The Fortifications & Sieges chapter of the Stormwind Army Field Manual may be used as a reference for both the construction of defensive fortifications and the effective sieging and destruction of enemy emplacements.
Garion Valens, Private of the Elwynn Brigade.
Note:This page was last updated on 10/23/2018.
Fortifications can be classified along a variety of lines, the first and most impactful of which is permanent versus temporary. Permanent fortifications include full buildings such as castles and larger forts, and must hold some form of value beyond the battle at hand in order to justify the cost of their construction and maintenance. Temporary fortifications include quickly-constructed palisades, smaller forts and camps, and various battlefield obstacles and entrenchments. Each listed type will have its own defining entry as well as an analysis of the best way to assault it.
Barricade A barricade is any premade material that is used as a wall in order to block access over a narrow area. Barricades are generally impromptu by their nature and so are not part of standard Army documentation - soldiers should be familiar with how to create them, but there’s little point on documenting them extensively when they vary from battle to battle. Currently in development by the Stormwind Army Corps of Engineers are deployable barricades - wooden frames which can be unfolded and braced and into which metal plates can be slotted to quickly create waist- and head-height barricades.
Barricades primarily offer cover against small arms fire - they are best countered by either heavier artillery or a swift close assault.
Caltrops Small shards of metal pointed in multiple directions, caltrops are often overlooked as a battlefield obstacle due to their small scale. They are used most often in urban environments, where deploying them at choke points created by city streets can minimize the amount of caltrops needed.
Their primary weakness is that they have to be spread fairly densely over an area in order to be as effective as possible, and they’re rarely large or sharp enough to pose a threat to enemies wearing plate boots.
Abatis An abatis is a raised earthwork with sharpened stakes of some kind embedded facing outward as a protective measure against cavalry. It can be as simple as felling trees and allowing them to fall pointed outward towards the enemy, or the stakes can be sharpened and embedded in a purpose-built fortification. Their advantage is that they require no advanced materials to construct, and so can be used to protect an under-equipped infantry force in the field against cavalry.
As most abatis are constructed with wood, they are vulnerable to being burned out from a distance.
Chevale du frise Deriving its name from an old form of Tirasian, the chevale du frise translates to the “Frisian horse”. Tirasian marines from the city of Frise strapped pointed stakes in an ‘x’ formation to a central log, using them as barricades against enemy cavalry to make up for their own lack of horses. The term can also be used to describe any sharp objects, such as wood or glass shards, that are embedded into the top of a fortification in order to prevent enemies from jumping on top of it. The ‘x’ shaped barricade of stakes is the most common configuration, however. The stakes are generally lashed together, and so the chevale is largely a one-use obstacle - when enemy cavalry crash into them, the mounts will be impaled but the barricades will often fall apart from the impact.
Chevaux are primarily an anti-cavalry defense, and as such are best countered by moving in infantry first to dismantle them.
Barbed Wire Wire, usually of steel, studded with small hooked barbs and wound into long rolls, it is most commonly applied to the tops of walls and trenches in order to prevent enemies from easily climbing over. Barbed wire is rarely lethal, but the pain and entanglement it causes is an effective deterrent for unprepared infantry and cavalry. Its primary advantage is its flexibility, as it can be wound around almost any other form of fortification and can also, in thick enough rolls, act as a barrier on its own.
Barbed wire is best countered by either specialized dismantling equipment or simply forcing through with plate-armored infantry.
Trench Trenches are temporary fortifications, dug into into the ground in order for troops to use as cover. They are generally shored up with timber in order to prevent collapse, and are extremely vulnerable to flooding. Trenches offer superior resiliency against artillery as compared to quickly-constructed walls and barricades, and require almost no materials to create beyond labor. Underground bunkers can be dug into trench networks in order to keep soldiers garrisoned in them full-time, but long-term trench fighting can put soldiers at increased risk for disease and infection due to the difficulty of keeping them sanitary.
Trenches are best overcome by either close assault under cover of artillery fire, or by flooding them with water or gas-based chemical weapons.
Bunker Bunkers have two primary forms - one is a room dug out of a trench to act as a bunk room or mess hall for the soldiers stationed in the trench, and the other is a reinforced, single-room structure built partially into the ground for security against artillery. The latter form serves a primary focus in the Ironforge military as a permanent fortification, used to house border garrisons and secure important highways.
Bunkers have no specific weakness as a defense - they are best overpowered with artillery or simply avoided.
Wolf Hole Going by a variety of names, this archetypal battlefield trap is a narrow pit dug into the ground with a spike placed at the bottom pointing upward and a disguised cover on top. Wolf holes are used in two primary ways - either scattered randomly over a larger area in order to demoralize the enemy as they continue to run into them at varying intervals, or dug en masse as part of a defensive line. The latter do not necessarily cause more casualties than the former - once an attacker has found wolf holes dug as part of an established fortification, they will assume that they’ve been dug en masse and avoid the location of the first one they find. The spike at the bottom of the hole is often barbed or coated with toxic substances in order to maximize its lethality and fear factor.
Wolf holes’ wide usage is due to their undeniable effectiveness - the only real counter against them is caution. If they’re being used in a forested area, attackers can occasionally reveal them by burning away the undergrowth.
Watchtower Isolated towers are often constructed in the field to act as outposts along borders and travel routes. A singular tower offers very little defensive value against a determined attacker, but does at least offer garrisoned soldiers improved lines of sight and is sufficient to disperse raiding parties and other inferior forces. Its primary value is ease of construction and maintenance, allowing watchtowers to be raised in isolated areas without tying up major labor forces. Towers are often created with tight, spiral staircases which constrict the movements of either right- or left-handed combatants and have uneven trick steps which trip up those unfamiliar with them. Determined defenders can hold a staircase for a deceptively long time.
It should be noted that towers are a generally efficient use of limited space, and thusly freestanding towers are often used as barracks, armories, and mage quarters even within larger fortifications in order to conserve space within potentially limiting terrain. The taller a tower is built, the more sight range it affords its defenders but the more vulnerable it becomes to the impacts of siege weapons.
Isolated towers rarely require specialized tactics to assault - although whenever possible, they should be scaled from the outside rather than fighting up the interior stairs to deny the defenders their advantage.
Curtain Wall These are freestanding walls that surround an area, and are generally the lynchpin of an established defense. Any established city, castle, or fort will be walled in. Most castles and large cities have concentric layers of curtain walls, with the inner walls generally built up higher than the outer ones so that defenders further in have a line of fire onto the outer battlements in case of a breach. Curtain walls vary broadly in size, but Stormwind Army regulations state that they are to be made of stone as long as it is a permanent base and stone is locally available. Curtain walls generally have crenellated battlements on top to allow garrison forces to fire downward in relative safety from small-arms fire, and have braces and buttresses against the rear of the wall to strengthen them against impacts from the outward-facing side. Occasionally, earthworks are even ramped up entirely to the top of the wall on the inside, bracing it further and eliminating the need for stairs.
Curtain walls can be assaulted one of three ways - by undermining them, scaling them, or bringing them down with siege engines. Undermining is generally the safest for the attackers when the terrain allows for it, with siege engines being close behind provided they are sufficiently powerful to cause a breach. Scaling is the last resort of wall assault and must be carefully screened to avoid severe casualties.
Moat A moat is a large, permanent trench which is dug in front of a curtain wall or gate in order to act as an additional line of defense. Moats are commonly filled with water, but anything that acts as an effective obstacle can count - spikes, captive hostile animals, and plague vats are also used in order to fill a moat. Whenever a moat is placed in front of a gate, the gate is fitted with a drawbridge which can be lowered to allow access and then raised again.
Attackers wishing to make it through a moat must often take the time to fill it in before they can progress past it to assault the walls.
Embedded Tower A common practice in order to maximize fields of fire from defending battlements is to build up towers embedded within curtain walls. Towers built in this way benefit from increased structural integrity because the surrounding walls brace the bottom of the tower against full collapse. Embedded towers are also commonly used as platforms for defensive siege engines, in order to provide the garrison’s most critical weapons with the best possible lines of sight.
Towers are commonly constructed in one of two shapes - square or rounded. Which is used depends primarily on the tower’s purpose. Square towers maximize internal space and are simpler to construct, and thus are preferable if the tower will be used prominently for storage out of combat and/or is unlikely to be targeted in an assault. Round towers offer superior angles of fire to garrisoned forces and are more resilient as they allow siege projectiles to glance off the rounded sides, but require more complicated masonry and are thus only worthwhile if the tower is likely to come under assault in a siege.
Embedded towers are rarely assaulted specifically, as they are part of the walls they’re constructed in. If they’re being used for defensive siege engines, they are primary targets for the attacker’s own artillery.
Gatehouse The weakest point in any wall is, by necessity, its entry point. In order to be movable, gates must always be made out of lighter-weight materials than the walls around them. Over the years, human engineers have developed the practice of creating double gates within the same wall - one outer gate placed flush with the outside of the wall, and an inner gate flush with the inside of the wall as a fallback. A gatehouse is a fortified battlement raised over a gate in order to provide the garrison with a major firing platform in order to focus their fire on the attackers’ most likely point of assault.
Gates are generally assaulted in the same manner as walls, with battering rams taking the place of scaling. Gates are physically the weakest point of a wall, but this is generally countered by the garrisoning forces focusing a majority of their efforts there. Breaching them with siege equipment or capturing the gate mechanisms by scaling the defenses in a less defended area are preferable to assaulting them with a ram when possible.
Keep The central point of any fortified city or castle, a keep can vary from a single tower to a self-contained castle of its own. Its defining characteristics are that it acts as a headquarters for the base, housing the commanding officer or ruler as well as often acting as a primary barracks for the garrison, and that it is capable of being secured independently of the rest of the fortifications. Keeps often have hidden escape routes to evacuate MVPs in the event of a hopeless siege.
Keeps are generally stronger and more consolidated versions of all the other forms of defenses listed, and as such there is no specific, unique strategy for assaulting them. Their weakness is generally their isolation - whenever possible, they should be surrounded and starved out.
Castles, in their various forms, are generally and accurately considered the pinnacle of military defenses. A castle can be defined as any combination of constructed, permanent fortifications which can house a permanent garrison, is positioned in such a way as to control the local terrain, and acts as the seat of local rulership. There are various types of castles, utilizing different designs and generally incorporating different materials.
Motte and Bailey The oldest and simplest form of castle derives its name from an ancient Alteraci dialect - a “motte” was a word for a steep hill. A curtain wall, most often a wooden palisade with limited battlements, is constructed around a courtyard known as a “bailey”. A simple keep, often a single fortified hall or tower, is placed atop a natural or constructed hill at the rear of the bailey. Motte and bailey castles often have moats dug around the wall. Despite its simplicity as a castle design, motte and bailey castles are often raised as border forts for the very reason that their simplicity makes them comparatively cheap to construct especially if they are built using local wood rather than stone.
Stone Keep Also often called a “citadel”, this simple castle design shares a name with its central building. The reason for this commonality between names is that often, in larger concentric defenses such as major cities, the city’s “keep” or “citadel” is technically a separate castle loosely following this design. A stone keep has a curtain wall, constructed of stone as the name suggests, surrounding the actual keep building which is also of stone and often has multiple towers surrounding a central hall. Beyond the stone curtain wall is a barbican, a lightly-defended wooden palisade which is build on the outside edge of the moat.
Concentric Castle In the modern era of castle design, most major freestanding castles follow the concentric design. It is defined by having at least two concentric layers of stone curtain walls, with the inner walls built up higher than the outer to ensure they can support one another. Both the inner and outer curtain walls generally have embedded towers at regular intervals, and the outer walls commonly have a moat (though they may or may not have a barbican). The keep of a concentric castle can be freestanding within the inner curtain walls, or can be built into them. Concentric castles will occasionally have multiple gates within the outer curtain walls, depending on their location with respect to local roads.
This section will cover principles of defensive command for review by all Stormwind Army officers. If a tactic applies to only certain scenarios of defense, it will be noted in its entry.
High Ground Terrain is vital in the construction of defenses. Even when no constructed defenses are possible, simply fighting from higher ground provides a significant benefit to a defender. Ranged troops will have an advantage in weapon range and line of sight, and troops fighting higher on the slope will have an advantage in hand to hand.
Fallbacks It is always to the defender’s benefit to stagger out their force along multiple lines of defense rather than concentrating the entirely of their force into one line. Every moment that an attacker spends moving between lines of defense is time the defenders can be harassing or firing on them without the attacker engaging in return. This tactic is only valid so long as the lines of defense are close enough to support one another - if the first line of defense is too far for the next to support, then all it does is allow the attackers to fight the defenders piecemeal, negating the advantage entirely. Whenever possible, once a defensive position has been breached beyond retaking, engaged defending forces should be pulled back to the next position to conserve them.
Hard vs Soft Defense Hard defense refers to defenses that attempt to halt attackers entirely, whereas soft defense refers to defenses that allow the attacker through in a controlled manner while taking a toll on them. A pure hard defense is best represented by a single curtain wall - the wall halts all advance, and continues to halt it until it is breached after which it offers no further resistance. A pure soft defense is best represented by a minefield - it does not deny the attacker access, but it continues to hinder them continuously as they move through it and redirects them naturally away from the defended area.
Hard defenses are generally more resource- and time-intensive to construct, making soft defenses often the only option when in the field. The best defenses are a mixture of hard and soft - they hold firm, and then yield and fall back before breaking in order to conserve defensive forces.
Baiting One of the primary goals of strategy in warfare is to reduce uncertainty as much as possible. Effectively predicting the enemy’s movements is the primary first step to countering them, and a defense that is identical at all points introduces an additional element of uncertainty as to where the enemy will attack. For most walled defenses, the gate acts as the default “baiting” point by being the structurally weakest point in the wall. In the absence of a gate, however, it is still advisable to include one or more points of softer defense than the rest of the line in order to raise the likelihood that the enemy will attack there and allow you to focus your defending forces appropriately.
Controlling Enemy Flow There are multiple ways in which it is beneficial to the defender to control the way in which the attacker moves. Constructing defenses in such a way as to funnel the enemy to a singular point (such as by creating a baiting point with softer defenses) allows for efficient use of wide-spread weapons and limits their mobility. The bridge across the Valley of Heroes acts as such a choke point, clumping enemy forces together so they're vulnerable to cannon fire from the Trade District after breaching the main gate.
Spreading out critical targets within a fortified area in order to force attackers to split their forces also allows them to be ambushed and engaged piecemeal with minimal losses. Stormwind itself is an example of this - the city’s canals and redundant district gates force attackers down multiple avenues where they can be surrounded and cut off from support.
Force the Fight A topic that will be covered in the offensive tactics section of this guide is that no enemy wants to attack a solidly defended position. The force that has locked itself into a defensive position generally forfeits the possibilities of escape and resupply in order to do so, and any intelligent commander will exploit this advantage when attacking by simply waiting the defender out. Therefore, one of the most important aspects to a successful defensive action is having some means to bait, force, or trick the attacker into engaging in a fight that they know is unfavorable.
The first and most common means of forcing such an engagement is to deny the attacker their customary advantage of time. This can be done by either securing a means of continuous resupply to ensure that the defender can remain in their position indefinitely, or by imposing an external time limit (such an incoming reinforcing army) on the attacker to force them to either attack or withdraw before the defender runs out of supplies and starves.
The second means of beginning an engagement is to goad the attacking commander into attacking prematurely by playing on their personal flaws and making the defended position so enticing that they give in to impatience. The obvious flaw in this method is that it is not proactive - it relies on the attacking commander having such a flaw and making a mistake in order to be effective.
It is worth noting that either of the methods above can be based upon misinformation if the defender does not actually have the means to force the engagement. The attacker does not actually need to be under a time limit so long as they believe that they are. If the defender convinces the attacker that they can resupply and remain in their position effectively indefinitely, then the attacker may choose to retreat rather than take an unfavorable engagement so long as they believe it. The importance of such misinformation in the field is why SI:7 field attaches are vital to any functioning Stormwind Army regiment.
Counter-attacking Knowing whether and when to counterattack is vital for a defending commander. A counterattack that abandons the security of a prepared defensive position shouldn’t be undertaken lightly, but there are several situations in which is it is recommended.
It is advisable to counterattack after the attacking force has successfully been divided between objectives, especially when the defended area is as large as a castle or city so that the counterattacking forces do not necessarily have to leave their lines to fight. The more and smaller groups the attacking force can be divided into, the more effective a counterattack will be at eliminating each of them.
Another primary situation for a counterattack is if a subset of the garrison force or another force friendly to the defenders can be brought around to the attacker’s flanks without their knowledge. This flanking force should then counterattack once the attacker has committed themselves against the defensive lines. Hard defenses work best for this, as they will prevent the attacker from moving away or retreating from the counter-attacking units in their flanks.
It is almost never advisable to counterattack the attacking force head-on, unless for some reason the defender has the numerical advantage. Any counter-attacking force essentially loses the benefit of their defenses for the duration of their attack, and so should only be committed after the attacker has already suffered the ill-effects of said defenses.
Tactics for assaulting and removing specific types of defenses are covered in each defense’s specific glossary entry. This section addresses general principles for Stormwind Army officers to observe when assaulting a defensive position.
Whenever Possible, Don’t In most cases, if a defensive position is well constructed there is no convenient back door to exploit to painlessly turn the tables. Attacking an entrenched enemy means taking far higher casualty rates than would be suffered on an open field with far fewer ways to mitigate it. Attacking a strong defensive position is simply almost always an unfavorable option. The universal weakness of a defending force that any attacking commander should exploit first and foremost is a lack of mobility - isolate them, surround them, and wait them out. While it is generally poor strategy to leave an enemy force intact behind one’s own, an attacker with a more mobile army should not be afraid to consider simply moving past a defended position if that position is not their primary objective.
Split Defenders Up It is the goal of both sides to fight the other piecemeal - an overwhelmed enemy will rarely give even a one-to-one accounting of themselves. The fact that this is more difficult for an attacker to accomplish is one of the fundamental reasons for defensive advantage. It is not, however, impossible, and is best accomplished by means of stealth, mobility, and distraction. A feint towards one section of the defenses can prompt the defenders to overcommit and leave other sections undermanned, and the attacker can then strike these isolated sections and overwhelm them with minimal casualties if they are mobile enough.
Always Seem Larger While the nature of defensive advantage means that any attacker truly should have an advantage in numbers before they seriously consider assaulting an entrenched position, it is always to the attacker’s benefit to make that numerical advantage seem as large as possible. The defenders’ backs are already to the wall - they cannot fight any harder than they already will, but if they believe their situation is hopeless morale will suffer and they might surrender before they realize that they actually had a chance.
There are several recognized methods for making an army seem larger than it is - lighting additional campfires when the army makes camp, keeping pack animals picketed alongside the war horses to give the impression of more cavalry, distributing and using additional horns and bugles to make it seem as if additional units are signaling, and most dramatically by actually fashioning dummies to look like soldiers when viewed from a distance.
Maximize Artillery Artillery are useful to both attacking and defending armies, but when sieging a built-up fortification they become particularly vital to the attacker. Bringing down walls and towers via applied engineering is the only way to avoid taking disproportionate casualties, and thus they should be the most conserved and protected elements of an attacking army. Defensive artillery will often outrange offensive due to their height advantage from the battlements, and so an attacker must practice fire control in order to be effective - artillery should be kept as mobile as possible, and fire should be focused on a single target at a time to destroy it as quickly as possible and withdraw outside of counterfire range again.
Conserve Elite Troops Assaulting a strong defensive position often makes high casualties inevitable - an attacking commander must be especially ruthless when it comes to managing this. A veteran knight and peasant conscript die exactly the same to a cannonball or a pot of boiling oil, but the veteran is vastly more useful once the walls are breached. High-casualty objectives such as scaling walls and operating battering rams should be given to the most expendable units possible, and elite units should be deployed to where they can bring their force to bear without being whittled down first.
Scouting and Intel When facing the possibility of an unfavorable engagement such as storming an entrenched position, the role of accurate battlefield intelligence becomes especially vital. A defender’s plans are largely locked in once their defenses are constructed - their options are generally extremely good, but they are locked in regardless of the attacker’s composition or actions. An attacking commander should learn as much about the defender’s position, forces, logistics, and terrain as they possibly can as time allows. There isn’t always a loophole to exploit, but to miss one due to negligent intel-gathering is to disgrace one’s men by wasting their lives.
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