Just a quick guide with some of the most important basics and best strategies to conquer the world!
Guide to Basics (Free Play Mode)
The start of each game is often the hardest part, and depends greatly on your starting kingdom. I could give you some mumbo-jumbo about how every starting kingdom has its own advantages and disadvantages, but let's not fool each other and just admit that it's easier to start with a large kingdom. If you're still new to the game, start with Byzantine or Great Seljuk. If you're looking for a challenge start with Portugal or Knights Hospittaler.
As soon as you start the game you will be visited by some 'suspicious strangers from the East'. Although their name suggests otherwise they are actually very nice. They present 8 different gifts, you can choose 3. I'd suggest to always get the Research Points and the Special Troops first. Then pick whatever is left (preferably gold).
Next, spend your Research Points on Wine/Shisha Production, Switch Row 1&2 and Host Travelers. You should have 10 points left. Make sure to accommodate Italian, Arabian and Eastern Merchants as soon as possible! At the start of the game they will be your main source of materials and gold. Each turn let one general catalogue books (at least until you have all three merchants), let one general make wine/shisha (if necessary) and use your remaining general(s) to flip coins at the monastery/mosque or fight ruffians at the inn.
As soon as you have generated some money and resources, start upgrading your troops to level 2 and (if possible) 3. Keep in mind that it's better to have two strong generals than four mediocre ones. When you have at least two generals that are fit for battle (at least 3 troops each, level 2 or higher) pick your weakest neighbor and declare war on him. You can check another kingdom's troops by clicking one of their cities. It's recommended to attack kingdoms with a different religion first, to keep your religious leader happy at the start of the game.
The most important characters of this game are your generals. Each general gives you an action each turn, so make sure you hire as many as you can. You start the game with 3 generals. As your empire grows you will be able to hire up to 7 generals and the Research tree allows you to hire an additional 3 generals, which brings the max total to 10. When hiring a new general, keep the following things in mind:
Level and specialty
A general's level decides how many troops and carrier pigeons he can use. Each level adds an extra troop (up to 5 max) but also extra monthly costs. Specialty (Infantry, Cavalry, Archery) gives troops of that type extra experience. More important, generals can only use level 4 (green) and 5 (blue) troops of their own specialty. A general with the Archery specialization for example won't be able to use Knights (level 5 cavalry) but can use Greek Grenadiers (level 4 archery).
Skills and division of labor
A general has a skill (sometimes two) that's displayed right below the specialty class. Even though these are not as important as the level and specialty, they might still come in handy. Some of my personal favorites are the extra diamond from ruffians, discount on siege weapons and free wall repair. As you get more generals it might be a good idea to divide their tasks. You could use a general with siege weapon discount to attack cities, use a general with free wall repair to do all wall repairs and use a general with the Prayers Answered skill to light the monastery candles. Keep these skills in mind whenever you hire a new general and also adjust their troops to suit their role. More on that below.
Some additional tips
- If you really need a new general but can't find one with your desired skill or specialty, just hire another one instead. It is quite easy to fire them and hire another one later in the game.
- Whenever you conquer another kingdom's capitol you will automatically capture its generals (except those with the Lucky Duck skill). You will then get the option to hire or release them. Note that one or two of their strongest troops may still be under their command!
- Keep in mind that each general also has his (or her) own religion. If that religion is different from your kingdom's religion the general won't be able to light a candle and might be targeted in the Religious Council (although that barely ever happens).
Attack & Defense
The composition of a general's troops and their use in battle is up to everyone's own preferences. It is recommended to experiment a bit yourself to find out what strategy works best for you. Here are just some recommendations that I found to work really well:
Attack cities with fire!
At the start of a game you won't have the luxury to build great armies yet. So just look for the weakest kingdom and attack multiple times until their defenses break. I'd recommend [infantry, infantry, archers] or [infantry, infantry, cavalry, archers] if your general is level 3.
Later in the game, as you get more resources and you are able to upgrade troops to level 4 (green), make sure you have two generals with the archery specialty. Give them the following troops:
- Shielded Spearman (lvl 3).
- Shielded Spearman (lvl 3).
- Fire Archer or Greek Grenadier (lvl4).
- Fire Archer (lvl4).
Trust me, this thing works like a tank! The shielded spearmen are there for defensive reasons, so give them medals like Melee Defense and Charge Defense. The archers deal massive damage with fire to both the enemy troops and walls, give them medals like Bow Defense and Reinforcements. Bow Attack is not recommended, this will only increase their weak Arced Shot damage.
If done right, this will let you conquer any city (and most forts) in one attack. Research the Armored Ram as soon as you can. This should be your number 1 siege weapon for the rest of the game. As soon as you have the resources upgrade your Fire Archers to lvl 5 Grenadiers and when your general reaches level 4 add a healing unit. Just attack any city you like, keep the first row of your army in line with the front of your Ram, and go nuts!
Defend with cavalry!
As stated before, at the start of the game you can't be too picky. If you get attacked just defend with your strongest general. Since you have a city wall for defense you might consider to use extra archers instead of infantry here. (So for example: [infantry, archers, archers] or [infantry, cavalry, archers, archers])
Later, if you play the game right, you should not get attacked a lot. More on that below under 'Diplomacy'. When you do get attacked, cavalry is often the best way to deal with those annoying enemies. Make sure you have at least two cavalry specialists and give them the following troops:
- Shielded Spearman (lvl 3).
- any Cavalry (lvl 4 or higher).
- any Cavalry (lvl 4 or higher).
- Crossbow (lvl 2) or healing unit.
Again, shielded spearmen are there for defense only so give them defensive medals. Cavalry will knock the enemies back to the edge of the map before they even have a chance to damage your walls. Cavalry troops are extremely overpowered in open battles without obstacles. You should always use them if your enemy has no city walls or siege weapons.
An important note here: if the enemy attacks you with a siege weapon (like a Ram), consider using an Archery specialist to defend your city. If the enemy is smart enough to hide behind the siege weapon your cavalry becomes rather useless.
When do I use infantry specialty generals?
Well, I don't know really. Infantry is the most balanced class. They can be combined with cavalry, with archers, or with both. Suited for both offense and defense, but they are never the best option in either situation. In my current current game I have three infantry generals but I only use them when my other generals are occupied. I guess if you have to defend a lot, high level infantry can be very useful.
Some additional tips
- Keep an eye on your enemies and attack them when they're weak. Other kingdoms also fight each other and their troops and walls get damaged. If you click another ruler's city you can see the status of his troops. Whenever his strongest general(s) is weak you can attack them for an easy victory.
- Avoid attacking forts. Getting through three walls may prove to be very difficult and your troops will take heavy losses. There is almost always a way around them.
- Aim for your enemy's capital city. As soon as their capital falls all their other cities will become neutral and you can take them without any resistance. The same happens if a city gets cut off from the capital, so attack strategically. This may save you a lot of difficult battles.
- Armed rabble only appears in the months from March until June. Try to fight your wars outside of this period so you don't run out of troops to defend your kingdom.
- Note that launching an attack on a city, even a neutral one, costs you money and resources. The amount depends on your troops and their level, where higher level troops are more expensive than low level troops. Therefore you should always have at least one general with two level 1 (grey) troops to conquer neutral cities. This way it will only cost you 10 gold and 20 wheat.
There are three major ways to make money in the game: taxes, shisha/wine production and the Eastern merchant. Wine/shisha production is pretty self-explanatory. Make sure to always have at least 2-3 in stock. Once a year, the month before Eastern/Eid, make sure to have a full stock because in that month you will sell all supplies at once. The Eastern merchant is your biggest money maker at the start of the game. This guy will buy your abundant diamonds, wheat and wood/horses/sugar for a decent price, so invite him as soon as you can!
Taxes are a bit more tricky. Cities pay taxes each turn, but the further away they are from your capital, the more corruption and the more money disappears. This happens automatically and there is not a lot you can do about it. However, there are two Research projects that can help you: 'Send Inspectors' and 'Send Special Inspectors' decrease corruption and increase your monthly income!
Appoint a Viceroy
Another way to greatly decrease corruption is by appointing a Viceroy. Whenever you have conquered an entire region (like Greece or France), you will get the option to name one of the other rulers the Viceroy of that region. Their cities will merge with yours, they will decrease corruption and they take care of armed rabble. But in return you have to pay them a lot of gold, wood, horses and sugar, equal to the value of all their troops combined. This is often far too expensive, especially in the beginning of the game.
However, there is sort of a trick to fix this! When you can appoint a Viceroy, look for an enemy city that can easily be cut of from their capital and that cannot be taken by another kingdom. After you cut the city off it becomes neutral, but don't capture it! After 2-3 turns a new kingdom will emerge with one or two weak generals. Now you can make them your Viceroy for only a few bucks, and you will still get all the advantages!
Units & Upgrades
I'm not going to make a list of all unit statistics here, for that just check each unit overview in the barracks. I do want to take a quick look at the different classes and upgrade mechanics though.
Cavalry is the most straightforward class. You don't have to make any choices when leveling them up. Each level mainly increases their Charge damage and range. Note that more damage is dealt if the troop charges a longer distance. Cavalry deal massive damage but are also very vulnerable once their charge is finished.
Infantry: Shields vs Swords
This class splits into two different paths after level 2. When you upgrade your 'red' Spearman you have to decide whether you want to make him a Shielded Spearman or a Swordsman. I personally always choose shields over swords. Shielded Spearmen should be the first line of defense in every army. With their Charge Defense they don't only protect themselves but also the troops behind them. Having two Shielded Spearmen in the front and a healing unit in the back makes your army almost unbreakable.
Swordsmen are ok but I don't really feel them... They're too vulnerable to replace Spearmen and not powerful enough to replace cavalry. Also there are many special infantry units that are stronger, like English Highlanders for example.
Archers: Bows vs Crossbows
When leveling up Slingers you have to decide right away whether they should be archers or crossbowmen. Crossbows deal more damage per second than archers, BUT they have a very limited range (2 tiles) and they have no level 3. This means that generals without the Archery specialty can use level 2 crossbows at best, and they need to be in the front of your army to be useful.
For those reasons I usually prefer archers. You can safely put them in the back of your army where they can deal some extra damage. Crossbows can be useful in Cavalry armies, where your cavalry retreats to the back of your army after a charge so your crossbows move forward. Apart from that, I'd always go with archers.
Healing units can never be upgraded (not even at the Black Market) and can be used by any general regardless of their specialty. Hospitallers are the most common healing units. They can be purchased from a Saint if he visits your kingdom. Plague Doctors are sightly better healers and can be obtained by conquering the Italian region or by giving 500 Research points to a scientist that approaches you to cure the plague. True Cross is the strongest healing unit. As far as I know they can only be obtained if you are the first kingdom to conquer Jerusalem.
I'm not a big fan of the Black Market, but feel free to experiment a bit for yourself. You can purchase 'reconditioned' troops here or recondition one of your own troops. A reconditioned troop will be raised one level and get new capabilities, but the process is quite costly, reconditioned troops are often weaker than regular troops of the same level and they won't be able to level up any more after that.
Also note that the reconditioning process is not random. A level 2 archery unit will always turn into a Poor Mamluk Thrower, a level 4 infantry unit will always turn into a Poor Engineer Hammerman, etc. If you want to try it I would advise to do it with an irregular troop since those aren't able to level up anyway. Level 5 units and healing units can not be reconditioned. If you try, the Black Market guy will apologize for the inconvenience and give you a Diamond as compensation.
Training and upgrading
It's best to upgrade your troops as soon as possible. A strong army is what sets you apart from the other kingdoms. Upgrading your troops becomes more difficult after level 2, since you are forced to sacrifice one of your troops to upgrade another. To illustrate: upgrading a unit from level 1 to level 2 (without using them in battle) costs you only 84 gold and 12 resources. Upgrading a unit from level 1 to level 3 costs you 244 gold, 42 resources and one unit from the same class. Each Tier upgrade after 2 requires you to sacrifice a Veteran unit with the same level so these costs increase rapidly.
Since you won't have these resources at the start of the game, nor the time to train your reserve troops, there is a better way to level up your troops to Tier 4 and higher. After you conquer another kingdom you get the option to hire their generals. You should check if they still have any Veteran level 3 or higher troops under their command and if so, hire them, even if you don't have any room for new generals. The game will tell you to fire a general but before you do, take their troops and use them to upgrade one of your own units!
Some additional tips
- Note that apart from defense, attack and HP your troops also have a 'Rest value'. This indicates how fast your units regenerate health in battle if they're not fighting. You may also have noticed how the HP bar of a troop often turns red before it turns grey. If a part of the bar turns red this means that the troops are injured but they can still recover. If they don't recover quickly they will die and the bar turns grey. It's important to know that both Resting and Healing can only recover injured troops.
- Some units, like the Aviz Knight, don't have a Rest value but the ability Fanatic Attack ('This troop has no injuries because they only stop fighting when they're dead'). This may sound cool but it's actually quite terrible. It means they can't recover any health in battle and are therefore very vulnerable. Combining them with a healing unit is useless. Highlanders on the other hand 'Can't Die'. Combining them with a healing unit makes them almost invincible.
- In contrast to what I've read in some comments you can actually use level 3, 4 and 5 troops even if you have not researched these Tiers yet. You will only need this research if you want to upgrade the units yourself.
- Do not purchase regular troops at the Boot Camp. If you flip coins at the monastery/mosque for the 'Secret Box' this will give you 3-5 random troops. Doing this every month should yield you more than enough troops for far less money.
The best advise I can give you here is this: approach diplomacy like you're an American. F*ck all other countries and let your army do the talking. This may sound stupid but in Free Play Mode diplomacy is really pretty useless. If you're a slow grower you might want to keep good relations with your neighbors at the start of the game, but eventually they're all gonna hate you, no matter how many diamonds and ambassadors you send their way.
In my current attempt to conquer the world my kingdom is in war with every other country, but I was only attacked by another kingdom TWICE (in 191 months). Other rulers won't attack you if your army is stronger than theirs. Therefore, spend your money and resources on upgrading your troops and not on keeping other kingdoms happy.
There is one exception to this rule. Outlaws (Pirates, Celts, Mongols, etc.) will become quite annoying after a while. You can destroy them but they will respawn after a few months and they will only grow stronger. Once they start using siege weapons they become a real pain in the ♥♥♥. Try to keep them happy with Diamonds and Liaisons for as long as possible and only attack them when you have no other option.
Some additional tips
- If you click a kingdom in the Diplomacy overview, under 'Disposition' you can check its characteristics. Some kingdoms are 'aggressive' and 'imperialist', which means they are likely to attack you if your army is weak. Other kingdoms are 'defensive' and will almost never attack you. Keep this in mind when you pick a fight with your neighbors.
- Before you declare war to another kingdom, check if you can Demand a Tribute first. If you're lucky they will comply and give you some gold. After you start a war with them you don't need them to like you anyway.
Keep your religious leaders happy, at least at the start of your game. If your kingdom is visited by a Saint this gives you some major advantages. You can purchase Hospittaler units from him. Even better, if you fought a battle, one of your wounded generals will receive a free Rest at the start of your turn. If you did not fight, the Saint will give you 25 resources (wood/horses/sugar) that you need the most. This can be very useful in the beginning when materials are scarce!
The two best ways to keep your religion happy is by attacking heretic kingdoms and by sending Pagan Prisoners to trial. You can also send a Large Offering but those are very expensive and not very effective. It's best to destroy all heretic kingdoms first before you attack any kingdoms with the same religion. That way your religion will like you a lot and you should have collected enough pagans to keep them happy while you attack your religious brothers.
Try to avoid the following things if you don't want your relationship with your religion to deteriorate:
- Don't attack kingdoms with the same religion (for as long as possible).
- Don't threaten religious brothers in Court.
- Don't 'free' pagans by selling them to the merchant.
Some additional tips
- It's best to use Pagan prisoners for religious trials only. If you're sure that you have enough you can use them to train high level troops, but don't sell them to the merchant!
- If your relationship with your religion is good, they will also support you in the Religious Court. This might come in handy if you want to get things done.
- A cheap and easy way to improve relations with your religion is to arrest the two Witches. You won't have any allies for long so you might as well get rid of them.