The Ueriah Doctrine

By Ueriah

Alright, so here you are. You've played a couple campaigns of Rome : Total War. Maybe you've played more then a couple. You've got the basics down pat and you even have a few slick moves up your sleeve. You've decided to enter the Rome multiplayer arena. This is the guide for you. It's designed to give an edge to players who have already gotten past the basics and is looking for ways to sharpen their edge.

Having so said, let's get started.

Buying Your Army

Regardless of your approach towards strategy, I would recommend keeping track of your armies so that you can build one repeatedly, exactly the same. Don't be shy of taking notes, I always keep a pen and some paper handy in case I build what I think is a really good army so that I can recreate it.

It's important to understand that it's very easy to gimp yourself with poor troop selection. Once the battle starts there's really no turning back. You want to consider who you are going to be fighting, as each faction has it's own strengths and weaknesses. You want to consider the terrain. Are you going to be fighting in a wide open desert or a dense forest? Make your choices accordingly.

Another thing to consider is your objective. In Last Man Standing, you are trying to rout the enemy for victory, whereas Scored Resolution you are going by the number of kills. If you are trying to rout someone, you might want to choose units designed to lower the morale of enemy units, such as camels or various siege or specialty units.

Be sure to give your general the best choice in troops. I always give my general one of the General's Guards unit, usually with an upgrade in experience and an upgrade in weapons. Your general's selection is the grey box, the first unit that you buy. Your general has a positive impact on morale and because of that you are probably going to have him going in and out of the fray quite a bit. Losing your general disrupts the morale of your army significantly. He's like the king in the chessboard, he's worth protecting.

There is no one right way to build an army for many reasons. But there are many ways to build an army that could have been made better. A lot of it depends on your budget and your approach. If I'm building a balanced force, I will usually bring something that's 50% infantry, 30% missiles, 20% Cavalry, once the cost of the General is out of the mix. You also want to avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket. I know that there are valid arguments for forces that are all-infantry, all-cavalry , and all-missile armies out there, but unless that happens to be your particular niche I would caution against it.

A few other cautions - it's nice to have a specialty unit or two, but it seldom works if you go overboard with it. It's good to have a variety of troops, even a variety of types of the same troop. Some elite forces are certainly good, but it's surprising just how effective units of "cannon fodder" can be. A unit or two of peasants can stand ahead of your more expensive troops and suck up enemy arrows that would otherwise kill your better, more expensive units. A couple of unit of scrub milita can be used to defend your siege equipment long enough for cavalry to arrive. A few units of cheap slingers might make a great diversion. At the very least, it's another unit on the battlefield that can slow down an advance. At the very best, a couple of cheap units, used effectively and well-timed, can turn around an otherwise hopeless cause into something salvageable. In a 10k game, I'll usually spend about 500 on fodder.

You want to keep your number of troops down and the quality of them up if you are in a scored resolution game, since your enemy will have less troops to kill. If you are in a Last Man Standing game, the larger force the force that you field, the better.

It might take you a while to build a constant army that you like and can be used effectively with your particular style of play. I think the sign of a solid, well balanced army is that you can play it repeatedly against the same foe and it will still do respectably, even if your opponent adjusts his units.

Deployment

Deployment can be an equally important part of the game in the sense that if you do it well, you place yourself at an advantage over someone who does not. Bear in mind, there is usually enough distance between combatants that your starting position will most likely not be the position that you are fighting from.

When deploying, you want to place troops in accordance with terrain and what you are looking to accomplish with them. I'd advise on not putting all your troops in plain site if you can help it. If there are hiding places or high ground, take advantage of them.

It's also important to consider what kind of force you have. An all cavalry army should take advantage of it's mobility and force the enemy to march towards it, so it makes sense to deploy further back if you think you can force your opponent to advance on you.

It's important during deployment to place artillery, if you have any, in a position so that they will not be undefended should your opponent manage to get some calvary around your line. Onagers are expensive units that are quickly destroyed by fast troops unless you have a unit or two assigned to guard them. I've found that most people who stab at onagers use cavalry since it's particularly well suited for that sort of thing, so I usually keep a unit of spearmen right behind a unit of onagers, set to a long line 2-3 men deep. That way, once the cavalry starts to charge, the spearmen can march forward, and we all know what happens when cavalry charge into spears.

The first thing that happens when two forces approach each other is that they come into missile range. Whoever had the longest range archers standing gets in the first volleys. That's why it's important to keep a couple of those fodder units up front - for 100 coins, you are going to suck up as many as 60 arrows that might have dropped more expensive troops, and you are going to want to keep those fodder in front.

A lot of people see formations as a static thing, and a lot of that depends on whether you play aggressively or defensively. Generally speaking, overlapping lines are good. Keeping units in long lines means their flanks are covered - that is the biggest advantage of advancing in lines. Be aware of the fact that any player worth his salt is going to try to attack you from the flanks, and also be aware that most players use cavalry to flank with. Deploying a couple of units of your cavalry on your sides is one way to stop this, particularly if you deploy them a little further back from the rest of your forces so that you will be able to use them to react to a sudden flank attack. If the flank attack never comes, that gives you a couple of units of cavalry in reserve.

It's important to consider reserves! There often comes a point in battle when both sides are bloody and exhausted. Veteran generals know this and keep at least a unit or two hidden - if possible - and away from the action. If both you and your enemy have fought one another to a standstill, which happens quite often with players of approximate skill, the winner is the one who can bring in a unit or two of fresh, unexhausted forces. They don't have to be the best forces in the game, although holding your trump card for the endgame is something that can be very effective - provided your army can hold it's own without them!

I usually keep my archers set in loose formation from the beginning, to make other archers less effective against them. Archers are best deployed in thin, spaced out lines with enough space to insure they won't be wiping out a line of troops in front of them. It is important to defend your archers with your infantry and cavalry and you should place them accordingly.

Remember that siege equipment can't move through woods when placing it. If your siege equipment is in front, you might want to consider setting it to Enable Fire At Will mode. It's also a good idea to activate any other fire at will units at this time, such as pillum wielding infantry.

Group your units during deployment. It makes your troops so much easier to use. Learn the hotkeys. They're on the back of your manual. Being fast with your hotkeys won't necessarily make you a better general, but it will make you a general who is able to communicate his instructions to his men faster then his enemy can!

The Game Begins

I think the most important thing to do at the start of the game is to take a second and see what people are doing. Some players will start moving towards you, some players will adapt a static defensive position.

A good static defensive position is a challenge for an advancing general, since it is reactionary in nature. It has been set up to withstand your approach, and often inflict damage upon your force as you approach. The best way to assail a static defense is to outrange them. A few well placed shots from siege equipment is usually enough to get a static defender to have to adapt to the fact that large rocks are killing his troops. If you are dealing with a static defender who also has siege equipment, I cannot stress the importance enough of advancing fodder first in case he has them set to Fire At Will, and then targeting his own siege equipment with yours.

Cavalry archers are great units to harass the enemy with as the armies approach one another. They are, however, vulnerable to sustained missile fire, faster cavalry , and camels.

Don't let your game get shaken if you have to advance under artillery fire. If you have committed to an advance and are under some artillery fire, keep a level head about you and continue to advance. Depending on how far away the enemy is you might want to have units in loose formation - just make sure to set them back to tight when they enter combat, since they take a slight morale penalty in loose.

It's important to keep an eye on the morale of your troops. Coming under missile fire lowers your morale a little. After a certain number of casualties, morale gets checked. Morale gets checked when your general gets tagged and dies in battle, so keep an eye on your general at all times. Your general should advance - typically -with your line, where his presence can have the most impact on the greatest number of people. Having your general behind your line affords him with a degree of protection.

Don't let your enemy dictate your movement to you - make him react to what you are doing. The more that you play the more you will be able to see "good moves" - and if you know what makes sense for the enemy to respond with, you have just successfully anticipated his next move.

I've been told that my biggest strength in the game is my reactionary nature, and that stems from watching the enemy and thinking about what makes sense for him to do. If you give him an easy target, he might have to take it.. Think about that. You can oftentimes bait an opponent into doing something and take advantage of that. This is another great use for "fodder" troops, as they make tempting targets!

Don't use your special abilities before the time comes for them. Phalanxes move a lot faster when not in phalanx mode. Keep an eye on your endurance when you are marching. Be aware if someone is making you tire out your troops, or better still, make your opponent tire his out by doing a controlled withdraw as they advance.

One of the most important hotkeys is that, when you double click on the icon of your troops, the camera takes you there. That means as soon as you see a unit is under attack on the icon, you can double click on it and go immediately to the fight. The more areas of the map you can multitask in this manner, the more capable you will become in being able to break a large force into several smaller forces and engage multiple fronts simultaneously. Like so many other things here, that in and of itself will probably not win battles for you, but it will give you a leg up on other players who don't do it..

In the Heat of Battle

There will come a point when battle will be joined.

There are so many possibilities of what could happen, based on environmental factors, that make it absolutely impossible to offer any sort of foolproof plan. Instead, let me share some general tidbits about once line battles start.

It's good to keep your general behind the line for the morale bonus he gives his troops. He also can Rally, which is a special ability that lets him give a unit that is near him and starting to break a chance to Rally and continue fighting. In a pinch, he's also a very capable unit of heavy cavalry that you can throw at opportunistic targets - enemy cavalry that is standing, or archers away from guards.

Killing your enemy general is nice, but killing your enemy general at the correct time is absolutely essential to routing the enemy army. I have spared the life of enemy generals in the past to kill them at a latter point in battle when their lines was already shaken, and in doing so, caused a general rout.

Morale is so important, morale, morale, morale!

Having more units gives you greater flexibility. If you have 5 units of infantry and are facing three, you should be able to attack front to front 3 to 3, with your extra two units on the sides. That makes it of the utmost importance to keep your wounded troops in the fray! Even "fodder units" can do some damage attacking a line from the flank. Attacking a line from both flanks greatly disrupts the morale of a unit. Just make sure you leave them a path they can retreat from, or they are more likely to fight to the death as they have no choice.

Once a unit routs, it is a target of opportunity. There is a good chance, particularly if the unit is not that badly damaged, that it can turn around and continue fighting. That's why it's so important to purse a fleeing foe when possible. War dogs are ideal for this sort of thing, cavalry is also good, even your general in a pinch, just be careful to not let him get too far out of your sight! Kill the routing units as they break to the best of your ability to ensure that they don't turn and regroup.

Some units can run. Don't be afraid to use their speed and maneuverability by attacking enemies from the side and rear with those units. These units are also good for chasing down fleeing enemies.

Elephants are a special case. The function of an elephant troop is shock. If you have elephants in your force, use them to charge through as much of a line as you can. Let your elephants throw people around and keep them moving. Elephants work best when you have other troops nearby to charge in and attack the enemy as they try to recovery from the shock of the elephant. In the wake of an elephant attack, inferior troops can be used to overcome superior ones… especially if the elephant is still reigning havoc!

Stopping elephants takes fear. Fire arrows. Dogs. Troops with javelins work well. Flaming pigs are just what the doctor ordered, but something almost never taken. They make great fodder!

Keep your archers to the sides of the battle, if you can, and keep them protected, if you can. Don't be afraid to make sacrifices in order to keep control of what your opponent is doing. And don't overlook the fact that your opponent is human, just like you. That makes it possible to fake him out in order to attract his attention to a particular event in his favor to get him to overlook something unexpected that you are doing to him - for example, attacking with a unit of cavalry you have brought within charging range of his standing general or unattended siege equipment.

If you can't kill his archers, try to keep them behind his line where they are going to be doing friendly fire onto his backside as well as your forces. Don't let his archers get to the flanks. If it's possible, you should try to attain missile superiority over the enemy. Units under missile fire take a hit to their morale. A unit that's already wavering that comes under fire is more likely to break, and one it breaks, you can chase it down and kill it. It doesn't hurt having different types of missiles, as well. Always try to get skirmishers behind enemy lines, pillum from behind are effective ways to shake a line.

Be cautious charging the backside of a group of phalanxes with cavalry, Sometimes you can charge straight through to the front, and end up skewered! It's more effective to hit phalanxes from the side in such a way so that your furthest horse out barely touches the leading phalanx and charges through the unit to the rear of it.

Make your opponent react to what you are doing. Do as many different things at the same time as you can to force his attention to have to keep up with what you are doing, and as they make mistakes, opportunities will open up. Take advantage of them.

The End Game

The end game is the final stage after most of the fighting has taken place, and a good number of troops on both sides have died. It's possible that one player has the upper hand over the other by this time, but it's equally possible that the game is still up in the air.

The endgame is perhaps the most straightforward portion of the battle. You regroup your troops for one last hurrah or you chase down the enemy as they start to break.

Your archers and cavalry archers are most likely out of arrows, but they can still attack with melee weapons. Since they are probably as fatigued as anyone else, the timing of such as attack is important. Coordinating efforts among your remaining troops is important. You can Alt-A to grab all troops if they have become scattered and regroup them to a central location.

If you have reserve units from the deployment phase, now is the time to bring them out. If you don't, and if your opponent does, you are suddenly at a decided disadvantage. If your siege equipment has been destroyed, you can still use their crew in hand to hand. Every man is an asset at this point.

Be gracious in defeat, and humble in victory. That is the single best tip in terms of getting repeat matches with people. Sportsmanship is as much a part of online gaming as it is any other arena of gaming. Good conduct and bad conduct both get remembered.

Practice is the key to the game. If you play frequently you'll learn what works with what. Try to play often to improve your abilities, repetition is the key to success. Don't be afraid to lose! It's worth it to lose games trying to see if different things work or not. At the end of the fights, save the games and watch them afterwards from time to time. If you don't want to get that devoted to it, at least ask yourself, "What did I do that was really effective that game?" or "Where did I go wrong?" Identifying your own successes and defeats and the reasons for each is bound to improve your skills as well.

Well, I hope I've addressed some of the things that I feel have made me, as some call me, a reactionary player. Hopefully there is at least something in here that perhaps you were unaware of, or perhaps it's a refresher of things that you've already known under a slightly different light. Either way, I hope it helps you somewhat in becoming a better general.

I've tried purposely to not become overly specific because everyone has their own style of strategy, and I'm not trying to impose my style over yours. Some people like all cavalry armies and are good with them. Some people like balanced forces while others like forces built around a concept of stoic defense. What I hope to have done is to give you tips that can enhance or improve your current strategies and style, whatever they are, and to help you develop your own strengths. Hopefully it's successful at that.

Thanks for reading.

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