re: Siege engines and enemies: how close is too close?
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2016, 12:59:16 am »

It doesn't matter if they are a little innacurate, if you funnel enemies down a narrow tunnel with three death-rays, each shot will hit multiple foes and very little will make it through.

The inaccuracy bug was fixed, however a ballista is more like an "inconvenience-ray" than a "death-ray". In a recent unintended test, one dwarf was struck by a tree-removal ballista arrow, crushing his hand. He stood up, walked to the hospital, then returned to work. That's pretty pathetic performance against an unprepared, unarmored target; the results only get worse for dodging, shield-carrying, metal-armored enemies.

My usual recommendation is to use a minecart launcher instead; minecarts travel predictably, rarely miss, do massive damage, send enemies flying, are infinitely reusable, and avoid the whole operator panic problem when loaded from a different z-level.
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