Raiding and pillaging
Raiding is the art of conquering enemy provinces with as low a commitment as necessary. A raiding group is the opposite of a doom stack. Raiding serves a multitude of purposes:
It increases your income due to owning more provinces.
It denies that same income to your opponent, both by removing the income of the raided province and potentially cutting other provinces off from forts halving their income as well.
It increases your mobility while decreasing your opponent's mobility. This is because non-flying opponents cannot cross hostile province.
In combination with regular armies, raiders can cut retreat paths and potentially cause massive casualties to fleeing opponents.
Choosing your raiders
JohnnyJohnny's Minimum Takes
In his guide JohnnyJohnny introduces the concept of Minimum Takes:
"(…) the fundamental idea behind it is that using the smallest possible amount of troops to take a province is always the best action. But to apply this to the roster you need to identify national units that can be recruited from any fort that can
Take provinces with a maximum of 2 fort turns recruitment.
Be able to take multiple provinces with some attrition.
Making up these kind of minimum-take groups is generally the job of cheap resources like low cost any fort troops."
A raiding group can be anything from 40 zotz who routinely suffer 50% casualties; to 3 anakites and an indy priest; to a mage with a few gems set to drop two elementals and take a nap; to a thug. Quality is binary, either you take the province or you don't, so raiding is all about quantity. Effective raiding tactics involve a variety of raiding groups because you try to inflict as much damage as you can with the resources you have available.
Some units are more suitable to raiding than others. In particular, units with stealth are more difficult for enemies to deal with since they can sneak away after a succesful raid. Similarly units with flying can raid deeper by passing over provinces, thus making it more difficult for your enemy to deal with them easily. Amphibious raiders can move in and out of water to stay protected.
Raiding is successful when you can raid more provinces than your opponent can take back. This is known as applying raiding pressure, by pushing the front line back to the enemy and leaving you with more and more provinces every turn.
Both raiding and defending against raiding are games of tradeoffs. The smaller the pieces you split your force into, the more land you can take (as the raider) or defend (as the defender). But, conversely, the more you split your force up, the less likely each individual piece is to win its battle. The more value you commit to any one province, the more likely you are to win that battle – but, often, the more you stand to lose if your opponent commits something that counters you there.
So, ideally, you want to split your force into as many chunks as possible that are still likely to win their battles – and commit your valuable resources so that they have maximum impact but minimum risk.
Cactusowl: A couple of things to think about
How can I keep my opponent off balance so I attack into minimum defenses?
Raiding forces, by definition, are small enough that your opponent could kill them if they fought them with a large force. This means you have to strike where those large forces aren't; this means that you are more likely to win your battles. Raiding requires good scouting: you need to know where those large forces are and where they could move to intercept you. Then you allocate raiders so that you avoid the defenders you can't kill, but are prepared to kill what your opponent is likely to have there to defend with. Mobility is extremely valuable: it means you have a greater number of provinces you can attack, making it harder for an opponent to intercept them. Stealth is very good on both sides, since the attacker can use it to hide their possible attacks from the defender and to infiltrate; it is also good for the defender, since if the attacker can't see the defending forces, they can't plan for what their raiding parties might need to fight.
Can I kill whatever my opponent has there to defend with?"
The lightest raiding squads are designed to kill 6-15 PD. If you are raiding into PD, a small force – a few Ulmish black knights – will suffice. But there are harder targets to raid too – such as blood farms. If you're attacking a blood hunting operation, you'll have to fight patrollers and hunters too. Make sure you plan for this.
If my opponent does commit defenders to the province I go to, can I kill them?
A opponent expecting raiding will likely split their force to try to deal with your raiding forces. Normally you hope not to encounter defenders other than PD. But if you can manage to commit something else to kill possible enemy defenders, so much the better. This can mean thugs, fluffers or light mage support, or a mix of raiding unit types. Obviously your raiders can't fight the whole enemy army, but if you can make your raiders able to win small skirmishes, so much the better – it forces your enemy to keep their army in bigger groups and makes it easier for you to keep them off balance.
What is the risk/reward of this attack?
Often raiders are not dedicated raiding parties, but groups of troops or thugs that get "drafted" into raiding duty as opportunities arise. Sometimes you have assets that are extremely valuable, out of proportion to what you might gain with a successful raid. For instance, an Air Queen is usually an army support caster. But with 20 gems of gear she can make a useful thug that can capture most provinces. She will likely die if she hits an enemy army, and 70 gems of thug is not worth risking over a humdrum province. Does this mean you shouldn't use air queens to raid? Not at all – but you should use them safely.
How can I mitigate disaster?
Flying is a very useful trait to have on a raiding thug – because they'll manage to retreat from battle more often if things go wrong. When raiding, it's best to attack groups of adjacent provinces – that way if something needs to retreat it has somewhere to go. Ring of Returning can be another useful tool.
What will the counterattack look like?
Raiders without stealth can be attacked in the magic phase on the following turn. Could you lose your raiding force to a teleport/cloud-trapeze counterattack? (And do you care? If it's five Ulmish Black Knights, probably not – but if it's an air queen, you absolutely do!) Are your commanders liable to get hit with Mind Hunt or remote assassinations?
Pillaging a province increases unrest and kills population in a province, decreases that province’s
supplies, and gains gold and food for the pillaging army. The larger the pillaging force, the greater the
chance of success. Fast units and large units are better than others at pillaging, while barbarians and
units with the Fear and Pillager abilities are exceptionally good. The supplies gained last only one month.