Defending against hordes

By Hussarknight

One of the most influential new features of Barbarian Invasion is the hordes. Hordes are factions that don’t have any settlements, but are one the move, searching for new homelands. They have very large armies, so they are dangerous foes. This guide will teach you the basics of defending your empire against the Huns, Vandals and other hordes.

Digging in

The biggest problem you face when fighting a horde is that, unless you’re a horde yourself, you will be outnumbered. Defeating an enemy that hugely outnumbers you is almost impossible in the open field, so you’ll have to choose a battlefield that minimizes your opponent’s numerical advantage. The battlefield you’re looking for is a river crossing. It minimizes the enemy advantage in numbers by limiting the amount of soldiers that can engage you at once. Always place your armies on bridges or river crossings. If you don’t you’ll be outflanked and defeated, unless you’re a very good RTW player. Always let the horde faction attack you. If you attack you won’t fight at the bridge, so you waste your chance to minimize the enemy’s numerical advantage.

Not all bridges are good places to defend, however. Several factors decide which bridges you should hold and which ones you should not:

  • Are hordes likely to come over this bridge? Don’t defend bridges that are far away from the path of any of the hordes. Only defend those that are in the path of the hordes.
  • Is the river you’re defending a good natural border? In other words, does the river protect your empire and is there no way around it? It’s not going to help any if you defend a bridge that can easily be bypassed.
  • Is there a city nearby? This will allow you to quickly retrain your units.

There is no specific set of bridges you should always try to hold, so you’ll have to decide which bridges to hold yourself in every game.

When playing as a faction that is likely to encounter one or more hordes in a campaign it is a good idea to send one or two spies towards the plains to keep an eye on the hordes. Knowing where the hordes are gives you time to prepare for their attack. Decide which bridges you want to hold and organize armies to defend them. Recruit new troops, bring your best generals to the front and possibly build a few watch towers along your borders so you have a better sight over the hordes.

On the battlefield – holding back the hordes

At river crossings, whether it’s a shallow place in or a bridge across a river, your enemy will not be able to engage you with all his troops at once. He’ll be forced to move all his troops over a small area – thus giving away his numerical advantage. Now you need to make sure he can’t regain it – so prevent him from deploying his troops again by blocking of your side of the crossing. Use your best defensive infantry for this – put your units in shieldwall formation if possible. It will take a long time for your enemy to break through a strong, prepared defensive line – if he manages it at all. You can’t rely only on your infantry to kill them all of, however. If you really have to you can use only infantry, but ideally you’ll use other troops as well.

Forcing the horde to move across a narrow area has another huge advantage – the enemy troops will be tightly packed upon one another. This makes them ideal targets for your archers and artillery: it’s almost impossible for them to not hit an enemy. So as soon as the horde starts to cross use your missile troops to kill as many of them as possible. It’s a good idea to order one or two of your archer units to use flaming arrows – this reduces the enemy morale, so they rout earlier.

The above strategy works quite well – but BI has another new feature to offer: swimming. Some units can swim across a river, so they can cross at any point of the river. When they get to the other side they can even flank your troops. Luckily you can prevent this easily by having a few units of infantry of cavalry along the bank of the river to immediatly attack any units that get across. Swimming is very tiring for the soldiers so you should be able to defeat them quite easily. If you have lots of archers you can use them to attack soldiers swimming across – as they can’t use their shields they are easy targets and they will die easily.

Army composition

An defending army should consist of at least three heavy infantry, two cavalry and a few archer units. However it is preferable to have some light infantry to fight swimmers. More cavalry is also welcome for the same purpose, just as for chasing down routers. Always bring a general or two with you if possible, because their bodyguards are powerful units.

Your army selection should also depend on the situation. If your faction gets any units that cause fear to their enemies (berserkers for example) it can help to take one of those with you, if you’re facing an enemy with lots of horse archers (e.g. Huns) you’ll want to bring more archers with you, if there’s a shallow place in the river besides the bridge you can add some cavalry to perform a flanking manuever and so on and so on. There’s no such thing as an ideal army; try to adjust your army to the circumstances.


Well, that’s pretty much everything you need to know about fighting a horde. Remember to always use the bridges to your advantage and defending your empire from the barbarian hordes should be a lot easier. Best of luck if you are attacked by a horde and may your empire stand long and undefeated!