Italian Nation Guide or How to bring a nation of traders and seamen to rule Medieval Europe Date: February 10th, 2003. Author: Finargil Contact: email@example.com Contents 1. Introduction 2. General Advice 2.1 MTW and STW 2.2 The Italian Nation 2.3 A people at arms, or raising a proper army 3. Units 3.1 Italian Units 3.2 Your Enemies 4. The Italian Campaign 4.1 Starting point 4.2 The Route to Outremer 4.3 The Italian Lake 4.4 European Power Politics 4.5 Renaissance ruler 4.6 Ending the Campaign 5. Final words 1. Introduction This is my first Guide and possibly one of the firsts done for this game. I have played the Italian "faction" (I prefer calling them "nations") in the "Glorious Achievements" mode, difficulty setting at Normal, and starting in the early era. I strongly recommend this mode, for it adds depth to the game, and helps refrain the warlord inside you. The machine proposes you goals keyed to your nation which are both difficult and historically accurate and well-timed, so the playing keeps being interesting without limiting itself to a defeat-everybody- conquest-everything sort of playing. Making a true "Walkthrough" is nearly impossible due to the nature of the game, as every single decision affects the long-term strategy and there are many ways of achieving success or fail miserably. So after the very initial movements, the content will be mainly illustrative. In some cases, I have tried different paths just to see what happened, and the guide will reflect this. I assume that the reader is already acquainted with the game mechanics, so I shall not discuss them here, except when useful to the guide. It would be really worth the pain reading something on medieval European history to have a better taste of the game. I strongly recommend the popular Men-at-Arms series by Osprey Military Publishing. Specifically on the medieval Italians you can find MAA no 210, The Venetian Empire; MAA no 136, Italian Armies 1300-1500; and Warrior Series no 25, Italian Militiaman. You should see the care for historical accuracy the developers have put into the game, enjoy it much better and learn something painlessly. 2. General Advice 2.1 MTW and STW Die-hard Shogun players will have mixed feelings about MTW. Shogun was very straight: to unify Japan under your Daimyo you had to kill every other one and pound any other Clan into submission. In the tactical field it is very simple: it has very few units shared by all combatants, with a few improvements in terms of equipment (also attainable to any of them). MTW, at least in the "Achievements" mode, is much more complex, but the complexity does not only provoke annoyance: it adds depth. Probably, if you play MTW like it was Shogun, you will be somewhat frustrated. The game is much more subtle than that. In the tactical field, there are subtle differences as well. The number of troop types is huge. In STW, just comparing your army's roster to the enemy's gave you an exact idea of how well it would perform. The troops were the same, and there were but a few morale and command factor to consider. Now the variety makes it impossible to assess the relative capabilities of two armies at a quick glance; you should learn by experience the relative abilities of each kind of troop. This is only emphasized in the Italian campaign, where you must face the rich variety of Muslim, Turkish and Byzantine troops. Some differences even remain obscure: are Hobilars better than Mounted Sergeants or Alan Cavalry? Are the common Western knights comparable to Ghulam Guards or to the Armenian or Khwarazmian heavies? Do the Almohad militia have more stamina than your militia sergeants? 2.2 The Italian Nation Italian homeland looks a bit puny: restricted to Venice, Milan, Genoa and Tuscany, plus the poor islands of Corse and Sardinia. The general strategy should obviously be geared towards maritime and trade development, with as little as possible in the way of conquests, at last until the middle game (say, around AD 1250). "Peace and Commerce" is the Italian way. If you look at what is considered "Italian homeland" by the AI (by clicking the Calice icon next to the Crown, and then on "homelands"), you'll see Naples and Crete are included, which are held by the Byzantines. You should try taking at least Naples as soon as possible. It is quite useful to peep at the other nations' goals, so as to deny them if possible. Crusades to the Holy Lands are your main means of territorial expansion in the early game. The Pope will ask you to launch a Crusade to Antioch as early as AD 1190 and others to Edessa and Palestine soon after. Launch them all, if possible, they earn you lots of points. I dedicated Venice to Crusade preaching, so I built a Church and a Chapter House. The machine will ask you to control more trade than any other faction by the AD 1204. This is an extremely difficult goal to attain; I must confess I failed miserably. To have the slightest opportunity, start building a navy ASAP. The last goal requested, at around 1400, is building a Cathedral in Tuscany, finishing it by AD 1420. Be aware that the level of development to start this is quite high: you need the Monastery and the 8000 fl Fortress, so keep Tuscany development apace with your main territories. 2.3 A people at arms, or raising a proper army A good, balanced army is built around line infantry units. These must have the ability to withstand charges and sustain moderate casualties without breaking; the former is called "stopping power", while the latter is the "staying power". In MTW, unlike STW, the common Foot unit is better charging than defending (but "charge" is distinctly different from "attack", which involves "staying power"; troops good at charging but weak on attack should be relieved quickly with fresh ones after the initial "impact"); this reflects the fact that charging along with your buddies often has a morale-boost effect, while waiting the enemy's charge in motionless close ranks (or becoming stuck in a bloody melee for long) is unnerving to green troopers. They must be supported by missile units of any kind, Foot or Horse, and "assault troops", to break enemy attacks by countercharging; Horse is specially suited to this role, but some special Foot units can be used. Finally, it must have some pursuit units, the traditional role of Horse. Note that I have not mentioned the classic cavalry shock-action; this unsubtle, costly tactic should be avoided completely against formed, cohesive infantry of average or more quality. A push by a similar infantry unit coupled with a flanking action by cavalry -more of a "pricking" nature instead of charging home-, should lead to the enemy unit's dissolution -at a much lesser cost. Consider that after being in action for any length of time, cavalry quickly becomes "spent": though not having still sustained heavy casualties, it becomes exhausted and any further attempt to commit it into a charge will result in its turning tail and fleeing or being decimated; withdraw any such unit, unless you have to sacrifice it in dire need. This reflects the common reasoning of the medieval cavalry trooper that considers that after a couple of charges in a single battle his obligations towards his overlord are duly fulfilled and others should finish the job. Not also that I have described a mainly "defensive action"; in fact, you should try to be tactically on the defensive whenever possible. More often than not, when you are on the offensive, the defending army will flee or will try a massive counterattack from an advantageous position while your troops are approaching and still on line of march if they are confident (or have troops with good "charge" bonuses), so be warned. Special armies can be tailored to a special role: a castle-storming army should include some artillery, some long-range, well-protected missile troops (the pavise variety, if possible), and plentiful of cheap, spirited, expendable infantry to perform the actual assault. Armies reinforcing a defensive position should include missile troops (they expend their missiles rather quickly) and fresh line infantry. Armies reinforcing an offensive battle should be mostly cavalry (to reach the place of the action quickly). I have read in some FAQs and on-line forums that people advocates armies formed exclusively of the most powerful unit available (knights, generally); this kind of army, though probably successful in open battle, is a waste of resources: something much cheaper but better balanced would do the job in a much more cost- effective way (Consider this: a full Royal Knight army would be 400-strong and cost 15500 fl. A half-pikemen, half-arbalester army would be 1560-strong and cost 11500 fl. Replacing the Royal for Chivalric knights should raise the number to 800, but replacing the pikemen for Italian Infantry -your favourite!- cuts the expense to 5100 fl!) You have a quite good unit of Foot, the Italian Light Infantry, and a decent Missile troop, the Genoese Sailors. You should key your development to both of these. Do not hesitate in disbanding your earlier units as you raise better ones (you should disband all your siege machinery as soon as you can replace them with gunpowder artillery, even to the extent of destroying the related construction facilities if on a tight budget), but always keep a number of them for garrison duties. The same must be done to any mercenary unit that can be replaced by equivalent national troops; their maintenance cost is much lower. 3. Units I shall discuss in detail only the ones you should use as the Italians. Numbers (when provided) are: troops quantity, initial cost, and annual cost. Then I shall review briefly the most common units you will find on the opposite side of the battlefield. 3.1 Italian Units - Peasants (100, 50, 26): Do not bother with these. They are not even the equals to Shogun's Ashigaru. In the middle game, however, you'll find yourself making some of them to serve as garrison troops; at 0.5 apiece, they are the cheapest. Urban Militia (60, 100): Slightly better. They are still not your basic Yari Samurai; prone to route if forced to stand and fight, they are better in sudden downhill charges. Their upgrade, the Militia Sergeants, (60, 150), are good, reliable troops. You must build the Town Guard. - Spearmen (100, 125, 50): Your basic grunt troops for the early, well into the middle game. They are still not your trusty Yari: they do not defend well, except against cavalry (though knights usually cut their squares in the first impact). They have no "staying-power" in the attack either: charge and retreat back is still your tactic. However, at 1.25 fl apiece, they are the cheapest real soldiery you'll have. Their upgrade, Feudal Sergeants (100, 175), are very good, reliable troops which will form the backbone of your armies well into the late game. Build the Spearmaker Workshop. - Pikemen (100, 200) If you upgrade the Town Militia all the way into County Militia (you'll need the 8000 fl Fortress) you'll have the common stock Pikemen. Inexpensive, reliable Foot; at 2 fl apiece, it make sense raising them even for garrison duties. If you also upgrade your Armory all the way, you'll have Swiss (?) and then Armored Swiss Pikemen, which are even better, though far more expensive, at 700 and 900 (oddly enough, they are 96 men-strong). If you can afford it, it is a good deal for the most powerful Foot unit of the game. - Archers (60, 225): Well, for those loving the English "Pike and Bow" tactic, they are an absolute necessity. Take into account that they are not your Samurai Archers: they will run for their lives if merely approached by an enemy melee unit. If you deploy them in true Shogun fashion, ahead of your pike line in skirmish, they will run to safety not only through your spearmen but your amazed entire army as well. True to Western medieval archery traditions, I'm afraid (at least up to the Agincourt battle). They are also expensive, but they are the only game in town until you develop the Genoese Sailors (60, 275), even more expensive, but at least have some stamina. No upgrades; Crossbows are a different game. - Crossbowmen (60, 200): Though they require the Bowyer's Workshop, they are actually cheaper than Archers, giving a clue to their wholly different nature (and reflecting their weapons' easier training). They shoot slowly, real slowly, but their bolts are more powerful and shoot in a straight line (Archers shoot in overhead volleys). The entire front rank of an enemy's formation can fall to a well-aimed crossbow volley. They are armored and not incapable of defending themselves. Upgrade them to Pavise Crossbows (by building the Bowyer's Guild), and they will be able to face enemy Archers. - Arbalesters (60, 250): Only a tad more expensive than common archers, they are quite powerful, if slow-firing. You'll need them to face the heavily armoured Byzantine horse and those dreadful Varangian Guards, not to speak of the Golden Horde heavies. Cover them from other missile troops with Archers and support them with pike units. You need the Bowyer's Guild. If building the Master Bowyer, you can make Pavise Arbalesters at the same cost. - Feudal Men-at-Arms (60, 150): General purpose Foot, with both better Defense and Attack than Feudal Sergeants. They are more expensive, and you need both the Spearmaker and the Swordsmith. A matter of taste: I usually prefer the big squares of Sergeants. Their upgrade, the Chivalric Men-at-Arms, (60, 275), are true elite shock troops, expensive and powerful. Raise a few of these, for special assault purposes. You need the Swordsmith's WS. - Order Foot Soldiers (100, Crusade): Appear in the Crusade. They are good. - Italian Light Infantry (100, 262): Well, your state-of-the-art infantry. Excellent GP Foot troops, second only to the various Pikemen. These should be your backbone from the middle game onwards; I have never seen them route. Build the Spearmaker's Guild, though you need the Castle (2000 fl), they are worthy of some investment. This unit effectively replaces all infantry except perhaps the Pikemen, to whom it is a good complement as flankguard. Other close-combat heavy infantry such as the Halberdiers (60, 300) and Chivalric Sergeants (100, 250) can be skipped safely. - Handgunners (60, 131, 30): Good, cheapo substitute to crossbows. Add flavor and technology to your army. I have seen entire formations of Easterners turn tail and flee at the first volley. Well armoured (to be protected from their own weapons!), they can even charge a flailing enemy. Can be upgraded into Harquebusiers. Their low maintaining cost (barely more than the useless Peasants) make them very useful garrison troops. - Knights: The first variety (Royal Knights, 20, 300) is at hand from the very beginning: you only need Royal Palace and Court buildings. They are powerful but very expensive, prone to indulge themselves in reckless charges and get surprised motionless in woods. They come in small units (very accurate historically, twenty men was the number of a common conroi, or knightly "unit"), losing a single one is a pain. Their upgrades are even more powerful and way more expensive (450, 625 and 775) so you wonder if they are worth at all. I am usually content with the princes' retinues. - Feudal Knights (40, 475): Expensive and with extensive building requirements, at least they come in sizeable numbers. I do not raise many of these units, but it's a matter of taste. Their upgrades, the Chivalric Knights, are formidable if more costly, at 875. However, do not make the folly of committing them headlong against pike infantry in ordered ranks (a most common medieval chivalry mischief). - Knights Hospitaller (40, Crusade): OK, they appeared in my Crusade, and they are great. Hone them and use them sparingly. - Mounted Sergeants (40, 175): Your basic shock cavalry trooper. I raised many of them, being cheap, fast and moderately powerful. Use them in countercharges, against nasty missile troops and for pursuing routers. They won't break knights or formed infantry all by themselves. - Spanish Jinetes (40, 250): if you happen to get hold of any Spanish province (you will) raise them. They are fast, flexible troopers that can throw javelins to an enemy and then charge home. They can cope with any tactical situation, except headlong charges into pikes or heavy cavalry. - Mounted Crossbowmen (40, 300): Good, cheap (building wise) troops, supreme for ambushes and skirmishing well ahead of your battle line. They can wear down slow-moving, heavily armoured enemy units long before they reach your troops, while having a reasonable chance of staying out of trouble. They will retreat, firing their weapons, keeping a safe distance. However, they tend to do so in a completely divergent direction, instead of falling back into your main line. Do not send them in Shogun Cavalry Archers' fashion, to cut down routers, nor to an arrow-fight against Foot Archers. - Heavy Horse (in general): Until fairly late in the game (circa AD 1320) I used very little of Heavies, just the princes' retinues, the Crusader knights and some mercenary troopers. I'd rather pay the mercenaries higher maintaining costs and skip the expensive building development needed to raise these units, anyway in relatively few numbers. I have had two really brilliant such mercenary units: the Armenian and the Khwarazmian Heavies. They countercharged and routed both the heavy Byzantine Kataphraktoi and as well as any middle-game Western knights whenever they met. Muslim Ghulams were somewhat harder, however, as were the very late knights. In the late game I raise some Feudal, Chivalric and very few Royal knights. - Mercenary Troops: The Italian is a Republican citizen army, but I encouraged the hiring of services of some special mercenary units. It is wise to build an Inn in any faraway overseas stronghold; should it be cut off, you can in case of need increase the number of troops in the garrison dramatically in no time. Otherwise, check your Inns periodically and hire, whenever they appear on the offer, Khwarazmian or Armenian Heavy Horse, Pikemen, Italian Infantry (yes, it sounds weird, but they appear much earlier as mercenaries), Longbowmen, Billmen and, if you cannot still raise them, Arbalesters. Desert and Mounted Archers from Middle East and Hobilars from Western Europe are handy, if a local shortage of troops arises. There is so much to choose from, that it becomes a matter of personal taste: I like the "Bulgar Brigands", who are a kind of Foot archers with an eye for dirty melee fighting, and Vikings for use as assault troops in the early stages of the game (also, in mockery of the Byzantium Emperor's Varangian Guard -internal joke) - Siege machinery: I do not like to build these, except Ballistas; the rest I hire. Assaulting castles is not a wise policy; make it only when you are in a hurry, the fortress will hold out for a long time (five to seven years) and the remaining garrison is ridiculously small. I usually complete the siegework cycle, but keep a siege train of a dozen machines just in case. Even so, I let the AI calculate the result. When gunpowder artillery appeared, I made some Bombards and Demi-culverins; they are great in sieges and terrifying, if cumbersome, in field battles. Deploy them at the back of your line; they are unwieldy and have a rather long minimum range. Take into account that it is the crew you train; if they withdraw safely, all will be well; but cut down the enemy's crew, not the machines themselves. I had not the chance of using Serpentines and Siege Mortars, though I raised a few. - Strategic units: I have played the entire game with only two Emissaries. To make the common spying work, I sent my Princesses in worldly tours before marrying them, usually to sponsored officials. Two Bishops are necessary from the very beginning; later on, as you conquer Muslim territories and heretic cults appear in Provence and Genoa, a couple more will be needed. Half a dozen Assassins are of the essence; to let them gain experience, station them in Venice and Naples, which are well-trodden paths for Muslim Emissaries and preachers and murder them. Be careful, for they will follow their targets to foreign territories where they can be easily caught and executed; I made all the dirty work at home. Most my Assassins were four, five and six-star ones. Then, station them on duty on every hot frontier and beside any high-ranking commander you have. I have not trained Spies until the very late game; they are useful for counterspying work, bagging honor when discovering plots, but the intelligence they gather is not very accurate. I did not make any Inquisitor, and killed any coming close on the spot; it is a matter of principles. - Shipping: start building a navy ASAP. Have a couple of Dromons, which, if relatively defenseless, are the only ships capable of catching Muslim Dhrows. Prepare to confront the Byzantines in the middle game with two/three galley/firegalleys squadrons in every square of sea. Most ships have a better attack than defense abilities; should naval warfare occur, always be on the offensive. I only lost one naval battle being on the offensive, and it was because I did not realize that was attacking single-handedly a two-ship squadron; even so, one enemy ship was sunk. Contrary to what I have seen reported, number counts in naval warfare; a two or three-ship squadron has victory guaranteed against a single one, if they are of the same kind and they manage to catch it. Captains gain battle experience; after a successful ten years' long naval war against Byzantium, most of my captains were three to four star commanders. Upgrade to Wargalleys and Gun Galleys by building all the dockyard upgrades (you'll need the 4000 fl Citadel and the Cannon Foundry), but if you have been lucky, yours will be the only sizable navy by that time. - Titles: Choosing good governors is of the essence. The income of a province can rocket about 50 per cent with a really good one. Anything from four Acumen "plumes" is acceptable, while six is outstanding. At first you'll have to make do with what you have, but do not hesitate about stripping titles (dropping an Emissary on the disgraced official) or disbanding an early unit when you find a really good financist. Titles give some abilities: most give one or two Loyalty shields, some Acumen plumes or Piety crosses, and a very few give Command stars, so consider this when choosing candidates. Also, a really outstanding candidate should not be wasted in a poor territory. If Loyalty level is the problem, nail him marrying him to a princess. Keep an eye on them; some develop bad habits and their skills diminish. I have the vague, unproven idea that the Italian nation provides good candidates; a friend of mine, playing the Germans, has experienced an acute shortage of learned men; he regards a three-plume Acumen candidate as quite good, while it would have been a very mediocre official in my game. Also, it may be true that Urban Militia from Tuscany, Italian Infantry and Spanish Jinetes provide good men both in Acumen and/or Command, while Knights are mostly uneducated men (though you can assign titles to the royal family once they slip out of the succession line). May be it is a tribute to the witty, audacious, hard working Italian medieval citizenry, maybe it is only a false impression caused by my own bias towards them. It has also been reported that getting your king out to campaign, aside from gaining him Influence and Command, makes the royal lineage stronger, and that heirs appear having more skills. If such is the case, the Doge, given the extended periods of peace, should be a mediocre to average ruler most of the time. 3.2 Your Enemies I would classify them in three categories: Western nations, Muslim nations, and Byzantines and other Easterners. Of these, Western are the most predictable: they have the same kind of troops like you, with some exceptions easy to tackle with. English Longbowmen and Billmen, the various Swiss Pikemen and the Danish Vikings are widely know and it would be wise to avoid them entirely. French and Germans excel in some varieties of knights, but the "Pike and Bow" tactic should make short work of them. - Muslim nations are more complicated. In a word, in the early period they top you, while their advantage diminishes with time. Muslim troops are better than the Western directly comparable ones. Muslim infantry is better than average, both the spear and the militia varieties, they have very useful javelineers, and most their archers have a bite in a melee. Turks have the benefit of the steppe kind of very strong cavalry, of both the shock and archer variety. Ghulam Bodyguards can tackle with any Western heavy, and I have already praised Armenian and Khwarazmian heavies. Do not make the mistake of considering all Muslim cavalry as scimitar wielding horsemen wearing light clothes and turbans! Those who indeed are can wear you down with arrows and close in for the kill later, or clung to your flanks and route any flailing unit. Keep them away with many archers or comparable light horse, like the Jinetes or Mounted Sergeants or, if you are that lucky, Alan or Hobilar mercenaries. In the end, it is nothing that the "Pike and Bow" tactic cannot handle. - Byzantines have an excellent early basic infantry, well armored and capable of both attacking and defending. Their heavy horse is also first class, Kataphraktoi are comparable to early knights and they come in troops of 40. They also have the dreaded Varangian Guard, a single unit of 60 of whom can put to flight almost all your infantry line. Last but not least, they have access to much of the steppe cavalry troops. Regarding Kataphraktoi and Varangians you do not have a chance if you let them charge unhindered; wear them down with all the missiles you have, the heavier the better, then countercharge against their flank with the heaviest units you have at hand. A good tactic is sending forward some Horse Crossbowmen to start wearing them down early enough. A word of warning must be made about Naphta Throwers. First, they are a truly historical unit (there was also a method of throwing flammable material by means of a kind of blowpipe). Second, though each unit is only twelve-strong and comes at a walk in a single line looking puny, they are to be feared. Wear them down with arrows (lots are needed since they come in open order) and charge with fast troops against their flank. - The Golden Horde, when appears, does so in the form of incredibly powerful armies of heavy horse (both their own and Khwarazmian) and horse archer units, with some siege machinery. If allowed to stay, they develop some standard infantry units and maybe launch a boat into the Black Sea. The wisest way is letting the Hungarians and the Byzantines do the work; if you have to face them, be sure to have plenty of armor-piercing missile troops. 4. The Italian Campaign 4.1 Starting point The basic strategy lines I took and kept were: remain at peace with the most peoples possible and encourage trade whenever profitable; never make offensive war to an fellow Catholic people and always prefer warring Muslim and Pagans to Orthodox; making the most of Crusading and keep the Pope as an ally. To prevent unwanted wars, a dissuassory tactic works most of the times to appease war mongering neighbours: save often, build up troops in attacked areas and load the game again, until the would-be attacker thinks it over. They worked most of the times until the late game; then, it grows wild. You start with Venice, Milan, Genoa and Tuscany, plus the very rustic Corse and Sardinia islands. Venice is your Metropolitan area, and it is well developed. Set each province to raise a specific kind of troops: I chose Milan for Spearmen, Tuscany for Urban Militia (they are +1 honor there), Genoa for Archers and ultimately Genoese Sailors, and Venice for shipping, Crusades and special troops. Build a Trade House in each territory having tradable goods, and keep an eye on farming development: wherever the annual income approaches fifty percent the investment, build them. I skip mine building, for it produces about the percent the investment per year (unlike they were in Shogun, where they virtually guaranteed your profits); I usually priorize farming. Build an Inn in Milan, hoping to attract warlike Swiss; while none of these may appear, other interesting troops will show up for hire. There should be a Tavern somewhere, and you should train an Assassin/Spy for each hot frontier or high ranked general you have. Your first move should be taking Naples from the Byzantines, before they are too powerful. In true Shogun fashion, take your king and all you have. If possible, take a hold in the Dalmatian coast (Croatia and Serbia) ASAP, and, if you can, Crete. If you do, be prepared to abandon them at any moment: do not develop them too much, but build an Inn. Then, make all efforts to appease the Byzantines to make a ceasefire and ultimately an alliance. You need that to launch your Crusades to Outremer (such as medieval Europeans called the Middle East). It is very convenient to take Sicily, a well-developed land, but it is held by a Catholic nation, so you risk retaliation by the Pope. Try luring the Sicilians into attacking you in Naples, but do not lose the province when they do. The Pope will warn them to make a ceasefire and abandon any won territory in two years; if you pass to the counteroffensive may be you could take Sicily and the Sicilians still will cease operations not to get excommunicated. If they do not, they will get the excommunication and you will be able to attack them. Pass to neutral quickly, for they can block your trade routes easily. You can raise Horse and shipping in Sicily. 4.2 The Route to Outremer Start Crusading. Build a Chapter House in Venice or Naples, and preach the Crusade to Antioch. Take into account that you are competing with the French in the Crusading business, and that they have the goal of building a Citadel in Antioch, so be warned. Also take into account that a Crusade army, powerful it may be, cannot succeed all alone. You have to escort it with a couple of strong national armies. The advantage is that, not only your brave crusaders will form an army of your own but also the province will be added to your territories. This is the basis of your Mediterranean empire. The Crusader Army can pass freely through foreign territories, if allowed to do so, but your escorting national army cannot. The trick is to send a seaborne supporting operation, but you need at least the neutrality of the Byzantines, for a single enemy ship can disrupt your ferry route (later in the game, I was able to whack the Greeks out of the seas in half a dozen years, but early in the game it would have been all but impossible). While you set foot in Antioch, preach another Crusade to be sent to Edessa while it is still controlled by a Muslim nation; I was late, and my allies the Byzantines already occupied it; I could not afford war against them, so I let it pass. You should also take Lesser Armenia to the Muslims before the Greeks do it, for it is considered part of Byzantium's homelands, and you shall deny them valuable points. A third Crusade should be launched in quick succession to Palestine. I made the mistake of taking Palestine with a national army, losing valuable points. I recommend fighting any battle fought with Allied troops using the automated system; allied troops are uncontrollable and the numerical advantage melts very quickly. By fighting manually you could let your ally bore the brunt of the fighting and cut your own losses, but more often than not your ally will be routed and your own troops will follow! Expand westward along the coast until you meet the Almohads; refrain to attack them until you have taken out of the game both the Turks and the Egyptians. Rest and consolidate, making profit of the well-developed areas you have just taken. You should be able to raise Militia Sergeants, Mounted and Foot Crossbowmen and possibly Feudal and Mounted Sergeants in most of your territories. 4.3 The Italian Lake Now you face several choices. Almohads should be rampaging through Europe, and the French should have engaged in a foolish war against Germans and probably the English. Mount your trade routes. Entering the Black Sea is extremely profitable, but the Byzantines are very sensitive to ships going up and down the Straits. If you manage to remain in peace with everybody, your trade profit will increment dramatically, which is good, let alone because the next goal which the machine will make you attempt will read "Control more trade profit than any other faction". Problem is that the AI will have someone attack you soon. You can parry that to some extent saving and reloading, making dissuasive shows of force on the borders and perhaps retiring ships from hot areas. Even if you keep this policy, sooner or later the French will attack you, possibly in Venice, whether they can win or not. It does not matter they lose, for your trade will be spoiled anyway. Another possibility is that the Byzantines start a naval war. In this case, if you are prepared you could sweep them out of the seas in a few years. But your trade profit will nevertheless be spoiled. It is very tempting making alliance with the Almohads, which are powerful, trade-inclined and loyal allies indeed. In this case, they will sweep the French and reach Scotland! Then they will attack you, and you'll be lost. In my case, I preferred parrying the French into not attacking me in Venice, and facing the Byzantines at sea. As my own trade diminished, I attacked the Almohads in Africa to spoil theirs, and ease the pressure against the French. They become my allies immediately, and we conducted several joint operations against the Almohads. I thrice sent a relief force that lifted the siege in Burgundy to their profit, which indeed cemented the alliance, and took Provence and Toulouse from the Almohads at a later date. Several Jihads against Italian- held Cyrenaica (a historical necessity? But my Italians were fighting in the wrong direction! -another internal joke-) were repulsed, and the French launched a Crusade against Aragon. I sent an escort army to Aragon and when the Crusade succeeded, the province was left under my rule! So, when the French invaded Castile I sent a supporting force that timely retired leaving the province under theirs. By that time, Italian forces were pushing through Portugal to Leon. Morocco, Cordoba and Granada had already been occupied; they were extremely developed territories, which made profitable conquests. By the way, an Almohad goal is building a citadel in Granada, so anything you could do to prevent that is profitable; outflanking them with sea borne operations is risky but pays handsomely. But commerce never recovered, until I managed to set a trade route around Spain to Flanders (perhaps the richest county in the game). 4.4 European Power Politics In the late game, around AD 1300, I could not prevent the French from attacking me. Following a strictly defensive strategy and performing some surgical strikes I dodged the Pope excommunication: you must launch a one-year campaign, take some territories and stop operations when the Pope warns you. I came out holding Flanders and most of England. The French kept sending Crusades through my territories; to prevent them enlisting my best troops I cleared them of the way. In the end, the failure of the Crusades brought the French kings' influence so low that rebellions sparkled everywhere. You can take a rebel territory without consequence from the Pope, but it may be more convenient to keep a neutral rebel leader trading with you! When you are doing well the AI goes really mad: the Pope attacked me in Tuscany with a rather contemptible army, and would excommunicate me as soon as I retaliated, so I kept a defensive strategy and offered him cease fire on a yearly basis, but he kept refusing it. Trade suffered, and I was out of money often: I licensed all peasants, most early spearmen and militias and most mercenary troops, even resorting to destroy useless buildings, until the Pope himself offered a ceasefire, which I accepted, and income began to slowly rise. When you reach a total of 60 % of Europe conquered, the machine offers you to claim a "lesser victory", but I refused, and go on playing, bagging points for fulfilled objectives. Be careful, for the machine quite suddenly requests you "building a Cathedral in Tuscany". Now, a Cathedral is a complex building, not to mention its cost! If you had not been developing Tuscany at a good pace (just like me!) it will be probably too late, so be warned. 4.5 Renaissance ruler As I said above, anything can happen at this stage, so all this is mainly illustrative. At around 1400, you'll find that your field army is quite different from what it was twenty or thirty years ago. In fact, it will be quite un-medieval. My main field army was more akin to a Seven Years War one than to its trusty predecessor: formed around pike-armed Foot supported by harquebusiers and field artillery, with a few man-at-arms as the cavalry component. Of course, "provincial" armies remain truly medieval all the way - and doing most of the fight, for your most modern armies will spend their time as dissuasive factors facing the bigger powers in an "armed peace" fashion. You'll probably die for trying your "New Model Army" against a worthy foe, but doing that and avoiding either Papal excommunications, an abrupt fall in income due to canceling trade, and multiple rebellions sparkling everywhere for no reason (yes, the AI cheats and sends you huge masses of discontented folk where Loyalty level still reads "200" if you launch a too successful offensive campaign) will probably prove too much a task. My options were staying quiet and wait for the end of an already won game, or making huge savings and wage a war against the Orthodox Novgorod people, facing a drop of income. The goal of "Biggest trade income" pays points again in 1453, so, if your follow the first alternative, you'll have a good chance of getting them. Upgrade all your Merchant Houses to the maximum possible, and just wait. If rebellions break in enemy's territories and successfully establish Rebel rulers, take the chance to conquest them only if they are not willing to trade with you. Sometimes, attacking a Rebel territory automatically sets all the others to "enemy" status, potentially spoiling trade. Sometimes Rebel territories acquire official "independent kingdom" status. In my game, Burgundians and Swiss managed to be officially recognized as such. 4.5 Ending the Campaign There were no surprises to the end of the campaign. I eliminated successfully both the Burgundians and the Swiss; the former by assassinating both the ruler and his heir, and conquering the hapless rebel provinces. The Swiss were conquered in a formal military campaign; the Pope did not bother about them. At around 1448, the French attacked me suddenly in Flanders, held by a small garrison army; theirs was also an army of sorts, and I managed to stave them off. That was the last event of the campaign. 5. Final words At the end of the campaign, a pretty picture appears showing your ruler in his throne room, attended by his Court, and a legend informs you that, however some of your rivals still exist, yours is the glory of victory. It is, really, more rewarding than the extremely discreet message showing up in Shogun. After that, titles are run over some most artistic pencil sketches of typical different characters of the game. Well, that's it. Replayability? In theory, the game has a wide replayability, but sincerely I think you will most probably feel full of it for a while. Enjoy the game, take the chance to read a little History and good luck!