One the things that I've always found difficult with total war games is the amount of knowledge you need to set yourself up well during a campaign.
For example, in Napoleon, it is highly advantageous to know what the AI is going to do. If you know where the AI plans on moving and what it intends to do, you can easily send troops or fleets to intercept preemptively. I actually feel this is sort of cheap in a way, because it's not like you had the VISION to know to do this, but you are highly rewarded if you memorize the AI's initial moves, which tend to be the same if you are playing the same campaign.
Another troubling aspect with Total War games is that I'm not sure if I should be thinking in terms of "what would work in real life" from "what works best against the AI" - both on the campaign map, and in real time battles.
For example, you could usually take cheap sloops in Napoleon and spread them across the seas raiding all the ports every turn. These ships are so vulnerable, yet the AI does nothing to stop you from absolutely wrecking their trade income and preventing them from doing anything at sea. There are times where they have a General with a sizable fleet to stop you... and yet it does nothing.
For a new player, they could "decide" not to do these risky maneauvers... because hey, in real life, you'd never get away with this. But if you know this tactic works, it really helps you out during the campaign.
I guess my question, how do you properly plan for a total war campaign personally? Is it really possible to casually play the game do really well, or is lots of trial and error, planning, etc. required to do well, especially at harder difficulties?
Beyond this, in most total war games, there are so many things you can do on turn 1 and 2 that it's really overwhelming. I actually think CA did a better job keeping it down to a minimum this time around. When I played the campaigns in Napoleon, there was just so many micro-level things to do... I'm like, "What the hell?!" Guys like feanor68 are genuises. I don't know if he just thought all of this stuff up out of thin air, or if he played the campaigns so many times that he just eventually figured it out. I just don't think I would have ever figured out that level of depth and sophistication as he did.
If you have any other comments on this subject, please feel free to discuss them.