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In Episode 4 Season 7 The Spoils of War there is a battle where Daenerys

uses her Dragon and the Dothraki. Why did she take the Dothraki with her?

She could have probably saved her army. Was she hedging her bets in case Drogon doesn't fully obey her? Was it just a show of power? Was it a mistake, because she was enraged?

It would seem prudent to save her soldiers for that battle. I understand that you usually need footsoldiers to control an area and "aerial strikes" alone are insufficient. However, it seems to me that there is no real (valuable) territory to control there, unless she plans to immediately attack King's Landing or to lay siege to it. Could that be her next move? I doubt this though, as she probably will want to regroup and get the unsullied back first.

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    For drama. Showing Jaime and company getting burned and defeated (like they were in the actual episode) when they only have one enemy, a dragon, and Daenerys has no struggle, would be extremely dramatically dissatisfying. We need to see the Lannisters and Tarlys succeed against the Dothraki to show that there is some hope, so we actually have a smidge of realistic "Maybe he can make it" for Jaime and Bronn, so that there is actual dramatic tension, and we feel the stakes more. – Ghoti and Chips Aug 9 '17 at 12:36
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    Think about the Gulf Wars. Total air dominance and impunity by the USA. Still need the ground troops to actually invade and defeat the adversary, though. As impressive and nearly unstoppable as the dragons are, armies are still needed, even beyond the comments about Daenerys' only lack of dragon invulnerability. – PoloHoleSet Aug 9 '17 at 14:37
  • s/b "own lack", not "only" – PoloHoleSet Aug 9 '17 at 15:08
  • @Ghoti and Chips: I agree, but I am looking for an in-universe explanation. PoloHoleSet: I already considered that you need land troops to invade and hold a territory in the OP. However, it seems Danny just wanted to do some damage and not control the area, as I mentioned. For that Drogon should suffice. – Bob Aug 9 '17 at 18:27
  • @Bob - the previews for next show suggest it is not a "hit and run" affair. It looks like the defeated troops are rounded up and offered the chance to defect or die, so they've been captured, which is not possible if you only look to burn with dragons. – PoloHoleSet Aug 9 '17 at 20:18
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People in Westeros are afraid of Dothraki from the very beginning. It has been mentioned in 1st season.

Robert: If the Targaryen girl convinces her horse-lord husband to invade and the Dothraki horde crosses the Narrow Sea...We won't be able to stop them.

Cersei: The Dothraki don't sail. Every child knows that. They don't have discipline, they don't have armor, they don't have siege weapons.

Robert: Let's say Viserys Targaryen lands with 40,000 Dothraki screamers at his back. We hole up in our castles. A wise move. Only a fool would meet the Dothraki in an open field. They leave us in our castles. They go from town to town, looting and burning, killing every man who can't hide behind a stone wall, stealing all our crops and livestock, enslaving all our women and children. How long do the people of the Seven Kingdoms stand behind their absentee king, their cowardly king hiding behind high walls? When do the people decide that Viserys Targaryen is the rightful monarch after all?

Cersei: We still outnumber them.

Robert: Which is the bigger number, five or one?

Cersei: Five.

Robert: [holds up his left fingers] Five...[clutches his right fist]...One. One army, a real army, united behind one leader with one purpose. Our purpose died with the Mad King.

Also in 2nd episode of season 7, Cersei threatened her alliances by telling that Daenerys' Dothraki hordes would pillage their lands and homes, and rape their women.

Daenerys used Dothraki army just to increase the impact of her attack, she wanted to break Lannister army and alliances physically as well as mentally. She might have used all 3 dragons and not the Dothraki army to minimize casualty from her side. But by using this tactic she is telling remaining Lannister and alliances army that your fear is real now, she has 2 more dragons and another army (unsullied) like Dothraki. So, either bend the knees and join her or die.

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A dragon can only have one target, while an army of dothraki can spread to have multiple targets. The goal was to break the formation and make the Lannister army flee, so the cavalry can purchase the soldiers. In fact, the majority of casualties in medieval warfare were during rout and not battle itself. A dragon is great to break the morale of the enemy, but once the enemy is running in the opposite direction, it becomes useless, while a cavalry army is perfect for pursuit.

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    But the dragon is much faster than the lannister army and its fire has huge range, making multiple targets pissible. The dragon could easily pursue the lannjster army and breathe fire on a huge portion of them. – Bob Aug 9 '17 at 18:54
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The strategic goal is not to "defeat" the enemy.

The possible positive results from the engagement are:

  • Acquire the gold.
  • Prevent the enemy from keeping the gold.
  • Acquire supplies.
  • Capture enemy troops and leaders.
  • Convert or ransom enemy troops and leaders.
  • Prevent the enemy from keeping supplies.
  • Weaken the enemy troop numbers.
  • Weaken the enemy troop morale.
  • Support own troop morale.

If only a single dragon attacks, the following would happen:

Troops have plenty of time to scatter and hide in the nearby shrubbery and rocks, with only a few soldiers dying to the single dragon (spoiler: despite attacking with dragon and army, a high level target got away without even trying). The troops leave most of the supplies behind. Then the dragon destroys any flammable supplies left behind and flies off with a little bit of gold (gold is heavy). Before the dragon returns for a second haul the place is cleaned out.

If an army of horsemen attacks, with support of a dragon, they can inflict large numbers of casualties, take down many more runners, and protect any valuable supplies they want to keep after they have taken them. They can also protect Drogon and Daenerys should either be wounded or require rest.

@Bob raised the important point that the gold was already gone in a comment, but there's no way for Daenerys to know that by the time she moves out.

Edit: spoiler I didn't think about capturing troops.

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    I disagree that one goal was to get supplies (the first 2 goals you mention) since she burned all the supplies. The next two goals can also be achieved by Drogon alone and if she doesn't fly too low arrows can do nothing. Also the arrows don't affect Drogon as we saw, just her. The proability of hitting her in the air is miniscule. I doubt lannister troops could escape,, since Drogon is much faster. – Bob Aug 9 '17 at 18:51
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    There wasn't any gold left on the field, only grain. If the goal was to take supplies, I doubt she would even waste time burning them at all. All the gold made it to King's Landing. Drogon was only affected by the special weapon, which Danny is surprised to see and hence most likely did not see coming when making the decision to bring the Dothraki with her or not. Avoiding the normal arrows is easy for her, as shown in the episode. Furthermore, footsoldiers are relatively slow, while a flying dragon is relatively fast I would say. – Bob Aug 9 '17 at 19:35
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    That's what I thought at first as well. However, Lord Tarly tells Jamie before they get attacked that "All the gold’s safely through the gates of King’s Landing." For a reference, see e.g. here: heavy.com/entertainment/2017/08/…. Also thank you for your answer and interesting discussion. – Bob Aug 9 '17 at 19:45
  • @Bob edited to address your concerns. Also deleted comments. – Peter Aug 9 '17 at 20:07
  • Thank you. An answer based on real military concerns! GOT may be fantasy, but everything in GRRM is rooted in real myth and history – DukeZhou Aug 11 '17 at 17:53
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It's really more about "TV" logic than anything--they wanted, and had budget for, a scene with the Dothraki Horde riding into battle. But TV logic also meant that Dany burned up 1000 wagons with supplies that would have been critical to her armies. That said...

In in-universe answer must be based on military strategy, as the questioner suggests:

  • She wanted to occupy the territory. You need ground forces for that.

For a parallel, you can take the modern USA. This country can dominate the air in many regions around the world and impose "no fly zones" at will, but that doesn't seem to help all that much in Afghanistan b/c occupying territory ultimately requires infantry. Cavalry (in modern warfare, tanks) can be extremely effective as a component of "shock and awe" strategies.

It's confusing in that Dany burned up the supply wagons, but ostensibly, there are more supplies to be had in the Reach.

It may also be that she is occupying territory around King's Landing to put pressure on Cersei.

  • In the case of an air-only attack, the ground forces can scatter and seek cover

This situation is distinct from Dany's earlier proposal of tracking down and burning Euron's fleet, in that there is no cover for ships, it takes them longer to scatter, and the number of targets is reasonable.

By contrast, there are likely thousands of soldiers, and tracking down individuals after they scatter would not be feasible. Once the Dany flies back to Dragonstone, the troops could regroup.

We won't have a definitive, hole-free answer until Martin publishes the next book though.


Addendum based on subsequent episode:

  • Dany used the securing of the territory as a way to convert or eliminate an enemies

Randyl Tarly refused to bend the knee and was burned to ashes. The remaining enemy combatants all bent the knee.

  • I agree if she wants to control the territory, as I mentioned. I understood her attack as a hit and run, especially since she burned the supplies and doesn't have the unsullied back. Hence, in my original post I wrote: " I understand that you usually need footsoldiers to control an area and "aerial strikes" alone are insufficient. However, it seems to me that there is no real (valuable) territory to control there," If her attack is not a hit and run, as someone in a comment mentioned, then it would make sense to bring the Dothraki. I don't get why she wants to control that areas at this point – Bob Aug 11 '17 at 18:08
  • You're overlooking that this is the Reach--the richest agricultural region in Westeros, and a Kingdom Dany may well be able to wrest control of, as it is not unlikely there are still many Tyrell sympathizers. (Randyll Tarly is a great warrior and general, but not a likable man, and probably unpopular with the other great houses of the Reach.) – DukeZhou Aug 11 '17 at 18:12
  • "But TV logic also meant that Dany burned up 1000 wagons with supplies that would have been critical to her armies" - She's got terrible aim? – Peter Aug 16 '17 at 8:21
  • @Peter Likely the director or a producer (or the art department) thought it would make a great visual. Possibly Dany is sending a message to Cersei that she can destroy her supply lines? But the logic doesn't hold within the overall GOT TV framework. Thus: TV logic. (That's why, while I love the show, I don't expect it to always make sense, and return to the books where there are no such holes. Unreliability of narrative is a theme of the books, quite post-modern, and may help contextualize the show as the "corrupted" narrative of this period of GOT history.) – DukeZhou Aug 16 '17 at 20:09
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The whole army would focus on the dragon and her as the rider if she were alone.

Taking out hundreds of men is easier when they are busy fighting other people.

  • That is an interesting point, but Danny seems to think Drogon is almost invincible. She didn't even regard the normal arrows thrown her way. Furthermore, she was very surprised to see the Lannister's secret weapon against Drogon and even when that arrow was coming her way, she though she could just burn it. It's true that Drogon has been injured before, but I think that was mostly because he landed to pick up Danny. By just staying in the air, I think Danny's perspective should be that there is no real risk to Drogon, while losing any men at the beginning of the war is a huge risk. – Bob Aug 9 '17 at 11:08
  • It was said in an earlier episode that only a single arrow would be needed to shoot her down, not Drogon, and I think that's the whole point. The reason she ignored the normal arrows is because she new that they would do nothing. Also take note that the Dothraki love to fight, it wouldn't surprise me if the ones closer to her persuaded her to bring them along even though she might have anyway. – Yates Aug 9 '17 at 12:29

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