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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.

I also wrote followup post with more tips.

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.


niisan said...

25% tax and 4 towns
4x tw600 c4x1000
= tw2400 c4000 =600 income
in 7 turns you have paid back the cost of upgrading 4 towns

4x tw900 c4x3000
= tw3600 c12000 =900 income
in 14 turns you paid back the cost of double upgrades BUT considering the 2nd upgrade takes 4 turns to complete, you have a 600 income during the build process wich means you can substract 2400 from the cost making it turn 11 in wich you have paid back the cost of upgrade 2.

in cases where you have a higher tier government building or higher tax settings that enable 33.3% tax:
33.3% amd 3 towns
3x tw600 c3x1000
= tw1800 c3000 = 600 income
meaning you pay back the cost in only 5 turns
3x tw900 c3x3000
= tw2700 c9000 = 900 income
meaning you pay back the cost in 10 turns
but same as last time, the 4 turns you spend waiting on upgrade 2 you are making 1800 income with 3 lvl1 towns wich knocks 2 turns of the time needed to pay back the upgrades.
so in only 8 turns you have earned upgrades 1 and 2.

so with 4 towns and 25% or 3 towns and 33.3%

the return of your investment from lvl 1 to lvl 2 is nowhere near 4x as bad because of the taxpercentage and the existing income from the prerequisite lvl 1 building added to the income from lvl 2.

the return is twice as bad in 25% 4 towns for lvl 2
and even less bad with 3 towns and 33.3% tax.
Not 4x as bad like you said.

this isnt easy numbers or quick maths, its economics.

Also, the part where you talk about unlocking extra building slots when you grow the population.... you mean new towns emerging? because every capitol is limited to the amount of building slots the game begins with in 1700.

The wrong religion building should be destroyed immediately is a question mark for me... if the whole population is catholic, and there are 4 chatolic top tier churches, thats + 16 hapiness for lower class is it not?
then destorying those 4 buildings gives you -16 happiness right on top of the changing government, religious unrest etc etc.

isnt it better in the case of say france with 4 churches to wait a few turns, change them 1 by 1 to other buildings in about 10-12 turns time?

taw said...

I'm not counting existing lvl1 building in this, as it would exist either way.

The way I see this is something like this:

- lvl1 building (cost 1000, income 200)
- lvl2 to lvl1 upgrade (additional cost 2000, additional income 100)

These are separate buildings. If you're thinking about lvl2 as a single thing to build, then it will have ROI between the two, but that seems like a weird way.

IIRC religious buildings of a different religion don't provide any happiness benefits to you, but it's been a while since I last checked. The tooltip is unclear about it, iirc it doesn't care about population religion at all, just that building religion matches government religion, then you get full bonus, otherwise none.

In any case, it's best to just accept that capitals will rebel once or twice, and do everything upfront. Unlike later Total War games, in Empire it doesn't matter if they're at -5 or -50 unhappiness, it's best to just get it over with asap. Dragging it longer means more rebellions. It's way better if they're at -20 for 10 turns than -10 for 20 turns.

If you want to overcome unhappiness asap, in Christian provinces destroying schools and churches and building inns is best way in similar religion provinces (Christian vs Christian intolerance is low, so conversion wouldn't matter much, and inns provide more raw happiness). As Christian, if you take Muslims country, you're better off building churches than inns, as wrong religion penalties are much bigger.

In either case, doing in asap is better than dragging it on.

Anonymous said...

Man, thanks so much for this. This is the type of stuff I look for as a relatively new player of the franchise. Most everything else you find online is basic.