Rome: Total War

From Before I Play
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  • Be the Romans. This is a no-brainer.
  • Hire mercenary hoplites to bolster your forces. Let them do the dying. Roman infantry is generally too valuable to be sacrificed lightly.
  • Heavy infantry in the center, light infantry on the flanks. Always fight on the defensive. Cavalry should be in the rear, and should sweep out to protect your flanks and attack theirs once the battle is joined. Don't throw away your general, because if he dies, your morale drops like a rock.
  • Don't be afraid to maintain a second line of reserve infantry behind. You can order your first line to disengage, and while it won't be pretty, you can often save a tired unit by having them run through your second line. Just don't forget to order the reserve unit to fill the gap.
  • Flanks are extremely vulnerable. Keep yours clear, always pummel your opponent's. This is especially true with hoplites. If you're charging the front of a hoplite, you're doing it wrong, and will die.
  • Always have a unit or two of light cavalry to run down fleeing survivors and skirmishers. Don't let the enemy retreat with intact units. Try and kill them to the last man if you can - especially archers and other annoyances.
  • You can try the manipular formation (line each of Velites, Hastati, Principes, Triarii, each falling back through the other when tired) if you're a masochist. I'd recommend Principes in the center, Hastati on the flanks, and Triarii in reserve, with Velites as skirmishers. Get archers if you can find them, because they'll outrange your Velites. Post-Marian, your units will homogenize - while simultaneously growing in effectiveness - meaning that you can pretty much just build big lines and crush the hell out of them.
  • When fighting Carthage, bring skirmishers - Velites, specifically. Use them against elephants. They're cheap, so it's worth losing a unit of them to cause a unit of elephants to rampage - especially when those elephants are still among enemy troops.
  • Oceanside cities are incredible for your economy. If you can get your hands on the Aegean Peninsula and Italy, you'll be basically set for cash. Keep upgrading your docks and roads. Identify cities with strong farming or mining bonuses and focus your farm/mine upgrades there.
  • I don't think they ever fixed the issues with overpopulation: eventually, your cities will grow so huge that they'll have massive negative happiness scores and will become basically unmanageable. You can either dick with the game files to fix this or abandon the city, let it revolt, recapture it, and then massacre the inhabitants. It's not pretty, but it's sometimes the only way to keep a city under control. Toward the later stages of the game, you can find yourself doing this about once every five years for cities like Rome or Athens, who tend to grow very, very quickly.
  • Plan your conquests one at a time. If you can expand consistently in one direction, you'll avoid the efforts of shifting around your powerful stacks and managing reinforcements in several directions simultaneously. Veterancy bonuses are incredibly potent, and having several legions of upgraded gold-chevron troops in a single stack will make you very difficult to overcome.
  • Divide and conquer. You can often bait enemy armies and slaughter them piecemeal. Try not to fight enemy armies where they can pile on you, because even with Rome's so-so AI you can get overwhelmed, especially if attacked from multiple directions by Roman Legions or Hellenic Hoplites.
  • As a Roman faction, after building your first Imperial Palace you will undergo the reforms of Gaius Marius, which will turn your Republican tripartite armies into Imperial Legions. Your former troops will no longer be buildable or reinforceable. It sucks, but the troops to which you gain access following the event are stronger than those you used before, and you'll gain from it in the long run.
  • Two attacks in a single round on the world map will allow you to destroy an enemy stack. The first attack will cause them to retreat; the second will force them into battle.
  • Don't let AI reinforcements enter the battle with a general about whom you care at all, especially a king/emperor or other member of the royal family. The battle AI will rush your general and his bodyguards into the thick of battle and you will lose a seven-star commander and you will hate all programmers ever. If you absolutely can not keep reinforcements out of the battle, charge the enemy before your fellows can get there. Your legions can be replaced; your generals largely can not.
  • Ship-to-ship battles almost always come down to number of ships and veterancy. Build lots of ships if you plan to fight on the sea and sacrifice half of them in battle to turn the rest into veterans. They can be reinforced like ground units, so keep them at full strength as best you can.
  • The AI is bugged out - it will disregard diplomatic agreements when figuring out who to attack. You can set up trade agreements, exchange map information, and even get alliances going with factions fighting your enemies, but the moment another faction borders you, it's only a matter of time before they invade.