Rome: Total War. What a game!

I was lucky enough to get a copy of “Rome: Total War” (“RTW”) for Christmas and, as an addict of “Medieval: Total War” (“MTW”) I was too excited even to install it for a couple of hours. (Actually, I rushed to conquer Europe in the medieval game; I knew there’d be little chance of playing it for a while once I started on Rome.) I’ve really enjoyed Time Commanders on BBC2 and now the UKTV Documentary channel and could see the obvious improvements in graphics that RTW would have over MTW. Installing the game, even on a reasonably old Athlon 2000XP with a GeForce 5200 card, and the graphics seem to have improved on the television version.

What’s really surprising, however, is the extra level of realism in the map mode. In a complete departure from MTW, armies don’t occupy provinces (think of Risk or Diplomacy in the board game world) but have physical locations on a map. When armies clash, they have to do it very locally and the battlefield is a close match to the landscape that is shown on the large-scale map.

The battles are absolutely superb. They run at a much brisker pace than MTW: troops really can charge, cavalry can charge at a very fast speed. If you’re not careful your armies can get into a lot of trouble very quickly. Attacking towns is also much more exciting as there really are streets and buildings to run through, making troops suited to an outside battle completely inappropriate to urban fighting. Siege weapons are also very impressive as you watch enemy troops being smashed across the landscape.

I’ve only made it part way through the game so far, having invaded most of Gaul (and vanquished them completely) and part of the way through Spain and Germania. The Britons have also decided to have a go, which is a BIG mistake! One of the problems with the gameplay in MTW was that once you reached a certain size of domination there were very few variations in gameplay. The battles got bigger, but that just made them longer and not necessarily harder. It was just a case of building more advanced troops and buildings and keeping the population happy as your expansion trundled on. This has obviously been thought about with Rome as you start off as one of 4 Roman factions (including the Senate) and are pretty much off conquering Europe whilst the other non-senate factions do the same in other directions, all as one big happy family. At some point, however, you get a bit too powerful and, in order to win the game, need to take on the Senate at which point it’s Roman against Roman. This is going to be very interesting indeed: in the early stages of the game you tend to have a limited number of forces but, unlike MTW, they’re pretty disciplined to start with and you can often fight off a rebel or barbarian army of twice the size, with some good generalship. Fighting against Romans, though, is going to mean some very hard battles.

There is also more of a focus on the individuals who make up your generals and governers, all shown within a family tree. These are in short supply so you need to guard them well and, during the early phases of the game, they cause some barrier to expansion (someone’s got to run the place, after all). As a result, you pay more attention to their development than in Medieval. They also pick up more complex traits, including assistants (‘Retinues’) based on their capabilities. E.g. after some success with Assassins my faction leader has picked up a reputation as something of a ruthless killer.

It would be easy to go on about what’s great about this game. So far as I have found, the parts of the gameplay that don’t seem quite perfect are a) there’s still a limit on the number of armies on the battlefield (I was hoping for a Time Commanders style 20,000 army but the limit isn’t much higher than MTW was. 16 units in MTW, 20 in Rome.) and b) there are some qualities of cities that you can’t really do anything about, especially ‘Squalor’ (to spell it properly). This seems to come about by itself despite attempts at installing sewers, public baths etc and contributes a large amount to a population’s unhappiness. It may be historically accurate, but it’s not very satisfying to not be able to run your city properly.

“Rome: Total War” is a total life-eater, and an immense achievement. I really don’t see where they’re going to go next with the franchise, so this one really needs to be bought now.

Rome: Total War official site

Rome: Total War strategy guide on Gamespy

Buy Rome: Total War on Amazon

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3 Responses to Rome: Total War. What a game!

  1. Steve Roman says:

    Do you have any advice about which brick and mortar stores carry this game?

  2. Karl Bunyan says:

    The last time I looked it was stocked by Game and you might also have luck with Virgin Megastores. I’ve seen it in the London stores anyway. If you’re not in the UK, I wouldn’t know.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I love this game too! Here are a couple of my strategies.Some Early Game Strategies.JuliiWipe out the Gauls as fast as possible. The easiest way is with cavalry, and lots of it.. Make multiple armies and keep them big. Hire mercanaries whenever you can to fill the gaps in your lines. It doesn’t take too long before you’re making a lot of money, use it. Once the Gauls are on the run, build up another army to take out the Greeks/Macadonians.Corinth is the most important city on the Map! Get it and get it fast! It has the Statue of Zeus, which gives +4 loyalty to all cities. Then right after that, go after Rhodes. The Colossus there gives you +40% Sea Trade. If you can get the Colossus and control a lot of the Greek cities then you’ll be set because sea trade is the Julii’s weak point. The idea early on is to get as many cities as possible and to start collecting money.Brutii The benefit to the Brutii are their temples with their military bonus’ (temple to mars). Use it ’cause you’re going to need it! Taking on the Greek armies is daunting, but you have to take out greece fast! Then keep going, Macadon, Thrace, Dacia, Pontics and Armenia. Don’t stop until you’re knocking on Egypts door. The trick to taking out the Greeks well defended cities is infantry. Because of their hoplites, cavalry isn’t very useful. Have some to circle behind but rely on heavier infantry units. With the Brutii take control of the Aegean and Adriatic Sea. Then continue and take control of the rest of the Mediterranean.ScipiiThey have to take Carthage and fast. It’s a good idea to include Numidia and just sweep through. The large versatile Carthaginians and their elephants need to go up against your spearmen and large missle units, seige weapons. Use large seige weapons to flay their ranks apart. Sweep Sicily, Libya, Carthago, Caralis, Palma, then the Iberian peninsula. Navy here is the key. Control the Seas and especially wipe out the Carthage navy.Mid Game StrategiesThe most important thing after taking out your biggest enemies between 240 BC, through the Marius Reforms (which happens when you get your first large city) and on to 200BC is to keep the momentum going. The easiest way to do that is to keep the money flowing. Before you start serious expansion of your conquered cities you should have like 100,000 (I often times have 350,000) denari in the bank. Then you have to build things in your cities and keep them growing and happy. Since it costs as much in upkeep for the poor units (like peasants and town watch) as it does for heavier units, replace them!! Make good units in your major cities and move them to your outlying states. But when you do this move the units in massive armies. Learn from history, some of the biggest victories the Gaul and Goths had on Rome was setting up huge ambushes in narrow places where the Roman armies were split up. Keep your army together and drop off a few units per city. Then when you get attacked by a former ally (Germania in my case that I allowed to trade with me), you’ll have the units to crush them. Keep your major cities productive even if they’re losing money, it’s OK, these are your industrial centers they can lose money. Early on 1. Roads, Paved roads2. Farms, Crop Rotation, Irragation 3. Port, Shipwrights, Dockyards4. Trader, Market, Forum *Sewars and Public Baths as squalor reaches 3 or 45. Temples6. Arena7. Acadamies and highways (highways are for moving units as I haven’t seen a big increase in trade from them and acadamies I only make in my capital. The acadamies give your generals a nice entourage but don’t usually give you the diffeance between victory and defeat).8. Then work on military on outlying cities. In your core cities, you may want to interject some military buildings as you go to make the cores of your armies. In medium cities early on I’ll have one city making missle units (archery ranges) and another for cavalry (stables), usually as soon as the markets are built.Since trade and city growth at this point is the most important make roads then market and then ports (with farms in the middle). Everything comes after. In a recently conquered city far from your core cities switch ports and roads as sea travel is easier than overland travel in those cities. I put temples before arenas because they affect more than one part of the city (temples to jupitar add to happiness and law). Keep people happy as the cities increase in size. The biggest factor to that is squalor. Keep a close eye on that. The other benefit to keeping people happy is you may be able to disband units before replacement troops get there and your people won’t revolt (maybe wishful thinking but one can wish can’t he?). For cities and large cities1. Aqueduct and City Plumbing. *Squalor is a huge threat to big cities2. Temples and Parthenons3. Irragation, Latfundium4. Great Forum, Curia5. Dockyards6. Arena and Amphatheaters keep people happy especially in your out lying cities.End GameAfter about 200 BC and you’ve pissed off the Senate and they’ve cast you out, you have to attack Rome itself. The SPQR (senatus populusque romanus) controls the city of Rome. Take it out first! If you control (or subdue) the senate and the city of Rome, YOU ARE ROME! Then take out the large Brutii cities so they can’t turn their military advantage on you (unless you’re playing the Brutii in that case use your mititary advantage). Before going after some of the prizes over-seas, subdue the italian peninsula. Roman armies are quite varsatile so make sure you have a lot of different units to deal with new threats. These may just be the hardest battles you’ve faced, so be prepared. That being said, take them out fast! Take the italian cities and push hard to the rest of Rome. If you’re playing the Julii or the Brutii and you don’t have a large navy, you need one now. It may seem daunting to micro-manage at this point in the game and I’m sure you can win without doing a lot of it, but in my opinion it’s essential. Keep disbanding old units and replacing them. Or throw them away by moving them to the front of an attack, but when a unit routs then it’s more likely others around it will so I wouldn’t recommend that. If a city can handle a higher tax rate do it! If you build temples and arenas and can raise the tax rates do it! The biggest problem I have is not having enough governers for every one of my big cities. Make sure on all of your border cities there is a very large garrison. More than likely you’ll need it to keep the peace anyways but do it for the counter attack when almost everyone attacks you at the end. It will come eventually. Also make sure you have diplomats near the capital of potential enemies and in your border cities. Also another good strategy is having very good assasins near the borders. You can actually kill enemy family members! It’s unlikely you’ll be able to kill the faction leader or their heir but the others are fair game. And spy on all the cities you can, always.Advanced TacticsI haven’t really talked all that much about the battles in particular, but I’ll rectify that now. Later in the game when you’re going up against really powerful armies, it’s very important to have a balenced force and be able to deploy them properly. You can pause the game (P) and still give orders to your troops. This is an invaluable tool for the expert player. Remeber to keep spearmen at the flanks of your major infantry units, and especially if you have a large amount of infantry clustered together. Also keep your infantry together (a slightly spreadout line is fine but if there’s an open spot that the enemy can pour through you have to tighten it up). Enemy cavalry units will go back and forth looking for weak spots in your line, don’t leave one open! Keep spearmen together with your infanry. Resist the urge to send your spearmen a
    fter the enemy cavalry, the enemy cavalry can move faster than you and will open up weak spots. That being said use your cavalry and look for weak spots in an enemy formations. Smash quickly and get out. You do more damage in a quick smash than a long fight. Resist the urge to chase down all the routing units when they start running. When a unit panics and routs, it is more likely that another unit close by will also rout. When a unit starts running quickly smash a unit close by with cavalry and make it rout. Repeat as needed. (The only time I would say to go after a routing unit is for general (read family member) units. Kill those units!) Use seige as much as you can. Since they’re slow and can’t always go into cities, deploy then as close as possible and bombard the enemy as much as possible before moving in with infanrty. Always use heavy siege machines on groups of the enemy standing still and alway try to hit the generals unit with your heavy onagers or scorpions. Killing the general before the battle always helps. Rember that the Roman infantry WAS the army, cavalry and missle units were relegated as support troops, use them that way and you get the best successes. Agents should also play a large part of your strategy. Use diplomats a lot. They can bribe an army away from a small vulnerable city or bribe a city from the enemy. The only way to have enough governers in your empire is to bribe enemy family members to your side, do this as often as possible. If you’ve been following my advice and have a lot of money than it can be better to bribe a city than to attack it. For example if it is a small city and there are a lot of enemy units in it, it may cost you more in the long run (including rebuilding and retraining a large army that was devastated in the attack) to attack, than it would be to bribe the city, move your waiting troops in quell the city and move on. No waiting, go attack the next city. The only disadvantage to doing this is you don’t get to enslave the populous of that city. Which leads me to another idea I had. Early on in the game the most important thing to do is to make sure your cities are growing as fast as they can. If you’re quickly taking out the Gauls for example, your main cities should be expanding fairly quickly, but it can be quicker. Since only cities with governers recieve their cut of slaves from a captured city, move governers out of some of your cities temporarily before taking out a city, enslave the populous (sending a population bonus only to the city(ies) with a governer), and move all the other governers back. This results in a huge bonus to your core cities. The only thing is to watch you’re not growing too fast to keep up with building the right buildings. Also keep well trained assasins and spys with your large armies. Amd more than one of each. If an enemy spy is in a city, you probably won’t be able to get your own spy in there. So send an assasin to deal with the spy and any family members he has a good chance to kill (and do this way in advance of your invasion), then send in your spy. You get to see exactly what you’ll be getting and what you’ll be up against. You may even get to open the gates for your army. If you kill off a family member, it’ll be easier to attack the city (the generals heavy cavalry bodyguards won’t be there) and easier (cheaper) to bribe if you so desire.

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