Alternate Seleucid Empire Opening Moves Guide

by Edorix the Ex-Angel, Legendary Warrior of the Pretani


The Seleucids are one of the more challenging factions during the early stages of the game. Your empire is over-extended, and there is not a single friend you can trust within hundreds of miles; not one nation that does not want to steal, or steal back, the lands you inherited from Seleukos and Alexandros. And so, o stratege, if you wish to champion Hellenism, you are going to need all the help you can get.

There are plenty of sources of advice on how best to run your empire in the first few turns of your reign, but not all of them can be trusted. Some derive from the minds of witless fools after all - take nothing on trust; remember, a Seleucid basileus can afford to trust nobody. I do not suggest for one minute that you should take this strategy at face value either, oh no! I am no witless fool, o stratege, but circumstances are always different, and some things I advise may not be appropriate to your situation. Harken to what I have to say, but use your own judgment also. And so, without further ado...

In your first turn as reigning basileus over the Seleucid empire, take a look at your lands. Your empire is great, stretching across most of Asia - but it is also clearly weak. To the North lies Armenia, a poor, small kingdom, but one which is armed with steadfast spearmen and deadly horse-archers, who could very easily threaten you if it comes to war. To your Northwest lies Pontus; another small kingdom, although this one less poor, and even more dangerous; they have the curious ability to draw on a seemingly unlimited pool of manpower to train more soldiers, mostly, again, tough spearmen, but supported by deadly chariots and heavy cavalry. This is a nasty foe, o stratege. To your East lies Parthia, whose strength lies in their brilliant cavalry, horse-archers and cataphracts, who combined will easily crush any infantry-base opponent. And finally, to your South, lies the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. This Kingdom is your nemesis, o stratege; they have tough phalanx spearmen and axemen, supported by a ridiculous number of missile troops and more deadly chariots. And do you know what, o basileu? All these kingdoms despise Hellenism in all its forms. They all want you dead, and no amount of gold will dissuade them.

On that cheerful note, let us begin. In your first turn, you need to begin building up the cities of your empire in order to mount their defense. You do have a few advantages: you can train infantry capable of defending your empire against almost all foes from the basic small town-level barracks: militia hoplites. These are not fantastic troops in and of themselves, o stratege, as you must know, but they hold many advantages. There are two tactics in particular which will allow you to maximise their potential: the V-phalanx will make you invincible in the defense of your towns and large towns, and the long line in the sand will give you a decisive advantage in the open. Your priority then should be the ability to train this unit at all of your cities. Some of them already can, but not Seleucia, Tarsus or Hatra.

That is, if you like, a tactical priority. Your first strategic priority is to improve your position. To this end, in your first turn, you have two invasions to begin: the first, is to invade Phoenicia; the second, is to invade Phrygia. You can easily take both of these fast-growing large towns in Turn 3, and they will pay for your trouble over and again. To take Pergamum (Phrygia), send your governor in Sardis along with those two units of militia hoplites towards it immediately.

Before you attack Sidon (Phoenicia), send your diplomat Attalus due South, and make a trade agreement with Egypt. You can get them to pay at least 600 talents (or, as the Romans call them, denarii) for your map information after you have agreed trade rights, and this is useful; although you have a rich empire which will soon be making you a great deal of silver, you start out very short of cash.

You now have enough to commission all the buildings I will recommend, and you also know where Sidon is. To attack it, send Demetrius from Damascus with the militia hoplites and peltasts. Send your three units of militia cavalry and two more of hoplites down from Antioch to join him. You can send the peltasts too if you wish, but they are fairly useless, you won't need them, and Antioch will need as much garrison duty as you can give it to keep it paying its taxes.

You have two units of peasants in Tarsus and Hatra each; disband them both. This will help the two towns to grow, and save 400dn (although actually more than that as the disbanded peasants will now be paying taxes). You also have a unit of peltasts in Seleucid which you don't need, and are costing 170 dn; disband them too, they are no use whatsoever against Parthia's slingers and horse-archers. Fianlly, send your spy Philip East to infiltrate the Parthian city of Susa. This will be your first target in the East.

The buildings you should add to the construction queue and units you should recruit in each city are as follows:

Antioch - militia barracks, militia hoplites. The militia barracks are a means to an end; once you have them, I personally don't bother recruiting many levy pikemen as militia hoplites are effectively just as useful - against Egypt, that is, because of their missile units; levy pikemen have no defence. However, you have to construct militia barracks in order to construct city barracks in order to train phalanx pikemen, which will be the backbone of your armies throughout the entire game and are extremely tough. (You can, if you wish, build a practise range instead of militia barracks; again a means to an end, in order to train archers from an archery range. It depends on your preference, but personally I rely more on my infantry.)

Damascus - militia hoplites. You will need lots of troops in this area for many many years yet.

Tarsus/Hatra - wooden palisade. If you can afford it, build barracks instead; I am willing to bet you won't be attacked in your first three or four turns, but you will need as many militia hoplites as you can get when you are.

Sardis - there is nothing pressing which you need to build, as you can already train militia hoplites and you will very soon have Pergamum. If you can afford militia hoplites, go ahead.

Seleucia - barracks. If you can afford it, stables might be a better choice. If you can't, they're the next building on the list anyway, so don't worry.

Crank all the taxes up to Very High. For now, you should be able to get away with it. That's all for Turn 1.

You will have a lot more money with which to start Turn 2, which is always nice. I had a "suitable husband" notice right at the start as well, betrothed to Dione, which was also nice. He turned up in Antioch, and I sent him on his way to Hatra. Hatra will have to withstand the full force of Armenia by itself for about twenty years at least.

Your two invading armies are now in range to lay siege to Pergamum and Sidon. You will notice that Pergamum is garrisoned by exactly the same units as you are attacking it with, and the Greeks have probably thrown up a hasty palisade at your approach. Fortunately for you, you have enough cash to hire a few mercenaries before you lay siege. I wouldn't bother with the Rhodian slingers and mercenary peltasts; they are not worth your money for this city assault. However, the Cretan archers and mercenary hoplites can earn their pay many times over. Hire them, besiege Pergamum, and build a ram. (If they haven't built a wall, you can assault straight away and take the city; however, except on easy difficulty, they do tend to build a wall. Details on how best to assault will therefore be given below, in Turn 3.)

Demetrius can also now besiege Sidon. You have enough build points for two rams. You will probably want to hire those mercenaries next turn, but you can clearly win without them and there is no need to add their cost to your army upkeep yet. Send your diplomat Attalus on South to do what limited reconnaissance he can; the Egyptians won't have got any reinforcements ready yet however. See if you can find your way to Jerusalem, and leave him there to keep a general eye on things.

If any of your cities have dangerously low public order this turn, they have probably been infiltrated by spies. Train a unit of peasants, you can always disband them next turn.

Antioch - militia hoplites.

Damascus - trader (optional; anything really), militia hoplites.

Tarsus/Hatra - barracks (if you didn't start them last turn)

Seleucia - peasants (optional; your entire army is going to move out in a few turns, so you will need some sort of garrison left behind, and Seleucia's public order can be a nightmare thanks to that Parthian spy)

Sardis - shrine to Hephaestus (again, optional; anything really), militia hoplites (also optional, but these will be handy as Sardis will be besieged by Pontus several times unless you blitzkrieg Asia Minor, of which more below)

You should end turn with quite a lot of cash left.

During the Greeks' turn, they attacked my fleet under Admiral Euthydemus, destroyed it, pursued it, and attacked again, and decimated it again. Don't worry about it though, they might have been handy but you don't really need them. Next turn I sent them to Antioch, which was closer, to retrain.

At the beginning of Turn 3, you have two important additions to make to your Empire: Pergamum and Sidon. Pergamum will fall easily; you can effectively wipe out one of their militia hoplite units before you even batter down the gates thanks to your Cretans. After that, march your militia hoplites up the street towards the square. The Greek family member is easily baited into charging headlong into their spears (even if he doesn't do it straight away of his own accord).

They now have basically one unit of militia hoplites left against your entire army. I pinned them with my own remaining hoplites, and cycle-charged them from behind with my own family member (careful not to let him die though, you'll need him - in one of my test runs I accidentally left him in melee for too long and lost him). If you don't wish to fight the battle yourself, you can always auto-resolve and win, but I prefer to conserve my precious mercenaries. Either way, Pergamum should fall with little effort.

Sidon can be trickier. The garrison almost invariably consists of two units of Egyptian peltasts and two units of Nubian spearmen (or occasionally three). Your militia cavalry is essentially useless. If you assault directly, you will usually lose; if you hire the camel-rider and Eastern mercenaries and auto-resolve, you will probably win (Eastern infantry/mercenaries get a big and unfair advantage when the AI calculates auto-resolved battles! Remember this). I found it easier to fight the battle myself.

Use your rams to destroy the gates and the neighbouring section of wall. Don't rush into anything! There is probably one unit of Nubians and one of peltasts on the other side. The peltasts may as well not be there, run them down with camels, general or Eastern infantry, whatever you like, while your militia hoplites enter by the gates to engage the Nubians. Once you're done with the peltasts, hit the Nubians from the other side with your other units, and mop up.

The other unit of Nubians tends to hide behind the buildings opposite the gates, but I sent my troops round both sides, prompting them into a strategic retreat to the square, but they were distracted by my general coming round the corner. I was delighted as they marched through a narrow alley to get him, at the end of which I engaged them from the front with my hoplites and Eastern infantry and hit them from the back with my cavalry.

Mop up the remaining peltasts; game, set and match to the Seleucid Empire.

You have now taken over two important large towns on both of your most important fronts, which are able to look after themselves comfortably. In my opinion, you should occupy both; there is no culture penalty in Pergamum, and Sidon is very close to the population required to upgrade it to a minor city, so it would be a shame to set it back a dozen-odd turns. Plus, you may need all that manpower when it comes to churning out large numbers of large units - phalanx pikemen. Some of those settlements dry up remarkably fast.

At this stage, which buildings you choose and units you recruit is becoming more and more something you must judge, and I can't predict. I did this however:

Antioch - militia hoplites

Hatra - peasants (the barracks aren't finished, but public order was low because of a sizeable rebel army that popped up on the doorstep. I'm not too worried, as the family member and the militia hoplites already there can between them I think hold the city if necessary. The barracks will be finished next turn.)

Seleucia - stables, militia hoplites

Sardis - mines (worth the cash), militia hoplites (disband those peasants if you want)

Pergamum - retraining, militia hoplites, port (or roads, or whatever else really; depends on your preference. don't put off militia barracks for too long though)

Sidon - retraining, militia hoplites, militia barracks (we're getting close to 6000 inhabitants, remember)

End turn.

Turn 4 is the last turn I will take you through in any detail, because already at this stage there are too many variables.

Firstly, let's talk about the Parthian War. There hasn't been one yet, but there will be soon. A large force of horse-archers and slingers probably just set off South from Susa last turn, and this turn has gone out of range of your spy's intelligence. If this is the case, wait one more turn, then march on Susa. It will take your infantry turns to march there. While you could move some of the way this turn and then invade and besiege next turn, that would be no good, because remember that Parthia almost certainly have a spy in Seleucia too; they can see everything you do. It is better to wait for the Parthian army to be three turns South of Susa - that is, two turns out of sight - and then begin the invasion. That prevents them from arriving back in time. Once you take Susa, you can (and probably should) exterminate. It's already a minor city, and public order will be a nightmare if you don't. Note however that a Parthian army from Arsakia may well besiege Seleucia however, so be ready for that. Anyway, this turn, you should probably be doing nothing on that front. Patience is the key to victory here.

As for the Egyptian war, it is up to your judgment and the situation in-game. I would have been just about okay to move out of Sidon towards Jerusalem this turn, but I didn't; when in doubt, play safe, wait. Egypt is not to be underestimated. It is far easier to defend Sidon than Jerusalem at this stage as it is next door to your capital, where in a few turns you will be churning out phalanx pikemen. You have consolidated the Syrian region, now you have a little bit of breathing space. Don't overlook Cyprus! If you allow yourself too long a breather, the Egyptians have a nasty habit of bouncing back with renewed vigour, and that often involved three-pronged attacks upon Sidon from Cyprus, Palestine and Nabataea. Once you have Jerusalem, allow yourself a much longer breather. I like to build a stack of phalanx pikemen, scythed chariots and archers near Sidon and then ship them to Alexandria, leaving a full stack of mostly levy pikemen in Jerusalem; this around 255-250 BCE. Once Alexandria is besieged, head for Memphis with the army from Jerusalem so as not to weaken your new conquest. Then again, it's just mopping up.

Asia Minor is a different story. Here, you have two options. You can set out on the offensive again immediately, and go for Nicomedia followed by Ancyra, and then the Pontic homelands; or, you can wait, defend your gains in Western Anatolia, and build an army at Tarsus as well, before launching a two-pronged attack. The second method is more reliable; the Pontics shouldn't be able to beat you with your V-phalanx, and it allows you to take the initiative at your leisure instead of trying to pre-empt their rise to power. If you do take Nicomedia and Ancyra, remember, you will have to defend them, and they are only little towns, whose population will dry up fairly fast. Armenia is the conquest I tend to leave till last; once you have a half-stack of militia and a family member in Hatra, you can hold them off indefinitely. I tend to end up conquering them ten turns or so after I have finished with both Parthia and Pontus, striking from both directions. The conquest of Armenia almost takes care of itself once you initiate it.

That's all for the future though. For this turn, you have some sitting back and building up to do. Remember, that is the characteristic of success, especially in a Seleucid campaign; finding the balance between building up and striking fast.

Antioch - city barracks, (militia hoplites)

Hatra - militia hoplites

Tarsus - militia hoplites

Sidon - militia hoplites

Pergamum/Sardis - militia hoplites

That's what's most important. Everything else is entirely up to your judgment and your circumstances. End turn.

Turn 5, I have nothing but a few general tips.

- attack Susa. The Parthian army should be far enough away by now.

- attack Jerusalem... if you think you can. I do not advise it however. For the rest of your cities in the area, continue to build up, with the eventual aim of taking Jerusalem. Don't worry too much about snatching up those rebel towns, they are not worth a great deal and can be madly expensive to capture. Once you've got Jerusalem, point towards Egypt. Then you're invincible.

- build up Hatra and Tarsus until they have a respectable number of militia hoplites, then encourage them to grow. Also try and get a family member in each of them.

- in the West, if you are not playing blitzkrieg, your next targets should be Rhodes, and then Halicarnassus. I do not advise going for Crete, as you may find yourself in a war with Rome long before you're ready for it. I have found myself in that situation twice and enjoyed it immensely, but it is not newbie-friendly. Aim ultimately towards the subjugation of Pontus.

Aside from that, follow the general guidance in Turn 4, and you should be more than capable of rebuilding the empire of Alexander!

Good luck, o stratege!

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