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Take a look at the screenshot below.

Red skulls

The left army is mine, sieging an enemy city. The right army is an enemy's army (same faction as the city I'm sieging) that I just defeated in a battle before laying siege.

At first I thought the red skull means that it (the army) contains the last leader of a faction, but this can't be true because I have other generals as well.

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I think it basically means that army is dying slowly per turn due to being in that particular region. – Emerica. Sep 6 '13 at 12:12
up vote 8 down vote accepted

As mentioned by @5pike, the red skull symbolises attrition.

There are several reasons why an army or a fleet can suffer from attrition, here are some:

  • Your army is currently laying siege (attrition applies after you end your turn)
  • Your army is besieged by an enemy (attrition applies when your turn starts)
  • Your army is currently suffering due to certain events (plague, sickness, earthquake, etc.)
  • Your food surplus is negative and your army is currently in a province that imports food.
  • Your army is currently in terrain it is not used to (e.g. desert, mountains) and not on a road.
  • You cannot pay for your army's or fleet's upkeep (happens when a player has no settlements)
  • Your fleet is currently in deep water
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Feel free to correct or complete the list. – Nolonar Sep 6 '13 at 17:22

The red skull means that they are suffering from attrition.


Total War Forum

Penny Arcade Forum Post

Aside: Yeah, I know the sources are weak. I try to find a better one :P

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It is correct tho, laying siege gives attrition, having not enough food in your cities also gives attrition. Since he is sieging his enemy gets attrition, and my guess is the city is starving so the enemy is also getting attrition. – Lyrion Sep 6 '13 at 13:07

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