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    |								       |
    |		          Medieval 2: Total War			       |
    |								       |
    Version 1.02
    Written by: Nathan Garvin
    Email: Theendbringer (at) Hotmail (dot) com.
    If you're going to email me about this guide, make sure you put
    "MEDIEVAL 2: TOTAL WAR" in the title, or I'll probably end up deleting 
    it as junk.
    I have no affiliation with Sega, the Creative Assembly, or any other 
    parties involved with this game. This is a not-for-profit fan-made 
    guide. If you wish to post, mirror, or quote this guide, feel free to do
    so. Credit would make me happy, an email would make me feel good. Let 
    your conscience be your guide, just like all good people.
    Now, I know this is a not-for-profit FAQ, but FAQ writing is time
    consuming work. If you wanted to show your appreciation for this FAQ 
    and/or support for future FAQs by donating to my PayPal account, that
    would be an above-and-beyond gesture. If every person who downloaded
    my FAQs donated a penny.. well, it would help out immensely. Now,
    without anymore PBS-style solicitation..
    This FAQ was made in Notepad, and is best viewed in a simple text
    editor. The default text is Lucida Console at size 10 font, but any
    fixed-width font will work.. if not with the intended aesthetics intact.
    Table of Contents
    I. Introduction				{INT000}
    	1. Using this FAQ		{INT001}
    II. Picking your Faction		{PCK000}				
    	1. Garrison			{PCK001}
    	2. Infantry			{PCK002}
    	3. Cavalry			{PCK003}
    	4. Archers			{PCK004}
    	5. Navies			{PCK005}
    III. The Factions			{FCT000}
    	1. England			{FCT001}
    	2. France			{FCT002}
    	3. Holy Roman Empire		{FCT003}
    	4. Spain			{FCT004}
    	5. Sicily			{FCT005}
    	6. Venice			{FCT006}
    	7. Milan			{FCT007}
    	8. Scotland			{FCT008}
    	9. Byzantine Empire		{FCT009}
    	10. Russia			{FCT010}
    	11. Moors			{FCT011}
    	12. Turks			{FCT012}
    	13. Egypt			{FCT013}
    	14. Denmark			{FCT014}
    	15. Portugal			{FCT015}
    	16. Poland			{FCT016}
    	17. Hungary			{FCT017}
    IV. Faction By Rank			{FBR000}
    V. Guilds 				{GLD000}
    	1. Knightly Orders		{GLD001}
    	2. Merchant's Guild		{GLD002}
    	3. Swordsmith's Guild		{GLD003}
    	4. Theologian's Guild		{GLD004}
    	5. Thieve's Guild		{GLD005}
    VI. Region Advice			{RGA000}
    	1. British Isles		{RGA001}
    	2. France			{RGA002}
    	3. Iberia			{RGA003}
    	4. North Africa			{RGA004}
    	5. Germany			{RGA005}
    	6. Denmark			{RGA006}
    	7. Italy			{RGA007}
    	8. Greece/Illyricum/Balkans	{RGA008}
    	9. Hungary			{RGA009}
    	10. Poland			{RGA010}
    	11. Russia			{RGA011}
    	12. Asia Minor			{RGA012}
    	13. The Holy Lands		{RGA013}
    	14. Egypt			{RGA014}
    	15. Overview			{RGA015}
    VII. Hints/Tips				{HNT000}
    VIII. Updates/Thanks			{UPD000}
    |								       |
    |			Introduction {INT000}			       |
    |								       |
    I started playing Medieval 2: Total War hoping for the next Rome: Total
    War. Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised, as it did pretty much 
    everything I hoped it would. It was the typical Total War strategy game,
    but prettier than Rome. Sure, I don't personally like the Medieval era
    as much as antiquity, but that's just because I took many more classical
    studies classes and ancient histories than Medieval histories. In fact,
    the last history I'm well-versed in is Later Roman History, which 
    really only extends until about 700 A.D. with the emergence of Islam and
    the rapid loss of the Middle East by the Byzantine Empire. Poor Emperor
    Heraclius.. Anyhow, I've found this game to be an excellent title, and
    thanks to Steam and the shoddy quality of Empire: Total War it's likely
    to be the last Total War title I play for a while. Also, because my new
    computer hates Rome: Total War and likes to crash after several battles
    I've pretty much replaced it with Medieval 2. So far I've played
    England four times, France three times, the Holy Roman Empire four times,
    Spain twice, Sicily four times, Venice three times, Milan four times, 
    Scotland twice, the Byzantine Empire five times, Russia three times, the
    Moors three times, Egypt once, Denmark twice, Portugal twice, Poland 
    once, Hungary once, and the Turks twice. Considering how much I've 
    played, and because I like writing FAQs (those opinions just get bottled
    up and need an outlet!) I decided to make this FAQ which describes the
    factions, their strengths, and their weaknesses. Version 1.02 includes
    detailed information about the map, which I have broken into various
    strategic zones. This includes how I think the area should be utilizied,
    and will hopefully give you step-by-step goals for conquest. I've also
    included some information about Guilds and Agents. While not going into
    great technical depth about them, I aim to provide some opinions on what
    to build and what, and various tactics you can employ with your agents.
    Using this FAQ							{INT001}		
    Below I will list some of my quirks, organizational methods, and various
    other tidbits that will help you navigate this guide. For starters,
    during the main FAQ I'll break up the various chapters and 
    organizational components of the guide with a large heading:
    |								       |
    |		              Large Heading  			       |
    |								       |
    During the FAQ, I'll break up different areas with a thick line:
    Thick line
    Multiple parts of a mission in the same area will be broken up with a 
    thin line. This breaks up the missions into a series of steps, and 
    limits how much unbroken text you'll have to read at once. Nobody likes
    Thin line
    Of course, I reserve the right to break my own rules during the FAQ..
    mostly due to being scatter-brained and working on the FAQ in shifts
    over the course of time. Life and all. So cut me some slack. Besides,
    this organizational scheme is mostly for consistency and ease-of-use.
    I'll sometimes substitute the thick area transition line for a thin
    line. I usually do this when entering and leaving the same areas
    multiple times in a short time frame, or when we briefly enter-or pass
    through-an area, but do not explore it in detail at that time. Or if I
    consider the area somehow minor or insignificant.
    |								       |
    |			  Picking your Faction	{PCK000}	       |
    |								       |
    Unlike in Rome: Total War, there are no overpowering factions in
    Medieval 2: Total War. In Rome you had the Romans (obviously) with
    arguably the best infantry and cavalry in the game. In Medieval 2, 
    almost all European Christian factions have access to Feudal Knights, 
    which are powerful melee and cavalry units in a pinch. In effect, the 
    only way for you to find superior forces lies in looking at other 
    factors. Namely good starting positions, good opportunities, and 
    exceptional units. Keep in mind though, by 'exceptional', most units 
    exceed Feudal Knights by a point or two at best. So, to break it down, 
    this is how I 'score' factions.
    I consider the Garrison, Infantry, Cavalry, Archers, and starting 
    locations of the factions and rate each of them separately. I then 
    consider their strengths and give the faction a score that represents 
    their relative ease of use and military strength. This is not an exact 
    science, and frankly you'll get more by reading than by simply looking 
    at the number of stars I give them.	
    			   <<<GARRISON>>>			{PCK001}
    Some factions have vastly differing Garrison units than others. For
    instance, most Italian factions are completely able to rely on their
    Garrisons, whereas armies are mandatory for northern European factions.
    In the Garrison section I will rate the power, versatility, and
    economics of the factions' Garrison units taken as a whole. Keep in mind 
    that Garrison units are rated individually as part of the factions'
    Infantry, Cavalry, or Archery corps. Since the primary function of a 
    Garrison apart from the conventional army is to fill Garrisons with free 
    upkeep units, a faction's Garrison rating will largely depend on the 
    efficacy of the units that can be stationed in cities upkeep free.
    *	This faction can only produce weak garrison units that lack
    **	This faction can produce weak garrison units, but they have
    	good variety (Infantry and Archers, for example.) Or they have
    	one exceptional unit.
    ***	This faction can produce decent garrison units that are capable
    	of holding cities without the help of castle-based armies.
    	Granted, this might not mean that the garrison can survive a
    	full, powerful army, but they aren't likely to get routed by a
    	few strong units or many mediocre ones. The standard for
    	comparison here are Italian Spear Militias.
    ****	This factions can produce a variety of mediocre units, for
    	example Italian Spear Militias and Pavise Crossbow Militias. Or
    	they can produce one very powerful garrison unit that exceeds
    	the base (Italian Spear Militias are overpowered by Byzantine
    *****	This faction has a powerful, versatile garrison, which can
    	produce strong units capable of fending off castle-based armies.
    	Bonus points for units that can be garrisoned upkeep free, and
    	for factions with multiple types of units (Infantry, Archers,
    	and Cavalry.)
    			   <<<INFANTRY>>>			{PCK002}
    All Catholic factions gain access to Dismounted Feudal Knights, and
    therefore these guys serve as the standard for comparing other infantry
    units to. Depending on relative power, economics, and ease-of-access of
    the factions units, I will rate each factions' Infantry, taking all the
    following factors into consideration:
    *	The faction does not have access to Dismounted Feudal Knights,
    	and the infantry they have instead is significantly less 
    **	The faction does not have access to Dismounted Feudal Knights,
    	and the infantry they have instead is somewhat less effective.
    ***	Dismounted Feudal Knights are the best, or on par with the best
    	unit the faction receives.
    ****	The faction has access to heavy infantry that is somewhat better 
    	than Dismounted Feudal Knights overall.
    *****	The faction has access to heavy infantry that is significantly
    	better than Dismounted Feudal Knights overall.
    Dismounted Feudal Knights have a base Attack of 13, a base Defense of 
    21, one Hit Point, and come in squads of 120 (largest unit size 
    setting). They also receive a Combat Bonus in Woods or Snow, have Good
    Morale, and Good Stamina. Any variations from the above stats affect
    the rating of this unit.
    Dismounted Feudal Knights cost 570 florins, and have an upkeep of 225
    florins per turn. Frankly, the upkeep of a unit is more important than
    its initial cost, as army upkeep is what will drain your coffers. Units
    range from 90 to around 400 florins of upkeep per turn. Anything above
    225 florins a turn will negatively impact the units' rating, whereas
    anything below it will positively impact the units' rating.
    You gain access to Dismounted Feudal Knights when you upgrade a Castle
    to a Fortress. It can be a big difference to get access to units with
    a Fortress as opposed to a Citadel. Being able to train units sooner
    will improve their rating, whereas a unit that takes longer to train
    will have a lower rating. 
    			   <<<CAVALRY>>>			{PCK003}
    All Catholic factions have access to Feudal Knights, and just like with
    Infantry I will use the mounted versions to serve as a standard for 
    comparison. Depending on relative power, economics, and ease-of-access I
    will rate the faction as follows. Note that I will count Missile Cavalry
    as both Archers and Cavalry, and rate them depending on their strengths
    in both categories.
    *	The faction does not have access to Feudal Knights, and the 
    	cavalry they have instead is significantly less effective.
    **	The faction does not have access to Feudal Knights, and the 
    	cavalry they have instead is somewhat less effective.
    ***	Feudal Knights are the best, or on par with the best unit the 
    	faction receives.
    ****	The faction has access to heavy cavalry that is somewhat better 
    	than Feudal Knights overall.
    *****	The faction has access to heavy cavalry that is significantly
    	better than Feudal Knights overall.
    Feudal Knights have a base Attack of 10, a base Defense of 16, one Hit
    Point, 80 soldiers per unit, and a Charge Bonus of 6. They also have
    the ability to form a wedge, the 'May Charge Without Orders' ability, and
    Good Stamina and Good Morale. The lack of May Charge Without Orders 
    ability will be a plus on other Cavalry, as well stats and abilities
    that exceed those of the Feudal Knight. Obviously lower stats will
    result in a worse rating.
    A unit of Feudal Knights costs 250 florins per turn to maintain. Other
    units that cost less will get a favorable score, units that are more
    expensive will have that factor considered negatively. Cavalry units can
    get fairly expensive, but few get noticeable cheaper than 250 florins..
    at least, not without suffering in power.
    Just like with Dismounted Feudal Knights, you get Feudal Knights when
    you upgrade a Castle to a Fortress. The longer it takes to get access to
    a unit, the lower it will be scored.
    			   <<<ARCHERS>>>			{PCK004}
    Rating Archers is trickier, as there no one 'standard' for the majority
    of the games' factions. However, as a number of factions gain access to
    Pavise Crossbowmen, we'll use those as a standard, although it might be
    somewhat high for an 'average'.
    *	The faction does not have access to Pavise Crossbowmen, and the 
    	Archers they have instead is significantly less effective.
    **	The faction does not have access to Pavise Crossbowmen, and the 
    	Archers they have instead is somewhat less effective.
    ***	Pavise Crossbowmen are the best, or on par with the best unit 
    	the faction receives.
    ****	The faction has access to Archers that are is somewhat better 
    	than Pavise Crossbowmen overall.
    *****	The faction has access to Archers that is significantly better 
    	than Pavise Crossbowmen overall.
    Pavise Crossbowmen have a melee attack of 6, a ranged attack of 12,
    and 14 defense. They cost 125 florins for a unit of 120, and the useful
    traits "Effective Against Armor" and "Long-Rang Missiles". The biggest
    stat to keep track of is their ranged attack, followed by defense. Not
    having the two traits mentioned above should be viewed as a significant
    negative on other units. The more missile damage a unit does, the more
    they kill, obviously. The longer their missile range, the sooner they
    can fire on the enemy, upon which the entire usefulness of a ranged
    units hangs. A unit that gets outshot by other archers is at an extreme
    Pavise Crossbowmen cost 125 florins per turn to maintain. Other
    units that cost less will get a favorable score, units that are more
    expensive will have that factor considered negatively. Most ranged units
    don't cost much more, unless they are hybrid units (good for infantry
    and archery.)
    Most factions gain access to Pavise Crossbowmen from Archery Ranges,
    or from Militia Drill Squares. Units that are available earlier will be
    rated favorably.
    			    <<<NAVIES>>>			{PCK005}
    In Medieval 2: Total War, navies are pretty simple. You don't get to
    actually play out the battles, so there's really no tactical 
    considerations to be made. Also, considering that the strength of any
    factions navy is mostly dependant on whether the ships they recruit are 
    from a Port, Shipwright, or Dockyard, I won't get into Navies too much.
    Suffice to say, the winner of a Naval engagement solely depends on the
    strength and manpower of the Navy in question.
    |								       |
    |				FACTIONS {FAC000}		       |
    |								       |
    Below I'll list all the factions in the game, discuss the strengths
    of their Garrisons, Infantry, Cavalry, Archers, and their starting
    Location. Each category has between a * and ***** rating. I'll total up
    all the scores and give the factions a rating based upon them. Since
    Medieval 2 is fairly well balanced (compared to Rome) all factions have
    between a 15 and a 22 rating, so they're all playable. This is the meat
    of the FAQ, and I'll try to tell HOW to use the units where applicable,
    and not just which ones to use. In the Location section I'll explain
    not only their starting position, but what you should do in the game.
    Keep in mind, your play experience will differ. If France is 
    excommunicated while you're playing Milan, you might just end up taking
    Toulouse early, for example. As opportunities and challenges vary, so
    should your strategy.
    							Rating: 20/25			
    |								       |
    |				ENGLAND {FAC001}		       |
    |								       |
    England is one of the most powerful, well-mixed northern European
    factions in the game, with great Infantry, Archers, and above average
    Cavalry. Their gunpowder units aren't as strong as, say, Spain, but
    they do start out with a good location. All you have to do to make it
    as the British is defeat the Scots, secure the British Isles, and wait
    until you get Armoured Swordsmen. After that, France and the Holy Roman
    Empire should be easy to subdue.
    <<<GARRISON>>>							***
    Given time, England can get a fairly decent militia, the stars of which
    are their Heavy Billmen. For militia units, Heavy Billmen are fairly 
    good, but by the time you get access to them you've probably already 
    made it past the point at which having powerful standing garrisons would 
    have been crucial. Still, it never hurts to have a good unit, even late. 
    Other than that they have the standard mix of European-style miltias.
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							*****
    You might start out slow as England.. oh.. do you start out slow.. but
    England will eventually be able to field Armoured Swordsmen; extremely
    cost-effective knights that will allow them to spawn many powerful
    armies. They might not have the outright most powerful army, but taking 
    economics into account, they certainly have one of the best. England can 
    also field English Knights, which are heavy on attack, but only moderate 
    in defense. They are still a powerful, if more expensive unit. Until you 
    get a barracks built you'll need to rely on Billmen. They are decent 
    infantry, and should be more than enough to hold back the Scots and 
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							****
    Nothing exceedingly great on the cavalry front, they have the English
    Knight, which is a slight improvement over the Feudal version.. still,
    many other factions possess better cavalry. Also, you'll be waiting a
    long time to get access to English Knights, when Feudal Knights will
    be available long beforehand.
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							****
    Retinue Longbowmen are great archers, which good armor, range, and
    respectable missile damage. Of course, the French actually have better
    archers in their Scots' Guard, but Retinue Longbowmen are cheap and
    effective.. if a bit hard to get. While you wait for them, the English
    are well-served by Longbowmen and Yeomen Archers. England will have
    better archers in the early to mid game than almost every faction 
    they'll come into conflict during this time. Longbowmen and Yeoman
    Archers simply out-class anything the Scottish, French, Holy Roman
    Empire, Spanish, Portugeuse, Moors, and Danes will be able to throw at
    you. Once you get Retinue Longbowmen, England's place in the archery
    elite-or at least the archery-well-to-do-is ensured.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							****
    The English are located on the British Isles, of course. This provides
    them a natural barrier against attack. If you have continental armies
    seriously threatening your safety on England, you're doing a miserable
    job. They have two rivals at the beginning of the game-the Scottish,
    and the French. Other powers, especially Milan, the Holy Roman Empire,
    and the Danes will cause you trouble eventually, but at first you need
    only seriously worry about the Scottish. Build a respectable army on
    the mainland to keep neighbors from viewing you as prey (make alliances,
    with France especially if you want to make life easier.) Take rebel
    settlements in the north early on to provide you with income, but focus
    most of your energy on the Scottish. They start out particularly strong,
    with a force of Highland Nobles to cause you trouble, but the margin
    of victory and defeat with them is one battle. If you can eliminate
    the Scottish and secure the British Isles, you can maintain all that
    property with one standing army.. especially when the Danes are dealt
    English lands aren't the richest, and until you can mass-produce Billmen
    you need to be careful. They certainly don't have the startup time that
    Italian armies do, but they're much safer than the Holy Roman Empire
    and France. Once you get Armoured Swordsmen, abuse them. If you get them
    quickly, you can get a significant jump on the enemy, and decimate foes
    with impunity.
    							Rating: 20/25
    |								       |
    |			 	 FRANCE	{FAC002}		       |
    |								       |
    France is an appealing choice for any player familiar with the mechanics
    of Total War games. They have plenty of starting options, a strong
    Infantry, Cavalry, and Archers, and most of all, they have plenty of
    units to choose from in any of their branches. If you're a new gamer,
    they can be rough to get off the ground, as their better units require
    you to climb the tech tree fairly high. It might be delayed 
    gratification, but it's worth it when you reach the pinnacle of Frances'
    might. As a note, France is the only faction I've cleared the map with..
    well, except for the Byzantines, of course.
    <<<GARRISON>>>							****
    France starts with a standard garrison for Catholic factions, the 
    typical Spear Militia and Town Militia with a Crossbow Militia to give
    them some depth. They get Vouge Militias later on, and two forms of
    Pike troops if you keep upgrading, the latter of which comes late in the
    game. If you climb the tech tree high enough, France will gain access to
    Scots Guard (which come with the upgrade to a Huge City) and Gendarmes,
    which require a bit more work. What you end up with in France are cities
    that can produce reasonably powerful knights, great archers, and 
    mediocre infantry. France has great diversity in their garrisons, but
    by the time you gain access to these units, France's armies have made
    them obsolete. Oh, and their mighty garrison units typically don't get
    the privilege of being upkeep free.
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							****
    The French start out a bit weaker than England to the north, but they
    are mostly a match for the Holy Roman Empire. The real problem are the
    Milanese, which can field masses of Italian Spear Militias and Genoese
    Crossbow Militias. If you use Armored Sergeants until you can raise a
    Citadel you may just survive long enough to train Dismounted French 
    Nobles, which are equal to English Knights. They might be expensive, but 
    they make overwhelmingly powerful infantry. They'll suffer at range from 
    archers since they lack a shield, but if they get into contact with the 
    enemy, they're going to hurt them-a lot.
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							*****
    As you'd expect, France has a staggering, even redundant selection of
    cavalry to choose from. If there's one thing France does well (and
    there's more than just one) it's cavalry. Not only do they have the
    typical Feudal Knights, but they also have Noble Knights, Lancers, and
    Chivalric Knights, the latter of which only requires a Baron's Stables
    to create. The Noble Knights are powerful and expensive, and more than
    a match for any other knight in the game. Even though all of France's
    most powerful castle-based cavalry has the annoying 'May Charge
    Without Orders' trait, their diversity, accessibility, and power make
    France perhaps the most cavalry-affluent faction in the game.
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							*****
    You'd think, from a historical standpoint, that France would be 
    relatively underpowered in the missile department, what with England
    constantly using their bowmen to win against France's heavy armor
    (the battles of Agincourt and Crecy for example). However, that is not
    The Creative Assembly's take on France, as they have two superb missile
    units, the castle-based Aventuriers and the city-based Scot's Guard.
    Both are excellent, heavily armed and armored archers, and frankly both
    are probably better than Retinue Longbowmen. They both take a while to
    get, however, and unlike England, France really doesn't have an answer
    for Longbowmen and Yeomen Archers. For the balance of the game you'll
    be stuck with Crossbowmen. Still, once you get them you'll have 
    versatile and powerful archers you can recruit from both cities (Scot's
    Guard) and castles (Aventuriers). 
    <<<LOCATION>>>							**
    France starts out fairly compromised, with lots of room to expand and
    lots of competition. You can bet that within the first fifty turns 
    you're going to have trouble with England, the Holy Roman Empire, Milan,
    Spain, Portugal, and Denmark. While by 'trouble' I don't necessarily
    mean open warfare, you will have to keep your borders guarded reasonably
    well to deter potential attacks. Looking at France's location, you can
    see this is going to be a feat, as armies to cover this much ground
    will be expensive. Getting hold of the eastern castles before the Holy
    Roman Empire is a must. With Metz and Bern you can provide reasonable
    protection for your eastern cities (Paris and Rheims), Angers and Caen
    will protect your northern coast, and Bordeaux and Toulouse will
    protect against invasions from Iberia. It's a bit of a task to secure
    these locations, but once you manage and stock them with Armored
    Sergeants you'll be off to a good start. 
    Chances are, either Spain or Portugal will harass Rennes or Bordeaux.
    Milan typically expands into Bern and/or Dijon, and will challenge
    Marseille-sooner rather than later if you leave it unprotected. England
    will be a pain eventually, requiring you to expend resources garrisoning
    against them in Angers. Denmark and the Holy Roman Empire are usually
    at odds with each other before they bother you, but Denmark may well
    seize Bruges and/or Antwerp before you can, and the Holy Roman Empire
    will contest the eastern castles with you. Starting too many wars will
    run you dry and cause you to have trouble with the Pope. The key to
    France is early expansion followed by settling in and climbing the tech
    trees. Allying with your neighbors in the early going will buy you some
    time, and allying with the Pope before you get into fights with other
    Catholic factions will allow you to recover from the inevitable loss of
    favor. The LAST thing you want to do as France is get excommunicated.
    The CPU does it all the time and it typically ends with them losing
    Toulouse. Don't follow suit.
    With such a staggering series of challenges, the best advice that can be
    given is to secure at LEAST one castle in the east and get some Armored
    Sergeants training to withstand the Billmen of England, the rival
    Spearmen of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Italian Spear Militias of
    Milan. Your first conquest after securing what is modern-day France 
    should be to exert control over the British Isles. If you can land a
    fleet at Nottingham and create a base of operations there, you can
    fight a war of attrition against the English while staying on the 
    defensive on the continent. Once England is yours (which may take a bit,
    depending on how anal the Pope is) you can defend it with just one army.
    This will provide the revenue you need to expand your castles on the
    continent and slowly exert control over your neighbors. Tackling
    Iberia is a good second move, as it has a good number of castles for
    the taking, which can then guard adjacent cities. If you ever have
    enough money to create three standing armies to invade in one direction
    while maintaining your border presence, you're on your way. Breaking
    into Italy and central Europe will be a chore, considering that France
    will be almost entirely reliant upon castle-spawned armies for their
    military might, multiple armies to conquer and allow depleted units to
    retreat and get retrained are a must. Once your income is high enough
    to expand with impunity, France can expand its borders by leap-frogging
    multiple armies with the ultimate goal of conquering castles and 
    mopping up whatever cities you might have left in enemy hands nearby.
    							Rating: 15/25
    |								       |
    |			   HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE {FAC003}		       |
    |								       |
    What does the game mean when it says the Holy Roman Empire doesn't get
    the late period professional armies that France and England do? Well,
    frankly, both France and England have stronger, more diverse units,
    while the Holy Roman Empire largely relies on outdated plate armor,
    maces, and tactics. Does this mean they are a weak faction? Not really,
    but their units just aren't as overwhelming as other European factions.
    A good choice for an intermediate gamer looking for a bit of a 
    challenge. Most of their units are no more powerful than the standard
    Feudal variety, but Zweihanders and Imperial Knights add a flavor that
    is wholly German to an otherwise uninspiring Catholic faction.
    <<<GARRISON>>>							**
    What you'd expect of a Catholic faction, they have Town, Spear, and
    Crossbow Militias in the early going, and eventually get Halberd and
    Pike Militias, none of which are all that good. Their one odd and
    exceptional unit in the garrison are the Forlorn Hope, a unit of
    powerful two-handed swordsmen that outclass Zweihanders. They're
    relatively cheap, too. The only problem? They take forever to gain 
    access to, and they only have half the unit size of a normal infantry
    unit. More interesting than useful really, and compared to the garrison
    units other factions get, it just doesn't make sense why Forlorn Hope is
    so limited, when say, Varangian Guard is stronger and suffers no such
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							***
    The Holy Roman Empire doesn't have very powerful infantry units. They
    get Dismounted Imperial Knights, and although they are 'Effective
    Against Armour' their stats are patently inferior to the Dismounted
    Feudal Knight. Their Zwei-Handers are weaker than the standard as well,
    but at least they are appreciably cheaper. Even still, to get them you
    need to upgrade to an Armoury, so pick your poison. You'll probably
    have to settle for Armoured Sergeants to survive the first part of the
    game, and be really choosy with who you attack. Feudal armies aren't
    going to be cheap enough to give you the number of armies you'd need
    to war on all fronts.
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							****
    The Holy Roman Empire is able to recruit Imperial Knights-which are the 
    equivalent of English Knights-and they only need access to an Earl's 
    Stable to do so. In fact, these knights don't even require a stable if
    you're willing to wait for a Citadel! On the expensive end, the Holy 
    Roman Empire also can recruit Gothic Knights, which are almost as 
    powerful as the crusader knights. Ultimately, their Cavalry is slightly
    better than normal.
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							***
    The best missile unit the Holy Roman Empire can recruit are Pavise
    Crossbowmen, which makes them utterly average in the ranged department.
    They can recruit Mounted Crossbowmen as well, but they aren't really
    anything special.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							***
    The Holy Roman Empire is in the middle of Europe. Nowhere else is there
    more competition for land or more borders to defend. In the north you'll
    contend with Denmark. Poland and Hungary lie in the east, the Italian
    states in the south, and France and England in the west. For all this,
    however, the Holy Roman Empire has less ambitious adversaries than, say,
    France. Venice and Sicily will likely ignore you, and if you expand
    early and keep a border presence you'll turn the Holy Roman Empire's
    biggest liability into a true asset.
    Granted, it takes some experience to do, but if you seize Hamburg in 
    the north you can keep Denmark at bay. Taking Metz will provide defense
    against France and Bern will hold back Milan. The big competitor for
    your potential lands is Poland in the east, so grab Stettin and fortify
    it to keep them at bay. If you ally with all your neighbors, expand
    into the aforementioned castles and build up garrisons you'll put
    yourself into an extremely strong position. Milan is likely to be the
    primary agitator in the early going, as it seems to always be 
    dangerously ambitious. Take Florence so you have two cities in Italy
    from which you can train troops and hopefully hold back a Milanese
    For advanced players, if you move fast, secure early victories, and
    hold your ground you can get the Holy Roman Empire off the ground in
    a big way, then rest up until they have access to more powerful troops.
    By turn forty I had eliminated Milan, controlled a total of twenty
    territories, and was ready to drive Hungary from Budapest. I also had
    140,000 florins, and interestingly enough a military score of 140,000,
    with a crusading army en route to Antioch. That's a stellar start by any
    measure. My best playthrough was something of an anomally, by turn 40 I
    had control of most of France, all of Germany, northern Italy, Poland,
    and parts of Hungary and Greece. By the time the Mongols arrived I had a
    ring of three Castles protecting my two eastern frontiers-Thorn, Krakow,
    and Breslau in the north, and Sofia, Bran, and Bucharest in the south.
    All of Greece, Spain, Italy, and England was mine, and my florins were
    cresting 400,000. It's not an obviously promising position, but with a
    little gusto in the early going you can secure it very well. Also, the
    computer simply doesn't seem as tenacious with attacking the Holy Roman
    Empire as it does with, say France. By the time Denmark, France, and
    Poland become a problem you've had time to prepare for them. Some of the
    Holy Roman Empire's lands are fairly rich in iron, and they have
    immediate access to the textiles in Italy as well, not to mention the
    gold mine in Ragusa and the amber and silver mines in Poland.
    							Rating: 19/25
    |								       |
    |			         SPAIN {FAC004}			       |
    |								       |
    Spain is the undisputed master faction of the Iberian peninsula-at least
    in the beginning of the game. They have the north-western and central 
    part of the map well locked up, and with just a tiny bit of gusto they 
    can secure additional areas and out-produce the Moors. Portugal-although 
    arguable a military match for Spain-are at a severe disadvantage 
    economically, and should be easy to dispose of. They combine a cheap and 
    powerful infantry (Sword and Buckler Men and Swordsmen Militias) with 
    good gunpowder units and access to Chivalric Knights to devastating 
    <<<GARRISON>>>							****
    In addition to all the typical Catholic units, Spain gains access to
    Swordsmen Militias, which are cost-effective, powerful units well-suited
    for protecting your cities. They also can train Musketeers, one of the
    more powerful gun units in the game. It might take time, but your cities
    wont have to rely on Spear Militias. They also get Jinetes, which can
    support your armies while you wait for Feudal Knights.
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							****
    In addition to the standard Dismounted Feudal Knights, Spain can train
    the powerful and cost-effective Sword and Buckler Men, which are nearly
    as strong as Feudal Knights, but at nearly half the cost. They also
    get Dismounted Chivalric Knights, which are a teeny bit more powerful
    than Dismounted Feudal Knights at the same upkeep.
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							****
    As I mentioned earlier, the big boon for Spain are their Chivalric
    Knights. Unlike the Dismounted Chivalric Knights, the mounted versions
    are appreciably more powerful than Feudal Knights. It's really all
    Spain has, but it's a good addition, especially for the same upkeep.
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							***		
    Aside from Pavise Crossbowmen, Spain really only has Musketeers. They're
    good, especially against armor, but you get them so late it's not a
    great advantage.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							****		
    Unlike Portugal, Spain starts out with Leon and Toledo, which are
    adjacent, if nothing else. For some quick expansion they can seize 
    Valencia and Zaragoza. Your first move should be to drive the Moors out 
    of Iberia, and with the resources you gain from those new territories,
    turn on Portugal. Toledo is a great castle that tends to grow quickly..
    which is useful, considering Spain needs a Fortress to get going, and
    a Citadel to become powerful. In all, Spain is probably the faction the
    most well-suited for seizing Iberia. Once this is done you should
    either slowly expand through France or the more profitable African
    provinces. If you succeed in conquering Iberia, you should be nearly
    invulnerable.. ignoring a catastrophic series of defeats.
    							Rating: 19/25
    |								       |
    |			 	 SICILY	{FAC005}		       |
    |								       |
    While Milan might start out richer, I typically prefer playing Sicily.
    I consider them to be the most powerful Italian Army in the game, which
    makes them candidate for the strongest faction out there. Most of their
    perks rely on maintaining castles though, and there are certainly some
    tricks you must pull to get them off the ground easily. For starters,
    gaining control of Florence and allying with the Pope are both musts.
    After that, surviving Milan's unpredictable early advances should be
    your top priority. If you leave a poorly defended city, around, don't
    be surprised if a Milanese navy leaves an army behind to cause you
    trouble. Once Italy is secured, Sicily can progress at leisure through
    the game. Most enemies will fall to militia armies, and when that
    doesn't work, there are always Norman Knights.
    <<<GARRISON>>>							****
    Like all Italian factions, Sicily has great militia units. Italian Spear 
    Militias will out-class European Militias for most of the game, and at a 
    bargain, too. However, when push comes to shove, Sicily has a noticeable
    less versatile garrison selection than other Italians. What more could
    you need than Italian Spear Militias and Pavise Crossbow Militias? Well,
    the ability recruit cavalry without a merchant's guild and round out
    your garrison armies fully would be nice. Also, demerits for having such
    a poor selection of gun units. Hand Gunners don't count as gunmen,
    they're just guys in armor hoping they don't get killed by their own 
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							****
    The Sicilians have the Dismounted Norman Knight-instead of the 
    Dismounted Feudal Knight.. which is practically the same thing. They do 
    have Sword and Buckler men as well, which are patently superior to 
    Broken Lances, and cheap to boot. Overall Sicily has access to a rather
    versatile infantry corps.
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							****
    Like with infantry, all Sicily does is swap out the Feudal Knight for
    the Norman Knight. Fortunately though, you get a lot more bang for your
    buck. The Norman Knight is almost as strong as a general's bodyguard 
    (sans the hitpoints), or about as strong as your typical knightly order. 
    This gives them an obvious bonus in the cavalry department, and puts 
    them on a higher tier than most other cavalries.
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							***		
    Like other Italian factions, Sicily receives Pavise Crossbowmen and
    Pavise Crossbow Militias, and fairly early on in the case of cities.
    They also can train Muslim Archers, but they're not really any better
    than Pavise Crossbowmen. In fact, Muslim Archers are inferior to both
    Venetian Archers and any Genoese Crossbowmen. Still, it's nothing a
    great cavalry can't fix.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							****		
    Sicily is safely barricaded behind the Papal States in southern Italy,
    and if you ally with the Pope, you'll be pretty well protected against
    land armies. Unfortunately, you'll have to hit the seas to expand 
    anywhere. Your first move should be to take Florence, and thus contest
    the northern Italian factions as well. As long as you locally outproduce
    your competitors, you'll be able to do well against Milan. If you expand
    across to Durazzo you'll probably get into scraps with Venice and the
    Byzantine Empire, so you might want to hold off on that until you've
    ousted Milan and the Holy Roman Empire from Italy. If you take the
    islands to the west you'll probably have to worry about invasions from
    Spain, Portugal, the Moors, and/or Milan, so it would do you well to
    keep them fortified. After claiming Italy you've got more options, but
    few clear cut opportunities. You should be more than a match for Iberia
    if you move quickly, and if you eliminate the Moors you'll have access
    to the plentiful resources around Timbuktu and Arguin.
    							Rating: 20/25
    |								       |
    |			 	 VENICE	{FAC006}		       |
    |								       |
    Venice starts out in a promising position, and with a little work they
    can begin making massive amounts of income while their militias hold off
    competitors long enough for their castles to evolve, enabling them to
    train some of the best infantry units in the game for the price. Every
    Italian faction has something to boast, Milan has its archers, Sicily
    has Norman Knights, and Venice has Venetian Heavy Infantry. 
    <<<GARRISON>>>							*****
    Another Italian faction, the Venetians have powerful early-game 
    militias. In addition to the Italian Spear Militias and Pavise Crossbow
    Militias all Venetian garrisons can train cavalry in cities. Once the
    city gets big enough they can even train Broken Lances, giving Venice
    a well-rounded and potent garrison indeed.
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							*****
    Surprisingly, Venice has a healthy selection of infantry, including
    their unique Venetian Heavy Infantry, which is balanced in offense and
    defense, effective against armor, cheap, and powerful at charging. This
    is all the infantry you'll ever need, and I'd put them up against
    Dismounted Feudal Knights any day. The only real weakness they have is
    the lack of "Good Morale", which makes them a touch more finicky than
    knights. Other than that they get Dismounted Men at Arms, which are
    less powerful and cheaper than Dismounted Feudal Knights.. at least in
    the initial purchase.
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							***
    Although they have Men at Arms, Venices' best cavalry units are still
    Feudal Knights. I don't know why they make you wait so long to get a
    crappy unit like Stradiots, but overall Venice just breaks even with
    their cavalry.
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							***		
    Not only does Venice have the Pavise Crossbow Militias you'd expect of
    Italy, they also have Venetian Archers, which are bow-carrying, heavily
    armored substitutes, all in all on par with Pavise Crossbow Militias.
    They aren't effective against armor, and they cost more, but they fire
    faster. And they look spiffy walking behind Venetian Heavy Infantry.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							****		
    As the description says, Venice has a great defensive start. They're
    spread out next to a number of rebel cities just begging to be 
    conquered, and although they're rather far flung, within the first 
    couple of turns they can easily double their territory. Also, as an
    Italian faction with strong militias, they can hold their territories
    with ease. They are adjacent to the Byzantine Empire, which, if you
    move quickly is very vulnerable in the early game to the far-superior
    Italian Militias. If you wait too long and the Byzantines get access
    to Byzantine Infantry you'll probably regret it. The obvious first
    move is to take Florence before Milan can. Once you have two cities in
    Italy, you're as likely as anybody to take control of the entire
    peninsula. Afterwards, you should build up garrisons and wait for
    Milan to leave itself vulnerable, whilst focusing your army on taking
    out the Byzantine Empire. This will eventually end up provoking
    Hungary and the Turks, but if you take the Byzantine territories, you'll
    be able to out-finance them.
    							Rating: 19/25
    |								       |
    |			 	 MILAN {FAC007}			       |
    |								       |
    Milan is probably the most obviously 'Italian' of the Italian factions.
    Their units just aren't as diverse as Sicily and Venice. For example,
    Sicily draws upon Norman Knights and Muslim archers, and Venice has
    unique infantry and archers. Milan, however, has the best archers of
    the three factions, and the typically Italian Men at Arms and Broken
    <<<GARRISON>>>							*****
    Milan possibly has the most complete, powerful garrison in the game.
    Like the other Italian factions they can recruit Italian Spear Militias,
    but they also have the improved Genoese Crossbow Militias. It's not a
    huge improvement, but any edge is worth having. They can also train
    Broken Lances and Famiglia Ducale eventually, which are expensive, but
    on par to Feudal Knights. This versatility means Milan never really has
    to use castles.. in fact, their armies are so weak it might be a better
    idea to simply convert some castles into cities. 
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							***
    Milan is the most limited Italian faction when it comes to infantry, and
    will have to rely on Feudal Knights for the most difficult battles.
    Dismounted Men at Arms and Broken Lances just aren't superior.
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							***
    The Milanese don't really have anything special to talk about in the
    cavalry department, although they do get a great variety they can
    recruit from cities. Their best units are Feudal Knights, although
    Famiglia Ducale are an expensive alternative.
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							****		
    Instead of Pavise Crossbowmen and Militias, the Milanese have Genoese
    versions, which are superior to the normal versions. In addition to
    better stats, they have better abilities, as well.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							****		
    Of all the Italian factions Milan is the one that is best able to
    secure Italy in quick order. They control both Milan and Genoa, and
    are capable of taking Florence in short order as well. With three 
    prosperous Italian cities in hand early on, you can quickly stock up on
    garrison units and expel Venice and the Holy Roman Empire from Italy.
    If you're quick you can also secure yourself a base to the north,
    ideally taking Dijon. With the northern European factions suffering
    from poor castle units and outmatched militia units, you can pretty
    much have your way with France and the Holy Roman Empire in the early
    going. Expand west first, as the Holy Roman Empire is by far the weaker
    of the threats you'll have. If you can eradicate France, you can then
    decide on whether to assault Iberia or England next.. after taking 
    Italy for yourself, of course. Abuse your superior militia units, your
    prosperous cities, and your local superiority in Italy and you'll be
    fine. Before making any overseas ventures, just keep in mind that each
    island you take will need powerful garrisons in case Sicily, Spain,
    Portugal, or the Moors attack, and this isn't cost-effective when one
    strong garrison army can threaten numerous French and Holy Roman
    							Rating: 15/25
    |								       |
    |			       SCOTLAND	{FAC008}		       |
    |								       |
    Scotland is an.. interesting faction. Of all the factions in the game,
    Scotland seems the most unfinished, and the most related to a Rome: 
    Total War faction. Not a good one, mind you, like Rome, the Selucid
    Empire, or Egypt, but one of those half-completed barbarian factions 
    whom, for a lack of historical evidence or longetitivity got stuck
    having various warbands. This doesn't mean Scotland is bad, in fact,
    they've got a good infantry, but they receive no gunmen whatsoever,
    cannons excluded, and they can only upgrade their city barracks to
    Militia Drill Squares. I don't know.. a lot of their units seem to be
    based around the pike, which is historically accurate.. at least for
    a large period of time during which the game takes place, but the idea 
    that Scotland would simply not evolve with the times is hard for me 
    to swallow. Even the Byzantine Empire had some innovations, and they
    were conquered in 1453! Would fear of English cavalry keep Scotland 
    mired into pike formations late into the 1500s? Did a crossbow never 
    find its way into Scottish hands? Is the alternative any better though, 
    to simply invent Scottish units in the case that in an alternate game 
    world Scotland conquered England and became more prominent? In any 
    event, if Scotland is able to copy Feudal Knights, they should have 
    Pavise Crossbow Men as well. Or failing that, they should have Scots 
    Guard. I mean, France gets better Scottish archers than Scotland? 
    <<<GARRISON>>>							**
    The Scottish garrison doesn't seem too promising. Besides from the
    Spear Militias common throughout Europe, the Scotting rely on the pike
    rather than any variety at all. No archers, no cavalry. They would be a
    total loss if it wasn't for their Heavy Pike Militia, which are about
    as powerful as the Italian Spear Militias. They take longer to get,
    but once you do, they're decent units to stick in your cities. The
    best unit they can train, however, are Noble Pikeman. They're stronger
    than Heavy Pike Militias, but the latter are upkeep free, whereas the
    former are not. Since the Noble Pikeman aren't significantly stronger
    than the Heavy Pike Militias, I greatly prefer the latter.
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							*****
    The one thing Scotland does well is infantry. Noble Swordsmen are just
    great. They're cheaper and stronger than Dismounted Feudal Knights,
    although you have to wait for a Citadel to get them. In the mean time
    you can get Highland Nobles fairly soon, and they're more than a match
    for other Castle-based units, especially early on. They're not a subtle,
    defensive unit, but you can create them in mass, mixed in with 
    Highlanders (if you need to get your numbers up). Their good early to
    mid game infantry means they can take land at leisure early on. Their
    Noble Swordsmen mean they can keep it.
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							***
    The one unique horse of Scotland, Border Horse, are decent light cavalry,
    but no match for the Mailed Knights the rest of Europe will have. Later
    on they get Feudal Knights, and that's as good as you get with Scotland.
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							**		
    Instead of Peasant Archers and Crossbowmen Scotland has Highland
    Archers, which are a fair substitute. Later they get Noble Highland
    Archers, which are better, but still not as good as Pavise Crossbowmen,
    and certainly no match for England's Retinue Longbowmen.. or Yeomen
    Archers, for that matter. Decently defended, Scotland fields something
    that's more of a hybrid unit than a full archer, and although they
    decent stats, they're not effective against armor and they don't have
    long range missiles.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							****		
    They share the British Isles with England, which is a great starting
    position for anybody. If you're quick, you can jump on York before
    England, and even grab hold of Dublin. Whoever gains more cities faster
    will win the British Isles. Although England out-fights them later in
    the game, you'll find Highland Nobles to be a match for Billmen. You
    need to be wary of England's heavier cavalry and better archers, but
    Highlanders are cheap and effective units for early Scottish expansion.
    Once you take Nottingham, England is all but finished. Kick them off
    the island and you'll be in a prime position to expand where you wish.
    A good move after England would be to either harass Denmark, or invade
    France, where your infantry superiority can do good things for you,
    before the enemy has a chance to tech up.
    							Rating: 21/25
    |								       |
    |			   THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE	{FAC009}	       |
    |								       |
    Oh Byzantines, how I love you. Let me count the ways.. anybody who loved
    Rome: Total War should, in theory, love the Byzantine Empire. After all,
    who doesn't love the deluded bastard child of a faction that ruled in
    an earlier game? The Byzantines are about as 'Roman' as the United
    States today are English. Sure, we started out there.. but a lot has
    changed. In any event, the Byzantines have a lot of weapons, in fact,
    if you ignore the fact that they're woefully under-equipped in the
    gunpowder territory (I know I do!) they might just be one of the most
    versatile factions in the game. They can go toe to toe with Catholic
    factions thanks to their expensive Latinkon, and they can go with
    cheaper-but-effective units like Dismounted Byzantine Lancers and 
    Byzantine Guard Archers. If that's not good enough, they have strong
    horse archers (totally outclassing the Mounted Crossbowmen of
    western powers) and Byzantine Infantry, strong garrison units that
    keep even the Italian militias at bay. Best of all, they have perhaps
    the strongest city-based infantry unit in the game, the fearsome
    Varangian Guard. The only chore is keeping the Byzantines alive long
    enough to gain access to all these weapons.
    <<<GARRISON>>>							*****
    The Byzantine garrisons don't start out too promising. In fact, they
    get the same units most Catholic factions do. However, when you get a
    Militia Drill Square you'll be able to start training units of Byzantine
    Infantry, which are powerful and cheap. Sure, they're not quite a match
    for Dismounted Feudal Knights, but they're much more affordable, and
    really, they can go the distance with most other infantries. Then there
    are the Varangian Guard units.. Which are almost as powerful as
    Dismounted English Knights for much less upkeep. It takes a bit to get
    them, and you can never train very many at once, but this is probably
    the strongest garrison unit in the game. A city full of Varangian Guard 
    doesn't have to worry about much.
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							*****
    In addition to their great militia infantries, the Byzantines get a
    slightly more powerful version of their Byzantine Infantry at Castles.
    Dismounted Byzantine Lancers are pretty much the exact same thing as
    Byzantine Infantry, but with better abilities. This ensures that both
    their cities and castles have good troops they can call upon. Just to
    round things out, they also get Dismounted Latinkon, which are Byzantine
    versions of Dismounted Feudal Knights. And of course, when you just need
    power you can throw in Varangian Guard, which are as strong as Infantry
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							****
    There's not really much spectacular on the cavalry front of the 
    Byzantine Empire. They have Latinkon, which match up well against Feudal
    Knights. They also have Byzantine Lancers, which are cheaper, weaker
    alternatives. Their real advantage lies in their Vardariotai, powerful
    horse archers that are about as strong in melee as Feudal Knights. Once
    they've discharged their missiles, they make very good, very fast
    cavalry in a pinch. Also, you can recruit them very early in a castle,
    making them units you'll probably learn to abuse early, and keep using
    throughout the game. In fact, in most 'complete' Byzantine armies I
    forgo the use of normal cavalry in favor of Vardariotai. If that's not
    enough, you also can train Kataphractoi. They're not really a match
    for Latinkon, but, well, versatility is still something, no?
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							****		
    The Byzantines will get access to Trebizond Archers fairly early on,
    which might not be the best archers in the game, but they'll see you
    through your initial struggles. They're the Byzantine equivalent of
    Longbowmen, and will ensure that you outclass neighboring factions'
    archers. Later on you'll be able to upgrade to Byzantine Guard Archers,
    which are mostly a match for the Pavise Crossbowmen who will plague
    your borders. They don't have long ranged missiles, but they have good
    stats otherwise, and double as effective infantry units. Last but not
    least you have Vardariotai, amongst other cavalry archers. Not only
    are they as strong as Feudal Knights, they are effective archers as 
    well. How to use them? Read below.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							***		
    The Byzantine Empire starts out fairly compromised and spread out. They
    have access to numerous areas to expand, but taking them will bring you
    into conflict with Hungary, the Turks, and most importantly, Venice. No
    matter what you try, your odds of staying out of trouble with Venice is
    slim. So, when you can't join 'em, beat 'em. Take Iraklion from them as
    soon as it's vulnerable. Heading west and taking Durazzo will provoke
    Venice, and it'll be difficult to hold such a small city against Venice
    and it's Italian Militias. If anything, you should take Ragusa so you
    have a base of operations which has a legitimate chance of stopping
    Venetian invasions without importing new troops.
    After you secure the areas around Constantinople and have firm footing
    against Venice you should play it defensively for a while, at least
    until you have access to Dismounted Byzantine Lancers or Byzantine
    Infantry to rightfully contend the Italian Spear Militias of Venice.
    If you really need to, Byzantine Spearmen, Trebizond Archers, and
    Vardariotai will provide a serviceable if not impressive early army.
    Survive, secure the local areas, and pit the resources of Greece and
    Asia Minor against those of Italy. The Byzantines don't really have a
    great front that they can press, but their proximity to Italy makes it
    a good target. If you keep pushing omni-directionally and leap-frogging
    standing garrisons you should have little trouble out fighting your
    neighbors, just so long as you survive the first forty rounds or so.
    Once you take Italy and incorporate its large, rich cities into your
    empire you'll be nigh unstoppable.
    The biggest factor in easily surviving the initial turns of the game is
    using Vardariotai effectively. As heavy cavalry, they'll outpower 
    anything your neighbors throw at you, and against infantry they can be
    brutal. Set up your archers and infantry away from the enemy and keep
    them on defense, preferably on high ground. Use your Vardariotai
    independently as a detached unit from your main army and advance them
    along the flank of the enemy. Keep them on higher ground, along the 
    path the enemy army will advance. If they're on high ground, have a
    line of fire to the enemy, and don't get caught in melee you can kill
    anywhere from 10%-30% of an enemy army of Italian Militia units as they
    approach with just four units of Vardariotai. This doesn't even include
    the extra casualties they'll inflict when they're out of ammo and get
    to chase down (hopefully) tired, demoralized, and routing units. An
    army of 10 Byzantine Spearmen, 6 Trebizond Archers, and 4 Vardariotai
    used defensively can easily thwart any enemy in the early game. Keep
    your Vardariotai away from Pavise Crossbowmen, as they'll be outranged
    and out-gunned unless they have much higher ground. Also, siege
    equipment can make you sad in your pants if you aren't careful.
    So, this was a long description, but lets summarize. Secure local 
    rebel settlements as normal. Then take the islands of Rhodes and 
    Iraklion, and hold ground against Venice. Make maneuvers to take land
    from the Turks, Hungary, and Venice. If you can build one full army
    (see above) and siege a city you should be able to hold on defensively
    until they are worn down, or they attack you to disastrous results. 
    After you get Byzantine Infantry/Dismounted Byzantine Lancers expand 
    with abandon, just as quickly as you can build up armies and take new
    training sources on the front. Set your aims for Italy, but don't
    miss opportunities if other enemies leave themselves open.
    							Rating: 20/25
    |								       |
    |			          RUSSIA {FAC010}		       |
    |								       |
    At first glance, Russia looks more problematic than prosperous, as they
    only control one territory and none of their units are overwhelmingly
    powerful. However, there is opportunity in their seclusion, and 
    although their units wont out-stat European armies, they are extremely
    versatile and most of the time are cheaper. To help even things out,
    many of them have the "Effective Against Armor" ability, which will
    help even the odds.
    <<<GARRISON>>>							****
    What Russian garrisons lack in power, they make up for in versatility.
    They can train Spear Militias, Archer Militias, and Cavalry Militias
    from any city. When they progress far enough they will be able to
    produce Berdiche Axemen. They aren't quite Varangian Guard, but they
    have good attack, reasonable defense, "Good Morale" and "Good Stamina", 
    and are "Effective Against Armor". It's not the best, but it sure beats 
    being stuck with Spear Militias. They beat out Italian Militias as well.. 
    if only they had good archers to back them up..
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							****
    Attack 11 and Defense 15 are the operative stats for Russian infantries,
    with both Dismounted Boyar Sons and Dismounted Druzhina having the same
    stats and abilities. This might not be the 13 Attack 21 Defense of 
    Feudal Knights, but since both infantries are a good bit cheaper and
    "Effective Against Armor" which makes them just as good in my eyes.
    Since you get two unit pools to recruit from, Russia can draw powerful
    armies out of a Fortress with unmatched speed. Until you get them you'll
    have to settle for Spearmen, which are just as strong as Italian Spear
    Militias. Decent infantries recruitable en masse from Fortresses, with
    good defensive spearmen until you get there? Sounds good to me. When
    you just need to have power though, there's always Berdiche Axemen.
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							*****
    Again with the 11 Attack 15 Defense the Russians have Druzhinas, which
    are capable heavy cavalry that's roughly on par with Feudal Knights.
    When you climb to the top of the tech tree you'll be able to recruit
    Tsars Guard, which are ridiculously powerful cavalry units. Russian
    cavalry is-as a rule-a little weak on the charge, but otherwise they
    are more than a match for Feudal Knights, and Tsars Guard just might be
    the most powerful cavalry in the game. In addition, they gain access to
    Dvor Cavalry, which are as strong as Feudal Knights themselves, but
    good cavalry archers to boot. In my mind they're not as strong as
    Vardariotai, since they're not as fast and hence not as good at
    skirmishing, but they do have great missile damage for a cavalry archer.
    They also require extra work to recruit, whereas Vardariotai can be
    trained very early. End of the story, however, for having two types of
    good missile cavalry (Cossack Cavalry and Dvor Cavalry) a unit capable
    of matching Feudal Knights when you need to (Druzinhas) and a super
    powerful and expensive unit of cavalry (Tsars Guard) the Russians get
    the top score.
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							****			
    In addition to the standard (and poor) Archer and Crossbow Militias
    Russia can train Dismounted Dvor, which lose none of their potency in
    switching from horseback to infantry. They are strong hybrid unit with
    good Attack, Missile Attack, and Defense. They also have "Long Ranged
    Missiles", "Good Morale" and "Good Stamina". You'll pay for their
    versatility, however, as at 225 florins per turn they're one of the most
    expensive archers. You also get the pleasure of commanding Dvor, which
    are potent missile cavalry. Although they're nearly as good as 
    Vardariatoi, they're not nearly as necessary. Once you get access to
    gunpowder you'll be able to train Cossack Musketeers from any Huge City.
    These guys are nearly as good as Portuguese Musketeers, being less
    armored and more vulnerable to missiles, but with better attack.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							***				
    The Russians might be off by themselves in the middle of nowhere, but 
    this provides them plenty of opportunity to consolidate their power and
    claim a great, easily defended, prosperous stretch of land composed of
    the north eastern provinces. There's really no reason they can't take
    all the territory north of the Black Sea, and if you're quick you can
    expand west and take the castles bordering Poland and Hungary (Vilnius,
    Halych, and Iasi), building up a strong defensive wall of armies. As 
    long as the Mongols and Timurids don't appear by Sarkel and decide to 
    gut your lands, you're as secure as can be. After you take the north 
    east you have plenty of expansion opportunities. Taking Denmark is a 
    good way to grab three territories, all of which can be guarded from 
    Hamburg. The areas around Kiev and Caffa have slaves to trade, which
    will help your conquests of Denmark. After you eradicate the Danes,
    you might want to postpone any further assaults until you have more
    Fortresses. Once you can train Dismounted Boyar Sons and Druzhina, you
    can take out Poland and Hungary on a whim. Taking Thorn early in the
    game is an even better idea, however, as it's the fastest growing
    castle in the region. Best of all, once Thorn is taken Poland has very
    little ability to retaliate, as they're deprived of their greatest
    army-building center. This allows you to simply convert Vilnius and
    Smolensk into cities, as the Thorn-Halych, Iasi line is more than
    sufficient defense. Better still, after securing Thorn head south and
    grab Bran and Sofia and you'll have a potent enough defense to grow
    (using Spearmen and Woodsmen until you can train Dismounted Boyar Sons
    and Druzhina.) It's also an excellent springboard into Poland, Germany,
    Illyricum, and Greece, where the money lies.
    							Rating: 22/25
    |								       |
    |			          MOORS	{FAC011}		       |
    |								       |
    The Moors are one of the most integrated Muslim factions in the game,
    as befits them historically. Having occupied Catholic Iberia, the Moors
    eventually get a number of 'Catholic' units, such their own versions of
    heavy infantry and cavalry. Even El Cid fought for Moorish leaders!
    They are an interesting blend of Muslim, African, and Catholic forces
    that get off to a slow start, but have a great position in Iberia and
    Africa. Although they have weak archers, their infantry, cavalry, and
    versatile militias make up for it. Lets just say that a full-stacked
    late game Moorish army was the ONLY single army I've ever been able to
    field against a full army of Timurids led by their faction leader and 
    supported by Elephants and emerge victorious (although it was a close
    <<<GARRISON>>>							*****
    From the early going the Moors have a versatile, if not overwhelming
    garrison. They can train both infantry and archers once sufficiently
    upgraded, and with a good enough racing track you train Granadine 
    Jinetes, whose range attacks will serve you well against the superior
    infantries of neighboring Catholics. Arab Cavalry, also from racing
    tracks are a about as good as Merchant Cavalry Militias. Once you 
    upgrade to a Huge City you can recruit Christian Guard units from a
    city, which are cavalry on par with any knightly order. The big star of
    their garrison units are Urban Militias, which are the Moorish 
    equivalent of Byzantine Infantry or Swordsman Militia. In fact, it's
    such a good infantry your cities will most likely be a better source of
    soldiery than your castles for most of the game! It's a versatile
    militia in the early game, and powerful late in the game. How do the
    Moors stack up against Milan? Well, Urban Militia and Christian Guards
    are obvious improvements over the Milanese garrison units, but Genoese
    Crossbowmen far outclass the Crossbow Militias the Moors get. The end of
    the day? Flip a coin. They both have superior garrisons.
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							*****
    It's rough in the early going as the Moors. Until you get a Fortress
    you're going to be stuck with Spear Militias. Berber Spearmen are only
    a tiny improvement, and frankly it's just easier relying on militias
    early on. Once you have a fortress however, you'll get Dismounted Arab
    Cavalry, which are as powerful as Italian Spear Militias. Now think
    about it. At the same time Catholics are getting Dismounted Feudal
    Knights, you're getting Italian Spear Militia-equivalents. That's not a
    good matchup, and worse, they don't become available to train terribly
    quickly. You can train Lamtuna Spearmen if you build a Barracks, but
    they're not really an improvement. So why the five stars? One, you'll
    get Urban Militias from your bigger Iberian cities quickly enough to
    field them against Feudal units. Second, they will eventually get
    Dismounted Christian Guards. These guys have "good morale", "good
    stamina", 16 attack, 23 defense, and all for an upkeep of 175 florins a
    turn. This perhaps the most powerful castle-based unit in the game, and
    wrestles with Varangian Guard for the most powerful infantry. It takes
    a while, but once you can field them, you're going to absolutely 
    dominate your opposition.
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							****
    The Moorish cavalry is both varied, and largely incapable of matching
    Catholic factions in head-on conflicts. Arab Cavalry makes decent light
    cavalry, and Granadine Jinetes are both good light cavalry and good
    missile cavalry. Still, for the best cavalry units the Moors have in
    the early parts of the game they can't compete with Mailed Knights or-
    just to throw out an example-Vardariatoi. You can get Granadine Lancers
    from Fortresses, but they're only a one point upgrade over Arab Cavalry
    for the full cost of a Feudal Knight. Only when you get Huge Cities
    or Caliph's Stables do you gain access to the mighty Christian Guard,
    which are as powerful as the knightly orders and as cost-effective as
    heavy cavalry gets. It takes a while, but they do get a unit capable of
    competing with the Catholic factions.
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							***			
    You'll quickly find out that despite the fact that the Moors have plenty
    of missile units, they have very few goods ones. Desert Archers are
    decent missile units, and I ended up using them for most of the game.
    They are, however, inferior to Pavise Crossbowmen. Their Peasant
    Crossbowmen are stronger than those fielded by Catholic factions, but
    they're not much of a substitute either. They get a host of missile 
    cavalry, but again, most aren't great as just archers, although Granadine 
    Jinetes are overall decent units (they sure made a mess of the Papal 
    Guard I fought when attacking Rome!) The only saving grace the Moors have 
    are their Sudanese Arquebusiers, which are decent gunmen, even if they 
    are poor on defense and lacking long ranged missiles. Again, it's their 
    variety rather than any overwhelming units that bring them up to snuff.. 
    just barely. Their Camel Gunners are also worth a mention, they come 
    late, and they're expensive. They are, however, fairly powerful, although 
    I've  found them to be quite vulnerable to cavalry, which Granadine 
    Jinetes can outrun better.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							*****				
    The Moors are strongly entrenched in southern Iberia, and they also
    possess Marrakesh and Algiers. If you quickly recruit as much of a
    garrison as you can in Corduba, it can easily protect both itself and
    Granada, and by extension, the land route into Africa. Marrekesh can
    be protected by Algiers in the east, making you fairly well-protected
    against all land advances, and in the early going Portugal and Spain
    shouldn't be too aggressive with their navies. You MUST build up
    Corduba quickly, however, as the Catholic factions around you will leap
    upon any vulnerability, and Spain and Portugal both start out with land
    armies enough to defeat the starting forces of the Moors.
    Unlike most other factions, with the Moors you should focus on defense
    right from the start. Build up town garrisons and convert Granada into
    a city.. the early forces recruited from a castle aren't anything
    special, and you could do with the money more than the pathetic units
    you can recruit. This means building up Spear Militias in Corduba and
    Marrakesh, upgrading cities, and biding your time. When you have a
    strong enough army in Marrakesh, take it down to attack Timbuktu and
    Arquin. These cities can both be easily conquered by a relatively small
    general-led army of garrison forces (about eight units or so is 
    probably more than enough.) Not only will this add to your income
    without expanding your fronts, but the trade resources here are some of
    the richest in the world. Gold, slaves, and ivory are all abundant, and
    a good merchant can make over 1000 florins a turn on ONE resource. Even
    a bad one can make 300+ from ivory. Take control of all these resources,
    and these bottom two cities will earn you at least 4000 florins of
    income per turn (including the city income). This is with a startup
    cost of whatever it took to train the garrison units and the cost of
    training the merchants, but it is well worth the investment. Once these
    cities are yours you'll be well funded enough to take Iberia for 
    yourself. During the same time, if Portugal leaves Lisbon open, feel
    free to take it. It's a vulnerable city for them and easy pickings, so
    long as you don't leave Corduba too vulnerable while doing so.
    Even with a paltry initial military, the Moors' location allowed me to
    leisurely take Iberia by turn 50 and have a 125,000 florin windfall.
    Don't bother attacking anything before you chase Spain and Portugal out
    of Iberia, this war is destined to happen. The first goal of any Iberian
    faction is to take uncontested control of the peninsula, much like
    with the British Isles and Italy. Afterwards, you should have climbed
    the tech tree enough to get decent castle units (from Toledo, at least).
    You should then deal with Sicily, who has doubtlessly proven to be at
    least a minor annoyance. Take control of north Africa (ignoring Egypt
    for now) then take the islands around Italy. Once Palmero is yours,
    build up a force for the next great goal of the Moors-conquering Italy.
    Large cities can train Urban Militias, which are vital to maintaining
    your empire. Once Iberia and Italy have fallen, you're practically too
    rich and too well-entrenched to lose. Occupy France to eliminate this
    last front, then England, and begin to burn eastward across Europe.
    Don't be afraid to attack France before or during your Sicilian
    campaign, especially if they leave Toulouse and/or Bordeaux vulnerable.
    You don't want to let them climb the tech tree too high and have to
    match Dismounted Arab Cavalry against Dismounted Feudal Knights! This is 
    as good of a starting position as you can ask for in this game, with a 
    strong position in Iberia and easy access to two of the richest resource 
    							Rating: 19/25
    |								       |
    |			        TURKS {FAC012}			       |
    |								       |
    The Turks, the folks who captured my beloved Byzantine Empire, and put
    the final stake through the heart of the delusion that was the Roman
    Empire. Historically they won a great deal of their fights by out
    smarting their enemies, especially the Byzantines, whom seemed all too
    eager to march into Turkish ambushes. They're also another former Asian 
    steppe faction who invaded Asia Minor and the Middle East and took up
    the mantle of the Islamic dynasties they displaced. Such renewal kept
    the faith and culture from stagnating, and for a long time allowed the
    Muslim world to be much more culturally and scientifically advanced 
    than Europe. It also helped that until recent history, Muslim regimes
    were notably tolerant of other religions, whereas the Medieval Christian
    philosophy leaned more towards burning every book that wasn't the bible,
    and every man, woman, and child who discredited Genesis. But how do they 
    <<<GARRISON>>>							*****
    Like the Moors, they have a FANTASTIC garrison. In fact, almost every
    Turkish unit worth deploying comes from a town. Notably their Saracen
    Militias (which are the Turkish equivalent of Italian Spear Militias)
    will probably be your go-to infantry for.. well.. the whole game. They
    can also recruit their Janissary units here, which include average
    infantry, good archers, and excellent musketeers. If that's not enough,
    from race tracks you'll also be able to train Siphais, which are fair
    horse archers. Keep in mind, it'll take a while before you can train
    the Janissary archers, but when you can you'll have one of the best
    garrisons in the game. Weaker than the Moors? To be sure, how can you
    compete with Granadine Jinetes, Christian Guard, and Urban Militia? But
    Saracen Militias, Janissary Archers/Musketeers, and Siphais are still
    far above what most militias get, and typically for a low upkeep.
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							***
    Lets start out by saying this. The Barracks buildings on castles are
    just for show for the Turks. Nothing great comes out of them, and it's
    not even worth building. Dismounted Siphai are fair units, but they
    only come three at a time, making them slow to train, and they're just
    not much better than Saracen Militias, an certainly not up to taking on
    Dismounted Feudal Knights! Janissary Heavy Infantry is another fair
    unit, yet another unit that just doesn't exceed Saracen Militias enough
    to recommend them. Stick with Saracen Militias and stay defensive.
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							*****
    Like the Moors, the Turks have to a wait a bit to get a good cavalry
    unit. Fortunately, when you build a Fortress you'll gain access to
    Siphai Lancers, which are more or less a match for Feudal Knights, 
    allowing for cheaper upkeep to resolve any power differences. Their
    Siphais are also fair horse archers, but the Vardariotai from the
    Byzantine Empire spoiled me, and all the Turkish missile cavalry just
    doesn't match up. When you build a Citadel and get the most expensive
    stables, you can train Qapukulu, which are as powerful as any cavalry
    in the game, and cheaper than Noble Knights. In fact, it's one of the
    few good reasons to keep castles for the Turks. For having full-fledged
    horse archers, a unit to match up with Feudal Knights, and for having a
    cavalry as good as Qapukulu, the Turks gain the ultimate score for
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							****			
    Think the Byzantine Empire when you think about the Turks' archers.
    They too, get a unit of hybrid infantry/archery that is cheap and 
    powerful. Frankly however, they're only about as good at their archery
    as Pavise Crossbowmen, and I'd prefer a unit of Infantry to stand up
    and fight better. Still, Ottoman Infantry is a handy unit. They also
    get Siphais, which are fair horse archers. Where they get the big
    points are from their Janissary missile units. No, not their archers,
    those guys aren't much better than Pavise Crossbowmen either. But their
    Janissary Musketeers are superb. Of course, we all know what the word
    'musket' means in Medieval 2.. you're waiting until about turn 100 to
    get them, and even then, only from your biggest cities.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							**				
    The Turks begin play firmly in control of Asia Minor, and claiming the
    rebel settlements around you should obviously be your first priority.
    You'll have access to good resource nodes by Nicaea and Constantinople,
    and in the south by Antioch and Damascus. You only have to beat the
    Byzantines to the punch to claim as much territory as you can, and 
    wiping them out should be your top priority. Once Asia Minor is yours
    you have three options. You could attack Egypt to the south, but if you
    ally with them early on, they should leave you well enough alone. Also,
    taking out Egypt means you'll be the one dealing with the inevitable
    crusades instead of Egypt. Just prepare to have crusading armies
    march through your lands on their way to Antioch. The next choice is to
    move north into Russia, but the lands on the north eastern edge of the
    map are far apart, poor, and not really worth the endeavor. Plus, taking
    that land pretty much guarantees you'll be the target of the Mongols AND
    the Timurids. This is a HUGE problem for the Turks, as two of the three
    ways you can expand are into likely invasion territories. The Turks
    pretty much have the misfortune of being the target of such raids 
    (ironic, considering where they came from). Although if you're lucky
    they might just attack Antioch and invade you slowly, rather than 
    quickly. This leaves our third option, across to Constantinople. This
    is a lucrative expansion, but you'll draw a hornets nest of angry
    Catholics upon your head even if you do displace the Byzantines, as
    the Hungarians and the Venetians will just be chomping at the bit to
    get at you. Still, the lands are plentiful and territories are close
    together. It also sets the stage for you to be able to take Italy, so
    although it's probably the toughest choice, it's probably also the
    best. Their weak infantry and plentiful archers make defensive fighting
    a must, I typically go with 8 units of Saracen Militia, 8 units of
    Ottoman Infantry, and 4 units of the strongest cavalry I have (usually
    Siphai Lancers). Hopefully the enemy attacks you and you can get a good
    defensive position.
    							Rating: 18/25
    |								       |
    |			        EGYPT {FAC013}			       |
    |								       |
    Egypt, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, is still alive and
    well in Medieval 2: Total War. Nobody is as good as assimilating and
    evolving culturally as the Egyptians, and thus they've survived conquest
    by the Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Muslims, morphing to fit their new
    role in the world. Just how have they adapted in Medieval 2?
    <<<GARRISON>>>							*****
    Again, another outstanding Muslim faction with a garrison to cry for.
    They just liked having their palaces in large cities, instead of crazy
    Europeans, who liked drafty castles. Like the Turks, you can train
    Saracen Militias, which are a decent Infantry unit and healthy addition
    to any garrison. They also can train Arab Cavalry and Mamluk Archers
    from their Race Tracks, which give them versatility in the cavalry and
    missile cavalry department. Last, but certainly not least they can train
    Tabardariyya, which are almost as good as Varangian Guard.. or in other
    words, cheap, powerful infantry with great attack. They have less
    defense and more stamina, for an all-round awesome infantry unit.
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							****
    Saracen Militia not cutting it for you? Then get Tabardariyya. It takes
    a while, and it's not the best unit, but it's better than Dismounted
    Feudal Knights. Ultimately, the ability to exceed Saracen Militias are
    one of the features the Turks lack. Egypt also can train Dismounted
    Arab Cavalry, which are about as strong as Saracen Militias, and give
    their castle units a little more back-bone.
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							*****
    You'll get Arab Cavalry from cities, but where the Egyptians really
    strike gold are with their Mamluks. Their Mamluk Archers are decent
    mounted archers with some teeth in melee.. still not as good as 
    Vardariotai, but worth mentioning. Their Mamluks are roughly as good as
    Feudal Knights, and their Royal Mamluks are just ungodly strong. Simply
    put, they've got a versatile and useful cavalry at all stages of the
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							***			
    Again with the archers.. The best unit the Egyptians get for most of the
    game are Desert Archers, which are better than Peasant Archers by a bit,
    but we're shooting for more, aren't we? Unfortunately, there are no
    Ottoman Infantry units to come save the day for Egypt. Mamluk Archers
    are decent, but they won't make up for the lack of conventional foot
    archers. Once you get gunpowder you can train the same Sudanese
    Arquebusiers the Moors get. It's late, and barely adequate, so be ready
    to rely on Desert Archers for a long while.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							*			
    Egypt, like the Russians, are pretty much left alone in their own little
    corner. You'll start off with three rich little territories which can
    be exploited for resources, especially around Alexandria and Cairo. You
    should send an army south quickly to take Dongola and convert it into a
    city. Then you can exploit the rich resources around it as well. Your
    early game goal is to expand and take as much of the Middle East as you
    can, especially around the Mediterranean Sea. Antioch and Damascus to
    the north are particularly rich, but Baghdad, Jedda, Aleppo, and Mosul
    all have resources worth taking. And you'll need them, because Egypt is
    not only likely to suffer the most crusades (Antioch and Jerusalem
    especially) but you'll likely be the target of the Mongols and Timurids
    as well. They might have a virtual paradise of free land just begging
    for the taking, but you must move quick, build up your cities, and dig
    in, because the Mongols are not a joke, and require many standing armies
    to defeat them. You can appease your only immediate neighbors, The 
    Turks, by striking an early alliance and keeping your borders defended.
    The whole time you're expanding east and preparing for the Mongols you
    need to also turn an eye to the west, your only viable expansion
    options later. This means either marching across Africa, or building a
    navy.. the later of which will probably serve you better. Travel in 
    force and pick a defendable location from which to make your stand. The 
    easiest choice is to probably attack Rhodes or Iraklion, which is 
    somewhat nearby in case you need to send reinforcements. Once those two 
    locations are secure, leap frog your garrison from Rhodes to Athens, and 
    continue up that coast. Thessalonica and Constantinople are great prizes, 
    and with those two big cities under your thumb, you may stand a real 
    chance at taking Italy. There's no real respite for the Egyptians, and 
    honestly, it might be easier to get rid of the Turks, likely after the 
    Mongol invasions and before the Black Death would be a good time to 
    quickly attack and take Asia Minor (between rounds 60 and 120). Then 
    you'll have consolidated the east for yourself, you'll have plenty of 
    places to draw troops from when the Timurids arrive, and if you attack 
    the Byzantines and Venice earlier, you can quickly attack the Turks 
    from Egypt and Greece.
    							Rating: 18/25
    |								       |
    |			       DENMARK {FAC014}			       |
    |								       |
    The Danes suffer from a case of the Paganies, as they are located in
    the north of the map and were only converted to Catholicism relatively
    recently. Unlike the Polish, who have also recently converted and still
    show signs of transition that gives them a steppe horse background the
    Scandanavians have a Viking history, which gives them formidable-if
    untamed-infantry separate from the Feudal tradition of southern, more
    steadfastly Catholic factions. Of course, they also benefit from the
    Feudal tradition as well, which is great.
    <<<GARRISON>>>							***
    The Danish can recruit all the basics, Spear Militia and Crossbow
    Militia, but they can also retrain fair spearmen in their Sword Staff
    Militias, which are a universal improvement over Spear Militias. I'm not
    sure I'd compare them to Italian Spear Militias, but it's close. Also,
    they can train Norse War Clerics from any city that has an Abbey or
    greater church, which are better than Feudal Infantry. It's a very handy
    unit, and gives the Norse a well-rounded if not overpowering militia.
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							****			
    From the word go you can recruit Viking Raiders from any Castle, which
    might not be the most powerful Infantry in the game, but at 9 Attack and
    9 Defense with "Effective Against Armor" and "Good Stamina" they are
    much better than the militia units most factions have to use to get off
    the ground. When they get a castle they can train Dismounted Huscarls,
    another unit you'll have pretty much at the beginning of the game.
    Another strong-against armor unit, they might not be as strong as
    Dismounted Feudal Knights, they're comparable due to their good stats,
    abilities, and cheap upkeep. Of course, they get Dismounted Feudal
    Knights as well, but that's not all. Once you get a Drill Square you
    can recruit Norse Swordsmen, which are as good as Byzantine Infantry,
    and will allow you to make effective and cheap Infantries. Better yet,
    you'll also get Norse Axemen, who are good offensive infantry. At the
    height of the tech tree you'll get access to Obudshaer, which are
    incredibly-well off anti-cavalry infantry. Their stats are only
    mediocre, but they have great abilities that will devastate enemy
    cavalry. Overall the Danish have very versatile and cheap Infantry units
    which they can recruit in great numbers, but they don't have one single
    overwhelming unit.
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							****
    Once again, the Danish will get effective military units very early in
    the game in their Huscarls, which are just as good as Feudal Knights.
    Of course, they get Feudal Knights too. Once they get high-end stables
    you can train Chivalric Knights, which are superior to Feudal Knights.
    It's a good and versatile cavalry corps.
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							***			
    Norse Archers are the noticeable Danish archers, and they have good
    stats.. good enough that they could serve as hybrid infantry if you 
    needed them to-which you don't, because the Danes have great Infantry
    already. Unfortunately, their stats are good, but they don't have good
    archery abilities, making them overall average archers.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							****				
    Denmark starts in the north center of the map, which might make them
    seem vulnerable.. but without ships, the only faction that can easily
    bother you is the Holy Roman Empire. You'll outclass them in infantry
    from turn one to turn one hundred (should they last that long!) With
    decent garrisons and strong early game castles, the cluster of castles
    south of Arhus are incredibly appealing. Taking hold of Stettin, 
    Hamburg, Madgeburg, and Thorn will give you a great base with which to 
    start your conquest of Europe. It doesn't really matter if you annoy 
    Poland and the Holy Roman Empire either, as neither faction can hold 
    against your Viking Raiders, Dismounted Huscarls, Norse Swordsmen, 
    Huscarls, and Norse Archers until they get Fortresses, which if you move 
    fast, they wont in any sort of time frame to oppose you.
    Building multiple, strong armies will be aided by the fact that most
    Danish units have an upkeep of about 150 florins, but you'll need more
    to furnish a truly great hold on northern Europe. The starting lands of
    Denmark are fine and mostly inaccessible, and various resources outside
    Stockholm will help you a great deal. However, to really get the money
    flowing you should build up an army in Oslo and sail to the British
    Isles. With your strong infantry, you should be able to easily seize
    Nottingham and hold it. Within a short amount of time you'll be able to
    conquer the whole of England, and be able to hold it with one army.
    This will allow you to spread out and conquer at will. After all, what
    kind of Viking would you be if you didn't attempt to conquer England?
    You might not have the free areas of expansion to target like other
    factions, but it shouldn't be much trouble stealing from other Catholics
    to get what you need.
    							Rating: 20/25
    |								       |
    |			        PORTUGAL {FAC015}		       |
    |								       |
    Portugal functions much like Spain, but with several key differences.
    One, Portugal has a more compromised starting position, although both
    end up at the same conclusion: drive the Moors back to Africa and
    secure Iberia for yourself. Instead of Portuguese Knights your go-to
    unit will be Chivalric Knights. And both factions will wait a good long
    time for the privilege of training good infantry and cavalry. Portugal
    does have one small edge though, they get Portuguese Arquebusiers, which
    are significantly stronger than Musketeers.
    <<<GARRISON>>>							*****
    Portugal gets pretty typical garrison units, with one notable exception,
    the Swordsman Militia. Considering their cost, these guys are just
    about as good as Dismounted Feudal Knights when you need to fortify a
    city.. provided you build a Militia Drill Square. They also train all
    of their superb gunpowder units from cities, including Portugese 
    Arquebusiers and Jinetes, which are strong, fast, missile cavalry units.
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							****
    Portugal starts out slow in the infantry front. In fact, you'll be
    relying on various javelin soldiers and light infantry to get by in the
    early going. After that, they mainly have to rely on Dismounted Feudal
    Knights. Eventually, you gain access to Dismounted Portuguese Knights,
    which are the same thing as Dismounted English Knights. Also Portugal
    gains Aventuros, versatile and reasonably strong spearmen with one
    flaw-they like to charge at enemies. Not a great trait for a defensive
    unit. Personally I'm not a fan of Portugal's infantry, but they do have
    reasonable strong units, even if it does take time for them to get 
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							****
    Early on you'll have access to Jinetes, from so many areas you'll
    probably have no idea what to do with them all. They.. fill a need
    until you get Feudal Knights. When you get a Citadel you'll be able to
    train Portuguese Knights, which are slightly more powerful than Feudal
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							****		
    For the spread of the game you'll be relying on Pavise Crossbowmen.
    Later-much later-you'll get access to Musketeers from your cities, which
    are wholly superior missile units. Better yet, Portugal can train
    Portuguese Arquebusiers, which are better armed, armored, and have
    better traits than Musketeers. The only problem? You'll have trouble
    managing armies comprised of castle-and-city based units. Lets just say
    retraining becomes a chore. Nonetheless, an army full of Swordsmen
    Militia units and Portuguese Arquebusiers is a force to be reckoned
    <<<LOCATION>>>							***		
    Portugal has the same opportunities and problems of Spain, but with one
    significant difference. Portugal is split by Spain. Lisbon is separated
    from Pamplona. It doesn't really matter too much, as Portugal's city
    units are just as good as their castle ones early on. Zaragoza is an
    obvious expansion, but after that it becomes tricky. Expanding out of
    Iberia will almost certainly result in you fighting France and/or Milan.
    These are fights you really don't need in the early going, although it
    is possible to take Bordeaux and/or Toulouse and hold them until they
    upgrade into Fortresses. Securing Iberia is the first thing you should
    do. Once the Moors are driven out you can work on Spain, whom you can
    out-resource with Corduba in your grasps. After Spain is gone, focus
    on taking north-eastern Africa. The resources around Timbuktu will
    prove vital to your conquest of Europe. 
    							Rating: 15/25
    |								       |
    |			        POLAND {FAC016}			       |
    |								       |
    The Polish are on the far reaches of Catholic Europe, the last bastion
    of Catholicism in the east. They're a mix of eastern nomadic steppe
    tradition and western feudalism, and bring elements of both into their
    military. They're also a rare Catholic faction in the fact that they
    don't receive Feudal Knights, showing their age as one of the youngest,
    most tentative of the Catholic factions.
    <<<GARRISON>>>							***
    The only thing special about the Polish garrison is the fact that they
    can recruit Hussars from towns, which are about as good as Feudal 
    Knights. Other than that they have access to Spearmen and Crossbow
    Militias, giving them access to all three branches of the military.
    Although most of them aren't anything to talk about.
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							***
    The Poles have a variety of early-game infantry choices, including
    Dismounted Polish Nobles and Spearmen, which are both as good as Italian
    Spear Militias. They'll see you through the early game, but come time to
    upgrade to Fortresses, you'll be missing Dismounted Feudal Knights.
    Poland has to wait until they get a Citadel to train Dismounted Polish
    Knights. They are an improvement over Dismounted Feudal Knights,
    although a very, very slight improvement. considering the fact you get
    them so late is offset a bit by the fact that they get decent Infantry
    while you wait.
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							*****
    The Polish have a wide variety of Cavalry. They get Polish Nobles which
    are strong missile cavalry. In fact, you'll have to rely on them pretty
    much as much as the Byzantine Empire has to rely on Vardariotai. Once
    you upgrade your Castles a bit you can train Polish Retainers, which are
    notably less powerful than Feudal Knights. Fortunately you'll get Polish
    Knights and Polish Guard, which are as strong as each other.. and both
    are better than Feudal Knights. Overall, the Poles have a better than
    average cavalry. In fact, they're just about as good a cavalry as you
    can get in the game. The fact that Hussars are better than Feudal 
    Knights and can be trained from both Cities and Castles gives them a
    powerful, versatile Cavalry corps.
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							**			
    Polish Archers just suck. The best they get are Lithuanian Archers,
    which are weaker than Pavise Crossbowmen by a good deal. You'll likely
    have to rely on their Polish Nobles to get the job done, but you'll
    struggle in the ranged department the whole game. It'll become an acute
    problem if the Mongols show up and burn their way across Russia. The
    fact that they don't get a single unit with "Long Ranged Missiles" means
    you'll be outshot the whole game. At least their Polish Nobles are good
    missile-cavalry, which is really all Poland has to offer.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							**				
    The Poles are sandwiched between Russia and the Holy Roman Empire. This
    means they'll have to deal with a spread-out location without the good
    resource nodes that Russia has access to. Granted, Krakow has some
    resources, and amber abounds around Vilnius, Halych, Riga, and Novgorod.
    Although, like everything else, they're rather spread out. You've got
    plenty of room to expand, but with expansion comes problems. Hungary,
    Denmark, Russia, and the Holy Roman Empire will all pester your borders,
    and the key to surviving with Poland is expanding fast, far, and early,
    and using your superior infantry units to your advantage before the
    enemy gets Dismounted Feudal Knights. And, of course, hoping the Mongols
    don't ever come after you. Russia is an obvious first target, but they
    are so spread out that it's not the most cost-effective way to build up
    money-making territories, territories you'll need to scratch and claw
    your way across Europe.
    If anything, you should attack Hungary first (after securing local
    territories, of course). If they leave Bran open, you should jump upon
    it. With Hungary deposed you can tackle the Byzantine Empire, and
    secure their rich cities. Keep in mind, however, that their city
    garrisons are horrible, and you MUST have a castle on the front to hold
    lands you take. In the west, this will probably be Thorn. There's no
    real respite for Poland, and you'll need to manage multiple fronts at
    once, pretty much by default. You can eliminate one front by taking out
    Russia, but then you have worry about the Mongol invasions. Just spread
    south and west, taking castles as you go (especially striking out from
    Thorn to steal Hamburg and Stettin). If the Holy Roman Empire ever gets
    itself excommunicated, you're in the money. Just hold your fronts and
    expand as opportunity presents itself. If there's any silver lining to
    your position, it's the fact that the Holy Roman Empire is as weak 
    militarily as you are.
    							Rating: 18/25
    |								       |
    |			        HUNGARY	{FAC017}		       |
    |								       |
    The Hungarians are yet another eastern faction new to Catholicism. They
    are sandwiched between the two Orthodox factions in the game (Russia and
    the Byzantine Empire). This should be seen as an opportunity though, as
    both can be displaced without angering the Pope. They are a difficult
    faction however, as they'll need castles for their best infantry and
    cavalry, but cities to recruit Pavise Crossbow Militias.
    <<<GARRISON>>>							****		
    The Hungarians have a health garrison, mostly due to the fact that they
    can readily recruit Pavise Crossbow Militias from their cities. The fact
    that you can train Hussars from your cities as well makes them a little
    more versatile and powerful than average militias.
    <<<INFANTRY>>>							****
    Relatively early on you'll be able to train Croat Axemen, which are
    powerful enough infantry for the early-going. Later you'll get Pavise
    Spearmen, which.. are really only as good as Italian Spear Militias.
    Once you get a Citadel you can train Dismounted Chivalric Knights,
    which are better than Dismounted Feudal Knights for the same cost.
    Hungary has an Infantry corps that is slightly stronger than average.
    <<<CAVALRY>>>							*****						
    The first strong cavalry units you can train are Hungarian Nobles, which
    are good missile cavalry units you can make in any castle. Hussars from
    cities are about as strong as Feudal Knights, but the real great unit
    the Hungarians get are Chivalric Knights, which are stronger than
    Feudal Knights. You also can train Royal Banderium, which are superior
    in only the fact that they won't "Charge Without Orders". The Polish
    cavalry is strikingly similar, both being greatly superior to standard
    Feudal Knights.
    <<<ARCHERS>>>							***							
    The best archers the Hungarians have are their Pavise Crossbow Militias,
    which makes them pretty average. Hungarian Nobles are useful and strong
    missile cavalry units, and serve a comparable role in Hungarian armies
    as Jinetes do in Portuguese and Spanish armies, and can get you through
    the early part of the game.
    <<<LOCATION>>>							**				
    The Hungarians, like the Polish, start out fairly vulnerable. On the
    plus side the Hungarians are less spread out and have mountains largely
    protecting them. On the negative side, Budapest is a fairly vulnerable
    city next to Vienna, and will likely draw you into conflict with the
    Holy Roman Empire and Venice. The Polish and Byzantine Empire are other
    problem factions for you, the latter of which you should target from
    the beginning of the game. The sooner you can take Constantinople, the
    better. You should also expand to the north as far as you can.. Taking
    Iasi will be a good move in holding back the Polish. You should also
    take Caffa for the slaves you can trade, and think about heading up 
    north to Kiev for the same reason. Down south Sofia is an absolutely
    vital defense against the Byzantine Empire. Once you have these
    locations you can work on climbing the tech tree and assembling an army
    to take out the Byzantine Empire. From there, your goals are less
    clear, but taking Venice out of the picture would be a good first step
    towards the conquest of Italy. You could also invade Asia Minor, but
    this invites potential trouble when the Mongols show up.. but so long
    as you don't take Antioch you should be fine. Conflict with the Holy
    Roman Empire is unavoidable, so you might consider taking Vienna,
    followed by Innsbruck. This latter conquest will allow you to house a
    local castle-based army which will be essential to conquering Italy.
    Lets face it, Croat Axemen have a much better chance of taking out
    Italian Spear Militias than Spear Militias. If you advance north, you
    should aim at taking Polish castles in order to get a strong foothold.
    Then, and only then you can take the cities north of Italy.
    |								       |
    |			List of Factions by Rank {FBR000}	       |
    |								       |
    Faction			Garrison	Cavalry		Location
    				Infantry	Archers		Overall
    Moors			*****	*****	****	***	*****	22/25
    Byzantine Empire	*****	*****	****	****	***	21/25
    England			***	*****	****	****	****	20/25
    France			****	****	*****	*****	**	20/25
    Portugal		*****	****	****	****	***	20/25
    Russia			****	****	*****	****	***	20/25
    Venice			*****	*****	***	***	****	20/25
    Milan			*****	***	***	****	****	19/25
    Sicily			****	****	****	***	****	19/25
    Spain			****	****	****	***	****	19/25
    Turks			*****	***	*****	****	**	19/25
    Denmark			***	****	****	***	****	18/25
    Egypt			*****	****	*****	***	*	18/25
    Hungary			****	****	*****	***	**	18/25
    Scotland		**	*****	***	**	****	16/25
    Holy Roman Empire	**	***	****	***	***	15/25
    Poland			**	***	*****	**	**	15/25
    |								       |
    |			    Guilds {GLD000}			       |
    |								       |
    Here I'll discuss various Guilds and Agents. This will be a somewhat
    brief section, as I won't go into the mechanics of luring Guilds to
    territories, nor will I talk about most of them at all-for simplicities
    sakes there are five useful 'types' of guilds, which I will talk about
    Knightly Orders							{GLD001}
    For factions with weak calvary, getting a knightly order to set up shop
    in a castle could be a good idea. Still, as most knightly orders aren't
    hugely superior to Feudal Knights, and since they can only be retained
    at a territory with that guild, this makes them highly regionalized
    troops. As far as I'm concerned, it's almost always better to have a
    Swordsmith's guild. Note that Knightly Orders are only available to
    Catholic factions. Orothodox and Muslim factions are stuck with whatever
    cavalry the designers gave them.
    Merchant's Guild						{GLD002}
    Merchant's Guilds increase trade, and should be the guild of choce for
    most of your cities. Especially onces like Timbuktu, Arquin, Zagreb, 
    Vienna, Constantinople, Alexandria/Cairo, Antioch, and Kiev, which all
    have great resources in or near them. Don't expect Merchant's Guilds to
    outright increase the money a city makes, however. Instead train 
    Merchants in the cities listed above once they have guilds to produce
    top-quality traders who can make you a great amount of florins by
    trading nearby resources.
    Swordsmith's Guild						{GLD003}
    Swordsmith's Guilds upgrade your weapons. That's a good thing. A 
    Swordsmith's Headquarters upgrades your weapons in EVERY territory.
    Which is a phenomonal thing. Accept them readily in castles for superior
    forces. I would say the same goes for Woodsman's Guilds (for archers)
    and Horse-Breeders Guilds (for cavalry) but I've never managed to get
    them to upgrade into higher guilds, making them less useful.
    Theologian's Guild						{GLD004}
    Every territory should have a city with one Theologians Guild. Heretics
    and Witches respawn throughout the game, and if you don't have the 
    ability to produce Priests/Imams to get rid of them (and reconvert the
    populace) life will be hard. In the following section I suggest central
    cities in which I typically build such guilds.
    Thieve's Guild							{GLD005}
    Only rarely do I build a Thieve's Guild, and typically only in areas
    where I feel I'll need to counter-spy regularly. This means areas with
    lots of cities, and nearby factions that are hard to eliminate quickly-
    the primary example of which is Italy. One Thieve's Guild here can
    quickly service not only Italy, but Germany, France, and Greece. I don't
    use Assassins much, so an Assassin's Guild isn't very useful for me.
    Besides, when I do create an Assassin or two, I just 'train' them on
    rebels nearby, which is just as good as having a guild.
    |								       |
    |			    Region Advice {RGA000}		       |
    |								       |
    In this section I'll talk about various parts of the map which I will
    group together into 'regions'. These areas have a central 'theme' for
    conquest, the ways to use and secure such areas. The entire goal of this
    game is to conquer as much land as possible, and the best way to do this
    is to have large groups of cities protected by a handful of professional
    armies. To protect your money making cities, you'll have to make use of
    a city-per-army ratio that is sustainable, and in practice this becomes
    a city-per-castle calculation, as Castles should house your armies and
    become regional bastions from which you can defend your relatively
    weak cities.
    As you play games, you get better at them, learn new things, and pick
    up new tactics. My most recent change is the creation of a few clusters
    of castles north of Constantinople, obviously called the Bran-Bucharest-
    Iasi line, and along the eastern end of Poland, where I form the Thorn-
    Breslau-Krakow. These two groups of castles block access into Europe
    from the east, leaving only invasions into the Holy Land to be feared.
    Buffing up these castles has been equalized by reducing Caen, Staufen,
    Metz, Magdeburg, and Stettin to cities-if you seal up the ends of
    Europe, why do you need so many castles in the interior? You don't.
    British Isles							{RGA001}
    Suggested Castles/Front: Nottingham
    Suggested Religious Centers: Edinburgh/York
    The British Isles include the territories of London, Nottingham, 
    Caernarvon, York, Edinburgh, Iverness, and Dublin.  Originally three of 
    these areas (Nottingham, Caernarvon, and Iverness) are castles. This is 
    a classic cash-territory, as it's a small island which can be entirely 
    protected by one castle. Due to its rapid growth, relative lack of good 
    resources, and central location, you should keep Nottingham a castle, 
    and convert the other two to cities. Once held by a strong army, you can 
    protect the entirity of the British Isles with one army at Nottingham, 
    making this an extremely profitable territory.
    France								{RGA002}
    Suggested Castles/Front: Angers, Toulouse-Bordeaux, Bern
    Suggested Religious Centers: Paris/Rheims
    France is a bit trickier than the British Isles, and it will cost a lot
    more to maintain. If you don't control Britain, you'll need to keep
    armies at Angers to protect the northern coast. Caen, however, can be
    converted into a city, as it really doesn't add much to the defense
    along the northern coast-at least, it doesn't add anything that one
    army in Angers can do just as well. Iberia is fortified to the south by
    Toulouse and Bordeaux, and in the east you have a line of castles that
    protects you (the Bern-Metz-Staufen-Hamburg line). The interior cities
    include Paris, Rheims, Bruges, Antwerp, Rennes, Dijon and Marseille.
    By expanding until you have at least one of the castles to the west 
    (ideally Bern) you can handle aggression from both Italy and Germany.
    With Angers in the north and Toulouse and Bordeaux in the south you can
    handle all of France with about three standing armies, although four are
    ideal to handle the possibility of a dual German/Italian threat to
    Metz/Staufen/ Bern. Even with all these areas secure, you'll still be
    vulnerable to attacks on Bruges and Antwerp until you take Hamburg, and
    Marseille is vulnerable to Italian armies until you invade. In all,
    given the armies needed to maintain the fronts of France, it just about
    breaks even for most of the game in economics.
    Iberia								{RGA003}
    Suggested Castles/Front: Toledo
    Suggested Religious Centers: Corduba
    Iberia is more like Britain, it's a cash-crop peninsula. Unlike Britain,
    however, it's occupied by three factions, and can take some doing to
    secure. It consists of Pamplona, Zaragoza, Valencia, Leon, Toledo, 
    Corduba, Lisbon, and Granada. Granada is frankly useless as a castle 
    under any circumstances, and should be converted into a city, although
    Pamplona can be useful if you don't control Bordeaux/Toulouse. However,
    since both can usually be taken, it's probably more advisable to secure
    your holdings in Iberia by taking those castles rather than building up
    Pamplona. If attacking from the north into Iberia, Pamplona makes a good
    temporary castle until you can grab Toledo. Valencia might be useful to
    defend against invading Italian armies, but it's only marginally useful
    as a castle. The lynch-pin of Iberia is, of course, Toledo. Centrally
    located, one army can protect all of Iberia (especially true if you have
    other armies expanding your borders to the north/south. Unless the Moors
    somehow gain control of Tunis and use Algiers to good effect, you've
    little to fear from the south once you've expelled them from Iberia.
    North Africa							{RGA004}
    Suggested Castles/Front: Tunis
    Suggested Religious Centers: Algiers
    A widespread territory that consists of Marrakesh, Algiers, Timbuktu,
    Arquin, Tunis, and Tripoli. Its size makes it hard to defend against
    attack, although frankly Tunis, Tripoli, and Marrakesh are the three
    cities most likely to be attacked. I suggest keeping only one castle
    here-Tunis. Securing this early for the Moors is a good idea to defend
    against European encroachment. Sicily, however, also should make effort
    to claim it, as it's a spring-board to the rest of North Africa. For
    most factions, however, it's better as a city (especially the Italian
    factions) as they can raise stronger, cheaper troops there faster than
    they could with a castle. Also, since Palermo is nearby, it's not ever
    really necessary to keep any castles in North Africa so long as you're
    willing to take Palermo. Marrakesh is almost a non-issue as far as
    defensibility is concerned. It's highly unlikely that you'll ever
    control Marrakesh without controlling some of Iberia, and if you're a
    European (not Italian) power, you should invade North Africa through
    the more defensible Iberian peninsula. Italian factions can train great
    milita in Marrakesh, giving it all the defense it will ever need. Note
    that Tripoli is subject to attacks from Italians, Byzantines, 
    Egyptians, and later Mongols and Timurids. This makes it a very un-
    appealing location. It's not very wealthy, subject to potential attack
    from many sides, and the only solution is to make it a castle that
    really only defends itself. Once North Africa is secure (either from
    Tunis or Palermo, ideally) its great resources in Arquin and Timbuktu
    make it a great resource. Still, unless you're aggressive, you'll have
    trouble turning a profit here. If you have armies in Italy, Iberia, and
    France, there's not much chance you'll have to worry about invasions
    into North Africa.
    Germany								{RGA005}
    Suggested Castles/Front: Bern, Hamburg, Innsbruck
    Suggested Religious Centers: Nuremburg/Breslau
    The realm I denote as 'Germany' consists roughly of the following areas:
    Hamburg, Frankfurt, Staufen, Bern, Nuremburg, Innsbruck, Vienna, Prague,
    Breslau, Magdeburg, and Stettin. It's status as a middle kingdom makes 
    it a bit difficult to denote its barriers, so for the sake of argument
    I've given it a more political boundary rather than anything else. To
    the west you have a line of castles that adequately defend the French/
    German border (Metz-Staufen-Bern) as well as incursions from Italy
    (Bern-Innsbruck). Honestly, however, you really only need one of these
    three (Metz-Staufen-Bern) with a strong army to plug Italy and deter
    France-I typically use Bran for this purpose, as it's fairly fast-
    growing, and better positioned to intercept attackers moving on Dijon.
    Within a turn of two you can cover Dijon, Staufen, and Metz.. and in the
    middle of western Europe, you shouldn't really need three standing
    armies. To the north you'll have to rely on Hamburg to keep the Danish
    at bay, and this it will do to a large extent. Over to the north and
    east you've got Stettin and Magdeburg to deal with the Polish, but
    once you've lept to Thorn, Breslau, and Krakow, you can safely turn
    these into cities. Thorn makes a natural expansion point into Poland,
    but the big problem with Germany is that the south and east is
    completely unprotected by castles. Granted, Poland and Hungary are
    vulnerable, too, but you'll have to either be very aggressive, or you'll
    have to convert a city into a castle. You really need to secure as many
    fronts as you can, which will allow you to hold a defensive line
    (as well as build up forces therein for offensive pushes). For factions
    invading into Germany, the lack of castles can really prove problematic
    unless you're immensely wealthy-with enough armies to push through into
    the castles in Illyricum and along the Poland/Russian border. Of course,
    if you do have a good selection of garrison units (like the Italian
    factions) then the concentration of castles along the western and
    northern end of Germany are nothing short of excessive. Since it's just
    not profitable to maintain large garrison armies inside cities to the
    east, you should either just expand eastward until you take Bran,
    Halych, Thorn, Iasi, Ragusa and/or Sofia. Really, however, if you're
    going to expand southward into Ragusa/Bran, you might as well just go
    ahead and sweep the Byzantines out of Greece altogether. Whatever you
    do, however, don't plan on holding Breslau and Vienna and just holding
    those lands with light garrison forces. Poland and Hungary will punish
    you for it (as soon as Hungary turns Bran into a fortress, holding
    Vienna/Budapest becomes problematic.) As much of a problem as the
    location of Germany is for the Holy Roman Empire, it really just
    dictates your initial eastward expansion. For other castle-based armies
    to the west (France, Scotland, England, Spain, and Portugal) Germany is
    a formidable barrier to expansion. If anything, expanding through Italy,
    and securing Illyricum/Greece will make conquering Germany/Poland
    easier, as you can invade from the south and the west. Keep in mind that
    if the Mongols invade around Sarkel and push eastward, they can easily
    conquer all of Russia and Poland. This is a worst-case scenario for mid-
    to-late game expansion, as you'll be forced to contend with awesome
    Mongolian armies without the benefit of well-established castles.
    Nothing sucks more than pushing past Thorn only to find that all the
    eastward castles are.. well.. still castles, and are not capable of
    supporting Citadel-trained armies.
    Denmark								{RGA006}
    Suggested Castles/Front: Hamburg
    Suggested Religious Centers: None
    Denmark is a relatively small area that consists of Stockholm, Arhus,
    and Oslo. Small it might be, but it's well defended, and has just as
    good a claim on Helsinki and Riga as the Russians, and on Hamburg,
    Stettin, and Magdeburg as the Holy Roman Empire. In fact, stealing
    Hamburg early is absolutely essential for Denmark, as it leaves northern
    Germany vulnerable, the the three principle Danish territories secure.
    The only thing Denmark has to fear are attacks from the Holy Roman
    Empire and Poland by land (which can be casually deflected from the
    opportunistically located and fast-growing Hamburg) and potential 
    invasions by sea from Russia, Poland, and England, although these will
    only occur if these factions become overly secure. You should convert
    Oslo into a city, as it will serve little strategic importance as a
    castle. In fact, only if England attacks will you even care about it,
    but despite this possibility, it's just not cost effective to maintain
    an army in Oslo. Forces invading Denmark need only take Hamburg to make
    the fall of the three Danish territories inevitable. Whomever controls
    Hamburg, controls Denmark, making it an easily-defendable and profitable
    part of the map.
    Italy								{RGA007}
    Suggested Castles/Front: Bern-Innsbruck, Palermo
    Suggested Religious Centers: Milan, Genoa, Florence, Bologna, Venice,
    			     (ideally Rome)
    Italy consists of Ajaccio, Cagliari Milan, Genoa, Venice, Bologna, 
    Florence, Rome, Naples, and Palermo. All of these cities are initially
    prosperous for anybody who conquers them (unlike the cities in the Holy
    Land). They're also close together (for easy chain-conquering) and are
    a notorious barrier for castle-based armies. None of the cities on the
    Italian mainland are castles, and frankly, none of them should be made
    into castles. A faction that secures Bern and Innsbruck should have 
    little trouble raiding northern Italy and subduing Milan, Genoa, Venice,
    Bologna, and Florence. On the other hand, if you approach from the south
    and take the wonderful castle at Palermo (wonderful for being an island
    and fast-growing) you can launch raids with impunity on the rest of
    Italy-provided you've got a navy that's up to snuff. For native Italian
    factions, securing all of Italy is incredibly easy-just train up a
    city-based army and garrison in Milan or Venice and the entire 
    prosperous northern Italy is yours. For castle-based invaders, take
    Bern and Innsbruck, then conquer northern Italy. Once done, move a
    Bern/Innsbruck army to Palermo and you've got the entire area under your
    control. The islands of Ajaccio and Cagliari seem like good defensive
    castles, but I always turn them into cities. They're not likely to
    serve any special function that Palermo can't serve, and you shouldn't
    rely on nearby islands to defend your Italian holdings. Also, it's just
    not cost-effective to defend them both with castle-based armies. Since
    they are vulnerable to attacks (Portugal, Sicily, Milan, and the Moors
    are the most ardent offenders here) they shouldn't be ignored, however.
    After securing the Italian penninsula and Sicily, it's a good idea to
    move onto North Africa and Iberia. After all, if you're attacking them,
    they'll be too busy to attack Ajaccio and Cagliari, which can then be
    converted into cities and allowed to grow prosperous in peace. As for
    castle-based invaders, Italy is only defended in the north. Marseille
    and Zagreb lie to the east and west (respectively) and there's no good
    castles to hold northern Italy from attacks to the east and west. Ragusa
    just isn't in a great position to defend Italy. This leaves you with the
    options of relying on Bern/Innsbruck (which can take more than one turn
    to send relief and leaves themselves vulnerable) or just building up
    what militia you can and hope it's adequate. That or convert Zagreb into
    a castle. Even though most of it's money comes from its mines, it still
    seems like a waste, however. Although it's not as bad as-say-Germany,
    (all the Italian cities are nearby, and can be controlled by one army in
    a fort) Italy does present a bit of a road-block for castle-based 
    Illyricum/Greece/Balkans					{RGA008}
    Suggested Castles/Front: Bran-Bucharest-Iasi, Corinth
    Suggested Religious Centers: Sofia
    Known by many names, I'll just refer to the area east of Italy and
    south of Bran as Greece. Because for the most part, that's who lived
    there at this time. Greece isn't nearly as prosperous in Medieval 2 as
    it was in Rome, as all the Greek cities have been combined into the
    territory of Corinth. This territory consists of Zagreb, Ragusa, 
    Durazzo, Sofia, Thessalonica, Corinth, Iraklion and of course, 
    Constantinople. This is one of the European 'plug' areas, where you
    can build several clustered Castles in terrain that severely restricts
    enemy invasions. The Bran-Bucharest-Iasi cluster provides excellent
    defense against the Mongols and Timurids, and the three are close
    enough that one army can support another. If an enemy wants to attack
    into Europe they either have to cross from Asia Minor, south along the
    Black Sea, or east through Poland. Sofia, however, is one of the best
    starting castles, and if you're Hungary, the Byzantine Empire, or most
    other castle-based factions you'll want to take it as part of defending
    your burgeoning empire, or as a staging point for future attacks into
    Greece. Once you've obtained the Bran-Bucharest-Iasi line, however, you
    can safely convert Sofia into a city. To the east lie the powerful
    Italian states, and Sicily and Venice are in a good position to take
    Zagreb, Ragusa, and possibly Durazzo, the latter of which can be a cause
    of endless headaches for its owner, as it's slow-growing and can easily
    be the  cause of war between weak holders and aggresive and
    opportunistic  takers. Ragusa is the only castle that can stave off
    (at least partially) Italian aggression, but Venice can (and will)
    attack from the sea if Iraklion is left in their hands, and they are
    perfectly willing to strike at Sofia from Zegreb without worrying about
    a passive Ragusa, and Sicily will doubtlessly prove itself belligerant
    along the eastern coast as well. As for Hungary/Byzantine, the first
    goal must be to secure Sofia. If one doesn't, the other will, and both
    need it to protect their interior cities. Thankfully Sofia doesn't have
    an overwhelming rebel garrison, and it's relatively fast-growing.
    Unfortunately it'll likely draw Italian aggression before long (from
    whomever the successor is in the inevitable Venice/Milan battle). Either
    way, it must be taken early, upgraded quickly, and garrisoned strongly.
    Corinth is almost a waste of a castle unless you're either an invading
    faction that needs castles to create powerful armies or the Byzantines,
    who start out with it. In the former case it can spring-board your
    attacks at Thessalonica (and from there ideally to Sofia). The
    Byzantines need it for peace of mind, and because it's likely to be
    their strongest castle early-on. Once it is upgraded into a Fortress,
    the armies therein can be taken to conquer northern Illyricum in detail,
    something that remains difficult until you've got Dismounted Byzantine
    Lancers and Byzantine Guard Archers. Ultimately Illyricum is tentatively
    held by Ragusa (which declines in usefulness severely after Italy is
    taken) in the east, Sofia in the north, and Corinth in the south.
    Attacks from the west need to be blocked by having a strong garrison
    at Constantinople, even for weak milita powers. Frankly, there's almost
    certainly going to be a jihad called against the city, so it needs to be
    up to snuff even if it's no longer your frontier with Asia Minor.
    Expansion to the north is relatively easy (thanks to Bran). As for the
    west you'll need to take Iconicum from the Turks (which isn't difficult
    thanks to their generally low-quality units) and Caesarea, at which
    point you've got a strong castle from which to threaten the Holy Land.
    Ultimately it's easier for Italian factions to strike into Illyricum
    than it is for castle-based factions to hold it, as most of their
    territories are too far away to support each other quickly. For an
    Illyricum-based faction, the best way to strike out to the east is
    probably just to take Palermo and use Sicily as a base from which to
    conquer Italy-although this will probably require two fronts (from
    Ragusa and then Innsbruck in the east and Palermo in the south). For
    native Illyricum factions (Hungary/ Byzantine) at least they can
    defend cities with garrisons after they grow to a large city.
    Hungary								{RGA009}
    Suggested Castles/Front: Bran-Burcharest-Iasi
    Suggested Religious Centers: Budapest
    Hungary is a rather small area that consists of the areas north of
    Illyricum, south of Poland/Russia, and east of Germany. Namely Budapest,
    Bran, Bucharest, and Iasi. Of these, only Budapest is really wealthy,
    and Bran is the only good castle. Much like Thorn for the Polish, Toledo
    for the Iberians, and Nottingham for the English, Bran is the lynch-pin
    of the nation, as it'll grow to a fortress the fastest and allow for
    Hungary to defend itself. Invading into Hungary isn't a difficult
    proposition, however-one merely needs to take Bran and their fighting
    power is either irradicated, or mostly so. Budapest presents a weak
    point for Hungary, and it'll almost certainly lure Hungary and the
    Holy Roman Empire to it. Aside from building up a strong garrison or
    camping an army out nearby, there's just not much to do about it. Bran
    is an excellent castle, but Sofia to the south really should be taken
    if you plan to move in on Illyricum. If you take Iasi too you'll have 
    another (if underwhelming) castle that can defend against Russia and
    Poland in the north, leaving Bran essentially frontierless. This allows
    you to use it to persue wars of expansion (especially to the east, where
    Budapest remains vulnerable. Militarily, Hungary is easier to defend
    than Illyricum (save Budapest) although it's much less wealthy. From
    Hungary, it's fairly easy to invade into Russia to the north, but it's
    more profitable by far to take Illyricum in the south. Italy should be
    ignored or attacked only once you have the resource of Greece in your
    Poland								{RGA010}
    Suggested Castles/Front: Hamburg, Thorn-Breslau-Krakow
    Suggested Religious Centers: Prague/Breslau
    Poland is another central territoriy that consists of the areas east of
    Germany, west of Russia, and north of Greece. Namely the territories of
    Prague, Breslau, Krakow, Thorn, and Halych. There's some amber near 
    Krakow and Halych, and these are the best natural resources Poland has.
    The best strategic resource, however, is the castle of Thorn, which is
    one of-if not the-quickest growing castles in the east. It's a sturdy
    enough defense to keep Russia at bay, and a great area from which to
    launch raids into Germany. If you can secure Krakow early enough, it
    should be converted into a castle, along with Breslau (after allowing
    both to grow to over a 4000 population) to create the northern 'plug'
    cluster of castles that will protect Europe from invasion by Mongols and
    Timurids. After the Thorn-Breslau-Krakow line is formed you can safely
    turn your gaze elsewhere-Poland can look west, and conquerers from the
    east can rest easy, knowing that once these castles are strongly
    garrisoned it'll be difficult for anything to dislodge them. Armies
    invading from the west need to push until you take Thorn, after which
    they can establish a lasting presence in the area. There's just no
    better natural boundary for a European empire-the Russian territories
    are too spread out to be mutually supportive in the face of steppe
    invasions. Poland, however, has to invade to the west until they take
    Hamburg. Stettin and Magdeburg are decent temporary castles, but they
    aren't ideal places to stop advancing, and if you can take Hamburg in
    the north, and Bran and Innsbruck in the south you can safely
    convert everything between the Hamburg-Bran-Innsbruk line and the
    Thorn-Krakow-Breslau line into cities. After this, you'll be making
    great money, and will be well-defended.. Save from southern attacks.
    Prague will be vulnerable to invasions until you conquer Illyricum and
    Russia								{RGA011}
    Suggested Castles/Front: Thorn-Breslau-Krako, Sarkel
    Suggested Religious Centers: Kiev/Moscow
    Anything east of Poland is considered the territory of Russia, and
    really no other faction has much claim to these regions, even though 
    it's possible the Danish will threaten Riga and Helsinki, the Polish
    contest the borders, and the Hungarians, Byzantines, and Turks might
    make attempts at Kiev, Caffa, and in the case of the latter, Sarkel,
    it's land that really only a player controlled Russia is in any position
    to claim with ease. In detail the territories of Russia are Riga, 
    Vilnius, Novgorod, Helsinki, Kiev, Moscow, Smolensk, Ryazan, Caffa, 
    Bulgar, and Sarkel. Of them, none of them are great castles, and a few
    (Kiev, Moscow, Novgorod) are fairly wealthy cities. There are slaves
    near Kiev, Caffa, and Sarkel, but the resources of Russia aren't too
    extraordinary. The biggest problem Russia has is its size. Their
    territories are numerous, but they are mostly spread out, fairly slow
    growing, and vulnerable to attack. The best tactic I've discovered is
    to just conquer everything between Thorn and Sarkel, convert them all
    into cities, populate them with enough Spear Militia to keep them 
    civil, and let them grow in peace with a low tax rate. Using mercenaries
    as you expand eastward is a good way to maintain a healthy number of
    troops without worrying about depleting units. After all, if your
    mercenaries are low in number, just hire more. Some might find it
    dubious not to place any castles as defenses in the Russian interior,
    but frankly, they're too slow-growing and spreading out to 1) defend
    nearby cities against opportunistic enemy raids, and 2) to hold out
    against Mongol/Timurid invasions. Since they can't defend themselves or
    other settlements, what's the point? They'd be better served striving
    to become Huge Cities, from which Berdiche Axemen can eventually be
    trained. As for fronts, Sarkel is.. well.. adequate to defend against
    Turkish invasions through the mountains. Beyond that, just hope the
    Mongols don't invade into Russia. There's really not much you can do
    about a Mongol invasion into Russia by turn 68. If you try to be a go-
    getter and invade Tbilisi it makes a good frontier-castle too, but the
    Mongols WILL sack it if they appear nearby for no good reason. It's just
    better to leave it alone. On the western front, the wonderful castle of
    Thorn is the greatest castle in the area, and should be taken very 
    early in the game. This alone will allow Russia to hold back Catholic
    forces from the west. Iasi and Bran will do the same in the south, and
    provide a great springboard for invading the Byzantine Empire. If you
    invade into Russia, after pushing past Vilnius Russia will fall with
    pitiful ease-again, Russia and the Russian territories live and die by
    their fronts. Their cities are just too spread out to stand against a
    strong army, and are terribly easy to conquer peice-meal.
    Asia Minor							{RGA012}
    Suggested Castles/Front: Caesarea, Tbilisi
    Suggested Religious Centers: Iconicum
    Asia Minor is, for the purposes of this guide and game, every region
    on the penninsula between the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Being
    blatantly unfaithful to geographical and political boundaries, I also
    include the mountainous regions immediately east of the penninsula, all
    the way to the end of the map. This division is made for three reasons: 
    first that this entire area is ripe pickings for only one faction (the 
    Turks), and hence tends to form one political region. The second reason
    is due to the religious attitudes of the games' factions (you'll see
    plenty of crusades/jihads called against Constantinople, Antioch,
    Baghdad, and Jerusalem, but none against Caesarea, Trebizond, or 
    Tbilisi, making these regions to the north decidedly not part of the
    'Holy Land' area.) Third, because of the paths the Mongols take. Thus
    the regions in the 'Asia Minor' area are Nicaea, Smyrna, Rhodes, 
    Iconicum, Caesarea, Trebizond, Yeveran, and Tbilisi. The castle of
    Caesarae is a potent barricade to the Holy Land, although Symrna to the
    west leaves much to be desired. Tbilisi might seem like a good northern
    border (and geographically, it is) but considering that the Mongols
    will certainly gut it if they appear nearby, it's nearly impossible to
    bring up to snuff in time. Few of the towns of Asia Minor are very
    rich, and the area is really suited for the Turks more than any other
    faction. They are the Islamic Milan-they do better when they focus on
    cities rather than castles, and their early game 'militia-rush' can do
    to Asia Minor what Milan's militia-rush does to Italy: provides a number
    of cheap-to-maintain armies rampaging from around well-defended cities.
    By turn 40 it's quite easy for an enterprising Turkish faction to
    declare a handful of jihads and conquer not only the whole of Asia 
    Minor, but the Holy Lands and Constantinople, as well. More than
    anything else, Asia Minor is a spring-board to the much more wealthy
    areas of Greece and the Holy Lands (depending on which direction you're
    invading from). Most factions will find it hard to defend, and many
    castle-based factions will find it a slow-if-not particularly resistant-
    to conquer. Whether invading from the Holy Lands or from Asia Minor,
    Caesarea is the territory to get. Once in your control you secure 
    Antioch from the west and Iconicum from the east. A faction that's
    looking to conquer Asia Minor by invading from the west (which would be
    most factions, I imagine, since most factions start to the west) can
    secure the richest two cities in Asia Minor (Iconicum and Nicaea) from
    Caesarea. Rhodes, Smyrna, and Trebizond start out as castles, but none
    of those locations are terribly useful for deployment. Trebizond is
    too isolated to be of much use, and Smyrna and Rhodes are both made
    inadequate by the superior castle at Corinth, a short sail across the
    Aegean. Ultimately Asia Minor-despite my best efforts to consolidate it 
    into one entity-makes more sense as two. You've prosperous and fast-
    growing western territories, and slow growing, relatively distant and
    poor territories to the east, split in half at Caesarea.
    The Holy Lands							{RGA013}
    Suggested Castles/Front: Caesarea, Gaza, Acre, Aleppo
    Suggested Religious Centers: Alexandria/Cairo, Jerusalem
    Ah, the Holy Lands, this is what this game is really about, isn't it?
    This sprawling area makes up the south eastern section of the map, and
    it borders Egypt to the west, and Asia Minor to the north. It consists
    of the following territories: Adana, Antioch, Aleppo, Acre, Edessa, 
    Mosul, Baghdad, Damascus, Nicosia, Acre, Jerusalem, Gaza, Jedda. Really,
    however, we can trim this down quite a bit. Everything east of Aleppo is
    not likely to come under attack from crusaders, nor is it an area of
    immediate concern to crusading armies. Also, it's just not practical to
    defend these areas, since they won't come under attack from conventional
    factions, and since they're almost impossible to defende against the
    Mongols and Timurids. Hence they should mostly be kept as cash-cities,
    granted a skeleton garrison, and left to make you money. On the
    Mediterranean coast you've got the two principle cities of the Holy 
    Lands-Antioch and Jerusalem. These regions will see plenty of attention
    from Catholics and rampaging steppe hordes alike, and should therefore
    be the focus of your defense. Each city is liberally surrounded by
    castles. Gaza defends against Egypt, and Acre lies between the two
    prominent cities-both are great, fast-growing castles that can be relied
    upon to get you decent troops quickly. Crusading armies are well-advised
    to seek these out shortly after arriving in the Holy Lands so they can
    build armies capable of keeping their ill-gotten gains. Aleppo is less
    prominent, but if taken care of it can grow fast enough to serve against
    the Mongols-if you have it most of the game previously. Adana is 
    opportunistically located, but it's far inferior to Caesarea, which is
    just a turn or two north of it. With such a superior castle so close
    guarding practically the same area, you should endeavor to make it your
    front to Asia Minor if at all possible. Nicosia can be useful as a
    castle to provide support to Antioch, but in the long run it'll probably
    serve better as a city-it'll be hard enough supporting armies around
    Antioch without keeping a standing force on Nicosia. Mosul starts as a
    castle, but it's not particularly fast-growing or close enough to other
    areas to provide an adequate defense. The Turks from the north probably
    won't pressure you enough to make anything greater than garrisons
    mandatory, and Mosul simply won't stop the Mongols. It's better off as
    a city. Since the Mongols are mostly likely going to invade Tbilisi or
    Baghdad, shore up your defenses around Antioch. Three strong armies can,
    in my experience, withstand the brunt of the Mongol invasion if you wait
    around Antioch and guard the bridges, rivers, and mountains passes so as
    to force the over-eager Mongols to attack into two-to-one and three-to-
    one odds. In practice this works best with factions that possess strong
    militias, as Antioch, Adana, Damascus, and Jerusalem can all provide
    fresh troops (and retraining). Castle-based factions must rely on 
    Caesarea, Gaza, and Aleppo for primary defense, recruitment, and 
    retraining. With any luck the Mongols will bypass Aleppo to attack
    Antioch (at least, if you leave a path to Antioch open to lure them in.)
    Gaza will need to provide supplementary reinforcements and retraining.
    In essence, the Holy Lands are the most difficult to hold areas in the
    game. There's plenty of wealth near Antioch, Aleppo, Damascus, Baghdad,
    and even some near Jedda, but the primary importance of the Holy Lands
    is the one imparted unto it by history-for a faction to properly 
    conquer the world, many of them must have Jerusalem under their control.
    Before you play Egypt or the Turks, and before you send an army to
    conquer, just keep in mind, it's not for the faint of heart. The native
    Turks and Egyptians aren't half a bother, but the Mongols and Timurids
    will make this conquest a bother. It's the most difficult part of the
    game, and building up your home region is mostly just in anticipation
    to attacking the Holy Lands.
    Egypt								{RGA014}
    Suggested Castles/Front: Gaza
    Suggested Religious Centers: Alexandria/Cairo
    Egypt consists of just four areas, and could just as well be included
    as part of the Holy Lands-except they're more prominent as the ancient
    lands of antiquity, as.. well, as Egypt. You really only have two easy
    options for expansion-into the Holy Lands, which Egypt has more claim to
    than any other faction, or by sea. The desert to the west is long and
    barren enough to provide a significant barrier to enemies (but keep a
    garrison at Alexandria or Cairo, as it's not improbable that Sicily 
    won't take Tripoli and send an army to Egypt.) To the west the best
    defense is Gaza. Either Alexandria or Cairo should become a religious
    center, while one of either Alexandria, Cairo, or Dongola should have a
    Merchant's Guild, to better exploit the boundless wealth of Egypt.
    Ultimately, the survival of the Egyptian territory depends on turning
    the Holy Lands into a cash-crop and coastal defense. Neither Crusaders 
    nor Mongols will be satisfied by just taking the Holy Lands.
    Overview							{RGA015}
    As far as I'm concerned, the 'plug' method is a great way to defend
    against the Mongols/Timurids. This involves building three 'plugs', or
    clusters of castles that can garrison enough armies to blunts an eastern
    invasion. These plugs are the territories of Thorn-Breslau-Krakow in
    Poland (although if Krakow becomes a city, you'll have to settle for
    Halych, which is in every respects slower-growing and further afield,
    as well as in a less promising position.) In Illyricum Bran-Bucharest-
    Iasi will protect the route south along the Black Sea, and in the
    Holy Land a combination of Caesarea, Aleppo, Acre, and Gaza will have
    to suffice.
    As for other castles that help form boundaries and defend other lands,
    Toledo secures the entirity of Spain. Nottingham protects England, and
    Hamburg forms a great border-castle between Germany and Denmark.
    Toulouse-Bordeaux protect the borders of Iberia and France, while
    Bern-Innsbruck fortifies the German/France and Italy borders. Angers is
    all you need in the north to protect northern France. Sarkel can provide
    a speed-bump for Russia in the far east, and Palermo and Corinth make
    good coastal castles which can easily strike in a number of directions.
    Religious centers are typically best if they're central locations where
    a Priest/Imam can be trained and reach a number of other settlements in
    several turns. The best examples also aren't coastal and don't have
    great resources, but cities that fit that description are few, so
    exceptions abound. Rheims protects France, while York/Edinburgh will
    keep England Holy. Corduba is a great center for Iberia, and Algiers is
    the best that North Africa can do. Nuremburg or Prague can satisfy
    Germany and Poland, and Budapest is another great center. Rome, of
    course, works well for Italy, being both central and sentimentally
    disposed for the cause. Iconicum cna hold Asia Minor, and Sofia is a
    good central location in Illyricum. Jerusalem and Cairo round out our
    |								       |
    |			    HINTS/TIPS {HNT000}			       |
    |								       |
    Generally you want to be aggressive in the early going of the game to
    seize as much land as possible. Don't dally about waiting for better
    forces-train whatever you've got and send it in mass at the enemy. Once
    you've taken all the easy-pickings at the beginning, bunker down until
    you get your better troops.
    Always lead attacking armies with a general, as captain-led armies in
    Medieval 2: Total War are prone to defecting. Don't waste the time and
    cost of an entire army just because you were too lazy to find a 
    general to lead them. Keep in mind that generals with less than five
    Loyalty are prone to defection as well. A general with four Loyalty
    might not readily defect, but any general with less than four is highly
    likely to defect.
    Generals are strong units that regenerate lost troops over time. If
    you have a number of generals just loitering about in towns, group
    them up to make a 'general army' and go hunting small armies of enemies
    and rebels. This serves a higher purpose than just putting your 
    resources to good use-it's a good way to build up good traits, too.
    The general army tactic works even better with Crusades and Jihads, as
    generals are the one unit that won't desert if you screw around. If you
    can gather up enough generals in one place, by all means make a general-
    army and send them on Crusade/Jihad. You can then lay siege to enemy
    settlements and castles at your whim, recruiting some mercenaries when
    you're ready to siege. There is no better way to abuse the Crusade/Jihad
    system by taking advantage of the cheap, powerful mercenaries you can
    hire, the increased movement speed, and the trait-building that occurs
    after a successful Crusade/Jihad.
    Generals can build watch-towers, which greatly expand your line of
    sight and help you spot enemy movements. Watch towers are absolutely
    vital to keeping your borders secure and anticipating enemy movements.
    They also attract rebels, which you can use to keep them clear of
    roads, bridges, and vital passes.
    Flooding is the worst of all natural disasters, in my opinion, as it
    makes a territory incredibly difficult to traverse. The movement points
    required to move across land that was flooded is nothing short of
    ridiculous, especially if there's no road around. Also, you can't build
    forts or watchtowers on flooded land. Last but not least, the condition
    lasts an exceptionally long period of time-territory that floods around
    the disaster of Aleppo (round 30~) probably still won't be back to 
    normal by the Mongol invasions (round 60~).
    Keep strong garrisons and armies at your borders to deter enemy 
    assaults. Some factions are more aggressive than others, but most will
    decide to attack weaker targets if you present a strong presence.
    Conversely if you leave yourself open, even relatively docile and
    amicable neighbors will turn on you.
    Use passive-aggressive tactics to force enemies to fight on your terms.
    Siege towns, block roads and bridges, and otherwise provoke the enemy
    to attack you whenever possible. This will put you in the role of the
    defender, which will make the battle time limit work in your favor and
    force the enemy to march on you. This will allow you to position your
    army in a strong defensive position.
    When in a defensive position, set your armies up on high ground, with
    defensive infantry in front of archers. Four or five units of archers
    defended by eight to ten units of infantry will decimate most foes
    before they can even close.
    Broken enemies might recover and cause you trouble again. If you have
    a unit that can pursue the enemy, they will likely never regain their
    morale. Drive enemies from the field when you have cavalry or when it
    won't leave an infantry unit vulnerable!
    When auto-calculating battle results, keep in mind that the more
    siege equipment you create, the lower casualties you'll suffer in the
    attack, so don't let your armies siege idly!
    Enemy generals almost never die when you auto-calculate a battle.
    Send in several groups of cavalry to surround enemy generals and
    eliminate them for good.
    Units inflict more damage when they attack enemy flanks, and even
    more still when they attack from the rear. Use faster units to 
    maximum effect by attacking from the flank or rear when you can,
    especially with skirmishers, mounted archers, and cavalry.
    Be careful with your siege equipment when attacking cities, forts,
    and castles. If all your siege equipment is destroyed you lose the
    battle. Also, if you run out of ammunition with your siege weapons,
    you'll lose as well.
    When you take a town, you'll get the option to occupy it, massacre
    the population, or sack the town. Occupying is what you should 
    choose in most situations, but if the town has a low public order,
    exterminate the population to prevent riots. If you feel you can't
    hold onto a town you capture, sack it. This will reduce the 
    population and destroy most of the buildings. It's not a good option
    for a city you plan to keep, but if you know you won't be able to
    hold onto it in the long-run, it will at least become unviable for
    the enemy for some time, and will take a lot of time and money to
    Better yet, exterminate the population, occupy the settlement, then
    destroy all the buildings. This pretty much combines exterminating and
    sacking a settlement, although the only time I use this is when taking
    settlements I don't plan to keep in order to pacify a frontier (or for
    retributive strikes and loot/experience gathering). In particular I
    find myself disposed to perform raids like this into the Russian
    frontier, which is too isolated to defend against marauding factions
    like the Mongols and Timurids.
    When you defeat an enemy army, you'll get the option to release,
    ransom, or execute any enemies you take prisoner. Ransoming is a
    good enough way to make money, and if they don't pay up you can
    kill them guilt-free. If you release them, you get to be a nice
    guy.. but this is not a good choice, as enemies you set free WILL
    fight again. Executing increases your dread, but it does get rid of
    the enemies for good.
    Ally with the Papal States early. This will make them less likely to
    cause you mischief, especially if you're a Catholic faction.
    Do not get excommunicated! If the Pope declares a crusade on your
    faction, and hostilities begin with the Papal States it will be very
    hard to get back in the Pope's good graces.
    If your reputation with the Pope is low, don't lay siege to enemy
    cities, as this might cause the Pope to demand you to stop attacking
    the faction without you gaining anything. Bring any piece of siege
    equipment with your attacking army to siege it automatically. If the
    Pope forces you to stop attacking the faction, at least you'll have
    gained a new territory first.
    When the Pope issues a Crusade have a general gather a number of
    cheap garrison units and join the crusade. Then you can recruit
    very cheap crusader mercenaries to bring your crusading army up to
    Always have a navy ready to transport crusading armies. This avoids
    roadblocks and delays which can lead to desertion. Also, it lets
    you beat the other factions to the punch.
    When you particpate in a crusade, you gain florins and your crusading
    army gains experience. Your generals gain a vast number of beneficial
    traits and retinue. Taking generals on campaign is a GREAT way to
    train up awesome generals. Note that the best rewards go to generals
    within the crusading army that actually conquer the target settlement-
    although all units involved gain experience, and you tend to get a
    monetary reward, depending on your contribution.
    The turn before you conquer the target of a crusade or jihad, have
    as many armies join the crusade/jihad as possible. If you do this, they
    won't disband before you conquer the settlement, and every unit in that
    army will gain experience. Plus, even generals not immediately involved
    in the action have a chance to gain a few minor-yet positive-traits.
    Try and request crusades against Orthodox, Muslim, or excommunicated
    factions when it is beneficial for you. There's nothing better than
    getting the Pope to declare a crusade against a city or castle you
    were planning to take anyways, making the job quicker, easier, and
    more profitable.
    Jihads function in all ways like Crusades, except instead of 
    requesting one from the Pope you declare one through your Imams. When
    eying new territory, it is always a good idea to declare a jihad before
    attacking to make the endeavor more profitable and quicker for you.
    Note that Jihad mercenaries are not nearly as powerful as Crusade
    mercenaries, so have a strong army ready BEFORE you declare a Jihad.
    Having trade-rights with other factions allows you to make MUCH more
    money per turn with a merchant, so long as you're trading on
    resource nodes that are on adjacent territories.
    Timbuktu and Arquin are two of the richest resource areas in the
    entire game. If you get a chance to sieze them, you'll greatly
    increase your earnings.
    When creating merchants, keep in mind that although they do not have
    an upkeep, they do have a hefty inital cost of 500 florins. If you
    do not make this money back during the life-time of the merchant,
    you've wasted florins. I typically keep a 50 florins/turn rule of
    thumb for resources.. if the resource doesn't make at least that
    much money per turn, it's probably a waste of time to trade it.
    Use Spies and Assassins to lower the morale of cities. If a city has
    a small garrison, you can send in two Spies to ferment unrest
    (sometimes up to 50 or 60%!). Then assassinate any generals in the
    city, and sabotage buildings that increase public order (barracks,
    churches, inns, town halls, etc.) Sometimes you can get enemy
    cities to rebel, which allows you to reclaim it from the rebels
    without angering the original owner of the faction.. providing you
    don't get caught. Fortresses tend to be more resilient to this
    tactic as they have smaller populations.
    So long as their generals are alive the Mongols and Timurids will
    continue to be a pain. Assassins a great way to eliminate pesky
    generals, and forming 'hit squads' of generals to chase down and 
    eliminate theirs.
    Gunpowder arrives around turn 100, at which point you'll be able to
    train gunpowder units, including cannons and higher-tier navies.
    You'll need to build new buildings to gain access to these units,
    Weapons that are 'effective against armor' ignore some or all of an
    enemies armor bonus to defense. Make use of gunpowder weapons
    against heavily armored enemies.
    One Basilisk is all the siege equipment you'll ever need, as this
    cannon has the ammunition and power to punch holes through multiple
    fortificatons in a single battle.
    The Black Death usually occurs around turn 120. When you get the 
    notification that the Black Death is coming, get all of your expensive 
    armies out of cities and castles and build a fort for them to stay in. 
    As long as they stay out of all cities and castles, they won't get the 
    plague, and won't cost you an arm and a leg to retrain them.
    When the Black Death comes, the economy in the game will all but
    shut down for several turns. Just wait the plague out and you'll
    eventually start earning money again.
    The Mongols show up between turns 60 and 70 and mostly consist of horse 
    archers, horsemen, and foot archer/infantry hybrids. For some reason, 
    their cavalry is matched unfairly against most other cavalries, no 
    matter how good their stats match up.. at least from what I've noticed, 
    attacking Mongolian cavalry head-on with other cavalry is an effort 
    doomed to result in heavy casualties. They also get very powerful 
    Elephant troops. Being honest, I've not found a good way to deal with 
    Mongols, as they are a match for pretty much any faction's army. I 
    typically deal with the Mongols by having many armies in the vicinity as 
    possible. I typically make my stand at Antioch, blocking off all the 
    access routes, and auto-calculating the engagements when I can match 
    multiple armies against them.. eventually I win the war of attrition 
    against their superior units, great generals, and the fact that they 
    have no upkeep.. I never said it was easy.
    The Mongols enter the world map in three main areas (although their
    exact point of entry may vary a bit, their routes will not.) Sarkel,
    Tbilisi, and Baghdad. If they invade Sarkel they will continue across
    Russia, sacking the eastern territories. This is bad for Russia and
    Poland in the short run, as the Mongols will most likely be too 
    powerful for either one to withstand (especially if you're warring off
    in other territories!) Although it's rare, I've seen the Mongols spread
    as far east as Budapest. If they invade near Tbilisi, they will sack the
    aforementioned territory and continue on until the reach Antioch. After
    they capture it, they'll proceed to conquer the Holy Lands and Asia
    Minor (although their progress into the latter is usually secondary to
    the former.) If they appear near Baghdad, they'll also move onto 
    Antioch. Both routes are horrible if you're the Turks and especially
    Egypt. It's a long-shot that by turn 68 either one of those two factions
    will have built up enough troops in Asia Minor/the Holy Lands to repel
    a Mongol invasion, and in the long term the Mongols will proceed across
    Africa to assault the notoriously hard-to-support Tripoli. They'll also
    get around to Constantinople, given time, but they'll likely attack as
    part of a jihad before they reach Constantinople by sheer expansion.
    The best way to neutralize Mongol armies (besides trying to fight them
    three or four armies to one) is to lead with good generals. In a recent
    play as England I was able to defeat Mongol armies decisively with two-
    on-one, one-on-one, and two-on-two engagements. My king led the armies
    (after successfully crusading against Jerusalem) and ended with 6 stars
    of Command. After a few victories against the Mongols he was a 10 star
    general and didn't lose any battles against Mongols when he fought a
    force of equal size. If you take on a Mongol army that has a powerful
    general with a captain, expect to experience some difficulties. Within
    twenty years my king had exterminated the Mongols while controlling
    only the two fortresses of Gaza and Acre from which troops could be
    recruited. Not bad.
    The Timurids show up very late in the game.. which is fortunate, since
    odds are you'll have won before they appear. They have forces similar to 
    the Mongols but with one brutal difference: Their elephant units have
    cannons mounted on them, and are incredibly, outstandingly, decisively
    powerful units that are VERY hard to kill. Of course, if you let 
    Mongols sieze a homeland and climb the tech tree they'll get these 
    units too.
    Some generals that have good traits for acting as governor can boost
    public order-sometimes considerably. Your best generals will be those
    who are in (or leading) crusading/jihading armies that conquer the
    target of the crusade/jihad. These generals (and good generals as a
    whole) may increase the population growth of a settlement. For those
    hard-to-improve castles it might be a good idea to stick a friendly
    general inside to boost the growth rate. Again, most of your generals
    will have a very small effect on a settlement's growth rate, but it's
    always worth seeing if they'll help speed things up.
    |								       |
    |			Updates/Thanks {UPD000}			       |
    |								       |
    Version 1.0 to 1.01 changes (5/3/2010)
     o=o	Added the "Hints/Tips" section.
     o=o	Corrected numerous grammatical errors.
     o=o	Tweaked several rankings.
    Version 1.01 to 1.02 changes (3/4/2011)
     o=o	Added the "Guilds" section.
     o=o	Added the "Regional Advice" section.
     o=o	Fixed more typos and other grammatical errors.
    Version 1.02 to 1.03 changes (9/22/2011) (176,959 bytes)
     o=o	Updated and corrected some unit info on various factions.
     o=o	Corrected many typos, include several 'garrison' typos.
     o=o	Added the 'Plug' plan to the 'Region Advice' section.
    			   ***END OF FILE***

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