A Furious Defence

By D Furius Venator

Congratulations, you have made a wise decision. You have chosen to play as the West Roman Empire and that is the most interesting faction in the game. But it probably doesn't seem like a wise decision. You can't pay for all your troops and half your cities are in revolt. It looks like an ever increasing spiral of debt and hence an ever dwindling number of troops. But in need not be so. Here is how it's done; this is how the West was won!

Note that this is a sportsman's guide. There will be no 'cheating' here. So no using peasants as garrisons or destroying buildings, except temples to convert religion, in Roman settlements (recently conquered barbarian settlements are a different matter and their improvements are fair game for destruction if done on the turn of capture).

General rules (with no apologies whatsoever to Monty Python, they knew their ideas would be shamelessly plagiarised):

  • Rule 1: Don't panic.
  • Rule 2: Never auto manage cities. You must keep a tight rein on spending.
  • Rule 3: Don't panic.
  • Rule 4:Always exterminate the populations of cities you capture or recapture. This maximises short-term income, which is vital for investment in buildings to secure long-term stability and profits.
  • Rule 5: Don't panic.
  • Rule 6: There is NO rule 6.
  • Rule 7: Don't panic.
  • Rule 8: Don't engage in diplomatic discourse with the ERE, they'll simply cancel their alliance with you and you don't want that yet.

That concludes the general rules for this strategy guide...

Your goals are simple. Optimise economy and stability. Foment revolt. Hold on to key provinces (or be in a position to retake them swiftly). Optimise your leadership.

Turn One

I'll do this city by city. It's important that things aren't missed. Even apparently trivial actions now can have long term consequences.

Rome: Disband both foederati cavalry units, the bucellarii and the priests. Make a mental note never to recruit any of these troop types again unless you have absolutely no option. They're not worth their pay. Take the five comitatenses and move them down the road toward Tarentum (they're actually headed for Salona but this is the fast way there). Now move Valentinianus to Ravenna. Set tax rate to low. Rome is now stabilised.

Ravenna: Disband the cavalry. Swap Aulus' drunken uncle for Valentinianus' elder senator. Move Valentinianus west of the city (he only just gets outside). Set the tax rate to low. Ravenna is now stabilised.

Tarentum: Move Leontius and his foederati infantry and stack them with the comitatenses from Rome. While we're near it, move the fleet that's to their NE and put it directly west of Salona in the large bay that lies roughly SE of where Leontius and his men now are. Set the tax rate to low. Disband the bucellarii.

Syracuse: Take the three comitatenses and move them as far west as you can. They will eventually be going to Carthage. Set the tax rate to low to stabilise the city.

Caralis: Set the tax rate to high (every little helps...). Now go to the family tree and make Decimus your faction heir. He's a clean-cut lad and just the sort of chap to be running an empire. This reduces Leontius' loyalty but he's still reliable. Now look at the fleet to the NE (to the west of Rome). Take one of the two stacked fleets and move it as close to Caralis as it will go. It's going to take Decimus to Rome. Take the other and move it toward the western tip of Sicily. It's going to take the comitatenses from Sicily to Carthage.

Carthage: Move Appius out of town to the port. Set tax rate to low. Notice how Carthage suddenly improves... Make a mental note to ensure that Appius is never a governor, despite his high influence.

Lepcis Magna: Move Titus toward Carthage. Destroy the pagan shrine and build a Christian one Set tax rate to low, this stabilises the city. Bring the nearby ships to port and decommission them.

Corduba: Take Servius and move him along the road toward Carthago Nova. Disband the archers. The city will revolt soon. Relax. Better sooner than later. Take the nearby fleet and move it to near Carthago Nova, just east is fine but not in the port.

Salamantica: Take Marcellus and move him roughly ESE (he's heading for the road between Carthago Nova and Tarraco. Disband the foederati. Yes, this city's going to rebel too.

Carthago Nova: disband the cavalry. Take Publius and his remaining troops and move them as a stack toward Tarraco. Destroy the temple and build a Christian shrine. Yup, this one too, slightly disturbing isn't it? Remember the rules though.

Tarraco: Disband the cavalry. Take Herius and his men and combine them with Publius. There is a fleet to the west. Bring it to port and disband it.

Arles: Disband the cavalry. Move Oppius east along the road. He's headed for the Balkans. Arles is now stable once taxes are set to low.

Massila: Disband the cavalry. Move Cassius just outside of town. Set taxes to low. Income increases (but keep him handy).

Burdigala: Disband all cavalry. Set tax rate to low. We might be able to hang on to this one. Move the nearby fleet north. It's going toward Britain.

Avaricum: You guessed it, disband cavalry. Move the limitanei and the archers toward Burdigala, they make it to nearly the bridge. Take Cnaeus from Burdigala and stack him with these troops. Now take the comitatenses and put them on the bridge east of the city. There is a chap called Marcus east of them, move him, and his men toward their position. You'll notice also a diplomat to the east of Marcus. Send him toward Vicus Franki (irritatingly he can't quite get there this turn).

Augusta Vindelicorum: Send Gratianus and two limitanei to Mediolanium. Set taxes to low.

Mediolanium: Disband peasants and cavalry. Set taxes to low.

Augusta Treverorum: Move Caius toward Samarobriva. Set taxes to low. Disband peasants.

Colonia Agrippina: Stack Nero with Caius. Taxes to low.

Samarobriva: Set taxes to low.

Londinium: There is a fleet nearby. Move it to the Gallic coast, put the assassin Felix on board. Move the fleet as close to Londinium as possible. Leave it there. Set Felix on the road north to Eboracum. Taxes to high.

Eboracum: Move Placus and the Sarmatians out of town. Send the comitatenses to Londinium.

Carnuntum: Disband the cavalry. Move the foederati toward Italy. You'll lose this one too...

Aquincum: Disband the priests and foederati cavalry. Send Spurius and the rest of the garrison south toward Salona. There is a diplomat nearby, send him toward Campus Iazyges.

Salona: Disband the cavalry. Taxes to low.

Now go back through all your ungoverned cities and check that the auto manager is not switched on. This is vital. You should have enough gold in the kitty to build a port in Caralis.

Take a deep breath and press the 'end turn' icon.

Turn Two

Random factors now come into play, hence advice can be less specific. I'll take it city by city again but in a different order.

Caralis: Move Decimus to the fleet that lies off the coast. Set tax to low. Send him toward Rome. The fleet that was headed for Sicily should reach the western tip of the island.

Sicily: The three comitatenses should board ship. Taxes can be raised.

Tarentum: Leontius and his army should board ship and occupy Salona.

Salona: Build a mine. Salona will become an economic powerhouse later on, this lays the groundwork.

Aquincum: Move Spurius and his men toward Salona. The Goths are in Campus Iazyges. Your diplomat should secure trade rights. Then he should sell map information. You should get about 2500 gold for this. Head him east toward the Sarmatians.

Carnutum: Send the foederati toward Ravenna.

Mediolanium: Send Oppius to the road junction near Ravenna's port. Build a port.

Ravenna: Stack Valentinianus (unless he died) with Oppius. Give Oppius the historian.

Massilia: Build a port.

Arles: Build a mine. Queue up a port.

Burdigala: Move Cnaeus and his troops into the city. This restores order. Keep the fleet moving toward Britain. Build a shrine to Mithras, queue a port.

Avaricum: Stack Marcus with the group of comitatenses on the bridge.

Augusta Treverorum: You have a diplomat near Vicus Franki. He's to get trade rights, then sell map information. He should get 2000 in gold. Now head him toward the Saxons.

Colonia Agrippina: Build a port.

Samarobriva: Move Nero and Caius toward Marcus.

Londinium: Move Felix north. He's hopefully going to wreak havoc in the ranks of the Celts. Put the comitatenses on the ships and send them to Gaul to hook up with Marcus (eventually).

Salamantica: Keep Marcellus headed toward the coast.

Tarraco: Move the armies of Herius and Publius, though not those gentlemen themselves, into Tarraco. They should move south to very near Carthago Nova. Build a trader. Set taxes to low, Do any repairs necessary.

Carthago Nova: Stack Servius with Herius and Publius. Give him Publius' three good retainers. Then put him on the nearby ship. It should have some movement left and the sooner Servius reaches Carthage the better. So get him started on his way.

Syracuse: Lower tax rate to keep order if necessary. Build a temple.

Carthage: Build land clearance.

Lepcis Magna: Keep Titus moving toward Carthage.

You don't need to do anything with your other cities. Only repair riot damaged building in cities that are blue or better (or if you're confident that such action will turn a city from red to blue). Any spare money, skip ahead and queue up mines and ports in your 'good' cities.

If there are any rebels near to one of your generals and they offer an easy target (i.e. peasants) then mob them up. Otherwise consider very carefully before risking a general. Even the bad ones are providing you with high quality troops.

Another deep breath and hit the turn button.

Turn Three

Lots of revolts! The key now is the quick and efficient recovery of key cities.

Salona: Get Spurius into town.

Mediolanium: Move Valentinianus (if the old lunatic's still alive) and Oppius toward Salona.

Carthago Nova: Get the fleet carrying Servius toward Carthage.

Tarraco: Move the four units of foederati toward Carthago Nova. Hook Herius up with Marcellus. Herius get Marcellus' siege engineer, Marcellus gets Herius' herald. Publius and the foederati should take up position on the bridge.

Avaricum: Nero and Caius join with Marcus. Nero gives Marcus the office of magister Peditum and Caius his other retainers. Nero now has low loyalty and best remove from major commands. Send him toward the Alemanni border. Marcus and Caius should besiege Avaricum, building four towers.

Turn Four

You may turn a small profit. If so build ports, traders and mines.

Salona: Destroy the temple and build a Christian shrine. Leaving only the limitanei and archers in the city, move the other troops, and Leontius and Spurius, and hook them up with Oppius. Valentinianus (if alive) should be kept separate from any stacks and out of your pagan provinces.

Tarraco: Move Marcellus to the city. Set tax as high as you can and still keep order.

Carthago Nova: Herius and Publius should besiege this town with their foederati.

Eboracum: Send Felix the assassin against the Celts. If he dies, it's sad but he chose the job. If he's successful he can rapidly become a real thorn in their side and an asset for the defence of the west. Either way, put him to work.

Rome: Get Decimus into the city. Get the tax rate to high.

Carthage: Get the comitatenses into the city. Put Titus and Appius on the ships and send them towards Spain.

The Future

Avaricum should fall to assault on turn five, Carthago Nova on turn six. If you eliminate the populations you'll get a massive influx of cash. Ports, mines and traders / markets are vital. Consider not upgrading cities like Samarobriva, which will rebel soon anyway.

By turn seven or eight, your income should be healthy and that old idiot Valentinianus dead of old age. It's important to keep your key generals and administrators loyal. The generals are Placus, Marcus and Oppius. Marcellus is the only administrator who may become disgruntled. A couple of tasty offices will keep him sweet.

Try to optimise offices/retainers as much as possible.

Fortify the Rhine (shades of Maximus in the woods 'Hold the Rhine! Hold the Rhine!'). When money allows put forts on the west bank behind the crossing points. This slows the barbarians down.

Do the same when you can with the Illyrian border and the alpine frontier of Italy. Forts are pricey but they'll buy you time (and time is money earned through income) when the hordes hit.

Towns will rebel from time to time. Try and anticipate this and move the garrison out smartly before hand. You want a force nearby to retake it as swiftly as possible (sometimes though the smart thing is to starve them out).

You're aiming to have an Army of Britain, ideally Sarmatian horse archers under Placus; an Army of the Rhine under Marcus, ideally all infantry bar supporting generals; an Eastern Field Force under Oppius (good mix of forces), and smaller armies for suppressing rebellions / rebels under Nero, Herius and Spurius. You'll also have an African Garrison in Carthage under Servius. Use it defensively; it's a long time before you can sensibly take on the Berbers.

If a minor city rebels then sometimes if you leave it alone, it will spontaneously come back to you. Lepcis Magna does this often if the Berbers grab it.

Goodnight and good luck.