The Total Noob's Guide to Basic Multiplayer Anno 2015

by KimJongLi

Three or four years ago, as a young, enthusiastic general, I sought to prove myself against others at Rome: Total War. Of course, this led me to contemplate trying out the online battles feature of the game. First, though, I had to research what some of the best strategies and tactics were. This started with a simple google search along the lines of "RTW multiplayer strategy". Soon enough, I was greeted with the homepage of RTW Heaven.

After looking around, I settled in to reading guides posted by members like Cheesewiz and Ace Cataphract. But after a few articles, the only one that offered any kind of guidance or advice to new players was the Ueriah Doctrine. However, after a few years of online battles, I have realised that it is obsolete.This article seeks to replace the Ueriah Doctrine as the newer, more relevant guide for new players to the multiplayer aspect of Rome: Total War.

Over the course of literally a decade, the multiplayer scene has evolved to where it is today. As for my credibility, I am reasonably well known in the 31K community, have beaten some big name youtubers and players at the game and participated in a few tournaments (with little success, but still). So without further ado, I shall provide 3 "golden rules" for new players to adhere to as well as some other important notes that I think will be beneficial to new players.

Rule 1: Always Spend as Much Money as Possible

The vast majority of sensible games will have some sort of denarii limit. This usually varies from low (10K) to high (60K). I have seen newer players spend vastly less money than what is provided, and this is a mistake. Unless you have a large faction advantage over your opponent, or are very skilled already, don't think you can win spending more than 100 denarii less than your opponent. This matters more in low denarii games than high denarii games, as even small upgrades will make more of a difference when fighting against cheaper units. The difference will be less noticeable in high denarii games, but this rule should still be adhered to. (Note: In unlimited money games, do not bring a spam of elephants. It does not work.)

Rule 2: Refrain from Upgrading EXP(experience) Chevrons Rather than Attack/Defence Upgrades

Fresh out of the campaign, you may think that it is natural to upgrade the EXP chevrons rather than attack/defence upgrades, but this is usually incorrect. Players have run tests that show a gold/gold upgraded unit will beat a 3 chevron upgraded unit every single time, even though their statistics are the same. If you go in to a fight with this disadvantage across your entire army, you can imagine what would happen in battle. This also allows for more flexible upgrading and you can also spread your upgrades more effectively to use your precious denarii more efficiently.

Rule 3: Always Try to Strike a Balance Between Quality and Quantity

Generally, you want between 12-20 units in your army, and you want most of your units to be gold/gold at a normal denarii limit (15-35K) or silver/silver if the denarii limit is lower (5-10K). Archers are great for fulfilling this rule as they are cheap and present a lot of value if used right. If you have brought a cheap faction like Thrace or Dacia, feel free to put experience chevrons on your important units (cavalry) if everything else is already gold/gold upgraded and all 20 slots are filled. Keep in mind that this is a very general guide and some units (e.g. Horse archers) are better off with different upgrades (e.g. just attack/EXP upgrades and no defence upgrades on horse/chariot archers, no upgrades on peasant fodder units, etc.)

When Selecting Units, Keep in Mind:

  • Never bring a general's bodyguard cavalry unit. I conflict with Ueriah here. He claims to "always give my general one of the General's Bodyguard unit". Nowadays, it is universally agreed that it is better to make your general your best regular unit. (e.g. A praetorian cavalry unit or Urban Cohort rather than general's bodyguard) General's Bodyguards are overpriced, weaker and less useful in combat than their heavy cavalry counterparts without the wedge ability.

  • Never bring camel archers. They are slow, more expensive than normal horse archers, get caught by light cavalry easily, get shot in cantabrian circle more easily and can't catch archers nearly as well has regular horse archers. Note: Cataphract archers have this same issue, and get tired even faster, so never bring them.

  • Unless you have very strong infantry and plan to camp somewhere, do not bring artillery. It is a huge waste of money if you cannot protect them with strong infantry as they cannot run away from a heavy infantry push and become useless as soon as the enemy gets close. Don't bring them at all if you are unsure. Usually just a huge waste of money.

  • In low-medium denarii (10K-40k) battles, ALWAYS bring at least 4 cavalry units even if your faction only has light cavalry (e.g. Greece). Even a few Greek Cavalry units with decent upgrades will make your game plan much more flexible and responsive. Militia cavalry (jav cav) are very good light cavalry units and are available to most factions. They are also very easy to use, as they will run away by themselves with skirmish mode on, but can still chase things down very quickly. Cavalry is extremely powerful in this game, and I cannot stress enough how disadvantaged you will be without some form of cavalry. For new players, I recommend starting out with 4-6 units of cavalry and learning how they are used for counterattacking (rather than aggression) before increasing the number of cavalry units. Professional cwb (clan war belt- a popular low denarii ruleset) players almost always bring at least 6 cavalry units because they are just so critical to any good game plan. Learning how to use them effectively is a must. I am not encouraging all cavalry armies, but they are certainly more important than infantry and archers. This rule is not as relevant above 40k denarii, where a heavy infantry spam is probably more viable.

    Not bringing enough cavalry makes your game plan one-dimensional!

  • Never bring more than 2 units of elephants, you don't need that many and you need slots for other important units like silver shield pikes/legions/cataphracts/etc.

  • Remind yourself that many strong factions do not require a large infantry component strategy. Rome and Armenia are more than capable of playing the skirmish game. You do not need an archer+cavalry based faction like Scythia or Parthia to do so.

    A strong Roman skirmish army under CWB rules
  • Stick to your faction's strengths, but also be aware of your opponents' faction's strength. Change your army/faction if possible according to what you expect to face. (e.g. Macedon vs Greece: I will not need as many heavy cavalry units but maybe more light cavalry and better archers, Vs chariots: Maybe my team will need a good pike faction like Pontus to counter Egypt, etc.) This is another disagreement with Ueriah. He says "I would recommend keeping track of your armies so that you can build one repeatedly, exactly the same." This is terrible advice, and contradicts what he says later about considering other factors. Different faction matchups require different units to counter each other. Maps with hills/forests and different weather conditions favor different factions and builds. Sticking to a single army build is stubborn, inflexible and yields worse results.

    Why Knowing How to Select Your Units Matters:

    I place great emphasis on army build guidelines for new players as I find that newer players benefit more from correct army builds when playing against other new players/similar skill level players than veterans/top level players. If I were to estimate: For the new player, 75% of the outcome comes down to the army build whereas only 25% comes down to the execution. But, for the best/veteran players, it is more like the opposite. 25% comes down to the army builds and 75% to the execution. This is due to new players often not knowing the best units to bring, while veteran players will know exactly what works and what does not, making it much more difficult for either side to get the advantage through the army builds and drawing it closer to a contest of skill. Of course, I will still have some general guidelines for new players to follow during battle.

    Battle Strategy Suggestions for New Players:

  • Deployment is less important on the grassy flats, but extremely important on hilly/forest maps. Deploy on a hill or in a forest if you want to win (hills are the most important). I dislike hilly maps as it encourages camping, limits troop selection and reduces the number of viable strategies.

  • Keep in mind that you will almost never finish the game in the formation you start off in. The only times that can happen is if you are playing against the AI or a very spud opponent. Ueriah claims that this is dependant on your play style, but the truth is, you will have to go on the offensive at some point if you want to win.

    Beginning of a battle

    End of a battle

  • You can check the number of upgrades on a unit by zooming in and checking the number of small banners the unit is holding up. (1 flag = 1 upgrade, 2 = 2 upgrades, etc.) It is a good habit to check as soon as you have deployed, camera permitting, as it will give you a good idea of which area your opponent has put most of his money to. Restricted camera is silly and should not be enabled.

    The number of small flags = the number of upgrades. Here, one axeman is gold/gold while the other is 3 exp/silver/bronze.Hence 6 small flags on each one.

  • Don't keep your phalanx down while moving pike units. Get used to lifting and lowering the phalanx as required. This is an important skill if you plan on using any eastern/Hellenistic factions.

  • At least at the start, do not send units out individually. I find new players tend to think that cavalry must always chase enemy archers, or that sending individual heavy cavalry units to my sides to sit basking in the sunlight is 'flanking' and they get sent out one by one towards nowhere. To respond, their opponent simply traps the isolated units with the full brunt of his own cavalry force and routs 1/2 units of expensive gold/gold praetorian cavalry "before the battle has even started". As a result, the new player is forced to play with very little cavalry for the rest of the game, putting him at a huge disadvantage. Keep your units together or relatively close when attacking and don't jump at tempting archers or try obvious, poorly planned flanking efforts, but be ready to respond to any threats from your opponent. This applies to all units, not just cavalry. I see this happen mostly to cavalry though.

  • Block attempts at flanking/surrounds. This can be done either by moving infantry to block them off, threatening them with cavalry, running away or a combination of the three. All three are good options, but it should depend on what your units are and what your opponent's units are.

  • Contrary to popular belief, light cavalry units should be used much more aggressively than heavy cavalry. As a result, they are more difficult to use as well. Top level players like HoS-Nidintu and TAoW-Koala are able to pilot these (statistically) harmless units to devastating effect through peerless micromanagement. I have also seen many players (myself included) overreact as a result of this. I would suggest bringing light cavalry along with your heavy cavalry if you want to go on the offensive, but keep in mind that this is usually more difficult than just being on alert and skirmishing.

  • To add to my above point a little, don't chase light cavalry/ horse archers with heavy cavalry units that will never catch them. I have seen even veteran players chase horse archers with heavy cavalry, essentially tiring out an expensive unit for nothing. The solution is to screen them off with a loose formation unit, skirmish with it using a slinger or horse archer or chase it with a light cavalry unit.

  • Killing the general is always good, but don't risk the game by doing so. I disagree with Ueriah here when he says that you should sometimes "spare the life of the enemy general" to "kill them at a latter point in battle... to cause a general rout." This only works if you have complete control over the life and death of the enemy general, and if you have this control you are likely to be winning already. Killing the enemy general, no matter when, is always good, as it lowers the overall moral of the enemy army for the remainder of the battle.

  • Chase routing units with light cavalry units if possible. It is always likely that it will come back from routing if there are few other moral penalties. If you don't want it to come back, chase it to make sure. However, do not forsake other important parts of the battle in doing so. Heavy cavalry is not suited for this job unless you are already winning by a large margin.

    Chase off routed units with decent numbers of men remaining so that your opponent can't get them regrouped to his main forces if they stop routing!

  • Keep your eye on the big picture. This is something I am still learning to do, but very simple in nature. Focus on what your win condition is and work towards it. Visualise what you want to be left with and what you want your opponent to be left with. If you are playing Rome vs Rome and your cavalry is better, maybe you want to take away your opponent's cavalry and leave his infantry naked. If you are playing Greece vs Egypt, maybe you want to get rid of the archers and leave yourself with supreme infantry advantage. The way you do this is entirely up to you, but they all involve cavalry, so get good cavalry.

  • Keep an eye on fatigue. Do not run around the entire map and expect your men not to rout when fresh cavalry flies into their sleepy faces. You can check individual units' fatigue by rolling your mouse over them. Usually, "very tired" is a sign that they need to rest.

  • Remember that you are playing against a human. If you see your opponent moving cavalry towards you and there is an isolated archer unit, NEVER think that he will not see it or that he will not attack it. He is not the spud AI, his brain is much more powerful than that and he is manually controlling the mouse himself and if you see it, chances are, he does too. Ueriah uses this point to illustrate that you can bait your opponent into traps, which is very true. However, also pay mind to the fact that your opponent will be trying the same.

  • Micro is important! You will definitely have slow micro to start off with, but it will get much faster with practise and speed/keyboard customisations. The best players in the world have super fast micro and that is part of the reason they stand at the top. Never trick yourself into thinking this is exactly like chess. I find that there are many players who make this mistake. In chess terms, if your micro is twice as fast, you make 2 moves every time your opponent makes 1. Even the best chess players would struggle against that. Now imagine if your micro is three, four times as fast as your opponent.

    Useless Advice:

    I have seen people give new players terrible advice, I will outline some bad ones here in order to enlighten anyone in doubt.

  • Learn to flank/Learn to hammer and anvil. Apart from being the most obvious thing to do in the entire game, this also shows what little knowledge this person has of other, more relevant strategies. It makes me come down with a terminal illness whenever I see people post something like this up.

  • Watch Prince of Macedon/Heir of Carthage. This just says "I don't know what advice I can give you.". I tried doing this at first and I can honestly say that all I learned from their videos was how to upgrade my units. They are half decent players and are very entertaining to watch, but not very good teachers. If you want advice that will really give you the edge, watch Biscuit's total war's tips and tricks videos or if you want an example of high level gameplay, watch some of Prince Koala's videos.

    Final Notes:

    Last but not least, GET TO KNOW THE GAME! Reading this guide will not help you if you do not practise playing against other people yourself. I find that practising 15K CWB on the Grassy Flatland map against random people is the best way to improve while winning a hill camp does not help you improve at all and only gives a false sense of achievement. Don't be afraid to copy armies or ask good players how they play, they usually like to show off their knowledge (like me writing this) and will be more than happy to help. Get to know how to use the various special abilities of all the units properly, (except the general's bodyguard) especially the wedge formation, loose formation and phalanx, as these make a big difference when used correctly. I hope this helped some newer players out, or if you are a veteran, that you learned something. ;) Feel free to add me on steam, my username is:Kim JongLi (Exactly like that)

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