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There is a new empire trying to conquer the world and it is populated by an avian species (looks like an early bird-dinosaurs with bigger head) and their first target is a human kingdom

Abilities :

They are omnivores

They are roughly 4 feet tall with claws on each finger (1 inch claw), weigh on average 20-25 kilos

They can hold objects and weapons and have roughly the same intelligence as humans ( ignore the impossible biology )

2 Km 1 way flight, around 60 km/hour hovering speed (max at 100 km/hour) at an altitude of 100 meters above the ground (can't gain high altitude, although you can get around it by flying from a higher place) and a maximum baggage capacity of 5 kg with 50% flight range reductions

They can sprint at 40 km/h for 100 m without weapons on hand (like a quadruped, weapon strapped at their back or waist, so they are easily ambushed while charging), they lose some momentum because they have to draw their weapons upon contact, but not much. Their walking speed while holding weapons are roughly 1 km/h (slower than human)

They tire easily (20 minute battle and that's it) but they also recover their stamina pretty quick (1 hour rest)

THEY ARE WEAK (a shield bash would kill them, for comparison, let's say in an open battle, a trained soldier can kill 4 of them.)

Their senses are a bit superior than humans but treat it as if it's the same

Armies :

The avians are still in their home island archipelagos, with their a bit superior navy while the humans are unprepared (roughly a week before humans can really gather their armies)

They have a very small amount of dragon riders (4 meter long carnivorous lizards (can't bite trough metal), have a travel distance, speed and strength equal to human horses, breathes fire (once a week kind of thing, so no abuse), immune to arrows at over 50 meters, they can fly until 1 km above ground and let's just assume they are completely loyal) *ignore how they are able to tame the dragons

But they don't have any heavy infantry, or ground cavalry. Most of their troops are made of archers

The humans have 5 times the population and army size. They do have deep rivers linking their major cities

Numbers (if you want a solid calculations) Avians have 2.000 men, all are completely trained, total population is 400.000 and only have 20 usable dragons Humans have 10.000 men, 60% are conscripts , total population is 2 mil and it has hills and forest everywhere.

IN SUMMARY: How do you defeat over a kingdom with air superiority but only having archers and light, unarmored light infantry as your ground forces. ( I want the avians to win)

Notes:

  1. Supplies are complicated, so lets say both sides are self sufficient and are able to constantly transport supplies using ships/caravans for a 3 year long war. Avians eat less than humans

  2. Just assume the humans don't have any allies helping

  3. Both of them have classical age technology

  4. Avians cannot 'shoot' while flying on their own (although a couple skilled one can if you want to add a fear factor), they can only drop stuff.

  5. Assume that the avians have the same technology that humans have, or at least an equivalent of it (for example: saddle-Dragon saddle)

  6. They can communicate with each other, so humans surrendering and being a vassal/ enslaved/ giving some land to end the war is possible

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    $\begingroup$ If you call tired easily "20 minutes battle and that's it", I am pretty user real human warriors are no better... $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Dec 2 '18 at 12:48
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    $\begingroup$ I'm slightly confused, the smaller nation with 5 times fewer soldiers (who die really easily) is trying to conquer the humans? That seems counter intuitive... Which side do you want to win? I'm assuming you want the humans but it's not 100% clear from your question. $\endgroup$ – adaliabooks Dec 2 '18 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ The classical method of dealing with harpies is to make noise with metal objects to scare them off. Would something similar work here? $\endgroup$ – nzaman Dec 2 '18 at 13:11
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    $\begingroup$ Supplies are complicated, so lets say both sides are self sufficient - You killed the main supperiority of your Avians over any medieval kingdom: the Avians can attack the supply lines and retreat, because they can fly in an hour what a human convoy can do in a day. Defeat the humans by hunger. The Avians can kill the farmers, set fire to villages without soldiers (because they don't think you'll reach them in less than a day of flying) and win the war in less than six months. $\endgroup$ – Alberto Yagos Dec 2 '18 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of How to defend when attacked by an avian species? $\endgroup$ – Renan Dec 3 '18 at 11:39
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All war strategies depend on adapting to what the other side is doing. Assume your strategy will have to shift.

However, if we use a Blitzkrieg tactic, we can minimize this effect. From the fact that the humans are unprepared, I'd assume they are completely and utterly unprepared for anything to come from above.

Thus, my recommendation is to fly in by night with firebombs, unlit, on a moonless night. Bonus points if its cloudy, so you don't see stars. No human will be able to see them. They can descend from above, which is the one direction humans don't think to protect. They land anywhere and everywhere, generating mass panic, light their firebombs, climb up a bit and then throw them into every window and pile of flammables they can find.

Deny messages. Post groups on all major roads a few hours ride away from the attacked kingdom or fort. If you time this right, you'll have time for daylight to arrive before you have to hunt down the horse riders.

Rinse repeat. Medieval intelligence is very slow. Far slower if you kill all the riders. People may realize something is wrong, but they wont get any information about what it is until it's too late.

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  • $\begingroup$ The problem with flying on a moonless night is that you can't see either $\endgroup$ – Miguel Bartelsman Dec 3 '18 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ @MiguelBartelsman You would have to fly conservatively. And you're right that if the enemy was prepared for you and they established a total blackout (like was done in WWII to avoid bombers) and you could not get a single individual on the ground to set off a signal fire, then you could be in trouble. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 3 '18 at 19:59
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As the allied forces have discovered in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, air power alone can't win a war, you need to get your feet dirty.

You can't face the main human force on the ground

This is a problem for you and might prevent ultimate victory. Diversionary attacks are probably your friend here. You need to raid high value targets in advance of your main attack. Get the humans to return their forces to their capital to attempt to defend it while you destroy outlying fortresses.

You must stop the humans reinforcing their ground forces

This means preventing communication and denying use roads and rivers as you eliminate each human stronghold. You don't really need the roads yourself so you can do anything you like to prevent easy movement.

If you take a fortress, destroy it

Castles will benefit the humans more than you. Your tactics require speed, movement and better battlefield intelligence. Bunkering up and waiting for reinforcements is not viable.

You have better intelligence

You can run a constant hit and run campaign by virtue of knowing exactly where any significant human force it waiting and hitting a different location.

Prolonged combat is a matter of logistics

You have dragons, they need to move caravans of supplies. Apply dragon A to caravan B. Apply dragon C to field of grain D. Et cetera et cetera. An army starving in the field isn't going to fight particularly well. If you're going for outright victory then you can't afford to be nice about anything. Create a refugee problem for the humans, create a famine.

You can hit deep behind their lines to damage food supplies and production, so burn everything. Towns and cities, food or forests. A round of Molotov Cocktails dropped from height onto a thatched town doesn't need to be particularly accurate but will do the job nicely.

Play to your strengths

Speed, field intelligence, ability to raid behind the lines, ability to choose your fights. This is not the traditional way of doing combat in a medieval setting, but since you can't win a straight fight in the field, the thing you must always avoid is a straight fight in the field.

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Three offensive tactics, depending on situation:

  • Vs a city, or an an army in open field: drop/throw rocks, heavy darts or pots with simmering coals, while flying high enough to avoid arrows. Accuracy will be low, so it will be more of a massed carpet bombing.

  • Vs. smaller groups in a forest: hide in the trees, and shoot bows or blowing pipes, ideally with poison.

  • Vs. individual targets (kings, generals): assasin strategy of quietly flying in at night, and using poison, or daggers to kill.

The only defensive tactic is to sleep high in the cliffs or trees, or have constant patrols around the camp or town.

Now for broader strategy. Occupation is unfeasible since avians are very vulnerable while on the ground and in known location. Better strategy is what Mongols did in Russia: sack a major cities, commit a few atrocities (think Ramsey Bolton, and worse), then impose a tax (tribute), and maybe leave behind an emissary to collect the tax (or task newly established local king to do it). If emissary is killed, or tax is not paid, sack the city again.

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    $\begingroup$ One way to obtain occupation forces if you need them could well be to demand military support from your new human vassals this is after all how the game is played in feudal society. Obviously you need to secure their loyalty, fear might be adequate to get nobility to pledge fealty but to keep them loyal it will probably need to be worth their while to serve you, fortunately you will probably have lots of lands from those foolish enough to refuse to serve you to dish out to your loyal vassals. $\endgroup$ – MttJocy Dec 3 '18 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ @MttJocy you are right. Best strategy is to make allies out of a few second-tier houses, by promising them royal status under your new regime. $\endgroup$ – Bald Bear Dec 5 '18 at 14:38
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Your basic strategy is skirmishing: avoid your enemies, hit them from range, tire them out, wear them down, draw out their formations, and then go for the throat. Humans can do this pretty well as-is, but humans with horses can be very effective.

The jinetes or genitours were a fairly typical mold of light cavalry for the early medieval period, in this case Spanish. They were lightly armored and equipped with javelins, swords, and small shields. The way they fought is described as follows (source in the WP link above):

Their tactics were not to close but to hover round their opponents, continually harassing them till they should give ground or break their formation, when a chance would occur of pushing a charge home.

The tactics of the genitours were to swarm around the enemy, to overwhelm him with darts, to draw off if he charged in mass, but to hang upon his flanks and charge him when he grew tired, or fell into disorder.

Although not the only type of unit the Spanish fielded, they were quite common, with upwards of 11,000 in service at some points.

Your avians would want to field similar units with similar goals and tactics. Assailing your enemy from above (you mention they can't shoot bows while flying, but if they could hurl javelins accurately in a dive, they could be very deadly) will wear them down while presenting relatively little risk to you. If they present any weaknesses in their formation that you can take advantage of, you can land and assail them, or ground-borne comrades can attack. If not, fly away and keep trying.

They would have some advantages over light cavalry: terrain would be less of a factor (forests would provide cover, but hills and the like would be a nonissue), and they would be less vulnerable to being intercepted or outflanked. Their main disadvantage, that I can see, is that horses - even ones not bred for capacity, like chargers were - can carry a good deal of weight. Your avians couldn't, which would limit their javelin-ing capacity. It might make sense for them to return to allied lines for resupply, or have others (squires?) fly with them carrying spares.

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Be ruthless, Starve them out, destroy things not people

Your avian species has the advantage of speed and mobility, and humans die if they don't eat. Focus on maximizing civilian casualties.

Avian objectives

  1. Burn fields and salt the earth.
  2. Kill or spoil livestock, diseased grain should help.
  3. Steal or destroy equipment under cover of night.
  4. Prepare resources (food, shelters, retreat locations) for a prolonged multi year campaign of resource harassment.
  5. Contaminate drinking water supply, river contamination, spoil wells, etc.
  6. Burn unprotected structures, either at night or while unattended. (Dragons can help with larger structures)
  7. Harass or destroy supply caravans and ships/barges.
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Naval war is easy for avians, they will set human ships on fire easily. It's like having a battle between to equal fleets but one has airplane carreers and the other doesn't have one. Check the war over the pacific during WWII. Assuming naval commerce for the humans is important the avians would have won after the naval battle. With this argument they could easily win the costal cities as vassals to their side, their lords being interested in continuing the commerce above all.

The melée strategy of the avians would be attack in larger numbers with constant waves staying in the air out of the humans effective range. Also chosing the angle of attack. If surprise is achieved they would always attack by the rear or flank of the ennemy units. They would produce a constant shower of little slashes. Humans would squat to dodge but next avians would adjust reach. They could trace a circle of constant attack hoping the enemy routes before they get tired. When they disengage the rear would take some damage although by attacking the edge of the units they can easy it up. Also the rear at this point can throw But against heavily armored soldiers or infantrymen equiped with spears this probably wouldn't work. They would always try to attack with large numeral superiority using their initiative and field intelligence as already said. Based on their sprinting hability they can perform effective charges hiting and taking flight immediatly after. Eventhough they are extremely weak in comparison to humans, with this attack they could hit the enemy line at different heights simulteanously, idealy one attacking the head while two more attack the body and below the weist. These two forms of attack could be idealy combined. Dont forget their frailty is also a defensive hability since near hits with little momentum wont do them so much dammage, so dodging hits would be their best technique.

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