Unit Concept: The Sapper

My proposal for the Sapper.
Disclaimer, as always - it’s a complete wishlist unit. Ain’t got no stats - tthough I’ve tried to be sensible and not add ridiculous abilities, auras, promotions but still fulfil a (fairly universal) useful and unique role.

[Age II Sapper - example is an English Civil War Engineer]

[Age II Aztec Yāōquīzqueh (commoners) - Digging Sticks were used to prise apart/undermine defenses and Commoners were normally the workforce for these actions. Commoner units woudl be the Aztec and Incan versions of the Sapper]

[Age IV Sapper - image of Napoleonic Sappers in the background - armoured!]

Throughout history and particular our AoE3 time-frame, there has always been a need for individuals to not only get into melee range and take apart enemy fortification with tools (axes, sticks, anything!). Normally these individuals were not only great at taking down enemy fortifications - they were also known for creating their own field fortifications.

Now whilst the unit concept is for the Sapper, this is basically a cover-all term for Sappers, Pioneers, Engineers and Commoners/Lower class warriors designated for siege construction/destruction. Basically each group, Euros, Africans, etc all have their respective naming. With that in mind, under a number of unit-game guises and models, - pretty much all playable civs* can get access to these units whether through shipments, alliances and their own Artillery Foundry/equivelent/in-lieu building.

So what are they in-game?
Sappers are first and foremost Melee Siege Units. Whilst depicted as singular human units, they are tagged very clearly as a Siege Unit. No blurring of roles - just a simple tagging that doesn’t need to confuse. Graphically they brandish their large sapper axes (or their regional equivalent like Aztec digging sticks) and carry other bulky tools/supplies on their back. With that in mind, they have a unique silhouette and look to other infantry to differentiate them. Further more, certainly in the European civs’ case, we cam have them armoured with helmet and cuirass as this was fairly common for the Engineers and Sappers to wear during combat to help protect from snipers.

Who can train them? *
Almost every civ, with exception of:

  • Lakota - unless I can find out more, they would have to be able to ally with either Euro or other neighbouring Native Ameicans that did siege-like warfare
  • Hauds - they already have two melee siege ‘human’ units, rendering a low rank warrior/laborer type pointless. Can possibly be addressed by adding Walls and the new Towers to the Battlefield Construction shipment.

What do they do?
The Sapper’s purpose is to provide a dedicated melee siege unit that is cheap in resource and pop cost compared to other siege units. With their Siege Unit tagging and the oft-shared trait of ranged resistance, they can be sprinkled with your attacking force to take on the walls up-close, protected by your other forces. Certain civs, like Native Americans may find their low-ranking commoner/warrior equivalents cheaper, weaker but quicker to train than the Euro ones as a way of giving their limited siege a boost in flexibility.

The other element in what a Sapper can do is build!. They can construct:

  • Wooden Walls (even with Bastion upgrade) - these can be called Palisades if you really want to, but basically it’s the basic wall (wood always looks best for field fortifications!).

  • Stockades [European/Fed States/African only]
    Stockades are a (AD) Castle-esque building that can be garrisoned. They have a weak musket attack which is gradually upgraded to be salvos of musketry when you garrison your infantry units in. There could possibly be an upgrade to enable Cannon garrisoning for an additional attack, however the Stockade is very reliant on ‘manning’ it. Weaker in HP compared to Castles and has a similar build limit.

  • Tower [Asian Dynasties, Native Americans (different model)]
    Civs with access to War Huts and Castles get the Tower instead. With a greater build limit and much cheaper to construct, the Tower acts very much like an Outpost though can be garrisoned (to smaller extent to Stockade) to amp up the firepower. Aztecs and Incans certainly made of towers for observation (and siege if some Mayan artwork is taken into consideration). Lakota to my knowledge didn’t but the Hauds were very much into wooden fortifications.

  • They can also potentially build other ‘more permanent’ military structures (Outposts/Barracks/etc) that are already started with a relevant Tech/shipment. Possibly a way of adding a similar ‘Battlefield Construction’ shipment to civs that may never see it.

Can we justify a melee siege unit?
Variety is always welcome providing it doesn’t muddy unit roles and actually provides something useful, so yes. If we look at the Europeans, it sits nicely to our general-use cannon (Falconet), our anti-artillery (Culverin), and long-range anti-building Mortar. It provides a cheap option at the expense of it being a little more expendable and arguably provides more of a niche slot than the current Grenadier. If your game changes and you find no opportunity to use a Sapper to hack at walls with his sapper’s axe, he still finds a purpose by being to guy to bring along with your army and construct useful structures.

Now, you say we have a Petard that does the job already? Well, no. Petards deal massive damage but are 1-shot suicide units. They also don’t have ranged resist. Sappers would be more comparable to Grenadiers in terms of health and have slightly higher Ranged Resist. The purpose is to get close to defenses with a mob other other units and chip away at the health.

“Awesome attire my good sir!”

Melee siege unit with some battlefield construction. No broad unit tags - purely a Siege Unit with all the pros and negatives that entails. Almost universal in some form to most civs (and if not, able to be shipped as ‘allied’ versions). For Europeans, a very distinctive (almost) archaic armoured look making it stand-out from other units. It sits well with the other ‘human’ siege units with a clearly unique and defined role.

Additional (updated)

True, though in the early game they can be beneficial. Melee Siege’s advantage should be the pop and resource cost vs ranged artillery. Late game is where the Sapper can benefit from its field building utility to keep it relevant, plus having another siege option for other non-Euros is a positive. But yes, ultimately cannons will win out, and rightly so.


Very nice idea and detailed concept! I would be 100% for the sapper’s inclusion into the game, as long as it is balanced properly. However, I highly doubt the devs would add this unit to the main roster. As suggested on another thread, it is more possible for it to be accessed via a card or a special politician.

The strange part is that currently the role of Infantry siege is usually held by the Pikeman (or equivalent) for most civilisations.

I like the idea of having a real melee siege unit. It could have bonus damage against defences and be less efficient against normal buildings.

Not sure if I like the forward construction role though. Maybe that could be locked behind a home city card.
Maybe even allow them to build military buildings for some civilisations instead of units like Janissaries.

The Petard is not a fun unit to use. It is a one time use unit and it can easily waste all it’s potential when it’s killed before it can explode.

We already have a sapper in the game.

It’s called the petard.


we have one
its called the ram
the manlet as well
rarely seen tho cause melee siege answers a problem that cannons deal with better.
its why grens are best with range, simply put the best way to seige forts and walls is to be out of retaliation of opponent

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If we had a sapper in the game, it’d be called a sapper :wink: . The suggestion is for a melee siege unit with some utility aspect - the petard is a siege unit without ranged resistance who delivers lots of damage and kills itself in melee after a little setup animation.

Sapper seems to be a very new concept, but I have some questions about it.

First of all, it’s actually a very Western military unit. Its origin literally come from the need to build trenches, a military feature derived from Europe. Not to mention Native Americans, there seems to be no such need in the traditional military cultures of Africa and Asia.

Taking Asians as an example, once they needed to build military facilities or defensive structures, they usually directly asked low-level soldiers, conscripted ordinary people, or slaves to do it. It was only after they became westernized that the concept of sappers was introduced.

So in my opinion, this unit shouldn’t be shared with Asians, Africans and Native Americans either, but they can have the ‘Battlefield Construction’ card and have it unlock Towers for them.

Stockade’s attack should not have the chance to upgrade to bombard. I expect it to be a simpler, makeshift defensive structure with low health and attack power, but cheap and quick to build. Ideally, it should not have a basic attack, only be able to attack when military units are garrisoned, and its power increases with the number of units garrisoned.

Even so, this may still affect the balance, especially for the turtling. I’m not sure whether we should introduce something like this.

By the way, in the campaigns, the Stockade is a kind of prison. Is it possible that it could be reused as a prison as well, rather than just another defensive building?

I’m a bit confused about the need to introduce a new melee siege unit. Hand heavy infantry already fill this role, and they need this role because as the game progresses towards the later stages, players will need to use them less and less. The new melee siege units are a bit like dividing their already small piece of bread.

Sappers are also responsible for demolition work, so why not let them do similar tasks to petadiers? That is, let them merge with the Petards into one unit.

Petard can be used as an ‘ability’ to cause extreme damage when Sappers are in melee siege. Once Sappers use the petard to attack a building, they will also take huge damage, so if they don’t have enough HP at the time, they will also die.

The Sappers should play more on the aggressive attack in my opinoion. In addition to the Petard as an ability, they may be able to build the ‘Fougasse’, a disposable improvised mortar.

Built by Sappers, Fougasse costs cheap (e.g. 50 coins) and as a building cannot be moved. It will not actively bombard the enemy, but will disappear after being ordered to bombard the target building or unit. If it is destroyed or deleted before disappearing, it will cause an explosion, damaging surrounding units.

How do you think the pre-Columbian empires in the Andes and Mesoamerica conducted sieges? :sweat_smile:

I remind you that cities like Tenochtitlan, Chan Chan, Cuzco, Wari, etc., were walled. In the case of the Andes, the Incas razed the city of Chan Chan (Chimu) twice. Even during the sieges of Manco Inca (Cuzco and Lima), siege units were obviously used, and in the siege of Tenochtitlan, the majority of the army consisted of enemy nations of the ‘Aztecs.’

Now, for later centuries in Age of Empires 3, we have the examples of Tupac Amaru II’s rebellion, which besieged Cuzco in 1781, and the Rebellion of Cuzco in 1814. Although they also had cannons, a considerable portion of their army used traditional weapons.

I understand that in Africa, sieges have been conducted since ancient Egypt. Perhaps in the collective memory, there is a perception that sieges are mainly associated with European nations using monstrous machines. However, if we examine world history, from the moment a human civilization learned to build walls, they also developed siege tools.


I never questioned whether they have ability to siege a city.
My question is, what else do they have in common besides using a stick tool somehow similar to a sapper shovel?

In my opinion, European Sappers are professional soldiers who seem to be more versatile, well trained, with many abilities and can build temporary defensive structures and artillery. And the equivalent in the Americas, Africa, and Asia, as I said before, are more commoners (or even slaves), so they probably don’t have as many special abilities. Apart from using a stick to destroy defensive structures at close range, they may not have much in common.

If Sappers were to be introduced, their most attractive gimmick would be the abilities like building Fougasse or using Petards, rather than purely attacking buildings at close range. If you just want a melee siege infantry, then the hand heavy infantry already fill this role. When we’re still struggling to even find the Grenadiers’ niche, these gimmicks aren’t even enough to convince people that the game actually needs them and won’t make them another high situational unit.

When Sappers from civilizations outside of Europe/Fed States may not have as many abilities, and they really just have low-level infantry or commoners to do the work, maybe a Battlefield Construction’ card to allow infantry to build things and improve siege damage is more accurate.


Oh yes, the term Sapper is incredibly western European (the name itself derives from the French), however designating/ordering certain soldiers, warriors, commoners to break through or undermine enemy defenses with axes, farming implements, sticks and shovels, as well as construct fortifcations such as earthworks, trenches, forts, towers, etc was fairly universal. For me the name Sapper is just the jumping board. As mentioned, whilst Western Europe saw siege engineering, sapping and pioneering as respected disciplines (though the name Sapper covers all these by most nations). Other cultures may well have seen this as lackey-work if they even needed them at all - and they certainly would be called different things.

The Chinese did have military engineers, but yes ultimately the work itself as for the lowly low-rankers. I guess the Battlefield Construction shipment would be a good compromise, however I would certainly allow for either European Sapper shipements or Western-style native Sappers in Industrial Age.

I would still defend Native Ameicans, well Incan and Aztec (I’m not going to touch upon Lakota and Haud) and say that a Commoner/Laborer type of unit would cover this role.

I think that’s fine. It’s wooden at the end of the day so I would certainly say that it’s HP would not be too high.

I think if both Towers and Stockades have their main purpose as a defense that you can garrison infantry in to add to the firepower, negated by their lower (compared to more permanent defenses) HP, then it wouldn’t lead to too much turtling - it’s essentially an emergency shelter and can only hold the line if there’s an army around anyway.

They are indeed a type of prison in the campaign, however Stockade is a general term for fortications/enclosures built with vertical logs. I’d steer away from prisons and any kind of prisoner systems - it would just introduce unnecessary mechanics. The Stockade and Tower’s gimmick is that they a give a fortication that is ‘powered’ by your infantry whilst also give a civ a defensive building type they wouldn’t normally get (castles for Euros, Towers for ADs, etc)

Hand Heavy Infantry have 6 Siege Range, are super cheap and have multipliers against Cav/Shock. A Sapper would solely melee siege damage so will be basically on the structure and ‘identify’ as just Siege Units, so vulnerable to Cav and Culverins. Sappers would be more expensive (and less spammable) and have decent Ranged Resistance so having a few Sappers in a army of Pikes, Musks, etc could act like a bit of damage absorber for the rest of the army as they will probably be the units closest to enemy fire, and of course will deliver better siege attack. Basically you’ll be costed out of making a huge horde of them but sprinkling a few within a mob of sieging infantry will be beneficial to tank some incoming fire as they hack away at some gates. Aside from that, as their role is to build defensive structures they still have relevance later on.

I think if Sappers and Petards were merged as just Sappers that would be fine - functionaly and aesthetically am armoured Sapper with it’s sapper axe melee siege attack, defensive building functionality as well as a one-shot ability to set off a Petard (with resource cost) which kills them.

I think the only problem with this is that the Petard unit itself is really just a particular Sapper ‘job’ or duty rather than specific, real unit. It’s also there, in the game, so merging them into a far-better looking armoured guy with axe probably doesn’t make any sense.

The other option could be as a Sapper Crew - basically rejiggle the Petard to be two armoured men with axes/spades that do as the Sapper does. Only when the Petard ability is selected do they deploy the petard in the usual style.

Personally I still like the option of Sappers alongside Petards (Grenadiers should go live in the barracks by default!). They both offer different things - Sappers are your armoured, professionals who want to stick around in the battlefied, and the Petards are just the unlucky guys who are part of the Forlorn Hope or just who the Sappers directed to pick up the explosive.

I’m all for additional building ideas that fit in the game and that don’t make things to complex! Another idea could either an Entrench ability or ‘building’. Basically those packed-earth ‘structures’ in the campaign with those stakes sticking out, which when built allow Cannons to ‘garrison’ in to make them tougher (except to their proper counters of course).

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I don’t know much about North America. But military engineering may very well have been the most important branch of the Inca army. Saying Sappers don’t fit Native Americans is disingenuous and borderline racist.

Like the way Huayna Capac conquered Chan Chan was through cutting the water supply of the city by destroying the aqueducts that fed it, this is a far cry from ##### ##### conscripted soldiers dig holes". One of the most famous aspects of the Inca Empire to this day is their extensive road network, who did you think built all of that?

I think the dedicated corps were called Capariches, but that may be a contemporary name, I’d have to research further. I know the mapuche had also dedicated Sapper corps called “Shankache”, but it’s not like the mapuche are a playable civilization ingame.

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In my imagination, it would visually look like an armored infantryman using a shovel, demolishing buildings with its shovel at close range. When you click on the Petard ability, just like using the Explorer’s ability, click on a target building and the unit will move there, take out a petard and detonate it.

‘Racist’ is an outrageous accusation.

We know that the Incas subsequently adopted firearms, but would you directly give them the common Musketeers or Skirmishers for that?

Even though the OP has mentioned the equivalent for other cultures, the concept of Sappers described in this topic is still primarily based on European/Western professional soldier and consider its role as an unit of European/Fed states civs. He also stated some difference between the Sappers and the equivalent in other cultures:

Again, I never said that people from other cultures didn’t value siege techniques. I just don’t think units based on European sappers can also be given to the other civs to represent their equivalent, which is why I feel the ‘Sappers’ don’t fit the other civs. Apparently the equivalent unit for the American natives won’t use any kind of gunpowder weapon as its abilities. They could have their own equivalent unit, also using a stick-shape weapon, with an unique skin, unique name and unique stats, cheaper, weaker, cost food and wood instead of food and coin, etc. That is, it’s just not the Sapper.

Anyway, regardless of the abilities and differences between Sappers and the equivalents for the other civs, until we find a suitable role and niche for the Grenadiers, I don’t think we’re likely to have them in the regular game.

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The problem is that the Ram becomes available in Fortress Age while the Grenadier is already available in Commerce Age.

One main advantage of a melee siege unit should be to be available more early.
The other advantage could be that it costs different resources, for example no coin.

Sappers should not be too good anyway because that would change the balance too much.
Let them replace the Petard and become a situationally useful unit.

Maybe give them the Petard feature. Allow them to plant explosives (for a cost) on an enemy building without dying while doing so.

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Rams and flail elephants want a talk with you

Edit: Really guys, europeans dont need more buffs or features, just stop

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I understand your point, but if we look at the historical reference, “Sappers” are an extension of military engineering, and that’s a topic closely related to my background (due to my profession).

Telling the story of military engineering and its applications is a complex and extensive subject, so I’ll try to summarize it as follows: from the dawn of civilization, when the “architect” learned to build buildings, the “engineer” emerged out of the necessity to destroy those buildings.

One of the nods to this historical evolution that I’ve particularly liked in the Age of Empires series is in AoE 2:


Siege Engineers

I would really like to explain this in detail, but at the moment, I don’t have much time. However, I’d like to summarize that Sappers, despite being infantry, justify their creation in the artillery foundry because historically, they required specific tools and materials that could only be produced in specialized factories (somewhat like needing a blacksmith in Warcraft 2 and 3 as a prerequisite to training a knight). I know it may seem like the end product is “watching guys with huge axes destroy a building”, but in the "real"context (and using the “power of imagination”), these sappers actually target weak points in the structure to demolish them or create breaches for allied soldiers to assault the building.

I’d like to remind you that in the AoE 3 timeframe, melee weapons were still the primary cause of death in combat, and cannons were powerful but costly and limited.

Now, in the context of Native Americans, using the Incas as an example; this empire was known for having excellent engineers and architects (including road networks, hydraulic structures, fortresses, etc.). Their military tactics were intricate and adapted to the environment. A notable example was the siege of Chan Chan where the Incas used their knowledge of hydraulic engineering to divert a river and thus cut off the city’s supplies (something the Chimu believed to be impossible, despite their knowledge of hydraulic engineering).

Remember that RTS games are often “games at a scaled and metaphorical level”, bringing “sappers” or “siege engineers” could be the equivalent in a battle of using demolition experts, geographers, or topographers that allow for a siege victory.

It seems that this community still needs to overcome certain cultural shocks :sweat_smile:


How many times do I need to repeat that I never questioned the siege capabilities of Native Americans. It’s just that these have nothing to do with the point I want to make.

The Japanese used muskets, and their musketeer unit in the game is Ashigaru, not the generic Musketeers like European civilizations used. If this topic were describing the concept of Musketeer, and using European musketeers as a primary reference base to describe their appearance, role, and abilities, I wouldn’t think such a unit would be suitable for the Japanese either. Do you understand?

“games at a scaled and metaphorical level", ture. But in AoE3, you obviously want more accurate presentation. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Incas getting ‘Sappers’ technology or ‘Siege Engineers’ technology in AoE2, but in AoE3, I don’t think the Incas should have ‘Sapper’ units as same as the European ones. They can have their own ones, like Japanese have Ashigaru rather than the generic Musketeers based on Europeans.

I just think that the Sapper here mainly refers to European sappers and mainly considered its positioning in European civs in the description, so this unit serves European civs and not others. But because of this, I am said to be against other civilizations having equivalent or similar units, or even said to be racist. Is this fair? What kind of culture shock is being accused of racist?


So you understand that a “unit class” called “sapper” is being proposed, which can be called “sapper” for European nations, but a variant of the “sapper” could be used for Native American, African, or Asian civilizations, correct?

Well, the statement in the original post is, “Sappers are first and foremost Melee Siege Units. Whilst depicted as singular human units, they are tagged very clearly as a Siege Unit.” That is to say, he thinks Sapper is the name of this unit, and it belongs to Siege Unit class.

My opinion is that if there is a need to subdivide the Siege Unit class to specifically tag this type of unit, then it may be called something like ‘Sapper Trooper’ , similar to Grenede Trooper, that is, the tag name is not the same as the unit name.

The variant certainly has many differences from the Sappers of Europeans/Federal States.
In addition to name, skin, cost and stats, their abilities may also differ. For example, the Sappers can be used explosives Tool , whereas the variant may not. The variant may give up any ability in exchange for the extremely low cost of siegeing with human wave.

Additionally, it’s likely that it won’t simply be a typical variant of Sapper, but rather have some other unit with Sapper-like features, just like the Mexicans don’t have a typical variant of Grenadier, but have Soldado, the variant of Musketeer, with Grenadier-like features. To a certain extent, I think Maceman is already providing Sapper-like features for the Incas so they might not really need the variant.

If there are cards that allow infantry or villagers to present more like a sapper, including better building defensive structures, military buildings, and dealing siege damage, such like the ‘Battlefield Construction’ card, or the ‘Génie Troops’ card of Revolutionary France, we don’t necessarily have to have some kind of Sapper-like unit to keep the civ being accurate. Rather, I think this has a better chance of being implemented in the game than introducing new units.

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Exactly, that’s what we were getting at. I believe a reorganization of the “siege infantry” is urgently needed. User @M00Z1LLA has proposed an interesting model:

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I remember finding this source which provides some insight of the arms and armour used in pre-colonial Hausaland, including siege tactics used by them. If you skip to page 150 and start reading the last paragraph that explains about the development of fortifications and continue reading till half of page 151 you will find this information.

The author of this source mentions that the sappers of Hausa used two types of tools for digging under walls which was the “Sangwami” (digging knife) and the “Masaba”, which was a heavy iron rod used for digging or breaking.

The use of this Masaba tool sounds similar to a digging stick and although I couldn’t find any sketch or further description of it in terms of appearance, I did happened to find information of a tool called the Digging bar. Maybe the Masaba was some kind of a digging bar.

Here is an example of what the digging bar looks like:


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