Hello, and welcome to the Throne Room!
Whether you are a TW veteran or a newcomer to the series, whether you have played MP battles or hotseats before, you will probably find some useful information in this guide. I know that hotseats can be confusing and there is a big contrast between hotseat play and other forms of multiplayer that we are used to as gamers, and it is always better to read up on things already established, than to discover the wheel on your own
I am a RTW and M2TW player, who came to the Throne Room with no knowledge on anything other than the original games. What I've learned in my time here, either trough my own efforts or trough the tutorship of the fine veterans in the .org's Throne Room, I now share with you, in the hopes that you will join us for the betterment of our community and to have even more fun waging TOTAL WAR amongst our chosen factions!
List of used abbreviations and terms:
RTW - Rome: Total War
BA - Barbarian Invasion (expansion for RTW)
EB - Europa Barbarorum (a RTW mod)
M2TW - Medieval 2: Total War (You might see MTW, which can refer to the original Medieval: Total War game or to the M2TW game but with the 2 omitted)
SS - Stainless Steel (a M2TW mod. The current version is s SS 6.4)
KGCM - Kingdoms Grand Campaign Mod (a M2TW mod. It has a hotseat patch that rebalances it greatly for hotseat play)
TATW - Third Age: Total War (a M2TW mod set in the LOTR universe)
AR - Auto Resolve, also seen as autocalc. The automatically resolved battles that can be chosen in a TW game.
Lead Battles/Fought Battles - the player leading his armies vs. the AI on the battle map.
SP - single player
AI - Artificial Intelligence, or the "computer" player in the game.
VCs - Victory conditions
stack - An army one commands. For example, 3 units of peasants are a stack. 10 units of spear militia and 10 units of peasant archers, are a full stack (the max 20). There is also halfstack, 1/4 stack etc. You get the picture.
GB - General's bodyguard unit. Usually the heaviest cavalry the faction can field at the time.
FM - family member, a general who is also a part of the family tree of that faction.
1. What is a hotseat?
A hotseat game is essentially like a single player campaign in M2TW (or other TW game), where all or some of the factions are lead by a human opponent instead of the AI (the "computer" as we also call it). Do not confuse hotseat games with the multiplayer option provided by the game's creators, which only allows players to fight battles on the battle map.
2. How is it played?
A hotseat game is made possible trough varying degrees of tinkering with the game or mod to be used. The final result for you as the player is that several factions have been made human controlled. The AI takes care of the other factions for you. The game starts with the first human controlled faction coming up (based on the turn order). When that happens, the controlling player sets a password for it and moves his units, recruits, builds and does everything that he'd normally do in a SP game.
There is one key difference, and that is how battles are to be processed. Normally, vs. the AI you are given the option to fight or auto resolve any battle, be it initiated by you or by the AI faction. In hotseat games, the way battles are resolved significantly alters the play-style required to be successful and is always stated in the rules for that particular game. More on that later.
So after your turn comes up, you receive a PM (private message) in the forum, and the link to the save is posted in the thread. It's every player's job to send the save (and a PM) to the player following his turn, so that we can keep the game moving. You download the save, put it in the correct folder, and start up that instance of the TW game you are playing. You click "load game" and choose that save, enter your password and play your turn. Then you click end turn, the screen for the next faction appears, you make a new save (labelled with that faction's name) and send it to the next player.
Usually we upload files here in the .org's own file management area. It is important to remember to always archive the save with WinRAR or other such software, because otherwise the file manager here might "break" and not allow the download to proceed later.
3. Common hotseat formats, rules, banned exploits and more
You now know the way that a hotseat is set up (don't worry, the process is very straight forward and the admin to the game will guide you along). Now let's get into more details concerning the specifics of the rule set and how the game actually plays.
- The first thing to be decided is the game or mod that will be used. More on the specifics of the more popular ones you will see later on. Remember that each game and modification is different and plays differently. This is the rough clay that is used to shape the fundamentals of your plan for victory. For example, if one mod makes cavalry obscenely powerful and expensive, while another one gives most factions 15 attack AP archers, you will have to take that into accordance.
The starting positions of the factions are vital when making your plan. If you do not know the mod (common for a new player. I myself did not know a single mod or Kingdoms expansion, but that did not stop me from doing my homework prior to the game), the first thing you should do is start a game with every faction and take note of it's starting locations, strength, income, infrastructure and the terrain it holds. Based on that you can have a rough estimate of how powerful each enemy will be (player skill not included, though as you spend some time here, you'll know who are aggressive ones, the timid ones, the loyal ones and the backstabbers, and who are the really good ones).
Taking a look at specific figures will distinguish you from those players who just "get stuff" and "make dudes". I know not everyone has the time to be a meticulous scholar of all things TW (I too, have a life, and it's getting in the way of my TWing. Unfortunately life is kind of... vital), but you must be observant. One mod might have forts at 2500 gold instead of the usual 500. Another one might have greatly reduced the upkeep for priests or amped up the income from merchants. A third one might have made some buildings too expensive to be feasible in a situation where you can get attacked. All mods change units stats and recruitment and upkeep costs. Always look at them in the context of the current game and never assume. Feudal knights in M2TW might be different from those found in KGCM for example! More on the specifics of successful planning later on.
- The second thing to be decided are the victory conditions for the game. These have a profound impact on the priorities you will place before yourself. If the game/mod is the clay, this will be the shape you wish to achieve with it. Pay attention to the VCs and always plan the shortest and easiest way to achieve them!
One thing to note - you can lose the game abruptly if all your family members get killed. This is not uncommon, and that's why you must never put all of your FMs in a single stack, least it get wiped out and your whole faction turn rebel. Horde factions are immune to this effect, but it's very unlikely that you will get to play one.
- The third thing to be decided, are the particular rules for the game. These are basically the tools and dyes you will use to finish your piece of pottery. You must pay close attention to the rules, as they can and will differ between hotseat games! Out of these, the most important one is whether battles are fought or auto resolved! Since we can't play hotseat and lead our battles directly as we clash on the campaign map, the player who is doing the attacking will always be facing the AI.
A thing to note is that when there are AI players in the game (or active rebels that move stacks around to siege your castles) and their turn comes up, the game autoresolves the result (it can't offer you to lead a battle versus an AI or rebel army sallying). This is very important in the early stages of a hotseat game when most players want to grab rebel or AI held lands instead of risking a costly war with their neighboring factions.
In lead battle games make sure you siege with a sufficient number of troops so the AI doesn't want to sally vs. your army or you'll lose. If it waits, next turn you can lead your siege assault and win with low casualties (or just win if it's a hard fight). There is a section on the battle map below, you'll get more information there.
If the games are AR, the defender is not in any great disadvantage. The game engine calculates the probable outcome and proceeds to subtract the losses from each stack. AR has the following specifics about it:
- Unless it has been tampered with, autoresolve prioritizes unit defence, unit health (how many hitpoints the men have, usually 1) and the number of soldiers in a unit. It also prioritizes infantry over cavalry and archers. So, let's say that your faction has a type of heavy infantry with 21 defence, 9 attack and 150 men per unit. The enemy has infantry with 15 attack, 12 defence and 120 men per unit. Your unit will vastly outperform his, based on these stats.
I know that if you lead a battle you can inflict mountains of pain with archers and cavalry, but AR does not favour them at all. If you see a stack of infantry with more than 15 defence per unit, more than 120 men per unit, most of them are at full count, and have chevrons and a 5+ star general, you can expect obscene casualties that will never be "real" in your eyes if you were to play the battle (for example, you attack them with 30 units of archers and 10 units of heavy cavalry and you lose horribly)
- The statistics for your and your enemy's general greatly affect the battle as well. These are too varied to detail, but so far it is my experience that command boosts the chance of victory greatly, dread and chivalry in M2TW are about equal and help out as well (with dread being far easier to get), and Night Fighter really helping out even if it seemingly only adds one or two command stars.
- AR battles cannot finish enemy armies off, unless they have been cornered into a fort or settlement. You might sometimes get a lucky break and kill off their leading general, but most often the army will simply retreat upon defeat, usually far away from you or inside a settlement or fort.
- AR games tend to be more predictable. Due to the nature of AR, there can be no great surprises in war. If you plan well and execute your plan flawlessly you cannot really get a result that was improbably or downright impossible. The faction with the greater unit roster, production capability, gold income and bigger size will always trump the smaller one that has weaker (as far as AR is concerned) units, fewer castles and less gold to spend. AR makes hotseat play a bit like chess and aims to take out the randomness factor out of the game. However, it usually is not fair to those factions who have skirmish and archer based armies and to those who start 5-8 times smaller than their neighbors. You cannot expect to survive a M2TW hotseat that is AR if you are Scotland and the English player decides to come at you in full force. Unless you use diplomacy and he makes mistakes, but that is another story.
If the games are fought battles/lead battles there is no fairness, less chance to predict things and a lot more room for error and skill to be displayed. These games are not for everyone! Here are some details for you to know:
- There is no such thing as a superior army in lead battles! Unlike in AR, where if you have a 10 star/ 10 dread, Night Fighter general, who is leading 19 units of Order Spearmen (more on the Teutonic Kingdoms expansion later) with 23 defence and 150 men per unit, you are certain that your enemy cannot beat you with his cavalry archer armies no matter what he does (that is, if you know what he has on the field and what he can reasonably produce in one turn) in a fought battles game you can be certain of nothing! You can besiege a castle this turn, and find out that your full stack got wiped out like so much fodder on the following turn, and the enemy achieved it with 4 GB units and a rag-tag force of spearmen and peasants who acted as an anvil for the cavalry's hammer, or with 8 units of cavalry archers.
That's why, it is paramount to never let the enemy get the jump on your armies, if you can help it. Whomever attacks and leads the battle, can do anything in his power to beat your armies in the field, versus the inept AI general. That's why you should always end your turn in a fort or settlement, and be prolific with the fort placement - use them at choke points, and use them to cut off access to your besieging army so the siege cannot be relieved without the enemy having access to siege weapons capable of opening your forts in the same turn. There is one exception to resting in forts, you'll see it below.
As a matter of fact, siege weapons play a key role in fought battles games. They allow you to open enemy forts that would have otherwise slowed you down by a turn or more, and if sufficiently high tier, they allow you to assault his settlements on the turn you attack them, and this not giving him the option to sally and break your besieging army.
- Fought battle games are not predictable. Even a much smaller and weaker faction can turn the tide of a war, if the player leading it wins several Heroic Victories and gets the enemy's training centers or major trade settlements. While not everyone has good units for an AR game, in lead battles you can win even with just GB units. Units like other heavy cavalry, longbowmen or other strong archers and effective infantry are icing on the cake, but not necessary. Even lowly javelinmen can wipe the floor with heavily upgraded enemy infantry, if used correctly!
- The fourth thing to be decided are the other rules and banned exploits. These are also important and play a large factor. Can spies open settlements? What level of siege equipment is required to open stone walls? How many assassination attempts can we make per turn? Can FMs be targeted with assassins? Is there a rule that makes your defeated armies not move next turn, while also disallowing their attacking unless they are in a fort or city? Pay attention to these, and ask for them to be explained in the thread if you don't know what they are or why they are there. Here is a list of the most common rules:
Each player has 24 or 48 hours to complete his turn. After that the Admin may skip his faction or he can be subbed.
The duration is set by the administrator and is usually up for debate between players. I choose to not include the weekends in this calculation and It's somewhat of an unwritten rule that we don't really nag other players for their save during the weekend, as most of us are away from our M2TW PCs during that time.
Your turn will rarely be skipped, though if it happens you must blame no one but yourself. To avoid this, warn the administrator that you will be away or that you are otherwise unable to play your turn. People don't like waiting without any specific reason for doing so! However, we do have a practice of subbing - choose an ally of yours whom you trust, or an outside player or the administrator if he is not playing in the game, and they will play your turn for you. If you have any specific plans, make sure you contact your appointed sitter and let them know, least they mess up your grand scheme due to ignorance of "the big picture"
Do not attack ships in ports.
and its related
Armies boarding ships in ports can't stay there for more than one turn.
We don't allow the attacking of docked ships because the AI does not do it. It can be done via selecting the unit cards only, but it's an exploit. Subsequently, we don't allow for an army to "camp" inside a docked navy for more than one turn, least it turn into an invulnerable army.
Don't leave blockaded ports without beating the blockading ships first.
Self explanatory. Note that if you attack the blockade and lose (quite possible as the AR for sea battles is very random), the game might make your ships run away past the blockade and far away from their home port. That instance is fine and does not fall under the exploit as you tried to fight and lost.
No surrounding armies or agents to destroy them. (Surround&Destroy)
This is a horrible exploit that isn't really considered "illegal" by the game engine, and is in fact, based on a feature of the RTW engine (used in M2TW as well). When you attack an army that has nowhere to retreat, it dies upon losing the battle. The AI might do this to you, but it will do so by accident and never on purpose. Especially with most mods now having larger maps and chokepoints as to avid just that. You are forbidden to surround an army or agent with units (let's say 7 units of spear militia) and autocalc-ing for the win and absolutely slaughtering the stack. You are also not allowed to attack navies if they are somehow backed into a jagged corner of the coast with no room to retreat.
Note that if the game is lead battles you are free to chase the routing enemy and wipe them out on the battle map. Frequently the enemy army will disperse afterward, and that's perfectly acceptable.
Don't attack units who were left next to a settlement in order to capture it on the same turn in order to cheat the garrison script. In fact don't cheat the garrison script period.
This applies only versus AI factions and only for those mods that have garrison scripts to help them. Mainly KGCM, TATW and SS. A garrison script basically conjures up armies out of thin air whenever you siege a predetermined AI held settlement. Usually those are settlements of great importance, such as Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria etc. If a human player leaves a unit directly next to a settlement and you can attack it, you may punish the mistake with no remorse.
Don't use repeated offers for bribe to increase your faction leader's dread.
Discovered by yours truly in a Britannia game. It is possible to offer the AI repeated bribe offers (in that mod at least, though I suspect also in others) that it will decline, until your FL has 10 dread. Don't do it, you'll get caught easily.
Enable "Unlimited men on battlefield" in order to not abuse when leading battles vs the AI
SS has this on by default, and it must be done in any lead battles game that is not played in SS. Otherwise even if your PC is godly, the RTW/M2TW engine will still deny the enemy his reinforcements to "conserve resources" and the attacker will get a sort of free Night Fighter ability. It's done via the preferences.txt file, but you should ask your administrator to help you with this (and indeed he should and will). Or ask me via PM if you can't find it. This is only important in lead battle games.
Armies that are defeated in battle by a player that comes after them in the turn list may not move the following turn. This is to make it fair for people who are defeated by players that come before them in the turn list, and thus lose all their movement points. The great equalizer of all the rules, that aims to fix the inherited imbalance of having a turn order between factions.
Armies that are defeated in battle may not be attacked on the following turn, as they are banned from moving, either by the game mechanics or by the rule above. They must be allowed to move first, or must be reinforced. If the defeated army retreats to a settlement or fort, this rule does not apply.
Self explanatory. In general, when you beat an army in a hotseat game, you say in the forum "King Alfonso and his army have been defeated and can't move next turn." Now, when next turn comes up, if that king ended up in a fort or settlement you can besiege them and attack, if not, you must wait one turn yourself before attacking him again. It's confusing and commonly forgotten, but you'll get the hang of it (and your enemy player will readily remind you of that rule to save his army )
Ballistae can't open anything, catapults can open wooden walls, trebuchets or better can open anything.
This is a common rule and is done to mainly make castles and stone walls meaningful and hard to storm. Elsewise everyone and their grandmother will just get the cheapest and easiest to obtain siege weapon (a ballista in most any mod) and just take your cities without you having anything to say about it. This is especially important in fought battle games. On a side note, always keep an eye for trebuchet or gunpowder artillery mercenaries that might pop up, these will make or break your game!
Spies cannot open settlements of any kind.
We generally don't allow spies to ope gates. Note that they actually will open gates if you put them in forts and cities, sometimes even on the first turn. You still have to have the appropriate siege engines to take it however. This is done to prevent the massive spywars that had been dominating the hotseat games of old. Think of it like the pact modern day countries have of not using WMDs.
Assassins are allowed to target anyone but the players are limited to one assassination attempt per turn. It must be the first action they do, before they spend money or do anything else. Upon a successful assassination the game admin will load that player's save and attempt the assassination. If the results are different there will be penalties for cheating.
This is the most modern interpretation of the rule, though you still might find the more conservative "assassins cant target FMs at all". The idea behind this is to stop players from massing assassins and just turning the game into Agents: Total War where Assassins and Spies rule the ebb and flow of a game. The order of doing assassinate first, spy second, anything after, is so that the admin for the game can repeat your action. This is related to the random seed and loading, explained below.
No Crusades or Jihads to be called or joined.
Well you can probably get away with calling one if there is at least one other Islamist faction (and the Pope does whatever he wants anyway) though you will get caught if you are suspected (the admin will just play your turn for you and end it, and come next turn if the AI doesn't call it, you're busted!). In general, the veterans here say that Crusades and Jihads greatly imbalance the game and are a source of strife and bickering between players. I normally agree, though I have started a game where they are paramount to the war effort. This is a team battle game however, and one with specific objectives, so they are still restricted.
If you find yourself in a Crusades/Jihad game, make the utmost use of them! Their most important bonuses are the mercenary pool that opens up, the movement bonus and the free upkeep. Getting traits and chevrons is icing on the cake. Also, beware of suffering desertion if you don't head for the target! (The AI is immune to desertion)
ONLY religious buildings can be destroyed upon the conquest of a settlement and ONLY if they are of a religion different than your own.
This is the newer variant of the classical "No buildings to be destroyed for cash under any circumstances." This is done to prevent turning the contested border settlements in a war between players into a desolate wasteland, whether the losing defender decides to demolish everything he can prior to losing a city, or a raiding enemy just comes along, sacks your town and kills 2/3 of your buildings.
Note that sacking settlements can kill structures, and then the player is not at fault.
No sallying from an obviously lost siege to deny the enemy the sacking option.
This is self explanatory - if you're defending a city with a 15000 population with a single unit of peasants and it's being besieged by a full stack, you cannot just attack on your turn so you lose and the enemy stack just walks in the town, denying 6-7000 gold from a sack he might and probably would have done.
No trading of provinces to receive free troops. If you trade provinces, make sure they have no garrison prior to the exchange.
Pretty self explanatory.
No deliberate deals that would put you in debt above -10,000 florins.
Yes, if you have 10000 now you can give them all at once. No, you can't have 10000 now and sign a tribute of giving 10000 per turn for 150 turns! The game engine will allow it but it's an exploit and we'll notice because most players take a close look at the faction ranking charts.
The three most common banned exploits are:
- Loading Never load a game unless you've miss-clicked or you got a crash to desktop (CTD). It's unfair, and especially so if you do it to discover where the enemy is deployed under the fog of war (FOW), to change the outcome of a random % action like spying or assassinating a character, or to win a battle via stacking more troops there or leading it until you get a lucky break. However I do advise saving the game when you win a massive battle in a LB game, least you get a crash in the next one and have to replay it.
The way loading works as related to the chance-based abilities is such: Let's say you have an assassin who has a 15% chance to kill an enemy general. You try and fail. You load, move another unit by one hex, then try again. This time you'll get a different result, because the random seed for the game has been changed by the other action you took. This might also influence the outcome of an AR battle to some extent (my experience is that winning another battle before trying the problematic one gives you better odds).
So that's why we want you to try your assassination attempt at the very start of your turn, before you do anything else.
- Abusing merchants Commonly dubbed as a merchant fort. You cannot place forts or armies on a resource just so you can get more than one merchant to stay on it.
- Abusing movement points Any trick that allows you to get more movement than you should on the campaign. Don't do it, you'll get caught and then people will mistrust you.
These are the most common rules and exploits you will find. They will differ between games and you must always pay attention. If something is not in the rules, make sure you ask first before doing it! Aim to play fairly, the .org is a place to have fun in good sport. You don't really get anything more if you win a game than if you don't, having fun and being a good player are both irrelevant to the final outcome of a game. Though by all means, win fairly!
4. Specific strategies, tactics, and guidelines
Here I will delve into the specifics of good TW play and good hotseat play. Most are my own discoveries trough my years playing the games and later joining the hotseat scene at the .org, some are lessons I've learned the hard way while playing with the more experienced guys here.
Formulating your plan: You know what you will be playing, what is needed to win, who the other players are and how their factions start off. Based on that, you must make a general plan to victory. Try to foresee how the game will develop and preemptively cut off any means of the enemy to sabotage your plans. Now who exactly that enemy is, is up to you to find out. A combination of knowing the actual players and knowing the faction dynamics and the "natural enemies and allies" in each mod and game is key. Whether your plan consists of major offensives in turn one, developing your economy and playing defensively or a joint effort with an ally, you must decide now.
Diplomacy: This will win you as many wars and games as your armies will. The good thing about hotseats is that people control those nations, not some generic AI that will buy your useless map information and alliance for 3000 florins! Talk to the players, juggle with the information you have, offer things that they want but never things that come directly from your own "pocket" if you can help it. Learn whom you can trust and whom you cannot (but do not carry over spite from previous games). Securing alliances, or just mutual attacks on a target can win you more than by trying to go for a lone wolf approach.
Remember everyone wants to win, everyone wants settlements. Tell a likely ally that you will be attacking your mutual enemy and he will more than readily jump on the bandwagon, at least to grab some lands if nothing else. Cooperative victories are also possible - the game ends when all the remaining players agree it does, unless there are specific VCs at play. Send your private messages trough the forum, as those can be read from the save file by less than honourable players. And send them early - the earlier, the better. You must learn to play all the sides with the information you know, and especially with the information they don't have!
People are afraid of what they don't know and they fear making a mistake and losing. Their imagination will make your armies bigger, and the fog of war will make them slow and cautions. Use that! Also, feign ignorance or inability to see some "clever ploy" your enemy has, so that he is confident and overextends. In contrast, you must be confident in your abilities but not in the situation, unless you have thoroughly investigated the enemy and his positions.
One more thing, on the issue of backstabbing and lying. Here things are not universally accepted as say, the battle or economy part of the TW play and guide. I can only tell you my opinion and my experience.
As a rule, do not lie to your fellow players. Make a distinction between "in character" replies (ie. talking as the King of Denmark) and replies of player to player (Myth talking to player X). You can keep silent or be misleading (and lie) in-character, but lying as an actual person on the forum will not be good for your reputation.
Also, beware of backstabbing. Winning one game might not be worth forever losing the trust of a fellow .org player, because next time you might need their help. On the other hand, backstabbing might be your only way to win versus a superior opponent, and you might not feel like getting a co-op victory. There are those players however, who will get so frustrated with you that they will refuse to play with you or carry over tremendous spite in another game. Basically, do it at your own risk. It is always better to at least explain in an out of character (OOC) comment why you chose to attack said faction as to show them that it's nothing personal but rather required in your opinion to aid the game or solve some situation for your faction.
Economy and early game: Developing your economy is key in hotseats, as it is in SP. Only rarely will you be blitzed immediately on turn 1. Most players tend to wait a few turns to gather a striking force while building up their infrastructure at the very least. Use that time! Things to note:
- Roads give trade and movement bonuses. Both are vital, that's why most TW players start by building dirt roads on the first turn. You can control the roads in your territory with forts, thus gaining the defender's advantage of better movement rates (your enemy will have to be stalled for a turn to siege the fort or go around trough some forests to get to your cities)
- Ports are the best income structure you can build in most any mod (always make sure you check. Some instances of a TW game will give much greater bonuses to mining or farming). Usually ports significantly increase your income per turn, as they provide both trade to and trade from the city (thus the trade summary screen is not correct as to the overall benefit a fort provides. One has to take into account all the cities that will trade with that port as well.) Ports give you more gold, better ships and significant trade also boosts population growth.
You might ask "why should i give 3200 for a port when I can make 10 units with that money!". The answer is the economy of a TW game. Units have an upkeep cost, while buildings give you gold per turn. This turn you'll spend 3200, but that not only gives you more income 3 turns from now (for example), it also saves you at least one turn's worth of upkeep! In essence, you get a set amount of gold per turn. The more +gold (trade, mining, farming) buildings you get, the more it will become. The more units you get, the less it will become.
- Build other structures based on the game you are playing. If you're playing AR focus on barracks and armoursmiths, if you're leading battles - on cavalry and archers. If you need them, get catapults asap so the enemy can't fort up in your lands or in turn stop your advances with his own forts. If spies or assassins are allowed to do more things, get more of them, etc.
- Taxes: you can have a rule of thumb. If you've denied your enemy the option of immediately attacking you OR you have not enemy army incoming for at least 5 turns, you keep your taxes low as they give you more population. As soon as you enter an active war you crank them up as high as you can. Use taxes to adjust for unit upkeep, and not to gather up a large treasury for initial production.
- Merchant trade is not to be underestimated. While 500 gold for a merchant unit might seem a tad expensive, remember that they have no upkeep, so any income they produce is pure profit. Also, merchant trade is not negated by kingdom corruption. So it's really easy to gauge just how much time it will take for your investment to pay for itself. Different factions value different resources. One faction might value silk while another might value iron. There are usually four tiers of value assigned to resources for a given faction, but these vary from mod to mod, so you must do some testing. Also, the distance to the capital greatly increases the income from a resources. The farther it is from your capital, the more valuable it becomes. Also, everyone likes gold and silver.
When managing your early game economy you might make use of some small tricks I've gathered. First of all, for any mod that allows you to move your capital without cost, you can do so freely at turn one to gauge which location for your capital will be the best for your projected income. Take into account any immediate resources you can plop merchants on - sometimes moving your capital can make 4 or 5 resource points go up from 30 to 130 florins per turn. Take into account that merchants need time and money to be trained, but that they do not suffer from corruption and make your choice. Generally, if you have one large cluster of trade cities with ports and paved roads, placing your capital there will give you better income due to lowered corruption.
In general, when building a new +income building take a look at how much corruption is added to counterbalance the income. Making a 2400 florin market on the far end of your empire might not give you that much, since it can show +80 florins as boosted income and +56 corruption below it. It will take ages for it to pay for itself, ages you don't have in a hotseat.
However, keep in mind that trade boosts not only that city's income, but also the income of the cities it trades WITH, and that buildings such as paved roads can add huge chunks of income because they might hugely increase land trade which then gets transformed to sea trade via your port. In general, Paved Roads, Warehouses and advanced ports are the best trade buildings to be had, and sometimes making a cheap council building that lowers corruption might give you more income per turn than actually making even more trade there.
On unit efficiency This is partly related to the economy of your faction. Always build the best units you can and only those who you need and who you will be able to use within 2, maximum 3 turns. Keep in mind the upkeep of your units - getting a low-quality unit that costs 125 gold/turn that will help you marginally is not smart, if you can spend 150 gold/turn but get a unit that will be an important addition to your army.
Upkeep is what actually makes you lose gold form your large armies, not the initial unit price. Be especially careful with mercenary units, who can be very high in either initial cost or upkeep (sometimes both). Get them only if you can get more short-term benefit out of them, than from building your own units in a castle. For example, getting Alan Calvary for about 1000 gold and 300 per turn is a good idea only in fought battles, and only if you're facing a huge enemy army where that elite cavalry unit will really help you get a decisive victory. Getting them just to have them sit around, besieging a backwater village alongside a stack that cannot be defeated anyway, is not prudent (unless you want to deny them to your enemy, but then you have to decide if it's worth it, if you want to keep them, how long do you keep them before you disband them, how much would they help the enemy relative to your strength etc.)
In general, I try to think in military units as my currency and universal unifier. Do I want to build a farm upgrade that costs 1500 gold? It will give me 132 gold/turn in that settlement, plus 1% more population growth which means more gold per turn, the longer I have it. This also means that I can have a unit that costs at most 130 gold/turn in upkeep after I build this, and that unit will then not influence my gold income (if there is a minimum I want to have per turn). Do I get 5 spear militia units in an AR game? Well do I need them right now to survive or do I just see them and have nothing else to recruit? 5 spear militia units with stats 3/9 for attack/defence and 150 men per unit, these cost me 125 gold/turn each, or 375 gold/turn total. For 450 gold/turn I can get 3 armoured swordsmen with 12 attack and 22 defence, who will absolutely smash these spears in an AR battle and in general will have a greater impact on my war effort when put into a larger stack (they will give fewer casualties too).
It is worth noting that one of the most efficient units in a lead battles game is cavalry archers, due to them not giving casualties and being able to wipe out much greater forces when deployed correctly. Beware the heavy cavalry in Stainless Steel however, if you attempt to use cavalry archers versus them, since the AI gets so many bonuses they will usually win a battle that you could take in another mod.
Want to learn how to use cavalry archers as if you had Mongolian blood in your veins? Read this guide!
Castles, cities and strategical priorities Let's leave RTW for now, and focus on M2TW and it's mods. In this game, you have both castles and cities. Which is more important? Figure out your situation and decide! Figure out your enemy's situation, and decide with even more prudence! Usually, based on the starting turn and the mod in question, you can estimate which unit will be the backbone of your army. See what it takes to get that unit - usually a medium sized castle. Henceforth castles that can produce a lot of this unit, with also some armour upgrades, become your most vital and important training centers.
Small castles are less useful, unless one of your basic units is very strong. Small cities are useful when they have ports. Big, well developed cities, are very important when they have huge ports and a lot of other bonus buildings. Usually, you'll get your navy from cities, as you need the recruitment slots in your castles. You will also upgrade the armour of your leather units in cities as well (also to conserve slots and when you have other priories than a smith in your castles)
When attacking the enemy, always take their large and important recruitment centers first! No castles - no quality armies. They might have 10 000 florins per turn, but if all they can get are spear militia and levy archers, while you have heavy knights and elite longbows, you've already won. If you can't hold them, sack and move on, but prioritize sacking cities, especially those with more population. Usually it takes experience with that faction, or at least knowledge of that particular area of the map, to know which settlements are key.
Logistics, forts and navies As I said above, forts are one of the most important mechanics you have at your disposal to control the movement and flow of your enemy, as well as to protect your own lands and armies. In AR games they are important, in lead battles they are the difference between victory and defeat!
How to use forts:
- Block roads and choke points. Use low upkeep units, the lower - the better.
- Block access to your besieging army.
- Prevent the enemy of ganging up on you in an AR game (you might have a stack he can't beat one on one, but if he attacks with 4500 men vs your 1500 you will most likely lose)
- Prevent the enemy of attacking your army and scattering it in a lead battles game.
IMPORTANT: If he has catapults DO NOT rest in a fort, unless you have almost exclusively infantry in your army. If you have more cavalry, it will be a disaster. Also note that SS 6.4 actually builds stone forts when assaulted, and those are tricky to get when defended with archers. In most instances however, he will have your army pinned, and make the AI from a bad general into a sitting duck. If you know he has siege engines, stay in the field, hide in a forest or rest in a stone walled town.
- Prevent the enemy from scouting without the aid of agents.
Navies are also important. In RTW they have no alternative. In M2TW they are used to beat the enemy navy AND to block land bridges. Do not disregard the navies, whomever rules the seas rules the path for the reinforcements!
In general, the logistics of a game have their own ebb and flow. You must know where you can go, and how many turns it will take you to get there, obstacles included. Same for the enemy's movements. Also, know when to fold em' - there is no point in fighting for a small town that the enemy will overrun. Retreat back to your Fortress, sit back and recruit quality troops. Then crush the attacker and turn the tide of war on him. This is especially true in AR where you can judge very accurately on which army will win.
Oh and one other thing - never leave settlements undefended. The enemy will sneak a fast cavalry unit and take them from you, and get a nice bag of loot from the sacking as well!
5. Games, mods and their specifics regarding hotseat
Rome: Total War - hotseat mode is buggy and hard to achieve, but not impossible. The factions are poorly balanced however, and the Romans, Armenians, Seleucids, Carthageninans and Egyptians have a significant advantage (Scythia as well in lead battles) I've not played one yet, but if you want one - ask. Rome is still in the hearts of most of us.
Barbarian Invasion or Alexander - same as above. BI can be interesting in hotseat, but the VCs for the game must be very specific, least the Hun player overruns everyone.
Europa Barbarorum - impossible to play in hotseat due to it's scripting. I do recommend it for SP however, and it's hosted right here at the .org
Medieval 2: Total War - otherwise known as vanilla. It's not very balanced and the stacks have utterly abhorring movement points. It takes a full 15-20 turns to even get to Jerusalem from England for example. It's unlikely that you'll find a hotseat game that uses vanilla. The last one we had was Glorious Achievements.
M2TW Kingdoms: Britannia - Britannia is one of the "mods" that comes with the Kingdoms expansion for M2TW. It is one of the best hotseat mods available, especially if you consider only those that are "stock" ie. created by Creative Assembly. You will usually see a Britannia game running on the .org. Here are some details to note on this mod:
- It does not allow you to build forts, but there are stone forts sprinkled about on the battle map. These are placed on important choke points and are vital. Use them always!
- England and Wales start with catapults, thus making the wooden settlements in the middle of the main isle (like Shrewsbury) death-traps for defeated armies in AR. Beware of that.
- If the game is AR nothing will beat England's Armoured Swordsmen or +armour upgraded Armoured Spearmen units. In fact, the Armoured Spearmen produced out of Nottingham with the appropriate armoursmith level will be the strongest unit on the map for a good portion of the game.
- Nottingham and Caernavernon are very important for their respective factions. Take them, and you cripple the enemy!
- Wales gets three or four waves of reinforcements (free stacks) form turns 1 to 6.
- Norway gets a large reinforcing force and a huge navy around turn 10 (and it's king)
- England will be asked to send prince Edward on a "crusade", losing him for a few turns but getting him back with a lot of command and nice troops. This happens much later however.
- Ireland gets no reinforcements or free troops, but can consolidate it's island fairly easily and is a "wildcard" that most everyone will try to avoid fighting or instead get as an ally, as the other nations have more pressing concerns. It also has great value for the resources on the map, meaning it gets more gold for sending merchants on them. Moving your capital to the Northernmost city of Ireland after you capture it with Brian will give you two silver mines at 400 gold/turn and one at 209 / turn with a 3 star merchant only!
- There are mercenary trebuchet units in Ireland - those allow you to storm castles and cities with stone walls on turn 1 of your attack.
- It doesn't make sense to go for trebuchets past turn 20, as around turn 28 you will get a building for 800 gold (instead of 6000) that can make cannons.
- Wales and Norway cannot afford to sit back, because their armies will lead them to bankruptcy in a matter of turns. Hence peace is not really an option.
- The Baron's Alliance wants to spawn. It's a nasty emerging faction that comes into play when England gets a town sufficiently rebellious. York is a special mention since it has specific penalties to public order. It is, however, possible to play a game as England and completely avoid the BA. Just make sure you never have towns that are blue faces and especially red faces. Sure, keeping everything at yellow faces makes you lose income from taxes, but it's either that or an annoying faction with free armies coming at your doorstep while you're fighting for your life with Wales and the other factions.
- Britannia also has a loyal rebellion script, where settlements rebel back to the faction that had the highest culture in them if you let the public order drop. So if you're Wales for example, and you let York rebel with 80% English culture, it will go back into England's hands and in the process also spawn 8-10 free units for them! Be careful with this.
M2TW Kingdoms: Teutonic The Teutonic campaign is interesting but not very balanced for AR games. Things to note:
- The Teutonic Order (TO) has by far the best units on the map. They crush everyone in AR with their Order Spearmen, who are units with 21 defense, 150 men per unit and who require a low upkeep for their price! They also get some fanatical cleric type units that are counted as military units but have only 20 for upkeep, meaning they serve perfectly for fort and city fodder.
- Most settlements are wooden. The factions who start with catapults should use them, especially since the mod allows for wooden forts to be built.
- In an AR the Mongols and Lithuanians are very disadvantaged, Poland is on the weak side. The TO is the best, the HRE and Denmark have roughly the same units (HRE has dismounted knights with a bit more armour), and Norway starts really small and weak. Novgorod is rich and big, and if played correctly can become a major force to be reckoned with. Poland, if played smart, can also become a force (it has to find a way to deal with the TO)
- In fought battles everyone has a chance, though the TO has uber knights in vast numbers and their spearmen are hard to kill with just archers.
- The TO get free stacks with "crusading nobles'
- Poland and the TO have the best unit production, Novgorod is the richest (until Denmark takes a lot of port cities)
M2TW Kingdoms: Crusades An interesting addition to the Kingdoms mods. You'll usually find a game of it here. Things to note:
- Forts can be built but are made of stone and cost 2500 gold. You also can't build them anywhere you please.
- The two crusader factions get uber units. In AR they crush everything, in lead battles they are tough and have great cavalry.
- The Romans (aka. Byzantines) have a chance to grow large and make heavy infantry stacks to rival the catholics.
- The Muslims have a hard time unless Jihads are allowed or it's a lead battles game.
- Merchants are tricky to use - make sure you research which resources are considered valuable for your faction.
- The gold mines and resources in the southern part of the map give a great chunk of income.
- Some trade buildings can provide a lot of income per turn (around 1000 for a single building!)
- Priests cost only 10 gold in upkeep.
- The starting faction leaders all get unique abilities in lead battles.
M2TW Kingdoms: Americas Not feasible for hotseats unless modded so that the natives get boats.
M2TW mod: Stainlss Steel The most popular mod to M2TW out there. Aims for historical accuracy and realistic units and rosters. Not very well balanced faction wise but one of the best M2TW experiences out there currently.
- Early Era has a limited range of units available. Especially if you leave Real Recruitment on, which you shouldn't. Especially notice the recruitment pools and unit replenishment rates.
- Ballistae can't open anything.
- Cavalry rules the battlefield. The AI gets bonuses on the battle map, up to where a single unit of GB can inflict horrendous pain on your armies. Never ever underestimate the general's bodyguard unit in a SS 6.4 battle when the Ai is leading it. Two ERE generals can kill over 1000 italian militia!
- Castles and city walls are very strong. You will fail when attacking with a single catapult most of the time. Even a single trebuchet has barely enough stones to knock down two gates. Yes, the higher tier castles get more than one layer of defence. Usually when leading a siege assault you must have a very good army for that specific purpose - sufficient siege weapons and heavy spearmen and infantry.
- As of version 6.4 cities grow very slowly for the player, and very quickly for the AI. If you want Fortresses and Huge Cities you'd best wait for the AI to get them and take them (given the time). Heretics are also immensely strong, always target them with Cardinals if you are Catholic or with an Orthodox priest or Immam with at least 4 piety, so they do not get converted to heresy.
- SS gives you a lot of starting gold and income, it's usually not possible for you to go bankrupt early on like in other mods, since there isn't much to recruit anyway. Thus, develop your cities and remember to build a fleet.
- Since it aims for historical accuracy, some factions are much stronger than others (ERE, HRE, Crusader States)
- SS also has a loyal rebellion script like Britannia. Be careful with letting enemy settlements rebel back to the original faction that owned them!
Third Age: Total War This mod is great, so much work has gone into it that it overshadows some retail games set in the LOTR universe! Things to note:
- It is not balanced for AR play. Any hotseat mus be played with forced fought battles (as opposed to allowing AR and LB both) least the Orcs and Dwarves get a tremendous advantage over factions such as the Elves.
- No one can build forts! This, coupled with forced fought battles, makes it paramount that you only move large stacks into enemy territory and always scout ahead!
- The mod has a very restrictive corruption system, where you must choose your capital carefully and only develop the lands close to it with any hope of making a profit from your investments. It's much harder to be rolling in the dough than in other mods, and only the AI can spam full stacks with impunity due to the money script it has on VH.
- There are obscene garrison scripts for AI held towns. Beware of AI Moria that will spawn Balrogs, or AI Isengard that will spawn 3000-4000 elite Uruk-Hai's etc. Mordor, Gondor, The Black Gate - all of them have scripts, but those will will likely be player lead.
- The AI keeps its alliances and is eager to buy it for 5000 gold or more! Make sure you "milk" the AI for every drop of gold it has if you can!
- The Elvish cavalry is not made to take hits (unlike the GB units in vanilla or SS). Only use them to flank and chase fleeing armies.
- The evil factions get crusades (called "invasions)". Beware.
Kingdoms Grand Campaign Mod: The mod has a hotseat patch that makes it one of the more balanced ones to use:
- the HS patch rebalances AR, prioritizing heavy cav, cav archers and regular archers more.
- faction strength, starting provinces, starting armies, units and turn order rebalanced. The HS patch claims no faction has a significant advantage over any other.
Broken Crescent The older versions seem to be really good and respected. The newer one is heavily imbalanced and has a lot of quirks that are too numerous to describe here. My advice is to wait for 3.0 to come out.
Hope this helps! Have fun and see you on the battlefields of the .org :)
Guide version 1.2 (added some economy tips)
Guide version 1.1b (added some information for the SS mod)
Guide version 1.1 (added all the popular mods, fixed mistakes, elaborated on the rules.)
Guide version 1.0 (created guide)