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Thread: - [TW Guide] M2TW: Viking Prince’s Strategic Guide for Newbies to Medieval II Total War

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    Default - [TW Guide] M2TW: Viking Prince’s Strategic Guide for Newbies to Medieval II Total War

    Author: Viking Prince
    Original Thread: Viking Prince’s Strategic Guide for Newbies to Medieval II Total War

    Viking Prince’s Strategic Guide for Newbies to Medieval II Total War
    Viking Prince’s Strategic Guide for Newbies to Medieval II Total War

    Version 1.0
    Date 1.16.2009
    By Viking Prince
    With emotional prodding by Rebel6666
    Contribute to the next version and your name can be here!


    First, I am still amazed at how many new players are registering to the TWC site. There are probably several that do not register for every one that does register though. There are some very good reasons to register. First of all, TWC has a huge amount of traffic so your questions have a good chance at a knowledgeable answer and not just a guess. You can be a bit more interactive with the questions and answers; there is private mail; there is profile messaging; modification coding; etc. All very good resources to help you learn how to play the game and when you have a bit of experience under your belt, you will be able to contribute some great stuff to the site.

    Before reading this guide or any guide, please read and be prepared for a quiz on the printed manual. Just kidding on the quiz, but the manual is important. If you prefer an online version, Google is your friend. Hints for searching: the game is part of the Total War series, is published by Sega, and is created by Creative Assembly. Enough with the advertising – let’s get started on general strategy!

    This is more of a broad strategic guide rather than a guide to the perfect plan to plan a particular faction. There is plenty of each to look at though. Search and ye shall find. I will be mostly referencing to France as a starting faction. Odd that it is France? Not because I prefer playing them, but because they fit best with most of the points that I am going to make. For those who care, my favorites are Spain (Jinettes), England (Longbows), and Russia (Cavalry and wide open steppes). If people are interested, some specifics on these may follow this guide. Yes, another reason to register – encourage those who are providing good stuff to continue and offer suggested improvements to those of us who are trying but not quite up to your standards.

    I will try and avoid discussing what is in the manual. If you can read it here, you can read the manual before reading here. I expect that repeating information will bore you and my typing is not necessarily more entertaining than the manual.

    Study the Units and What They Can Do

    Most faction guides start out with a brief run down of the units available and their pluses and minuses. This is an important piece of information. For example – with France – history shows that they relied much more on mounted knights than England. The English longbows were the famous difference in many key battles, but the French held their own for a long time with nobility on horseback. You can choose to play the French differently, but for me historic paths are the most useful to follow the first time through a game.

    I like to create balanced armies. This means (if you have read the manual, you already know this) a mix of infantry, cavalry, spear, and missiles. In the beginning your general is your cavalry and your starting units need to be your armies. Recruit a unit or two as needed, but accept that life is not a perfect plan. If the French were to create an unbalanced army, they would load up on cavalry for frontal assaults. Later in the game, this will be a strategic option for any player choosing the French Faction.

    In the beginning your resources are tight (do not be fooled by the cash you start with – look to what your net spending is each turn. If it is negative – divide it into the balance and you will know when you will be bankrupt. Bankruptcy is not good in Medieval Total War since there is no government deficit spending like in modern times.

    A Typical Siege

    Before we decide what units should go where, it is important to know how capable the units are. This is not meant to be a tactical battle guide. It is important to know what you can do though, so that you can allocate the correct composition to an army and to know how many effective armies you can field. Where and when to attack are strategic concerns that can only be answered if you know how you will win the battles.

    Try out some of the typical units in practice siege battles – attacking settlements is the most common battles in the game. Let’s try a campaign siege against Bordeaux with the French early in the game. Before you attack, determine what you are up against. First the good news – You can reach the settlement immediately with a field army. Five units (1 mailed knights, two peasant archers, and two spear militia) can quickly engage the castle. Further a field in Toulouse, you have Prince Louis with two sergeant spearmen and a peasant archer. The bad news – it is an upgraded castle. I am playing with the Retrofit Mod and patched to 1.05. For me, this means boiling oil! At least it is not a better castle with two sets of walls to breach.

    If you inspected the units in the castle before attacking – always a good idea – you will discover four units: 2 spear militia and two crossbows. Also not that one of the militia has an experience stripe and thus attacks with one more point. It looks like a good fight with your field force. You possess five units against four units. The rebel crossbows are quite a bit better than the peasant archers and the spears are almost equal, but you have a cavalry unit to throw into the mix. Now you need to make a decision – to assault the castle of wait out a siege and have the rebels sally out to meet your forces in the open. Your units will have a tougher time of it to take the castle with siege equipment, but the cost of upkeep of your units for 8 turns.

    If you are going to breach the castle, you will need siege equipment. Your force gets to expend 75 build points per turn on siege building. This is not florins out of your treasury, but the productive capacity of the units to construct equipment. Rams cost 50, ladders cost 15, and towers cost 65. If you are in a hurry build the ram and one ladder or build 4 ladders. Rams and towers are easier to burn by defenders flaming arrows. The ram in my case can also flame up with the boiling oil. Ladders will not get flamed, but the unit carrying a ladder is more open and will take more hits putting the ladder in place.

    On the next turn fight the battle. Ok. You have fought the battle. If you are like me, the results were not very good. So fighting as soon as possible was not a good idea.

    What other options do you have?

    You can wait more turns and build better siege equipment suited to the available forces. For 150 point you can put two towers (and a ladder). By using two towers on one side of the gate you will find better results. First goes the militia spears to take the wall. You follow up with the peasant archers. Once firmly at the top, you will need to move the spears to the gate to open it for the cavalry unit. With luck and good timing, your cavalry will be able to run down a broken spear and a crossbow before they can reform in the flagged central square. You might find the win is acceptable. You might also decide that the chance of your militia spears taking loses and breaking and thus losing the battle is too great. I know that I enjoy close battles when I win, but always wish that I had put in more resources when I lose. You may also decide that you need better skills to win the battle.

    You may also want to auto resolve your battles. This is all up to you. I prefer to fight all the battles out on the battle map. This is a fun part of the game for me. Others find it boring and trivial. They are happy to auto resolve. Try playing both ways and select the style that is best for your own enjoyment.

    You can also bring up more units – remember Prince Louis is at Toulouse with some units. With the Prince present, you will also be able to hire some mercenaries to make the job easier. Mercenaries are not cheap to buy nor cheap to maintain, but neither is your army sitting and not fighting.

    Another option is to wait out the enemy with either the original force or with some reinforcements. If you use Louis, this should be an easy battle to win when the rebels sally out of the gates. If you use Louis to only recruit a mercenary spear to add to the siege, it still should be an easy battle. Try several options and you will get a much better feel for the simple beginning battles of the game. Save the game before the units sally out so that you can practice the open field battles also. Remember that the open field battles favor your cavalry and the settlement street fighting favors infantry and missiles. Your spears are best in defense of cavalry charges, but are ok on the offensive in the earliest battles in place of infantry.

    My preference is to wait out my opponents. For a 3 or 4 turn siege, this seems ok to me. For a wait of 8 turns, I would tend to use more units and simply take the place. This is not always true though. If you siege for 8 turns, other AI factions will not judge that this is controlled by your faction and yet they cannot enter the siege. Well, they can if allied to you to “help” an ally. Remember that the faction initiating the combat wins the settlement and not the faction that first besieged the settlement. Be careful. Or take advantage of an ally that can use your “help”.

    Where Should I Expand Initially?

    This is somewhat of a trick question. New players want to attack immediately and everywhere. This is total war, isn’t it? There are rewards to patience and also to decisive thrusts against an enemy before he has time to organize. The new player has the instinct to thrust. I would suggest learning when to wait.

    Let’s take a quick look at France. In the beginning the French control Paris, Rheims, Angers, Toulouse, and Marseilles -- five settlements. You are already one of the “big” boys.

    What are the adjacent rebel settlements? Going clockwise around France we have: Bruges, Metz, Dijon, Zaragoza, Bordeaux, and Rennes. Add in some easy to invade Mediterranean islands: Ajaccio and Cagliari. Before you start on your global conquest, it might be best to see what options nearby factions also have to expand. Remember it is easier to keep a peaceful existence with a neighbor that is busy with conquests of his own. If your neighbors have no place to expand without attacking another faction, they will attack another faction – even if this means breaking trade agreements and even alliances. You might complain when Milan “stabs” you, but if you are the only means for Milan to expand, you would do the same when playing as Milan. I mention Milan, because they are the most closed in of all your neighbors. Milan has the following rebel provinces adjacent at the beginning of the game: Florence, Dijon, and Bern. They also have the option for the same Mediterranean islands: Ajaccio and Cagliari. Yep. That is all that is available. Check out the rebel units in Bern. You can scratch them off of the quick list. So you can see why Milan will look at Dijon and Marseilles as good options even if they are French and not rebel held as well as the Mediterranean islands.

    Unless the French are willing to make an attack as difficult as the rebels holding Bern, be prepared for the Milanese to invade and possess your territory. Of course, if you want an initial campaign against Milan, grab as many of the rebel provinces as possible to force Milan to go on the offensive with a smaller resource base. Just do not do it and complain about a backstabbing Milan that has an alliance with France. If you leave the islands and Dijon to the Milanese – this buys time. The time is precious. Before Milan runs out of rebel provinces to attack, she will most likely be embroiled with her own wars with other neighbors and an alliance will last a bit longer. This gives the French time to build up the economy and to take on other opponents.

    Corners of the Map Are Easier Positions than the Center

    Take a look at France again. You have England, Holy Roman Empire (HRE), Milan, and Portugal as very close neighbors. Add in Spain, Sicily, the Papal States, and the Moors and you have quite a few potential wars to fight without even leaving the immediate part of Europe that you start in. Now take a look at England: France and Scotland. A bit further are Denmark, Spain, and Portugal. Also all but Scotland need a seaborne invasion to take out all of England. There is a similar situation with Iberia: Spain, Portugal, and the Moors are a triangle – any one can conquer Iberia and be playing a corner position.

    Back to our favorite example, France: One option for new players is to play France and make a corner position. The obvious choices are Iberia and the Isles. This type of a plan would then direct which rebel settlements to take and which to leave for neighbors to expand into without getting into a war with them. If France wants to establish a corner position with the Iberian region, then Bordeaux, Zaragoza, and Valencia are the most tempting rebel settlements. Also a Crusade against Cordoba will free up some upkeep of units. Remember the discussion on whether to wait out a siege or attack the city walls? Cordoba under a Crusade siege will buy you time to convert the population and build up your economy.

    Water Makes a Better Common Border than Land

    The computer program does not do as well in computing where to attack if a seaborne invasion is one of the choices. Call it a flaw in the artificial intelligence (AI) or just the way the game is coded. Maybe it is that the human player has too easy of a time when launching invasions. However, the game begins immediately after a famous invasion in 1066.

    With the knowledge of computer preferences and water borders, you can see how England may well be one of the easier factions to build up into an established economy. If you are playing the French – the only continental English settlement is Caen. If you seize Caen and then get a ceasefire, you are much safer from attack by the English. This is also a reason why the French like to grab Rennes, since this also reduces English expansion on the continent.

    Water does indeed make a better border than land. This does not mean that seaborne invasions will not happen. Good examples are the islands in the Mediterranean. Seize Ajaccio and leave a minimal garrison. The only question if you are playing as the French will be which faction will be the first to invade. You have Milan, the Papal States, Sicily, Spain, Portugal, and the Moors. If you are already at war with a faction, seaborne invasion chances rise. The richer the island is for trade, the more likely it becomes an attractive target also.

    Another example of likely seaborne invasions occurs in the Iberian Peninsula. There is a strait between Marrakesh and Cordoba. A naval unit will keep land units from moving between the two regions. If you are at war with the Moors, you can block this land movement. You will discover that the Moors may then look to a seaborne invasion. This means you have more settlements now at risk. Naval supremacy is expensive (check the upkeep costs). Garrisons that are not free are also expensive. You can get a ceasefire to reduce the risk or accept the risk. Just do not be surprised when an invasion does occur.

    Hamlet never said, “To Occupy, Sack or Exterminate – that is the Question”.

    I tend to role play the game a bit. For me, that means to occupy nearly all the time. As a new player it is tempting to sack and sack and sack. Turn all of Europe to a cinder and be wealthier than Midas. This is not an historic approach to the game, but it is only a game. Do what makes it fun for you. What I do is not even remotely right. It is only an opinion and a remark on my philosophy on what is fun for me.

    In game terms the three choices really mean money, control, and chivalry/dread. If you occupy, you will gain chivalry. Sacking means the loss of lives and thus a decrease in chivalry (or an increase in dread) as well as more income. Extermination means a much greater loss of lives. If you are a Catholic faction and the lives lost are Catholic – your pope rating will drop. The Pope does not like it when you kill fellow Catholics.

    For me, the sacking seems a bit extreme in historic terms and extermination is simply not an option. Also, I like to have chivalrous generals in my settlements to improve population growth and income. I also like the chivalrous generals in battle since they improve the chances of my own units to not break from losses and other factors that reduce moral. Other players like the high dread generals – they are really effective in the field to help break the enemy. As for extermination, many players like the option when the city has a large population and nearly all of the population is not of their faction’s religion.

    Hamlet also never said, “To Release, Ransom or Execute – that is the Question.”

    The chivalry/dread question also comes up when a battle is won and prisoners must be ransomed, executed or release. Release will increase chivalry if there are sufficient numbers. Execution will increase dread. Ransom is a neutral choice even if it is not paid and the prisoners are subsequently put to the sword.

    Once again, as a role playing human – I tend to release more than many other players. There are also some practical reasons for the release. If I am confident that the faction in question is no longer a threat, this guarantees some beat up units that will require some up keep. It is a bit different of a question when a noble has been captured though. The ransom is greater – thus the expression “a king’s ransom” comes into play. The possibility also exists that this can end the faction’s existence if there are no family members remaining to take the crown.

    This brings up another strategy that is useful for the new players to be aware of. Earlier I had mentioned looking at the enemy strength before entering battle. This is also a good time to assess whether the faction has too many family members concentrated in a single army. This is a very good reason for battle and capture. Capturing is best with an open field battle where your cavalry can run down broken units and capture the men involved as they flee in a completely vulnerable formation. Since cavalry is best for this purpose, this is a reason for a balanced army to contain some light cavalry in addition to the general. Light cavalry are good at only a few tasks, but running down a routed unit is one of there best abilities.

    You can also seek to kill the nobles during battle by concentrating your missile fire and trying to hit the heavy cavalry with a flanking unit once engaged. All good stuff to execute or ransom the enemy family members.

    Since Pockets Have Not Been Invented, Why Are the Florins Burning a Hole in My Pocket?

    There is a great deal to find on building an economy elsewhere and even in the manual. A few brief comments are needed here.

    First, build the cheap before the expensive. This is not just an admonition within a single settlement, but also a reason to allocate resources between the settlements. The first level farm may bring in perhaps 50 florins a turn. The second level costs more, but will still only contribute another 50 florins a turn. Farms can also improve population growth though. Population contributes to income as well as squalor. In the beginning you want the population to grow quickly, but later in the game it will be hard to keep up with the building improvements to serve the population and this squalor becomes an issue. You will note that various buildings increase population growth. This varies to a degree with the mod you are playing and also with the factions being played. Do not forget that castles behave differently than towns.

    Build to both increase revenue and to minimize upkeep. If a militia unit that can be built in a town is garrisoned in that town – there is free upkeep up to the rated capacity of free up keep units for the existing walls. Since a militia unit can cost 100 or more florins per turn in upkeep, a town that can house three units for free is a better deal than other structures that generate trade. I will nearly always opt for the 300 – 400 florins a turn that supports a garrison. First, the barracks improve the security of the settlement. This means higher taxes which can also lower population increases. Second, the garrison can be used as a part of an anti-rebel force so that a smaller professional force is needed in interior areas, if the professions are then even needed at all.

    Towns will produce more income than castles and can have the reduced costs of garrison upkeep. This will also mean the wise player will try to hold towns on the water for trade links and castles on the interior where trade options are reduced. Castles, for most factions, produce the better military units for a good professional army in the field. A growing economy needs the towns. The military usually needs the castles. Some will argue for a ratio of 3 to 4 towns per castle. Others look at the region and wish to maintain one good castle within each region. Others want the castles to make good borders with enemy factions since they are harder to capture and allow you to produce troops closer to the action.

    The important point is that the new player should have a plan and watch to ensure the plan is maintained or changes. Do not just do with the flow. Have a reason for what the structure of your economy is and how it develops.

    Another key to build an economy is to not spend resources that have no return to you economically or militarily. Not every town needs armor upgrades. Not every castle needs to be able to produce every unit. Specialize on where to recruit spy, archers, knights, high level naval units, etc.

    A Promise or a Threat: Final Words Until Next Time

    This completes this draft of the guide. This was a compilation of random notes that I had made when learning the game. I thought to never put this down in an organized fashion, but Rebel6666 has pestered me to contribute a bit to the discussion. So he gets credit for this as much as I.

    Remember this is a newbies guide. It is also a strategic and not a tactical guide. I have used the French in many examples, but this is clearly not meant to be a complete guide on to how to play the French. The fact that other factions were omitted should not deter the student from applying these ideas to many factions and the many situations that are not listed in the guide. There is a great deal that you will do when more proficient. There is also a great deal within this guide that you may disagree with.

    Comments and suggestions are always welcome. If I include your ideas in a revision, I will give you a credit for doing so. Help me make this better for all to use.
    Last edited by Nazgûl Killer; February 21, 2010 at 11:18 AM.
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