The best kittens, technology, and video games blog in the world.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Conquering Empire Total War World as United Provinces - Part 2

So back to my World Conquest adventure! First part was here.

I started assassinating and duelling, mostly for achievement's sake, as both activities are fairly pointless. If you kill someone, they respawn new agent of same type next turn anyway most of the time.

More Indian and Italian Wars

For a while I was just fighting rebels, and the only settlement I got was Northwest Territory on exactly that part of New World map.

My Italian and Indian unrest got dealt with about the same time, so I started fresh wars with Indians and with Spain same turn.

Indian war was one stack on Mysore, the other on Goa, and then giving Marathas 5 techs to peace them out. I do this nonsense mainly to avoid naval combat. Indians still outnumber my armies there, but I'm not terribly worried about that.

By the way it looks like the game is keeping track how many times tech was trades, so that explain why AI is so unwilling to take a seemingly reasonable deal.

Same turn, attack Spanish holding in Italy. I took Milan and Sardinia with one stack. Then Naples and Tunis with the other.

By the way here's the trick for same turn naval invasions:

  • have one unit in army have less movement - artillery does it for free, but you can also move your unit a bit
  • do naval landing, that's supposed to reset all units' movement points to 0
  • but it actually just subtracts however much the lowest one how
  • so everyone can move and attack!
  • and those units with 0 move - they're still close enough to be reinforcements

I guess it's technically exploit, same as jumping from ship to another mid-ocean, but I've always been playing with it.

Then I gave Spain 3 techs for peace. Same reason, I really don't want any naval combat.

I was technically at war with Poland and Bavaria as well - Bavaria took a peace deal where they'd take 3 techs for peace, but give me some money. Works for me. Poland was too far to matter anyway.

Persian Wars

I took Morocco as it was basically defenseless. In New World Spain defeated army of natives in Texas, so I moved in to take it over.

Marathas had 3 nearly full stacks, but they spread them around their last province, so I attacked them, and in one final battle conquered India.

Marathas literally asking to be conquered by moving their stacks away from their capital

This was extremely important, as my Indian army can finally move to another theater - this theater being conquering my way from India through Persia into Ottoman lands. Persia was doing extremely well and conquered its way all the way to Anatolia, so I could attack them from three sides - Italian army landing in Anatolia, Indian army landing in Persia, and a few freshly recruited spare units walking into undefended Afghanistan and Baluchistan.

While losing to me Persians managed to conquer Syria, so I dropped my Moroccan troops there.

By 1727 Persia was destroyed and I had 63 regions. Still very far to go.

This is a fairly standard formation, I kept changing my mind between placing inf 3/2/2/3 or 2/3/3/2

Secular Humanism

A lot of minors have been taken out by other powers. I took Georgia, taking the list to just 8 major and 8 minor powers other than me.

I finally got my first achievement this campaign - Assassin! for assassinating 20 characters. It's fairly pointless other than achievement for achievement's sake.

The next important event was invention of Secular Humanism, which cuts religious unrest by half. In a fully Muslim province that meant going from -10 to just -5, which means 5 fewer turns of babysitting a province, for every such province. Reduction is much less for other religions, like Catholic provinces go from -2 to -1, but it's still a turn saved.

My New World armies started another one with Iroquois and their ally Quebec. Quebec itself was already taken by Britain, but they took two British settlements instead. Iroquois stacks showed up really far from their homelands, and were about to take 2 of my undefended settlements, so I ended up bribing them with 4 techs as recompense for taking 2/3 of their provinces. I think it's fair.

This freed my armies all over, and my Indian armies were finally coming to European theater, landing in Mesopotamia and walking from there. So I started a big war with Russia, whose allies were Poland (already at war) and Denmark (exiled to Iceland). Denmark decided to value its life and didn't come to Russia's defence, first such case this campaign.

Invasion of Russia

With this out of the way, I moved most of my armies from Europe and India to Russia, and they were slowly walking North. There really wasn't much risk to it - Russia had only 5 ships in the Mediterranean which I sunk, and Poland had none. And fortunately winter attrition has not been intended until the next Total War game.

I try to have artillery superiority, but when I don't (4 Russian vs 3 mine) cavalry charge from one or both sides can often fix it.
I'm using Horde Grenadiers from Additional Units Mod, they're like early Light Dragoons but you can only have 8 and they're a bit heavier and pricier.

Russia decided to interfere with my plans by selling Kazan to the Ottomans. I got up to Moscow itself, then peaced them out taking 5000 gold from them. I then bought Kazan from the Ottomans for ridiculous number of 12 or so technologies. Ridiculously they decided to sell me Jerusalem for alliance and 1 more tech. Sure, we can be allies. Nice thing about bought settlements is that they are completely undamaged and with zero resistance to occupation.

Then I remembered Iroquois I was about to attack are allied to Poland and Russian. Oh well, turns out Russia did not honor that anyway. Funny thing is that I captured native university equivalent, that gives 20 research points and +2 happiness, normal universities outside capital give just 17 and -6 happiness.

Diplomatic Interlude

I was sort of wondering if countries will align in competing blocks, but nothing like that happened, and there's alliance chain covering almost everyone.

Denmark, Prussia, and Plains Indians are all separate. Everyone else is in one big alliance block, where countries at war also have shared allies.

Here's how I'm connected with everyone:

  • Netherlands - Britain
  • Netherlands - Ottomans
  • Netherlands - Ottomans - Sweden
  • Netherlands - Hannover
  • Netherlands - Hannover - Westphalia
  • Netherlands - Hannover - Westphalia - Bavaria
  • Netherlands - Hannover - Westphalia - Bavaria - Spain
  • Netherlands - Hannover - Westphalia - Wurttemberg
  • Netherlands - Hannover - Westphalia - Wurttemberg - Austria
  • Netherlands - Hannover - Westphalia - Wurttemberg - Austria - Venice
  • Netherlands - Hannover - Westphalia - Poland
  • Netherlands - Hannover - Westphalia - Poland - Courland
  • Netherlands - Hannover - Westphalia - Poland - Russia

There's also 17 ongoing wars, 12 of them between countries in the big cluster.

For other events, Hannover, Bavaria, and Courland all disappeared for a while and were brought back to life by rebels. As did some other countries which have since ceased to exist. I've only seen one of such events - Sweden and Prussians kept fighting over Hannover, while leftovers of rebels just swoope into the city, and that made Hannover reemerge, hilariously at peace with both of them.

Strangely I haven't seen any revolutions yet, and I remember a lot of countries flipping to republics by late game in my old campaigns years ago.

Invasion of Poland

With Russian campaign temporarily halted, I invaded Poland instead. Poland was conveniently also at war with Prussia, Austria, Sweden, and somehow Spain.

Prussia attacked my ally Hannover and for the first time this campaign I decided to honor my obligations, and entered war on Hannover's side. This was risky as Hannover's tiny army was all that stood between Prussian and my capital.

After getting to East Prussia as my 80th region of 137, I sold Poland a peace treaty for 10k. Poland did not appreciate my generosity, and when I went back to fight Russia a turn later, they rejoined Russia's war.

Fighting Russia, Poland, and Prussia at the same time was a bit awkward - Prussia and Poland had between them 8 stacks (and some Polish rebels) to my 1 stack Warsaw and 1 in Ukraine. Fortunately AI is rather passive, separates stacks from each other a lot, and typical result of 1 full stack vs 1 full stack battle is a total destruction with losses of 10%-20%.

A baffling thing happened and Polish protectorate of Courland declared war on me. In an even more baffling move, Poland sold its second last region of Riga to Spain. Like that wasn't enough, Russia became Swedish protectorate, but that doesn't drag their protector into any preexistent wars, and at that point it was far too late for them anyway.

Poland fell in winter 1734. In summer 1735 I destroyed three countries - Plains Nations (which is so far in map of America and not worth it except for achievement), Courland, and Russia, getting me to 90/137 regions.

Invasion of Prussia

Even after I destroyed one of their stacks on holidays in Silesia, Prussia had over 2 full stacks in Brandenburg and Saxony, and any attack on one would make the other one reinforce.

There are fun tricks around that, but Prussia decided to just take their Brandenburg troops, only 15 of max 20, without general (since I assassinated one, and they never replaced him), and walked to fight me on a bridge battle. Well, if you want to lose, I can provide that.

That didn't go anywhere as well as I expected. Empire does ridiculous thing with bridge maps and gives them two crossings, making them far less fun, so it much less effective than it should be. And I discovered some fun bugs as well - when you tell cavalry to cross a bridge, it will ignore all your orders until the last soldier finishes crossing. So my units of attacking unprotected enemy artillery they went head first into some pikes.

Prussia sold Saxony to Sweden, and had just one province with 2 nearly-full stacks in it.

Well, I can't always have easy fights - so I took my two stacks against them, and even consolidated a lot of units between first and second battle as they were heavily battered.

And so ended Prussia in winter 1735. That leaves just 5 major and 6 minor powers competing with me. And I'm at peace with all of them.

With all that region trading I tried to see if I can buy some region, but nobody was interested. The best thing about Total War Three Kingdoms is that CA finally figured out that showing AI weights make diplomacy ten times better, sadly not a single game before then had this feature, so I have no idea why they're not doing some deal and if some other deal would be possible instead.

Armies which conquered 2/3 of the world

I took a few turns to move my scattered armies back to frontlines, and deal with widespread unrest. I abolished slavery, which made very little difference.

I had very small army at this point - 126 units, basically 5 stacks and some rebel suppression units:

  • 5x General
  • 57x Line Infantry (8x Swiss Grenadiers, 17x European, 16x Colonial, 14x VOC, 2x Sepoys)
  • 28x 12lber artillery
  • 5x Native American Mounted Auxiliary (low level missile cavalry)
  • 8x Horse Grenadier Guards (elite missile cavalry)
  • 5x Melee Cavalry (1x Regiment of Horse, 1x Hussars, 3x VOC Cavalry)
  • 18x Dragoon (not meant for fighting, just policing bonus)

By comparison, rest of the world had this for armies, 478 units:

  • 14x Gerenal
  • 184x Line Infantry and similar missile infantry
  • 21x Light Infantry
  • 53x Pikemen and other Melee Infantry
  • 57x Artillery
  • 139x Melee Cavalry
  • 2x Dragoons
  • 8x Missile Cavalry

And for ships I have crazy much 294, but it's almost all trade ships and light transports:

  • 274x trade ships
  • 14x Sloop
  • 2x Brig
  • 2x 6th Rate
  • 2x 5th Rate

Rest of the world invests very heavily in war navies, 223 ships:

  • 1x 2nd Rate
  • 2x 3rd Rate
  • 9x 4rd Rate
  • 17x 5th Rate
  • 11x 6th Rate
  • 3x Bomb Ketch
  • 59x Brig
  • 45x Sloop
  • 16x Privateer
  • 23x Galleon
  • 24x Indianman
  • 9x Galley
  • 2x Xebec
  • 2x Dhow

I think AI overuses cavalry like crazy, gets absolutely no value from them, and it would be far better off buying more artillery. Its light infantry and melee infantry are actually not too bad.

My typical stack

My stack is typically 10 infantry, 6 artillery, 1 general, and 3 other cav (missile if possible; melee otherwise), deployed like this left to right:

  • cav cav
  • inf inf inf
  • art art
  • inf inf
  • art art
  • inf inf
  • art art
  • inf inf inf
  • cav cav

Cavalry usually stays a bit behind - it might only go into action to chase routing enemies, or it could get deployed to reinforce melee on a flank, or go on a charge against enemy artillery.

This formation obliterates enemy melee cavalry, and it's very good against enemy line infantry. It's actually somewhat weak to melee infantry as they charge into me, and artillery can't shoot them without friendly fire. It's also fairly weak to light infantry, as they have higher range than line infantry, and forcing my line infantry forward obstructs nearby artillery from shooting in same direction.

My economy in 1737

My income was 86k from taxes, 64k from trade, 3k from base income, 153k total.

Of that trade, 25k comes from trade ships, 19k from plantations (not sure why European fur isn't listed there), and the rest from various bonuses from having multiple trade partners (7 right now).

My spending is 34k army upkeep, 15k navy upkeep (mostly trade ships), 2k town watch, 52k total, so 101k net income.

Blitzkrieg of Venice and Austria

None of the possible targets were particularly easy, but I picked Venice and their ally Austria as next target. Venice expanded from 2 to 4 provinces - Venice, Morea, Algiers, and Tripoli. Austria had 5 of its starting 6 as it lost Silesia already.

It was annoying that once again I had a lot fewer units than my opponents (not counting units in New World, on garrison duty, or still walking back from Siberia), so I expanded my army a bit. The problem wasn't beating their armies in fair fight, it was Venice walking on Tunis or Morocco or Rome or Genoa or whatever and all my stacks being in the wrong place.

Two new stacks I raised in Italy had some Light Cavalry Sharpshooters, Horse Artillery, and other newer troops, but mostly followed similar build.

With 5 stacks moving in at once, it was really not much of a challenge.

Venice performed really well, and my attack on Tripoli killed half the soldiers in my army, mostly because it turned into an total mess really early.

In one turn I had two small battles with border stacks from Austria, then each attacked a city - Tripoli, Venice, Prague, Pressburg, and Vienna.

This meant I finally had unbrocked land route all the way from Amsterdam to India! It was a bit roundabout, going through France, Italy, Vienna, Poland, Ukraine, Caucasus, and Persia, but it works.

The Vienna stack also left its artillery behind and marched on new Austrian capital of Zagreb.

I wasn't done. I let Austrians peace out keeping their last province of Transylvania to kick surprisingly big Austrian navy out of it. That let me move my Venice stack to Morea. 1 turn, 7 provinces taken. That's alse 3 provinces with -30 unrest, but I just recruit Dragoons to babysit that these days.

Venice's last holding of Tripoli fell next turn.

Blitzkrieg of Spain

Finally it was time to destroy Spain - they had 3 settlements in Iberia (Madrid, Lisbon, Gibraltar), 3 in New World (Mexico, New Mexico, and Guatemala), and Riga they bought from Poland.

It was the blitzkriegest blitzkrieg yet. Their ally Bavaria abandoned them - too bad as I had a stack waiting there.

One stack landed next to Lisbon and it surrendered without a fight. Half-stack babysitting Courland took Riga without a fight. Army returning from conquest of Plains Indians took New Mexico, also without a fight.

I had 3 stack landings that had to fight - Cadiz into Gibraltar, @@@ into Mexico, and @@@ into Madrid. Somehow Spain didn't bother protecting any of these ports, and the only blockade I needed to do took me 1 whole Sloop.

In this battle I finally had a chance to use howitzers with quicklime - instead of 6 regular artillery I had just 4 artillery and 2 howitzers. They were fairly nice as they can shoot from behind my lines, but I think going all howitzers might limit my firepower a bit too much, and their range is hard.

Of all the battles of the war battle of Gibraltar was the hardest. Mexico and Madrid were both poorly defended.

For all that effort I got three new -30 unrest provinces - Madrid, Lisbon (former capital of Portugal), and Mexico (former capital of New Spain). It is quite annoying how capturing even a former capital of a minor country can get me -30, but these days with no religious unrest, decent ministers, and big budget for hiring dragoons it's not a huge deal.

That destroyed a 7-province country in just 1 turn and 3 battles. Their last New World province of Guatemala turned into a native rebels' den.

And thanks to the famous Gibraltar-Morocco bridge, my African holdings were now connected to my mainland.

Battle of Gibraltar
Artillery sandbags is a stupid feature that not only immobilizes artillery, but won't even let them turn, so I can do silly stuff like this.

War with Sweden

That was 105/137 regions conquered, and the only remaining powers were some minors, Sweden, and my allies Britain and Ottomans.

I didn't go to war with Sweden earlier, as they were allied with Ottomans, and that would be awkward multifront war if Ottomans honored that. Except almost nobody's honoring any alliances anymore, and Ottomans are severely battered, and even managed to lose Bulgaria atd Moldova to Austrian remnants somehow.

So war with Sweden it is!

I didn't really prepare for it much, I just still had a lot of troops stuck in Austria, Brandenburg, Poland, and Courland on rebel duty, so they might go North now that these lands are at least somewhat pacified for a while. Troops which conquered Spain and Venice will take their time pacifying those lands.

I landed Portuguesue stack in Norway by jumping from ship to ship. Austrian stack took Saxony (which Prussia sold to Sweden before dying). Courland stack did even better - they landed in port next to St Petersburg, took it, then got back on another ship, landed in Finlantd, and took that as well. 3 stacks, 4 regions of their 6, 0 battles. At this point I asked them if they had enough and would like to peace out, but they did not.

Interestingly taking settlements by demanding surrender doesn't generate any war exhaustion, while making them lose battles and lose regions in fights does, so maybe I made it too difficult for myself here.

I wasn't worried about Sweden's troops - 2 full stacks in Denmark, and a bit over half stack in Sweden and Finland each. The real problem were their 49 ships mostly around Denmark, which cannot be reached by land from any direction.

There was no helping it. My only solutions were either spending exhausting and tedious half a day fighting those ships "legitimately" (with chainshot zigzag), or blockading every Swedish port by 1 Sloop and letting 20 minute timer sink them while I watch some youtube on another screen.

Sadly I had to do a lot of such boring timer battles. In 2 battles the timer sunk only 3 ships.

At least Swedes had decency to attack my stack that landed in mainland parts of Denmark.

A much less good battle was one my Courland stack had to fight. It was actually 1 General, 3 Artillery, 2 Missile Cavalry, 4 Line infantry, and 7 Dragoons for policing. I sort of didn't notice just how unprepared that was for a real fight. On the other hand, normal AI stacks have just as trashy composition as this anyway.

Trash vs Trash battle

It was all fine though, Swedish fleets weren't sunk, but they couldn't leave ports before timers ran out, so I blockaded all their ports, and that unblocked bridge to Denmark. Meanwhile my Norway stack walked to Stockholm. So I just needed 3 battles to destroy them - one to clear my way to Copenhagen, then just take both cities.

War with Britain

That left very little to conquer:

  • Britain with 3 European and 9 American provinces
  • Ottomans with 5
  • Austria with 3 (recently conquered its way back to a major status)
  • 5 OPMs - Hannover, Westphalia, Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Denmark

So without waiting for anything, I destroyed Britain in one turn. Troops that took New Spain landed in Carolinas and Jamaica, taking both undefended. Two highly battered stacks took Ireland and Scotland, also undefended. My fully recovered Portuguese stack now walked on London.

I thought the remaining 7 English colonies would turn into random rebels, but instead they became Pirates in Bahamas, Quebec in Quebec, United States in 4 provinces, and only Rupert's Land became generic rebels.

Well, Pirates cannot possibly stand, so I took that province as well same turn.

War with United States

It was 1741, and I started destroying my existing universities, to be replaced by industry. There was still research that needed to be done, but it was small number of expensive technologies, and I can't assign more than one university to same research, so many were idle.

The next target just had to be the United States - they just started and barely had any troops, but they'd be spamming them like crazy if I let them live.

Hilariously I got "Campaign Won" only in 1742 by taking New Amsterdam (game has no localized names so still just "New York"), but I won't get achievements unless I keep it until 1799. It was my 119th province, of 137 on the map.

Battle of New York, which let me "win" the campaign goals
I really like Native Mounted Auxiliaries, it's a trashy mounted cavalry
This fog is with a mod that massively reduces bad weather effects, vanilla sometimes has weather so awful it's impossible to see anything without pausing every minute.

My colonial army still had Quebec and Rupert's Land to conquer, but there was no rush with that.

War with the Ottomans

There were really only two options left - Austria or Ottomans, both with 4 provinces (Austria impressively growing that big from OPM I left them at). Now Ottomans were technically allied with me, but at this point let's be real.

The main reason to go for Ottomans first was that Austria was allied with some OPMs and they might respect that, and then it would be really awkward for everyone.

A weird thing is that even at this point, with me controlling nearly 90% of the world, my enemies' armies still outnumber mine, and (if we exclude my trade ships) their war fleets as well. OPMs just really loved to spend all their money on armies. Even silly Westphalia has 3 full stacks, I have just 10, and many of them are dragoons for policing.

For a quick detour I just needed to take over Quebec.

Then I swooped in and liberated Constantinople in summer 1743, after 290 years of occupation.

Liberation of Constantinople

War with Bavaria and Austria

That left just 10 provinces to conquer - 4 Austrian, 1 rebel, and 5 OPMs.

And most baffling thing happened - Bavaria declared war on me.

Well, first I needed to get Rupert's land from the rebels, getting me Master of the Americas achievement.

I didn't go to war with Austria because they were allied with Bavaria nad Wurttemberg, but since Bavaria already declared on me anyway, I moved London stack to Alsace in case Wurttemberg respected their alliance, and I was free to declare anytime.

As they were deep inland, and it all caught be unprepared, the whole war lasted 3 turns instead of the usual 1.

In my final battle against Austria I finally had shrapnel shot, which adds a strong medium range weapon to artillery, but my superiority is so overwhelming I didn't have a chance to test it in any sort of meaningful battle.

Separate Timelines

At this point it was pretty clear I need to diverge timelines to get all the achievements.

So I saved the game, and pressed next turn 110 times to actually get achievements for "winning the campaign" while for getting all the research.

The only thing I had to do was duelling (trying to get that achievement), choosing research, and fixing government after elections. I finally got achievement for killing 20 people in duels in 1757.

I research all technologies in 1763 - which is really late considering how much I tried to accelerate tech progress - but there was no achievement! Then it suddenly appeared in 1797. A lot of people had similar issue and speculated about it.

After far too many times pressing end turn, I got to end of 1799, and got my Victory video, first time ever, even though I won like fifty campaign for all I know. And there was no achievement, ffs.

Hilariously, after clicking a bunch of times I got achievement for winning on easy. This is on hard/hard, and I never played this game on easy in my life. Is the first victory going to unlock just easiest achievement regardless of how you play? And so you need to win 2nd and 3rd time to get achievements for normal and hard victory? I kept clicking, but no more achievements came by 1830+. Oh well, I guess I won't be getting it.

War with German minors

Well, loading back the original save, I still 4 OPMs to defeat - Hannover, Westphalia, Wurttemberg, and Denmark.

German minors had 7 full stacks between them, Denmark instead got 2 full stack of ships.

I'm not sure why, but Westphalia's 2.5 stacks were just a tiny bit too far to join the battle when I attacked their city.

Wurttemberg was a really fun battle of the Rhine bridges, where we both started on the same side, but their reinforcements were slowly coming from the other side, so I could exploit that chaos and get 10:1 casualties ratio, instead of the usual 5:1.

Battle of the Rhine. We both started on same side, but their reinforcements kept coming through both crossings, it was fun chaos. It's difficult to form defensive line against such split attack, and pivoting with inf+art line is very slow. I accidentally misplaced one of my howitzers to be in the line, the other one (on the right) stayed behind while my line advanced. I'm not really used to howitzers.

After that I got Hannover, and I didn't even use any tricks this time.

And in winter 1745 I got Emperor of Europe achievement.

Final battle of the campaign. Overall I relied so much on inf+art line as it's stupidly overpowered, and only changed tactics if that wasn't possible. I use a lot more diverse tactics in other Total War games, but Empire has this very narrow meta. I don't think there are any other tactics that allow routine 10:1 K:D ratios at even odds.

Achievement Scorecard

Before that I have only 6 achievements (conquer India, kill 100k enemies, conquer region, conquer 10 regions, conquer 100 regions, steal 5 technologies).

In the end I got 6 achievements (conquer Americas, conquer Europe, kill 20 by assassinations, kill 20 by duels, research everything, win campaign on easy).

I did not get 2 achievement I should have gotten (win campaign on normal, win campaign on hard - assuming these are inclusive).

I'm reasonably sure I killed 500k and likely also 1000k enemies by now, and I should have gotten achievements for those too, but I can't prove it for sure.

I also started a quick campaign as Austria to get achievement for backstabbing 5 allies, it takes just 1 turn if they don't join wars against you.

Most other achievements are for multiplayer, and I just don't care.

Not counting bugged ones, remaining single player achievements I could try (but won't):

  • successfully use diplomatic threats 5 times (does this feature even work?)
  • do 30 missions (that requires replaying tutorial it over and over, as missions didn't make it to main game, other than 1 each for a few countries)
  • win independence campaign as Americans

That was too much

I rarely bother doing world conquest in any games, and I definitely don't plan to do this ever again in Empire.

I never even did one in EU4, and only once in CK2 (and back when it was super easy and map was a lot smaller, without even India). I think I might have done some in HoI4, but I'm not even completely sure.

I'm not even sure if I ever did any World Conquests in Total War, not counting short Kingdoms campaigns.

All Total War games

I went back to Empire mostly because I didn't like new Total War games much.

  • I tried Rome 2, but that was terribly boring.
  • Warhammer 2 seemed good on paper, but I just couldn't get into the setting, and dominant role of single entity units really kills any chance of immersion for me.
  • Rome 1 doesn't work too well on new hardware anymore
  • Napoleon is just Empire with smaller more boring map and somewhat better engine; I played it a few times but I'd rather play Empire
  • so all I had was Medieval 2 (still amazing) and its expansions campaigns

There's a few Total War games I haven't tried yet, but I might:

  • Shogun 2 - mostly because identical factions I don't know anything about seems boring as hell; and I'm really weirded out by game just deleting all diplomacy and everyone being at war with you forever as soon as you have 10 regions
  • Three Kingdoms (in default mode it's fantasy game; but it has historical mode without fantasy style stupidly overpowered generals)

There's also some I'm really unlikely to:

  • Thrones of Britannia - everyone hates it for some reason
  • Rome 1 expansions and Rome 2 Atilla - I really don't care for those super scripted campaigns, sandboxes are what Total War should be about
  • Troy - it's fantasy game, and looks a lot worse than Warhammer

How Empire could be improved with mods

Here are some simple fixes that could make Empire better. There are mods for some of them.

I already had fixes for some vanilla issues:

  • 0 fps bug due to walls damaged in fort sieges is really killing the game, so either forts need to be removed (what I did), or artillery capable of damaging the walls
  • removing heavy weather effects is easy improvement (using this mod); most other Total War games before and after let you reroll awful weather, Empire weirdly skips this
  • diplomacy is completely broken, but it's largely fixed by just giving away military access to everyone; maybe even "fixed" too much

These seem fixable:

  • I played with Additional Units Mod, but most of units it adds are pointless variations of existing units, like just another elite Line Infantry with a few points to some stats; a few new units are interesting, but overall I'm not sure this mod helps, and UI is awkward when I can recruit 30 different units but there's really only space for 15
  • I was splitting stacks on campaign all the time to move faster - cavalry, infantry, and artillery have different ranges, and it's mostly just annoying - making them move same speed would save a lot of hassle (and it's very simple mod); interestingly this would also make some exploits a bit harder
  • garrisons are stupidly weak; changing from 2x 80-strong Firelock Armed Citizen to like 5x 160-strong Militia would be a huge improvement. DMUC mod I used to play in the past goes a bit too far for my taste giving them free mortars with crazy range, but it might be for the better
  • naval warfare is miserable, but hard to avoid as economy is so heavily reliant on trade - there are two fixes, either nerf trade, or fix naval battles
  • to fix trade, trade nodes need to get nerfed (I'm not sure where that logic is) while industry needs to be massively buffed
  • arguably industry was supposed to be far more powerful; it would all be 2x more profitable if the port wealth bug (see here) was fixed, as then industrial slots would grow from very poor they start on (1x multiplier) gradually to wealthy (2x multiplier); since I don't think mods can fix it, just massively increasing wealth from higher tier buildings would work (I'm not sure if it's possible to disable that town wealth system)
  • and speaking of economics, after running some numbers, I believe I wasn't playing quite optimally, and optimal tax is upper class on 2, and lower on 3, not both on 3 as is default
  • artillery sandbags are just pure AI nerf and it's best for AI to remove them from the game

I'm not sure if these is fixable:

  • to fix naval combat I think the easiest way would be to make every ship's range the same (easy to mod), and give them far wider firing ranges (not sure how much work it is to mod this) so fighting with multiple ships isn't infinite tedium just to make your guns point at the enemy; this would also seriously reduce cheesiness
  • I couldn't figure out what makes resistance to foreign occupation -30 so often. It's way too much for minors' capitals.

It's not broken as such, but I think land battles would be a lot more interesting with artillery rebalance. Canister shot is just way too powerful, while round shot is stupidly weak.

I think an interesting idea would be removing direct fire artillery from early techs, and mostly replacing it with howitzers, which are stronger at long range, much weaker short range, and mostly a lot less finicky to use, so they'd allow more dynamic battles.

Everyone's morale is also too high, especially on higher difficulty levels, so you need to focus on killing them (with cannister shot) rather than just making them rout (with like cavalry).

Cavalry units could be made a bit bigger (so 160 infantry vs 60 cavalry could be like 160 inf and 80 or 100 cav), as they just don't do enough.

Friday, February 12, 2021

More Empire Total War advanced tips

king of the castle by allenthepostman from flickr (CC-SA)

Last month I wrote Empire Total War advanced tips but then I realized I have a lot more.

How to finance your empire

Empire economics is much more challenging than in earlier games, where you could just loot your way out of anything. And the game doesn't make it intuitive how to do economy well.

Economics of trade ships

The first type of income to consider are trade ships. Each ship costs 600, has upkeep of 50, and produces 17 goods (20 for the first one in each node). Trade goods price start very high, but they'll drop to about 7-10 if countries are actively trading. Game has some sort of supply and demand model, but I don't really understand how it works.

For some assumption I made here, let's say each ship takes 2 turns from being built to reaching its trade node (and you're paying upkeep at this time while getting zero income), extra ships don't affect prices, and there are no war fleet or other costs in maintaining your trade fleet. These are fairly reasonable assumptions most of the time, especially if you eliminate pirates early.

Max number of ships is 20 ships per node in 20 nodes, so 400 trade ships active. It's really easy to grab half the nodes before anyone else figures thing out, so you should have no trouble having space to send your ships to. Or if you're late to node grabbing (let's say playing Russia), you could just grab a few by force.

With all 400 ships, max trade income from trade ships is, their upkeep is 20000, and based on trade prices income is:

  • 7 gold - 48020, net 28020
  • 8 gold - 54880, net 34880
  • 9 gold - 61740, net 41740
  • 10 gold - 68600, net 48600

And newly built ship will fully repay itself in, based on trade price of its goods:

  • 7 gold - 12 turns
  • 8 gold - 10 turns
  • 9 gold - 9 turns
  • 10 gold - 8 turns

This applies to Indianmen and Dhow (which are 100 gold cheaper to buy, but have same upkeep). There are also two hybrid war/trade ships Fluyt and Galleon which will not really even pay for themselves as their upkeep is higher than what they'd be making at typical prices. The game's idea is that you want to mix in a few of such hybrid ships to protect fleet of nearly defenseless Indianmen, but I never found it to be useful - they have low gun range, and low speed, and protecting slow trade ships is hard in the first place.

I found Galleons really hard to fight, as they are a rare ship type which has guns from sides, front, and back, preventing coming close from any angle, and their weird extra dangling mast is very hard to remove, so they keep a bit of mobility (so it's hard to approach diagonally too). They still have low range, so they eventually lose to long range shooting, but battles against Galleons just keep dragging on forever.

Economics of conquest

It might seem there's a more obvious way - conquering land!

Rome 1 and Medieval 2 had easy looting based economy and conquering provinces and looting them was a great source of income. There's no loot in Empire, in fact you need to pay to repair damage you caused.

At least taxes should work right? Unfortunately administrative cost formula is really brutal, getting up to -57% at world conquest (at least it's no longer -80% it was at release).

Let's assume for a moment every province is worth equally much, 2500 total wealth at 40% tax before admin costs (so nice round 1000 income per turn). 40% is 30% from normal tax rate, 9% from max level minor province government building, and 1% from just slightly above average minister.

Here's by how much your income would increaes per turn for your Nth such province, averaged for each range:

  • 1-4 - gain 1000 tax per province, no penalty yet
  • 5-20 - gain 713 tax per province
  • 21-40 - gain 562 tax per province
  • 41-60 - gain 454 tax per province
  • 61-80 - gain 377 tax per province
  • 81-108 - gain 308 tax per province
  • 109-137 - gain 254 tax per province

Conquering provinces worse than your average is going to cost you money rather than make it - penalty to every other province can easily be more than new province's income.

Economics of industry buildings

I mentioned it before but industry investment has terrible ROI. If you got that full 40% base tax, here's how long it would take to repay various buildings:

  • farm 1 (cost 300, wealth +100) - 5 turns
  • farm 2 (cost 500, wealth +50) - 17 turns
  • farm 3 (cost 700, wealth +50) - 23 turns
  • farm 4 (cost 1000, wealth +50) - 33 turns
  • farm 5 (cost 3000, wealth +50) - 100 turns
  • gold mine 1 (cost 1500, wealth +1200) - 2 turns
  • gold mine 2 (cost 3000, wealth +200) - 25 turns
  • gold mine 3 (cost 4500, wealth +200) - 37 turns
  • silver mine 1 (cost 1250, wealth +1000) - 2 turns
  • silver mine 2 (cost 2500, wealth +200) - 21 turns
  • silver mine 3 (cost 4000, wealth +200) - 33 turns
  • iron mine 1 (cost 1000, wealth +700) - 2 turns
  • iron mine 2 (cost 2000, wealth +100) - 33 turns
  • iron mine 3 (cost 3000, wealth +100) - 50 turns
  • textile industry 1 (cost 1000, wealth +300) - 8 turns
  • textile industry 2 (cost 2000, wealth +150) - 33 turns
  • textile industry 3 (cost 4000, wealth +150) - 67 turns
  • textile industry 4 (cost 6000, wealth +150) - 100 turns
  • iron industry 1 (cost 1000, wealth +400) - 6 turns
  • iron industry 2 (cost 2000, wealth +200) - 25 turns
  • iron industry 3 (cost 4000, wealth +200) - 50 turns
  • iron industry 4 (cost 6000, wealth +200) - 75 turns
  • port 1 (cost 1250, wealth +200) - 16 turns
  • port 2 (cost 2500, wealth +100) - 63 turns
  • port 3 (cost 5000, wealth +100) - 125 turns
  • port 4 (cost 10000, wealth +100) - 250 turns

I'm assuming average yield for resources, and very poor wealth for industry - since all newly spawned towns will be very poor and it never changes; while resource tiles all already exist and have about even mix of yields.

And similar figures for other types of buildings. It gets a bit better for better slots. This number also gets a bit better with tech, as there are modest cost discounts and modest wealth increases (increase is shown in city summary, but not in tooltip for individual building, just to confuse you a bit more).

But of course it gets drastically worse with your administrative efficiency - at 15 provinces you'll be losing 1/5, and at 40 provinces you'll be losing 1/3 of that income, so return will be a lot longer.

There are other considerations:

  • high tier buildings cause unhappiness
  • farms are weird are you get unhappiness at level 3 but then it disappears at level 4
  • farms cause population growth which unlocks new building slots, and that's extremely useful - at least as long as there are undeveloped slots left
  • ports are needed to export plantation goods (tooltip in city screen tells you if you need to upgrade), and to trade with more countries - you're not really upgrading them for wealth bonus

So you should always prioritize level 1 buildings, as their returns are great. Farms are worth upgrading up to level 4.

High tier mines and industry are rather questionable. You'll need to build or conquer one of each type to unlock their associated research, but there's really little point in building tier 3-4 industry beyond that.

Industry also generates town wealth every turn, however that is extremely slow process, town wealth reduces itself when taxed, and income from generated town wealth is also affected by the same administrative efficiency as everything else. You get a lot more town wealth from enlightenment technologies anyway.

Economics of plantations and conquest

So far it seems like trade fleets should be your main investment as long as you're small or medium, while conquest and industry have poor returns. Is there anything else?

It turns out there's one more great source of income - plantations, and they don't suffer from any scaling issues.

Average yield tier 3 plantation produces 60 goods (sugar only has extra tier 4 building for 90 goods), at price of 7 you get 420 town wealth and 420 trade income for it. Town wealth suffers from 40% tax and then administrative efficiency, but for trade income you get 100% of it.

So every such plantation gives you 588 gold if you're tiny, and 490 when you're at world conquest stage.

By my count there seem to be 72 plantation slots (including fur slots; fur has slightly different build cost, but works mostly the same) worldwide, giving you another 36000 gold per turn.

Nice thing about them is that they completely change administrative efficiency formula. If we assume each region has on average half a plantation in it, in addition to 1765 non-plantation wealth, your gain will be, once you fully upgrade them:

  • 1-4 - gain 1000 tax+trade per province, no penalty yet
  • 5-20 - gain 773 tax+trade per province
  • 21-40 - gain 654 tax+trade per province
  • 41-60 - gain 568 tax+trade per province
  • 61-80 - gain 508 tax+trade per province
  • 81-108 - gain 453 tax+trade per province
  • 109-137 - gain 404 tax+trade per province

It's much reduced penalty, final province being 38% of your first, rather than 25%. Of course this is only true as long as you have at least one trade partner (which you won't when you finally conquer the world).

Economics of plantations

And of course you should upgarde all your plantations! Assuming 7 cost, 40% base tax, aand -33% admininstrative cost penalty (40 provinces), returns are:

  • plantation 1 - 8 turns
  • plantation 2 - 19 turns
  • plantation 3 - 22 turns
  • plantation 4 - 28 turns

At goods price 10:

  • plantation 1 - 5 turns
  • plantation 2 - 13 turns
  • plantation 3 - 15 turns
  • plantation 4 - 20 turns

20-28 turns from top tier sugar building is crazy better than 100 turns you get from investing in top tier industry building at this country size.

Plantation building costs get lower with technology, but then they get 30% higher once you abolish slavery. Abolition of slavery is fairly late game, and by that time your plantations are likely going to be all upgraded anyway. Even if they're not, it's still much better deal than industry.

One small thing. To get full benefit of plantations you might need to build and upgrade some commercial ports - and on small islands held by the pirates this also means destroying military ports first. If you go to city and mouseover trade goods, tooltip will tell you if you need to upgrade.

Town wealth

Resource towns (mines, farms, plantations, fur traders, and so on) have 5 different resource yield levels, and they never change.

Other towns (factories, schools, inns, ports) have 5 wealth levels from very poor to wealthy.

They are supposed to grow with town wealth, but it is very bugged. Inland provinces grow as they're supposed to, but if there's any port in the province, none of the towns will experience any wealtnh growth.

Port village that didn't emerge yet do not block growth, only after they emerge.

All this is confirmed by a lot of testing. Since most provinces in Empire have a port, people think town wealth just doesn't change period. It's supposed to, and it sort of does.

I think ports slots that are empty or damaged stop blocking town wealth growth, suggesting that destroying ports for a while, and rebuilding them later might be extremely profitable, but this is based on very small sample size.

Demanding surrender

Now for some non-economic tips. When you siege a settlement there's demand surrender button, which lets you take settlement without a fight.

AI will accept it only if you have overwhelming advantage and it's not a capital. Like full stack vs 2 garrison units kind of advantage.

As far as I can tell:

  • it will never accept if it's its capital
  • it does not consider reinforcing troops, so 1 sieging units with 19 unit reinforcement won't make it surrender, even if 20 units sieging would
  • it generally won't surrender if there are any non-garrison troops present - I vaguely recall it is possible, and they then withdraw, but it's been forever since I last had this happen

There's small downside to demanding surrender - AI capital province gets some unrest from war weariness for every battle lost, and that makes it more likely to peace out - but any successful demand for surrender doesn't count for this. So if you want to peace out AI, it might be better to fight (autoresolving at those odds is fine).

Capital switching

If you take faction's capital, but it has more settlements in its home theatre, another one of its settlements becomes its capital.

If you want to take multiple settlements of a faction, and it makes little difference to you otherwise, try to take capital last.

Capital gets extra garrison units, and never accepts demand of surrender, so having non-capitol fight followed by capitol fight is slightly easier than two capitol fights.

High tier royal palaces

Some buildings can only be built in faction's capital. That doesn't mean just its original capital.

One thing you could do is take someone's capital, then wait for them to build top tier royal palace in their new capital, take that and so on. You keep any such buildings on capture.

Those bonuses aren't that big, so I don't think it's really worth the hassle usually, but it's a thing that happens.

Walking through towns

Walking on roads is much faster than walking on open terrain, and if you click somewhere, your troops will follow roads to get there, getting you close to maximum possible speed.

There are however some exceptions to this. Notable if there's a town on a road, your units will not automatically go there - they'll take off-road detour and waste some movement. For friendly or enemy towns, you can go into the town and then continue the road, and usually save about one action point on this. You cannot go into neutral down (allied or if you have military access), so that's always a bit slower.

Walking into enemy town also automatically damages it for no extra movement cost. If you want to minimize this damage, there are ways.

Damage to town buildings by troops

Hostile troops entering a town damages it, unless it was already damaged. This seems to be in proportion to stack size. So if you need to enter a building, but you'd rather not damage it too much (because you plan to conquer that province and will need to pay for repairs), just pick one unit from your stack, move it there, then move the rest of the stack to join it.

In costs zero extra movement to do it this way.

Or you could just walk around and not cause any damage, usually the movement speed difference is tiny.

Damage to city buildings by troops

Much more expensive damage happens when you win a siege - cities, especially 5/6 slot cities, tend to have a lot of expensive buildings which get severely damaged by winning the siege.

Again, as far as I can tell, damage is proportional to number of units in sieging stack - but without counting reinforcements. So if you really want to save some money, just siege the city with one unit, have everyone else stand just behind it. It will make deployment a bit of a hassle, but AI is usually fairly passive while defending, so it won't try to attack you while you're gathering troops.

Nothing you do during the battle has any consequences to building damage, except damage to fort walls (and that drops fps to 0, so even if you play with forts, you should do your best to avoid it).

Damage to buildings by rebels

When workers riot, they damage one of the buildings by about 80%, and if it was an expensive building it will be expensive to repair.

There are ways to optimize this. Rebels seem to only target government building (civilian or military), or building in industry slot (so industry, school, religious school, or tavern). I don't think they ever target anything else like farms, roads, forts, plantations, ports, mines, or military recruitment buildings.

If none of the buildings have relevant kind, nothing get damaged.

If target is already damaged, rebels just damage it a bit extra. If you expect riot after riot, you might want to just not repair it until province is under control. Malta is a good example - the only valid target is government building, which will likely be very expensive royal palace, and it takes forever to get its -30 resistance to foreign occupation down. In the meantime you can have multiple riots trying to damage it. After first such, you don't have to repair it right away, and you'll save tons of money.

If you plan to destroy a building (like extra university in province you don't want one), of course don't repair it - destroy it as normal.

Interestingly, if the building is being upgraded, the upgrade is not cancelled, and once upgraded, it will be repaired for no extra cost. This means you can freely upgrade buildings you conquered from technologically inferior enemy without worrying about first round of riots.

Zones of Control

Every unit has zone of control around it. Land units only on land, naval units only on water.

You can mostly ignore them and just charge at the nearest stack or settlement, but knowing finer point of how zones of control work can be very useful.

You cannot walk through unit's zone of control. If you step into enemy zone of control, they have an option to start battle, in which you'll be the attacker (so any battle timer works against you).

Units with overlapping zones of control will reinforce each other - even if their overlap is tiny. This means one stack in Berlin and one stack in Dresden will reinforce each other in battle - even if that battle is actually on the opposite side of whichever unit that is involved. At least it doesn't chain any further.

Attacking units without reaching them

If you just walk into unit's zone of control, it can start a battle. You can generally predict if AI will do so or not.

If you want fight enemy army, but you also want to go somewhere else, you don't always have to attack the army itself. Just walk a bit into its zone of control, and if they accept the battle, you'll save a lot of movement.

You can even move there with part of your force (even just one unit), and have your main force join battle as reinforcements, at zero movement cost. Reinforcement range is very high, but I recommend saving game before such tricks before you get used to it.

Walking through enemy zone of control

If you're trying to get somewhere and there's small enemy force on the way you want to ignore, you can just step into their zone. If they refuse the battle, you can keep walking to the place you want (like city you want to attack) without their zone counting anymore.

Zones of Control and blockades

If you're attacking a unit, it doesn't get an option to start battle even though you walked into its zone of control. Now this seems like a fairly pointless distinction, but if you're attacking a settlement you can start a siege without actually starting a battle. Likewise, if your ship attacks some ships in port, it will just start a blockade without any battles.

The sieged / blockaded units can sally out on their turn, but by that time we might have done what we wanted. And they cannot attack you while you withdraw.

Units under siege or blockade don't have zones of control. This is extremely useful. Let's say you want to invade Malta, but you have just two Sloops, they have a full stack of 5th Rates in their port, and you really don't want a naval battle. Nothing could be simpler - attack their port with one of your Sloops, this will stack a blockade. Then use another to drop your army. Using "Fast naval landing technique" I described in my previous post you can move army that landed and attack their city on same turn - wiping out the faction also wipes out their navy.

Zones of Control and sieges

You can do something similar with units in cities. Let's say there are 2 full stacks next to each other - one in city, one just outside, and you'd really rather not fight them in one battle, as you only have one stack there.

Simple, just use 1 unit to attack the city, and keep it under siege. Then use your stack to attack the stack outside with your other 19 units (plus the sieging unit will join as reinforcements anyways, so it's 19+1 vs 20 battle!). Units under siege cannot join to reinforce anyone, no matter how tiny the sieging force is.

After that you can have the rest of your units join the siege, and attack in a 20 vs 20 battle. Or withdraw if you're too battered. This is usually far easier than 20 vs 40 battle which can get really messy.

Units that cannot reinforce

Some units cannot reinforce. Most important of those are all fixed artillery - early game that's the only kind you can make (and AI never disbands theirs, so you can often find some even really late), and all natives' artillery. If there are two small AI stacks close to each other, attacking one without fixed artillery lets you wipe out the rest of the units more easily.

All survivors, including that artillery, will then withdraw, usually far away that they can't reinforce any nearby battles. Even if reinforcements were in the settlement.

Another unit type that cannot reinforce are garrison units. Western countries have really awful ones (half-size Firelock Armed Citizenry), but non-Western countries sometimes have units that are at least servicable support for a real army. Especially the full-size melee units, even if they're trash, can charge your artillery or overwhelm your infantry while real enemy army does their job. Pirate Mob is probably the best of all such units.

So imagine the following situation, enemy has:

  • city - 2 Milita, 5 Garrison, 2 Fixed Artillery
  • outside city - 3 Militia

If you attack the city, you face 5 Militia, 5 Garrison, and 2 Fixed Artillery you'll need to approach. It won't be easy.

Or you could attack that other stack, facing just 5 Militia with no support. And after that, face just 5 Garrison.

If your army is like 1 General, 3 Militia, 1 Fixed Artillery, then you can probably win those two separate battles without too much trouble, but it would be quite impressive if you managed to win the big one.

This is mostly very early game technique, but if you're playing with a mod that makes garrisons stronger (and it's not like they can get worse) like Darthmod, it can be useful much longer.

Surviving all cavalry attacks

This is really rare, but if enemy attacks your settlement with just cavalry, you can start timer and cheese the win. If there's any building on the map - and there usually are some - just put your Firelock Armed Citizenry inside and wait it out. Cavalry cannot dismount and get there, so you win by timer.

Similarly if you're on defensive, have infantry superiority, but enemy has a lot of cavalry, and there's no artillery on either side, go inside buildings, and you'll be fine.

It's a rare situation, but I've had it happen to me.

Research and happiness

You will invariably get Common Land Enclosures (-1 lower class happiness) very early, as it unlocks a lot of tech tree.

Mid/late game enlightenment technology Secular Humanism cuts religious unrest by half, which can be huge if you try to conquer Muslim lands, as it will cut -10 into just -5. Most most of the world conquering different flavor of Christianity, it just cuts -2 into -1 or such.

All other techs that claim to affect happiness only actually do anything in provinces with schools in them, and that's going to be tiny fraction of your provinces, and so you really shouldn't worry too much about them.

Notable is Abolition of slavery as it has huge swing of -4 for nobility, 0 for middle class, and +4 for lower class, but this only applies to provinces with schools, and it's modified by government's clamor for reform (-80% for republics, -25% for constitutional monarchies).

So abolishing slavery for constitutional monarchies is just awful (-3 nobility unhappiness for every province with school), for republics it's slightly useful (+0.8 lower class happiness for every province with school), and it's quite useful for absolute monarchies (-4 nobility and +4 lower class happiness for provinces with schools, but nobility happiness is usually so much higher than lower class it's always worth it).

Social Class happiness

Government types mainly differ by happiness of their social classes.

Let's also say that every province gets -2 lower class happiness from industry buildings in it. This is much more varied, but it should give a general idea.

So here's your happiness budget (happiness bonus, repression, and tech bonuses) based on government type. Lower of the number is the important one, so sorted by best to worst for happiness:

  • Constitutional Monarchy: +4 nobility, +4 middle
  • Republic: +4 middle, +2 lower
  • Absolute Monarchy: +7 nobility, +0 lower

Republics also get drastically less unhappiness from schools, while absolute monarchies get the most, but since it's concentrated in a few provinces, it's usually no big deal to manage it.

Ministers and happiness

As a consequence of these happiness numbers, the most important bonus ministers give are traits that change population happiness, it matters far more than their management skill which gives fairly insignificant bonus to various costs.

You should prioritize the following:

  • Absolute Monarchy - lower class only (nobility will always be happy no matter what, it's almost impossible to have unhappy nobility and happy lower class)
  • Republic - mainly lower class, then middle class
  • Constitutional Monarchy: both about equally

Middle class buffs are harder to get, there's a lot more traits that affect nobility or lower class, and often traits give +1 to one and -1 to the other, which is good or bad depending on which class tends to be less happy for you.

For absolute and constitutional monarchies ministers you setup stay there until natural death.

For republics you'll suffer from new government and a few turns of godawful ministers every elections, that is every 8 years / 16 turns. You should really focus on fixing that every time. If you're not confortable with this micro, constitutional monarchy will be best government type for you.

Research overflow

The best way to get ahead with research is by building or capturing more schools, and I don't bother with this micro myself, but it could be useful, especially very early game.

The game shows how many turns it takes to research something, but it's not how it works behind the scenes. It actually adds research points from a school and gentlemen in it to progress bar, and when it's full, the technology is researched. Any excess is lost.

So if technology costs 38 points, but your school generates 17 a turn, you'll do it in 3 turns, and waste 13 points on last turn.

By making a lesser school (lower tier or fewer gentlemen) do those last turns, while your good school does something else, you could reduce that waste, and research faster.

The advantage is farly small, and the game doesn't display information you need to do this micro, so I don't really recommend it as a regular thing.

Research specialization

This one is much easier to pull off. Schools don't get any traits, but gentlement in them can get traits, and researching technology in specific tree (military, industry, enlightenment) is likely to give them traits that gives them more research points of the same kind.

So it makes sense to do most of your military research in one school, most of your industry research in another, and most of your enlightenment research in yet another, instead of mixing it up.

It's a small effect, so you don't have to do it, but it takes very little effort.

Battle AI

It's very useful to know if AI will attack you or stand back in battle. You want AI to leave you alone if you're waiting for reinforcements, and you want AI to come to you if you have nice formation facing it setup.

This seems to be primarily based on two factors:

  • artillery superiority, counting only unlimbered artillery
  • if AI has any troops that can hide anywhere (mostly native American auxiliaries), it will try to stand back and ambush you no matter how much pounding it gets from your artillery

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Ring Fit Adventure is a bad exercise game

Allie with Daylight Only by Picture Zealot from flickr (CC-NC-ND)

I really like exercise games, but Ring Fit Adventure is particularly terrible.

Its primary problem is that it will endlessly show you instructions to do every move, no matter how many times you've seen them before, and there's no way to skip them.

I thought the "Quick Play" option would just let me go straight into minigames, but nope, full length unskippable instructions every time.

In adventure mode, the game has a timer for exercise time. Try using phone's stopwatch in parallel - you'll see dead time caused by instructions and other unskippable bullshit is longer than actual exercise time!

There are some other issues, like it has far too much nonsense with collectibles, really loves to stress your knees instead of muscles, and it recognizes a few moves like hip shaking poorly, but these are really minor compared with the main issue with majority of game time being taken by endlessly repeating unskippable instructions.

Nintendo's old Wii Fit had a lot less of this nonsense.

The best exercise game of all times is of course still Dance Dance Revolution - you can either exercise nonstop, or take like 10s breaks every 2 minutes to select a new song, and that's perfect pace to take a sip of water. You're in the zone all the time.

For some other games I tried, Just Dance for Wii was mostly terrible as it was terrible at recognizing moves.

Watching youtube while on stationary bike is also a reasonable home exercise, even though there's not much game in it.

Overall Switch has been a huge disappointment. Other than Super Mario Odyssey which was legitimately great, all other games were either nothing special (both Pokemon games), or just overhyped thrash (Zelda).

Friday, January 22, 2021

Empire Total War advanced tips

Empire Total War predates popularity of let's plays, game wikis and such, so I don't think these tricks are widely known.

I assume you played some Total War games and know basic game mechanics, and get right to the good stuff.

Where these stand on scale of legitimate gameplay to outright exploit is up to everyone to decide on their own.

I'm aware there are some exploits much more powerful than those (notably cycle selling military access and movement detach exploits), but they take hours of your own time to execute and aren't really any fun.

All these apply to vanilla or lightly modded game (I usually play with Additional Units and No Walls mods). If you're playing a bigger mod like Darthmod, most of these techniques still work, but a few might not.

How to avoid 0 FPS sieges

If you siege a fortified settlement, and make holes in its walls as God intended, it usually triggers pathfinding issues that drop game to 0 FPS, and make it somewhere between extremely frustrating to completely unplayable.

There are two solutions:

If you insist on playing without mods, the easiest way is to use howitzers. Approach diagonally, as fort guns are only places along cardinal directions. Bombard fort with anti-personnel ammo only. Once they softened sufficiently, send in your infantry. This is super easy, and super effective, but really boring, so I recommend mods.

Ship jumping

This works in a lot of strategy games, so no surprise it works here too.

To get army from point A to point B the faster way is by sea, using multiple ships. Here's the technique:

  • get army on a ship (either in port for 0 action points or just jumping from coastline for 1 action point)
  • move that ship in direction you want to go, but don't use all its movement
  • get another ship to this navy (it doesn't matter if old or new ship does the joining)
  • move original ship that used almost all its movement out of the navy
  • now the army is on new ship which hopefully has more movement points
  • repeat for as long as you want

Creating a chain of ships like that can move people from Sweden to Egypt or Guyana to Quebec in one turn, without risking anything happening to your troops on the way.

If your troops land in port, they'll have full movement points no matter how many ship swaps they made. If not...

Fast naval landing basic technique

When you land an army on shore without port, it's supposed to reset their movement to 0.

What game actually does is figure out which unit in your army has the fewest action points left, and subtract that from all units.

For simple example:

  • land army with mix of cav (20 action points left), inf (18 action points left), art (16 action points left) next to an enemy settlement
  • what game really wants to do is reset it to cav (0 action points), inf (0 action points), art (0 action points)
  • but it actually subtracts 16, so it resets their movement to cav (4 action points), inf (2 action points), art (0 action points)
  • select everyone except art, move them a bit towards enemy settlement
  • now that attack enemy settlement
  • leftover art units will join as reinforcements anyway, so your whole stack participates!

I recommend saving game before it until you get used to it, as you only get tiny bit of movement to work with.

If your inf can't reach the settlement, you can try detaching just cav. That means more awkward reinforcement time, but you still get to fight with everyone.

Fast naval landing advanced technique

You can do a lot more than that. Before embarking on the ship, pick one unit in your army, waste most of their action points (walk away from army, then walk back into army), then embark everyone.

  • land army with mix of cav (20 action points left), inf (18 action points left), art (16 action points left), unit that moved (3 action points left)
  • that resets their move tho (17 action points), inf (15 action points), art (13 action points), unit that moved (0 action points left)
  • select everyone except that one unit, and move almost as much as you could normally

Embarking (outside port) and disembarking takes a bit of movement, so don't try to waste all the points (or save game before that until you learn how to do it).

Direction of reinforcements

This is true in all Total War games, but game never explicitly says so, so many players are unaware. As a general rule, reinforcements show in the battle from same direction as they are on campaign map - relative to direction of attack.

So if your reinforcing army stands behind you, they'll reinforce from behind. If they stand on the left, they'll reinforce from the left. If they stand opposite of the enemy, they will show up behind the enemy.

University spamming

In most games tech progression is pretty very limited, but Empire has no such limits. If you have 2 universities you'll research 2 times faster. If you have 10, you'll research 10 times faster.

There's no reason not to get a lot of them fast - either by conquest or building them. Opportunity cost of a few building slots to get crazy tech advantage is very low.

Universities cause unhappiness. If you're a republic (Netherlands is the only republic major at start of the game; you can flip into republic as someone else too), this is reduced by 80% so you can build them pretty much wherever.

If you want to stay absolute or constitutional monarchy, to completely avoid problems you should really only build 1 university per province, and only in 5 slot provinces (as it has some slots for happiness buildings). Building 2 universities in our home province, or building 1 in 2-slot province without too much religious unrest can lead to minor unrest issues, but it shouldn't be too bad.

You're going to capture some universities, and if they're in location where you don't want them, just tear them down, it doesn't costs much time or money to exchange one building for another.

You must keep university in your home province as that's the only one you can upgrade to tier 4, and you need one of those to unlock final enlightenment technologies.

Technology priorities

Empire lets you race like crazy with technology, but it matters fairly little. Only two technologies are game changing - Canister Shot and Fire By Rank.

You should always get Canister Shot as your first tech no matter what. After that it makes sense to do infantry techs (different Bayonettes, Square Formation), as they provide nice bonuses themselves, and lead you to the ever important Fire By Rank.

Carbines unlock Dragoons which are nice for rebel suppression, but cavalry techs are basically worthless as their fancy formations aren't useful at all.

Artillery techs beyond Canister Shot aren't very useful.

Navy techs are basically worthless.

Farm techs are nice as they speed up your population growth, which gives you more building slots. Farm buildings are always worth upgrading. For wheat farms, level 3 has -1 lower class unrest, but then it disappears at level 4 (level 5 is expensive and pointless). Weirdly wine farms never get rid of unrest, and rice farms never get any unrest. I don't really get the logic.

Industry techs are low priority, as their bonuses are low, and high tier industry buildings have terrible return on investment.

Enlightenment techs give you a lot of unrest from universities. It doesn't apply to provinces without universities, so it's usually no big deal. As exchange you get higher research rate and small some town wealth bonuses. High tier enlightenment techs (Secular Humanism, Abolition of Slavery) offer big unrest reduction for all that trouble.

Building priorities

Low tier buildings have excellent return on investment, high tier buildings are terrible.

For example level 1 weavers gives 600 town wealth for 1000 cost. Level 2 gives 300 more wealth for 2000 cost (4x worse). Level 3 is 300 more wealth for 4000 cost (8x worse) and -1 lower class unhappiness. Level 4 is 300 more for 6000 cost (12x worse) and another -1 lower class unhappiness. (or different number depending on town wealth; but ratio is alwasy the same)

Mines scale even wore than that.

So basically you should always build low tier economic buildings before doing any upgrades.

You can do a lot of micro to optimize your income, but that's not where most of the money is going to be coming from.

Buildings to just destroy

Wrong religion religious buildings should be destroyed immediately. Any universities you don't want (generally those in bad religion 2 slot province; unless you're a republic and don't care) destroy as well.

Any fishing ports need to be destroyed and replaced by trading ports. Game has far too many dockyards, and you're best off replacing half of them by trading ports as well.

Build up rice farms up to the max (no unrest).

Build up wheat farms up to level 4 (level 3 gives unrest, which level 4 removes; level 5 is just too expensive).

Wine farms up to level 2 (level 3 gives unrest).

Level 1-2 roads are worth it as they're cheap and give armies nice movement bonus too. Level 3 might be a bit much.

Destroy any happiness buildings, especially in wealthy slots, once province is fully under control. They're worth keeping for a while in newly conquered lands as they mean fewer turns of babysitting unrest. If you're a monarchy you might want to keep some in university provinces indefinitely.

Religious unrest

This is an aside, but religious unrest in Empire Total War works on complex table of who hates whom how much.

A tl;dr of religious relations table is:

  • everyone else hates Animist (New World Natives) government
  • Muslim peasants absolutely hate everyone else
  • Hindus/Sikhs moderately dislike everyone else (including each other), but to lesser degree than Muslims
  • everyone else mostly gets along

There's a second interesting fact is that speed of religious conversion by missionaries and religious schools is slower in high population provinces.

Taken together these mean that if you play European Christians:

  • converting Muslims - medium population, high unrest - good ROI
  • converting India - high population, medium unrest - medium ROI
  • converting New World - low population, low unrest - medium ROI
  • converting other Europeans - high population, low unrest - very low ROI

If you play Hindu, you should prioritize converting Muslims (and Sikhs) over Christians and Buddhists.

If you play Muslim, you should prioritize converting Hindus (and Sikhs) over Christians and Buddhists.

If you play Animist there are different mechanics for it anyway.

How to get good income

Game gives you 3000 income for free (unless you use mod to play minor power, they get less)

Beyond that you get tax and trade income.

Tax income suffers from administrative costs depending solely on number of provinces you hold. It quickly escalates and at mere 10 provinces you'll already suffer -14% penalty, but then grows more slowly. By the time you conquer the world and its 137 provinces you'll be at nearly -57%. Conquering poor land might very well end up losing you money. (here's the formula)

Trade is a much bigger money maker.

For trade income you need trade goods and at least one trade partner with unblocked access. You get extra money from more partners, or from wealthier trade partners, but it's not actually that much.

To get trade goods you can build plantations, but most of all you can spam cheap trade ships, and put as many of them into all 20 trade nodes as you can. Fancier trade ships Spain and Netherlands can build are not actually worth it, they won't even pay for themselves and aren't even particularly good at fighting.

If you keep your wars low and get rid of pirates, you might be able to leave your trade ships largely undefended. If one of 4 trade areas is too contested, just move your trade ships elsewhere.

Choosing trade partners

Let's say you have massive pile of trade goods coming from your trade ships and your colonies.

Now you need some trade partners.

To maximize money you could trade with everyone you can, however many trade slots are allowed. This is however highly risky - if their ports are blockaded due to their wars, then that proportion of your trade is completely lost, it doesn't get rerouted to your other trade parters!

So Mughals are a terrible trade partner, they'll get their ports blockaded in a few turns pretty much every game.

Best trade partners are actually one province minors you neighbor, or even better your protectorates. If you trade by road, it cannot get blockaded, and they can take all your goods no matter how many you produce.

Other fairly safe partners are Marathas (who have naval superiority in India) and Britain (who has naval superiority around itself).

Destroying Pirates early

Naval combat is a huge hassle, and even as inland power fighting other inland powers you pretty much need trade ships for meaningful income.

Fortunately there's a way. Pirates have only 2 tiny islands you can land on and destroy in first few turns of the game. Trinidad & Tobago is barely defended (2 Pirate Mob garrison). Their capital at Leeward Islands has some defenses (7 Pirate Mob garrison, depending on difficulty I think). Destorying them removes all their fleets.

If you have any presence in New World, you should probably just do it. Otherwise they'll keep harassing your trade ships in all 4 trade areas.

If France gets destroyed in Europe, their Carribean island joins Pirates as well.

Destroying European Colonial Empires the easy way

European powers have very impressive empires, but if they lose their European possessions, all their colonial regions instantly rebel. This applies to:

  • Portugal - 1 home region
  • Nethterlands - 1 home region
  • France - 2 home region
  • Great Britain - 3 home regions
  • Spain - 6 home regions

I'm actually not sure what happens to Persia if you take all their provinces except Afghanistan (which is technically in India theater). Or to non-European powers with wrong-theater holdings.

Army Use

This is true in all Total War games. Armies are stupidly expensive to upkeep, but very cheap to recruit. The ratio is typically about between 3:1 and 4:1.

So having army do nothing for 3-4 turns costs as much as losing the whole army and recruiting it from scratch.

That's why it pays to aggressively use your armies all the time. Massive losses are no big deal at all!

Expansion strategy

A followup to this is that your armies should always be doing something useful, and as much as possible that something should be conquering new territory.

As much as possible, try to face just one enemy at a time. Fighting two enemies is much worse.

But what's even worse than that is fighting one enemy while your second army just guards border with the other and collects upkeep.

For example - if you play Poland, your early enemies will be Prussia, Austria, and Sweden (who will attack one of your allies). One easy strategy is to ignore Sweden as they're too far and likely won't do much damage, ignore Austria as they're too big to rush, and focus all your troops on destroying Prussia as fast as you can. If you do that, you only have Austria as active enemy. Even if you temporarily lose a province or two, eliminating Prussia is absolutely worth it.

Army Composition

Once you get Canister Shot, artillery becomes stupidly good, so best army composition is something like 10 Line Infantry, 6 Artillery, 4 Cavalry.

Pikemen and such melee infantry are trash.

Militia units are trash - initially they're actually worse Line Infantry for a bit less money, but Line Infantry gets upgrade after upgrade and Militia sees none of that.

One Attacker Per Battle

In a land battles it's easy to be on defensive or on attack, but the worst option is for both sides to advance at the same time.

It's usually very easy to predict if AI will attack or not. It mostly checks who has artillery superiority, and ignores artillery that's not ready to shoot.

So if you want AI to leave you alone for now (usually because you want reinforcements to come), just keep all your artillery limbered. The moment you unlimber even one they'll start moving.

Artillery is stupidly good, so you'll generally have artillery superiority and will be able to enjoy the defensive.

If you're advancing (usually because nobody has any artillery), pick best direction, form lines, and advance with whole line in good order.

AI Artillery

AI often keeps its starting fixed artillery for far too long. You can ignore it, deploy a bit back, and they'll just sit there out of range the whole fight.

Even more interesting is that in Empire units can deploy entrechments, but artillery entrechments are ridiculously terrible. They not only stop artillery from moving, they also stop it from rotating. So just walk around and they whole artillery will sit out the whole battle pointing in wrong direction.

AI artillery crews are somehow so frustrated they abandon their guns and run towards your army with kitchen knives. But mostly they just sit there.

Unit Range Logic

Game shows unit ranges, but if even 1 soldier in your unit can see even 1 soldier in their unit, then everyone can see everyone else. This makes range actually a lot bigger than it appears.

Targetting Ground

In addition to targetting units, you can also target ground. This isn't necessary to play the game, but it can greatly improve your artillery skills.

If you target unit, artillery seems to target its side not center, and that's rarely what you want.

You can target between two units to get cannister shot exactly the right place, you can target in front of moving unit to get more accurate shot, you can target place where you know or suspect hidden units are.

However, the most inteteresting kind of targetting is targetting beyond artillery's range. Artilery shots going beyond range cannot kill humans, but they can still damage buildings and enemy artillery pieces.

Shooting out of range against forts would be great, if it wasn't for 0 FPS bug if you actually do that.

Shooting out of range against enemy artillery lets you gain artillery superiority regardless of how few guns you have. In principle if AI has 20 guns and you have 8, they'll just stand there waiting for you to attack. You can stand from outside range, target land next to their guns, max speed, and in suitably long time minutes you destroy enough of their guns with no losses (but none of their crews) that enemy will abandon its lines and attack you.

This takes very long time, but you don't actually need to do anything in that time, you can just leave the game running.

A less extreme version of this is just having your artillery target theirs while AI is running around trying to form line. In 10 minutes its going to take anyway, you'll kill some guns. Otherwise your artillery would stand there doing nothing.

Canniter Shot Line Formation

A super easy way formation is mixing infantry and artillery in a line. There's many combination, like 1-2 artillery units, separated by 1-3 infantry units.

Some examples, they work approximately equally well:


It's about the strongest defensive formation in game. Anyone who approaches wanting to get into a shootout will die to canister shots from both side.

Before enemy gets in range, you can switch artillery to round shot to obliterate their cavalry or just let them shoot whoever.

If they try to charge you frontally, you might need to counter-charge your line infantry to protect your artillery. If you get charged on the side, use Square Formation - this magically gives units big melee bonus even if they're not actually in formation.

This kind of army should be augmented by a few units of cavalry, mostly to cleanup routed enemy units. That cavalry should generally start the battle behind the line as reserves on both sides. So total would be something like 10 Line Infantry, 6 12-pound Foot Artillery, 1 General, 3 any Cavalry.

This formation is quite flexible. Early game you can use your starting fixed artillery and militia.

It has some weaknesses. Enemy with too much melee infantry will just charge you and ignore your firepower. Your line can stand firm or slowly move forward, but it's bad at quickly changing direction it's facing. If enemy attacks from the side, your other side will have hard time reinforcing (so your cavalry reserves can help).

There's some depth to this formation, especially after battle starts, but it's easy to learn.

For expected peformance (on hard/hard) against equally sized enemy army, you should typically be able to inflict about 5x the casualties you receive.

Having artillery stand separately on a hill behind the lines like the game implies you might want to, is a terrible formation. Canister shot is just stupidly effective, and round shot is just far too weak, expecially from longer distance.

No Artillery Combat

If you have no artillery and you have infantry vs infantry fight, your main objective is to have more of your guys shooting than their guys.

Only soldiers in front row shoot (until you have Fire By Rank tech) so just going wide is perfectly fine. One unit deployed wide will beat one unit deployed narrowly every time. If you can have multiple units shoot at one enemy unit, that's even better.

Your infantry is primarily for shooting, but it's perfectly decent at melee, and if you think you can break enemy unit by attacking from multiple sides, that's much more effective than prolonger shooting. Routing a few enemy units suddenly means your remaining units now outnumber your enemy!

On higher difficulties AI gets modest bonuses to shooting ability, but relatively high bonuses to morale. So breaking enemy morale works great on normal, but on higher difficulties canister shot to just kill them is king.

Cavalry in Empire is weak and will not win in prolonger mele. It gets even weaker on higher difficulties as enemy morale is higher. Cavalry is still amazing at eliminating routing units. They're OK as a reserve to quickly reinforce part of your line that's doing poorly.

To counter enemy cavalry charge, pressing Square Formation is stupidly effective - even if you press it after getting charged, as it works by magic, not by formation.

Empire land battles are reasonable balanced. Getting 5:1 casualties ratio in even battle is doable, but defeating a force twice your size would be a big struggle (unless AI derps).

Naval? Not even close. One Sloop vs full stack of 20 best ships (like 100:1 by cost) is trivial if you have enough patience or are willing to press magic win button.

So here are some basic facts the game won't tell you about:

  • AI never uses anything except regular shot
  • chainshot destroys enemy masts and so immobilizes enemy ships
  • every ship type has dead zones - it can be back or front or both; also diagonals but that's more fiddly
  • if enemy ship is immobile you can approach it quite close from certain angles and damage them with round shot until they surrender; or come even closer and grape shot their crew to death
  • expensive ships are resistant against hull damage (round shot), but not against mast damage (chain shot), or crew damage (grape shot)
  • cheap ships have range 500 guns, expensive ships have range 400 guns, so cheap ships can always outrange expensive ships
  • cheap ships are much faster than big ships
  • ships with even slightly damaged masts massively lose max speed
  • chain shot does drastically more damage if shot at ship sailing directly with wind

So the tactic is to position yourself so that wind goes from them to you, and zigzag away from them while shooting chainshot left then right at whoever's chasing you closest. Whenever you damage ship's masts they'll start falling behind, and another enemy ship will pursue you instead.

Soon enough, all enemy ships will have severely damaged masts - and will be far away from each other. You can stop running away, move into their dead zone, and fire at them with round shot or grape shot to make them rout or surrender.

Expensive big slow ships with 400 range guns are no frontal guns are a joke to your one Sloop navy.

This strategy can be executed by Sloops, Brigs, Sixth Rates, and Fifth Rates Doing it with 2-3 ships, or with ships that have more firepower is reasonable alternative to One Sloop Navy, but it's much harder to zigzag them, so you're not actually saving that much real time - your bigger ships will also have harder time early on while enemy still has light ships with full mobility, but they have easier time later in the battle.

Never get any ships bigger than a Fifth Rate, as you lose range - Fourth Rate and bigger ships are absolutely worthless floating garbage.

Slow low range ships like Indianmen will mostly mess things out for you, so don't include them in the battle.

This strategy has a few risks:

  • this strategy is basically perfect if executed exactly, but you need to be quite patient and quite careful, especially early in the battle
  • enemy fast ships with 500 range guns need some extra caution, especially early on before you damage their masts
  • ships with front facing guns need some extra caution
  • enemy light galleys and galleys are surprisingly hard to deal with, as they have huge front facing guns, you can't mobility kill them as they use oars (you'll still slow them down), and they're small and difficult to hit
  • if you reach edge of the map, you can get trapped and unable to keep your distance, so turn around well before that happens
  • if you touch the red edge of the map, you can also get stuck there by a game bug
  • routing armies rarely recover when pursued, but routing ships will routinely do that as you're not dealing any damage to them when you chase them - this means chasing a ship that's running away has high risk of them recovering, and just turning their guns on you as you got too close
  • if you get too close, even to enemy dead zone, their marines can still fire their muskets in every direction
  • your admiral can sometimes suicide in the battle due to glitch, even with enemy nowhere close to you; or some other stray event can cause morale hit

The opposite end of the spectrum is to have a lot of heavy ships, run as close to enemy, and keep roundshoting them until they sink or die.

This is also extremely tedious, and I found it basically impossible to play this other than on half speed or constantly pausing. Your ships won't even turn to shoot their guns, and there's no easy indicator where they are.

The upside of this build is that you can win by autoresolve. Empire autoresolve is stupidly biased against the player, and will somehow lose you what should be a 5:1 zero loss massacre, so always save before autoresolving. They only fixed it in Rome 2 (and went too far the other way, but it's still far far better than old style autoresolve).

Keyboard Shortcuts

I strongly advise rebinding "cancel order" to TAB to make naval combat a bit more bearable - you'll be doing it all the time, and getting your hand all the way to press backspace or moving your mouse to anchor doubles the tedium.

Battle Timer

At any time you can change your timer settings between 20, 40, 60, and unlimited.

Empire battles are slow, so I normally keep it unlimited. This doesn't mean battles will last over an hour, most battles have long periods of early artillery skirmish or moving into formation phase you'll play at high speed. Actualy fight is usually at reasonable pace.

If timer runs out the battle doesn't end in a draw as you'd expect - instead attacker loses, and somehow loses with massive additional casualties.

This is maybe too cheesy, but absolutely best way to win naval battles is:

  • be defender
  • set time limit to 20 minutes
  • do chainshot zigzag or whatever, just keep your distance and don't lose your ships
  • timer runs out, enemy autoloses and usually it sinks half their ships
  • remember to change it back before your next battle (those settings are in save file not in game settings iirc, so if you reload you might need to change it again)

This can sort of work even with a fleet of Indianmen attacked by a real fleet - you might lose some, but they won't sink them all in 20 minutes so your trade fleet sinks a lot more of their ships instead.

This is really cheesy, but it's a thing.

Technology Stealing Trading

If you know what you're doing, you will have more universities than any AI, so you can always outtech them, but you can supplement this with technology stealing and trading.

Your gentlemen can either help research tech, or steal tech. Stealing tech is random, but it has technically much higher expected value. They can also duel, but that's pointless other than getting an achievement for it.

Technology trading is much more interesting. Early game, before everyone hates you, and before you trade techs too much, you should be able to buy 1 tech for 2 or 3, or for some petty cash.

I'd advise against selling Cannister Shot and any infantry tech. Industry tech unlocking new buildings can be good for AI, as it often has nothing to spend its money on, but that makes them upgrade their buildings faster, and you'll then conquer better lands.

For some reason save game remembers how many times you traded each tech. I suspect that's the primary reason why early game 2-for-1 trades become 6-for-1 trades by mid game. AI just values something less if you sold it a bunch of times already, but I don't know the formula.


If you ever played Empire you'll see how happy AI is to declare war on you. All your neighbours will attack you. Most of your allies will backstab you. If you have a coastline, Great Britain will declare war and drop a full stack on you too. White peacing out anyone is basically impossible - and conquering one country just means you got new neighbours who will attack you in turn.

Especially if you play on hard or very hard, it gets really frustrating.

If you play vanilla and expand at all, AI will all hate you for it with big diplomatic penalties. You can use a mod to make those penalties more reasonable (I even decoded those diplomatic tables back in the day, trying to fix it), but this has far less impact on AI behavior than we expected.

Fortunately there are ways to help it a bit.


AI usually defends its allies against attack, except when that ally is the player.

Call to arms always happen defensively. You can decide to call your allies into an attack - but generally they'll refuse, and I don't think AI uses this function much. Allies cannot be called into preexistent wars, so making allies with someone already at war is fine.

Alliances in Empire do not chain. If Spain is allied with France and Genoa, and you want to fight Spain without also fighting Spain, declaring on Genoa usually works. Of course the downside is bringing in any other of Genoa's allies instead.

Protectorates act like one-sided alliances. Saxony is protectorate of Poland. Attacking Poland will not bring Saxony into it. Attacking Saxony will bring Poland, but none of Polish allies. Protectorates don't normally have any allies, so any country with protectorates (like Poland, France, Spain, Great Britain, Ottomans) is very easy game.

Some countries like Austria are guaranteed to get into tons of wars, so if you start allied with them, just break that, otherwise you'll be in a bunch of extra wars for no value.

Your AI allies will not be very useful, but alliance somewhat discourages them from attacking you.

Bribing AI for White Peace

If you want to have fewer wars, AI will not take white peace unless it's severely beaten. The easy way is to pay AI to go away. And the best payment is tech. You'll be far ahead in tech, so paying someone a few techs to go away after you took some of their land is usually a great idea.

There's little downside to that, other than game counting how many times you traded techs. Try not to trade important military techs this way.

Giving Away Military Access

This is pretty much an AI bug, but for some crazy reason if AI has indefinite military access to your lands, it massively reduces its bloodthirstiness. It's not absolute safety, and you can still be attacked, but the chance is drastically reduced.

So turn one give way military access to every great power and every neighbour except those you want to fight soon. Your whole campaign will be so much easier.

You can even get a bit of cash for it, at least early game, but it's not really worth much.

At any time you can cancel military access and give it again - if you don't like where AI troops went. This bounces any AI army back to the border, and they don't mind one bit.

Population Happiness

Empire has 3 classes (upper, middle, lower), but for each government one is irrelevant.

Lower class is the hardest to please, especially late game once industry seriously develops. This makes Republics (which have big lower class bonuses), and Constitutional Monarchies (which just plain don't have lower class) easier to play.

It's a bit of micro, but you should generally really prioritize getting governent ministers with bonuses to lower class happiness. +1 lower class happiness is usually worth more than some management stars.

Microing happiness is more important to your Empire gameplay than microing economy or army composition.

Stages of Unrest

If either class has below 0 happiness, you'll get unrest.

Unrest has 3 phases:

  • strike - it is just a warning, nothing bad actually happens
  • riot - some building gets seriously damaged
  • rebellion - a snack of about 6 rebel units spawns

Ticking off taxes (at normal rate), gives +4 happiness. If unrest is -1 to -4, you can just tick taxes back and forth every other turn. This will make province pay their taxes half the time, but have zero actual negative effect of unrest - which is strictly better than them paying zero taxes.

The game notifies you which provinces are in which state when turn starts, but there's no way to check it later, so you should write it down if you want to micro it.


Taking enemy capital gives -30 unrest from resistance to foreign occupation, gradually reducing by 1 a turn. This means you can get stuck babysitting for very long time.

It's quite rare to get serious unrest in provinces with no resistance to foreign occupation. If you're playing well, all other modifiers rarely stack high enough to make a province go negative.

You can improve happiness by thingl like:

  • repairing government and happiness buildings (they're damaged when you take settlement, and that can be even +8 happiness for enemy capital)
  • destroying infidel religious buildings, and setting up your own to convert population and add happiness (especially outside Europe)
  • getting good ministers
  • optionally destroying universities to remove Clamor for Reform
  • not doing any upgrades which would give unhappiness due to industry until everything is in order
  • stationing troops in city itself (elsewhere in province won't count)
  • disabling taxes
  • defeating rebels

Never disable taxes unless it removes unhappiness. Untaxed -10 or taxed -6 unhappiness has exact same results, except you won't be making any money.

There's pretty much no way around it, and you'll often need to babysit conquered capital for a while.

Having whole 20 unit army there is usually a bad idea - it will cost you ridiculous amount of money. Rebel stacks are usually around 6 units, so a half stack can handle them perfectly fine. You can even autoresolve rebels most of the time.

Some unis like Dragoons have bonus to happiness from garrisoning, and other units like Militia are just much cheaper than your army. If you need to long term garrison some place, use units like that, not real troops.

Defeating rebels gives non stacking +6 happiness, but it deteriorates by one a turn. So -20 resistance and +6 crackdown will tick down together over next six turns to -14 resistance and +0 crackdown. Happiness will not improve at all during that time.

Population unrest will be a limiting factor in your expansion a lot, and there are no big tricks, just a lot of small tricks, so learning how to best deal with it is well worth your time.

If rebels take any province that's not your original capital, they'll either make it join another country, or become independent country, or become rebel-held province.

Government Types

If rebels take your original capital, they can change your government type.

You should absolutely use it to change it intentionally. The only way it can change is absolute monarchy to republic, republic to constitutional monarchy, or constitutional monarchy to absolute monarchy.

I'm not completely sure if republics or constitutional monarchies are better (probably constitutional monarchies, but not by a huge margin), but either is far superior to absolute monarchies, especially late game.

I don't think I ever did constitutional monarchy to absolute monarchy change, as it's pretty much the worst government type.

Changing Government Type

To change government type you need your capital to rebel. To do that, max out taxes in your home theater. You'd probably prefer your other provinces to not rebel, so as soon as they strike disable their taxes for a turn, that generally works.

To have a super easy revolution, move all your armies out of you home region, so rebels can walk in unopposed. You can even keep the rebel stack, but it's often trash, so you might want to disband it other than the general.

This will make most countries massively hate you. This is pretty much a bug, but if you flip republic, all monarchies hate you (so far so good). But if they then flip into republics as well - that does not remove those diplomatic penalties.

Debug Camera

One last trick - Empire has 2 camera modes, but you can enable "debug camera" which can go as high as you want over the battlefield by editing preference file.

The problem with this is that if you change any settings at all, it will go back to regular camera. Even changing music volume does that.

One thing that somehow doesn't break debug camera is changing battle time limit, as that's per-save not per-game setting.

How bad was Empire anyway?

Like most people, I was mostly disappointed by Empire, but after playing some Rome 2, I think we might have all judged Empire a bit too harshly.

Empire had a lot of issues, but it was still the most ambitious Total War game ever, on new engine and that invariably had to suffer from new engine issues. Rome 2 on the other hand, had none of such excuses, could have just followed a well established formula, and somehow still managed to be worse than that.