Byzantine Guide by Finargil

Updated: 05/19/03 | Printable Version

The Byzantine Guide, or Keeping the Old Fellow Alive and Well

1.- Introduction
2.- The Byzantine military system
3.- Byzantine Troops
4.- Enemies
5.- The Byzantine Campaign
a) What you get
b) Early Developing
c) Stirring your muscles
d) Go West, young man!
e) Watch your back!
f) A Foot in Europe
g) Final Assault on the West
h) Second Pax Romana
6.- Conclusion


In this, the second Faction Guide of my making, I will skip the general advice
incorporated into the first, the Italian Guide. However, I still consider most
of it applicable and the reader should refer to it. I strongly recommend, once
more, reading something on Byzantium's military history; there are plenty of
resources, from a full historical novel by Robert Graves (of "I, Claudius"
fame), called "Count Belisarius", which depicts the Empire at an earlier age
(around AD 600), to the ubiquitous books from Osprey Military, which in three
books covers the Empire from the beginnings to its final demise, while a fourth
covers the campaign for the final siege of Constantinople.
Byzantine people are of a most intriguing nature. They are a "twilight people",
living of traditions of their past glories. It is quite striking that, though
normally referred as "Greeks" (often "cunning and devious Greeks") by their
Western contemporaries, they called themselves "Romans". It must be remembered
that (around the XI century) Western European peoples were at their infancy,
and were (quite correctly!) regarded as near savages by the Byzantines. In
times of the First Crusade, in the XI century, they referred to Westerners
collectively as "Celts"; one century later, as "Franks". They were impressed
both by their strong build, they prowess and bravery in individual combat, as
well as by their rushness and tactical foolishness. Byzantium's approach to war
was completely different.

The Byzantine military system
Imperial military system evolved from its Roman inheritance to a more feudal
approach after the Xth century, to an almost Renacentist one in their last
period of existence. Byzantines were capable of campaigns characterized, if not
by brilliant victories in the battlefield, by ample strategic maneuvering and
strong logistics, and ultimately, strategic gains. They were also well prone to
unexplainable routes and disastrous defeats, like Myriocephalon in AD 1080 or
Mazinkert in AD 1174. Affected by acute shortages of manpower, they rather
avoided pitched battles and trusted in their superior organization and
logistics against their foes, which were mainly nomadic steppe peoples whose
only hope was overruning the Byzantine army in a crushing defeat, the very kind
of thing they most avoided. Only when faced with really resolute foes, the
Muslims Arabs early on and the Tuks later, this strategy failed. Long campaigns
are not suited to feudal armies, and Bizantium's was a partially feudal,
partially national, partially mercenary one. This is faithfully reproduced in
the game; you have advanced troop raising facilites centralized in Bizantium
itself, which forces you to raise units on a one-a-year basis (these units are
very advanced for the early age, which reflects the organizational advantage of
the Empire. They are peculiar to the faction and represent the "national"
component). Your provinces are devoid of any form of structure, so you must
begin building Forts in all of them to start troop raising (this troops are
mostly the same folk recruited by any other Christian power in the early age,
and represent the feudal component). You also start with an Inn in Trebizond,
so you can hire mercenaries from the second or third year of campaign (modern
troops mostly from steppe origin, which adds flavour to your army).

Byzantine Troops

I'm afraid that you'll have to revisit the old "Pike and Bow" tactic, there
won´t be spear-armed Foot units in the Byzantine's army roster until you are
able to raise Swiss Pikemen (and even this is possible by a bug which may be
addressed with some patch)! You have, however, a very good basic heavy infantry
unit right from the start of the game, the Byzantine Infantry, and a quite good
Foot archers, the Trebizond Archers, who can engage in melèe against light
troops almost like militiamen. You'll have access to a wide offer of useful
mercenary troops for hiring. You'll have one, and only one, battle-winning
élite Foot unit, the Varangian Guard, equivalent, if anything, to the Chivalric
Men-at-Arms, but you won't be able to raise another, or replace losses, until
much later in the game. Of course, you can raise your common stock Peasant,
Urban Militia and Spearmen, but only after building the approppiate facilities.
As a positive fact, your princes come with a useful-sized, 40-strong
Kataphraktoi heavy cavalry unit, more than able to cope with any such troop in
the early game. Though your initial forces seem formidable on paper, they are
spread-thin, and the "yearly-basis" policy leaves you with little option but to
rely on mercenaries and second-rate troops. Well, at first hire everything you
can; Mounted Crossbowmen and Sargeants, Alan horsemen, Kwharazmian Heavies,
Feudal Sargeants and Bulgar Brigands are among the most useful types
immediatley available; after a few years some  Byzantine Infantry (hire them
and "nationalize" them by supplying replacements to your depleted national
units -yes, it is possible) and Italian Light Infantry (the absolute best!;
well, my judgement is a little biased) appear. You'll find yourself raising
Peasant units as soon as the Forts are made, if only to keep Loyalty levels
high at a reasonable tax level. Disband them as soon as possible, when you can
replace them with Urban Militia (soon to be replaced by Spearmen or reserve
Byzantine Infantry). Soon you'll be forced to dedicate Constantinople to
ship-building, so diversify and specialize your troop raising territories as
soon as possible.

Byzantine Troop Types
Numbers (when provided) reflects the unit's strength, raising cost and
manteinance cost.

Byzantine Infantry (100, 175): This trooper should be your basic grunt here,
and a most capable one. Good in attack, but without "charge" bonuses; good in
defense, though not particularly against cavalry -mix them with spear-armed men
for that-, they are quite steady under pressure and fire, but tend to
experience higher casualties than spear-armed infantry. You better like them,
you'll not be able to raise any other heavy Foot, except the common Spearmen
and Urban Militias (but not their upgrades) until you can raise Pikemen. You
need the Swordsmith, so at first they can be raised in Constatinople itself
only. To keep them a viable unit into the late game, upgrade them gradually in
armor and weapons (it can be done for free, just send the choosen unit for a
resting and refitting period to a province with the approppiate raising and
upgrading facilities; it takes three years: one to send the unit, a second to
place it in the troop raising roster and another to deploy it back). In a
custom-battle, staged to test its viability in the late game, a Byzantine
Infantry unit with full armor and weapon upgrades (typical of the late game)
and a couple of Valour points ate up a similarly upgraded Armoured Swiss
Pikemen unit, costing 900 fl., albeit with heavy casualties. Not bad for a 175
fl unit; besides their fighting abilities, at 1.75 apiece, they make wonderful
garrison troops.
Varangian Guard (60, 550, two years): Well, you have one unit of this
nut-cracking troops at the start of the game, but will have to build the 8000
fl Citadel before you can even make up losses! (Spearmaker's Guild is needed
-odd thing, they are not a spear-armed infantry). Expensive and with a long
training period; you should raise as many as you can as soon as possible, for
it is reported that in the late game they cease to be available (this proved to
be untrue). Use them as assault troops (much as Chivalric Men-at-Arms), or as
the pivot of your defensive infantry line. In the early game, they almost
guarantee success; I have seen (playing as the Italians) a single unit put to
flight my entire infantry battle line of several hundred men.
Swiss Pikemen (96, 525): Earmark one or two provinces to develop the necessary
facilities for raising these. You'll need the 8000 fl Citadel to build the
County Militia, with the added disadvantage that neither intermediate Town
Militia allow you to raise any new kind of troop. If you make a "technological
rush" towards them you'll get them early enough to gain an edge (I began
raising them at about AD 1270) They are well advertised, steady footmen, which
can replace all your spear-armed infantry, mostly mercenary, cutting expenses
in the long run. You can also raise Armored Swiss Pikemen (96, 900) having the
Master Armourer, but they are a bit expensive. I usually go for the fully
upgraded standard ones.
Trebizond Archers (60, 275): a tad more expensive than common Archers (60,
225), but infinitely more useful; do not waste your time with the latter. They
compare favourably to the a little cheaper Genoese and Desert Archers and are
almost the equal to the more expensive Bulgarian Brigands. They do not panick
easily, shooting at point-blank range provided they are not being charged at.
They can attack weak enemies almost like a light infantry; consider that they
have better attack than defense bonus, so do not use them to make a stand. The
1st-level Bowyer facility produces both common and Trebizond archers, so you'll
soon be raising them by the hundred; many are needed to counter the various
kinds of Arab light cavalry and camel troops. Specialize Trebizond for them;
they receive a +1 Valour bonus if raised there.
Bulgarian Brigands (60, 300): Excellent Foot archers, with a gusto for dirty
melee fighting. They are a fully historical unit, bands of such brigands
entering Byzantine service in sizeable numbers. You must reach the Master
Bowyer, so they are rather expensive in terms of facilities needed, and compete
with the very useful Pavise Arbalesters in the troop-raising roster, but they
are easily the best of their kind in the game (the other really good archer
type of troop, the Turcoman Footsoldiers, have better armor and so better
defence bonus, but they are not as good in the attack and have lower Morale
bonus). They manteinance cost is surprisingly low (30 fl.!), so they are a
sensible option. Of course, if raised in the Bulgary province they receive a +1
Valour bonus.
Genoese Sailors (60, 206): If you happen to take Genoa, do not miss the
opportunity of raising them. They are way better than common archers; for
though not more capable than them at melee fighting,  they simply do not
panick.  I like their "casual" attitude when standing in the field, compared to
the ordered ranks of common archers. They are cheap, too; of course cheaper
than Trebizond's, but cheaper than common archers as well. In fact, I paid less
for them being the Byzantines than being the Italians, who must pay 275 fl. a
unit! They are not really necessary, but I have a sentimental attachment to
them. You must build the Bowyer's Workshop and the Port.
Naphta Throwers (12, 300, two years): If you come to raise them in sizabe
numbers they are useful. Their employment is rather tricky; they are very short
ranged, very prone to hit friendly troops and can be easily decimated; they
must approach an unit which is either stationary without missile support or
engaged against some other foe. You must build the Siege Engines Shop; their
training takes two years. I didn't get the grip of them; it seems that you must
monitor their movements very carefully (something next to impossible in a
thousand-men battle) or pick an objtective for them and let them take care of
themselves (which may result in heavy casualties). They are expensive, and fill
a slot in your army roster with only 12 men, diminishing the number of troops
available. I usually prefer one more Foot Archer unit in my army roster, but
they are fun to see in action.
Missile Troops: other than the above, all of these can be raised by the
Byzantines.. Gear up (to the Bowyer Workshop and Guild) to raise Crossbows (60,
200) and Arbalests (60, 250); you'll need them to face the Golden Horde and any
Western knight-heavy army. If Archers provide volume of fire, crossbows and
arbalests provide heavy, sustained shooting. Move them to the side of the
enemy's main line of thrust to provide flanking fire. When Gunpowder appears,
raise Handgunners and Harquebusiers: they are cheap (60, 175) troops, adequate
even for garrison duties in the late game, and well armored enough to serve as
assault troops in sieges. They are much scorned in forums, but I find them
really useful troops; though they fire really slow and are very short-ranged,
their fire has an intimidating effect, not to speak of the casualties it
provokes! I have seen entire units of Golden Horde heavies turn tail and flee
after one or two volleys, though only two or three men had fallen so far. When
all fails, they are well able to engage in melee, even charging an opponent; I
have seen them face a charging knightly unit and eat it up, even pursuing them
as they fled. Arquebusiers do not have as good Attack nor Morale stats, but
their fire is longer-ranged and more accurate. However, in full Shogun fashion,
they are next to useless in damp conditions.
Kataphraktoi (40, 475): a most capable heavy Horse unit. You'll need extensive
facilities: Horse Breeders' and Armourers' Guild, implying the costly Citadel.
They are not fast, and get tired rather quickly; exert a fine sense of timing
when using them.
Steppe Cavalry (40, 125): Extremely cheap, fast Light Horse; these guys can do
anything Mounted Sargeants or Hobilars are good for. Just the Horse Farm is
needed; raise huge quantities of them. They excel in attacking missile troops
and pursuing routers, but they are not very steady: their speed allows them to
fly whenever things turn against them; so be warned.
Pronoia Allagion (40, 475): A medium-to-heavy native Horse, you can raise them
once you have built both the Horse Breeders' and the Spearmakers' Guild. They
were the closest equivalents the Empire had to Western feudal knights, for they
owed military service in return for land. Gamewise, they are rather light to
break Chivalric Knights in a full head-on charge, but they are useful for
everything else, being much more mobile than Kataphraktoi. Try to upgrade them
fully in both weapons and armour.
Mounted Archers (40, 250): Rather expensive for your initial tight budget, they
replace effectively the slightly more expensive Mounted Crossbowmen, but they
are less capable in melee and more prone to rout. Again, they are raised at the
Horse Farm facility. They will engage in melee if necessary (do not hesitate to
send them charging if facing Foot archers), but will suffer heavy casualties.
Byzantine Cavalry (40, 425) Another good all-round Horse, if somewhat expensive
in facilites needed: you need the Horse Farm nº 2, the Swordsmith and the
Bowyer. Exception made for their Charge bonus, they compare favourably to a
standard medium lance cavalry such as the Mounted Sergeants, with the plus of
their arrow-shooting capability. They can wear down any enemy while staying out
of trouble, charging them when they are on the verge of breaking. They can
engage light cavalry in melee and cut down routers with ease; but any serious
resistance will result in rather heavy casualties.
Both types of mounted archers are best used if deployed well ahead of your
battle line, to scout the enemy positions and harass their deployment. You can
decimate any particulary dangerous unit well before they reach your positions,
or pick the enemy commander's unit and thin it down (though I have found that
often only the very last man hacked down in the unit is actually the
commander!). Just remember not to expose them to enemy Foot archers, and to
extricate them if charged by light cavalry (such a charge can be turned into a
succesful ruse if you manage to lure the enemy into pursuing them into your
battle line!). They can stay out of melee range of most heavy cavalry while
wearing them down with arrows; I have seen Byzantine Cavalry routing Chivalric
Knights in such a way. Just do not order them to "Hold Position", even if you
order so to the rest of your army. Alternatively, they can harass retreating
units and rout them, or support your pursuing lance light cavalry, should an
enemy infantry unit reform or an unexpected reinforcement appear.
Mercenaries: Lots are at your disposal, of almost any kind; hire what you need.
Take into account that, if the hiring cost is usually attractive, the
manteinance costs are rather high: usually twice an equivalent national troop
(however, you can cheat by "nationalizing" them as replacements of national
troops). Specially helpful will be any kind of spear-armed heavy Foot; I
preferred some Italian Infantry and (at the beginning) Feudal Sargeants, but
Militia Sargeants or even Spearmen were hired in need; once, Byzantine Infantry
appeared and I hired them, "nationalizing" them later. I hired a couple of
Saracen and Murabitin Infantry, and they lived up to the expectations. Most of
them were disbanded as native Pikemen became available. A couple of
hard-striking Chivalric Men-at-Arms were also handy as assault troops, until
you can replace them with Varangians. Bulgar Brigands are also very prized;
their manteinance cost is just a bit higher than your Trebizond Archers, so
they are a good deal; replace them with national units when you begin raising
them. Cavalry is on offer: Hobilars and Alans (also used up as replacements;
for some reason, you are provided with a national Alan unit at the start of the
game; do not let it be wiped out) and Cavalry Sargeants were hired, but they
are pretty expensive, and should be disbanded gradually as your excellent,
cheap Steppe Cavalry becomes available; however, I usually kept Alans, if only
for they Eastern flavor. One or two Khwarazmian or Armenian Heavies are
recommended to support each unit of your princely Kataphraktoi, at least until
you can raise such units (Armenians never showed up, even if I had an Inn built
in Armenia on purpose). I was lucky enough to hire the remnants of a French
Crusade in Palestine; Order Foot soldiers and Templar Knights were on offer,
both formidable troops (though I managed to lose the latter in a foolish
head-on confrontation against Ghulams). In general, any unit whose manteinance
cost is higher than 100 fl a year should be replaced as soon as possible for a
national one; be creative. I tend to keep only the  Italian Infantry (mostly
for sentimental reasons), Billmen and Longbowmen (for their excellent
anti-armored Horse capabilities) and nothing else.
Take care from all-mercenary, or mercenary-led armies: they are extremely low
in Loyalty at first, and you face a severe risk of them being bribed. Always
put a national unit with a fair commander (two stars will suffice) in any
mercenary-heavy army.
Siege Machinery: following the trend of my Italian campaign, I did not raise
any of such, not even Ballistas. In fact, I built one or two workshops just to
raise Naphta Throwers. I did hire a dozen mercenary machines (I had a couple of
Trebutchets built in conquered Syria), keeping a single siege train just in
case. Station it in a Port province; given the stategic mobility you should
have acquired by your mastery of the  seas, you should be able to take the
train anywhere in one-two turns; any castle resisting less is not worth
assaulting, so do not bother. Assaulting castles is not a wise move; you should
only take that step if in a hurry, for fear that the enemy would attempt
raising the siege or if you desperately need the sieging army somewhere else.
If you have several armies in the province, you can choose which one you want
to actually perform the assault (by picking it and dropping it on the castle,
opening the dialog box); the others will act as a screening force, and fight
only if a relieving army shows up. Form therefore an assault army by stacking
your siege train and a lot of high-spirited but cheap infantry (I used
three-four full Urban Militia/Spearmen units -Handgunners are also
recommended-, fully armour-upgraded and commanded by a three-star officer with
good Valour bonus -leading all the assaults in the entire game, he made quite a
successful career!), though once I stormed a castle with an all-cavalry force;
your losses will be high, whatever troops you engage. Manually commanding the
assault is fun, but nevertheless a hair-raising affair; estimating the ranges
of the different siege machines against the various fortifications is a pain; I
usually let the AI autocalculate. Gunpowder artillery is more useful, and you
can even take some to field battles; they are made in workshops which are not
related to the earlier facilites (the first is the Bell Foundry, which appears
after the Gunpowder Discovery event, provided you have already built the 4000
fl Fortress). Do not hesitate in disbanding all your torsion- and
counterweight- working machinery as soon as you can raise enough Bombards and
Demi-Culverins. Hire Siege Mortars whenever they appear.
By the way, regarding siege warfare, a very successful ruse can be made by
using a really important enemy castle under siege as a bait for the enemy: just
wait for the relieving army and you can fight a defensive battle in a terrain
of your choosing (Napoleon's old Mantua trick), beating it to pieces repeteadly
before proceeding to invade the province it came from.
Shipping: You'll have to build a navy ASAP to connect the various maritime
outposts and lay trade routes. At first, there is a dockyard only at
Constantinople itself, so it would be practically overburdened with ship
construction. Diversify ASAP, and build Ports in every territory with trading
goods. At 300 fl., Firegalleys are a tad more expensive than they are for other
factions. Though it has been often regarded as "misterious" in forums, the key
to naval warfare in  MTW is simple: you must have bigger numbers of similar
ships the enemy has. The problem is the ship's speed: Dromons and Dhows are
very fast (a factor of "3"), while Galleys and Firegalleys have only a speed
factor of "2". So a Galley or Firegalley, though more powerful in combat, will
rarely catch a Dromon/Dhow. Also, most ships have better attack than defense
statistics, so, should naval warfare occur, try to be on the offensive. If you
attack single ships with two- or three-ship squadrons of the same kind, you
have victory secured. Remember that ship captains do earn command stars, so
take the same care in assigning the command of naval squadrons you put in the
commanding of armies (the only time I lost a naval battle while attacking a
single ship with a two-vessel squadron was against a four star English captain
-his ship was sunk altogether, so the blockade on the sea region was lifted
anyway). By the time you are able to launch the big, powerful Gungalleys, there
will be none to challenge your mastery of the seas, however.
Strategic Units: after having played with great success the Italian strategic
units, their Byzantine equivalents were rather a dissapointment, specially
considering the "devious Greeks" well earned fame of strangling and gouging
eyes of rivals and would-be heirs. Byzantine Assassins inevitably got caught,
even at home! Not being able of policing my own territories was rather
frustrating; I recommend therefore building enough Border Forts in any hot
frontier. Counterintelligence work was barely more successful (specially when
compared to the Italians, who caught an average of five-six enemy spies and
assassins each turn!), but it allowed to a handful of my own assassins and
spies begin very slowly to display two or three stars. Only in the middle game
I had managed to gather a respectable gang of thugs and muggers, several being
four-five stars, being able to safely kill most spying Emmisary or Priest, and
the occassional Inquisitor (I have them killed on principles). Also, just for
fun, have a foreign princess murdered; if successful, the picture in the dialog
box is quite shocking.

Your main enemies in the early game are the Eastern Muslim factions: Turks and
Egyptians. In the middle game, you'll face the Almohads and possibly the
Italians and Sicilians, or the Hungarians and Russians, depending on where you
choose to expand to, but try to keep good terms with the people of Novgorod, if
only for the Orthodox faith's sake; at least, they won't Crusade against you.
From there on anything is possible; and, if you have taken
Antioch/Tripoli/Edessa/Palestine early in the game, you'll probably face
Western Crusaders and Italian ships in the seas.
- Early Turks are equipped more or less like you: their cavalry is specially
good, having the excellent Armenian and Khwarazmian heavies as shock cavalry
and the equally good Mounted Archers as fast, hit-and-run missile troops.
Otherwise, they are not to be feared; just bust them out of the game as early
as possible. Watch for their possible reappearances in Armenia and Edessa: they
do so with huge, well equipped armies that can crush your garrison and probably
on or two field armies. Late Turk troops are formidable, having the various
kinds of Janissaries at hand; luckily for you, extensive facilities are needed,
so, if you bust them out of the game early enough, they won't bother you.
- Egyptians are another story. Trade with Egyptian-held Antioch and Tripoli is
extremely profitable, so it seems advisable to hold your desire of conquest for
a while. Problem is that, if early Egyptian armies are rather weak, formed
around a core of Nubian Spearmen with a high proportion of Peasants, they grow
much better with time, and usually they hone one or two really good commanders.
Desert Archers and Turcoman Foot archers are good troops, and it is not easy to
stomp them with cavalry in a melée engagement. Murabitin Infantry are
javelineers, very useful as skirmishers. Nubian Spearmen have both "stopping"
(the ability to withstand a charge) and "standing power" (the ability of
engaging in melee for a long time sustaining rather heavy casualties without
breaking), even against armored infantry. Saracen Infantry is also a very good
heavy Foot unit armed with spears; it compares favourably with Feudal Sargeants
and are almost the equal (they have a lower Attack bonus) to my favourite, the
Italian Light Foot, being albeit a bit cheaper; they should not be generally
available at the early game except as mercenaries. Cavalry is equally good;
though Mounted Archers and Saharan Cavalry (these are almost the equal to your
Steppe Cavalry; they have less armor and thus a lower Defence bonus) should not
surprise you, Camel Warriors are a real nuisance: they are cheap, have a good
morale, cause fear to horses (it is real, many cavalry units actually turn tail
and flee if sent to a charge against them, and also some Foot!) and appear in
huge numbers. Luckily, you can wear them down easily with missile fire. If
allowed to develop, they turn in the Mamluk Horse: the Mamluk Cavalry is a
shock-type, well armored unit; it is rather expensive (275) and somewhat
lacking in Charge bonus, but having better Morale than, say, Mounted Sargeants.
Mamluk Horse Archers are another good, virtually all-round unit, directly
comparable to your Byzantine Cavalry but a tad cheaper (375 fl, they are less
armoured and thus have a lower Defence bonus), almost up to the Mounted
Sargeants in all except Charge bonus with the extra arrow shooting capability.
Early Egyptian armies are humble-looking, but nevertheless powerful; they won't
probably massacre your troops, but they are able to put your entire battle line
to flight, and that is enough for victory.
- Almohads: A very powerful faction and a formidable foe, and one you should
come across as you expand through North Africa. They usually have several
high-ranking (seven-nine stars) generals, and very solid armies. Most their
effort is expended in Western Europe, where they rampage through almost freely,
ocuppying France and sometimes even the British Isles! Their main unit is the
much vaunted (in the forums) Almohad Militia; they do give a good account of
themselves on the field, but they do not seem nothing out of the ordinary. They
also have at disposal  the Nubian Spearmen and the Saracen Infantry, though the
latter in much inferior numbers; do not let your cavalry engage in long melees
against any of them, for it will be decimated. Their armies are not usually
heavy in Archers, relying on Murabitin javelineers instead. Pour arrows on
them, charge their front with infantry to disrupt them (they are short ranged,
so they stand close to your line) or send cavalry to their flank and roll them
up. Their cavalry is formed of huge quantities of Saharan Cavalry and a fair
number of Mounted Archers; they can outrun most your cavalry (except Steppe);
dense missile shooting should make short work of both. Ghulam Bodyguards remain
a problem, as they can rout most of your heavies; luckily for you, they use to
charge into pikes recklessly, Western knight-fashion, and, as they are usually
the enemy commander's bodyguard, you'll have a fair chance of killing him
(once, a small unit of may be eight of them beat off an entire Khwarazmian
Heavies unit of mine. On another occasion, a handful of them decimated a squad
of thirty mercenary Templars and routed an accompanying Khwarazmian unit,
before proceeding to charge into a full Italian Light unit, causing almost 50
percent casualties before being overhelmed and fleeing). Arbalests are the best
weapon for use against them (I once had an entire unit of Arbalesters making
long-range fire on a single Ghulam, who happened to be the enemy's commander.
Only after several minutes of relentless shooting he fell, the entire Muslim
army losing its heart).

The Byzantine Campaign

Again, a proper walkthrough cannot be offered; just some advice to get started
and some warning to avoid pitfalls.

What you get

The Imperial territories are extensive, and the troops, if powerful on paper,
are simply not enough to garrison them. Furthermore, there are several isolated
maritime outposts: Naples, Crete, Cyprus and Rhodes, all with token garrisons.
Constantinople itself is extensively developed (you have a Castle with
Barbican), but the only other building you have is an Inn in Trebizond. To make
matters worse, you have not a single ship.
Your neighbours are troublesome if initially underdeveloped: three Turkish
provinces, the Egyptians in Antioch, Hungarians in Croatia, Sicilians in Italy
and Rebels in Khazar. Of these, only the Egyptians can give you immediate
problems, for they will develop incredibly quickly. You must not lose any of
your initial provinces to earn the "Homelands" prize.

Early Developing

Your first action should be building Forts in all territories.  Then, raise a
Peasant unit in each, just to keep Loyalty at manageable levels, while taking
your real soldiery to campaign. Build Town Militias in two-three territories,
and one-two Spearmakers a year. A couple of Bowyers (one of them in Bulgary and
another in Trebizond) are necessary, as well as a Horse Farm in Nicea and
another in Khazar, should you take it. You have good farmlands to develop in
Nicea, Greece and Constantinople itself. Ports should be built in Naples,
Crete, Rhodes and Cyprus, in that order, and later in any other territory with
tradable goods. Territories you should priorize for developing are
Constantinople, Nicea, Greece, Khazar  and Naples. Raise two-three Heavy Foot
(Militias or Spearmen) and hire all the mercenaries you can from Trebizond.
Make alliances with everyone you can. You'll have problems finding good
governors; for all their tradition in knowledge, these Greeks are mostly
uneducated! Three-plume Acumen is fairly good and four is exceptional; best
Acumens are seen (at first) in Spearmen and Steppe Cavalry (and mercenaries,
but they are not eligible!); in the middle game, Byzantine and Pronoia Cavalry
and Byzantine Infantry and Trebizond Archers provided most of the officials (no
wonder, they were the troops raised in highest numbers). Varangians and
Kataphraktoi were consistently uneducated. Many are, however, fairly correct
commanders, and three-stars generals are common. Heirs are usually learned men
(five-six plumes are the norm) and some are good commanders as well (four to
seven stars), but they become eligible only after falling off the hereditary
line; hold them to be assigned to the most profitable provinces. Do not
hesitate to strip your below-average initial officials whenever good candidates
become available. Regardless the many warnings seen in forums, I have never
experienced a rebellion headed by a deposed official.

Stirring your muscles
You can make an early start by attacking the Turks. They are potentially very
dangerous, but hold only four provinces, so busting them out should not be
impossible. Gather an army, have the Emperor himself lead it (mine had a
seven-star generalship), and invade Lesser Armenia. Some maneuvering will be
necessary: Turkish reinforcements pour from Syria and Armenia, so some
"soaking-off" will be on order (a common board wargame tactic, it consist in
invading the province -"hex"- adjacent to your real target, so as to "pin down"
in its defence the troops that would have otherwise reinforced the garrison in
your real target). They won't be able to defend all their provinces at once, so
they will concentrate in one of them; if you are outnumbered, calling off is
advisable as long as some "soaking-off" operation seizes a province. If you
manage to conquer a province a year you'll succeed, even if you have to abandon
one or two temporarily. Once you have pushed the Turks back to Syria, you are
done; I chose to bust them out of the game.
Your next choice is whether attack the Egyptians in Antioch, or move eastward
to Khazar. Breaking the Egyptians is tempting enough; and it should be possible
at this early stage of the game: they gather a sizable army in Antioch, but
with a high proportion of low quality troops. Problem is in the long run, for
the Westerners will launch Crusades to Antioch, and it is better to stay out of
their way. On the other side, trade with the Egyptians is extremely profitable.
So I chose to invade Khazar, and did so successfully, but the other Black Sea
rebel provinces turned to Enemies. Conquer some more provinces until you
contact the Hungarians and the Novgorod people, both of whom should be your
allies. Khazar is an extremely profitable province, so develop it well, and
raise Steppe Cavalry there. You should also build an Inn somewhere, should a
sudden need of more troops arises.

Go West, young man!

After consolidating those turbulent territories, start looking West. Lay a
trade route from Constantinople to Venice. You'll need four ships; but start
backwards, and place your first one in the Adriatic. If you have built Ports
and Trade Houses in Naples and Greece, you'll soon be trading from there to
Croatia and Venice, and then extend the line to Constantinople. Then lay an
Eastern line, to Antioch; you'll need two more ships, and two more to reach
Egypt and Cyrenaica. That will uphold your finances enough, and provide some
strategic mobility to your armies. Build a proportion of Firegalleys to have
some combat capability, but send Dromons forward. You'll see some Italian ships
by now crossing the Straits; do not get nervous. Entering the Sicilian Straits
is very profitable, but those guys will probably attack you, so do it only if
you can wage a war against them. By AD 1200 you should have built
full-developed Merchants' Guilds in Constantinopla, Nicea, Khazar, Antioch,
Tripoli, Naples, Sicily and perhaps Cordoba and Portugal. In peacetime,
Constantinopla and Antioch trade income should be in the region of 2500-3000 fl
a year; Khazar and Tripoli a bit less.
I decided to invade Sicilia, a profitable, well developed land, held by a
modern army. An eight-hundred strong army led by an 8-star commander (a heir)
was enough for them to abandon the province. I was more concerned about the
Sicilian navy, for a single ship could disrupt my Western sea lane, but I
managed to make a ceasefire before serious naval warfare began. Should naval
operations be necessary, regroup your ships and always attack single ships with
two- or three- ship squads, and victory will be yours, if it will take a little
longer. Also, consider the relative speed of the ships involved: a Galley
squadron will rarely catch a single Dromon (or Dhow).
At around AD 1150, the Egyptians attacked me in Syria. After some maneuvering
and fighting I managed to push the frontier to Palestine without losing much
commerce, for I had laid trade routes all the way to Spain. My allies the
Germans were honing a Crusade to Egypt itself, so I took care not to invade it;
finally the Almohads took advantage of the fledgling Egyptians and conquered
the territory. The Crusade never materialized. Alas, these hesitant Franks!

A Foot in Europe

As usual, Almohads were by that time rampaging through Europe, and rebellions
were sparkling everywhere. At around AD 1160 I invaded Genoa, held by Rebels,
and some years later I bought (literally!) Normandy and Portugal. That really
upset the Almohads, and they declared a Jihad to Portugal a few years after.
Now, that meant war, and they had several ships in the North Atlantic and the
North African coastline, effectively disrupting my sea lanes and isolating both
territories. I had sent good reinforcement armies to each, but I had not time
yet to build any troop-raising facility (not even the prescribed Inn!) in
Normandy, though Byzantine Infantry could be raised in Portugal. The route
through the European coast of the Mediterranean remained open, so I sent an
army to invade Granada and another to Cordoba, to ease the pressure on
Portugal. A God-sent German Crusade arrived to Valencia, and that broke the
Almohad power in Spain. Normandy was another story, and only after years of
continuous battles, relying almost solely on locally hired mercenaries, I
managed to send in a relieving army, and even sent expeditions against Ireland
and Friesland. Almohad troops are very resilient and their first onslaught is
really fearful; if repulsed, they rally around fresh troops and come again. I
resorted to targeting their general's unit to rout, kill or capture him; if
succesful, the following attacks are much less determined. In the end, pressure
in Spain together with German and English Crusades, though ultimately
unsuccessful, broke their resistance. Crusaders were somewhat annoying: they
lingered safely in my territory next to their target, crossing the border to
attack and coming back when repulsed, losing strength each year; if I invade
it, they did not move; if I took it, they moved in and asked politely to be
left in charge, only to be repulsed the following year! If you moved in to help
them, they consider it an act of war unless you are allied to the prince
promoting the Crusade, who, by the way, never sent in any reinforcement, not
even when actually holding the territory and checked only by a handful of
Rebels!. Eventually, they even looted my territory when just passing through.
At least, as Orthodoxes, your troops do not rush to enlist in the Crusading
army (this, the logical thing, has exceptions, and several of my troops
enlisted in an English Crusade, which, after occupying the target province
became a national English army, eventually my enemy. So, I faced an army where
Varangians, Byzantine Cavalry and Trebizonds served in small numbers!)

Watch your back!

Khazar is usually the target of the Mongol onslaught, which comes without
warning, out of the blue, just like the historical event. Preparing for such a
thing, I began to assemble an army at Khazar made of heavy units, as opposed to
the provincial army, composed mainly of light cavalry of steppe origin. I
deployed several spear-armed mercenary infantry units, some of the new
Varangians and Pronoia Cavalry and piles of arbalesters. The feared oncoming
happened in AD 1232,  exactly: an army composed of 800 heavy cavalry, some 1600
archers and militias and a dozen machines appeared in Khazar. My troops
outnumbered the invaders at least 3:1, but I had nothing as heavy. You have a
year's warning time to bring in reinforcements, so do not worry too much, just
have them somewhere! In the end, I won a difficult defensive battle in Khazar.
Mongols advanced with a line of archers protected by squadrons of heavies and
the fire from the machines to get rid of my skirmishers; quite a sophisticated
tactic for the AI. The infallible "Pike and Bow" tactic (use heavy missileers,
like Arbalesters; if you happened to have Handgunners, send them, for the
Easterner fears their fire staves!) together with some Steppe vanguard
skirmishing to disperse their own archers broke their attack. Just make sure to
not send your Pronoia, Khwarazmian or even Kataphraktoi cavalry charging
headlong into those fearful heavies; charge them in the flanks when they crash
into your infantry line, and make a special effort going after their King.
Should the Horde reappear later, just move in a good assassin ASAP.

Final assault on the West

In the High period you should be already on top, so most probably the AI starts
sending everyone after you. Any moderately powerful Catholic faction will raise
Crusades against you; though this is not necessary evil (you should be powerful
enough to stave them off) this will disrupt your income trade. Probably you'll
have to cut expenses; try replacing all the mercenary units for near-equivalent
national ones, try to build farms and mines to diminish your reliance on trade,
and search for better governors.  Regarding these, in the middle game literacy
improves among the Greeks, and there are a fair number of personalities with
four-plumes acumen (while generalship tend to diminish). This is not enoug to
make a province blossom out, but it is fairly acceptable. Ex-heirs fallen from
the succession line remained being the most literate men available, some having
seven-eight plumes. Reserve the provinces potentially most productive to be
assigned to them. Conquering some picked provinces will help your finances and
affect your enemies: I recommend Flanders, Venice and Sweden. Friesland and
possibly Lorraine would be candidates for a second grand campaign. Among the
many little cheats the AI make, I discovered a most funny one while campaigning
in Scandinavia against the Germans: when I landed at the same time both in
Sweden and Norway, none of them had any garrison! In spite of this, and Norway
being a specially quarrelsome territory, they showed a near-200% Loyalty!.
Germans are tough soldiers, and they send Crusade after Crusade to several
provinces of yours; but if you manage to beat them off or make them give up,
the Influence of the German King will drop and possibly rebellions will start.

Second Pax Romana
At around AD 1380, the whole map, except Rome and the Papal States, and
Sardinia held by the Italians (they are nice guys, and they buy all kind of
things) was in my possession. This created a severe financial problem, for
trade income became negligible. I had to resort to disbanding many units,
beginning with the mercenaries, but following with the faithful Trebizondians
(the most expensive archer units I had). Inevitably some rebellions sparked,
but they were suffocated and/or simply bought off! The last fifty years or so
of game time were spent in perfect peace, which, though by no means amusing,
was no small feat, given the rebellious nature of many territories, and the
high level of taxes needed to keep the finances levelled.

A very interesting campaign leading a most intriguing people. You have at your
disposal lots of troops of very different nature, so blending them tactically
is quite a feat. Specially brilliant are the many cavalry troops available,
which allow for interesting tactical maneuvers. Lots of very different tactical
approaches can be tried, out of the traditional "Pike and Bow" I have always
preconized. In the strategic level, you can keep yourself in good terms with
most Christian kingdoms for trade's sake, or you can war with them
relentlessly: the Pope is not an issue. Enjoy the game, and read something on
Bizantium's glory and final demise.

P.D.: Email any suggerences or commentaries to