Celtic Tactical Overview

By Ace Cataphract

This strategy is best on lower denarii settings.


I find that the Celts are a very interesting faction in Barbarian Invasion. They are one of the factions that resemble a vanilla Rome Total War faction most, with units like their Kerns, who are Gallic Skirmishers with a new name and some new stats. Their description is very much accurate, describing them as "old fashioned, but effective" warriors. While you do get many old-fashioned barbarian units, the Celts can field deadly line-ups, but with the Celts in particular, your faction is going to be as good as your game. This is very much not a rookie-friendly faction, and indeed, the Celts aren't a friendly faction to anyone who isn't quite experienced in the way this game works, though even an experienced player who has "seen it all" is going to get a couple of nasty - and occasionally pleasant - surprises. A Roman army can be counted on to hold a line with discipline, even if a general is killed and a Hunnish army can be expected to fight faithfully as long as the player has killed enough men with arrows to make melee combat easier on the horse-oriented faction, but an entire Celtic army can literally go from Eagar and "Victory is a distinct possibility" to routing in around 10 seconds with as little happening as one of your weaker units routing. And unless you have a solid advantage, losing your general will most likely cost you the game.

Unit Line-up:

The Celtic unit roster is a wine very much mixed from the jar of blessings and the jar of misfortunes. They have some excellent units, some grossly underrated units, some bad units, and some that aren't worth half their cost.

The problem with the Celts is that not every unit they offer is really viable or serves any purpose in the base build of Barbarian Invasion. Kerns, for example are fairly worthless. They cost more than is reasonable for their very limited uses, considering that the far more versatile Slingers cost 10 denarii less. Pictish Crossbowmen are also very limited. They have the same range as slingers, but also cost significantly more. Slingers can also be upgraded so they have the same missile attack value, a higher melee attack value, and a higher defense value, while still costing 30 denarii less than the crossbowmen. Since they also have a higher rate of fire and are quicker, they cause a great deal more damage than Crossbowmen and are more versatile on the battlefield. Peasants are a mixed unit. Often they're not worth a unit slot, but if you have some inspired idea on how you can use them as cannon fodder... I guess they can be somewhat effective at wasting a unit's time/ammo.

Now that we've largely rooted out the weeds, we can focus on the positive decisions: finding the units that will give you a solid army. While I personally rarely use generals because of their cost and unit size, I've found that with the Celts, purchasing this unit is worthwhile.

As the Celts, losing the general himself can be a crushing thing, even if it doesn't happen during a decisive part of the battle. Once the general is dead, Celtic morale is almost hopeless, and they'll rout at the unfavorable drop of a dime. Although I generally opt for a Warlord general as the Celts, other viable options are the Hounds of Culann and Noble Clansmen. The things implicit in getting a Hounds of Culann general is that you get one extra berserker. The only real problem is that your general may have plenty of hit points, but he'll have low defense, and he'll probably be in the thick of the battle, and usually berserk, which is never the safest situation to be in. Noble Clansmen are decent cavalry units. They're not the best, but for their price, they do their job well enough and are reliable as the general's unit or as a regular unit on the field.

Slingers are the best missile units available to you as the Celts. They might not look like much at first, and their range is totally abysmal, but beneath that, they're excellent missile troops. Their only real problem is their range. It doesn't allow you to be very defensive, but then, as the Celts, you shouldn't try to be. When the enemy's missile troops approach you, you should rush the slingers forward to engage them. Slingers will beat the majority of archers, especially the more expensive armored ones, against whom they actually do better than against archers with less armor. Due to their bonus against armor and their cheap price, you don't have to worry too much about lone units of cavalry trying to hit your line. If the enemy sends one unit of cavalry at you, you can confidently keep your slingers in position, but focus their fire on that unit. Often, the slingers will be able to break the charge and send the unit routing, unless the cavalry is too heavy. If more than one unit comes after you, I recommend keeping the Slingers in place, but advancing your infantry forward. In that way, the slingers will still get their volley off, but will be protected by the infantry. If you try to retreat them behind the infantry, however, if the enemy archers are still firing at them, they'll be shot in the back, they won't be able to get off a volley against the enemy cavalry, and they most likely won't be able to retreat behind the infantry lines in time. Plus, a unit of slingers that's hit head-on by some cavalry won't rout instantly, but one hit from behind will be lucky to last a second.

Now, as for infantry: Your three main units will be Gallowglasses, Pictish Spearmen, and Hounds of Culann. Gallowglasses will most likely form the backbone of your infantry. They are armed with swords and have decent attack and defense, but they only really shine after they've performed their warcry. With the warcry, Gallowglasses are about equal to the Sassanids' Shugidan Warriors. They have decent morale and can hold a line very well. Pictish Spearmen, on the other hand are not the type of unit you want on the line, nor screening the line. Unlike units like Auxilia Palatina who perform well as screening troops for the rest of the army, Pictish Spearmen are vulnerable and will easily rout. Celtic morale being what it is, having your screening forces rout can hurt your line's ability to hold together afterwards. Your spearmen are best deployed on the flanks or rear to protect against cavalry, and assist your own cavalry in fighting the enemy. The Hounds of Culann are not a unit to form your lines. They perform the same function as other berserkers. They're your heavy shock support. Deployed along the infantry line, they can be relied on to punch into the enemy's lines and do their worst. After employing them, there won't be any hearts and minds left to win, because your enemy's heart will fade in fear and their mind will likely be crushed by one of the Hounds' huge war-clubs. They have worse stats than the average berserker, but their benefit comes in the fact that they have bonuses against armor. This means that they're also very effective if used to help your own cavalry fight the enemy's cavalry.

Due to the Celts' poor morale, a unit I recommend in most armies is the Druid. One unit of these can work wonders on your army's will to fight. It can't make them fight any better, but it sure as hell can make them fight longer, which is the Celts' main problem. Their warriors are competent enough for the most part, but they really suffer seriously from morale problems.

The Celts also have the interesting unit of the Scotti Chariots. These units are your average chariot, but seemingly weaker. They're extremely vulnerable to archers and enemy cavalry, but they're very effective against infantry, throwing javelins instead of firing arrows, and being able to do some good damage against infantry if kept in motion, and kept from being bogged down. My very limited experience indicates that they aren't worth it, but I didn't discard them in the list of worthless units simply because I have a hunch that they might be good at some role. Of course, I might also be very wrong, but what's there to lose in using them occasionally to see if they can do anything useful?

In conclusion, the Celts are a faction that's somewhat limited in their unit roster. Nonetheless, the few units that are effective are very effective. The main problem with the Celts isn't getting soldiers that can fight well; it's getting those soldiers to fight at all. You have to be a cautious player using them, but this tends to be a big problem since you also have to be an aggressive one. This may seem like a paradox, but it's the best way to summarize the style that seems to be most effective with them. They're a faction that required a lot of finesse, and I believe that being able to use them well can help to improve your game with other factions greatly, simply because most of the other factions out there don't require you to be as careful as the Celts do.

If you're a Celtophile or use them occasionally, I hope this guide has given you some valuable tips on their use, but if you're afraid of using them, haven't considered using them, or decided not to use them, I hope that you can be encouraged to try them out, because they're an interesting faction, if not one that's reliable one hundred percent of the time.