Ruling the Western Mediterranean

Alternative Carthage Opening Moves

By Primus Julius

Partly because of the fact that it takes only three turns to get a navy from Rome to Carthage, the Carthaginians are usually one of the first factions to get destroyed or reduced to a single settlement. The first time I played, as the House of Julii, I had to destroy their last settlement on the Balearic Isles (Palma) to eliminate them completely. This guide ensures that you wonít fall before the might of Rome.

This guide was written based on playing the harder and easier difficulty levels. The instructions in this guide can be used on all difficulty levels and this guide mentions some points where the easier difficulty levels may have different things happen than the harder difficulty levels do. This guide also does not tell you exactly what to build or recruit (except in certain cases) to enhance game play freedom. Some players, particularly beginners, could follow this guide and lose because of Carthageís proximity to Rome. However, you need to either play at least a partial campaign to play as Carthage, or download a mod to make it playable, or edit descr_strat yourself, so I leave some building choices open to players.


  • To set up a comfortable economy in the Western Mediterranean.
  • To get a second foothold in Spain and control more of Africa.
  • To prepare for the evident invasion of the House of Scipii.

Step-by-Step Guide

Turn I

  • Build roads. If youíre confident in your economy-building abilities or want a bit more of a challenge, build the Cavalry Stables for elephants. Having elephants will win you more victories in the early campaign, but roads will get you more money. Keep in mind that the Cavalry Stables cost 2400 denarii, so you wonít be able to build structures in other towns.
  • Recruit either Iberian Infantry or Round Shield Cavalry to help with your coming conquest of Numidia and the rest of Northern Africa.
  • Carthage starts as one of the largest and most developed cities on the map, and is increasing in size rapidly enough so that you should be able to set taxes fairly high and still get 5%-6% growth rate.
  • Lilybaeum
  • By your fifth turn, you want roads, a port, and a shrine to Milqart in this settlement. Build them in whatever order you choose.
  • Recruit a diplomat because you want an alliance with either the Romans or the Greeks on Sicily.
  • Later in the campaign, if you manage to keep Lilybaeum, you can be raking in 2500+ denarii per turn from its sea and land trade. Put taxes to as high as is feasible.
  • Thapsus/Corduba
  • Build Wooden Palisades to protect these cities from attack. Spain and Gaul will both try for Corduba, and it will be nice to have a wall in Thapsus if the Numidians or later Egyptians attack (not likely, but itís worth the 400 denarii.
  • Recruit town militia in Corduba. In Thapsus, recruiting a garrison force, like peasants or town militia, will allow you next turn to move your cavalry and better infantry to help with conquering.
  • Thapsus isnít worth much, but it serves as another trade outlet and an alarm system in case invaders land further south. Once the Scipii landed southeast of Thapsus and took it in a surprise attack while I was attacking Messana and Numidia simultaneously. I lost Carthage soon after, crippling my empire. Once your economy is capable, put a half dozen light infantry, cavalry, and missile units here to help. If you take Lepcis Magna to the southeast, then split the garrison between it and Thapsus.
  • Palma/Caralis
  • Build whatever economical structure you like in Palma. Itís far enough away from everything that the AI wonít pay attention to it, and by the time it does, Carthage should belong to Rome and you would probably give up.
  • Caralis is a city that you can use to manipulate the Greeks. Build a barracks there to resist the Julii when they come. You will see how we will defend this settlement later in the guide.
  • Military Movements
  • I recommend moving the spy you have on Sicily to a vantage point where you can see the Syracusans and the Scipii. I find that if you move to one of the various points on the east coast of Sicily, you can see both cities.
  • Send unnecessary units from Thapsus to Carthage. Move Hanno's army on Sicily to the northeastern corner of your territory on Sicily, Sicilia Poeni. Build a watchtower there to help the spy watch the Romans. Repeat with the southeastern corner of the same map.
  • Move all of the biremes you start with (two near Carthage, one near Lilybaeum) to the north of Caralis. These will be intercepting and hopefully sinking Julii navies. Over time send them all the way north to the Julii harbor if necessary, destroying the Julii fleet there.
  • Move your family member in Palma to a spot on the island and recruit the Balearic slingers if you have the cash. These are the BEST slingers in the game, so get them whenever available. Write yourself a note to check every five or six years (10 or so turns) to see if you have any available for hire.
  • Move the general in Corduba, plus both of the Round Shield Cavalry there, to the northernmost tip of your territory. Build a watchtower there to spy on the Spanish and Gauls. Move back next turn when finished.

You should have spent around 4500 denarii, including the slingers, so your cash is running low. Turn up taxes to high or very high in all settlements, but make sure none of your settlements revolt. You will lose your cities when youíre good and ready, but hopefully never.

Turn II

You should have noticed some Greek and Roman movements on Sicily. Donít worry unless you are actually attacked. If the Romans attack you, youíre out of luck, because the Romans are coming before you are ready. If the Greeks attack you, all is not lost. But it will be harder to defend Caralis.

  • Build Sewers in Carthage. Later in the game, a plague strikes Carthage and Lilybaeum. You need to do everything you can to reduce the losses in that plague.
  • Recruit a bireme. This will transport Hanno and his elephants on Sicily to Caralis to defend it (once he completes the two watchtowers).
  • Move the forces from Thapsus the rest of the way into Carthage.
  • Lilybaeum
  • Build a port, roads, or a shrine to Milqart. Temples to Milqart increase trade income.
  • Move your diplomat towards the Greeks.
  • Have your spy perform a mission on something with a high chance of success to maybe gain him some free experience. There might be a Greek army nearby thatís fair game.
  • Thapsus/Corduba
  • Build roads or a port in each.
  • Turn taxes up a notch in Thapsus if feasible.
  • Recruit a unit of town militia in Corduba.
  • Military Movements
  • Finish building the watchtowers on Sicily with Hanno's army, and then move him and his elephants onto the navy nearby, while the rest of his army fortifies Lilybaeum.
  • Once you sink the Julii navy, one of your biremes should absorb all of the losses and set out to Palma to transport Balearic Slingers (the best slingers in the game) to Numidia. The rest of the biremes (the one with the most experience besides the Palma bireme (should blockade the Julii port for the time being. On the lower difficulty levels sinking single biremes that come out of this harbor shouldn't be a problem. If other Roman fleets attack you, they're wasting their time, don't worry about it.

In between the second and third turns you may be approached by a Greek diplomat. Get a trade agreement and an alliance, and get them to buy your map info for about 1000 denarii, more or less depending on the difficulty level. DO NOT GIVE THEM CARALIS NOW! You still have a garrison to move.

Turn III

  • The Time has come to control Numidia! Use Hasdrubal with the Numidian Cavalry, two Iberian Infantry, and two Round Shield Cavalry to proceed westward. You may see small Numidian armies en route. Ignore these as the force at Carthage is enough to handle them if they get closer.
  • Recruit a bireme to help with repelling Roman fleets.
  • Lilybaeum
  • Recruit some of the mercenaries here if you have the cash (after doing everything else mentioned).
  • Keep building the structures mentioned.
  • Caralis
  • Use your diplomat on Sicily to sell Caralis to the Greeks, or give it to them if they wonít pay for it. If they don't accept your lovely gift (this only happens on the higher difficulties) then you need to defend it without the help of rebel forces. Donít move the ships near Caralis or the town militia/peasant garrison yet, except the ships should try to sink Julii navies. Wait and see if Caralis revolts again.
  • If you completed roads this turn, build a port.
  • Corduba
  • Build a Shrine to Baal to keep this settlement from revolting. You will be almost evacuating it soon.
  • Recruit a unit of town militia.
  • Palma
  • The ship that was coming here should arrive this turn or possibly next turn. Whenever it comes, load all three units of Balearic Slingers onto it and send the ship due south. This will meet up with Hasdrubalís army coming from Carthage and attack the cities of Cirta and Tingi.
  • Continue building economic structures in Palma. A shrine to Milqart wouldnít go amiss either.
  • Military Movements
  • Move all forces on Sicily except your diplomat into Lilybaeum. Your diplomat should move towards the Romans now.
  • Attack Gaul or Spain using your army in Corduba. Adjust your taxes and take either the settlement to the east or north. Recruit the mercenaries if you wish.

In between the third and fourth turns, Rome and Greece may attack each other, Numidia may attack your invasion force, or Spain could turn up in your path near Corduba. If any of these events cripples your strategy, recruit new armies and try again. Try not to lose any of your settlements.

Turn IV

  • Build a shipwright to aid in your Roman-navy-sinking maneuvers.
  • Continue moving Hasdrubalís army westward.
  • Lilybaeum
  • Keep building economical structures to make it so you have roads, a port, and a shrine to Milqart at the beginning of your next turn.
  • Corduba/Thapsus
  • Build Land Clearance in Corduba if you can afford it. This generates quite a bit of income. If you finished a port in Thapsus this turn, build roads.
  • Continue to move your army toward its destination.
  • Caralis
  • Caralis may have revolted back into your hands. Now you have a choice. You can send all of the spawned units to the rest of your cities using navies to protect them, but they are just peasants and town militia, so they rout easily. The second choice is to use the new garrison force to defend it. There should be a dozen units that have spawned there on the easier difficulty levels, and they could be upgraded if youíre on the easiest. Also, there are several other advantages to trying to keep Caralis.
  • The first advantage is that it costs you almost nothing. At this stage your economy can afford to put out the extra 1000 denarii to keep around a half-stack army. You would have to recruit those town militia and peasants yourself, which would be time-consuming and costly, like about another 1500-2000 denarii.
  • The second advantage is that you can probably make up that amount, or at least some of it, by building economical structures to increase the trade income of the city.
  • If you choose to keep Caralis for the income, build something there, like a wooden palisade, first, to keep out invaders. Then next turn start in on the economic structures.
  • If you choose to spread the armies to your other cities, do so with the navies you have there. Your Palma-bound navy may be just a little bit away, so load troops for Corduba and Palma on the same navy, and use that navy to drop off troops on the Palma-bound navy. Troops for Carthage, Thapsus, and Lilybaeum can be on the same ship as they are pretty much on the same path.
  • Military Movements
  • If you choose not to keep Caralis, use your biremes to transport the troops around and use your diplomat on Sicily to give it back to the Greeks. If the Greeks won't accept it, make sure you don't have any military units on the island or in the town, and the biremes are a little bit away from the island, and try again. If the Greeks still won't take it, you can try to give it to the Scipii in exchange for an alliance/trade rights/both. The settlement may or may not revolt again, but if it does, let it revolt to the rebels.
  • If you choose to keep Caralis, move Hanno on the biremes into the town to help defend it. His command stars will pay off if the battle joins there.

Turn V

  • Build a military structure in Lilybaeum, like a practice range or stables. This will help you defend your settlement from the Romans when the time comes.
  • Corduba/Thapsus
  • Build mines if you can afford it in Corduba, and a military structure in Thapsus, like a practice range or stables.
  • Caralis
  • Build economic structures if you still keep it.
  • Military Movements
  • If youíve been moving in the right directions, you should be able to siege or assault Cirta and Carthago Nova, in Numidia and Spain, respectively. Have your Balearic slingers land just north of Cirta to join your army next turn for the assault.

Well, there you have it. You have built a growing economy in the Mediterranean Sea, started building military buildings in Sicily and Africa, and all but gained a territory in Spain and Africa. Between turns Numidia may sally out and attack your army besieging Cirta, so destroy them. Be sure to lead the battle yourself, as Numidia starts out with a great general, about 8-9 stars if defending, which he is. Your Balearic slingers can join up with your army when you march westwards again (the next settlement is all the way to the west, near the Strait of Gibraltar). You should be able to beat the Spanish in Carthago Nova, and if you're proficient at it, fight the battle yourself to reduce casualties.

From this point you can go in many directions. I suggest for the time being holding on to Corduba and Carthago Nova because Spain and Gaul will overwhelm you if you try to control the whole Iberian Peninsula. As for Numidia, I suggest taking Tingi near the Strait of Gibraltar because it is far out of the way, and it also connects you to the Iberian Peninsula with a short boat ride. This way you can either expand south and later east towards Egypt, or you can send your Numidian army north into Spain to help fortify your position or eliminate the Spaniards.

You can use your diplomat on Sicily to try to get an alliance with the Romans until they take Syracuse, but eventually they will siege Lilybaeum and attack Carthage. Your expansion should stop at this point while you drive back and conquer the Scipii in Messana on Sicily. Your diplomat can then take a 4 turn boat ride to the Greeks or Seleucids, or possibly the Scythians up north or the Germans/Britons in the other direction.

Either way, I hope that you got good advice from this guide, that you weren't eliminated, and you have a good idea of where to go next.