Beginner’s Strategikon for on-line RTW battles.
EDITED on 23rd January 2008 in order to accommodate feedback from community (my thanks to: Njord, MaceMan, Xavier Dragnesi, Lucullus, Doctor and king-nord).
I’ve been meaning to write a beginner’s guide for playing multiplayer (MP) battles on RTW for such a long time... I can see that a most interesting guide by Roshak already exists, but it can’t hurt to post this one, as well. I just wrote this from the top of my head. I’ll refine and expand the guide if and after I see any feedback/ interest.
First of all, let me point out that I favor the so-called civilised factions over the barabarian ones. Therefore, I might be biased towards civilised factions. My bias, however, is derived from my personal experience in which I find civilised factions generally more effective than barbarians. In any case it is up to the individual player to decide what factions are more suited to his playstyle. I would still recommend civilised factions for a beginner, as their playstyle is more straightforward. In order for barbarians to be effective, which they can certainly be, it takes a bit more skill and experience.
In terms of available money MP games can generally be divided in the following categories:
- low money (10k or less): almost any faction can have its uses
- medium (usually 12.5k or 15k): norm for most MP games. This guide is based on this category
- high money (20k or more): allows for a full compliment of elite units
- insane (50k or more): few factions can fully spend such amounts. Tempting as it may seem, better avoid such battles if you are a beginner; there’s little to learn.
- Always try to spend all your money.
- Definitely spend money on weapon upgrades. For start always go for gold sword/shield for all your units.
- Experience upgrades are not worth their money.
- Favour your faction’s elite units. Even in low money have at least a couple of your faction’s elite units.
- Don’t spend money on artillery (ballistae, onagers). They are ineffective.
IMO the most important criterion for unit selection is value for money. Only by practice, will you’ll learn how to assess units with that criterion. For example, common archers have excellent value for money; Spanish bull warriors have an awful value for money.
- It’s a good idea to have some army selections of your favorite factions stored (preset).
- When selecting your units, try to form a battle plan. Any battle plan should do for starters. But for crying out loud, don’t start a game without any plan at all and expect to win! Of course, during the course of the battle you'll most probably have to adapt, sometimes even change your initial plan, but this is another thing. First, learn to formulate a battle-plan, then as you get more experienced you'll learn how to effectively adapt it during gameplay.
- Archers and slingers should be in loose formation.
- If using a phalanx army, do not create a “fort”! Human players are nothing like CPU AI and even an average player should be able to defeat your fort.
- For the rest, just apply common sense. Normally, heavy infantry at the centre, missile units right behind them and cavalry at the rear or flanks. When you become an experienced player, you’ll learn more refined deployment tactics.
Tips for the battlefield:
- If using a phalanx army, learn to move in standard formation and switch to phalanx formation just prior to engaging the enemy.
- Contrary to what other experienced players may suggest, I always keep my phalanxes out of guard mode. When fighting equal or superior units with guard mode on, your phalanxes will last longer, but they will also cause significantly less casualties. Anyway, this is up to you.
- When facing a phalanx army, try to attack the flanks of the phalanx. Of course, this is applicable when facing any unit, but it’s easier and safer to execute vs phalanx units.
- If you have heavy infantry with high defense value, e.g. armoured hoplites, do not fear to frontally expose them to archer fire. They’ll suffer negligible casualties and the enemy will waste his ammunition.
- If possible, save some arrows for the critical fighting towards the end of the battle. A timely volley of fire arrows can cause the enemy to rout and turn the tide of the battle.
- Remember to use fire arrows vs chariots and elephants. Burning pigs are also cheap and excellent anti-elephant weapon; plus they make excellent barbecue for your hungry victorious soldiers at the end of the battle!!
Best faction overall – you cannot go wrong by selecting them. Rome can boast excellent infantry (urban cohorts), excellent cavalry (praetorian cavalry) and great archers. Only weakness is some vulnerability to chariots. Most advantageous vs phalanx armies.
The most versatile faction. Main weakness is the lack of long range missile troops. With Seleucid you can adapt you army selection to counter any other faction, but you’ll have to rely on solid tactics to win, as the Seleucids do not have any battle-dominating unit (cataphracts are excellent cavalry, but with average value-for-money).
Excellent archers and the chariots can protect your troops vs enemy cavalry. Average infantry. A lot of players choose Egypt for team matches (2vs2 or larger). I do not like their play-style, so I am far from expect, but I consider them at an advantage vs non-phalanx armies and factions without long range missiles; they are at a disadvantage in other instances (e.g. vs Macedon with strong phalanxes and long range archers available).
Excellent infantry. Great cavalry. Major disadvantage is their poor missile troops: only slingers are available. Other than that, they actually stand a good chance vs any other faction.
Very good all around phalanx-based faction, which means that they can take on any enemy faction (no striking advantage or disadvantage). Like with Seleucids, you’ll need tactics to win as they like a battle dominating unit.
Excellent infantry and missile troops. Cavalry could not be worse! They are my favorite faction and I could go on and on about them. I consider myself an expert with them; when facing a player with the same experience as mine, I consider myself at overwhelming disadvantage vs Rome, at serious disadvantage vs Seleucids, roughly on par vs Macedon and Carthage and at serious advantage vs any other faction. Anyway, most experienced players do not suffer from addiction with them like myself, so they make the simple and sensible choice to avoid them for MP battles, due to their poor cavalry. Therefore, I would not recommend them for a beginner.
They have some fans among the experienced gamers. Main disadvantage is average infantry and low range archers. Not recommended for a beginner.
Armenia, also, have some fans among the experienced gamers. Their cataphract horse archers are their main advantage, but at a very high price. Other than that average infantry and archers. Not recommended for a beginner.
Much time ago when I was regularly on-line, Numidia was catching up in player’s preferences. Their main advantage is cheap units. You can have a large decent army, but nothing impressive. Your main bet is to catch your opponent by surprise (few people expect to face Numidia) and beat him with solid tactics.
There is a specialized tactic for these factions, but it’s not for a beginner, so I won’t go into details. You’ll learn it by time. After some more time you’ll also learn how to counter it, as well. They can be somewhat more useful in team matches
Even though my personal opinion of Scythia is rather low, they seem to have several supporters in the MP community.Their main strengths are cavalry and archers, but infantry is of very low quality. Played properly they can be quite effective, but this requires skill and experience, so I would not recommend them for a beginner. They can also be useful in large team matches.
You won’t see many good players playing with them; unless of course they are germans and just want to play for fun! Under certain circumstances they can be highly effective with their demorilising attributes being their main advantage. I must also point out that berserkers are usually not allowed by the host’s rules or their number must be limited. Infantry is has valuable armour piercing attributes, but it's too vulnerable to missile fire. Archers are too expensive. Cavalry is great.
You’ll rarely see them chosen for MP battles. Infantry is ok, but vulnerable to missile fire. Archers and cavalry (for Dacia only) are ok. They can stand a chance vs non-phalanx factions, but don’t expect much. Definitely, not recommended for a beginner.
No player in his right state of mind will select them for MP games. Especially, Spain is the most underpowered faction. Gauls could have been playable if their units were cheaper.
Yes, you’ll be surprised to find out that Slaves (rebel faction from single player campaign) can sometimes be available for MP. Never mind about them for now.
There are so much more to learn for MP battles, but this is intended for beginners only. Besides, nothing is a good substitute for practice!
Good Luck and Have Fun!