WARNING: Long post below!
Stronghold: Crusader is a very fun game to play, particularly when you have a hard and challenging enemy. I have played against a dreaded player, who quickly showed me that economy is not everything. Spending your gold, setting up your strategy and adapting quickly is a hard task, especially when the game turns into a war of attrition and strategy.
Have a relentless turtler/counterattacker enemy and your situation is even worse. An enemy, who turtles heavily, uses heavy troops to deflect any attack attempts and builds heavy defense lines, just to gain a comfortable position from which he constantly counterattacks, in the hundreds. This enemy was Fang, co-editor of this wiki.
1. Starting out
The game was played on a custom 3-player map made by King Horror, of which we used 2 slots. The map is very balanced in terms of positioning and resources: the three players are equally distanced from each other and they all have very limited resources. Each player has their own forests, stone and iron deposits and oases, which can support up to 2 quarries, 3 mines and up to 4 farms. The farmland is just big enough to site 4 wheat/hop farms on, dairy farms and apple orchards take up more (valuable) space. 2000 gold with equal stocks and without restrictions was handed out for both players.
2. The settling in
This map was set up so that everyone is in a corner position so both of us could easily enclose the keep. I chose to go for a moat surround with a single gate and 4 wheat farms, while Fang went for 3 wheat farms and one hops farm and enclosed his keep with high walling. We quickly saturated the stone and iron deposits and developed bread production.
I chose to take the initiative and pressured Fang's castle with a modest number of horse archers. His forest was surrounded with numerous woodcutters and I could deny his wood production for quite a while. He desperately charged out with horse archers at first, but after that, he managed to put some crossbowmen on a tower overlooking the area.
Fang continued to add moat, more towers and crossbowmen for defenses, while I gradually built up an army of horse archers. I soon tested the enemy defenses, but I met even more crossbowmen. What is more, I got severe punishment in the form of mangonels. Even my catapults got quickly annihilated by the rock volleys.
3. Things get more intense
I recognized that crossbowmen are not numerous in the towers so I tried to toss in some fire ballistae to remove those mangonels. Yet again, they were taking heavy punishment from the crossbows. Suddenly, Fang charged out with a handful of knights and my fire ballistae died quickly. My big army of horse archers was also a bit exposed to the knights, but thanks to an aggressive rally of assassins and horse archers I could quickly intercept and slaughter them. Nevertheless, I took heavy casualties during the process.
The knight charges became more frequent and I got pinned down for a very long time to my castle. Worse yet, Fang used his mangonels aggressively and created a big death zone in the middle of the map, killing everything that would get there. My armies assembled next to this area and thus I constantly got losses. I knew I had to counter this, so I quickly set up four or five square towers and placed there ballistae with portable shields, to prolong their lives and snipe enemy siege engines. Fang tried to set up several trebuchets and catapults to damage the towers, but trebuchets could not reach the towers and catapults were destroyed easily.
Thanks to Fang's pindown, I was forced to sit behind my towers, while Fang tried to sneak small armies in the flanks. mostly engineers with the purpose of creating some catapults / fire ballistae accompanied by horse archers and knights. Mostly I could venture out and decimate these small armies with small losses, but during these flanking attempts, Fang also sent a legion of crossbowmen to dispose of the ballistae I set up and the usual knights attempted on both sides. My assassins got slowed down as I had to unrally them and although both sides took dreadful casualties, I still could not attempt any sieges because of the severely weakened units.
Fang's economy flourished: thanks to the very cheap crossbowmen and knights, he could slowly but easily build up armies of barracks troops. He had a good income from taxes, which he covered by ale consumption and high rations. He even laid down bad things to boost income, but spent most of his goods on defenses: towers, crossbowmen and even more mangonels. He soon erected a second, outer defensive line and populated it with his men. Two forward-placed square towers along with his mangonels and crossbowmen tried to wreak havoc, but my solid line of square towers in the opposite side absorbed most of the shots.
I gained most of my profit from selling surplus food and manufactured crossbows and metal armor. Flour, wheat, bread, stone, iron and anything that could be produced was sold and served the war effort. I had almost no defenses at home, relying on my outnumbering army to defend on the field and eliminate any armies that could get near. I replaced one wheat farm with one hops farm, added breweries and inns to get a decent ale coverage and have -16 taxes backed with +5 fear factor.
4. The fight in full swing
The biggest achievement of Fang had soon come. He pinned down my main army with numerous crossbowmen and I had trouble eliminating them. The crossbowmen just didn't want to die, while I suddenly got the notification of a popularity drop. I tried to reach the granary panel and buy in food, but I couldn't do anything. Suddenly I noticed a missing gatehouse and knights rampaging around my keep. These knights sought for potential targets and destroyed my mercenary post, granaries and market, but I simply replaced them outside the castle and ordered 60 or so assassins to deal with the knights. They got soon killed, but I lost my food stocks and an armoury. I replaced them, bought in food and relocated any crucial buildings.
Fang's previous action forced me to add a drawbridge and knights to my arsenal. However, it didn't go that fast as I had to invest in stables, swords and the knights themselves, while replacing fallen soldiers. With 120 assassins left, I opted to go for a big horse archer army to deal with the crossbowmen onslaughts. After beating back several crossbowmen armies here and there, the biggest attack on me came.
Like 200 or 250 men stormed my position. A multi-pronged attack by knights, crossbowmen and horse archers put me great pressure. Horse archers came in from the left, while knights came in from two sides to attack the waiting horse archers. Crossbowmen marched in the rear, knowing that their might is incomparable to my horse archer army. The attack was not surprising, but I did not react in time and I lost many men to the knights. Many of the orange horse archers still stood and laid waste on my troops, but my knights eventually made short work of them. The crossbowmen army was busy damaging my ballistae, which did they best and picked off crossbowmen one by one. The portable shields absorbed much of the incoming damage and greatly helped preserving the ballistae.
Fang continued with these onslaughts every now and then. Between two attacks, I decided to add pikemen, swordsmen and even slingers to the mix. I soon got enough men that I could separate a second army and attack from the right. 120 slingers stormed an open position and I could use the wall of the second line as cover for them. The slingers reached several hovels, stables and they even managed to destroy the barracks from that position before the last of them died to crossbow shots. Fang had trouble dealing with these slinger swarms as my slingers intercepted the slaves that were desperately trying to dig a moat, and even a handful of knights were quickly killed by them, but crossbowmen eventually did their job.
5. Turning tides
Fang has lost his fourth 250+ army consecutively, but his defense was still impenetrable. I had more than 1000 men in total (!) and I planned a final assault by overwhelming the crossbowmen from the rightmost side (where the least towers where), then bringing in pikemen to fill in the wide moat, while assassins could have done their job and overwhelm the wall defenses.
First of all, I set up a sixth and seventh square tower and placed mangonels in them (replacing leftover ballistae). My mangonels quickly laid waste on the towers and their garrisons and they quickly started falling. Fang tried to counter this by some catapults and trebuchets, but they got destroyed even before they could fire once. Seeing his failure, Fang withdrew his crossbowmen and abandoned the tower and the mangonels, giving me some breathing room. I brought in a task force of 320 horse archers and tested Fang's defenses. My primary aim with the attack was destroying the two forward mangonels, which I could accomplish, but 30 horse archers were left dead on the field. I withdrew my troops and started replacing bad things with good ones, to maximize damage output on a final assault.
Suddenly, Fang decided to bring all his troops and fight me on the ground to distract me, but they all came out in one side and were caught in a deadly crossfire. Mangonels and ballistae still laid waste on my army and horse archers quickly fell, but all my other troops were called in action and they quickly dealt with the horse archers, knights and even some crossbowmen that came on the ground. The horse archers had little area to operate, but my knights, assassins and swordsmen did they best. Fang proposed on a 1v1 Lord battle and I agreed. I was withdrawing my troops out of position, but Fang's lord decided to join my army and the numerous horse archers severely weakened him on the retreat. My lord eventually arrived and in a glorious fight, it was with honor that Fang's lord went beyond.
That was a very intense fight, both of us admitting it was the best game in our entire Crusader gaming to date. I had a very worthy foe (friend) and the screenshots should pretty much sum up how much effort was put in this game (which last 4 hours approx.).