Author: Flinn
Title: Turtling in TATW and MOS

Turtling in TATW and MOS Hi guys,

as out there is full of very good guides for factions and general issues, I tried to give my contribution to this great Mod by adding some suggestions about a couple of matters that are not directly treated in other guides. They are intended mostly for new players who do not have great confidence with the mod and the different factions, still I think it might be useful to many. The goal is to give some ideas and suggestions and provide some answers to doubts that I often saw coming out in the main forum, sharing mainly my own experience and some of the other players comments coming from the forums, while speaking of things that I think might be worth of a specific guide. If any suggestion please PM me or comment, I will update the guide with pleasure, if needed.

Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

As TATW is a mod strongly based on original lore (as far as game mechanics and balances allow) I decided to create this guide to help people in playing and selecting the best faction for turtling. This guide itself is far to be complete, to be honest it is more a list of good advices than a true step by step guide, still I hope it will help someone; It might turn out a lot to read, but many of the matters treated are useful also in standard games.

Notice: this guide is valid for all difficulty levels and for both TATW and MOS as a general rule, and is intended to give suggestions for a game without cheats or bad exploits of game mechanics. At the same time it only takes partially into consideration the features offered by Diplomacy Script (MOS), as being able to ally with your natural enemies will simply makes the things too easy. If you are not confident with turtling strategies I suggest to try at the very beginning a campaign with M/M or M/H difficulty, in order to “stress” the limits of this strategy.

How to read the guide: as this is my very first guide please be kind and do not complain too much if it is not so clear. I’ll make an introduction of the treated matter at the beginning of each part, followed by some general suggestions and then I’ll detail my personal idea along with the most popular ones coming from other players regarding which factions are better for the purpose. As for specific guides on the suggested factions or other general guides that will be completed by this one, please have a research on the Guide forum, there’s plenty of very good ones, or have a look here
Finally, when defining the various possibilities I always tried to give alternatives, if possible.

What is turtling?
Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

For turtling it is intended a specific game strategy based on defending original borders of the faction during the first part of the campaign, while focusing in building up economy and creating infrastructures for the future recruiting of an army composed mainly of professional (2nd and 3rd tier units) compared with the levy / militia units you can recruit since the very beginning of the campaign. There might be various reasons for which a player would like to follow this strategy, the two most common are lore playing and the personal tastes of the player, who wants to build up his/her kingdom step by step while discovering the unique features of the games, thus avoiding a rush over the campaign map that will probably ruin the atmosphere and will force the player to use largely the basic 1st tier units.

Depending on the campaign development and events the things might turn out differently from what one is expecting, anyway usually the idea is to defend as long as possible your own kingdom and possibly make time by time some “aggressive” actions (both with armies or agents, and in some extent with diplomacy too) to strengthen an ally or to weaken an enemy; gifting some settlements to an ally, taking (sacking or exterminating) a main settlement from an enemy, gifting money, signing truces are all good examples of what I intend.

Turtling in TATW: As the game is intended to be played on VH/VH and is generally more difficult compared to other mods, the turtling strategy presents various disadvantages compared with an aggressive one, still it is possible to achieve good results if some actions are made, so let’s go step by step:

Economy, your main issue
Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

First things first. Turtling means a passive strategy, which will lead to the conquest of few (or none at all) rebel settlements and this is a major issue we have to deal with: remember, when you capture a rebel settlements (or an enemy one ) it will increase your income by tax, farming and sensibly in trade, as it will exchange goods both with allied and your own cities; so, as you will not probably take more than 1 or 2 of them in the very beginning of the game, this fact could become a major hit to your economy later on. Said the above, if possible go for a faction that has a good basic income coming from mines (mountains) or profitable farming (grassland) as you will have to rely a lot on your own economy output . As a general rule, taxes tend to be the main income source, so investing in growing up your cities (more pop, more taxes!) should be the very first concern (pop increase buildings, farms, low taxes), followed by investments on trade buildings and roads. Keep recruiting buildings as last investments, as you’ll normally have enough to recruit basic units to defend your lands, at least for the first turns and in any case before the Barrack event occurs. Having ports sensibly increases the trade income, which means that if you have any costal settlement you should give priority in building ports / docks as soon as possible.

Furthermore, as an extra income you can offer map information to get small revenue in exchange (nothing really big, but worth of if repeated over turns).

Try to keep a minimum treasure of 5-10k (if you can afford more, it is better ), not only to be able to quickly recruit troops, but also to have a backup that you can use when the time of building the most expensive structures will come.

An extra note on taxation levels: even though the general rule is to keep taxes to low level to encourage population growth, this is not a must, and a good turtler should learn when and where rasing taxes is the correct choice; let's have a look on my idea.
Some settlements do not really need to grow up population: Minas Tirith, Moria, Erebor just to mention the most known, start as full developed settlements, so there is no real need to grow up the population as you are not going to upgrade them; for such settlements having normal tax as a standard should be the rule in the beginning, raised to high and then to very high as soon as you can do it without badly effecting public order. At the same time there are also other settlements which are almost completely developed (first level of stone walls), for those too it won't be very useful to set tax to low, I like to keep them to normal as a standard, because at this stage the city already has many buildings to be built and by the time you have built them all the city should be very close to the quantity of pupulation needed for the last level of development.
Villages: villages should always have low taxes and if you have him, you should also send there a general with 7 or more Respect (grants 0,5% pop growth), because villages are pretty useless both from the economic and the military point of view (and they can't even garrison a single unit for free!).
Towns: growth should be encouraged here, but you should also keep in mind where they are located compared to your borders, because, in particular for those towns which already have walls but start with a population of 500, it might take a while before they'll be developed to Large Towns and by this time your front will probably be very far from there; in this case I prefer to have normal or even high taxes on them, as their military impact will be null and the immediate increase in income can be really useful to develop cities and castles that will be your main recruitment centers.
Large Towns: same as above, much depends on the position of the same.
Final notice: never forget that before of anything you have to develop your income, so growing it is important of course, but if you don't have money to build that fairground on Minas Tirith or that Warehouse on Esgaroth, well having a bigger population means little, so when you need money to invest them in economic buildings, RAISE the taxes if this is the only solution.

In order to increase your income you should pay special attention in selecting governors and generals; it is well know how important is to decide which “career” your generals might follow, whether they will become governors or commanders of army is up to you to decide, but always remember to “train” them (have a look on character building guides or you can also google M2TW or TATW trait list and you’ll easily get a list of traits with the scripts that activate them). Anyway, as a general rule, keep in mind that each general is a huge cost, so do not adopt any if they are not really good at something (both military or economic) and with good stats for chivalry/dread and loyalty, and do not adopt any general if you don’t need them for some purpose. Also, remember that starting faction leaders and heirs (and possible one or two more generals, depending on your faction) are always really good at doing something: if you want to turtle you definitely MUST use any resource the game gives you from the beginning, so widely use them in growing up population, reducing building or recruiting costs, increasing income and leading your armies; each turn they stand doing nothing is a loss for you.
Furthermore, Obedience can be an interesting trait to look too, as it should increase income by 1% for each point the general has, so it is good when the governor is settled on a high income city; unfortunately it is not possible to train it for good factions, but it is for evil and can be really important to have some % more of income as evil factions tends to grow lesser governors compared to the good ones.

As for a standard TATW game you should always use the free garrison of your cities and castles, in order to save money and to have some troops always ready to enter the field. My personal advice is to always have garrisoned the BEST troops you can recruit there, so as soon as a new barrack/archery range or stable is built train the relative new troops and let them be garrisoned for free; as for the other troops already garrisoned disband them, or send them to reinforce a front far from your main settlements, but always consider how much they will impact your revenue.

One thing people tends to underestimate is the presence of Rebels; whether they are spawned since the beginning or appear later on the map they will cost you money, more and more each turn they will remain unbeaten, due to the fact that they spread devastation over your land. Depending on the difficulty level you might have different Rebels stacks spawning from the beginning, and they will be hidden in woods too, so that it will be difficult to see them; if you already know where they are head for them quickly (as you’ll not go for rebels settlement or only partially use the troops you have to get rid of them), if not, you can check any settlements’ details and you should see devastation costs under the income line, which means an army (rebel or enemy) is camping in your lands. To spot them, you can look carefully at the campaign map, even if they are hidden you should see a grey devastated area around them; as it is not so easy to see it (the map actually need to be visible) send a Spy to roam around, soon or later he will spot them, or on the worst case he will simply stumble over them. If a Spy is not available use Diplomat or Assassin. Furthermore, when an army of rebels spawns during the campaign they usually do it on roads. As a general rule, get rid of any rebel ASAP, as they cost you money and can be easily defeated (you don’t need to pursue the routing troops on battlefield as they always fight last stand battles if they do not retreat of course).

Related to this theme is the use of watch towers: although they do not have an upkeep cost you need to pay good coins to build them, coins that you’ll never have back, so I usually build them only in the borders to my enemy (if any) and mainly to keep a clear vision of all my roads, so to avoid some rebel army spawning there and not being seen; if managed well you can cover your road network with very few of them.

Important notice: corruption can be a real killer for your economy so always keep an eye on it on economy screen. As a general rule the bigger is your kingdom the higher is corruption; a good way to lower it is to keep your capital at the center of the kingdom, but keep in mind that moving the capital will cost you money (5000 gp) so do it only if it is really far from the ideal position; similarly, if your kingdom is split in two (like for Dwarves or High Elves) put the capital where you have more settlements. Furthermore, Law of your generals will also reduce corruption costs, so if possible send a governor with average to high Law to rule the most important cities which are far from your capital, this can really cut down corruption by hundreds (or thousands if the kingdom is big) gp every turn!

Finally, a note on agents: both Spies and Assassins are a cost for you, and they cannot be killed (unless they fail a mission, which is always bad , or you sent them to sink with a ship) so carefully train them. See below for my idea about them and their actual usefulness.

The war machine
Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

First of all it is important to understand that the stronger your original levy / militia units are, the easier will be to survive the first turns, because soon or later you’ll be attacked and will have to defend yourself. Generally speaking the more expensive are the basic units, the better they are, with good archers being the best at all (as you can pinch down enemies with few or no loss before they get to you).
Furthermore, the starting position is extremely important, as not being forced to fight any enemy since the very beginning , or being able to concentrate on one single front only, will make the difference in the long term.

As a general rule it would be perfect if you are accustomed at using small armies (usually less than half stack) so that you’re able to take the maximum from them: shot the last arrow, charge over and over on the flanks with cavalry, let the heavy infantry enemies tire down while pursuing your lighter troops, etc. A good technique is what I call “wing routing”: when forced to fight against an enemy that is largely outnumbering you try to concentrate on one wing only of the enemy, use a short line of infantry to hold this wing, spare one unit to cover your own side exposed to the rest of the enemy army, and use your cavalry (or shock infantry) to flank and decimate the outermost unit/s on the wing you are attacking. If you are not unlucky you should be able to make one or two units on the wing to route, if so hold your infantry line and send them to attack the closest enemies that are not routing, release your cavalry from pursuing the routing enemies and use them again to charge on the flank/rear the “new” units your infantry is holding, repeat over. Depending on the troops on battlefield, your quickness to react and luck you can manage to win (or at least to deliver a pyrrhic victory to the enemy ), provided that your infantry is equal or better than that of the enemy.

To pick your battles is a must, more than the standard for a regular TATW game; bridges, fords, higher position and sieges (if your troops fit well like for Dwarves) are all good deploying positions, provided that you’ll be fighting almost on defense.

Useful tip: you can actually attract enemy stacks out of your territory by roaming with one army of yours in their territory; if moved carefully you can avoid being caught by the enemy’s armies for some turns (thus granting you some more time to build up your kingdom) or you can sit on a river crossing/bridge and fight over until you need to retrain your troops (if going for this strategy, prepare an appropriate army, composed of spearmen / heavy infantry and a lot of archers, one or two siege engines may be useful too, cavalry is not really needed unless there is a real chance that the AI will surround you, i.e. sending an army for each side of the crossing/bridge).

Generals are usually good to be used widely on the battlefield: as soon as the general himself will not die the bodyguard will replenish each turn, thus granting you fresh troops. Furthermore, as a general rule the bodyguards are very good troops, especially if they are cavalry (of which there is a general lack) or elven archers (both amazing at shooting down the enemies and in close combat), so use them as your hammer and use expendable units as the anvil. For the use of garrisoned troops please refer to the Economy chapter above..

One notice: even if turtling means to be generally passive I strongly suggest to take at least a couple of rebel settlements in the beginning of the campaign; this will be important from the economic point of view, but also from the military one: first, you can recruit there some more 1st tier units when needed (and so in your main settlements you can invest money mostly on economic buildings), second it will grant you a buffer area between enemy borders and your most important cities/castles, which means you will have some more time to prepare yourself in case of a strong aggression by them.
Similarly, a good strategy to delay / hold the enemy is to conquer a bordering settlement between and gift it to an ally (better a close one that can actually occupy it) so that the enemy will not border you directly until they will conquer it. Again, this will grant you more time, which is essential. Of course it is not always possible, but it is a good tip to keep in mind; it also leads to another important point: as soon as you can avoid sharing borders with your enemies, they will not attack you (unless an Invasion is called), which means, less need for troops and more money to spend on economy or improving recruiting buildings. Clearly, the best way to comfortably turtle is to avoid bordering the enemies, that’s it .

Another suggestion: as said above always try to have at least 10k as a minimum treasure. This is important when the time of recruiting armies will come; just imagine you have built your kingdom and when that damned stack from your enemy enters your territory you cannot react because you do not have money to recruit troops … Depending on your economy and faction it might take you some turns to build up the amount, but after you did it everything will go smoothly (just consider it as backup).

Finally, when the time of aggression will come, be aggressive, corner and do not be cornered, push deeply in the enemy territory and do as much damage as possible, try to conquer some rich settlements and/or sack and lay waste to their main recruiting/economic centers which are far from your borders. Garrison script is your main enemy when you want to be quick, so try to avoid places with it, as far as possible; if playing with MOS you can remove this script, thus granting yourself the possibility of making REAL damage to the enemy with relatively low effort.

The fine art of Diplomacy
Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

Unfortunately diplomacy has always been one of the cons of TW games, so let’s see what we can do. Depending on faction and personal tastes it might take a lot of turns before your economy will be strong enough to support a professional army, so it is mandatory to pick carefully your allies and share trade rights with them as soon as possible. Furthermore, try to avoid to piss off your natural enemies (i.e. by going with your armies through their lands) and, if you are not very concerned with lore, you can also try to achieve peace with them, thus granting you some more time before they’ll actually turns to you. It is also needed to be careful when signing alliances with other factions, since to be allied with an enemy of your enemy normally tunes down the relations you have with them on the long term. Please notice that in MOS there is the a special script (you can select if to use it or not) which will force war between factions: if one of your allies attack someone with whom you’re not at war actually, this script will activate and “force” war between you and them; the same happens when you attack someone who’s not at war with your allies.

Always keep at least one diplomat available, if you want to turtle you have to be ready to act quickly and a lot with your diplomats, especially concerning the relations with your enemies. If you find yourself in big trouble and your economy allows it, as a last resource you can try to sign peace with your main enemy by granting them money over some turns or in the worst case by gifting them a settlement in exchange of a truce. Also, if your economy is strong, you can help an ally in trouble by gifting them a settlement taken specifically for this purpose or by giving them some money. Finally, as said above diplomats can trade for map information which will bring you some more money.

Notice on Diplomacy Script: if using MOS you’ll have the chance to use the features form this script, which practically allow you to do quite everything (with the exception of few things) with diplomacy: sign alliances with someone having very bad relations with you, easily obtaining military access, even buying a main settlement (Capitals excluded) for 1 coin and so on. Even though I personally don’t like to take advantage of this script, it exists and has been included to give players more flexibility with the bad diplomacy from TW; whether to use it to sign an alliance with a “friendly faction” or to stop a war with the enemy that is steamrolling you, it’s up to you .
An extra note on Ally Invade: this is a great and revolutionary feature in some extent, but can also be dangerous. If you'll instruct one of your ally to invade one of your enemy, there is a real chance that the ally will invest everything in this task, so to completely ruin it's natural development and possibly putting itself into big troubles against its own enemies. Said the above, you should use it very carefully, personally when turtling I found it very useful when the campaign is down to few factions left and the support of your allies becomes a must to win the battle between good and evil.

knife in the dark:
Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

As a general rule I do not use Assassins with good factions (as they bring dread to faction leader) and very little with evil factions too, because normally they are not so good with success percentages and they easily fails or get killed, so I prefer to invest my money somewhere else. Anyway, while playing passively, they can become an interesting alternative if you wish to invest some time in sending them around of the map to pick their victims carefully. Kill captains, diplomats and sabotage the enemy settlements to grow up the agent skill (works better if you use the Assassin in combination with a Spy to easily spot your targets), and then go for the main victims (generals), but be prepared to fail. Keep in mind, assassination/sabotage is an aggressive action, so be careful on who you aim at. If you have various towns without governors inside you can build many Inns to recruit a group of 4-5 Assassins and send them to storm the enemy lands, if not for a true result, at least to disturb them in some way and for the amusement of seeing how lucky you are .

Spies, on the other hand, might be very useful in spotting dangers both when you defend or you attack, but do not overuse or overestimate them: they cost money and if an army is hidden in woods it might take you more than one turn to find it; furthermore, their line of sight is limited and if you are not aware of where the enemy army is moving you might lost track of it and spend more and more time to look at it .
I suggest not to train (or have) more than one spy in the first turns; in the very beginning use it to spot all the rebels hidden around, than send him to the borders of your enemy. Train more only if your war front is very big or is split in two.
In TATW spies are still decent for opening gates at sieges, but be aware of the fact that they will NOT avoid the garrison script, as it is activated when you press maintain siege or assail.
Finally, do not rely on them to bring any enemy settlement to riot, you will need MANY highly trained ones, and the result is not granted at all; better spend the moneys with good troops

Extra tips
Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

TATW (and its variuos submods) offers a couple of peculiar features that can easily affect campaign strategy, particularly when turtling, so let's have a look on them:

Barracks event: this special feature locks the training of high tier units (for both AI and players) up to about turn 40, after the second event occurs all the factions are allowed to train all the units (provided that they have the required buildings), so as a general rule this is the same for the player and the AI, but the AI has scripts that prevent it from going bankrupt, so it is higly probable that just after the second event they will start to recruit a lot of higher tier units.
A good turtler should keep this in mind, because after the second event if you are not prepared you'll be soon in trouble; orcs factions in particular can (and will!) spam Trolls, thus heavily affecting the balance between yours and their armies: you were accustomed to easily crush any full stack Mordor was sending into your territory, and suddenly the next one has 2 troll catapults and 2 mountain trolls in it .. I'm pretty sure it is easy to see where this leads
So my suggestion is to start to prepare yourself at least 5 turns before: if you know that you will face trolls, build a ballista trainer or recruit some javelin units, if your enemy has a lot of cavalry it will have more after the event, so train some more spearmen, if they will deploy more heavy units (like the dwarves or Rhun) trait some units with piercing abilities or crossbows and so on.
Basically: the fact that that army worked fine for 40 turns does not mean that it will be good for the rest of the campaign, so get prepared!

Invasions (and Tol Acharns): Invasions are a sort of Crusades called by Sauron (after he returns, usually around turn 40 if not using the "Earlier invasions" Script) against good factions or evil factions that lost His favour (Tol Acharns are optionals Jihads that can be called only by Gondor or Arnor and can be joined by any northern factions); not all the factions will be a standard target for Sauron's Invasions (at least not at the begenning of the campaign), so this point is mostly interesting for Rohan and Gondor (and Mordor/Harad for Tol Acharns), anyway unfortunately for the player if you play one of this factions you'll be soon or later aimed, and this is quite bad as usually all the factions that can take part into an Invasion will join it: if you are not prepared they can crush you, litteraly.
If your position is not strong (I mean you can't defend choke points) they will besiege your city, no matter what you do, and you will have to fight countless battles against enemies which have double the movement points and can pop out from nowhere, and this is really hard to bear, particularly during the first part of the campaign when you can't field many stacks or do not have the possibility to quickly train a new stack.
My suggestion, even if lame, is: if you can't effectively repel them, let them conquer the city. All the other factions will retreat their stacks and you can siege back and retake the settlement after few turns; this will cost you much less in money and in time that actually killing each of them.
As said above later on the campaign you should be able to hold variuos stacks (and hopefully some of your enemies have been already wiped out), so if possible of course try to hold the settlement, but if it is evident you can't save it, do not ruin your campaign to try to.
An exception: some settlements are quite easier to defend (either because you can easely deploy archers/artillery inside the settlement or because it is full of choke point in which heavy troops can smash the enemy), so for those one you should at least try to study a strategy to defend them and actively crush any enemy trying to assault it

Joining invasions and Tol Acharns: not too much to say, some interesting things though; if evil, and you don't join the invasion, Sauron will not be content, and this could be very bad if he actually gets really pissed off by you and start to calls invasion on you! Unless I have a real interest in the settlement aimed at, I usually join invasion with the minimum troops and only at the last turn available.
Notice: troops taking part into invasions or Tol acharns will have free upkeep, but they have to keep moving towards the goal or they will start to desert. This can be useful to cut down your upkeep for some turns, but mind you that if you don't get the settlement you have to bring the army back or to look at some other objective near by.

How to win
Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

It’s all about winning, isn’t it? IMO, the answer is no . When I play TATW I deeply feel inside the lore and really don’t care about victory conditions (especially number of settlements), if not just for an “indication” to lead my campaign actions. So the point is, if you turtle you usually play according to lore or at least to stand in “one side” (goor or evil) and develop your game according to this strategy, in this case I consider winning to destroy the Ring and Mordor while playing as a good faction or getting rid of Gondor and Rohan (or HE and FPoE as OoG / Dwarves and SE as OtMM) as evil; surely you might have to adapt the path depending on your faction, so you can be on the front of the storm or you can back up from behind.. . If the lore of a factions allows it, I usually plan to slowly take/retake some settlements to rebuild the old glory of the kingdom itself (ie. Dwarves in Moria, SE in Dol Guldur, etc).

On the other hand if you are mad about victory you can trade settlements from the allies to reach the required number, or if you feel badass you can betray your allies and actually conquer the settlements from them (not so hard to do, especially with Elves or Dwarves after their economy went strong).

My final words: play according to your tastes and do not be mad about victory, and in some extent let be carried by the events so that each campaign will be a new experience, even with the same faction!

Factions evaluation for turtling
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So after so much writing and thinking, what's the real feedback?
Basically in this section I’m going to give a brief evaluation to each faction in TATW/MOS about how hard and how much fun is to turtle with them. As usual my considerations are based on a VH/VH game.

Eriador/Arnor : Hard and Not so Fun – turtling with Eriador is pretty hard, as you really lack choke points to effectively hold your main enemy, OOG. Furthermore on the east you can become a target from OMM (but they usually give up soon) and in the south you might have to face Isengard (and Dunland in MOS). As you can see all the borders north, east and south are completely opened to enemies, so with the average economy of Eriador, it is going to be hard, especially in MOS where Dunland will surely aim at your southern settlements. Things will improve much if you’ll manage to destroy or reduce to the minimum OOG but basically you can’t simply sit there and wait for them to come at you, at some point you have to go on offense within the first 30 or 40 turns. If you start with Arnor or re-forge it, your rooster will be greatly improved, so the ratio power between you and your enemies will improve on your favor, still it is not going to be easy if you don’t manage to get rid on one of them at least. Said the above, from lore point of view being on passive is proper to Eriador and if you are looking for a “desperate” defense campaign it can be funny, though not so much.

Orcs of Gundabad: Hard and Not Fun – pretty much the same considerations valid for Eriador, you really lack choke points. Even though Eriador rooster is not that great, AI will spam more stacks than a player, which basically means you’ll have to run around the map to hold them and preventing them to come close to your main settlements. Dwarves will come at you from west soon (though not with much troops) and both High Elves and Silvan Elves will soon bordering you. Honestly I don’t really like to turtle with them, I tried twice but I always have to go offensive pretty soon in order to save the day, not really fun in general.

High Elves: Easy and Very Fun – those buddies are probably the best choice for turtling, in particular for newbies to the mod. Starting position is really good, as on the west you are surrounded by good factions and it will take a while before you’ll get in contact with any enemy (basically when you’ll get south and meet Isengard or Dunland (MOS)) so defending will be really easy. Your enemies are no match for your troops, even 1st tier HE guys are better than the average of Dunland and Isengard and when you’ll get your higher tier troops they will be less than training for them. On the East though OOM can be annoying if they start to focus on you, but honestly defending the two fords/bridges you have in Imladris is pretty easy, considering how powerful are your archers. Basically, if you don’t care very much about rushing to give a help to Rohan and Gondor, it is going to be fun to watch your enemies pinched by your archers before they even get at you, and you can really be passive with HE.

Dwarves: Easy and Fun – as for the HE your kingdom is split in two. Honestly on the west it not going to be hard to completely avoid bordering OOG, but even if they come at you they will not use much troops and your 1st tier infantry can easily hold the line against any infantry OOG has. They can be annoying due to Wargs and Rhudaur cavalry and if they have those pesky Snagas running around the battle map, but honestly half a stack of warriors and axe throwers is usually enough to win the day. Just invest on economic improvement on the west to repay those half stack you might need to use there. On the east, where is your core kingdom, your potential enemies are OOM and Rhun; honestly if you don’t go on offense it is unusual that OOM will come directly at you (there is both Silvans and Dale in between), so no worries from this side; Rhun, if they get the edge over Dale, can be problematic due to their huge amount of skirmishers and heavy chavalry (not to speak about horse archers). If they become to push at you, wait for them on the mountains and if possible fight on defensive sieges, this is going to be really funny and those 4/5 battles you can have on your customized settlements are going to be the best ever and worth to wait for during a whole campaign!

Orcs of the Misty Mountains: Hard and Not Fun – pretty much the same situation with OOG, and to further worsen the overall setting, your kingdom is stretched and opened to enemies which are all much better than you in terms of troops: HE, Dorfs and SE (plus Lorien with MOS) will all come at you soon or later and they will smash you, for sure. You really neead to work around a way to cut off at least one (HE) or better two (HE and Lorien with MOS) to give stability to your kingdom and get the time to build up and army with heavy goblin troops and possibly the Balrog. I tried various time to be passive with them but it’s not funny at all to be always forced to Pyrrhic victories (if you are lucky, often you can lose). That’s probably the worst faction in both TATW and MOS to turtle with.

Dunland (MOS): Medium and Not so fun – the economy of those guys rocks, the troop roster sucks, that’s it. You can field 3 or 4 stacks of their 1st tier units and support them with just the starting settlements you have without much problem, so basically it could be considered easy to turtle, but the level of their troops is averagely so low that when the HE and Eriador will really start to push at you, you are doomed to fight plenty of battles in which you will lose 70/80% of your army to win. The problem with those guys is that their higher tier troops are really nothing special too, so it becomes pretty boring after a while to repeat over and over the same strategies on the battle field. I found relaxing to play them and not very stressing at the beginning, but not so fun too.

Isengard (TATW): Hard and Fun – in vanilla TATW Isengard starts with Dunland regions which give to it a good economy back up to spend money in Isengard for recruitment, but won’t prevent the fact that your main enemy (Rohan) will smash at you continuously and that they have much more troops and those damned scouts which costs little and have an insane high value with charges. It is going to be hard to turtle with the White Wizard, harder when both HE and Eriador will come down at you, but it can be really fun, especially in the south you can fight great battles against Rohan at Isen’s crossings and in Isengard itself. If you want to survive would be useful to try to be in peace with the HE and Eriador, but it won’t last for much…
Isengard (MOS): Very Hard and Not so Fun – not having the Dunland regions is going to be a big problem for you for the economy, and it will also impact negatively your military (no money, no Uruks). I tried only once, managed to survive for about 25 turns, but only surviving, Rohan was continuously knocking at my door. The only way to survive is to sign truce with them, something I don’t really like to do a I usually prefer to follow lore.

Rohan: Easy and Fun – Rohan is one of the easiest factions in general, due to the availability of cheap light cavalry and very powerful heavy 2nd and 3rd tier troops, so turtling won’t change much at all. Depending if you are playing TATW or MOS there might be some differences due to the presence of 1 or 2 foes in the north; in Vanilla game you’ll get only Isengard (but they will get more troops), while in MOS you’ll have also Dunland (which usually focus more on Eriador anyway), but basically your main enemy is Isengard: if you are just but good at managing economy you’ll get enough money to have 2 half stacks of cavalry to keep them at bay, not that hard, but honestly soon or later you’ll get boring of repelling them. On the west Mordor will usually send half to full stacks to cross the Anduin and to attack the Eastfold, so you’ll need some more cavalry there too. If you are good with cavalry units, a turtled Rohan is going to be a great fun, plenty of battles against infantry based enemies that will come at you in a continuous flow, plus you’ll get the chance to fight in places like Hornburg or Edoras, both great customized settlements, the only cons is that you are usual target for the first Invasion, but it can be managed if you don’t pretend to stop all those stacks coming at you.

Gondor: Very Hard and Very Fun – so Gondor is probably the most challenging and entertaining faction for a pure turtler, as it has both the best conditions, so to say chokepoints and very aggressive and dedicated foes. Let’s clarify one point, how hard it is in truth, depends on how you’ll move on the very beginning, as closing the two gaps to Mordor (Minas Morgul and the ford/bridge north of Hennet) makes the things easier, at least for the first 50 turns of the campaign. Honestly holding Mordor at bay does not present big problems, your real concern is Harad; though you have basically two points where to hold them (mouth of Anduin and Pelargir) they tend to spam more and more stacks over the turns, so the longer the time passes the harder it will be to hold them, possibly they will overrun you if you simply sit there and do not at least kill all the stacks that gets close to your borders. So it is going to go a really entertaining turtling campaign, in particular if you like to play lorish and be on the defense, plus here too you’ll get the chance to battle in many customized places, which is always great. A must try for any true turtler.

Mordor: Medium and Not so Fun – the starting position and the backdoor warded by allies makes turtling with Mordor pretty easy, but not so entertaining IMO.. Mordor gives its best when you push it to the end and try to conquer the whole Middle Earth, that’s the way to really enjoy this faction, invasions and the One Ring, but if you wish for something not so hard to turtle with, it can be a good choice, but be aware of: economy is poor, so don’t train too much units out of Mordor and use as free garrison much as possible; there is no sense in getting nearby rebel settlements to Dol Guldur, no economic gain, only widening your borders there, so wait for the Elves there and hope to get some trolls before they will really keep pushing at you; use invasions against Gondor, and kill their best generals (Faramir and Boromir) as soon as you can; leave a way open for Rhun into Gondor. As I said it is not that hard, but I got bored pretty soon because economy will take ages to grow with your original settlements.

Harad: Very Easy and Not Fun – a walk in the park; you only have Gondor to defend from and they are not really aggressive usually, plus your economy will grow much faster than their and I don’t see any real challenge here. Furthermore, being passive does not mean that Gondor will come to you at all, sometimes they focus on Mordor, so it is possible that you’ll have to sit there for countless turns. Frankly, Harad is much more fun played on offence and does not offer any real lore reason to just sit there and do nothing.

Dale: Hard and Fun – I loved to play on defense with those guys, but honestly it has been pretty hard to hold Rhun, due to the damned skirmishers. Basically you can defend the line of the river but in Vanilla TATW Rhun generals get some extra movement points which makes them able to pop up almost everywhere; if you want to have a stable point where to hold them, Uldonovan is the place for you. Being an archer based faction you have the best arrangement to defend yourself, try to get to bridges/fords as much as possible to maximize your advantage, use plenty of watchmen as meat shields and wisely charge your cavalry and you can manage it, anyway it will be hard and long, so also fun for me.

Silvan Elves: Easy and Fun – as for Isengard you get two difference sets for TATW and MOS; in MOS you are split with Lorien, but basically it does not change much. Elves in general are great to turtle with thanks to their excellent archers and superior troops, and Silvans also have the luck to have many forest settlements around to grow on and to easily recruit in. You can sit on the forest and wait for OOM, Mordor and possibly Rhun to come at you, and you won’t have much problems to defeat them (except maybe for some heavy stack with Balrog, many Ologs or many Golden troops from Rhun). A good alternative to HE with a little less lore behind, they prove to be fun if you love elves and pinching down enemies before they get at you.

Lorien: Medium and Fun – I found Lorien just a little bit harder to turtle with compared to other elven factions, mostly because they start with only two settlements and you don’t really have anything around to take that is good for you; the best places (which you are not supposed to attack anyway) which are worth something are Moria and Dol Guldur (both mountains), the rest is formed by pretty useless villages. At any rate, if you want to experience a slightly more challenging turtling with elves, they prove to be really entertaining; plenty or orcs to banish from your forests and a solid lore base, though after a while you really feel the need to conquer Moria, at least to have the chance to show to the Balrog who’s the boss in that area. A must try if you have had enough of HE.

Rhun: Easy and Not so Fun – pretty much the same logic of Harad, those guys are more fun when you bring the tribes to fight in Dale, Esgaroth and Erebor. Basically your economy is good enough to allow you to field 3 or 4 half stacks to defend both north east and north west of the Sea of Rhun, but honestly I got bored pretty soon of waiting for the slow dwarves to come at me; Dale can give a slightly harder challenge, but if you manage to have some cavalry they are really not that hard to beat down, especially if you wait for them on fords/bridges (there is plenty there). The only way I see to make it fun is to turtle as long as Sauron comes back and then using at least invasions to attack Rohan and Gondor.

SPECIAL: Gondor Turtling Guide
Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

A turtled Gondor is, by far, one of the hardest games you can have with TATW and MOS. This is mostly due to the fact that Gondor is the only faction that have an enemy that is fully dedicated to harass them (Harad) and it’s also bordered by another very aggressive and swarming enemy (Mordor); furthermore, depending on the version, you might be forced to face Isengard too, plus your faction will be surely targeted by Invasions.

As the picture of what expects the player is portrayed, someone might lose the will to face this challenge, but honestly if you are a true turtler you can’t miss this one, and there are still many plusses, let’s see them then:

  • For those who care, this is going to be a 99 % lore fitting game;
  • Plenty of defensive battles, against enemies which are usually coming at you with larger but yet weaker armies;
  • Some good choke points were you can hold at bay your enemies, two of which are river crossings that will allow you to fight on a very strong defensive position;
  • The chance to fight in some of the best customized settlements/places ever, some of which are quite easy to be defended;
  • The best troop roster ever for variety and balance, which adds the possibility to use armies that vary sensibly from one front to the other (different strategies, less boring overall), along with some of the best generals/characters in the mods, who will help you in your task (Denethor, Boromir, Faramir just to mention the most famous ones);
  • The honor to save the Middle Earth all by yourself: if Gondor falls, who will withstand?

Notice: as usual my considerations are based on a VH/VH game with huge units, so keep this in mind and consider that playing at M/M or even H/H considerably reduces the overall difficulty, although the general idea will remain the same! Furthermore, there are various versions of the TATW Vanilla or MOS submod that might differ slightly one from the another, so I’ll try to give mostly general suggestions and then point out the main differences of which I’m aware.

Above there is a simple map of Gondor area and surroundings to be used as a reference


So the actual initial set depends on the version or submod you are playing, but basically as Gondor you’ll control Minas Tirith, West Osgiliath, all the regions within Anduin and the White mountains (excluded a couple of small rebel settlements in the far west) and one or two settlements in the Anorien in the north between you and Rohan. As a general rule Gondor can become a real money maker and a power house, provided that you keep in mind the following tips:

  • Minas Tirith, Dol Amroth and the two or three settlements you have in between should be focused on becoming economic centers (Linhir will take time to grow, but it will be worth to invest economically in it); the rules to develop them are the same as usual.
  • Minas Tirith starts out as a Huge City, which means that you’ll be able to build advanced recruiting buildings soon, for now I tell you that the only one you really need is the Stables, later on you’ll see why.
  • Pelargir should be developed with a balanced investment between economic and military buildings.
  • Your main recruiting centers will be Cair Andros, West Osgiliath, Hennet Annun and (later) Minas Ithil.
  • Moving the capital is not that important at the very beginning, but if you want you can move it to any settlement in between Minas Tirith, Dol Amroth and Pelargir, somewhere into the Lebennin region.

Your generals:

  • Denethor, Faramir and Boromir all makes great generals, for their starting command and chivalry points and for their special abilities; Denethor can be spared to make him a great governor and kept in reserve to protect yourself from incursions from the north from Mordor (details below), while both his sons should be used actively.
  • Forlong, Imrahil both are average generals, they can be used effectively in battle to become very good ones; Forlong can be also trained a little bit as a governor, if you move him around Pelargir and close settlements in Lebennin. Imrahil only has Dol Amroth to develop, so it is probably better if you start to use him actively as a general since the very beginning.
  • Plenty of low graded generals, which sums up to about 6-8 cavalry units that you must use actively to fight your enemies, in particular Harad.


In order to survive you have to move quickly at the very beginning as you really need to lock down your fronts on some choke positions, so:

  • Move Faramir to get Hennet Annun at turn 1.
  • Group up as much troops as possible in 2 turns maximum and get over East Osgiliath with Boromir (notice: in some versions/submods E.O. has a garrison script).
  • As long as both Hennet and E.O. have been conquered move up to build an army to siege Minas Morgul, be aware it has garrison script, so you need at least a ¾ stack to win the battle; would be useful to have a couple of generals with cavalry to flank the enemy when they sally out or if possible try to catch a enemy army just outside the walls of the cursed city and force them to enter in battle as reinforcements (to avoid the GS).
  • Once this side is secured get Cair Andros too.
  • In the meanwhile, use your southern troops to secure Tolfalas island; you can send 2-3 generals to help Boromir in getting Minas Morgul, but you won’t need them with Faramir (see below).
  • I don’t suggest you to spend troops and time to take the settlements on the far west, they are pretty useless at the moment as they are under developed and never become interesting from the military point of view.


The northern borders:

Have a look at the map above, the blue line indicates approximately where your borders are (on the west you’ll probably be a little bit over this line, but it really depends on the version/sub mod), while the red stars represent the points in which you have to hold your enemies, let’s see them starting from the north area:

  • The pass between Minas Ithil and Cirith Ungol: once you have got Minas Ithil, quickly move to siege Cirith Ungol (in the same turn if possible) with just enough troops to discourage the AI to sally from it; the purpose is to create a block there to prevent any Mordor army to cross the pass, so that they will be forced to go all the way around through the Black Gate and down to Hennet Annun. You don’t have to conquer Ungol, but just keep it under siege and retreat/siege again when a couple of turns are left before they starve out; you have to do this until you’ll be ready to cross into Gorgoroth with the One in your pockets. Alternatively, if you want, time by time you can release the siege and wait for them in the pass to fight some good defensive battles, but in this case be prepared with ballistas and catapults to counter their trolls, Ologs and troll catapults. If you go for this alternative solution, might be good to have Boromir there.
  • Hennet Annun river crossing: close to the fortress there is a river and a ford/bridge that you have to use as your main defending point in the north, provided that you locked the way through Ungol pass. Use Faramir here as a general and have plenty of archers and pikes (or spearmen), with some heavy sword infantry to close in the gaps; you won’t really need cavalry, but a couple of ballistas to get rid of the enemy catapults will be useful. Be aware though that when you conquer Minas Morgul a dread stack will probably spam and come to you via this ford/bridge (if you have already closed the Ungol pass) and it will sprobably include Ologs, so the very first battle could be really hard. This is going to be your primary defensive point in the whole campaign, so don’t hesitate to add some higher tier units if you can (Fountain Guards come as reward in some missions, they can be extremely useful here, especially against trolls and Ologs). Please notice that north of the river there is plenty of woods: Mordor will hide around some half stacks if they don’t have numbers to attack you on the bridge, so have a spy there to spot them in case you have to move Faramir’s army (or a part of it, for instance to retrain it), otherwise they can surprise you.
  • Once you have secured the two chokes in the north it could be that Mordor will send some smaller armies (usually no more than half a stack) north of the marshes and down again around the Isen back to your Anorien regions (green path on the map above); usually they are not a real treat, you can use garrisoned troops in Cair Andros and Minas Tirith to get rid of them, sometimes it is even possible to have them turn their back to you if you get close to them with a bigger army. Just build a couple of watch towers on the path to have 3 - 4 turns of warning before they actually arrive close to one of your settlements.
  • Other important defensive positions in the area and garrisoned troops: it can be that, despite all the preparation, you’ll be forced to fight not in those chokepoints (for instance during Invasions), so it is useful to consider that both the Rammas Echor and Minas Tirith are places in which defending is really easy (unless they completely outnumbers you); furthermore, the original version of Cair Andros was also easy to defend, but I know that in later releases it is no more a customized settlement but a generic fortress (which will be a strong defensive position anyway). Plus, if for any reason you get pushed out from East Osgiliath, the crossing between the two halves is also easy to defend, so use it at your advantage.
    Garrisoned troops: one of the big advantages of Gondor is that you have plenty of room to garrison troops for free, as the main settlements around all have stone walls; Cair Andros, Hennet Annun, E.O and W.E and Minas Ithil should be able to garrison 4 units for free each, while Minas Tirith has 5 slots, which sums up to 25 free slots in a radius of 1 or 2 turns of movement, which is great! This is going to be particularly important if the regular enemies break your defense or if an invasion will be called on you. Basically I suggest to garrison in Minas Tirith 5 units of cavalry, while in the two Osgiliaths and Cair Andros you can have spare militias (or regular spearmen/swordsmen when you can garrison them for free), and in Minas Ithil and Hennet Annun you can keep some specific troops to reinforce / merge with the two armies you have there.

The southern borders:

The map above summarize the situation in the south, but the possibilities are various, depending on the mod version and on the moment of the campaign. Basically when you start the game there will be a buffer of rebel settlements between you and Harad, approximately represented by the green area in the map above, which will grant you some turns of relief in the very beginning of the game. If you are closing the gap with Mordor in the north quickly, and do not conquer those rebel regions in the south by yourself, Harad will take them in 10 to 20 turns, so let’s see below for the two main turtling areas.

  • The Mouth of Anduin: first notice, in Vanilla TATW you can block river crossings for enemy armies with your boats, which makes things much easier for Gondor, as both here and in Pelargir you can avoid Harad to come to you by simply getting supremacy at the sea and then camping two boats on the two crossings, much cheaper and easier, though killing off Harad naval power is harder than what one can think and honestly I don’t like very much this strategy as it is like cheating to me. So provided that you can still use it during emergencies, let’s see the general strategy of defending with armies: camp your army not on the small islands themselves, but on your own shores, this way Harad can attack you only with one stack at time (they can’t put two stacks close to you, that’s it); I usually have troops from Dol Amroth here, for both lore and variety reasons and Imrahil can easily become a very strong general while fighting against Harad. To fight off the Southrons simply prepare a balanced army, and put some javelin units too along with archers; later on in the campaign you should really have ballistas and catapults to counteract their Mumaks, but honestly this would happen maybe once or twice if you are not fighting dread stacks.
    Extra notice: it might be that in some versions the Mouth of Anduin is not even passable anymore, so the whole part above loses its interest.
  • Pelargir river crossing: basically it is the same logic and notices as above, just consider that Harad will probably get here later; furthermore Forlong is not as good as Imrahil, but anyway is good enough to lead your armies decently and while waiting for Harad you can actually train him as a good governor to improve income in Pelargir.
  • Alternatively you can think of taking some of the rebel settlements in the south and hold them as much as possible to reduce Harad growth, but honestly as the borders become wider it will be much harder to hold off the Southrons; I suggest to take the rebel wooden forth south of Osgiliath anyway and then possibly the town south of it, so that you can use the river crossing to hold the line effectively with less troops (you can see the red path crossing through the river on the map above).
  • I personally prefer to turtle on my own borders anyway, what you should keep in mind is: do not let them group up stacks at your borders, but always attack the small 1/3 stacks they keep sending around; the AI usually sends what they consider enough troops (based on the same calculations of auto-resolve mechanics I think) to assail you or other targets, so the trick here can also be to prevent them to actually conquer the two rebel settlements bordering south to the mouth of Anduin and east to Pelargir, this way the AI will send enough troops to conquer the rebel settlements and not to assail you. If you manage to hide two half stacks (with 3 or 4 units of cavalry, general included, to maximize the results) into those two rebel settlements, you can assail the roaming smaller Harad stacks that come there to take the settlements; this technique won’t last forever, but surely it will win you many extra turns before you have to definitely retreat on the Anduin shores.
  • Harad will also be a menace via sea and fleets, though I’ve not seen them invading heavily via this mean (a special script exists, see below for details on the Special Conditions section), so basically you should only invest to have some boats to get rid of their fleet asap and then camp your boats in front of the Anduin mouth to crush anything they can send in; it is much better and cheaper in the long term than building ships at the moment and running around on the sea when they sometimes pop up with their fleets. Unfortunately due to engine limitation it is not possible to hold enemy boats in their arbor even if you have blockaded the port, this is something bad, but so it is, …


Basically, once you have put yourself into the correct turtling position, you’ll be good for a very long period, but not forever: unfortunately, some fixed and optional events will come into play to change the balance again, see below:

  • Barracks event (Fixed event, removable via script editing): after it took place Mordor will surely start to send Trolls and later Ologs, so keep this in mind, because you need to efficiently counter them as you can’t really lose too much troops against Mordor; one of the main characteristic of the war against Sauron is that he will usually send two or three stacks (sometime more) in a row when he assails you and that very often you have to fight them all on the same AI turn, so always be prepared.
  • Invasions (TATW, in MOS you can optionally choose to have Earlier Invasions): usually the first one is aimed to Edoras (but not always) so for the first 60 or 70 turns you should be ok, but anyway soon they will call one on you, which means that almost every evil faction will send a stack or a ¾ stack to you, possibly even more than one; the way you handle it depends on when it is aimed at: if Minas Tirith or another easily defendable settlement (I found both Osgiliaths easy, due to forced paths) try to hold the enemy and kill all their stacks, it might take a while because the invasion ends when all the invading generals are dead and anyway the first 10 turns will be the worst ones, if you manage to resist till then, you should be ok later, even if the invasion is not ended yet; on the other hand, if aimed to a minor or not so easily defendable settlement, just let them take it, and when they have retired take it back. Remember that you can use the Beacons of Gondor to call aid from Rohan, thought do not expect too much from it.
    Finally, Rammas Echor is damned easy to defend (at least with my playing style), so use the three gates as much as you can to hold off enemies invading armies.
  • Shadow of the East and Mordor’s call (MOS , optional): both scripts will spam extra armies to Mordor, usually on the base of every 10 turns or so; the first one will give Uruks and other typical Mordor’s units, while the latter will give smaller yet higher tier troops, originating from Rhun, Harad and Mordor rosters. Both scripts add flavor to the game, but if you play at VH/VH you could easily avoid them without shame, for sure playing with both on is pure madness (as the AI never bankrupt, remember!). I personally prefer the latter on personal tastes, you might want to add one of the two if you want Mordor to become a big treat since the beginning of the game, though the Invasions will prove hard enough, IMO. Much easier to handle if you play M/M, still a challenge anyway.
  • Corsairs’ Invasions (MOS, optional): as for the two scripts above it adds flavor but also adds unnecessary extra treat from Harad during a VH/VH game; I personally found it interesting on an aggressive campaign with Gondor, as having it activated, will give reasons to the player to start conquering Harad from Umbar, as it should be according with lore. Once more, on a M/M game is much easier to survive this extra treat.

On the other hand, some more facts to be considered:

  • Palantir: you have one in Minas Tirith, use it at your own risk, but anyway it is not so important to make your strategies when you turtle; you can cover the paths to your land with few spies and watchtowers. Still one of the greatest scripts ever, it adds much depth to the game, though non necessary to use it regularly.
  • Tol Acharns (MOS only, optional): the counter part of Invasions, they can be useful for you to put pressure on a specific enemy; personally I found it helpful to push Rohan in trying to get Isengard or to take it by myself (something I usually do if Rohan needs desperately to be helped against Saruman). A flexible script that opens up many interesting possibilities for the player, up to you to decide how to use or “exploit” it.
  • Proximus Diplomatic Meeting (MOS only, optional): a rather new script, allows the player to try to gather up some extra troops from allies; the mechanics are a little bit too complex and I’ve not went into them deeply, you can check by yourself on the MOS thread, anyway I’ve not seen anything revolutionary or game braking, it adds some flavor though not very much in line with lore. You need to build up your reputation (basically faction reputation and overall ranking position) to have the best chances to obtain help from your allies; please notice that each faction has a special interest for an area of the Middle Earth and won’t easily engage in other areas (i.e. Eriador/Arnor will not send troops to Rhun usually).
  • Building up your army: you don’t really need high tier troops, your militia is enough in the beginning and the regular Gondor troops (spearmen, pike men, swordsmen) are good enough to hold the line against the majority of the enemies; remember, you cannot easily win the open fields battles against Mordor and Harad with just infantry or archers (that’s why having chokepoints on rivers is so important, both Ithilien rangers and regular Gondor Archers can snipe thousands of enemies when they are blocked), so you’ll always need cavalry to apply the simple hammer and anvil technique, the best way you have to grant yourself the highest possibilities for an easy victory. You can recruit plenty of cavalry around Gondor, with some special AOR units too.

And two final considerations:

  • Garrison Script (Fixed in TATW, optional in MOS): actually, if you remove it, things will be much easier for the player against Mordor, especially at the very beginning of the game; up to you whether to remove it or not, be aware though that taking it out will result in a massive, overall, game unbalance.
  • Immortal Heroes and Immortal Nazguls (MOS only, optional): in MOS Mordor get 9 Nazguls from the beginning, giving them immortality will surely stick with lore, but it could be a major it for your campaign results, especially at the beginning of the same; I prefer not to use immortality with them (it is not proved anyway which means would destroy them) and at any rate the whole matter about Nazguls is really stretching to fit with lore (i.e. they should not cross Anduin before the return of Sauron), so just pinch them with your pikes and they’ll be gone for good. If you want to use it, you might want also to use the Immortal Heroes, at least to grant you some extra balance with your own heroes.


As a turtler I seldom pay attention to victory conditions, though I try to follow a path on the development of my game so that at a certain point I feel like I’ve done what I had to and I can switch to a new game.

Gondor offers an interesting lore based objective, getting rid of Sauron by destroying the One; it is much harder that what you can think (often the ring will spam far from you) or easier (if you give priority to this): what I do usually with Gondor is try to hold the line as much as possible (usually at about turn 130/150 you’ll need to go on offense in a VH/VH game, in particular against Harad), so at about turn 100 or so I start to move to make my way into Mordor with the One (if I can get it before, I do it and keep my general guarded by spies). Using the Ungol’s pass is the best solution, just be prepared with two stacks of the best and most experienced troops you have at the time led by the best generals.
Once Mordor is gone you can focus on Harad: get Umbar and surrounding regions from them and you’ll have achieved a great victory over your main enemies; from now on if you want keep playing you can defend in Umbar from Harad and north of Mordor from Rhun (you would maybe get the mining regions into Mordor after you have destroyed the One). I doubt any other force will be able to become a treat for you, only Rhun by this time could have built a great empire if they have achieved to destroy both Dale and the Dwarves, so possibly the later campaign (usually around turn 200) could be spent in defending the Anduin line and sending Tol Acharns against Rhun’s mother land, but honestly without Invasions and with a lamed Harad the challenge will be nothing special.

Best Faction(s)
Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

So here we are, which is the best faction to turtle with? As for the suggestion and considerations gave above the best choice is one of the two (three with MOS) elven factions, with High Elves being the best at all. IMO with few necessary steps at the beginning you can make them into a diamond shell turtle that will survive anything. Some tips for HE: switch the capital to Mithlond, invest there hugely in growing and economic building, in Imladris just keep a garrison to hold the OotMM (don’t forget you have two bridges to defend there!) and do not waste money on trade as you will not be able to exploit them, mostly because you’ll be surrounded by enemies or rebels for a very long period. Use the troops you have in Lindon regions to conquer two or three coastal settlements south (as soon as you will remain north of the Tharbad river you should not be in direct contact with any potential enemy) and a settlement north to gift to Dwarves in exchange for alliance (and military access if possible).

Be aware, you must sign an alliance with the Dwarves or soon or later they will backstab you, and you cannot afford this unless you were prepared (or caused it ). In 15 / 20 turns you should be able to build up a small kingdom composed of 8/10 regions, sign alliance with your good neighbors and so be on the right way. Your coastal settlements will be a money maker machine, your trade with the inland allies will become more and more profitable over turns, pop growth will be slow at the beginning, but after you’ll managed to grow Lindon settlements to Large Towns things will improve quickly and the economy will boom. After this first steps you can disband your western troops if too many (you’ll probably get more from missions) or send them via Eriador to Imladris to further save money from recruiting. Just keep an eye on southern bordering potential enemies (Isengard and Dunland with MOS) but do not maintain a lot of troops there, yours are better than theirs and by the time they will become aggressive you should be able to recruit and send there a good backup of units in 2/5 turns. Depending on luck and your ability as a general, around turn 80-100 you should be able to field a first full stack of elite troops (that will steamroll quite everything excepts Mumakil and of course Balgor) to be sent south to either get rid of Isengard, or to cross over and reach Anduin in front of Minas Tirith; similarly you can send it by ships along the coast to back up the Gondorians fighting (and loosing) against Harad. I suggest this option, as with one stack you will not have the power to break Mordor, while if you help Gondor south (and possibly take the island settlement in front of Anduin’s mouth to have a place where to rest/retrain) by looting Harad territory and gifting their settlements to Gondor you will have good results. When you’ll be able to field more stacks send them to complete the task .

A not so hidden risk: someone besieges Moria and the Balrog spawns, which means he can come down to you in Imladris. In case a massive attack from OotMM comes for you, just try to hold it by the bridges/fords, but do not cry if in the end it will be taken, in your kingdom is just but a city.

Apart from Elves I’d suggest to give a try to the Dwarves; even though they have two enemies since the beginning, it is highly improbable they will be attacked by the Orcs (OoG will focus mainly on Eriador, OotMM on Silvan Elves), so if you take a couple of rebel settlements in west and Wormcove in east you can increase your trade. Furthermore do not forget you’ll have a lot of money coming from your mines, so you should be able to field a good quantity of troops to easily defend your kingdom (in the west you can also manage not to be in contact with the OoG). When the time will come (you’ll need a couple of stacks) press form both sides of the Misty Mountains and reconquer what is yours by right, then with more troops head south towards Moria. Finally, have an eye on Rhun and Dale development, if you see the things going bad for the Bardings think on changing your plans and sending a stack to take some settlements west of Sea of Rhun and gift them to Dale or go east, conquer, sack and burn down the money making cities they have there!

According to the general trend the TATW players tends to agree about Elves being the best choice, followed by any “rich”faction, is to say Harad and Rhun. Of course having a good economy since the beginning is a great plus to turtle with relative ease, but be aware that Rhun’s enemies will surely be aggressive and that the best of Harad is obtained when actually exploiting their pluses, more settlements and money in the very beginning to take over south Gondor, but you can also turtle easily by supporting Mordor if they are in trouble and you can easily hold Gondor over Anduin shores, while maybe focusing on building a fleet that will allow you to land everywhere you like on the coasts of the Great Sea .

In any case, IMO evil factions are not intended to be defending, but to be on the front of the storm. Some people gave a chance to Gondor and Mordor too, to which I can agree as long as you are lore playing.
I gave a try to all the factions in turtle mode (although I only “finished” HE and Dwarves campaigns) so if in doubt or in need just ask, and it will be my pleasure to present my point of view.

Final considerations
Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

As said this is a general guide to supply some suggestions to help you on the hard way of having a fruitful campaign when turtling, which basically means to “exaggerate” any standard behavior one usually have with regular game, provided that you’ll keep in mind that the purpose of the game is to entertain, so feel free to act as it most pleases you!

So here we are, I hope this would be useful to someone. As said, if any suggestion or comment just let me know, I'm quite sure experienced players have something to add