Let's say that a state has the following plan to attack a neighboring kingdoms capital, which they will declare war on. The city is known as impossible to break.

  • Slowly send 1000 elite soldiers in during the peace period, only with swords/short swords in the city, for "protection". Sending more would raise suspicion. They will try to find weapons there, if not they will try to make them. They will also try to connect with rebellious troops.
  • Blitzkrieg the way to the capital, skipping most towns, arriving there for a week or so. Once they are near, they will start a siege, until evening.
  • In the meantime, 200 of the troops will cause general turmoil, collecting anarchists, anti-absolute-monarchists, troublemakers, etc under their banner, thus creating mobs in the city, distracting guards and in-city soldiers.
  • On sundown, the remaining 800 and the rest of the army outside would storm the city, resulting in a victory.

What would be the most common problems here? My theories are:

  • The cost off keeping 1000 troops in inns, and not in the same one at that, might be high.
  • A guard might notice they are all from the state
  • They might not be allowed in at all
  • They might not generate enough in-city troops

Any other problems that might occur here?


The weapon level is medieval/renaissance. There are some types of weapons that are similar to the designs of Leonardo da Vinci, Kongming Liang, etc, but no guns. Trebuchets are used, with cannons just being invented, and still don't have massive usage, because of the high cost of producing gunpowder. Both sides have only trebuchets and catapults.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a specific plot or story instead of worldbuilding. $\endgroup$
    – Vulcronos
    Nov 17, 2014 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Vulcronos I am asking about the problems that might occur. The fact that I have 2 answers so quickly makes me think people think it is on topic. $\endgroup$
    – MikhailTal
    Nov 17, 2014 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ I think you overstimate the propension to violence of the mobs. They are great at attacking defenseless targets, but will chicken out against troops. Also, the idea of medieval/renaissance "anarchist" or "anti-absolute-monarchic" groups is quite laughable (for example, there was no -western- absolutist monarchy until Louis XIV). And the idea that you can sneak 1000 troops without causing incidents, drunk soldiers talking too much, etc is wishful thinking. That, and forgetting that the troops will have to handle the defenses of the city for weeks until reinforcements arrive. $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Nov 18, 2014 at 1:08
  • $\begingroup$ Having supporters inside the city open a gate is a pretty common way of having a defended city fall. You don't need 1000 men inside for that. You do need a real army outside that could take on the garrison once the gate is taken and forced. The mobs/rioters are unneeded, aside from a distraction. Best to just ignore them. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Nov 18, 2014 at 23:49

3 Answers 3


1000 elite soldiers is pretty excessive in any medieval setting (or a very loose definition of elite). For 1000 elite soldiers to exist, they would have either had years upon years of training (10+?) or have been in an excessive number of winning battles (losing tends to kill off the elite)...the amount of resources and pre-planning that goes into raising that many elite troops is very noticeable to surrounding states. The only historic parallel I can come up with here as having that large of number of what would be 'elite troops' would be Sparta as they trained from birth for war(training route) or perhaps vikings (elite through sheer experience). In feudal times, only lords were really allowed the privilege to dedicate themselves to something for a life time like this, and they required a decently large number of surfs to allow just one of them to train like this. In either event, these people would either have a reputation that proceeded them or be quite recognizable as heavily battle hardened.

Medieval troops were anything but fast. Blitzkrieg is a much more modern term. A medieval army required supply lines to bring them both food/water (firewood?) and ammunition and all the other supplies they require to operate. Marching past hostile towns and deep into enemy territory means these supply lines don't exist. Failing the 1-2 day siege idea, this army is utterly doomed. They also leave themselves badly vulnerable to partisan tactics, and even an assault on the sieging army from all directions. This is all or nothing with tiny space for failure and failure resulting in near absolute loss (considering the training and effort to raise 1000 elite troops in addition to the besieging army, thats a lot of risk...bold and under line 'a lot!!!'). I'd personally question a general that would throw all their eggs into one basket like this.

City sizes in medieval times were never that high...1000 soldiers would probably over run the inn's of that city and be a decently large portion of the population. How big do you think a medieval city is and how much free in space would you reasonably expect it to have? If the city is large enough that 1000 soldiers isn't a noticeable population to add, then you have to consider that surrounding the city and starving them out (disease works too, catapulting in dead cows is a scarily effective tactic) is far more effective than an actual assault. Medieval seiges were long drawn out events afterall.

Nor is the loss of a capitol a defeat...symbolic yes, but not defeat. I would assume the invaded state also has a military of some sort that wouldn't be in the major city (advantage to a city like this is it does not require an army to garrison) and I assume that military is sitting in the surrounding towns and on the border. If the city falls, what happens when that army retaliates by marching into the invading nations lands and pillaging every last undefended town that exists? If the city doesn't fall, what is stopping this military from surrounding and decimating a supply-less foriegn army on their home soil?

  • $\begingroup$ In addition, if the city is conquered but the surrounding countryside is not, how would the occupying army get its supplies? No wonder this scenario wasn't common in real life. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Nov 18, 2014 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ @vsz exactly...an immediate siege on the capitol by the former king's forces would be in an ideal position...you are doing a prolonged siege in friendly territory with supply lines everywhere, vs an enemy that's reliant on your former defenses and supplies that you'd be quite aware of on a capability level...and while defending vs this siege they would be facing a potentially hostile public sabotaging your supplies and defenses at every step they could. The invaders basically need to be welcomed as liberators for this to succeed. Maybe Sack the capitol, kill the king, and run? $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Nov 18, 2014 at 21:56

Poison food supplies/water.

Distract city with another enemy (fake the reports), to draw off troops.

Bribery aristocrats / factions to betray the king.

Get sappers working earlier, rent/buy houses near walls and ship in gunpowder once you've got your tunnels set up.

Burn the city down.

Call on the city to surrender (if you think that will work) and throw open the gates - or you'll decimate the population (if you've got the reputation of following through on your threats).

Biological warfare, ie: Mongols & black plague.

Chemical warfare.

Yes, this is going to take time and money.

If you can't pay the cost, what in the hell are you starting a war for? If you don't take the capital, it's going to cost you a lot more when they counterattack into your territory.

I beg to differ, not that hard to get 1,000 elite soldiers: and you don't need a decade to train them up, either.

Battle of Agincourt had '8,000 men-at-arms, 4,000 archers and 1,500 crossbowmen in the vanguard, with two wings of 600 and 800 mounted men-at-arms, and the main battle having "as many knights, esquires and archers as in the vanguard"'

In the Battle of Marciano, Strozzi had a field army of 14,000 infantry, about 1,000 cavalry, and five guns.

Keeping the social order is not the same as raising an elite soldier. You keep nobles as squires so long so they're not out causing trouble.

For example, guilds don't exist to make workers who're super-skilled, they exist to make sure that work is equally distributed amongst the population - by creating specializations and enforcing work-bans. They have the side effect of training people into 'masters'.

No, not all of those 14,000 infantry are going to be elite. But you said we couldn't even have 1,000.

Agincourt had 'heavily armed and armored' men-at-arms. You don't heavily arm and armor the rabble. You don't put the rabble up as cavalry, either. In any case, they had ~8,000-13,000 of the knights/pages that you seem so fond of.

Let me phrase it this way, it didn't take a decade to make an elite Roman legionnaire. It doesn't take a decade to make a Green Beret, Ranger, SEAL, SWAT team member, or a sniper.

Yes, we can make WWII medics in 90 days, and BCT is 10 weeks - but I'm not arguing that those are elite troops, even though that's more training than a lot of historical troops had.

Longbowman is a little different - many people need to practice for a long time so that they can shoot the bow, same as for running a harpoon.

'Elite' just means 'very good at warfare'. You can't be very good without some training, but once a fast learner / innately skilled person gets that training - they're good. It's merely a matter of selecting them out. Kinda like Gideon's band of 300.

  • $\begingroup$ I guess we need to define elite as I either have too strict of definition of elite or you have far too loose of definition. Strozzi did not have 14'000 elite infantry, that or the Allies landed 150'000 "elite" soldiers in normandy. Keep in mind that veteran is not elite $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Nov 17, 2014 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ An elite knight was a page from ages 7-14 and a squire to the age of 21. 14 years to create would I'd consider an elite from training only soldier. $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Nov 17, 2014 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ Remember elite is best of the best...not anything more experience than rabble worthy of Armour. An elite Roman legionnaire would participate several campaigns (multiple battles) in a year for consecutive years and would become elite through that combat not training. Do you know how many years of training was necessary to become a longbowman? They were raised from the age of 7, but that wasn't even elite...the elite were handpicked from the best of those. Basic trained and Heavily armed men at arms are considered 'regulars' not elite while rabble would be 'green' or 'novice' or that sort. $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Nov 17, 2014 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ (I upvoted your answer, you should be able to comment) $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Nov 17, 2014 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ Your account seems to have come disconnected (probably due to wiping cookies) as you tried to edit with a different account but having the same name. You need to register one of your accounts and then contact the SE staff (worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/contact) and ask for your accounts to be merged. Then all your rep will go on that account and you will be able to comment/edit/etc. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Nov 18, 2014 at 10:00

The original OP asked

What would be the most common problems here?

My answers include:

  1. Keeping the city after taking it
    We've just brought an army into, what is likely to be, toward the middle of enemy territory. On the way we killed only those enemy forces that were directly in our way. This leaves ALL of the other enemy forces available to attack ONE CENTRAL location... taking the city, in the long term, really only makes our plight worse. Meaning that they can now gather & conscript sufficiently large armies to take the city back, if the city really is impregnable (which I don't think any city, let alone a stronghold, actually can be...), they will be able to very effectively siege the city, as they have nearly their whole forces & population with which to do it... so we will starve if they don't kill us outright.

  2. Keeping the force that Blitzed in free from attack while waiting to take the city.
    (even if from hit & run tactics... which I would think would be performed while waiting for the surrounding armies of the enemy to gather in order to make a concerted attack)

  3. Increased public opinion of a war with the country who sent the Blitzed forces...
    The countries citizens may see this country/state as a clear enemy, that insulted them, but didn't cause any lasting damage... the army would be fairly well intact, most if not all production would be intact, & no other city would be more than scratched...
    This is only a problem because it may be easier to raise more troops & to provide for resistance & sabotage within the capital city that was taken.

I would suggest a better tactic for ultimately winning the war would be to send the elite troops out to various production sites to sabotage them, or, better yet, to destroy them outright. The targets would best likely be:

  • Production facilities: quarries, mines, harbors, state owned smithies, coin production facilities
  • Storage facilities: food [specifically for troops], wood, ore, weapons, etc...
  • Transportation capabilities: Existing wagons (particularly state owned), horses, mules...

Now if all of that were combined with a central, hit & run attack on the capital (or possibly even the attack you described) I might think our army would have a chance of succeeding. In particular if the reason for the elite soldiers inside the capital was to make it simple for the army to take the city... by means of opening doors, disabling defenses, etc... allowing our attacking army to effectively waltz in and take the city with very little resistance.

However I still feel that taking the central city without other preparations, such as another army or two used to attack or threaten other cities of this enemies, and the sabotage I mentioned, would be folly.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting points. As I think I have mentioned, the city is thought untakeable, and the fortification is really strong (Like Constandinopolis, that was only beaten by Mehmet II), and if the army is in, it can be protected by outer forces until reinforcements arrive. $\endgroup$
    – MikhailTal
    Nov 17, 2014 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. As you mentioned, anything that is thought to be untakeable really isn't, and the people who would do it best would be the people who built it I would guess... I agree, if reinforcements are sent soon then it could definitely succeed (or help in the success of) winning the war. My point is really that, the way I see things, it can only be a part of winning the war... and without other parts is doomed to failure. $\endgroup$
    – MER
    Nov 17, 2014 at 21:14
  • $\begingroup$ Thats why I asked another question : worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/4197/… $\endgroup$
    – MikhailTal
    Nov 17, 2014 at 21:16

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