This took me a few goes and is pretty tough. Having
all your original cities under your control at the end is easy enough,
but you have to also ensure one of the AI players doesn't run away with
it by capturing lots of imperial cities. If you choose Western Rome,
this will likely happen - either the Sassanids or Atilla will destroy
most of Eastern Rome and get up to around 6000 points which is simply
unattainable for you. The only way to stop this would be to send vast
quantities of land troops through Asia Minor to assist, but this is slow
and it's difficult to spare them when you have so many fronts to fight
on. I tried one game as Western Rome, where I conquered the Vandals and
held the Franks and the Goths at bay whilst fighting hard against the
Celts, but Atilla was busy amassing 9000 points and I lost badly. In
short, choose Eastern Rome.
Then you have to think about what you need to achieve. The biggest
constraint is happiness. You can't afford to go below -9 happiness and
can't gain any luxuries from your starting position, so that limits you
to your original cities plus about 3 Sassanid cities at your greatest
extent. Once you have reached that stage, you have to hold your ground
and can gain around 68 points per turn. This means you can get to a
final score of perhaps 4200 at most. A lot of the strategy revolves
around ensuring your enemies don't reach that total.
With the exception of Atilla, your enemies are all at peace with each
other. This can be annoying because you wish they'd divert some of their
armies against each other, but at least each Roman city can't be
recaptured by another enemy thus increasing both their points. In all
three of the games I played as Eastern Rome, Atilla was fairly easy to
manage, the Goths went into their shell after an initial advance and the
Celts never made it out of Gaul (there seems to be something written
into the AI stopping the Celts or the Franks going into Spain...). The
ones to watch out for are the Sassanids, Franks and Vandals. The
Sassanids are strong for the first half of the game and if you don't
beat them back fairly quickly, they will have accumulated too many
points early on. The Franks come storming through the Alps taking Trier,
Lutetium (which once went to the Celts), Massilia, Genua, Milan, Narbo,
Lugdunum, Casta Regina and Ravenna all before about turn 30. This gives
them around 3800 points, so they must be stopped from going further! The
Vandals have a good chance of getting at least two Eastern Roman coastal
cities at the start, followed by Rusadir and Iol Caeserea, all of Spain
and Carthage. All of that gives them at least 5000, so they must be
stopped in a number of places.
The other important piece of decision making is in policies. The first
is a no-brainer: get the one which reduces the production if you have
walls. You have about 4 cities with walls and this has very little
effect. You can never afford to get the one which affects happiness and
the other one which doesn't hurt too much is the barbarian uprising. So
(painful though it was) I opted for the -10% strength second, so that I
could get the barbarian uprising third before decimating my treasury
with the others. This actually meant that I hardly lost any troops to
lack of treasury. However, if you do go down the depleted money route,
it's not too bad since you only lose troops every few turns and it'll
always be the weakest one you have. It does make military planning a
little trickier, which was why I went the way I did. The enemy will all
be choosing culture bonuses, but remember they can only get big culture
boosts when they capture cities and the only real dangerous one they
have is the '+50% strength for adjacent unit' one. For me, only the
Franks got this early on, so that told me where to send extra troops.
As you may expect, the first few turns are crucial. All your cities
should be building troops, with most of the coastal ones building
dromons to start with. The priority must be to stop the Vandals at the
very start. I sent Dromons to Mistra from Cyrene and Constantinople to
defeat their attack there and was just able to cling on in Seleucia by
building a warrior straight away (the only unit able to be built in time
before they would take the city). This was slightly at the expense of
holding off the Sassanids. Once the eastern mediterannean was clear of
ships, I sent most of my navy to Carthage and Ravenna to try and keep
them in Western Roman hands. You need loads of ships to hold off the
Vandals, especially as they seem to attack en masse, with big fleets of
troops that need to be harried all the way to their destination.
Eventually I also needed to send ships to Spain to stop them getting
further than Carthago Nova. In the end they didn't manage to get
Carthage, Tarraco or Caesaraugusta because of this.
Meanwhile the Goths were making advances in Thrace, but be aware that
after their initial wave they don't seem to have much. You have a couple
of legions up there, so keep them alive as long as possible and use the
fort bonus for better fighting. I couldn't keep them from briefly
capturing Niobium and Scandium, but it wasn't long before I could drive
them back and recapture. After that I sent some troops through to
Ravenna to assist in repelling the continuous assault from the Franks
and used a couple of great generals to build well positioned citadels in
the main avenues of the Goths' attacks.
The Franks briefly captured Ravenna, but I was able to liberate it
fairly quickly and then position 6 Dromons and a smattering of land
troops to keep them from recapturing it. Don't expect Western Rome to be
of too much use, but they will kill a few troops, especially if you
leave the important ones heavily wounded. Here's what that area looked
like by the time I was gaining the upper hand and then what it looked
like by the end.
In the east, I started by sending my legions north to hold off the Huns.
It was my hope that this would mean they would divert their troops to
attacking the Sassanids, but they only did this after capturing
Trebizond. It seems the Huns have two big waves of troops - one at the
start and another at about turn 50 or so, just to keep you on your toes.
Their horse archers are really fast and gain experience rapidly, but you
really need to watch out for the battering rams which can take out your
cities in a couple of hits. Still, it won't be long before you can get
the better of them and it is the Sassanids that will cause more trouble.
At this point on turn 6, I wasn't looking in great shape.
With good use of the terrain and forts, I was able to keep the Sassanids
from getting too far too fast, but they inevitably captured Melitene and
briefly Theodosiopolis and Edessa. I had captured them back by about
turn 20 along with Trebizond, but because the Huns weren't doing them
too much damage, they were gaining points faster than me, so I had to
advance further into their territory whilst playing a delicate balancing
act with my happiness. The Huns eventually captured Anium from them,
which was helpful and by turn 30 I had Amida.
By about turn 40 I had Thopsis and Nisibis, but could capture no more
because of the happiness limitation. Unfortunately, they were still
gaining almost as many points per turn (60 to my 64) and were well
ahead, so I was going to have to be cunning if I were to overtake them.
The points gain is based on population in your cities, so I had to
starve them. By burning all their farms and sitting fortified on their
floodplains, I was slowly able to do so (this also helped gain a little
gold for my shrinking treasury!). By the end I had starved Singara down
to 4 and Ctesiphon down to 16, which was sufficient.
As you can see, in the final reckoning my nearest contenders were the
Sassanids and Franks and some careful calculation had gone into making