Video Game / Rome: Total War

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Rome: Total War is the third game in the Total War franchise of strategy games. Starting around the time of the First Punic War, the game allows the player to take control of one of several factions vying for supremacy in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. As the title suggests, Rome is one of the big players here, and is in fact divided up between three families, the Julii, Scipii and Brutii, and the Senate. If the player controls a Roman faction, his goal is not merely to forge an empire for himself, but, when the time comes, to take on the other Roman factions in a brutal civil war. The ultimate goal is to be declared Emperor.

As with the other games in the Total War series, Rome: Total War is a mixture of Real-Time Strategy and Turn-Based Strategy. This entry introduces several changes compared to the previous games, however. For one, the units on the battle field are now depicted in full 3d, rather than the sprites used in Shogun: Total War and Medieval: Total War. The campaign map has been changed from Risk-style movement of troops between provinces to a more detailed turn-based game that allows precise positioning of armies. When two enemy armies meet, they fight a battle in real-time, with the landscape reflecting that of the campaign map.

Two expansion packs were released. Barbarian Invasion depicts the situation in the late 4th century AD: The Roman Empire has split into two halves, the Western and the Eastern Empires, and the Western Empire is in a dire state. Countless Barbarian tribes are trying to settle the lands of the dying realm, while themselves trying to avoid being swallowed up by the rapidly expanding kingdom of the Huns. It is up to the player to take control of a Barbarian tribe and carve out a kingdom of his own, or to take control of one of the halves of the old Roman Empire and try to forge a new Pax Romana.

Alexander, the second expansion, sees the player recreate the campaigns of Alexander the Great. With the help of BRIAN BLESSED.


This game provides examples of:

  • Absolute Xenophobe: This (and it's inversion, xenophile) are possible personality traits for family members and generals. "Xenophobe" makes it easier for governors to root out spies and hatred of specific foreigners (ex. "Hates Carthaginians") will increase a general's command rating when fighting that type of enemy. Xenophile gives bonuses to foreign trade, but puts your governor at greater risk of assassination and makes his city an easier target for spies.
  • A Commander Is You:
    • Romans - Generalist early on, later Brute Force: Pre-Marian Reform: Mix of light and heavy infantry, archers, skirmishers and light cavalry. Post-Marian Reform: Heavily armed and armored Legionary infantry, huge array of siege weaponry, mediocre ranged units, mediocre cavalry. Can feel like a Spammer when fighting them, since all three Houses will simultaneously wage war against you.
    • The Greek Cities - Brute force/ Specialist: Almost no ranged units, below-average cavalry, but increasingly heavy hoplites, including the super-tough Spartans.
    • Macedon - Brute force/Elitist: Some of the best hoplite/pikemen infantry, companion cavalry, not much else of notice.
    • Egypt - Elitist: Good all around roster, with heavy phalanx units, archers and the ever fearsome chariots.
    • The Seleucid Empire - Generalist: Good pike-phalanx units, good cavalry, including cataphracts and war elephants.
    • Parthia - Ranger/Guerilla: Appalingly bad infantry, yet has one of the best cavalries in the game, with cataphracts, war elephants and horse archers.
    • Pontus - Specialist/Brute Force: Mediocre Infantry, but can recruit cataphracts and chariots.
    • Armenia - Generalist: Average all around roster, with better cavalry than infantry.
    • The Gauls - Spammer early on, Specialist later: Lots of mediocre warband infantry, but gains access to Chosen Swordsmen and Forrester Warbands - the perhaps best archers in the game - later.
    • The Germans - Spammer/Guerilla early on, Specialist/Brute force later: Throw huge hordes of Spear Warband at you early in the game, aided by Screaching Women and Night Raiders, but later gains access to Gothic Cavalry, Chosen Axemen, Chosen Archers and Berserkers, who hit with all the force of an elephant.
    • The Britons - Specialist: Mediocre Infantry, no normal cavalry, but fearsome chariots.
    • Spain - Guerilla: Excellent skirmishers and light infantry and cavalry, but alomst nothing that can hold a battle line for more than a few moments.
    • Dacia - Generalist: Good all around, with a few stand outs, like Falxmen and Chosen archers.
    • Thracia - Brute force: Hoplites and phalangites combined with more barbarian shock infantry, not much in terms of ranged units and cavalry.
    • Scythia - Ranger/Specialist: Focused on (ranged) cavalry to the point that their most basic unit isn't a warband like with other "barbarian" factions, but Horse Archers. Able to destroy pretty much anything on the open field, but rather ill-equipped for sieges.
    • Carthage - Elitist: Good Infantry with the Sacred Band as the top elite, but their true trump card are the elephants.
    • Numidia - Guerilla: Mediocre infantry, but lots of good skirmishers, both on foot and mounted.
    • Barbarian Invasion:
    • Huns - Brute Force/Ranger, with more focus on Brute Force: Lots and lots of cavalry, light, heavy and missile alike. Mediocre infantry. May feel like Spammer in the early game due to vast numbers.
    • Goths/Ostrogoths - Generalist: Good all around, with a focus on cavalry.
    • Sarmatians/Roxolani - Brute Force/Ranger, with more focus on Ranger: Lots and lots of cavalry, light, heavy and missile alike. Mediocre infantry, average archers.
    • Vandals - Brute Force: Mediocre infantry, very good cavalry, melee and missile alike. May feel like Spammer in the early game due to vast numbers.
    • Franks - Brute Force/Elitist: Focussed on heavy troops both cavalry and infantry. Some light troops in support.
    • Saxons - Generalist, leaning towards Guerilla early on, later more towards Brute Force: Average units all around, with the Hearth troops as the elite.
    • Celts - Brute Force/Specialist: Focussed on heavy infantry, with a wild array of all kinds of troops in support, including Celtish chariots.
    • Sassanids - Elitist/Specialist: Poor to average infantry, but has access to cataphracts and war elephants.
    • Alemanni - Generalist, leaning towards Brute Force: Good all around roster, with some fierce heavy units such the Lombard Berserkers and the Golden Band.
    • Burgundii/Lombardi - Generalist: Good all around, with more focus on infantry than cavalry.
    • Romano-British - Generalist: Good all around, with the Graal Knights as the top elite.
    • Slavs - Generalist: Good all around, with more focus on cavalry than infantry.
    • Berbers - Guerilla: Lots of fast, light troops, but nothing that could really stand up to the heavy troops of other factions.
    • Western Roman Empire - Generalist/Pariah: Good choice in every branch, but poor stability and surrounded by enemies.
    • Eastern Roman Empire - Generalist, leaning towards Brute Force: Good choice in every branch, but can field Clibinarii and Cataphracts, that punch through any enemy line, no matter how heavy they are equipped.
  • Afraid of Blood: "Hemophobic" is a possible trait for generals. Having it decreases his command rating as well as troop morale.
  • Amazon Brigade:
    • Kinda-sorta-historical all-female units of Scythian cavalry.
    • There are actual Amazons located in a city called Themiskyra, well in the north. They are chariot archers but cannot be recruited and they are Rebels, so they are automatically hostile. Interestingly, the architecture of Themiskyra is Greek as opposed to barbaric.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Compared to other games in the series, Rome caused an outcry among history buffs in its fandom. Most egregious were the Egyptians, who looked like New Kingdom Egypt, i.e. several centuries before the game was set. The developers acknowledged that the faction's appearance and unit selection were anachronistic but said it was a deliberate choice to avoid them being too similar to other factions. A number of mods have since come out to make the game much more accurate, the most notable being Europa Barbarorum.
    • In the vanilla version of Barbarian Invasion, any faction that fell under the "Nomad" category had Hellenic voices, for some reason. It can be truly jarring to hear a Gothic warlord refer to you as "strategos"! Thankfully, patches were released to rectify this.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted, for the most part. Arrows can really ruin your day. In fact, the Greek City State's cavalry was made just to get rid of archers, and only archers. Played straight with the right tactics for the Roman factions, due to being able to use the testudo formation after the Marian Reforms event. This will allow your legionaries to march around unimpeded by arrows unless they're from the back, allowing you to approach walls with impunity. Roman legions in general tend to be tough to take down with missiles from the front anyway.
  • Anti-Cavalry:
    • Rome: Spears, though unlike in previous Total War titles, cavalry no longer suffer from bad terrain. In general, however, cavalry are extremely vulnerable to infantry and any cavalry unit trying to take a heavy infantry unit on from the front can expect defeat unless they use the cavalry cycle, charging in and out repeatedly to hammer the opponent. Even then, the infantry have just as good a chance of pulling through, and bear in mind we're talking sword infantry here, not phalanxes or spearmen, even short spearmen who don't get the bonus but still seem to be good at giving cavalry hell. This is justified, as infantry were the dominant feature in the Roman world (the lack of stirrups limited cavalry effectiveness), particularly heavy infantry. The exception is the cataphract, which can give anything short of a front-facing phalanx a serious beating.
    • Barbarian Invasion: The expansion pack is worth mentioning separately because cavalry are far more effective in this version, as the quality of the Roman legions decline, phalanxes become extinct and the heavy cavalry of all factions get better. Spearmen once again become the real answer to cavalry; just throwing heavy infantry at the cavalrymen no longer guarantees a good result.
  • Arrows on Fire: You can order your archers to set their projectiles alight, but doing so makes them burn through their ammo supply twice as fast, and the arrows take longer to reload, are much less accurate, and don't do as much damage. However, they are quite effective as breaking enemy morale, setting fire to seige equipment and buildings, and can panic elephants and chariots. You can also order your catapults and ballistae to fire flaming rounds.
  • Artifact Title: The Alexander expansion historically takes place before Rome became a major power.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Something of a recurring bugbear for the series.
    • Witness what happens when two sides use WAY too much cavalry to fight on a bridge. Most of them end up drowning themselves.
    • AI armies do not seem to take arrows very seriously. Marching your army up to your enemy's so your archers are just in range will allow you to decimate their ranks. The enemy army will simply stand and take it (unless your archers are exposed, in which case they might attempt a cavalry charge.) This is even worse when an AI army is attempting to assault a city. If you destroy a piece of their siege equipment, the unit that was operating it will stand around it (or, at best, regroup behind it) allowing your archers and towers to pick them off.
    • The campaign AI is suicidally overconfident. Factions with only one or two small villages will attack their much larger and much more powerful neighbors for no adequately explained reason.
    • It's kind of funny that the in-game tutorials will heavily stress the fact that charging a cavalry unit into an enemy spear unit head-on is a BAD idea. Because it is. Yet at some point, probably sooner rather than later, you're almost guaranteed to witness an AI opponent completely ignoring sensible advice like this, by charging cavalry units into your spearmen. Bonus points if they brainlessly charge cavalry into a phalanx unit, especially if it's light cav. It's almost insulting how ignorant the game itself is towards its own Rock-Paper-Scissors elements. Mounted units versus a wall of spearmen? Forget it, chaaarge!
    • The plethora of artificial stupidity in this game (and in the series in general) not only applies to an AI-controlled army, but to your own units' AI, when they have to maneuver around some unconventional terrain. The worst side of this usually occurs during sieges. Properly getting units to climb a wall sometimes ends up being a nightmare, even worse is trying to get them back down. The main problem is usually that a unit isn't going to get into a formation properly until ALL members of the unit have caught up. If you move a unit towards the city center but a few guys in the unit are somehow way behind and still running to catch up with the rest, it can take forever. Turned Up to Eleven when it's a phalanx unit; "sir, we can't move into phalanx mode, one of our guys isn't nearby!" Facepalming ensues.
  • Ascended Extra: A Captain (the default leader of an army when no General is present) who wins an epic battle can be adopted into the ruling family, allowing him to become a General, governor, and possibly even the eventual Faction Leader.
  • Atop a Mountain of Corpses: Corpses persist for the duration of battles, which can lead to this, especially in a spot where two lines of evenly matched infantry come together. Units fight over the tops of the corpses with no ill effect, however.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: Units with low morale have a tendency to rout the very moment a stronger enemy unit engages them. This is particularly common with Peasant units and low-end militia units.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • War Elephants. They are an absolute juggernaut of a unit, easily busting up large units of infantry while being extremely difficult to kill, and their presence drains enemy morale quickly. However, they are extremely expensive to train and upkeep, and will devastate your own forces in the event that they run amok. Their greatest weakness is fire, and any enemy army worth their salt will have at least a few units of archers, even the most basic of which can utilize flaming arrows.
    • Chariots can chew up infantry like nothing else, weaken the morale of enemies, and are amazing at chasing down routing enemy units. However, they are expensive to train and upkeep, come in woefully small units, and are easily countered by phalanx and missile units. They, like elephants, can also be panicked and will shred your own units when they run amok.
  • Badass Normal: Depending on their personality traits, your Generals can fit any number of the "Badass _____" tropes. A General with the "Intelligent" trait or who has a "Tutor" ancillary would be a Badass Bookworm. A General who also has a lot of great governing skills would be a Badass Bureaucrat. The list goes on...
  • Badass Boast: Pre-battle speeches will often contain references to the general's past victories over this enemy or to his certainty that his men will make a mess. Many trait and ancillary descriptions include them as well, such as for the trait 'Cruelly Scarred' being "Many scars prove this man is very hard to kill".
  • Badass Family: As your faction is controlled by one clan, and your Generals are all born from or marry into it, this can easily result.
  • Bag of Spilling: Any ancillaries a character has will be lost upon that character's death. However, the ancillaries can be moved to another character if they are both in the same city. (If diligent, you can pass the same ancillary on through 10 generations of your family.)
  • Barbarian Tribe: Plenty, and some of them are playable. As the title suggests, they play an especially major part in the Barbarian Invasion expansion pack.
  • The Berserker: The Germans can recruit berserkers as a unit.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: Since the personality traits of your family members can be passed on to their children, this can easily happen with negative traits. Gods help you if "Insane," "Ugly," "Greedy," and the like keep getting passed on.
  • Blood Lust: Several personality traits for Generals describe this. At a low degree, this trait will add to their ability to command and weaken the morale of enemy troops but at higher degrees, it can severely weaken the morale of your own troops.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Even the most battle-hardened Generals can have ancillaries that fit this description. (Bodyguard, Shield Bearer, Guard Dog, etc.) This also fits the General's personal unit of guards in battle.
  • Boring but Practical:
    • The Roman faction. Most factions have a unit or two who are better than than their Roman equivalent, but the Romans make up for it by having far fewer weaknesses than those factions. Once the Marian reforms hit and the Romans have access to powerful legionaries, there is very little in the ancient world that stop them.
    • The phalanx. It is slow moving and lacks the flash of the various other units in the game, but if its virtually indestructible from the front and is one of the best units in the game at defending cities. It has a major weakness if attacked from the rear, but just as in real life, this can be compensated for by using proper formations and support troops.
  • Came Back Strong: If a faction's last city is captured in the Barbarian Invasion expansion pack, it will turn into a horde (only certain barbarian factions will, though; others simply get wiped out). The faction no longer has cities but is now granted several stacks including really powerful units, now able to seek revenge against those who caused their downfall. The result is that any faction which does really well and dominates other factions, taking their cities, will get punished for it, and the factions which did poorly are now handed super powerful units. As the player it is therefore often a bad idea to capture all settlements of certain factions, lest you face a horde immediately afterwards.
  • Cannon Fodder: Peasants. They have weak-to-no armor or weapons, have extremely poor morale, and are prone to routing almost immediately. However, they can be useful to simply pad an army's numbers (allowing you to build more siege equipment per turn) and can be used to garrison a newly acquired city (preventing revolt) allowing your better troops to move on sooner, since only the quantity of troops matters for garrisons. They can also be dissolved in a city with a very low population, allowing you to re-recruit them as better units.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Sometimes it feels like allying with a neighboring faction is basically an invitation for them to attack you unprovoked... Even when your faction is a continent-spanning empire that has risked life and limb time and again to help them while they've been reduced to a single settlement surrounded on all sides by enemies....
  • Crippling Overspecialisation:
    • Any of the various "skirmish factions" qualify. They are strong on hit-and-run tactics but weak in a head-to-head fight. This is due to the fact that their unit roster does not have any good-quality heavy infantry, which made up the core of most ancient armies. As a result, skirmish factions are weak and difficult to use in multiplayer due to their lack of a reliable heavy infantry unit.
    • Greek City-states have excellent spear infantry which is balanced out by their sub par archer and cavalry units.
    • Parthia's horse archers, archers, and Cataphracts are balanced out by their crappy infantry and financially poor provinces.
    • Carthage had good infantry and good cavalry but their biggest weakness is having no archers. (Which is actually due to a bug rather than a design choice for balance purposes. Edit the game's text files (see Dummied Out below) to fix the bug and Carthage becomes more balanced.)
    • Egypt's units are very good in the desert but aren't of much value outside of that particular terrain. They become hopeless in high-money battles because of their lack of armor.
    • Flaming Pigs are completely useless for anything else except scaring War Elephants.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Mostly avoided, with one exception: AI factions can promote captains to family members whenever they feel like it. The player on the other hand has to wait for a "Man of the Hour" event to pop up after a battle in order to perform this action.
  • Crutch Character: The game will combine this with A Taste of Power at the start of the game by giving a faction a unit far stronger than what they'd be able to recruit themselves at that point in the game. For example, The Julii Romans will start with a unit of Triarii spearmen and the Greek Cities a unit of Spartan hoplites. Both units are at least two full tiers above what those factions would actually be able to recruit themselves for many in-game years. These units could almost single-handedly cut a swath through the low tier rabble the various "Rebel" faction neighbors have at that point, but any attrition suffered by the elite unit will hurt as the player will not be able to replenish the unit or recruit more for quite some time.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Fight next to a city and you'll be able to see it almost entirely on the battle map. Fight near the ocean with a fleet nearby, and you can see the ships on the edge of the map, in the background. Fight next to one of the Wonders and you'll see it in the distance. Fight a battle in Sicily, and you'll see Mt. Etna spewing smoke on the horizon. Rome is the first game in the series that introduces the concept of buildings catching fire and collapsing into piles of rubble if they're heavily damaged by siege weapons.
  • Digitized Sprites: Units will change from 3d models to digitized sprites when they are far enough away from the camera, to improve system performance. In technical terms, this is known as "Draw Distance". Unit Cards are made with a 2D rendering of a 3D model of the represented unit. An important fact for newcomers of the modding community when creating custom units.
  • Difficult but Awesome:
    • Playing as Parthia. Sure, they have huge tract of land, but most of it is simply miles upon miles of empty wilderness with cities few and far between. This means that corruption is very high and troop waypointing is tedious. Their forte are horse archers, which require practice to use effectively and count as very weak in auto-battle. As if that's not enough, they start out next to the Seleucids and the unstoppable force that is Egypt. However, get to high-tier horse units... and they will become the Timurids of 3rd century BCE.
    • Playing as the Greek Cities in Rome as well. Your starting territories are spread out and you'll almost instantly be attacked on all sides. (The Brutii Romans in western Greece, the Scipii Romans and Carthaginians in Sicily, the Macedonians in northern Greece, and possibly the Pontic and/or Seleucid factions in Turkey.) If you can survive however, you'll have access to some of the most awesome infantry in the game (particularly the Spartan hoplites,) and some of the most profitable territories as well.
    • Playing as the Western Roman Empire in Barbarian Invasion. They start off like their Eastern/Byzantine counterparts with a lot of territory...only of most of that to either split off in rebellion or fall to the arriving tribes, their legions aren't what they used to be and there's also the clashing dynamic between Christians and Pagans. But despite those setbacks, they're still one of the more powerful factions in-game, and should said issues be resolved can be nigh unstoppable.
    • The Seleucids in Rome have powerful units but start out in a very tough position. They are surrounded by enemies on all sides, most of which are entirely capable of reducing their slow phalanx units to Swiss cheese with horse archers or something of the like. However, if they make it to the late game, they get perfect copies of the Roman Legionnaires added to their roster.
  • Dummied Out: One of the biggest drawbacks for playing as Carthage is a lack of archers. As it turns out, digging through the code reveals they were meant to have them, and they even have textures and a model. If you assign the "carthaginian archers" to Carthage in your export_descr_units.txt you can recruit them as Carthage. There are also some unused spearman models for the Barbarian factions, the only difference being a larger, less colorful shield.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The Eastern Roman Empire in Barbarian Invasion reappears later on in Medieval II: Total War as the Byzantines.
  • End of an Age: The Barbarian Invasion expansion takes place at the twilight of the Roman Empire. While it's possible to fend off the hordes as either East or West (and even regain some lost glories along the way), the game makes it very clear that the Classical World has passed on.
  • Enemy Civil War:
    • The inevitable Roman Civil War can seem like this if you play a non-Roman faction in the original campaign.
    • The Barbarian Invasion expansion features possible civil wars in the Eastern and Western Roman Empires, as well as the division of the Gothic faction into Ostrogoths and Visigoths.
  • Evil Pays Better: You can enslave the population of a captured city; it disperses the enemy population around other cities with governors; be careful, as while this relieves you of the squalor problems in addition to your unrest woes in the captured city, it can cause problems in the cities you dispatch the slaves to. Check where you have situated your governors. Or just kill most of them, which gives you even more money.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Some of the units do not look like they could survive in frigid conditions for any amount of time.
  • A Father to His Men: A General with traits that would fit this trope will benefit from greater troop morale in battle.
  • Fragile Speedster: Parthia is one as a faction, particularly early in the games. They're limited to weak light infantry and will be doing most of their fighting with horse archers. Horse archers are fast and can do a lot of damage if used effectively, but they're miserable at capturing cities and require serious practice/micromanagement on the battlefield lest they get run down by enemy cavalry or shot to pieces by enemy archers. They also count as being very weak in an auto-battle. However, if they're able to establish a chunk of territory and upgrade their cities, they get access to unmatched Cataphract heavy cavalry, turning them into Lightning Bruisers.
  • Game Mod: The Rome: Total Realism, Europa Barbarorum and Roma Surrectum series of mods are ambitious and intricate projects, overhauling the game to more accurately portray Europe during the days of Ancient Rome.
  • Gladiator Revolt: Some cities in anarchy will also have "The Gladiator Uprising" as their rebellion, though in practice, they're the same as any other rebellion.
  • Glass Cannon: Mounted ballistae in Barbarian Invasion. They will tear apart even the toughest units with ease, but die whenever a cool breeze blows on them.
  • The Government: The purple SPQR Roman faction based in Rome at the campaign's start. If you play as a Roman faction, your family members can get positions in the leadership. It typically acts as a nuisance, and will inevitably attack you when you become too powerful.
  • Government in Exile: Barbarian Invasion features Hordes, where taking the last settlement of a faction causes several large armies to spawn and the faction to get on the move until they find a new homeland.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Certain Greek cities might be ruled by "Lesbian Rebels" note  during anarchy.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: It seems that as a Roman faction, the more the People loves you, the more bitter the Senate become toward you. Considering that crushing the Senate and ruling Rome by force is a winning condition, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Historically, this is pretty much how the pattern went with Populari reformists, some of which were part of the Senate. Their fate was to be stabbed to death in increasingly creative ways by the senators. The example that mostly overcame this pattern was Gaius Julius Caesar.
  • Hordes from the East: One of the biggest threats to both halves of the Roman world in Barbarian Invasion is the Huns, who have recently come out in full force from the eastern steppes. On top of that, they tend to uproot any faction that stands in their path of conquest, so the Romans may also have to deal with hordes of Goths, Vandals, Sarmatians, etc., all looking for a new homeland within the empire's borders.
  • Hot Guys Are Bastards: It is possible to have a general with such a high "Handsome" trait that Adonis himself would be jealous of the man's looks, yet at the same time have other traits that make him a psychopathic madman who must win at all costs with unquenchable Blood Lust who slaughters the populous every city he captures and beats slaves for fun.
  • Instant Death Radius: Amusingly, due to how the physics engine treats chariot impacts versus spears, all chariots in the game will drop dead instantly the moment they touch the spears of an intact phalanx.
  • Irony: The narrator for Parthia's intro boasts about how wealth flows through their land when in fact Parthia is so poor that it's one of the few factions in the game that you can easily go bankrupt with.
    Gold will buy a thousand warriors. And a thousand warriors... why, they are the start of an empire!
  • Keystone Army: The barbarian factions suffer from undiscipline which not only makes several of their units charge the enemy without orders but also makes them very susceptible to mass routing when they lose their general in battle. In contrast to this are the civilized factions who can fight for a bit longer, if not indefinitely, without their general if their units have high experience and morale.
  • Losing the Team Spirit: Losing a standard in Rome or your general (as in any of the other games) will demoralise your entire army.
  • Magikarp Power: Several factions fit this
    • Parthia starts out with huge tracts of empty wilderness and counter intuitive units. However, when powered up enough, they can become the ancient equivalent of the Timurids.
    • The Greeks start out with scattered territories and enemies all around them. But they survive, they get some of the best infantry and most profitable provinces.
    • As mentioned above, the Seleucids have good units (including the overpowered phalanx in several varieties) but have numerous enemies on all sides. If they survive until the late game, they get Silver-Shield Legionnaires, who are every bit as good as Rome's.
  • Military Mashup Machine: If you want sick, look at the incendiary pigs; the pigs are pointed at enemy units (preferably elephants) and then set on fire! Stand well back.
  • Multi-Melee Master: Hoplite and phalanx troops will drop their spears and draw swords when in close combat, though they kill most effectively with spears in the phalanx formation.
  • Multiple Endings: After finishing a Short Campaign (Capture 15 settlements and destroy/outlive one or two specific factions), you can continue your campaign as an Imperial Campaign (capture 50 settlements including Rome). Both give an identical cut-scene with different text below. The game's text files also have text for conquering everything.Here is an example. It's from the Rome: Total Realism mod, but it's the same message and video you'd get as the House of Julii.
  • Necessarily Evil: Even the largest cities will inevitably succumb to overpopulation and squalor which will put their public order and income into the negative. The only ways to alleviate and slow the onset of overpopulation and squalor is to set the tax rate at maximum and to slaughter the populace of a conquered city. It also helps to not upgrade your farms as well.
  • Noble Savage: The Barbarian intro in Rome: Total War has shades of this:
    Before my grandfather's grandfather was born, this was our land. These are our good places. Our gods live here, in the trees and rivers, they watch over us. We are happy, he happy, we hunt, we love, we have families, homes, and good life.
  • Praetorian Guard: As a Roman faction, you can build a unit of actual Praetorian Guards. Needless to say, they are extremely powerful, if costly. In addition, all generals have a small unit of personal bodyguards.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Absolutely possible to do, particularly when invading enemy territory. While your army might win the battle, it can come away too weakened to actually capture any cities or take on the enemy's other armies. Inversely, this is a good strategy if you find your own army hopelessly outmatched. (For example, if a formerly neutral faction launches an attack on one of your cities and reinforcements are too far away to get there in time to help.) Use any strategy you can to make sure your opponent's inevitable victory becomes a Pyrrhic Victory, thus slowing down their invasion of your territory. Also, the included historical Battle of Asculum is actually the real life battle that created this very term and can thus be considered the Trope Namer.
  • Race Lift: In Barbarian Invasion, the character portraits of any faction in the "Nomad" category portray men who look very Asiatic. This includes the historically Germanic Goths and Vandals.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Don't underestimate the Parthians. They will fuck you up.
  • Redshirt Army: The Roman Julii family quite literally have a redshirt army in the sense that their faction color is red. However, there are many armies in the game that not only have this trope as a possible tactic, but rely and thrive on it. A good example are the Barbarian factions that use cheap spear units en masse to overwhelm enemy armies. The player can also do this with armies of cheap militia or even peasants.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: While the Julii intro has touches of it, that pales in comparison to the Scipii intro.
    Scipii Narrator: "Our dead lie in many graves, put there by Carthaginian Swords and a few Greek ones. Even Roman blades have taken Scipii lives; that we do not forget or forgive. So, now our time has come. The spirits of the dead cry out for blood! I will lead my family in this undertaking, the Gods will grant us vengeance!"
  • Save Scumming: Unfortunately required to level up your agents. Even if one is trained in a city with beneficial relevant upgrades, comes with a high "natural skill" trait, and picks up a useful ancillary, he will still have less than a 50% shot at assassinating or infiltrating even the easiest targets. The best thing to do is save and just keep trying until he succeeds in his mission. After enough successful missions, his skills will increase so that this becomes less necessary. This is also true for naval battles, since they can only be resolved automatically.
  • Scripted Event:
    • The main campaign has the Marian Reforms.
    • Barbarian Invasion gives us the emergence of rebel factions if a settlement belonging to either the Roman (Western Empire), the Roman (Eastern Empire), or the Goth rebels. If the Western Empire loses control of Britannia, the Romano-British emerge, and at a certain year the Slavs come into the game.
  • Sedgwick Speech: The general will always give a speech at the beginning of a battle. In the case of the Roman factions, these can be quite lengthy and varied, and occasionally quite bizarre. One general's speech mentions he has no idea why they are even there, but his mother said he should at least put in an appearance, which is oddly appropriate to how Roman generals were often appointed.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: So you've handed an enemy faction crushing defeat after crushing defeat and reduced their formerly expansive empire down to just two rural villages...yet they STILL refuse your offer of a ceasefire, forcing you to wipe them out. And even in the rare event they DO accept it, expect them to break it within a few turns.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: The campaign AI takes this Up to Eleven. Factions with no chance of even winning a single battle against you will declare war on your continent-expanding empire and will refuse even the most reasonable ceasefire treaties. The battle AI tends to avert this, however.
    • But sometimes they'll display this trope during battles, too. General units controlled by the AI are notorious for their overzealous charges; many a battles the AI opponent will get their generals killed early in the battle as they foolishly use him to charge into the brunt of your army, even if they consist of phalanxes. Now this overconfidence is sometimes warranted, since general units tend to be a very powerful unit with high morale, making it possible to rout entire stacks with a general unit. Sometimes the overconfidence in their general unit can win the AI battles this way; they get rewarded for recklessly throwing their general into the fray, routing your units. As one of the loading screen quotes puts it: "Fortune favours the bold"...
  • Uriah Gambit: Inevitably, as your faction's royal family grows, certain members will come along who have several detrimental traits and zero redeeming qualities. Rather than allowing them to hang around, spawning equally useless future generations, lowering the morale of your army as generals, and/or draining your resources as governors, you can simply send them off into battle by themselves to die. Then, in the off chance they actually win, they become better generals and are good, at least, on the front-lines. If they win enough battles they'll also get bonuses to Influence because they are great conquerors.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • Incendiary pigs are a good place to start.
    • Someone really piss you off? Take a town, exterminate it, recruit peasants en-mass until its down to 400 people, demolish all the buildings, leave it to revolt and send an infected spy in to give it the plague. Congratulations, you have effectively depopulated the region for decades to come, and ensure that province will never advance much beyond village potential. This is recommended on the official site.
    • Obliterating the population is also a good way to handle an overpopulated city. Overpopulation leads to squalor (which can lead to bouts of plague) and increased likelihood of revolt. Since there is no real way to "depopulate" a city, the best thing to do is simply to pull your forces out, allow it to go into revolt, and then recapture it. Once recaptured, choose to "exterminate" the populace. Between the pre-revolt rioting and the post-capture extermination, you can reduce the city's population to a more manageable level.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Romans (both East and West) become this in the Barbarian Invasion expansion, and they look the part too.
    • Although the Western Roman Empire is the faction which truly embodies this trope. The Eastern Roman Empire, despite inevitably dealing with revolts, incoming hordes, and the threat posed by the Sassanids, at least start off the game in a decent financial situation and with plenty of solid cities. The Western Roman Empire meanwhile is a decaying mess, with most of its cities at the edge of revolt at the start of the campaign. Choosing this faction is an uphill battle, considering the WRE is "destined" to get its butt kicked during the Barbarian Invasion campaign, since the decline of the empire is what'll give room for the game's barbarian factions to expand at all. Not to mention the hordes who'll undoubtedly be gunning for your empire. The downfall of the empire is what's supposed to set the game in motion. All this reflects history fairly well, since the WRE was a Vestigial Empire during this time period. Considering these things, it does make it all the more satisfying when you can turn the tables around and win the campaign as the WRE, defying both the campaign's natural course and the course of history.
  • Video Game Historical Revisionism: In a series known for its good research and realistic tone, Rome is probably the most fanciful entry. This is the reason why several realism mods were made, such as the appropriately titled Rome: Total Realism and Europa Barbarorum, both of which many fans swear by.
    • The depiction of Egypt, which at the time the game takes place in, was dominated by heavy Macedonian/Greek influence and had armies similar to that used by the other Diadokhoi (Seleucid Empire, Macedonian Kingdom, etcetera). For reasons ranging from "it looks cooler" to "we don't want to make an Egypt: Total War", the game developers made the Egypt faction look like they came straight out of "The Ten Commandments" or "The Mummy Returns", complete with Pharaohs wearing makeup, chariots and soldiers wearing headdresses and armor made of gold and outdated bronze. Describing the Egypt faction in Rome: Total War as "hollywood-like" would be an understatement. At the game's release, Egypt's depiction was a heavy point of criticism by reviewers, and rightfully so, since portraying Ptolemaic Egypt as Old Kingdom-style pharaoh dudes is downright insulting, and didn't sit well with those containing even an ounce of historical knowledge and/or common sense. It's especially disappointing because Rome: Total War as a whole is applauded as being a well put together simulator of historical battles, to the point it was even used for History Channel documentaries.
    • The splitting of the nation of Rome into three separate Roman nations, seemingly ruled by family lines ("The House of Julii", "The House of Brutii (sic, Bruti)", "The House of Scipii (sic, Scipiones)"), note  though this is forgivable, as it is done to characterize the Roman Civil wars (although the expansion pack Barbarian Invasion had a much better and more realistic way of dealing with that, with scripted events.)
    • Urban Cohorts and Arcani were not elite troops. The former was simply the name given to a city's police force and firefighters, probably being closer to Town Watch than Preatorian Cohorts. The latter are based on Roman agents in Britain during the later years of the empire who ended up being disloyal to the emperor, so they were disbanded. It's safe to say that they didn't dress like ninja's.
    • The Britons certainly wouldn't hurl severed heads at enemies.
    • Most Roman crosses had no top bars, and resembled a 'T'; the bar on the Christian cross was added to post the "King of the Jews" sign.
  • War Elephants: The more advanced types carry archers on their backs. Only Carthage and the Seleucids and Parthia can train them. But they can be hired as mercenaries in Northwest Africa (hence why the Numidians have them in multiplayer battles).
  • With This Herring: Choosing to try and restore the Western Roman Empire in the Barbarian Invasion expansion hands you a massive empire right from the start - one which is on the verge of complete and utter destruction, with horribly overpopulated, rebellion-ripe cities that are divided from within by religious unrest and ruled over by incompetent, cowardly and disloyal governors. Your bank account is going to quickly go deeply into the red, and simply pressing the 'end turn' button carries a large risk of half your empire immediately turning traitor. In addition to your internal problems, you are beset on all sides by rampaging barbarians quite happy to take advantage of Rome's weakened state. Pulling the empire back from the brink is widely regarded as one of the greatest challenges in the entire franchise.
    • Selucia is an example from the base game. You start out as a rump state, with a tiny military and underdeveloped cities that can't even recruit decent levies. You share borders with no fewer than four empires, including Parthia (which can effectively counter every early unit Selucia can field) and Egypt (arguably the strongest of the Successor kingdoms, and certainly the richest). All of these empires will immediately declare war on you, resulting in an average of two sieges per turn for most of the early game. Due to all these factors, Selucia tends to be the first faction to be completely eliminated in the main campaign. Sometimes it doesn't even last ten turns.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: The lyrics to the "map view" music are just a disconnected series of Latin nouns. Which is, admittedly, characteristic of some Roman poetry.


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