Unit Options

By Erzin

In a battle, there are many options that can be set for your units which change their behaviour, formation or stats. In this article these different options will be outlined and I'll also show you how to make the most of them.

Unit Settings

In the bottom right corner of the screen, a box similar to the one shown above will appear. Each option is colour coded and explained here along with its hotkey (if any).

Red - Halt Orders - Backspace
Cancels all orders for the selected units. Extremely simple and useful.

Yellow - Group Units - G
Puts the selected units in a group. Grouping allows the player to move a number of units to a single place, change their settings all at once or organize them with the group formation button (explained below).

Light Green - AI Control - Ctrl + L
Puts the selected units under AI control. Why would you want to?

Dark Blue - Withdraw - W
The selected units will withdraw and act as if they are broken. However, their banner won't flash white and they can be controlled again by selecting them and giving them an order or halting their retreat. When you have two armies on the field totalling more than twenty units and you haven't allowed the AI to control one of your armies it will also allow another unit to enter the battle.

Black - Unit Formation - C
Toggles the unit formation between loose and tight. Tight units fight better in combat but are more susceptible to missiles, and vica versa for loose. Keep units in loose formation when there are lots of missile units, but otherwise keep units in tight formation.

White - Skirmish Mode - S
Gives missile units the skirmish ability. Skirmishing units will fire their missiles when commanded too and run away from enemy units when they approach. Be careful though because they often become trapped along the edge of the battlefield and destroyed in combat.

Brown - Fire at Will - A
Allows units to fire missiles whenever they are in range. Whether to put this on depends on the circumstances; when your missile units vastly outnumber the enemies it can be on, but if you need to preserve every shot then switch off and manually order every shot. By default the AI always has it on so you can force them to waste their missiles on fodder units like peasants by moving them within range.

Purple - Special Ability - F
Activates the unit's special ability. This is explained in more detail later.

Orange - Guard Mode - D
This is an extremely important option that is typically underused. When switched on, units will try and hold their formation and not pursue enemies when they break. However, when switched off the unit will try and wrap itself around the enemy and pursue units that are broken. If you want to hold your line or guard a hill, turn it on. If not, it's your choice. However, always have it on for phalanxes or they won't hold their formation and become more or less useless.

Light Blue - Run/ Walk - R
Toggles the unit between running and walking. Run when reinforcements are needed desperately, when charging or under fire while approaching the enemy line but walk all in all other cases to limit fatigue.

Dark Green - Group Formations
Changes the formation of a group of units. I won't explain these all here as they are self explanatory but they are useful when making a certain formation such as a straight or double line due to the accuracy of the unit positioning.

Unit Special Abilities

Unit special skills are very important due to the advantages they confer and they can tip the battle in your favour if used correctly. They are explained below.

Phalanx Formation
Can be used by most spearmen. The unit forms a wall of spears which is extremely strong from the front but weak from the flank or rears. When in use the unit cannot run, which makes charging impossible. The phalanx confers a bonus when fighting cavalry from the front, so don't charge it head on with cavalry, especially not with your general. Keep units out of phalanx when moving to the enemy for the extra speed and mobility, but always attack with it activated.

A unit in the phalanx fighting cavalry. A poor general is about to die.

Fire Missiles
Can be used by all foot archers. Missiles with fire are less accurate but lower enemy morale. Fire missiles also have a chance of igniting siege equipment. Definitely use fire against elephants, chariots and siege equipment, and if facing poor troops to lower their moral. Other than that, use normal missiles.

Rally Troops
Can only be used by your general and increases the chance of nearby units rallying, but it has a cool down period so don't use it too often. It also gives all nearby units a moral boost which is handy to use when you cannot afford your line to break. Another handy feature is that when the general uses this he stops for a moment to perform an animation which places him at the back of his bodyguards. This is useful because it means that when he attacks an unit he won't die on the initial impact of the charge. General units with another effect can't use the rally function because only one special ability is allowed. Use it when an important unit breaks for the extra chance of a rally or to increase the morale of a wavering line.

I think this is the best unit ability in the game. Nearly all barbarian units can use it, and after it's used for about 10 seconds, the unit gains around +10 attack and a moral boost for 30 seconds after use (according to the forums). Definitely use this before attacking, and remember that it stacks with charge bonuses, field bonuses etc for massive combat advantages.

Warcry (Berserkers)
The berserker warcry deserves special mention, because as well as providing the benefits of a normal warcry it also puts them into rage mode, which can be seen by their unit banner turning red. This basically means they can't rout but will continuously attack the closest enemy unit that isn't routing. One tactic is to use the warcry from the start and let them wreak havoc and distract the enemy, but I prefer to manually move them to a target and then use it to ensure they hit the unit I want them too.

Can be used by most post Marian Roman units. It makes the unit nearly invincible to missiles from all sides except for the rear, but it also tires them quickly. It also gives them a combat and movement penalty so don't attack with this formation. Only use it when either using the unit as a missile screen or against massively missile armies as otherwise they will tire too quickly and become easy combat targets. Also, the AI has a tendency to activate it when anything shoots at a unit with it, so it is possible to lure them into testudo, tire them and then charge and destroy the unit in one strike.

Kill Elephants
This ability can only be used by elephant units running amok and as the name suggests it kills the elephants. After a unit runs amok, don't kill the elephants right away. Instead, try to hold it off as long as possible, because when you use this effect the entire unit dies, even if at full strength. Sometimes, you even get lucky and have the elephants plough through the enemy. However, if they are going straight for your general, then it's probably better to kill them off.

An elephant unit running amok. I wouldn't kill off this one because there's no chance it will damage your forces, and it can then fight again.

Cantabrian Circle
This can only be used by mounted missile units. When they are ordered to attack a unit with missiles, the unit will run in a circle and one by one the separate soldiers will shoot missiles at the target unit until they either run out of missiles or flee from the advancing enemy. Definitely use this if the unit is under fire because it makes them a hard target, but otherwise don't use it as it tires the unit out.

This ability can only be used by cavalry units which do not have any other ability. It puts the unit into a triangle formation which is meant to split the charged unit into two parts. I personally don't use this because even if the unit is split it now surrounds your cavalry which isn't good. I also find it hard to manoeuvre because of how the unit always stays in that formation even when turning. In short if you can find a way to use it efficiently then use it, but other than that don't waste time on it.

That's it. Hopefully you now understand what each unit option does and how to use them to your advantage.