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Background

This world has two continents, an old and a new. The Old World developed much as ours did, and finds itself in the throes of an Industrial Revolution. Due to the nature of the oceans and winds, transportation by sail to the New World was limited and difficult. However, with the invention of screw driven, iron-hulled ships, it becomes possible for the Old World to fully impose itself on the New. Concomitant with the Industrial Revolution is a massive expansion of population, just as happened in our world. The New World is an ideal outlet for the disaffected proletariat, and soon there are many schemes to establish colonies.

But the New World, although underpopulated by disease, is not completely empty. There exists in the New World a power unknown or forgotten in the Old: Blood Magic. A blood shaman kills a wild animal, and through a secret ritual gains the ability to mimic its power. An advanced blood shaman has the speed, agility, stamina, and toughness of a wild beast, while keeping the body and mind of a man.

The advent of the colonists caused significant tension between the few remaining natives and the newcomers. But unlike in our world, blood magic gives the natives a chance to fight back. The key to victory was the previously little-used Pampathere. Unlike the massive carapace of Glyptodon, a blood shaman using the Pampathere's armor still had the flexibility to move with the grace of a cougar and the power of a horse. But drawing on the power of the Pampathere's quarter-inch bony hide also made the shaman's nearly invulnerable to gunfire.

Question

How does a battalion of Napoleonic Era troops kill a blood shaman?

Considerations

  • The blood shaman has the shape and intelligence of man. But, drawing on the powers of the animals he has killed, the shaman has the mass, strength, and toughness of a bison, the agility and stalking ability of a jaguar, and the long-distance speed and stamina of a deer.

  • Most importantly, his skin acts as if it were a quarter inch of bone. Musket shots can penetrate, depending on the angle, but even if they do it will barely slow down a shaman with a bison's toughness.

  • The shaman can also call upon the best senses of the animal kingdom; a bear's smell, a wolf's hearing, a cougar's night vision, and a man's binocular, color day vision.

  • The shaman's enemy is a battalion of Napoleonic era troops, with all the equipment typical of that age.

  • The onus is on the battalion of troops to kills the shaman. The shaman wins by staying alive and conducting a guerrilla war against the colonists. He doesn't need the troops dead, per se, he can just make sure he kills a few colonists in their sleep every night to eventually persuade them to leave.

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    $\begingroup$ Does he get to choose which animal attributes to absorb? What if he has Bison-poops? $\endgroup$ – user47242 Feb 7 '18 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ @James: The speed of a tortoise, the teeth of a beaver, the apathy of a cat... this man is unstoppable. $\endgroup$ – Giter Feb 7 '18 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ Whenever someone asks this kind of question, I always ask: What is their weakness? What is the shaman bad at? 100% of viable real world tactics go after a weakness of the opponent. We haven't been given any to go on so far. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Feb 7 '18 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ A quarter-inch of bone isn't going to give the shaman anything remotely like invulnerability to gunfire. $\endgroup$ – Deolater Feb 7 '18 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion the technology of 1810 contained cannons as well - artillery pieces, if you will. A cannon would easily tear through the layer of bone and pulverize everything underneath. $\endgroup$ – Aify Feb 7 '18 at 23:36

10 Answers 10

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This is a tricky one. Strategically we can exterminate the animals to remove the blood shaman as a threat, but that won't stop the existing powerful shamen. Since we're specified as having just the battalion and seeking a new life we're probably also not interested in going home and begging for the real army to come down.

The good news is we can still fight this. We just need the right weapons and strategies to threaten the Blood Shaman.

Close Quarters: Nets and Bludgeons

The first thing we need is to be able to fight back against the Shaman at close quarters, when he tries to assassinate our people.

The most important thing for this is armour. A cuirass or full plate is best of course, but at minimum we just need, say, a leather gorget and a piece of thick metal secured over our hearts. Easy enough to improvise, and it'll make killing us off a slower task - the Shaman can't just cut our throats or stab our hearts on the fly (or at least it's going to be harder).

Next, we need to stay in groups. Sleep in well guarded communal halls. Post guards in and around our people, train guard dogs, and keep large patrols. This keeps the Shaman from picking us off one by one, and means we can easily back each other up in an attack.

Finally, we need weapons. We need anything that can tangle up an assailant and whatever bludgeons we can scrounge (muskets are excellent bludgeons). He's bulletproof, sure, but the traditional counter to armour is a mace. It doesn't have to do much damage, just a little.

If he commits to an attack we need to gang up on him, tangling and tripping him with anything we have and wrestling him as best we can (even a bison can't overpower dozens of strong humans) while bludgeoning him with our weapons. It won't do much individually but every little bruise will weaken the Shaman - and also keep him from switching to a more agile but less tough mode, lest he really get his head staved in.

If we gain the upper hand we can finish him off with any number of awful fates, like drowning him, smothering him, dousing him in oil and burning him, or even just bludgeoning him to death slowly. This is only easier if he switches to a tougher but even less agile mode because he can be more easily overpowered.

Skirmish Range: Swivel Cannon and Palisade

At medium ranges, the Shaman is trying to use his mobility against us, likely using spears or flaming torches to kill us and burn us while staying too far to wear him down with shot.

Here better armour helps but what we really want defensively is palisades. Makeshift walls we can hide behind and can get the spears stuck in them instead.

Mounted on these walls we place swivel guns - small cannons normally put onto ship decks to be used against crew and boarders. If we have lots of spares, we can bind them together into volley guns to improve our chances of landing a hit.

By shooting back with these in addition to our muskets, we level the playing field a bit more - even if a small cannon can't quite kill a Shaman, it can wound them and slow them down. Worse, if the Shaman tries to close in to kill the gunners, they risk getting netted. And then shot with a cannon.

Long Range: Chain Barrage

Finally we'll look at long range attacks. The Blood Shaman gets an atlatl or bow or stolen rifle and tries to snipe us with stealth.

There's a traditional answer to snipers: Artillery. With a battery of large cannon we can force the Shaman to run by simply shelling the entire area he's attacking from. By loading the cannons with chain shot (two half cannonballs connected by a chain, normally used to cut masts) each shot can have a sizeable area of effect, giving us a better chance to cripple the shaman and reducing how many cannons we need.

It's going to be tricky to actually hit him since he's so fast, but we can still make sniping risky. If the Shaman makes a habit of sniping we can start setting up traps - simple ones, like a trou de loup or a punji trap. With a barrage of chain shot coming at the Shaman, a moment of hesitation or a slight stumble can be fatal.


None of these tactics guarantees a kill against a powerful Blood Shaman, but they all present at least a small chance to gain the upper hand against a Shaman.

And the Shaman has to win every engagement. We just have to win once.

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Why would they fight the blood shamans? The best method to fight the natives is to pay other natives to do it for you. For that matter the best method to fight competing colonial nations is to pay the natives to do it for you. Similarly the best method to enslave the natives to be forced labor for your colonies is to pay other natives for slaves.

Make alliances with nearby tribes. It is okay to deal fairly and keep your promises if it makes you happy. It makes no difference to the end result. Pay bounties for slaves, killed allies of your colonial rivals and killed soldiers of colonial rivals. You can also hire natives to work directly in the colonies. Given the economic disparity you can be generous.

Very soon your colonial rivals will follow your example. This will at the same time collapse the traditional tribal societies and create a constant state of low level warfare. The combination means the natives are unlikely to even survive as a separate entity from your slaves or second class citizens. There is no need to fight them.

Only real chance the natives have of fighting of a colonial power is a strong leader that unites them and is able to pursue a coherent strategy. Even then, when the strong leader dies, the natives lose. Unless the blood shamans can forge a stable political force capable of leading the natives for several generations, there individual fighting strength only means the colonial powers have access to stronger mercenaries.

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Scorched Earth campaign

The natives have home-territory advantage - make it so they don't. Set fire to the forests, plains, jungles, etc. While that won't necessarily stop the blood shamans, it will reduce or remove their ability to gain new abilities and render some of their abilities irrelevant. Stalking across a barren field where the enemy has a clear line of sight is a lot harder than stalking through a heavily-forested area.

In addition to removing the natural cover that benefits the natives, it will demoralize them. Wildfires are sensory overload, even for the relatively poor senses of a human. If animal instincts are in play, the blood shamans may be unable to control their flight reflexes.

Bribery

Does the industrialized nation have its own unique wildlife? Zoos of exotic animals (and therefore new and exotic powers) could make excellent bribery material for some enterprising shamans. In return, they agree to betray or combat their former tribes. Shaman-on-shaman warfare might prove to be instrumental in turning the tide of combat.

Special Forces

Rifles were in early development during the Napoleonic era. They were more complicated and slower to shoot than muskets, but more accurate at longer range. Put military rifles in the hands of a special division populated by trophy hunters. Humans hunt everything, from squirrels to deer to bears to bison. These soldiers are tasked with hunting the Most Dangerous Game. Through teamwork, individual skills, and advanced technology, they should prove a match for blood magic.

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    $\begingroup$ I had not considered the idea of killing the animals to stop the Blood Magic. Given how easy it proved to be to exterminate the buffalo in the US, it is perhaps not unreasonable to use the same method to deny Blood Shamans access to the strongest and toughest creatures. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 7 '18 at 19:57
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Sheer force of Numbers.

A Napoleonic-era guerrilla is unlikely to work well against small colonies of a densely populated continent. In fact, the overpopulated continent can easily increase the number of conscripts and stuff the New World with lines of barricades, watchtowers, lines of gun-fire, and explosive traps. Given the small size of the colonies, defense is relatively easy. In fact,

  1. the first step is to remove woods or other sight-obstructing wild area. This provides free fields for cultivation, as well as an easily controllable ground around the dwelling.
  2. the second step is to monitor the area of activity of the shaman. Place fortifications, watchtowers, palissades, concrete walls, bear-traps, and the such to prevent that the shaman walks outside of the designated area. And note that an unaware human being is as likely as a bear to fall into a bear trap.
  3. the third step is to chase the shaman. Organize your voltiguers as scouts. Entrench the riflemen. Close circles loaded with explosives around the area infested by the shaman. If the shaman is sighted, shoot to create a distraction, drive him/her onto the explosive and blow him/her up. Alternatively, grape shots from cannons, or incendiary shots will do just as good.
  4. Finally, controlled fire of the last portions of woods will do just as good. Either the shaman fries in the fire, or it will be driven out, shot and blasted as discussed above.

A note on bullets. Depending on the period, several options are available including infamous dumdum bullets, which, together with express rifles, were quite successful against bigger games. It is easy to imagine that at the first observation that conventional bullets seems ineffective against the shaman, the industrial revolution era military would resolve to science and demand more penetrating, faster and perhaps even explosive bullets to get rid of the nuisance.

A short consideration on the occupying army. A Napoleonic era battalion is quite a dynamic definition, where the numbers and composition change according to the specifics of the conflict at hand. In any case, we are considering a group between 500 and 1000 armed men, divided into companies, and likely comprising of riflemen, grenadiers, and voltigeurs. These are most probably conscripts, who undergo standard military training, but in their normal life were probably farmers or factory workers. Finally, if we stick with the Napoleonic Era military composition, it is entirely possible that the ranking officers are a mix of high bourgeoisie and the spawn of some form of aristocracy, both of whom are likely acquainted with game hunting as a hobby. In this regard, shamans are just the game of games, i.e. the best and most fun of hobbies. I can very well envision a large number of volunteers signing up to the "special battalion X" just for the sake of hunting this mashup of all possible wild game.

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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of aristocrats being called by the allure of hunting the Most Dangerous Game. The Blood Shamans would never be many in number, and though they would likely prevail against most hunters, the fact that an industrialized world could produce many more hunters than there were Blood Shamans makes it interesting. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 7 '18 at 16:16
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    $\begingroup$ Minor note: Expanding ammunition is unsuitable to Napeolonic-era muzzle-loading muskets. In fact, they actually aren't at all necessary with muskets, as a uniformly round lead musket ball will deform on impact without modification. 'Dum-dum' or hollowpoint bullets were a means of producing similar behavior from oblong or pointed bullet shapes, which otherwise better resist deformation, particularly if jacketed. In this case, bullet deformation is likely undesirable due to the need to pierce the shaman's thick hide. $\endgroup$ – Catgut Feb 8 '18 at 16:35
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Guns play just a minor role in opressing indigenous people of less developed continents. There is a number of ways that the old-worlders can defeat blood shamans. Most of these are low-blow, but honor does not win wars.

Long term warfare - strategy

These strategies cannot be put into action in the course of a battle. However, should you consider a given battle in the midst of an ongoing war, these may have already been set in place, so they may affect the shamans.

Loss of popular support

I think blood shamans are a minority among new-worlders, right?

Push the natives into a hedonistic way of life. Present the masses with things such as alcohol, opium, cannabis, prostitutes, machines that make everyday easier and other such gifts. They will start thinking along the lines of "why should we ever help the shamans, when the wasicun grant us such amazing gifts?"

Diseases

Syphilis. Smallpox. Enough said.

Ecological warfare

Since blood shamans derive their powers from animals, all you have to do to prevent the shaman gaining new powers, and also to prevent more shamans joining the fight, is to extinguish those animals.

In our own world, the "civilized" societies are very adept at causing massive extinctions in record time. In this fictional world, in which much of the new world's power derives from flammable forests, your blood shamans would better learn how to do the rain dance at Just Dance's Superstar level.


I believe your question is more centered around tactical combat, though. Let me finally get to that point then.

Short term warfare - tactical combat

"And if guns don't solve your problem, just use bigger guns" - TF2 Engineer

It just doesn't matter how big your giant armadillos and mammoths are. No beast nor full-fledged shaman would survive a 64lb shot at point blank range to the face.

A counter-argument to this is that shamans are unusually agile. In our own world, armies had to deal with the fact that a single cannon shot might miss a target, especially a fast moving one. That is why barrages were and still are a thing.

Going back to historical roots

Shamans, just like the animals, are adept at melee combat. They will hardly be able to craft arrows that will withstand mammoth-force shots, so their best ranged tactics is using spears, and that places a harsh ammunition limit on them. At some point they have to run through enemy lines.

The old-worlders may simply form a steel-lance and shield barrier and let the shaman come at them. Instant kebab.

You may say that it is up to the battalion to hunt the shaman, and the shaman may turn the battle into a friction one if he just refuses to come close. No problem, just kidnap someone the shaman loves and torture them in the center of a tortoise formation. If the shaman still doesn't come, rinse and repeat.

Dishonourable methods

And if it all fails... Remember that the shamans are like the animals they hunt. The old-worlders are not constrained by honor as the shamans are. They can lay traps and use poison. The shaman is going to be like game and the battle is going to be like a hunt for the old-worlders.

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  • $\begingroup$ This question is about tactics, as it is tagged so. Bigger guns don't seem too useful, can you hit a cougar with a cannon? Also consider that a defensive formation does not really fulfill the objectives. The colonists need the blood shamans dead; the blood shamans, being the guerilla warfare type resistance, don't need to kill the_soldiers_ so much as kill the colonists. Its a lot easier to destroy farmhouses and small villages one by one than to take on a battalion. Thus the onus is on the battallion to seek and destroy the shamans. I will specify this in the question. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 7 '18 at 14:38
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Organization.

The infantries fielded by European powers in these types of operations (conquest) are trained professionals - this as distinguished from an infantry drafted from civilians in wartime. Professional soldiers have practiced working together as a team. The individuals have roles to play within the group and they can count on their fellow soldiers to also do their jobs in an organized methodical manner. This is what allowed the Romans and later the British to acquire their empires. No doubt among their foes were phenomenally dangerous and accomplished warriors. No doubt some of these individuals were far superior to any individual fielded within the European infantry - I am thinking of the Zulu and before them the Gurkha, both of whom were defeated by the British. But an organized infantry operating as a single entity is more than the match of any individual fighter.

from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Watling_Street - detailing the defeat of Boudica and the indigenous British at the hands of a numerically much inferior Roman force.

Tacitus also wrote of Suetonius addressing his legionaries:

"Ignore the racket made by these savages. There are more women than men in their ranks. They are not soldiers—they're not even properly equipped. We've beaten them before and when they see our weapons and feel our spirit, they'll crack. Stick together. Throw the javelins, then push forward: knock them down with your shields and finish them off with your swords. Forget about plunder. Just win and you'll have everything."

Boudica led her army forward across the plain and into the narrowing field in a massive frontal attack. As they advanced, they were channeled into a tightly packed mass. When the Romans had exhausted their missiles, they rushed out in a wedge-like column. The Romans, with a clear advantage in armour, weapons, and discipline, had a decisive advantage in the close quarters fighting against the tightly packed Britons. The Roman cavalry, lances extended, then entered the battle.

As the Britons' losses increased, the Britons tried to retreat, but their flight was blocked by the ring of wagons and the Britons were massacred. The Romans killed not only the warriors but also the women, children, and even pack animals. Tacitus relates a rumour that 80,000 Britons fell for the loss of only 400 Romans.

The blood shamans would be formidable but individuals cannot triumph against a civilization with military tools like an infantry. What would probably happen is that the infantry would be impressed by these shamans (as the English were by the Gurkhas) and coopt them with the blandishments of civilization to join the military and use their might to the ends of the invaders.

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The troops can overwhelm the shaman's senses, then chain it up.

Is the shaman using his amazing sense of smell to track your troops? Splash a bucket of bear urine in his face. Getting bear urine might be a challenge, but any powerful scent should do the job.

Did the shaman hear your troops sneaking up on him from a mile away using his amazing sense of hearing? Luckily, each soldier is carrying a musket that can easily harm a human's terrible ear if they aren't careful. It should be devastating if one went off right next to the shaman's ear.

Did the shaman's hawk-eyes see your troop's cleverly concealed pit trap? Light up a flare to disorientate it and harm its eyes.

A combination of strong scents, loud noises, and bright lights should be enough to distract and disorientate the shaman for at least a few moments. While the shaman is recoiling and recovering from this assault of the senses, the soldiers can slap a collar around him and drive a stake deep into the ground to keep him in place for a bit. If staked chains can keep bears in one spot, your shaman should be stuck long enough for either further imprisonment, or repeated pike-ing by the troops until the shaman finally succumbs to his wounds.

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    $\begingroup$ This is not practical. Does anyone hunt a bear by overwhelming the bear's sense of smell? I have never heard of such a tactic. Perhaps using bright lights at night would work, but the technology level precludes floodlights, so this is not a solution. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 7 '18 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion: There are certainly products used for repelling animals that use strong scents, loud noises, etc. If the shaman has the best sense of smell, hearing, and sight taken from animals, then it's reasonable that the shaman would also be repelled(or at least disoriented) by those same systems. Also, bright lights are certainly possible: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flare#Chemistry $\endgroup$ – Giter Feb 7 '18 at 14:50
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A blood shaman kills a wild animal, and through a secret ritual gains the ability to mimic its power.

'Aint no animals that are immune to bullets.

I'd imagine they would try and catch him in a musket volley. Even if he can survive a gunshot, or even a few gunshots, he'll go down if you put enough lead into him.

They could get him with a cleverly placed barrel of gunpowder, too.

Alternatively, does the old world have its own magic? They could send some witch hunters after him.

The hard part would be compelling the shaman to stand his ground. If things are starting to look bad, it seems like he would have an easy time disengaging.

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  • $\begingroup$ How do you get a battalion of troops to sneak up on a cougar and release a musket volley? I agree that this would mortally wound even an armored shaman, but unless the shaman is asleep, I don't see how you could hit him with a volley in the first place. A man with the stealth of a cougar would not be identified soon enough to line up soldiers for a volley. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 7 '18 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ Catnip, duh. Or they could march on a civilian target, or take his girlfriend hostage. All the usual ways the baddies force the hero to fight. $\endgroup$ – user47242 Feb 7 '18 at 14:45
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Unless there's a massive disproportion of numbers between blood shamans and colonists, or some blood shamans fight alongside the colonists, I don't see how they can be defeated.

Killed, surely. If a blood shaman is stupid enough to charge against a column of musketeers, or put his head inside the mouth of a cannon, he can be killed, but why would (s)he do such a thing?

Many answers have centered its attention on the animal skills of the blood shaman, when what it makes him a frigthening menace are his human skills: a powerful brain and a human body. The colonists are not the only ones who can resort to non-honorable ways of waging war.

Why charge against an army in an open field, on broad daylight, when you can sneak your way into their night quarters and killing them in their sleep? It doesn't matter if it's a military camp in the countryside, a fort or a barracks in the middle of a village, our blood shaman can sneak through using his jaguar sigile, hide in the back of a chariot or just walk into the place in disguise. The guards are completely blind against his enhanced night vision and owl hearing. Even if he blunders and an alarm goes off he can safely fight his way away. Guns aren't a threat if they can't barely see you - but you can see them alright.

It doesn't mind if this tactic has some limitations. A war is not usually won by annihilation of the enemy, but because the enemy has lost its will to fight anymore. The guerrilla tacticts of the iberian campaign of Napoleon destroyed the moral of the french army. Formed for battle in the open, they feared nobody (and won most of the battles until Wellington came), but they feared to walk away of the column for peeing. A scorched earth approach, as it has been suggested, it's not going to work. You can't hunt bisons with a 5,000 men army, you need hunting parties of 4 or 5 men, and who's going to be that insane? Venturing into the countryside, just five people, when a single blood shaman can kill a hundred soldiers per night in the middle of a fortified camp? No way.

The fear blood shamans would inflict the colonists armies would be enough to prevent any colony to succeed. The civilian won't want to settle until the blood shamans are gone forever, and the soldiers are going to mutiny when the sun sets and fear starts (even if there aren't any blood shamans around). Unless more vulnerabilities are added to blood shamans, or some shamans change sides and side with the colonists I don't see the colonists succeeding.

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Kill him with a blood knife and take all his power.

Just kidding.

The biggest thing would be to make sure to protect your flanks, protect your camps.

At the same time, take and hold strategically important areas, such as ports, forts, rivers. Stuff like that that are essential to supply.

As long as the Shawmans are only attacking in "the shadows" they will be hard to pin down an defeat. But as long as they don't inflict serious losses and you are still able to achieve decisive goals, I think moral will hold.

Simply killing a handful of men, wile the commander is able to take ports and towns, will not beat an army. At the same time this may force the shaman to be more bold or attack in greater number. And if you can play the defender all the better.

Essentially in the grand scheme of things a few killings in the middle of the night wont win a war as long as the commanders larger goals are still being achieved.

For example if you get attacked in the dead of night and a few men are killed then the next day you go and sack a major town, which has the greater impact overall.

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    $\begingroup$ The answer to 'how do I kill him' is not 'kill him.' $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 7 '18 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ It was a joke based of a previous answer, to another question ... lol $\endgroup$ – ArtisticPhoenix Feb 7 '18 at 20:18

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