Wanderlust: The Art Of Mass Migration

By Sassenach

In my opinion, the weakest element of RTW lies in the campaign strategy. Put simply, it isn’t hard enough. Having played the game for a few months I found that the only way to get any kind of a real challenge out of the campaign was to play Numidia on vh/vh or impose arbitrary rules on myself like refusing to sell map information, always honouring alliances or deliberately holding back from attacking to allow the other factions to develop. Ultimately this detracts from the gameplay. In an attempt to spice up the campaign game a bit I’ve been experimenting with a wholly different approach that fundamentally changes the overall campaign – mass migration strategies.

The aim of a mass migration strategy is to set out from the very beginning to transport a particular faction to a totally different part of the map, with different resources, different enemies, different tactical imperatives – basically a different game. Migrations can be used to give you a strategic advantage. The first time I ever tried one was when I moved the Scythians to Sicily, moving from the poorest territories on the periphery of the map to some of the richest, right at the heart of the action. Usually though, starting a mass migration is not going to make the game any easier for you. It’s a high risk-high reward strategy that involves you burning all your bridges, if you make one little mistake it can be game over. What’s more, those factions that are in the best position early on to successfully migrate are generally those who have the least to gain from it. Why leave Egypt or Macedon to head for new pastures unless for the fun of it?

The following is my guide to the best way to succeed in the travel business.


The first 10 turns are absolutely crucial to the success or failure of any migration strategy. There are two considerations that should outweigh everything else you do, time and money. The two are interlinked, but I’d say that time is the most significant. Basically, if you’re not already well under way towards your objective by turn 10 it’s probably too late. You may be tempted to wait a while, build up a really big army with some better units than you started with and then set sail. This is a big mistake, as I will explain later.

Every single action you take in the first few turns should be tailored toward the migration. Here are a few rules of thumb:

Building construction:

The only new buildings you should ever even consider building are a port, if you do not already have one, and basic stockades around undefended settlements. The reasons for this policy should be obvious, you will be abandoning your original provinces at the earliest opportunity, so any money you spend on them will be money that you might as well just give to whoever will ultimately inherit them. Obviously you will need a port, because you will be transporting your people by ship. The reason I build basic walls is mainly just to delay the enemy when they inevitably move in to take over my old provinces. The extra few turns worth of revenue you will get from these provinces by forcing the enemy to lay siege means that they effectively pay for themselves.

Troop recruitment:

While I can’t emphasise enough the need for speed, you will probably need to raise a few new units before you set off. You will need to leave a few peasants behind to enable you to move every single halfway decent unit you possess. Also, as it will take a few turns to assemble all your armies in the same place, you will have a small window of opportunity to construct some decent units. The key here is that you should only build them in provinces that are close to the boats, otherwise, it will double the time taken to assemble your forces. The only caveat I would add to this is the need to build more than one ship. I like to send a bit of a flotilla, because you don’t want to find your entire army sent to the bottom by a pirate ship.

The absolute worst thing you can do is build a better barracks or stables at the start of your turn, wait till it is built and then wait another few turns while you train better troops there. The reasons for this are manifold. Firstly, for every one of those units you train there will be a new unit being produced in the target region in every single province. Effectively this means that the time taken to build these troops isn’t really helping you when they eventually arrive at their destination. Secondly, these better buildings are going to cost you money that you will never get the full benefit from. Thirdly, as you are not building any economic improvements your economy is going to go downhill fast if you burden it with a huge army to maintain. It will take a while to sail to your destination, if you carry too many troops you will arrive with a colossal debt that you won’t be able to get rid of by exterminating the cities you capture. This means you can’t retrain your troops, so the extra troops you bring are not really a net gain in available forces.


As I said, money has to be a massive consideration. I’ve attempted a lot of migrations and I think there’s only two occasions when I’ve managed to arrive at my destination with any money in the bank. When you make your plans you have to assume that you will be in debt when you arrive. This is not necessarily too much of a problem, but it is essential that the debt is not too large. You will probably have lost half of your original settlements by the time you get to where you’re going. You are going to be bleeding cash at an alarming rate at this point. If you can’t manage to get back in the black pretty quickly your troops will not get retrained, you won’t be able to build your own temples to help keep order and you’ll find that it is impossible to advance far enough to establish a functioning empire. I’ll deal with what to do about this problem a little later, but in the early stages you will want to stockpile as much cash as you can. This means taxing your people as much as possible, selling maps and alliances to your neighbours and spending nothing unless you absolutely have to. Saving up is not easy, as you will discover, but it is imperative to keep your finances under control as far as you can.

Setting Sail

So you’ve assembled all of your forces, now what? Well, first you assess your strength to see if there’s anything more you need, and there will be. Your army will likely contain about four family members, a bit of light cavalry, several units of bottom-end infantry and maybe a couple of later game units that you started with. It’s doubtful this will even add up to a full flag army. This is when you start hiring mercenaries. Mercenaries are going to serve as your elite troops during the initial phase of the operation. Hire all the mercenaries you can that don’t simply replicate what you already have and then hit the boats and sail to Crete. This can obviously be ignored if you’re the Britons or something, but you’ll probably find that whatever faction you are and wherever you’re heading, Crete will be roughly halfway there. This is because you will more than likely be travelling east-west or west-east, the aim after all being to move a long way from your starting position.

I always like to sail via Crete for three reasons: it guarantees that you won’t lose all your provinces to invaders before you get a chance to conquer new ones, it eventually turns into a money-making machine and it is the best source of mercenaries in the game. You will be able to buff up your force with mercenary hoplites, rhodian slingers, thracian mercs and of course those wonderful cretan archers. I usually attempt to hit Crete around turn 5-6. If it looks like it will take any longer than that then I will send out a small advance party to take the place and wait for the rest of my troops to catch up. You will have to be able to afford to hire the mercenaries for the plan to succeed so you need to arrive before the money runs out.

Relying on mercenaries rather than home-grown troops in the initial invasion may seem crazy but it is actually very effective. The chances are that the mercenaries you hire will be much higher quality than those troops you can train yourself in the first few turns. More importantly, they will also be better than the early game troops available to whoever your intended victim is. This is why I prefer to do it this way. If you wait until you have sufficient quality troops of your own you will also be facing better troops, and probably in much greater numbers than you can deploy. If you move quickly and beef up your army with mercenaries you can catch your target while he is still using dross, giving you a potentially decisive advantage.

By the time everybody is assembled on Crete your original provinces will most likely be falling to invaders and your money will be disappearing into a black hole of nothingness. Don’t panic. You will have an army that can beat anybody and there are lots of juicy targets in the area. From here, all the richest provinces in the game are no more than about four turns sailing away. Thus begins phase three, the invasion itself.

Journey’s End

Obviously the tactics you employ in this, the most important phase of the whole operation will depend upon your troop composition and the target area. It isn’t really possible to give a comprehensive guide to go about it but I have noticed a few key considerations that should shape your tactics if you want to achieve maximum success.

Go for the jugular:

You will need to head straight for the biggest and best cities, attack them quickly and take them out as soon as possible. If you can capture the enemy capital early on he will lose his ability to train his best units while you will gain the ability to train yours.

Don’t dawdle:

As soon as you have captured one city your army should be on the march to capture the next. Your enemy will have a lot more money and men than you do. If you delay in order to consolidate you will surely be overwhelmed. Only pause to retrain your troops (if you can afford it).

Conserve your troops:

Those of you who prefer the “meat grinder” style of battle will struggle to cope with a migration strategy. As I have said, you will likely not be able to afford to retrain your troops at first and you will be limited to those you brought with you. One pyhrric victory that costs you half your men could effectively prevent you from conquering enough cities to build a functioning economy. If this happens you are doomed. This is where those mercenary missile troops come in. If you move quickly enough you will probably find that the bulk of the troops you have to face are of the basic infantry variety. Cretan archers and rhodian slingers will make mincemeat of them before your cavalry arrives to wipe them out. I try not to commit my infantry to the fray unless I have to.

Another important consideration of this is picking and choosing your battles carefully. Wherever possible I like to entice the enemy to attack me over river crossings or in mountainous areas where I can set up in a defensive position on the high ground. I seldom engage a large enemy force in the open unless I am confident I can butcher them with minimal casualties. It’s better to lay siege to a city instead and let them attack you there. That way you get to fight two battles for the price of one, and you get the city at the end.

Once you have conquered enough territory to be back in profit you don’t need to worry so much about casualties, but in the early stages you must avoid expensive battles at all costs.

Exterminate the populace:

You probably won’t need to be told this, but extermination is the only practical option for dealing with the first few cities you conquer. The main reason for this is to clear up your debts of course, but it also makes it a lot easier to maintain order in the conquered lands. Enslavement is a waste of time as the slaves will only be sent to your old provinces while if you occupy you will have to leave half your army behind to prevent revolts. As an aside, I also like to give all my original provinces away as a gift at this point and then immediately reoccupy them and either exterminate to get the cash from them or enslave to move the population of my old cities across to my newly conquered (and purged) cities.

Delay moving your capital:

If you can get away with it, leave your capital set to the original provinces for as long as possible. As soon as you move your capital to the new lands all of your old provinces will revolt. While you may not be too concerned about losing them, you will need all the income you can get in the early stages. Change your capital only when maintaining order in the new territories is costing you forward momentum in the invasion. This will happen fairly soon but I like to squeeze every bit of revenue I can.

These are the basics, I will illustrate with a case study.

The Return of the Phoenicians

Carthage is my favourite faction for migrations. In my time I’ve successfully transplanted them to Spain (don’t ask me why), Greece, Asia Minor and Egypt. Carthage is great because they offer a delicious combination of challenges and opportunities for the seasoned traveller.

The advantages are that you are centrally located, offering a full range of potential destinations; you begin the game with a healthy economy that allows you to save up money in the first few turns; you already have the ships you need, meaning you can move straight away and last but by no means least, you start with a unit of elephants.

The big challenge of attempting a Carthaginian migration is of course the abysmal quality of their early game troops. You are going to need to be very creative in your battle strategy to enable you to overcome your target, which only adds to the fun.

In this particular game I attempted the most ambitious Carthaginian migration yet, returning them “home” to their Phoenician roots. This strategy is not for the faint-hearted, but if you can pull it off the high rewards will be ample compensation for the risks.

Turn 1

Build a palisade around Corduba and Thapsus. No further construction will be required in any of your cities. It will not be necessary to build walls around Palma or Caralis as these are unlikely to be attacked until much later in the game.

Hire the mercenary hoplites on Sicily and then load all your troops onto the ship that lies off its coast, leaving behind a unit of militia in Lilybaeum, and sail in the direction of Crete. You should arrive by turn 4. Move the other 2 ships in the direction of Palma.

Train a unit of peasants in Corduba, a diplomat in Lilybaeum and queue up a few units of round shield cavalry in Carthage. There’s no point going overboard on these but it will take a few turns for your ships to return with the army from Spain and you will need some extra cavalry. I went for about 3 units of round shields. I also recommend building an extra ship, as it will be a long time before you have the luxury of being able to build any more and it helps to have a strong navy.

Now set taxes as high as they will go in all settlements and it’s end of turn.

Turn 2

Not much to do. Keep your ships moving towards Crete and Palma, the latter will arrive next turn. Move your diplomat toward Syracuse. Move everything bar the peasants out of Corduba and up the Spanish coast. End of turn.

Turn 3

You will probably be approached by a Spanish diplomat at the start of the turn. See how much you can manage to sell an alliance for. You will get more if you also throw in your map information but I don’t like to do it, it feels too much like cheating. Send your diplomat to offer a similar deal to the Greeks.

Keep moving your ship toward Crete and your army in Spain north up the coast. Move your other ships to the coast of Palma. Empty the settlement of all bar the unit of militia, hire any balearic slingers you can and load up onto the ships. Move the ships to the south to meet up with the army coming from Corduba.

End of turn.

Turn 4

Move your ships south to pick up the army in Spain. This flotilla now holds 2 generals, 2 round shields, 2 iberians, 1 skirmisher and 4 balearic slingers, all with at least 1 chevron of experience. Move your other ship to just off the coast of Crete. If you’re so inclined you may want to try to sell your map info to the Scipii, otherwise it’s end of turn.

Turn 5

Conquer Crete. This can be done with virtually nil casualties by rushing the archers in the town from both sides with your cavalry and then just sitting and waiting for the time to expire. The rest of the cretan army have to march down from the mountainside and will never arrive in time to join the battle. Hire all the mercenaries you can except for the peltasts and build a governors house in Crete. Meanwhile keep your other fleet moving along the coast of Africa back toward Carthage.

You will probably notice a roman army starting to sniff around Lilybaeum at this point. Next turn they will certainly attack. You have 2 options for what to do about this, you could simply do nothing and let them lay siege to the place or you could give it to the Greeks. This is an important decision to make because of the significance of Lilybaeum to the Carthaginian economy. Up till now you will have been turning a small profit every turn, in spite of the extra troops you have built and the mercenaries you are hiring. As soon as you lose Lilybaeum your economy will dip dramatically and you will begin to lose money. Normally this should mean that you need to hang on to the place for as long as possible, but there’s another consideration, you still have a fleet full of troops the wrong side of Sicily. If you can avoid war with Rome for as long as possible it maximises the chances of sneaking those troops safely through the danger zone without being attacked by roman ships. For this reason I prefer to give Lilybaeum away. Hell, you’re going to lose it anyway.

Turn 6 :

From here on in it’s a few turns of waiting till your main fleet arrives with the rest of the army. One thing I do like to do here though is break the golden rule and queue up a few buildings in Kydonia. It costs you money but the early buildings are fairly cheap and you want to get the place developed quickly because it’s a goldmine.

These are the early moves. I’ll spare you the blow by blow. From this position you will note, by about turn 10 when the main fleet arrives at Crete, you can strike into Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor or, as I did, Seluecia.

I’m not advocating this as a great strategy for winning the game with Carthage. It was bloody hard to have to first conquer Seluecia and then face all the same problems they start with. I only went there for the elephants in the first place!

Now that I have Egypt and the Romans have swarmed all over the lands I left behind, the scene is set for the mother of all Punic Wars.