Reducing the garisson to 0 is the only way to force surrender.

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If you have more food than the settlement you can siege until they run out, and the garisson will begin to desert or starve and become wounded. Initially this works very well, you can wait out and reduce garissons of 700+ down to under 100 pretty reasonably, but they don't ever seem to surrender. I've even tried leaving the siege to request a meeting with someone inside, but you can only talk to notables.

The only decent option is to lead an assault, which wastes time but risks the least amount of troops. You can send troops but lose way too many of them in the simulated battles. The worst option is to wait until they have 0. Once the numbers get below 100 the rate they decrease becomes so slow that once the enemy garisson is at 0, you would have consumed all your food, and lost the majority of your army to desertion or starvation if you didn't starting dismissing lords from your party.

I tested this in my playthrough. I had an army of 1700 with around 1500 food against a garisson of 600 with less than 200 food. Once I got them to 90, I had 300 food left, and once that 90 turned to 0 I lost over 1300 troops from desertion and starvation.

The enemy should become much more likely to meet you in the field if they run out of food, even if the odds are against them, or they surrender once their food is gone and their numbers are too low.


it is hilarious that the historically "fast" but very risky assoult is slower and less casulties consuming then the drawn out siege where you only sit around
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