How to Destroy AI
The focus of this guide is on best effectiveness for a variety of troops and how to handle the various encounters. If you notice in the photo, the AI outnumbers me and has much higher level troops however I lose only a fraction of what they do while almost annihilating them completely. I'll go into depth on how troop movement is important, taking the match ups, how to flank with no flankers, and how to use all of the possible troop upgrades and defensive structures to their max effectiveness.
Troop Breakdown with Placement Suggestions
I'm not going into different specific unit details here as it would take too long and be almost entirely unnecessary.
Depending on the difficulty, the AI will attempt to flank any range units you have with their cavalry if they're within range.
To counteract that, it's best to leave any range units you have next to either JI militia OR Spearmen. The reason for this is to negate their charge with a formation you can unlock depending on your commander or to counter them and block their approach. The best value you'll get for these units is against JI militia OR certain cavalry (shock units usually). This leads into the next units;
I typically recommend to place these on the outskirts of the formation for obvious reasons listed above. By default however they won't be when you group together different types and line them up prior to battle start. If you select the formation options, all of the formations will switch them to the outskirts which is the ideal position. Now depending on how big your main unit is, you'll want to place extras either in the middle or inter weaved throughout if they have a lot of cavalry or you have extras. I've even gone so far as to make them my range units personal bodyguards depending on how many cavalry units they have.
Fun fact: Some spear units have a 55% block rate chance or roughly thereto which makes them close to ideal for assaulting range units defending a wall, but swordsmen are still far superior.
Depending on who you ask, these are some of the most underrated units in the game. Most of them are very cost effective and are great against units with "armor". They're highly effective against swordsmen but also strong against JI due to their armor. They don't match up well against most range units unless they're up close, so try to avoid sending them after units that can skirmish well.
Okay, I have to say these units are either incredible and will win you impossible match ups (I'll make a youtube video later that will make you question your sanity) or they're next to completely useless. These units are amazing for wall assaults or attacking a gate with a barricade. They have very high range resistance but when coupled with a shield wall formation, they're literally Spartans. They'll negate any charge and block 95% of range attacks and are able to take on an entire army if they're holding a choke. These are bread and butter for pulling off absolutely insane tactics as long as they're not being hit by like a trebuchet.
These are great against cavalry match ups if you don't have solid spear options or need your spearmen elsewhere. They're solid against swordsmen and spearmen in combat as well with their primary weaknesses being range units and axe men. Because of this, they're amazing for assault once you've eliminated the AI's range units as most AI's don't have a ton of axemen for some reason.
There are a few different types of these units that essentially line up with what's listed above minus the axe option. What this means is that sword type cavalry is good against what normal swords are good for and etc etc, the only difference being they're mounted and unable to generate the same formations as some of the non mounted units. They're much faster making their range skirmishers more powerful than regular archers however they don't hit as hard as some of the other range units. In my opinion, cavalry is best used as flankers against range units when you can, back door through a hole in the wall if theres no counters there, OR to help free up your units when they engage. What I mean by this is the faster you can "break" a unit and cause them to flee and lose morale the easier the fights become. If you use the cavalrys speed to engage in matchups that are favorable to that specific unit (shock against swordsmen for example) then you'll be able to free up more units to help others and cause a "domino effect".
"The Domino Effect"
This effect is also key for absolutely dominating an enemy army. If done right and coupled with strong strategies you can take very small losses against armies your size or even bigger. (See the screenshot for an example.) Although it's listed as a "close victory" which could be a bug, you'll notice I came out with less than half their losses, with almost 3x their troops. This wasn't my best battle but I used this screenshot as an example because I happened to have it saved and had inferior troop levels to begin with as well.
Think of this game as rotating rock paper scissors in most situations. Battle tactics are next to everything (if you're not being a lame and playing romance using your generals as one man armies. But even then it's still tactical... somewhat) If you use the correct tactics and placement, you can create wins where you should've been crushed.
Key Winning Strategies
Can be used against other players as well to decimate
I'd like to start this by saying, there is no magic "pill" for being insanely outnumbered. At a certain point some fights are unwinable however, the majority of situations most people find themselves in are totally winable with the right tactics.
I touched on the basic "Domino Effect" in the last section, you can see the definition of it there if you aren't aware of how the concept works.
Side note before we begin, if you aren't aware, when you attack one unit with 2 units that are lined up one behind the other to get to the singular unit, you wont be doing the full amount of damage that you could be doing to them. So always make sure you form an L or sandwich them when you can when attacking one unit with 2 units.
It's simple, if you outnumber the enemy heavily, why not surround them to do the most troop damage?
If you are outnumbered and have no special formations, you have to focus on matchup types, aka who engages who. You have to focus on using stalling with certain units while putting other units in favorable match ups to break down the enemy as quickly as possible. The player or AI who does this best wins almost every single time.
Stalling, how to do it and why is stalling important? Well, if we're trying to utilize the domino effect to the fullest (which you should be doing) then we ideally want the best match ups in the correct positions to do so.
How can we do this every time you ask? By using certain formations, guerrilla tactics, flanking, ambushing, troop movement (hit and run cavalry), and choosing the timing of our engagements.
One of my personal favorites is flanking the attackers when it's possible to do so.
Flanking opens up many avenues and helps achieve the "domino effect". I use what I learned in the military (Yes this is real. I was in the infantry in the Marine Corps) and I use L shaped flanks. If a unit is mobile enough, I'll go beyond that and use a open box technique which when timed right forces the enemies running away from the L to end up on the other side of the "open box" they didn't know they were in (Never do that IRL, you'll shoot each other on accident LUL).
Flanks forces a reaction from players or the AI. AI's will respond faster than most players however and makes it more challenging and rewarding when successful. The goal of it is to put something like your swordsman cavalry or even your swordsmen in a position to wipe out the enemy archers eating up your troops. AI's typically have well balanced armies and therefore always have some range units that need to be removed as fast as possible. I can't stress how important removing enemy range units can be. You always need to be careful of what range units they have as well, I've lost a few battles that I should've won simply because I couldn't get to them in time or didn't place well enough to get there at all.
Now that we've covered the basics let's talk about using the formations and troop abilities to the maximum.
First lets start with Guerrilla tactics, it's a very simple idea of allowing you place your troops anywhere outside of your own area that isn't in the enemies. When I have a general with this trait I try to build a retinue around the best flankers or ambushers. This doesn't always have to mean cavalry units either as many cavalry units are fast and can get into that position quickly. You can even gone so far as to put nothing but spearmen and swordsmen into it, put them behind the enemy army intentionally, throw out caltrops and put them all into a circle position when the enemy attacks. What this does is weaken or negate charge damage while buffing your range resistance to incredible heights. It's not as strong as the swordsman Spartan concept I mentioned in the other section but it's so strong that a few units, next to each other, can last against an entire army for up to 4 or 5 minutes. It's absolutely insane in the right circumstances and can be used to stall.
You can use the spartan concept of swordsmen using shield walls in chokes. I'd like to point out to anyone who doesn't know, you can also create makeshift chokes. I did this in a battle that I should've been crushed in to turn the tides hard on the AI. You can use defensive equipment next to towns to create "chokes" that force the enemy to only be able to engage that unit from one side.
You can also base an entire fight around this concept (I have the battle saved and if this guide gets love I'll add it later).
Not only are these exceptional for breaking troop morale, these can be used to burn down certain defensive structures. If you're on the offensive against an enemy who built an entire encampment in the middle of your own territories forest (Looking at you Cao Cao), I recommend burning down the enemies towers first. The other noticeable huge advantage outside of removing shrub and towers is that is also can be used to remove certain walls that are deemed "flammable". You can create holes in their defensive encampments if done properly while taking next to no damage. I always recommend this when attacking if the options are there, it can mean the difference between a W or an L.
Side note: Always try to destory the enemies reinforcements if you can safely before they get there. It can cause easy wipes. I'd recommend taking enough troops to do so with minimal casualties as well.