Original Thread: A Russian guide made by Kallum
A Russian guide made by Kallum
A people divided
This is going to be the first guide I’ve ever written for twc so don’t be to harsh in your opinion about it. Why the Russians? Well to speak with a cliché: it’s my favourite faction in vanilla medieval II total war, I’ve never understand why so few like it, it’s a very challenging and with that it’s a interesting campaign. There already are some excellent guides written about them which can be found here and there. These guides certainly have influenced me so don’t look surprised when you find something you’ve read somewhere else because that’s quite possible
In this guide I’ll carefully try describe how I play them and the way that works best for me. I hope you benefit from reading this if not I hope you at least enjoyed reading this.
The contents I’m going to discuss are:
Starting position in campaign
The Russian soldiery
- my early army
- my high army
- my late army
- first turns
- first targets and their use
- strategy for later on
Starting position in campaign
As you can see the Russian start with one province with the capital city of Novgorod, three halve stacks, a diplomat in the form of a princess, a spy and a bishop. This region will be your most important region for some time, from here your early armies will march out and conquer those under advanced towns and forts that surrounds you. Until you get Smolensk and Kiev(both will be discussed in later topic) up and running this will be your primary source for that hard needed gold and men. You are very isolated at the beginning, completely surrounded by rebels with the nearest faction a few hundred miles away. People complain to me about this but I myself enjoy this thoroughly. Being at war with Poland or/and Hungary from turn 1 with your crappy early units will be a very hard battle, with all those rebels around you don’t have to worry about them while you noob your early steps to glory.
The Russian soldiery and How I use them
I always have a locked number of slots for units with specific functions. Normally this means: 8 slots for cavalry(including the general), 8 slots for infantry and 4 slots for dismounted ranged units. I do this to keep my army balanced. In this way it can be effectively fielded against any foe that crosses my path and I generally don’t need to make huge adjustments. I fight with a MLS(Multiple lines system) with usually spears as a front line, swords/axes behind them, two handed swords/axes on the flanks of the second line and a third line which consists out of the ranged infantry. The cavalry goes logically on the flanks and fulfil mainly a flanking role.
My first line is usually made of simple and weak infantry. In short they serve as cannon fodder and are destined to break the first charge of the enemy. When the enemy charge is halted I retreat my first line and order my second line to charge. Meanwhile I order my flanking infantry and cavalry to the flank and rear of the enemy army and when they are in position I surround the enemy a massive rout is usually the result. The number of friendly casualties vary from very low to a quarter of my army but victory is almost always the result.
My Early Army
The early Russian army is in comparison to it’s direct rivals not so good. Especially with the absence of a castle/wooden fortress in the beginning you will have a hard time with fielding an effective force. I rely heavily on the Kazaks. These early mounted archers can win a battle for you. In terms of heavy cavalry you only have the general’s bodyguard at your disposal.
In terms of infantry you will have to work around with spear militia, woodsmen and spearmen. Spearmen will come available later on but when you get access to them immediately let them replace your spear militia. Who are even worse then a town militia of a western European faction.
I find woodsmen ideal flankers. With their heavy two handed axes they must never be positioned in the front line and also look out for archers with their low defence stats they will be slaughtered when standing under fire.
Spear militia just suck, the moment I can get something better I disband all my spear militia and leave two of them in my capital to guard it free. Nevertheless that something better won’t come for another 15 turns or so and you’ll need to keep up with the other factions who are looking very hungry to those empty provinces near you. The only upside about them is that the rebels near you in most cases don’t have something better either.
The last empty slots in army are reserved for the ranged units. You won’t have anything better then peasant archers, I find these guys always useful but I prefer an extra kazak unit instead of a unit of peasant archers.
Early Army composition:
2 generals(you really need a decent force of heavy cavalry), 6 spearmen/spear militia, 4 woodsmen(2 on both flanks), 5~6 kazaks and 2~3 peasant archers.
My High Army
I know that the game calls these guys early but by the time you can finally get to them the game is far enough to call it a high army. With these guys we are beginning to come somewhere. With the coming of Druzhina you will finally be able to put those tired generals in their cities/castles and let these new guys do the job. Though I prefer lances above spears for their higher charge value, these guys will do a good job when they attack our enemies from behind and in a close combat battle they even have an axe as secondary weapon!
With the high army we also gain two new ranged cavalry units: Boyar sons and Cossack cavalry. They are a logical substitute for the Kazaks, whose new function will be to clear the many rebels out of our empire. I never put both in the same army because that will resolve in having to much mounted cavalry according to my army build up. Both can hold their own in melee combat excel the old Kazak cavalry units on all fronts
In terms of infantry we can now call on Dismounted Druzhina and Dismounted Boyar sons. They both have completely the same in terms of stats and finances. I like the Boyars better because of their armour and thus I rarely see dismounted Druzhina in my field armies. They will fulfil the role of flankers in my army and with that the role of the woodsmen is played.
I still use spearmen as my main line infantry. Spears serve better as defensive weapons then axes and are a perfect anvil.
On the ranged infantry unit part we get dismounted Cossack cavalry and crossbow militia. I prefer the latter for their armour piercing ability and of course the only thing that makes militia actually worth spending money on them: Their free upkeep in the cities that spawned them.
High Army composition:
1 general, 3 Druzhina, 4 Boyar Sons/Cossack Cavalry, 4 spearmen, 4 Dismounted Druzhina/Dismounted Boyar sons, 4 crossbow militia
If you compare it with my early army composition you will see that not much has changed. The number of cavalry units remained the same only the addition of regular heavy cavalry gives the army a new weapon and a strong flanker.
My Late Army
Now we have the big guns. The Tsars Guard is your finest cavalry unit and you shouldn’t think long to replace your old fashioned Druzhina with these guys. These are your ultimate heavy cavalry guys and the only heavy cavalry unit you can field without disgrace against the Mongol - and Timurid hordes. They fulfil the same role as any heavy cavalry: To flank and rout the enemy. Due to their axes and high defence they will surely be a hard nut to crack for any opposing heavy cavalry.
We get another very strong cavalry unit in the form of Dvor cavalry. These heavy mounted archers will never disappoint you. Their only downside is their relatively slow speed in comparison to other mounted archer so use them wisely! Because even though they have “high” defence and melee stats, horse archers are not meant for melee. But they will make up for it with their volleys. These guys can beat Mongol horse archers and that means a lot in my opinion. They will replace the Boyar Cavalry and the Cossack cavalry, who are usually disbanded or if they have 9 experience I use them in a secondary field army fighting against rebels.
Our infantry arsenal is strengthened with the coming of one new unit. The Berdiche Axemen who are in my opinion one of the coolest looking units in game. I’ve read a lot of threads about them in which people complained that these guys can’t hold a line. Well if you look at their charge value and compare it to the legendary Tsars Guard you will learn that to hold a line is entirely not their function! They are not meant to hold a line against hordes of enemies but they are meant to full fill the role of flankers. When you use them for that matter you will fall in love with them again.
When we arrive in the late period of the Medieval ages we can make use of gunpowder. The strongest unit ranged units can be created with them and will prove very effective in siege defence and attack. The two gunpowder units that are available to the Russians are the Cossack Musketeers and Arquebusiers. When you compare them I don’t think you will disagree with me when I say that I ignore the Arquebusiers and focus all of my attention on the Cossack Musketeers. The Musketeers simply outclass the Arquebusiers on every front and that’s reason for me to stick with the Musketeers.
But even though the age of gunpowder has begun the age of bow and arrow is not yet over. I usually evenly divide the number of available slots between the Musketeers and the Dismounted Dvors. The Dvors are needed for their fast reload speed while the Musketeers have time to reload their deathly barrels. Though the Dvors are a superior missile unit of their own right and I sometimes prefer them above Cossack Musketeers when fighting against a superior missile faction(f.e. The Mongols)
Late army composition:
1 general, 3 Tsars Guard, 4 Dvor Cavalry, 4 spearmen, 2 D. Boyar Sons/D. Druzhina, 2 Berdiche Axe men, 2 Cossack Musketeers and 2 D. Dvor or 4 D. Dvor
Again not much change in comparison with the previous armies. A larger variety in infantry is present. The D. Boyars or Druzhina no longer serve as a flanking force however. They now take over the entire second line from the spearmen. This is done to give the infantry part of the army a chance against infantry heavy armies as that of the English and the Danes.
The CampaignMany find the campaign of the Russians hard or challenging. I can’t say that I disagree with them. Especially in the early campaign things are difficult as you suffer from a very poorly trained and equipped army. You will be almost always in disadvantage when fighting against other factions in the early campaign. When the high army units becomes available things get easy and you no longer need to perform Alexander actions to win a battle without delaying the campaign with retraining time. However the developers thought that it would be fun to make the Russian campaign even more hard and decided to throw in the Mongols and Timurids. How to deal with al these difficulties I’ll try to explain in the following chapters.
As you can see in the above picture I have drawn red lines towards one army and then a white line from that army to the south. I don’t think that needs much explanation but to clear it up a bit. The red lines are the actions you must perform the first turn. All of the available units you have must be formed in to one large army/stack. This army is going to be your blitz army early on. In order to keep up with your direct rivals(the Hungarians and Polish) you’ll need to conquer some cities/castles asap. I always take the spy with me, with some luck he can open the gates for me which will make sure that I don’t have to wait that very important turn to capture the settlement.
While your army is moving south I usually sent my princess south to sign trade rights with everyone who I meet and eventually ends up marrying with Prince John of the Byzantines(In a way historical accurate). Meanwhile in your capital build things to increase your economy(this shouldn’t be to hard, Novgorod is usually the richest city in all of my Russian games) and I tend to build ballista and catapult makers early on. Everything is vital to give you that single edge in battle.
First Targets and their use
Speed is the keyword in the early Russian campaign. It’s vital for the Russians to quickly gain a military powerhouse and a province bordering the black sea to get access to the wealthy trade of the Mediterranean. The most likely targets and those I always go after first are the wooden fortress of Smolensk and the large town of Kiev. Now you need to act fast to get quickly enough to Kiev. Both the Hungarians and the Poles are always in love with this city and are constantly blitzing towards it. Make sure you get there first to claim it as your price. If all has gone according to plan Kiev will profit enormously from the newly laid trade routes and thus your treasury as well. I find it a must to have Kiev in my possession early on. Kiev has also much natural riches such as slaves which is a very valuable resource to put your merchants on.
Smolensk features a whole different role for the Russian Empire. It’s the most advanced castle building near you so capturing it quickly to start developing it is important. If you decide to go for Kiev it’s on your way so you’ll get there sooner or later.
The next city/castle I always go for is Vilnius. Vilnius usually acts as a forward post and watch tower in my campaigns for the Polish and Hungarians. Together with Smolensk Vilnius are always my military powerhouses. I tend to specialise as well; Smolensk acting on behalf of my melee infantry and cavalry needs while Vilnius acts on behalf of my ranged infantry and cavalry needs. Of course this can also be the other way around .
The last settlement I take before settling down is Riga. Some take it with a force fresh from Novgorod, I take it with my battle hardened veterans from Smolensk, Kiev and Vilnius. Riga will serve as an extra trading port in the Baltic sea where trade can be rich as well. Though it takes time and money to develop it.
The Hungarians and Polish are most likely the factions you will encounter first. Eventually they will declare war on you or you on them but for the beginning they serve as distant trading partners. Once Kiev is under your control however you can expect a Hungarian or Polish army ready to attack it and declare war on you. If ,with some luck, they declare war on each other then be prepared to take on the survivor who will surely come after you(actually Kiev but with an assault on Kiev they declare war on you).
I always make myself ally with the Byzantine Empire, partly because of the historical accuracy(the Russians were responsible for the Byzantine Varangian guard) and because the trade is so lucrative. For some reason I’ve never crossed swords with them and so both sides can enjoy the trade. As an ally they probably won’t be much of help, perhaps warring with Hungary but I’ve never seen the Byzantines destroying them.
One of the handiest factions in MIITW for the Russians are the Danes. Once the Danes conquer Scandinavia and get access to the gold mines and other riches laying there, you can benefit greatly from trading with them. Trade rights with the Danes is a must. In my experience they go after my ports once I’ve aligned myself with them but they don’t declare war on me if I stay neutral. Strange but I can live with only trade rights.
Another direct trade partner is the Holy Roman Empire. It won’t be as beneficial as with the Byzantines or Danes but trade is trade and it will always bring up something.
Strategy for later on
As you can see in the above pick I strongly advice you to not go after the hinterland of modern day Russia. Those regions are poor and need to much time and money to get somewhere. Plus the time you need to actually have those regions in your pocket takes long to. To long in my opinion. Plus when the Mongols and Timurids come these rebel cities/castles serve as a perfect buffer zone. You don’t need to deal with those pesky horse riders destroying your land and armies. However arm Kiev to the teeth. If they emerge above the Caspian they most certainly go for Kiev and then you must be ready for a hard fight.
Caffa is situated on the Crimean peninsula and is not a bad place to expand your trade interests to after you have consolidated your rule over Riga, Vilnius, Kiev and Smolensk. With an extra port in the black sea there is an extra port to which rich trade is shipped to. Plus the natural resources on the peninsula(slaves) ensure it will be a rich city once it grows up.
Helsinki is at the other part of your empire north of Novgorod. Though it begins as a castle I usually convert it to city to maximise the trade income from the Baltic sea. You don’t need a castle so deep in your own regions.
Now once I’ve done this then there are two directions in which I usually expand.
Option 1: expand towards Western Europe.
This mainly means that you take Scandinavia and declare war on the Danes, be prepared for many infantry battles with sturdy bowmen(Norse archers). Capturing their cities with your inferior infantry will prove tricky but is doable. After you’ve captured Scandinavia and put a monopoly on the Baltic sea trade you can sandwich the northern regions of the HRE and the Polish. Attacking from two directions you’ll always have one direction who is open for attack. The Polish have a same sort army as you but beware of their mounted crossbowmen(Strelcy) they can inflict serious damage on your infantry and cavalry with their armour piercing ability. The Polish nobles are also a very strong unit both the dismounted and mounted version of it.
The HRE has very strong heavy cavalry(mailed knights, feudal knights) and strong infantry(armoured sergeants and dismounted feudal knights) taking the HRE over the knee will prove difficult and not an easy campaign. Make sure you have a large enough force to deal with any counter attacks.
Once you have subdued the HRE and the Polish you can expand in any direction. By now you are the strongest faction and you probably won’t meet any strong resistance.
Option 2: Move south.
This is pretty straightforward; take your armies, sail them across the black sea and conquer Asia Minor. From there you can go north via the western shore of t he Black sea, in the meantime conquering all what stands in your way. Or you go south to the holy land. Be aware that this option will most certainly bring you in to contact with the Mongols and Timurids. Make sure you are ready for them!
One last note of advice: Don’t forget the importance of priests. As an orthodox faction you will rarely step in to a foreign territory where your religion is dominant. As a result you will face riots and uprisings. Priests are a key in this. Send priests forward in the regions you are about to conquer so that the population is already partially converted and makes accepting you as their new ruler far more easier
I hope you enjoyed reading my guide, if there are any questions feel free to ask.
Last edited by Nazgûl Killer; August 05, 2009 at 09:02 PM.
Reason: The article was missing entirely, fixed title, did some other stuff too.
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