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Siege Engines

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Not your average party tank.

"A man can only swing a sword as hard as man can. A goblin behind a machine can pulverize a fortress."
Senior Sapper Pickler, A Practical Guide to Evil

Siege engines are huge war machines used by attacking armies to help them win a siege, whether by destroying enemy fortifications, helping to bypass them, or attacking enemy forces through or over the walls. They’ve been common in Real Life from ancient times until the end of fortresses as major military factors in the early 1900s, and are as a result well represented in fantasy works, alternate history and Historical Fiction. Often used during The Siege or when Storming the Castle.

Defending armies may use siege engines as well, usually to repel enemy attempts to breach or scale the walls or attack the enemy without having to leave the safety of their fortifications.

Siege engines can come in various types for various tasks, with the more common variations including:

  • Catapults: Simple constructions designed to fling projectiles, which can be pretty much anything (or anyone).
  • Ballistae: Have the appearance of a giant crossbow but use torsion rather than tension energy to power their missiles. Often lit on fire. Invented by the Greeks, but most extensively used by the Romans.
  • Trebuchets: A giant, usually non-portable sling weapon with a very long range that can throw much bigger projectiles than catapults do. They operate by pulling the opposite end of the catapult downwards and back, typically by dropping a counterweight, causing the sling to shoot up with great force. (Not Tree Buchets.)
  • Siege ladders: Large, heavy ladders built to allow attackers to climb the walls. Advanced versions may take the form of giant ramps, allowing the attacker to walk onto the top of the wall.
  • Siege towers: Large wheeled and armoured towers with ladders or stairs inside, designed to provide access over high walls.
  • Battering rams and screws: For knocking down or breaking through gates, and less commonly used on stronger points in the wall.
  • Vats of boiling oil or molten lead: For countering enemies climbing the walls.
  • Galleries: A portable roof to protect attackers (sappers) undermining a wall with picks and shovels.
  • Mantlets: Large mobile shields.
  • Tunnels: Used by sappers to dig underneath walls, either to let soldiers enter from the inside or to fill with fire or explosives and undermine the walls.
  • ... and many other variations.

Historical accuracy varies and the Rule of Cool rules. Depending on the setting, cannons may also appear, making knocking down thinner walls in a realistic fashion an option (other siege weapons almost always rely on bypassing the wall or attacking those inside from range rather than knocking it down).

They accentuate the menace of an approaching army and their appearance in a siege is often closely followed by a crisis point for the defenders. Siege engines give potential for great visuals, such as the straining muscles of the attackers working their dire engine, or the horrified defenders watching an incoming payload and then the explosive impact. Also expect Arrows on Fire, and if there are siege towers, expect them to catch fire and topple. See Catapult to Glory for when people are used as ammo. See also Anti-Structure, which is about weapons that are effective against structures. And if someone wields a ballista as a handheld weapon, it may overlap with Great Bow.


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  • An ad for Kit Kat features a pair of Medieval Morons attempting to assemble a catapult from a set of IKEA-style instructions with no words.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Berserk features relatively little in the way of siege engines (Griffith and the Band of the Hawk specialize in high-speed cavalry strikes), but early on we see massive cannons.

    Comic Books 
  • Whenever the Romans pull them out in Asterix the village is going to be thrashed... Immediately followed by the Romans themselves-hence why they usually do it only when they believe the Gauls are without their magic potion that makes them invincible, with the one exception being Brutus' men who didn't know what would happen.

    Comic Strips 
  • Hägar the Horrible and his horde make frequent use of rams and catapults. In one strip he fills in for the catapult while his men assemble it, until his arms get tired. And on occasion the French or English follow them home, in which case Helga's cooking makes an apt substitute for boiling oil.

    Fan Works 
  • Equestria Divided: House Earthborn makes extensive use of these, including large cannons, enormous battering rams moved by teams of earth ponies, heavily armored bomber helicopters, and the Fortbusters/Beastbusters, powerful war machines designed to take down enemy fortifications, constructs and monsters.
  • The Mountain and the Wolf: The Wolf has an enormous Battering Ram built for the siege of King's Landing, using a sorcerer to conduct rituals to improve it like smelting the iron using driftwood from Daenerys' ships that were massacred at Dragonstone by Euron. It turns out to be for nothing as Drogon just blasts the gate open.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 7th Voyage of Sinbad: Near the end, Sinbad's sailors use a giant ballista to kill a dragon.
  • 55 Days at Peking (1963). The defenders at the Peking legation watch in horror as a huge siege tower is hauled out of the darkness by hundreds of Chinese soldiers. Then it starts shooting rockets at them.
  • The Court Jester had a small one used to launch the villains over the battlements.
  • Gladiator: The Romans use ballistas against the Germanic army at the beginning, as well as some sort of Greek Fire in pots they catapult at them.
  • It may have been the fact that they were too stupid to use other ammunition, but the Krug army from In The Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale end up using catapults. First with flaming boulders, then with flaming Krug.
  • Kingdom of Heaven: Saladin's Muslim army brings a Battering Ram, ladders, trebuchets and siege towers to assault Jerusalem. The ram plan is quickly torched (so to speak) by Balian's forces using flammable oil, the ladder soldiers don't stand much chance on the ramparts (or against the flammable oil) and the siege towers are brought down using a clever contraption with ballista harpoons and counterweights. Saladin's success chances improve when he focuses his forces on the weak postern part of Jerusalem's walls, so much so that it's where Balian's forces make their Last Stand.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • In The Two Towers, the assault on Helm's Deep shows suicidal berserker sappers deploying explosives against the weakest point in the outer walls to devastating effect. Earlier in that same battle, multiple siege ladders (including large ones with ballista winches) were used to attack the walls.
    • In The Return of the King, trebuchets are used to defend Minas Tirith's walls, and catapults are used by Sauron's forces to weaken Osgiliath, and a huge ram was brought to bear against the gates of Minas Tirith, in addition to siege towers pushed by trolls and full of angry orcs.
  • The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc has a multiple arrow launcher.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
    • The French knights presumably used some kind of catapult to fling the cow and giant rabbit.
    • Several are seen amongst Arthur's army at the end of the movie, probably to be used against the Castle Argh.
  • In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Inspector Clouseau is accidentally propelled up and through a castle window by a catapult.
  • In Prince Caspian, the Telmarines utilize some sort of perpetual motion trebuchets. Needless to say, any one with any grasp whatsoever on physics will be irritated by these monstrosities.
    • Not really perpetual motion. The staff made a point in the commentary that they tried to make sure those trebuchets might actually work. Something was cranking the arms around, it's just not clear what is doing it, but watch closely and they aren't "perpetual motion".
  • Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. The human enclave in a tower in Racoon City uses a trebuchet to throw flaming barrels of oil at a horde of attacking zombies. Alice makes sure to paint aiming points on the ground beforehand so they can adjust their fire accordingly.
  • Robin Hood (2010) had mantlets used during the siege on the French castle that King Richard is killed in, along with bags of oil that were set on fire to burn the gates down.
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves had Robin and Azeem being launched over the castle walls by a catapult (landing safely on a pile of hay). The unlikelihood of this working is lampshaded.
    Will Scarlett: Fuck me, he cleared it!
  • The Prince of Thieves example received a Shout-Out in the form of a throwaway gag in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, with the Sherrif of Nottingham demonstrating the Stealth Catapult.
  • Kaamelott: Premier Volet: There's a Running Gag with the Burgundians being too moronic to properly maneuver their siege engines. At least until Arthur Pendragon finds a way to coordinate them.
  • The War Lord: 11th century Norman warlord Chrysagon de la Cruex is besieged in his tower by Frisian raiders and the very angry villagers he ruled over. Frisians build a Battering Ram with nearby trees, use mantlets when trying to burn down the tower (and get repelled when the besieged Normans pour oil on the drawbridge) and eventually build a siege tower. The siege tower then gets destroyed by a catapult using flaming and non-flaming boulders brought there by the reinforcements Chrysagon's brother Draco went to seek.
  • Young Frankenstein: At one point the villagers use Inspector Kemp as an impromptu Battering Ram to knock open a door.


  • The Lord of the Rings: Sauron's forces use catapults to attack Minas Tirith with shells that exploded in flames, as well as the heads of those who had been killed in earlier fighting. Also of note is Grond — named after Morgoth's warhammer Grond, Hammer of the Underworld — the most badass Battering Ram ever conceived, with a head shaped like a wolf's and enchanted with "spells of ruin", drawn by great beasts and swung by trolls, which was used to break the gate of Minas Tirith.
  • Kushiel's Legacy: In Kushiel's Dart, the Skaldi build siege towers for use during the siege of Troyes-le-Mont.
  • Found in the Historical Fiction Romance of the Three Kingdoms written in 14th century about events in the 2nd and 3rd.
  • Battles between city-states of Gor regularly employ siege weapons.
  • In High Citadel by Desmond Bagley, passengers from a crashed aircraft build an improvised trebuchet from abandoned equipment in a mine, in this case to fend off communist guerillas who are trying to repair the bridge across a ravine in order to attack them.
  • Mainly a forgotten art in Codex Alera, since when it comes to breaking down walls furycrafting is much more flexible, powerful, and does not require a gigantic supply train.So when the catapults are essentially reinvented in First Lord's Fury and are then loaded with the local equivalent of cluster bombs, allowing the equivalent of a village full of peasants to deliver the collective power of several High Lords... let's just say Made of Win and leave it at that.
  • The bad guys in Mogworld have a trebuchet, although everyone keeps calling it a catapult.
  • The GrailQuest trilogy by Bernard Cornwell, set during the Hundred Years' War, features both traditional catapults and trebuchets as well as the earliest cannon that were just being adopted by the English at that point. His better known Sharpe series includes several attacks on fortresses with cannon, creating a breach to be stormed.
  • Gaunt's Ghosts: Along with more modern equipment such as tanks and artillery, the Chaos army in Necropolis use a variety of baroque siege weapons, such as massive mechanized siege ladders with flamethrowers and cluster grenade launchers, and enormous spike-wheeled vehicles designed to crawl up the city's shield wall. The enemy's fortress is a massive crawling thing with a gigantic Wave-Motion Gun attached nicknamed "The Spike". In fact, the Imperials identify Heritor Asphodel as the enemy leader because of his notorious love for bizarrely overcomplicated siege equipment, which he refers to as "woe engines".
  • In the Inheritance Cycle, trebuchets are used for a battle in a plain. Considering that your average trebuchet can fire something like two shots per hour (if you're lucky), this isn't the wisest of choices.
  • Siege engines of all kinds are used in the Redwall books. In the original Redwall we get a battering ram and a siege tower, as well as a tunnelling attempt. That last is foiled by several gallons of lethally scalding-hot water being dumped down the tunnel. Ouch.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • In the second book, A Clash of Kings, three huge trebuchets are used in the defense of King's Landing against Stannis Baratheon. They're also used to hurl traitors in a gruesome form of execution. Scorpions and spitfires are mentioned, implied to be ballistae and catapults respectively.
    • When the forces of Daenerys Targaryen are besieging the city of Meereen in A Storm of Swords, they lack trees to make siege weapons thanks to a scorched earth policy of the defenders, so they break up the only ships they have to make a 'turtle' covered in horse hides (against burning oil) protecting the battering rams (made from the masts) they use to break down the gates.
    • Many descriptions of the Wall mention old, derelict catapults and trebuchets stuck into the ice on top of it.
  • Siege weapons come into play heavily in The Sapphire Rose, during the Battle of the Basillica of Chyrellos. They are mentioned and utilized throughout the series however, notably by the Arcian armies, which are often commented on as specializing in siege warfare. Unlike the Thalasians.
  • Discworld:
    • The Piecemaker was originally a cart-mounted ballista intended for knocking down city walls, before Sergeant Detritus realised it was the perfect size for a troll to wield as a hand weapon. At first it fired a six-foot-long steel arrow, but is now modified to fire a huge amount of arrows in the general direction it's pointed at (and by general direction we mean standing directly behind Detritus is the only safe location... most of the time). The enormous forces the arrows are exposed to mean that after being fired they promptly turn into an expanding cloud of flaming shrapnel of incredible destructive power, to the point that Detritus isn't actually allowed to fire it at people — generally, the Piecemaker gets employed when the Watch needs a gate or a wall to not be there anymore.
    • In Night Watch, Big Mary is an ox-powered wall with grappling hooks, designed for pulling down barricades.
  • In David Drake's Ranks of Bronze a Roman legion abducted by unscrupulous alien merchants are once made to siege a fort held by aliens who have invented Greek Fire and pour it down murder holes. To get in they invent a gallery and a flamethrower made from a 150-foot log and a giant bellows, which they lean against the top of the tower with the enemy's Greek fire and shoot their own Greek fire up at them.
  • In A Practical Guide to Evil, the Praesi Legions' sapper corps often build ballistae or small catapults when they have a large battle ahead. It's a mark of how advanced the modern Legions are that they construct their own siege engines from their own blueprints, while almost everyone else buys theirs from the Kingdom Under.
  • The Accursed Kings:
    • The novels see the introduction of gunpowder artillery in Western Europe. One siege has the seneschal complaining about these newfangled technologies when catapults worked just fine, as the town walls prevent him from seeing just how devastating the bombards are.
    • Much later, King John of France has a massive siege tower built to attack a minor city despite everyone telling him it's a bad idea (except the guy being paid to build it, who knows it but takes the king's money anyway). The tower is pushed to the walls, where it is promptly blown apart by cannons the defenders had wisely refrained from using until then.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Masada featured a variety of Siege Engines — siege tower (with a Battering Ram at the top), onagers, and ballistae.
  • The History Channel built a replica of an Indian cannon designed to be mounted on an elephant and a primitive Chinese landmine. Surprisingly, both turned out to be disturbingly effective, though the operator would have been vulnerable to arrows. Flamethrowers are another weapon that may be Older Than They Think.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In the Battle of the Blackwater ballistae and an improvised mantlet are seen, the latter made by turning a boat upside down; the boat has already been fitted with wooden supports to hold it above the ground so as to protect those manning the battering ram.
    • Ship-mounted scorpions are responsible for the death of one of Danaerys' dragons in the final season (which attracted a lot of derision for the sheer Hollywood physics involved). Against the final dragon, they're completely useless.
  • Catapults are a Running Gag on Kaamelott: Leodagan holds them to be the ultimate weapon in defense and offense and is forever trying to convince Arthur to buy more while remaining blind to their Awesome, but Impractical nature. He once had one built in the castle courtyard without thinking of how to get it out (he wanted to bust down the castle wall), and as a result it can't even fire since the castle is in the way, and in a later episode built a second one that could fit through the gate and fire from inside... if it weren't for the first catapult that's still in the way.
  • MythBusters proved you can make a fully-functional trebuchet out of lumber and duct tape that launches flaming projectiles (if you have Greek Fire or a suitable substitute, that is).

    Tabletop Games 

  • Crossbows and Catapults provides a wargame-lite version of siege warfare involving cannons and ballistae.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Advanced D&D included rules for the use of siege engines including the gallery, hoist, mantlet, rams, sows and ram catchers.
    • Basic D&D had a magical bench that could act as a Battering Ram to open doors.
    • Spelljammer used catapults and ballistae as standard artillery on magic spacecraft.
    • The 3.5th edition book Heroes of Battle had rules for magical siege weapons and artillery, such as ballistae that fire lightning bolts, catapults hurling enchanted ammunition, or self-loading trebuchets.
    • The 5th edition adventure Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen has the boilerdrak, a gnomish war machine used by the Dragon Army in their attack on Vogler. It resembles a mechanical dragon on wheels and functions like a cross between a cannon and a flamethrower, in that it must be lit and aimed each time the crew wants to fire it. It also has a 1 in 6 chance to explode each time it fires, killing its operators.
  • Games Workshop games:
    • In Warhammer, most factions have access to some sort of catapult or bolt thrower, so rules for their use are included in the core book rather than an army book. The Warhammer: Siege supplement naturally expands on this even further, with rules for scaling ladders, siege towers, mantlets, battering rams, and boiling oil (or, for certain armies, cauldrons of boiling blood). Each faction also tends to have its own characterful or fantastic siege units:
      • The Empire is known for its love of blackpowder, and thus sports Great Cannons, Helblaster Volley Guns, even simple rocket launchers. Their Steam Tanks are also quite capable of battering or blasting down castle doors.
      • The Dwarfs have smaller cannons, but also Organ Guns and cantankerous Flame Cannons. They tend to be traditionalist, however, and often fall back on reliable bolt throwers and catapults, though occasionally put a Dwarf-y spin on them. The Grudge Thrower is a catapult whose boulders have been carved with runes detailing specific greivances against the enemy army, while the "Gob-Lobber" makes a novel use of goblin prisoners of war.
      • The Chaos Dwarfs are even more artillery-heavy than their kin, and not only field devices like Earthshaker Cannons, Deathshrieker Rockets, and Magma Cannons, they also invented the Helcannons subsequently used by Chaos forces, Hellfire-spouting artillery pieces that are part-machine, part-daemon.
      • The Bretonnians are stuck in Medieval Stasis, so their most sophisticated siege engine is a trebuchet, which the knights will reluctantly use if a foe can't be defeated by a glorious cavalry charge.
      • The High Elves and Dark Elves make heavy use of repeater bolt throwers.
      • The Skaven have some Warpstone-powered siege engines, such as the Warp Lightning Cannon.
      • The Lizardmen have giant bows and magical superweapons mounted on dinosaurs.
      • The Orcs are mostly stuck with "Rock Lobbas" and "Spear Chukkas," though they have invented the Doom-Diver Catapult, which launches a Goblin wearing a metal helmet and some stick-and-cloth "wings." It doesn't do quite as much damage as a normal payload, but the "ammunition" is capable of steering itself to some extent, so it can be surprisingly effective.
    • Warhammer 40,000:
      • With the strength and agility to climb sheer walls, and short ranged weaponry powerful enough to melt through even the thickest fortress wall, the daemon engines known as Maulerfiends make excellent siege weapons, capable of silencing any stronghold should they make it to their walls.
      • The Imperium and their Chaos counterparts share a variety of vehicles armed with powerful siege weapons, from Dreadnoughts to superheavy tanks to Titans. One of the more iconic vehicles is the humble Vindicator of the Adeptus Astartes, effectively a powerful, short ranged Demolisher Cannon carried on an uparmored Rhino chassis with a dozer blade, designed to power through enemy fire and rough terrain to pummel their fortifications with high explosive shells. It has an equivalent in the Leman Russ Demolisher, which is employed by the Astra Militarum instead.
      • The Epic scale Death Dealer daemon engine of Khorne is a mobile siege tower with a mechanical torso fitted to the front. The daemon engine is designed to disgorge hordes of fanatical warriors straight onto a fortresses walls while the daemon's robotic body uses it's deadly close combat weapons to slaughter the defenders.
      • Other examples from Epic include the daemon engines of Nurgle, the Contagion and Plague Tower, which look out of place in the sci-fi setting, being a medieval trebuchet and siege tower respectively, made of rusting metal and rotting wood and presumably held together by dried snot and unholy magic.
      • As if to make up for the sillyness of the Contagion and Plague Tower, the forces of Nurgle eventually received a unique siege engine in form of the Plagueburst Crawler, best described as a mechanical slug with a giant mortar on its back.
      • Early editions of the Epic scale version of the game had the Corvus Assault Pod. A specially designed arm mount that combines a Power Fist and Boarding Pod, the Corvus allowed a Warlord Titan to transport a detachment of Space Marine Terminators or other forces and deploy them directly into the upper floors of enemy held buildings and defensive walls by punching them, turning the Titan into a massive, walking siege tower.
      • Tyranids rely on various bioforms of increasing size to wage war, from the hound-like Hormagaunts to massive Biotitans. Their most iconic linebreaker is the Carnifex, a living battering ram that plows into enemy lines and fortifications with a heavily armored carapace and powerful talons. In particular is the Stone-crusher variant, which is armed with a Wrecker Claw (a diamond-hard crab claw) and Bio-Flail (an organic wrecking ball).
      • Orks have an assortment of crudely assembled siege vehicles and Humongous Mecha that rivals the Imperium, but special mention goes to the Squiggoth, a cross between a mammoth, dinosaur and fungus bristling with guns and improvised armor. Besides functioning as a battering ram and mobile artillery battery, Squiggoths can also carry a mob of Ork boyz looking to get into the thick of battle.
  • The board game Gondor, set during the siege of Minas Tirith, features siege towers, catapults, the Battering Ram Grond, and vats of boiling oil.
  • A wide variety of siege weapons appear in GURPS: Low-Tech along with rules for picking them up to use them as sidearms.
  • In Kings of War, most factions have bolt throwers as their siege weapons. The Dwarfs and the Abyssal Dwarfs are the only ones with cannons as siege weapons.
  • Legend of the Five Rings includes rules for siege engines in its Emerald Empire supplement. With the notable exception of the Crab Clan's Kaiu siegemasters, they are uniformly terrible, as Rokugan looks upon them with a combination of incomprehension and derision. This explains why The Siege is the primary way to deal with fortresses despite its innumerable drawbacks.
  • Weapons & Warriors: Castle Siege was a kid's game marketed which involved miniature siege engines that launched marbles, with the attacking side having the goal of breaking down the walls and the defenders aiming to take out all of the siege engines. The siege equipment included cannons, a trebuchet, a catapult, and ballistae.
  • Battle Masters had as one of it's most iconic, and powerful, pieces the Mighty Cannon, capable of firing a shot clear across the battlefield and generally obliterating any enemy units in its path.

    Video Games 

  • Age of Empires:
    • Age of Empires I started with catapults and ballistae, meant for attacking buildings and infantry, respectively. Heavy naval units have them mounted on their prows as well.
    • Age of Empires II greatly expanded upon siege engines. Catapults now have a stronger Area of Effect effect but more scatter to it, making them useful for breaking up dense enemy formations. Ballistae have become Scorpions, which deal piercing damage and fire bolts that can strike several enemies in a line. Neither have the range or damage to win a fight against enemy fortifications, however - for that there is the Trebuchet, which deals tremendous damage at tremendous range, but must pack and unpack between mobile and firing modes, and its projectiles will occasionally miss even a stationary target. Battering Rams meanwhile are all but immune to arrowfire, and infantry can help push them faster across the field. Siege Towers have no attack capacity at all, but can deploy infantry on the other side of walls without having to break them. And finally, lategame Bombard Cannons and Cannon Galleons will render fortifications all but obsolete.
    • Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, a Recycled IN SPACE! Age of Empires reskin, has sci-fi equivalents of everything from AoE II, like turning Battering Rams into Pummelers that grind away at buildings with point-blank energy beams. But it also adds Anti-Air siege equipment since spacecraft are in the game.
  • Besiege takes this to its logical conclusion. Every level gives you a specific mission, from destroying a castle to slaughtering an army to traversing a dangerous pass. You are given near-unlimited freedom with which to build a siege engine capable of carrying out that mission. All usual tropes apply.
  • Blizzard Entertainment games:
    • Certain units serve as siege engines in StarCraft:
      • The most iconic is the aptly-named Siege Tank, a Dual Mode Unit that can fire twin cannon on the move or deploy into an artillery piece. Unlike most video game siege units which tend to be considered not worth the trouble, the Siege Tank often forms the core of Terran strategies, save for dedicated infantry users or more unconventional tactics. It can also be used on both sides of sieges, as its splash damage when in immobile siege mode is very effective against infantry charges.
      • The Zerg have the Guardian, a crab-like flyer mutated from the Mutalisk. They spit globs of acidic spores a great distance away that outrange static defenses and can snipe workers effectively. However, they're slow and vulnerable to enemy air units, which make them Awesome, but Impractical in many cases. They also have the Ultralisk, a living battering ram that can tear through structures with its huge tusks and soak damage for weaker units like Zerglings.
      • The Protoss has the Reaver, which looks like a giant mechanical grub. On one hand, it is slow, squishy, and requires its ammunition to be manufactured beforehand and thus costs Minerals just to fire. On the other hand, those shots have tremendous range, home onto the enemy, and are highly damaging. Unlike the Siege Tank above, Reavers require more micromanagement to use in tandem with the Shuttle, making up for their low mobility. But when played well, they can absolutely devastate an enemy's worker line.
      • In the Brood War expansion, Zerg gained the Lurker, an evolution of the Hydralisk that changes its attack into a trail of spines erupting from the ground, which can only be used while burrowed. A few burrowed Lurkers in front of a base will make short work of enemy infantry and any buildings in range.
    • In the sequel:
      • Terrans retain the Siege Tank as one of their mainstay units. They are now backed up by Thors, giant siege walkers with powerful guns and anti-air missiles, forming an integral part of Terran mech builds; while Thors push the frontline and defend Siege Tanks from light air units, Siege Tanks will cover the slow Thors against masses of cheap infantry and enemy armor.
      • Eventually Down Played as the Thor shifted its focus towards Anti-Air support over the expansions. Originally, it had a long ranged bombardment ability that could deal a lot of continuous damage to a single target, but it was replaced by a Stance System that allowed it to inflict high single target damage with a bonus against massive units or Splash Damage with a bonus against light units. However, the Thor's Super Prototype, the Odin, is capable of using its cannons to bombard a large area while its ground attack has Splash Damage and inflicts extra damage to structures. Ironically, its Anti-Air capabilities are its greatest weakness.
      • In the Legacy of the Void expansion, Terrans gain the Liberator, a Dual Mode Unit that changes between an air-to-air flyer and a hovering laser turret, which fires a powerful shot against enemies inside a designated area.
      • Zerg lost the Guardian and Lurker, while the Ultralisk was steadily buffed into a monster of a unit it deserves to be. Most importantly, with SC2's better engine, Ultralisks are less likely to get stuck behind Zerglings or terrain due to their large collision boxes. They also gain Splash Damage, allowing them to mulch up poorly micro'd infantry, and a burrow strike ability in Legacy of the Void, letting them charge into enemy lines without taking damage.
      • The Guardian was replaced by the Brood Lord, another big, slow flyer that attacks from long range, but instead of acidic globs, they hurl a pair of Broodlings which continue attacking enemies until they're killed or expire. Unlike the Guardian, the Broodlings provide more utility by disrupting enemy pathing and possibly causing friendly fire. The Guardian would eventually return in Heart of the Swarm as an unplayable enemy unit, but becoming available to certain commanders in Legacy of the Void's Co-op mode.
      • The Heart of the Swarm expansion introduced the Swarm Host, which periodically spawns a pair of Locusts when burrowed to attack enemies within range until they expire or get killed.
      • The Lurker also returns in Heart of the Swarm, albeit only as a campaign-exclusive unit with an alternate evolution known as the Impaler, which trades its Herd-Hitting Attack for a powerful single target Armor-Piercing Attack. Lurkers would eventually be added back to multiplayer in Legacy of the Void.
      • Legacy of the Void introduces a Roach evolution known as the Ravager, gaining the ability to fire globs of bio-plasma at target locations that can hit air units. Inattentive and static players will be quickly punished by a barrage of plasma punching holes into their lines, though some skill is needed to aim and lead targets against attentive foes.
      • Protoss replaced the Reaver with the Colossus, an ancient war machine that scorches targets at long range with a pair of thermal lances, sweeping them across each other which can incinerate masses of lightly armored units. Unfortunately, they are rather fragile and their massive size means that they can be targeted by anti-air weapons, though their size also allows them to ignore terrain of different elevation to evade enemies or gain a better firing position. A campaign exclusive variant, the Wrathwalker, plays this straighter by replacing its thermal lances with a powerful energy blast that inflicts additional damage to buildings and can hit air units.
      • Protoss also gained a medium class flyer called the Void Ray, which excel at destroying high HP enemies and buildings as their long ranged beams charge up, but are cost inefficient against masses of cheaper units. By Legacy of the Void, they eschew slowly charging up their beams for an activated damage bonus against armored targets at the cost of a speed decrease.note  Since buildings are all armored targets, a fleet of Void Rays are more than capable of quickly melting down an enemy base and any unprepared defenders.
      • In Legacy of the Void, the Reaver returns as a campaign and Co-op exclusive unit, where it can now produce Scarabs for free and do so automatically. However, it's still Overshadowed by Awesome by the Purifier Colossus and the Wrathwalker, which are better at killing light units and structures respectively.
      • Legacy of the Void also introduces the Disruptor, a robotic unit that cannot attack, instead having the ability to fire a controllable energy ball towards a target location that explodes for high damage after a delay. note  Careful usage can break static defense lines and delete enemy deathballs, but improper usage risks your Disruptor as it is immobile while controlling the energy ball. A lategame siege flyer, the Tempest, was also introduced, having massive range and a slow but powerful attack, capable of sniping massive-sized units and structures from afar, while also having an upgrade that increases damage dealt to structures.
    • Warcraft III: Every race has their own siege weapon: Orcs have Catapults (replaced by "Demolishers" in the Frozen Throne expansion), Night Elves have Balistae (replaced by "Glaive Throwers"). The Alliance have dwarven mortars and steam tanks (later renamed "Siege Engines"), the latter of which has almost no range, but can also fire rockets at clusters of air units. The Undead use a Meat Wagon which catapults plague-ridden corpses to deal long-ranged damage, and can also store corpses to be used by nearby Necromancers' Animate Dead spell or for healing Ghouls and Abominations.
    • World of Warcraft allows the players to use siege weapons in specific PvE raids, PvP battlegrounds, periodic battle zones and quests. Most of these are of Steampunk or otherwise fantastic design, such as catapults made of bone which lob barrels of toxins, wooden self-propelled pneumatic trebuchets which hurl burning boulders, massive Magitek ballistae which toss spinning glaives, and what amounts to all-terrain steam locomotives with cannons and battering rams. In all cases, their efficiency against enemy players is dismal, making them largely a tool to destroy mission specific objectives. (Although the specific machine depicted on the trope page verged upon Game-Breaker status in a particular battleground for awhile before it was unable to catch up with increase in player levels)
      • Many other siege weapons are present as stationary scenery objects. These range from realistic cannons and catapults to Military Mashup Machines such as a gigantic sling that shoots sawblades and a stone castle tower on tank treads.
      • Garrosh's push to militarize the Horde led to the creation of the Siege Juggernaut, a scorpion-shaped siege engine with drills, lasers, missiles, and mines, and Iron Stars, exploding motorized mines that also crush anything they run over. When he fled to an alternate Draenor for the Warlords of Draenor expansion, he took plans for the Iron Stars and other siege weapons with him. The Iron Horde went on to add flamethrowers, two types of cannons, and a screw to the siege weapons seen in-game.
  • Absolutely essential to taking cities in Civilization. Melee units can attack cities, but will take massive damage doing it, so unless you intend to try a very expensive Zerg Rush (or happen to have very advanced units relative to your opponent) you're going to want some catapults, trebuchets, or cannon to soften that city up. Certain Civs well known for their historical siege capabilities get unique siege units (Battering Rams for the Huns, Siege Towers for the Assyrians, and Ballistae for the Romans).
  • In Command & Conquer: Generals, each faction has two or more units filling these role, usually long-ranged artillery capable of firing outside the range of base defenses. The USA has its Tomahawk Missile Launcher and Microwave Tank, which doesn't deal direct damage but shuts down an enemy defensive structure. China has the Inferno Cannon, a self-propelled artillery piece that fires napalm, and the Nuke Cannon, which fires tactical nukes. The GLA has the SCUD Missile Launcher for its primary anti-building unit, but the Rocket Buggy's barrage has greater range than base defenses, and the Bomb Truck can disguise itself as an enemy unit to drive right into their base before exploding.
  • In Diablo III Act III takes place in Bastion's Keep which was equipped with a large number of catapults and siege towers. Three catapults need to be levered into position to fire on the attacking demons while siege towers are only used as makeshift bridges within the Keep.
    • The demons have their own living demonic variants of siege engines. Demonic Hellbearers are the equivalent of siege towers, being massive worms which cling to the top of the battlements and spew out an endless stream of demons. Demonic Tremors are sappers and battering rams, capable of tearing through walls with ease.
  • Some stages in Dragon's Crown have Ballistae that the characters could use. They are powerful but are cumbersome to move and aim, making them impractical to use unless fighting large targets like the Red Dragon. The end of the Bilbaron Subterranean Fortress's B Route also has a Siege Cannon that the player could use to deal heavy damage to the Gargoyle Gate.
  • The closely related Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, Warriors Orochi, and Bladestorm The Hundred Years War series feature a variety of siege engines on stages focused on taking a fortress. They range from rams to siege towers to cannon.
  • Legend of Heroes have boulder-slinging catapults as enemies in a few areas, which can e destroyed for points.
  • Many Fire Emblem games have ballistae, either as their own (usually enemy exclusive) unit or a special weapon that can be used by archers and snipers. Their utility is somewhat limited due to their iffy damage and poor accuracy, but they can make life hell for flying units. Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn also had catapults, which dealt undodgeable Area of Effect damage in exchange for being even weaker and losing their effectiveness against fliers.
  • Video Game/Kingdoms of Camelot has a wide array of these. Offensive one are Ballista,Battering Rams and Catapults (though catapults requite a level 10 barracks and Alchemy Lab for lvl 10 researches and thus two purchased or won Divine Inspirations to access, which has lead to some complaints of players who choose not to spend being at a disadvantage, especially since acquiring a level 12 Rally Point and using the Aura of Conquest item can permit a player to send a 200k Catapult 'death wave' at another player. That said, each additional city acquired does give a free Divine Inspiration and they can be won in contests, so it's not impossible to play for free and still get catapults.) Defenses include Trebuchets and Wall Mounted Crossbows.
  • Knights of Valour have war machines as recurring obstacles, including catapults, arrow launchers and bladed chariots, pushed into the arena by enemy soldiers and takes a lot of hits before they're destroyed.
  • Patapon and Patapon 2 both feature levels with catapults, both in your enemy's and your own side. Siege engines become a new patapon class of their own in Patapon 3.
  • The Patrician takes these to naval warfare. And once pirates appear, you will need them. You can get small and large trebuchets. Over the course of the game, you'll also get the bombard, an early cannon that's Powerful, but Inaccurate because it was made before ballistics. What really takes the cake, however, is the "driving work" which is the BFG of ballistae, the medieval Wave-Motion Gun. It shoots entire tree trunks. Needless to say that the Hansa is not amused if you sail around with these monsters on your ships, even though some traders will gladly add their ships to convoys where the orlog ship is equipped with these things if the pirate situation is dire enough.
  • Stronghold Kingdoms:
    • For the attackers, Catapults are the best unit for tearing down walls quickly, launching a barrage of rocks at anything in front of them.
    • For defenders, Ballistae deal massive damage at whatever they hit, often leading to a one-hit kill.
  • TearRing Saga has TANKS that shoot out arrows. This is actually a callback to the original Fire Emblem's ballista which were more like Bow Armors. Berwick Saga reverts back to Ballista which are customizable with different ballista providing different ranges and different ammunition providing different effects. Moreover, Ballista not only have to be facing a certain direction, but have a cone of fire with where they are aiming (this is to not make them overpowered with having too much range in a hexagonal based strategy game).
  • Present in the Total War games, which puts a more realistic twist on them than most games in that siege engines actually have crewmen pushing them around the battlefield. It's possible to target a catapult with ranged units and set it on fire or break it, but much easier to send cavalry in to slaughter its crew. Another difference is that some siege engines, mainly catapults and cannon, are built in settlements and attached to armies, while others like siege towers and battering rams are built in the field by an army during a siege, which can give the defenders time to call in reinforcements. Many artillery pieces, even early cannon, can also attack using flaming shot, which is visually impressive and bad for enemy morale, but less accurate, and goes through the unit's ammunition faster.
    • Rome: Total War and its sequel have catapults and balliste, and in Rome II they're useful defending in sieges too, sicne they can be mounted on towers.
    • Medieval: Total War and its sequel add trebuchets as an improved form of catauplt, which in Medieval II has the special ability to fling a half-rotten cow carcass, which obviously won't do much to walls, but is damaging to enemy morale. In the lategame, cannon units appear that will make a mockery of defenses - the Turks in particular get a monstrous Grand Bombard that can deliver a One-Hit Kill to most walls! And finally, this trope is combined with War Elephants in a horrifying way with Cannon Elephant and Rocket Elephant units, which fire artillery from their howdahs.
    • Empire: Total War and Napoleon: Total War acknowledge the primacy of artillery during their settings by giving artillery (and ships) unlimited ammunition, and have an array of cannons, howitzers, mortars and rockets to use in sieges and in field battles.
    • Total War: Shogun 2 goes back to limited ammo for siege engines, and also turns them into immobile units on the battle map. The Fall of the Samurai expansion has early modern artillery, and allows nearby ships to be used as siege platforms, shelling the target area from just off the battle map.
    • Total War: Warhammer gives each race unique aesthetics to their siege weapons, in addition to whatever artillery and monstrous creatures they can field as part of their normal roster. Vampire Count siege towers, for example, look like massive pillars made of bones, while Dwarfs construct hollow statues of their warriors for besieging.
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings opens with a siege, complete with ballistae and a truly enormous siege tower that Geralt calls "ridiculous".
  • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days: The Infernal Engine boss is a giant heartless modeled after a siege tower and armed to the teeth with cannons, rolling bombs, a sledgehammer and a ludicrous powerful battering ram.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of War: Storming the Castle is a big part of the game, and you can augment your army with Siege Beasts, huge troll-like creatures with heavy projectile weapons mounted on them. Once you conquer a fortress, you can add numerous defensive upgrades like poison spouts and Spikes of Doom to slow down enemy wall-climbers.


  • In The Order of the Stick, Redcloak's hobgoblin army employs catapults in their attack on Azure City. Notably, rather than simply launching boulders, Redcloak summons titanium elementals (since classical Earth Elementals would be too heavy to use in the same way) and launches them instead, as these would be able to continue attacking even after the impact of their landing.
  • Erfworld, the Battle for Gobwin Knob: The titular battle included siege towers pushed by 20m tall Cloth Golems and Wiener Rammers: living battering rams in the shape of elongated wiener dogs with rams horns. Upon striking the gates of Gobwin's Knob they invoke "YTMND!": they are drawing their striking power from the "You're The Man Now, Dog" meme.
    • Parson correctly sees the siege weapons as Ansom's army's weak point, and uses skirmishers to selectively attack the siege engines, withdrawing from combat with anything else. In this way, he destroys so many siege engines that Ansom is forced to wait another day for reinforcements.
    • Siege towers are kind of weird in this setting, since their purpose is to wheel up troops who hack away at the actual wall with picks and spades until it collapses (rather than simply surmount it), with the relative strength of a wall being determined by the number of units stationed atop it. This is par for the course of the RPG Mechanics 'Verse setting.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: Seeing snow for the first time, Molly runs out to play in it, and builds a steam-powered snow ballista. That transforms.
    Molly: "Snow is awesome!"
  • In The Senkari ballista bolts go through armour and kill a dragon.

    Western Animation 

  • The Adventures of Gulliver (1968). Miniature Vikings use ship-mounted catapults to attack the city of Lilliput.
  • Galaxy Trio: Normal-sized Vikings use ship-mounted catapults to attack a small village.
  • Jonny Quest episode Monster in the Monastery. Catapults flinging flaming missiles are used to attack a small town.
  • In the Bugs Bunny short Knighty Knight Bugs, the Black Knight (Yosemite Sam) uses a catapult to try to launch himself into a castle window.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Fire Nation army devises an enormous mechanised drill as a way of breaching the walls of Ba Sing Se. Their ships also employ trebuchets to launch flaming projectiles from, which they use as their standard attack. The live action adaptation, for all of its faults, does have a somewhat creative new weapon: giant siege cannons that the Fire Nation troops bend through amplifying their fire blasts in order to melt huge holes in the wall of ice protecting the Northern Water Tribe.

    Real Life