Freeciv-Web Wiki

Special Unit Attacks are offensive engagements which are different from Standard Attacks. SUAs utilize unique weaponry or another tactic in order to reduce vulnerability to counter-defense. This advantage comes at the cost of not being as offensively deadly. Yet throughout history, SUAs had deadly results when tactically combined with joint maneuvers and other unit compositions.

MP2-Dragoon Units with Special Unit Attacks[]

Unit Attack Type Combat





>1 ?















All Standard Attack to death 1 1 all
Phalanx1 Rumble 3Fortified 5/9 1 1
Archers Volley 2Fortified 1 5/9 3
Legion Pilum 1 @ 1 2 2
Siege Ram Attack City Walls 1 1/9 1
Siege Ram Ram Fortress 4 @ 8¾× 1 5/9 1 all
Catapult Bombard 4Fortified all 2 1 1
Ballista Ranged Attack 5 all 2 2 2
Cannon Bombard 5Fortified all 2 2 1
Artillery Bombard 6Fortified all 2 3 1
Howitzer Bombard 7Fortified all 4 4 1
Magnum Turret Bombard 7Fortified 1 2 5 2
Zealots/Fanatics2 Skirmish 3 1 5/9 4
Marines3 Bazooka 3Fortified 1 5/9 2 1
Zeppelin Bomb 4 2 2 1
Battleship Bombard 3 5 2 4 1

= unit can stay fortified while making the Special Unit Attack.

  1. Phalanx:
    • Cannot be transported, must be on native Land terrain.
    • Must be Fortified OR have not moved this turn, to be able to Rumble Attack.
  2. Zealots and Fanatics
    • Can only Skirmish Assault while under leadership of Theocratic government and in domestic territory.
    • Can Skirmish Assault conquered cities which still have Foreign National populations.
  3. Marines cannot Bazooka attack unless V2 "Hardened" or higher.

Rumble Attack[]

Rumble attacks come from well-shielded Phalanxes in a "turtle shell" formation, impervious to counter-attacks. In history, Rumble attacks are not as deadly as mixed mêlée fighting. Only a front or flank of each unit's company can engage. On the other hand, this tight formation can push with little to no damage to itself, if it keeps its fortified formation intact. MP2 represents these historical characteristics by making Rumble attacks: a) engage against one unit only b) require the Phalanx to be fortified OR to not have moved, prior to doing the attack. This means a Phalanx can slowly advance its threat each turn, possibly in staggered progress with multiple Phalanx units. The threat of a Rumble is often more effective than the Rumble itself, since it helps you claim and hold a position. The Move Cost and Min. Moves of the Rumble Attack allow either two Rumble engagements against any unit on an adjacent tile; or one Rumble with enough remaining moves to retreat after causing minor damage.

Volley Attack[]

Volley attacks represent the Archer's historic and celebrated ability to hit targets from long range while avoiding hand-to-hand combat. From a greater distance, the attacks are not as deadly; but a rain of arrows from the sky can compromise, pester, and lightly damage armies much more numerous in size: The bigger the army, the easier for an arrow to find a target. Volley attacks are good for softening the approach of attackers such as Horsemen, Chariots, Warriors, Crusaders, and Catapults. They are not as effective against units with armor and shielding. Committing to a long showering of arrows from the sky is also a commitment to stand in place while enemies can either flee or charge. MP2 represents all these characteristics by a) Limiting combat_rounds to 2, b) Requiring a move cost of 1 5/9 -- barely enough to either approach and fire, or fire and make only a small retreat, c) having the attack access a high number of Max Targets, up to 7 on a single tile.

Pilum Assault[]

Pilum assaults were one of the secrets to Rome's military success. The pilum is a special javelin thrown into enemy shields. The pilum penetrates the shield, is impossible to remove, and wags its weight to render the shield useless. After a pilum assault, enemy soldiers have an exposed unshielded front line that is about to face Legions armed with short swords optimal for close combat; and the Legions still have their shields! MP2 represents ancient Pilum Assault tactics by giving Legions 1 round of combat at a 2x attack bonus with a lower move cost of 1 move point. Up to 2 units in the stack can be hit. This means Pilum Assaults give a high chance of doing 1 hitpoint of damage on up to 2 enemy units, leaving 1 move point to do a full attack. There is no minimum number of move points to do a Pilum Attack, but like all combat, tired attack penalties may apply. Pilum Assaults can't be done while transported, nor to Cities/Bases.

Attack City Walls[]

One of the most notorious weapons of all time is the Siege Ram: an armored wagon with a massive mechanical ram inside that can crack and break walls. Defenders attempt to set it on fire or crush it with boulders. At the end of the day, the drama comes down to a simple flip of the coin over who will survive: the ram or the wall. In capitals, city walls have double protection, which reduces the chance of success to 1 in 4.

Ram Fortress[]

Siege Rams can ram a Fortress perimeter. Unfortunately, Freeciv game mechanics can't remove a Fortress from an adjacent tile, and even if they could, this "all or nothing" wouldn't be the best emulation of extended siege warfare. Therefore, the Ram Fortress attack uses other mechanics to "emulate" a real siege with back and forth damage, combat, improvised defense and ad hoc repairs. MP2 uses the mechanics below to craft the best possible mathematical emulation of what would unfold over the course of a long siege:

  • Damage to the Fortress is emulated via HP-loss to the units inside (up to 40% per turn): 4 combat rounds at 8.75× attack strength.
    • This makes occupant defense odds exactly track the defense odds they'd have if Freeciv server were able to apply partial bonuses for partially damaged Fortresses.
      • This accurately emulates that the Fortress is still there, but that some occupants are more compromised in some quarters than others.
  • Ad hoc repair and defensive improvisation of the fortress occupants, is emulated by their HP-healing each turn (up to 40% per turn for stationary fortified units).
    • Units inside who are involved in attacks on outside tiles heal less than 40%. This represents the exposure of counter-attackers to assaults along the weakened perimeter.
    • Non-attacking units heal most or all of the damage they incurred in the turn, buying time for reinforcements or for a pattern of staggered healing, counterattacks, and special unit attacks of their own.
    • Before damaged units are healed, this emulates the lesser defense of a damaged fortress, giving opportunities for attackers to attack with less exposure to high defense bonuses.

Skirmish Assault[]

Skirmish assaults represent the tendency of fanatical faith-based fighters to know the roads, terrain, streets, ways of life, and all the ins and outs of their nation, which they take advantage of in improvised attacks to degrade occupying forces. MP2 represents these characteristics by: a) requiring this attack to be done inside the homeland, b) allowing these attacks as infiltration on recently conquered cities with subversive insiders, c) setting Move Cost, Max Targets, and Combat Rounds, to decently emulate this type of attack.

Bazooka Attack[]

Bazooka attacks represent highly trained professional Marines equipped with elite weaponry. Grenade launchers, bazookas, RPGs, and other weaponry are used by Marines to soften and degrade their opponents, making opportunities for other tactical follow-up. Elite bonuses to movement, high vet bonuses, transport bonuses, the ability to by-pass unreachable Air units, and the Bazooka Attack, all combine to give Marines many tactical possibilities. The Bazooka attack requires a minimum V2 vet level. MP2 represents the possibility for these attacks to cause fatal casualties when done multiple times or used on already softened/degraded units.


Unlike other air units, Zeppelins get a SUA because early ground units were unprepared to defend against the first air units. Attack strength and combat_rounds are set to reflect these characteristics. Low attack strength means more advanced units are likely to be barely scratched. Yet 4 combat_rounds will be effective at damaging weak targets unprepared for this new kind of attack from the air.

Bombard: Catapult, Cannon, Artillery, Howitzer[]

Bombard attacks represent the classic paradigm of siege weapons and ballistic ordnance to engage in ranged attacks from a safer long-range distance, hence, avoid retaliation. While normal combat represents closer range engagements within optimal range, the Special Unit Attacks are safely distanced near maximum range and/or centered to effect more targets without direct hit on any -- and consequently, less effective or fatal. Freeciv represents these attributes in the numbers, which become progressively more powerful for each upgraded type.

Bombard: Battleship[]

Battleship Bombard attacks represent long range attacks achievable by the massive guns mounted on Battleships. Other rulesets struggled to find a cost-effective balance to Battleships because of the terrible opportunity-cost of entering them into mortal combat where, even if they win, the amount of light damage suddenly makes them vulnerable to cheaper units, rendering Battleships as a cost-attrition loss. The Bombard attack of the Battleship seeks to balance this somewhat by reflecting the Battleship's much greater range and ability to engage other ships before their own guns are in range. Move Cost, Min Moves, and the potential to kill already softened/degraded enemies, were balanced together to bring back some of the true flavor and tactical advantages of a ship whose range and deadly force create a "bubble zone of fear" around the ship.

Special Unit Defense[]

Some units can do Special Unit Defense against Special Unit Attacks. SUD is simply a retaliatory SUA. It's an "equal and opposite reaction."

Special Unit Defense can be thought of as taking place where there is tactical symmetry: ranged attackers vs. ranged defenders, both of whom have legal ability to special attack each other. For example: Archers doing a Volley Attack against Archers endure a retaliatory Volley Attack. Both the attacker and the defender are symmetrically engaged in the same action. Both units use their Attack Strength. The following units are able to do SUD:

Units who have special retaliatory capability can retaliate against special attack if and only in those cases where a special attack would be legal for them. For example:

  • if a defender has no moves left, it's not able to do a SUA, therefore cannot do a SUD
  • if an attacker is not reachable to a defender, it could not do a special retaliation against a special attack:
    • e.g., if a Battleship special attacks a defender on the shore who has special retaliation capability, but that defender is not able to do special attacks on water tiles, the defender can't do special retaliation
Unit Combat






Archers 2 3 -
Catapult 4 1 1
Ballista 5 2 2
Cannon 5 2 1
Artillery 6 3 1
Howitzer 7 4 1
Magnum Turret 7 5 2
Helicopter 3 3 1
Battleship 3 4 1

NOTE: The requirement for Special Unit Defense is the same as for Special Unit Attack and standard Attack: all three actions require a unit to have moves left.