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In Game of Thrones season 6 Ramsay was about to destroy Jon Snow and his whole army, when the Knights of the Vale suddenly appeared, and reversed the tide.

The key point was the element of surprise: if Ramsay would have known a big enemy army arrives, he would have stayed inside Winterfell and his downfall would have been prevented.

The Knights of the Vale are not exactly commando; They have many horses, they make lots of noise; They can't really hide their movement.

So how come it was a surprise attack?

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    How was he supposed to know they were coming? He’d either notice last minute from people watching out or through scouts. He might not have had scouts watching that route because 1) he’s over confident and 2) that’s not the direction he’s expecting Jon from and 3) the battle was already long underway when they arrived. Aug 8, 2021 at 15:46
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    @TheLethalCarrot during times of war I thought it's trivial to place scouts all over the place, exactly for such cases, to avoid surprise attacks. Aug 8, 2021 at 18:04
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    You could ask half a dozen such questions about this overrated episode. From military perspective this was all non-sense. More to the point, yeah, it's virtually impossible he wouldn't know about such army.
    – Mithoron
    Aug 8, 2021 at 19:39
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    Related: (SF&F SE) How could the Battle of the Bastards end that way? Aug 9, 2021 at 9:42
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    This scene annoys me because it'd make so much more sense and be in character if Ramsay thought Petyr was nominally on his side but scheming to take credit for his victory. Petyr even had a Royal Decree from Cersei to raise an army and "sort out" the north. They could have built tension with a little dialog like "Milord Bolton, Cersei's reinforcements are coming", "Dammit we don't need them, this is our victory. Tell them to raid the camps and countryside, bring Sansa alive, kill everyone else". Then just before the army rides in, the messenger returns - full of arrows. "Baelish you bastar..." Aug 9, 2021 at 15:56

2 Answers 2

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The Knights came around the bend, over the crest of a hill, so, no, they wouldn't necessarily be easily seen from Winterfell, itself (just like with the supposed "plot hole" of Euron's fleet not being seen when they take out the dragon, when they're surrounded by physical geography until they come out).

If you have scouts out there, where they can see the army, hours AFTER the pitched battle starts, how do they get back through that carnage to warn Ramsey? Keep in mind, also, that Ramsey was having his archers indiscriminately fire into all the combatants on the field. Scouts trying to make their way back to Winterfell, earlier in the battle, to report in could have been caught in that maelstrom of arrows.

The noise of horses on the battlefield is pretty thunderous. I have a little harder time believing that would be concealed, though, if they weren't charging until they got close enough to the battle, I could conceive of that being obscured by the sounds of the pitched battle.

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  • Of course, in Game of Thrones, ravens can be used to deliver the post - one would think that scouts would have ravens to send back to Ramsay
    – komodosp
    Jun 23 at 8:54
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It's a surprise attack because Ramsay had no clue that the army of the Vale was going to join the battle. Hell, even Sansa was not sure that they'd respond to her request till they actually arrived. Think of an actual medieval battlefield, where there are no advanced technology to know if more enemies are approaching. The battle has already started and halfway through when the knights of Vale arrived, so there's not enough time for Ramsay to retreat even he wanted to.

No matter how good a commander Ramsay was, he was engaged in the battle himself (there's a lot of noise... etc.) and could not know early enough the sound of the incoming army. Note how Jon nearly froze when he got stuck in the middle of the battlefield.

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    Well I mean using scouts around the area of Winterfell, placed on high hills or even roof tops. I'm sure even in those times, people used such tactics to be alerted of invasions before the invaders actually reached the place. Aug 9, 2021 at 8:40
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    Sure, but if I am in the middle of a sword fight I might be a bit to busy to be paying attention to what my scouts are trying to tell me. Aug 9, 2021 at 15:49
  • @ShadowWizardSaysNoMoreWar - The Knights came around the bend, over the crest of a hill, so, no, they couldn't just be easily seen from Winterfell, itself (just like with the supposed "plot hole" of Euron's fleet not being seen when they take out the dragon, when they're surrounded by physical geography until they come out). If you have scouts out there, where they can see the army, hours AFTER the pitched battle starts, how do they get back through that carnage to warn Ramsey? Heck, maybe they were trying to get back to him when his archers indiscriminately fired on everyone. Jun 9 at 17:18
  • @PoloHoleSet now that's a decent answer. If you place it as such I can accept it. :) Jun 9 at 19:28

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