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Historical Total War Titles
Shogun: Total War
- Legendary Geisha. They're nearly invincible and can wipe out entire clans if used right.
- The Hojo clan's income bonus. Even a middling Hojo player could sweep the campaign map before the first European contact.
- Kensai with decent Honour/Weapons/Armour can put down whole peasant rebellions, add a few to your uber-general's army and watch them carve everything up, excluding the Heavy Cavalry lead by heirs/Daimyos, Warrior Monks and high level Naginata Cavalry.
- The Takeda clan will sometimes start with an heir who has Honour 5-6 in addition to their Daimyo with Honour 6.
- It was possible to wipe out any of the clans by assassinating or killing in battles their heirs and then the daimyo himself, triggering Nonstandard Game Over. Taking over the clan's fief from rebels was significantly easier.
Medieval II: Total War
- Just one word: elephants.
- The Russians may also qualify: while they start with the weakest roster of any faction (and territory that is difficult to both conquer and control), any city of theirs with the Huge Stone Walls upgrade can build Cossack Musketeers, a top-tier gunpowder unit, the instant blackpowder weapons become available.
- Arguably, the Dismounted Feudal Knights are an early-game Game-Breaker. These powerhouse infantry units have insane defensive bonuses and are very effective in close combat. They're eventually countered by crossbows and gunpowder. They're also incredibly vulnerable to a direct cavalry charge. Best used in an assault.
- Also, Dismounted Feudal Knights are probably the most effective unit in auto-resolving battles, so if you feel not confident in controlling a huge army you can just spam dismounted feudal knights and auto resolve. It will almost guarantee winning against any other stack of army costing the same or even more, provided that general skills don't differ too much.
- The Scots have access to Noble Swordsmen, who are basically Dismounted Feudal Knights on steroids. Also, the Scots have Highland Nobles which, when fully upgraded, cleave through most infantry and cavalry like a chainsaw through tapioca.
- The Scots don't get high-end gunpowder units and have relatively weak archer units. The reason for this is because when you've got 1,200 screaming, painted, claymore-swinging Highland Nobles charging you, no amount of arrows or bullets are going to save your ass. Cavalry are squished outright by the range of pikemen that the Scots can field. Timurid Elephants? Psh. Scottish infantry are some of the best in the game, especially on a charge, and are pretty cheap compared with most other factions' infantry. Pair Highland Nobles with some Noble Swordsman for shock attacks and a bunch of pikemen to ward off cavalry or accept counter-charges, and you'll destroy nearly everything.
- Think Highland Nobles and Noble Swordsmen are bad? Try the Moors Dismounted Christian Guard unit. Sure, you don't get them until late in the game and all the other infantry the Moors can field are mediocre, but their baseline stats of 16 attack and 22 defense, low upkeep and good morale and stamina more than make up for it. The Moors also get Camel Gunners, which are essentially mounted musketeers, and start off close to Timbuktu, where a few merchants can make several thousand florins per turn.
- Camel Gunners really are in a league of their own. The mobility and speed of light cavalry? Check. Sizeable stock of ammunition? Check. Highly accurate missile attack despite being a gunpowder unit? Check. Ranged attack that can tear through entire units of heavy infantry like paper? Check. Can fire on the move? Check. Faster reloading than other ranged units? Check. And enemy cavalry, who are the only units fast enough to pin them down, receive a hefty debuff due to horses being unnerved by the smell of camels.
- In the Americas expansion, New Spain starts out with both Hernan Cortez and a couple of culverin artillery pieces. The culverin is able to pretty much one-shot any tower, wall, or gate and can blow massive, gaping holes in enemy regiments, and the native population has no possible counter. Cortez himself, meanwhile, has a ridiculously tough cavalry bodyguard and starts out with eight Command stars that only go up, and provides an immense morale bonus on top of that. In other words, Cortez can practically conquer most of the Aztec empire right off the bat with only his single army stack. Which is not too far from what happened in real life.
- Any Islamic faction's imam can call a jihad if he has 4+ piety. In other words, if you have any reasonably competent imam, you can call jihads every ten turns or so. A massive army with major bonuses, no upkeep, access to almost free religious mercenaries, that can move faster than ships can sail and is available on demand? Yes, please.
- A pretty good example of this is when playing as the Moors. You begin with a Imam that can immediately call a Jihad after building up a small army of 8 units. After hiring a bunch of Jihadist mercenaries, you can effectively destroy either Spain or Portugal by blitzing their inexperienced and lightly spread out forces and capturing their only 2 settlements. Wait ten more turns, then you can take out the other faction, and you immediately have control of the Iberian peninsula and your home in North Africa.
- The downside of Jihad is that you can only declare it on former Muslim lands that have been conquered by other factions, so it's not too powerful unless you're on the ropes or, as has been said, are aiming to conquer Spain. On the other hand, Crusades can target any large non-Christian city. An army on the Crusade has no upkeep and can recruit lots of excellent and cheap mercs. You can have as many crusading stacks as you have generals. The downside is that the army must move towards the crusade target every turn or it starts deserting in droves. The catch here is that it doesn't matter whether you close in fast or slow, only that your army ends its turn closer to the target than it was before, even if it's only one square.
- Cavalry against everything else, at least in the early period. It is possible to completely eradicate entire armies on Very Hard with just two units of General's Bodyguards, if properly applied. This includes armies with other, weaker, knights. Watch units of spear militia, the supposed counter to early-period cavalry, get smashed aside by your bodyguards with few losses for the bodyguards. Cavalry are a lot more expensive, but it still doesn't adequately reflect their awe-inspiring power.
- Late in the game, certain factions can field elite knights that have almost identical (save hitpoints) statistics as General's Bodyguards. They are one of the few melee units who can actually directly fight elephants, if used wisely.
- This is so bad that using large amounts of cavalry, or even worse, using cavalry almost to the exclusion of everything else, will earn you dirty looks in multiplayer. The first thing an incoming newbie learns about multiplayer is to ask about the policy with cavalry; usually the limit is six horse, up to two of which can be horse archers.
- Normally the Papacy is an extremely annoying version of Goddamned Bats, but you can turn it to your advantage through some religious manipulation. If you're a Catholic faction, start the game by immediately allying with the Papal states, then as you work on expanding your empire keep spamming churches and priests, and send those priests to battle heresy in non Catholic lands. Building churches, recruiting priests, and battling heresy all increase papal favor (especially when you build cathedrals), and consistently recruiting priests from the same place opens up guild options. Soon you'll have high papal favor and plenty of guild trained priests experienced in battling heresy. If you get a guild headquarters you can usually get each new priest to start with at least five piety, the minimum to become a Cardinal, and it will only go up as you let them preach and denounce heretics. Since you have high papal favor, your priests are the first choice for new Cardinals, and with that you can easily get an entirely stacked bench (excluding the other two preferati), getting your faction members elected Pope every time. And with that comes consistent good favor for you and risk of excommunication from all of your Catholic enemies. If you need the extra push towards excommunicating them blowing up their religious structures works great. The downside is it will take a lot of money and probably at least a couple of generations, so you have to play your cards carefully in the meantime, but once you've accomplished it...
- Do you want to play Total War but are you too polite to conquer cities? Well, why don't you buy them instead! While the AI will never sell its last 2-3 settlements in trade deals, any beyond that can be bought for surprisingly low amounts of money, often less than an army to conquer it would cost. An experienced player can essentially print money in this game, and since you don't need to support offensive armies, you can snowball that economy even faster. Italian factions are especially suited to this, as the existence of pavise crossbow militia means you can turn all your castles into money-making cities while still having a passable army. On lower difficulties, Venice or Milan can literally buy Bologna from the HRE on turn 1.
Rome: Total War
- Horse Archers. They're practically impossible to catch with cavalry (and a clever player can simply support them with some melee cavalry) and can easily maneuver themselves behind enemy infantry units where they don't have their shields for protection. The only thing they need to be wary of are foot archers. The Cliblinarii of the expansion are even worse in that they're tough horse archers. Cliblinarii immortals are quite capable of mauling their way through several units of opposing Roman soldiers. Spears are no refuge from these armoured nightmares.
- CHARIOTS. Any army that can use them will flood their armies with them. Hope you enjoy watching in screaming frustration as they drive full-pelt into your units, running them over and causing them to run merely seconds after hitting!
- Roman legionaries set to autofire. No, seriously.
- Selecting a city and typing "oliphaunt" into the romeshell produced an elephant unit that could win most any battle with enough of them (they had to be auto resolved, otherwise they took no casualties but took ages to kill anyone).
- The berserker unit also qualifies. They can take down half a dozen men in a single sweep, have almost unlimited stamina, and are among the fastest foot units in the game when berserking. If you can get them into charging range, even a single unit of them will force the other army to make every platoon in the area either run in the other direction or take absolutely insane amounts of casualties. Even the feared armored elephants are at a disadvantage in an even fight.
- Berserkers are arguably Awesome, but Impractical. It's an expensive, late tech unit in a faction that is cash and growth starved early on, which means you generally have to expand to get it. It requires a specific temple be built, which is an inferior version of another one of your temples. By the time you can deploy them, getting them close enough to even do damage is potentially going to be difficult. Several units can also attack Berserkers with complete impunity because they can continuously attack them without any chance of the Berserkers catching up. From a tactical standpoint, since Berserkers have very poor support by the time they show up (the other troops Germania has aren't bad per se, but when you are going against high tech troops equivalent to the Berserker, they are very low end even for the specialists), it can potentially be very easy to set them up to be slaughtered. They might outclass most other individual units, but it is very easy to set up situations where most of the unit is killed on the approach and when they do get in range, they get slaughtered by several units attacking simultaneously.
- Berserkers are however almost gamebreaking in sieges, either assaulting walls or gates. Their melee attack uses the same code as that used by the -elephant-, which means they send multiple units flying every which way with each swing of their weapons. This naturally plays merry havoc with formations, turning otherwise meat-grinder gate defenses into a scattered rabble to be smashed easily by more disciplined infantry. On walls they are also virtually invincible, given that the numerical advantage of other infantry units is completely nullified by terrain.
- General's Bodyguards are at the height of their power here. It is an entirely reasonable strategy when playing as the Gaulish or Germanic tribes to put all your nobility into one stack and march on Rome itself. Bodyguards not only have better base stats than any other unit in the entire game, barring elephants, but they also regenerate their stamina 4 times faster than any other unit, meaning they can run rings around anything but the lightest of cavalry. With flanking attacks and strategic lures, bodyguards can utterly annihilate armies that have more than a ten-to-one advantage in numbers. In addition to these ludicrous advantages, bodyguards also regenerate their losses after every battle with no additional cost, and because of their hilariously lopsided kill ratios will gain golden experience ranks very quickly, turning them from powerhouse units into nigh-invulnerable walking demigods that can send armies of elite units routing if they so much as ride towards them threateningly.
- Any and all Phalanx units are truly ridiculous if used properly, and can make you all but invulnerable in sieges. The very basic infantry of many factions, the Militia Hoplites, can be used effectively at any stage of the game, because short of overwhelming numbers or missile troops, there is no way to power through the wall of spears. And if you double or even triple stack up they can stand firm against Urban cohorts, Cataphracts and Generals Bodyguards. In fact, Phalanx's are also hard counters to just about every other game breaker from Rome. Chariots? Literally die on contact with the spears. Elephants? See last. Bezerkers? Don't even get close. A properly used Phalanx is an immense balancing force, with their only weakness being speed, and in return making their user all but invincible in defence.
Empire: Total War and Napoleon: Total War
- Frigates. The main reason is that Artificial Stupidity prevents the AI from being able to organize a trap or a proper chase. This allows the various frigates (which are notably faster than most ships, while still reasonably-armed) to lead enemy ships on a chase throughout the entire battlemap, while constantly turning to bombard the nearest chaser and then turning away to widen the gap again. This is similar to horse archer tactics in the previous games - fire at the enemy and retreat to a safe distance, over and over. Moreover, if any enemy ship is fast enough to chase you properly, the AI gets even more confused and will usually run right into chain-shot range (at which point a single volley will usually slow them to a crawl for the rest of the battle). Since ammunition is unlimited in naval combat, you can continue doing this as long as you have time left on the clock (and that can be set to "infinite"). Also, this tactic works best when you only use one ship (reducing micromanagement to a minimum). You can take on pretty much any fleet with a single frigate this way. And then you research 38-gun Steam Ships...
- The "Old Guard" from Napoleon: Total War may be expensive and late game only, but they can cause entire enemy formations to break and run just from being on the battlefield. This, combined with their ability to inspire friendly troops and ludicrously high stats make them one of the most feared units in the game. Used wisely, even just one unit of these guys can break an enemy flank and change the tide of battle.
- France's Chasseurs à Cheval are an early-game breaker due to having no hard counters or equivalents in France's European rivals. While somewhat more expensive than other factions' light cavalry, they are one of the few mounted ranged units in the game. This means they can fire and reload on the move and all fire at once regardless of formation (unlike infantry where only the first rank fires). Elite units fall just as readily to gunfire as weak ones, which means this light cavalry unit can devastate heavy cavalry just as much as light cavalry. The ability to fight enemies from range with carbines instead of charging them like other cavalry have to also makes puts them on equal terms with anti-cavalry squares formed by infantry (which increases their melee but reduces their firepower).
- Light infantry in columns. At first, light infantry is a fairly balanced and unassuming unit type. It's essentially a cross between line infantry and skirmishers: they have 90 men per unit instead of 120 or 60, superior accuracy and range but not as much as skirmishers, and superior melee but not as much as line infantry. However, their ability to fan out in a skirmishing line is what makes them utterly broken. As it turns out, light infantry in a skirmishing formation fire over/through other men in their unit. Several narrow, deep columns can then be put side by side, packing several light infantry units into a small space and allowing the player to concentrate hundreds of accurate-long range bullets on just a single enemy unit. Such massive firepower can even overcome their disadvantage against cavalry, as they lack the ability to form infantry squares like line infantry or lay stakes in the ground like skirmishers.
Total War: Shogun 2
- In vanilla Shogun 2, it's possible to build a Monastery (or Jodo Shinshu Temple), a Naginata Dojo, and an Armorer (Encampment upgrade) in a province with a Master Armorer (Smithing); in fact, the Ikko-Ikki start with Kaga Province, which has master smiths and comes with a temple. The one weakness of standard Naginata Warrior Monks is that they're vulnerable to arrow fire due to their lack of armor, but this combination makes them more heavily armored than vanilla Katana Samurai, negating their usual weakness. Particularly for the Uesugi and Ikko-Ikki clans, this allows them to become the "nuke" in the the Tactical RockPaperScissors.
- The game also has the Black Ships, which would be weak trading ships in Empire and Napoleon but can obliterate whole fleets of native Japanese ships in Shogun 2. They cannot be built but will occasionally show up sailing along the shores of Japan. They can be captured, but you will most likely lose a lot of ships doing that. Additionally, capturing one results in a huge hit to your economy, as it has high support costs. On the other hand, most naval battles after that become a cakewalk. The ship just has to be properly positioned before the battle to maximize its use as a floating gun platform. There are weaker variants that can be built, provided the player has agreed to deal with Europeans. Eventually, a higher-tier Japanese gun platform can be built, but it is significantly weaker than its Western counterparts and less maneuverable. On the other hand, Western ships depend heavily on wind.
- Shogun 2 also has the Shimazu clan. While the Shimazu have cheaper and higher quality Katana Samurai (which rip through infantry like nobody's business), what really makes them powerful is their starting position. Their starting province has a Blacksmith in it, which can be upgraded to either improve attack or armor. Upgrading attack makes the normally Cannon Fodder Ashigaru into formidable combatants, and upgrading armor makes Warrior Monks terrifying in battle. In addition, because the Shimazu start so far west, they are among the first of the clans to have access to Christianity. Converting to Christianity means that you will have to put a lot of money into converting provinces you conquer and that everyone will hate your guts for converting. Usually, this would usually give you a hard time as every other clan on the mainland gangs up on you; however, since the Shimazu start on Kyushu, the westernmost island of Japan, they don't have to worry about this as much, provided that they eliminate all other clans on the island. In return for converting, the Shimazu get early access to gunpowder troops, powerful siege artillery and warships, insane boosts to researching, and a host of options to subvert your enemies' territory utilizing missionaries. In addition to the Blacksmith in the Shimazu starting province, Kyushu also has good farmland, a School, two Merchant Colonies, Warhorses, and a source of Crafts. The ultimate advantage of the Shimazu, however, is their proximity to the trade nodes. They start off next to two-thirds of the trade routes in the entire game, meaning they can make a lot of money via trade. There is one other clan that starts on Kyushu, the Otomo, but the Otomo start off Christian and have a much harder time surviving Early Game Hell.
- If you can survive Early Game Hell as the Otomo clan, you will quickly see just how powerful your imported Western weapons are. With the ability to cheaply recruit and upkeep matchlock Ashigaru from the start of the game, you can tear great chunks out of enemy formations and shake their morale before they even reach you, not to mention make defending castles very easy. It gets even better when you acquire Portuguese Tercos via a Nanban Trading Port; these Portuguese soldiers have comparable melee skill and armor to samurai and far superior accuracy to any other matchlock units in the game. A unit or two of them will generally rout any other matchlock unit- and the vast majority of all bow units- in a one-on-one fight and its steady, rapid-fire volleys will leave charging enemies wavering and almost dead by the time they reach your lines. On the waves, Omoto is also a dominant force: they can create whole navies of European-style ships with cannons.
- This is made even more broken if Otomo relocate their Nanban harbour to Buzen, a province they control from the start. Buzen has Crafts as resources. It gives +20 to accuracy (+25 with hunter lodge encampment, making all units also 10% cheaper to recruit) to all ranged units, including gunpowder ones. Meaning Tercos fire at whooping 90 accuracy. And they fire by rank. The only thing tied with them is a hero unit and it consists of only two soldiers, while Tercos have 120 men to make their volley. Expect ashigaru-heavy armies dropping dead by the face of two or even single unit of Tercos with accuracy upgrades, while cavalry getting wiped out before it can even get close enough to engage in melee.
- On that note, the Portuguese faction mod for Shogun 2 is basically this as a whole if you can bear the brutal starting position and the fact that most of Japan violently hates you. Most Portuguese units- with the exception of dirt-cheap starters like Merchant Crews and specialist units like Musketeers- are armored, resilient, full of morale, and quite powerful against the ashigaru that you will face for most of the game. Your Arquebusiers for one are effectively just slightly weaker, mass-producible Portuguese Tercos; and that's not even covering the unarmored Musketeers, whose long-barreled matchlocks have 175 range, letting them outsnipe any other unit in the game. A full Portuguese army with arquebusiers, musketeers, bombards and calivers, and plenty of pikemen might be hard to reinforce, but it will break enemies like water against a mountain.
- Each faction is restricted to a single Nanban port, but nothing prevents you from capturing more of them from others. More, with bit of micro-management, it is possible to capture a province with Nanban port, then wait for the previous owner to build new port... and capture that province too.
- Basic Yari Ashigaru are this due to sheer cost-efficiency in the singleplayer campaign - they'll even up to a comparably-costed amount of Katana Samurai combined with flat stat bonuses boosts (such as a Weaponsmith), Yari Wall is a very powerful ability with proper use that will boost Yari Ashigaru's survivability and effectiveness in melee greatly against even infantry, cavalry will be murdered at a fraction of the price, you'll save a ton of time and money sticking with them due to not requiring a special building just for making them and let you spend your koku on economic buildings/upgrades instead, and of course your numbers will be far greater to better outmaneuver your opposition. On top of that, combination of infrastructure and traditions by late-game will make freshly-recruited ashigaru to be on 7 out of 10 levels of experience, so you don't need to be particularly careful with their survival either, as replacements will be probably better than what you are currently fielding. Correspondingly, the Oda clan is quite high up there in campaign effectiveness, with their ashigaru also having innately better morale.
- Kisho ninja when assaulting a fortress. Nobody can see them until it's too late, while they can scale walls without any penalties. Small size of troops? Doesn't matter, because they are armed with high explosives, so whoever they will meet on their way to next gate to capture will be ripped into pieces, while they will disappear into mist once more. Their presence in the army makes the whole "sabotage gate" option of ninja agents moot, along with the requirement of said agent to be skilled in the first place to avoid caputure.
- Siege Tower Bune spam is a multiplayer cheese strategy that is frowned upon for being blatantly overpowered. This is because the matchlock gunners on the siege towers will annihilate any enemy archers really quickly before they can send a volley of arrows at them. Not to mention that using matchlocks perfectly resolves the problem of naval battles dragging out for much longer than they need to due to archers constantly missing their targets and even trying to shoot at enemy crewmen that are safely located in a part of the ship where arrows can't reach them. Matchlock bullets address this problem by being armor-piercing projectiles that can both inflict hull damage and reach those crewmen that can't be hit by arrows. If you also consider the fact that the upkeep cost for a Siege Tower Bune is very low and the AI simply cannot deal with this strategy, then you can establish absolute Naval Supremacy in the campaign without putting a heavy strain on your economy.
- Shogun 2 also has the monks' ability to create riots, especially with some save-scumming involved. There is a province you really, really want but it belongs to a friendly (or even allied) clan you don't want to declare war upon? Station your main army just outside the borders, then send in a monk and have them riot the populace. The resulting army will consists of a lot of yari and bow ashigaru and should take over the castle in the province on the next turn. The turn after that you send in your army into the now neutral territory, take over the castle (which should be easy, since the gates should be broken and the enemy lead by a weak general) and claim the land as your own for only a minimal hit for your diplomacy score and no loss of honor. This tactic can be used to take over entire clans one territory at a time without ever declaring war on them. The downside is that the province is looted by the rebels, but that's about it.
- It can be used to wipe out or at least significantly weaken the other clans before triggering Realm Divide. Rebels simply sit in captured provinces, which means it's to your best benefit to either pre-emptively create a borderland of rebel provinces while heading toward Kyoto or go as far and wipe clan(s) entirely by inciting riots. This way the only faction around Kyoto will be the Shogunate itself, making it a breeze to quickly capture handful of surrounding provinces and the city itself, while everyone else is few rebel provinces away, first having to get through them.
- Subverted Trope by Junsatsushi in Rise of the Samurai, who are somewhat similarly capable of spreading your influence in other provinces and taking them for you without a fight at all. These advantages are actually just necessary for you to hope to deal with the pressures of the Genpei War occupying your troops and keeping your allied clans from getting distrustful of you too fast from conquering everything by force.
- In the Fall of the Samurai expansion for Shogun 2, ironclads utterly dominate against regular ships in multiplayer. This has less to do with the toughness and extra range of the ironclads, and more to the fact that explosive shells almost always set fire to normal ships in a single volley, and ships on fire eventually explode, damaging all ships near them.
- Massed artillery in the campaign, at least on normal and lower difficulty settings. Let's just say that being restricted to only 1 artillery piece a battle in multiplayer becomes understandable when you see your team of 2-4 Parrott/Armstrong guns tear the enemy army to pieces and force them to rout before they even get close to you. It doesn't help that the enemy AI doesn't really know how to deal with artillery, preferring to slowly march out in the open instead of hiding in the forests.
- The entire Satsuma clan can qualify. All three of the foreign powers are on their side, their income is more steady than most others, they modernize faster than most other clans, and they have more favor with the Imperial household. (By the way, the Satsuma are the descendents of the aforementioned Shimazu. In the Blood, perhaps?)
- To elaborate: the Satsuma clan is in a very convenient position, which is a bigger deal than in Shogun 2. They have two coastal provinces in a corner of sorts, and they also start with a blacksmith (which is a HUGE boon to their military) as well as easy access to sources of iron, copper and coal. With said iron, they can quite easily upgrade their blacksmith to an iron works and then to a gunsmith relatively quickly, giving them a source of highly accurate infantry and artillery. With a gunsmith, basic line infantry have their accuracy boosted from around 30 to 50, which is nothing to scoff at. Things get really silly once they have access to foreign marines, faction-specific infantry and guard units. Spending the time to research 'Domain and the Realm' and then constructing a firing range in the same province as your gunsmith gives infantry and artillery trained there a monstrous +35 accuracy bonus. Combine these amazing military bonuses with the wealth generated by holding all of Kyushu, and Satsuma can easily become the most powerful faction in the game.
- If one is lucky or knows how to re-roll the retainers agents gain, it is possible to get a Foreign Veteran with three variations of foreign gun trader, netting in total a +15 accuracy and reload speed bonus to modern units, on top of the regular +10 to accuracy from "Soldier" skill tree. Add to this units trained in a gunsmith province (+20 accuracy) with firing range (another +15) and your line infantry, the most basic of units to field, will have a whooping 90 accuracy right after being fielded, with reload speed close to that of your Imperial/Shogunate/Republican Infantry. Said Foreign Veteran can easily add few experience levels just by being in the same army, rising accuracy above 100. Or you can (as Shogunate follower or Republican) invite French experts, for yet another +5 accuracy to your modern units. Still need more? Rank 5 Generals have mutually exclusive skill that either adds yet another +5 to accuracynote or +10 to reload speed for units under his commandnote , so pick how exactly you want to break the game. Remember that Yari Ashigaru example listed above? Line Infantry are their equivalent in FotS. And obviously nothing prevents you from doing the exact same thing with the next tier of infantry once you unlock it, making them superior to just about anything else in the game, as they aren't limited in numbers, unlike the elite Guard units, while retaining the main advantage of Line Infantry, that is - cheapness to field and maintain. Sharpshooters? Who even needs those slowpokes?
Total War: Rome II
- Rome in the campaigns where they're playable. Each faction is militarily fairly balanced, with the Romans possessing an army that, at first glance, appears to consist mostly of heavy, sword based infantry, with sub-par but relatively cheap cavalry, and powerful but short-ranged javelins for their ranged units. Rome however, possess a unique building called the Auxiliary Camp. Each Auxiliary Camp will always produce a decent spear infantry and spear cavalry unit, but its most notable feature is that it's capable of recruiting units from the factions native to the area it was built in. As a result, Rome is capable of fielding an army consisting of virtually any type of unit it pleases without having to resort to Levies or Mercenaries, as long as it has control of the territory said unit belongs to - and they can be some pretty good units (Rome will only be incapable of fielding the absolute best horse archers, spearmen and shock cavalry...but they can still get some pretty solid ones out of these categories).
- Pikemen, though only in single-player siege defensive battles due to Artificial Stupidity. Everywhere else, and especially against actual players, there's no trouble to weather pikemen down with ranged units and/or flank their sides or rear which utterly crushes pikemen...but while defending a town, the AI is far too willing to suicide against arrayed pikes protected from the town's buildings' at their sides rather than attempting to attack from every possible angle first. Also, a player came make this even worse by placing an armoured unit (such as Hoplites) or a barricade in front of the pikemen which will protect the pikemen from the front thus ensuring the AI isn't going to get to the pikemen (but they'll try to anyway).
- Ballista on their own are absurdly powerful. They're the first tier of field artillery available, requiring only a level 1 workshop to build. They're exceptionally accurate, and are capable of firing both standard boulders that can destroy settlements, and explosive shot that may as well make them the equal to Fall of the Samurai's rifled cannons.
- Parthian cataphract-style cavalry is "tank" in Tactical RockPaperScissors. They just won't die and while listed as the slowest cavalry, they can chase down steppe archers. Aside from regular version, there is also royal one, which can take even more punishment while literally plowing through enemy ranks, even if they are some kind of pike infantry. There is also camel-based version, scaring horse-mounted units. And there are also noble horse archers: armoured better than heavy cavalry of other factions and able to lead an effective charge on infantry - mind you, we are talking about horse archers. All of this goes beyond any sense and scale when combined with captured special building of nomadic tribes, making the horses even faster.
Total War: Attila
- Tagmata Cavalry, a late-game melee cavalry unit available to the ERE with a ridiculously high Anti-Cavalry bonus that let them defeat practically all other cavalry in an already very cavalry-focused game. In single-player, they were balanced by being the last unit you unlocked in your tech tree. In multiplayer, where you can buy any unit you want in any combination... They weren't. This got so bad the unit got outright banned by the online community.
- Notably, the only other units that could give the Tagmata a run for their money in brokenness were Germanic Horsemen (with a cavalry general) and Burgundian Royal Lancers, both of those also cavalry with big Anti-Cavalry bonuses. This led to multiplayer battles being dominated by three factions and their respective heavy cavalry units.
- Slavic archers' poisoned shot. If it so much as nicks one man's finger in a unit, the entire unit will be exhausted for the remained of the entire battle. Two archers units with it can expect to exhaust an entire army with all of their ammunition, and then the poison causes damage that can cause some casualties as well! Did we mention that there's an more advanced Slavic archer unit with even deadlier poisoned shot? This might be Purposely Overpowered given the Slavic factions are probably going to have to tangle with the Nomadic factions or even the Huns themselves long before their scripted peak at 420 AD makes them a problem to everyone else.
- Late game Western Roman Armies could withstand the hordes of barbarians with little or not problem- if they could survive that long...note
Total War: Three Kingdoms
- At launch, the most powerful exploit is Yuan Shao's ability to form coalitions and vassalize smaller factions before anyone else can in China. A canny player can snowball off smaller factions to become the top power in China. With this and his AI handling diplomacy like the infamous Milan from Medieval 2, makes Yuan Shao strong even when you're playing against him.
- Another game breaker faction is Sun Jian. His starting position is the easiest of all the warlords, bar none; he can (and nearly always does) ignore his historical nemesis Liu Biao and his vassals, and concentrate on gobbling up commanderies held by the pathetically weak Han Empire. Once he is of sufficient size and power, he can also vassalize factions easily.
- Adding to his strengths, he can recruit unique mercenary units from the start of the campaign. These mercenaries come in the form of axe infantry, bow infantry and lance cavalry, each of which is just shy of top-tier for their respective categories. On top of that, they're recruited instantly at full strength, allowing Sun Jian players to muster entire armies of them in an instant.
- Sun Ce's faction bonus is generally considered the best one in the game. It's easy to see why when that bonus is a +100 charge bonus to all cavalry (which pretty much makes your melee cavalry have the same charge bonus as shock cavalry, and makes your shock cavalry even more devastating).
- For officers' abilities, Sun Ren's Heart Seeker ability is powerful enough to One-Hit Kill lower-level generals from long range. The only strike against it is that it comes rather late in the game, as with Ren herself (she starts the game as a baby.)
- Ma Teng's faction can recruit Qiang cavalry units, which are the best in the game because of their immunity to fatigue. With his -15% to their upkeep and proximity to four Horse Pasture counties, each of which grants a further -20% to cavalry upkeep, you can easily muster whole armies of top-tier cavalry that barely cost any upkeep.
- Cao Cao's unique Credibility resource can be devastating when used right. You can make people like and dislike others, including yourself, allowing you to make and break alliances a single battle. You can even instigate proxy wars between two factions, though it does have a hefty price tag. How good are proxy wars? You can get a close ally to fight your rival for you, while you sit pretty and mop up the minor factions and, if your ally likes you enough, they'll even pay for the privilege of doing so.
- Trebuchets. While not hugely different compared to the siege weapons in the other Total War games (which is to say, also very powerful in pure combat ability), Trebuchets only require that you have a Strategist recruiting them to their retinue this time around rather than a special building and technology to unlock such buildings. In some ways though, they're actually still a lot better than siege weapons in the other Total War games as Strategists will inherently give them bonus ammunition and have skills that will improve them compared to other Total War games (possibly right off the bat, given that you can recruit generals at a higher level), which can only hope to improve their siege weapons via much rarer and later available buildings, general skills and technology. Flaming rounds are also a fair bit more powerful than in previous games - a single particularly good volley aimed at enemy troops just sticking together as they approach you (to say nothing about firing on them clumped up in a chokepoint) may be fortunate enough to earn over 200 kills, and one volley will easily set a encampment wall alight which will soon spread to make the entire wall ablaze and burn down the two arrow towers connected to it...so it'll likely just take four volleys to turn an encampment battle into a field battle, except the enemy also has a morale bonus from their camp center.
- Gong Du's unique unit, Guardians of the Land, is practically the Spartans of China. They are available right from turn 1 while most other factions still have to make due with peasant levies. Such is their ability to hold the front line, a single unit of Guardians can reliably hold off at least three low-tier unit for a decisive amount of time. Their only weakness is ranged attack, but since their effectiveness allows you to have fewer frontline units in your army, you can devote the freed-up slots to more cavalry and ranged units of your own to counter the enemy ranged units. A well-balanced Gong Du's army can take on two enemy stacks at once and has a good chance of coming out on top.
- Three Kingdoms multiplayer: All heroes can be taken multiple times, which means that some of the high-tier Champion or Sentinels lords (like Xu Chu) can be taken in triplicate and then take on entire armies single-handedly. Three Sun Rens are similarly popular because her Heart Seeker can lordsnipe the entire enemy command staff almost instantaneously, leaving the enemy without generals, or add a Sun Ce for his area-of-effect morale debuff that makes the general-less army rout almost immediately.
- Caltrops, wooden spikes, and oil. No seriously. Little brumble pricks, some oil, and some pointy sticks is all you need to hold minor settlements (ones that aren't just an open field) against superior forces. At the start of siege battle of a minor settlement, the AI will try and psych you out by placing units in front of one entrance but then move them to another entrance when the fight starts. Once you determine exactly where the enemy is going to go, concede defeat and rematch. Place oil in front of the entrance(s), wooden spikes behind it, and have your low tier garrison pepper the ground in front of and in the oil with the caltrops. The AI will hesitate when it notices the oil, but will send men into it. The brumbles will slow them down, giving you an opportunity to ignite the oil when they are half through, literally blowing several off their feet. The enemies cavalry and infantry will try to rush through, but be slowed by the brumbles increasing their exposure to the fire. Then their cavalry will slam into the wooden stakes and kill them and the survivors' momentum. Dog pile all your melee units into the breach and put them on guard mode so they don't follow retreating enemies through the fire. All the while your archers are peppering away at their archers and their front lines. Then, trapped between you lines and the fire, the enemy units will break and run back through the fire. If you're lucky, your archers won't have to finish off their morale as they will stop routing and make another desparate charge through the fire. Once your archers are out of ammo, dog pile them into the breach on guard mode as well. If done right, you can easily win 3:2 odds against armies led by three generals using nothing but garrison militia and no generals. Even if your troops are routed, they can reform in the settlement's interior and continue the fight as they get a bonus to morale for protecting the victory point. It then comes down to managing the troops that are constantly routing and reforming and then sending them back in. The major obstacle is dealing with high level generals which can cause so many casualties that your garrison's morale breaks before they can take them down, but this can be countered by having at least one general and his retinue guard the settlement. Even if you do lose, the enemy will be so reduced that a reinforcement army that couldn't quite make it in time will easily steamroll the survivors.
Fantasy Total War Titles
Total War: Warhammer
- The Empire's Demigryph Knights. They're some of the tankiest heavy cavalry in the whole game, even more than Bretonnia's Grail Knights (that is, even tougher than the elite heavy cavalry of a faction built almost entirely around elite heavy cavalry), absolutely devastating on the charge and when equipped with halberds they gain the "Anti-Large" trait and can counter several high-tier monstrous units from other factions which cost twice as much.
- Coming in second place would be the Greenskin's Doom Diver Catapult. It is hands down the best artillery piece in the entire game, better than anything the Empire or Dwarfs (the artillery specialists) have, for one reason: self-guided homing missiles that practically never miss, coupled with enormous range and devastating power (which also counts as armour-piercing). In the campaign you can usually see it get over a hundred kills in auto-resolve battles and end up with much more experience than any other unit in the army. What's worse, there isn't much that can be done to nerf the Doom Diver without severely gimping the Greenskins overall: common suggestions are either a straight-up reduction to damage and/or range, or removing the armour-piercing which will leave the Greenskins desperately lacking a source of ranged AP and a way to deal with other factions' heavy cavalry and large monsters.
- Vlad von Carstein, if taken as a starting lord in a Vampire Counts campaign, allows your troops to deploy anywhere on the battlefield except the opponent's deployment zone and a small radius around that (vanguard deployment). This not only overcomes one of the Vampires' greatest weaknesses (lack of ranged units), but with Vlad's powerful starting units (especially the top tier Blood Knights, who are almost as strong as the previously mentioned Demigryph Knights) players can destroy most early game armies with little effort and overrun multiple provinces in the time it takes most other factions to conquer one.
- Possibly even more powerfully, Vlad has a passive campaign skill "Coven of Undeath", that gives a small amount of XP at the end of the turn to every unit in the faction, including ones in armies led by other lords and even garrisoned units. Before long even units that have seen little fighting will be in the gold levels. If this wasn't enough, he gains this ability at level 4, which is easily reachable in the first few turns of the campaign and only requires a single skill point, as opposed to double digit levels and multiple skill points or a lengthy quest like equally powerful abilities of other lords.
- Vampire Counts in general have a way to cheese campaigns by just tossing as much getting as much Cannon Fodder zombies as they can manage into a new early army and having that army along with their starting Legendary Lord's army march on an enemy capital. The player will then, depending on the enemy's strength, send in nearly all of their units in such a way to mostly be guaranteed to die. Win or lose (preferably win), such a battle will incur over five-thousands casualties and mark the area as a famous battle site, forever allowing the player to recruit maximum tier units from the area, which other AI armies will stand little chance against early in the game and greatly aid the player when Chaos comes to their lands. Now that's Human Resources!
- Kholek Suneater has a bit more missile resistance and 25% ward save in his skill tree. This doesn't count horrendous at first glance, but it can be eventually combined with good equipment to make him literally immune to ranged attacks and almost (ward save's benefits actually caps out at 90% no matter how much can be accrued) invincible to melee damage.
- Early in Warhammer's lifetime agents were getting this treatment for players, as the AI would use "agent-spam" (flooding the map with agents and surrounding your army with them to do actions against them again and again) to repeatedly inconvenience your army, to the point that people were using mods to neuter the AI's ability to do so.
- The Regiments of Renown. No, not because they're fancier and more powerful version of your normal units actually - it's because they can be immediately disbanded and recruited from any army with access to local recruitment, meaning as long as you are in your own territory and have the money to recruit them again, any losses the regiments take are irrelevant and after you have a high-level lord, you can easily and immediately give your rear areas at least around a half-stack of extra support against an encroaching enemy. This was later changed with a patch - whether deliberately disbanded or destroyed in battle, each Regiments of Renown unit will incur a ten-turn cooldown before being recruitable again after the unit is disbanded.
- Unfortunately despite the developers' intentions, like the tabletop game a lot of magic spells have been fairly broken at some point or other in the game's lifetime. The Spirit Leech spell could notoriously kill any lord with only two or three casts, with great range and no real way to defend against it; it allowed Vampire Counts, Greenskins and Chaos players to dominate competitive multiplayer by sniping the lord long before he could contribute anything useful to the battle. Similarly the Flock of Doom spell used by Beastmen used to be so powerful that it could wipe out nearly any unit, even a really powerful late-game high level one, with a single cast. And it didn't use a lot of mana to cast either. It received a massive nerf that ended up making it useless, and then got buffed again to make it dangerous but not as bad as it used to be.
- Rejecting Archaon's alliance and destroying the Warriors of Chaos faction as Norsca grants them the Everchosen buff for the rest of the game. Increasing chaos corruption from all characters, while providing +3 ranks to all recruited units, and reducing upkeep of your forces by 75%. Somewhat justified since you did just interrupt the apocalypse by killing the Antichrist in order to seize his position as destroyer of the world. Late-game Norsca as a whole can get broken to the point of being able to raise entire armies in a single turn with Global Recruitment, with many of their low to mid-tier units being upkeep free, with the right number of taken capital cities, settlement buildings, and dead Everchosens.
Total War: Warhammer II
- Mono-unit doomstacks. They usually consist of a full stack of either strong monstrous artillery (Steam tanks, Necrofex Colossi, Stegadons), strong melee monsters (Dragon Ogre Shaggots, Dread Saurians, War Mammoths) or strong fliers (Royal Hippogryph Knights, most dragon-types qualify), a lord, and one or two heroes buffing and healing them. While the composition and individual tactics may differ, the core idea is the same: reduced micromanagement, efficient healing due to a small number of units, no loss of combat strength due to loss of models in the units, and the AI lacking any way to effectively counter them. Not all of them are equally strong, but as far as the campaign is concerned, you can more or less steamroll any enemy army on the map regardless of army composition or difficulty setting (though it can admittedly get a little boring to do it the same way every single time).
- Malekith has excellent melee stats, fantastic armour, access to the powerful lore of Dark Magic, can be mounted on a flying mount (Seraphon, his dragon) that allows him to enter and leave engagements almost at will and throw elite troops and unmounted lords around like rag-dolls, and his signature magic items add 50% miscast chance and a +45s cooldown to the opposing side's spellcasters, neutering their magic to a point where it's near useless. In single-player he is a One-Man Army in the late-game, and in multiplayer he is considered one of the best lords thanks to his incredible flexibility — luckily for anyone up against him, he comes with a price tag to match.
- Tyrion takes Vlad's place for having outrageous starting bonuses in campaign where he cuts the recruitment time of infantry and cavalry by one turn for every lord you control. This makes it possible to build a new army full of high tier units with startling speed. He is also single-handedly one of the best Lords in the game, which when combined with his combat tree, "death and war" tree and enchanted items in the Campaign, can quite literally make him an army killer, with over 150 armor, 108 melee attack, magic and flaming, 87 defense, 99 speed, 118 charge and with over 834 Weapon damage, which is harder than Kholek Suneater. Add the Sword of Khaine to him for additional unfair hilarity.
- Mazdamundi is Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards taken to a high extreme. At the start, he is a fragile lord with a few minor healing spells. As he levels, he gains access to high damage area of effect spells, including Ruination of Cities which is bound, many passive defenses that extend as a shield, a monstrous mount that significantly upgrades his melee game while also saving him from assassin lords, and an area of effect immobilization that ensures his (very potent) spells connect. Add this to passive abilities that gut enemy magic while bolstering his own as well as those aforementioned buffing spells, and you can see how Mazdamundi is considered the most powerful spellcaster in the world.
- Kroq-Gar seems to be lacking compared to the others until you realize that he's not meant to be a one Lizard army, he's a power multiplier for your monstrous units. He provides solid buffs to their attack, defense and morale. Which also stack with the leadership traits you can purchase upon leveling up. All while reducing the upkeep cost.
- Upon release, the Skaven's summoned Clanrats had no collision detection, which potentially allowed their full numbers (yes, all 160 of them) to attack a single target at once, probably slaughtering or heavily-damaging a lord or hero with little more than two button-presses. Sure, they'll probably only have the minimum 10% hit chance against the target, but over 160 attacks will eventually get through... and if these summoned Clanrats don't kill the poor fellow, well, the next ones summoned probably will.
- The entire Tomb King faction campaign becomes this if you can survive the Early Game Hell with weak starting position/economy - especially with Settra the Imperishable - and overcome their general Difficult, but Awesome playstyle. Tomb Kings have no upkeep cost whatsoever and can raise up 20-stack armies right from the start of the game with only gold investment - although they can only initially make one army at a time and can only get more through researching Dynasties. Once you start raiding and pillaging local areas for enough gold to keep your armies at full strength all the time, the faction quickly snowballs as they can raise more and more armies. While their regular skeleton soldiers are very weak compared to other starting unit, the Tomb Kings have quite strong and quick blob-killer units like Ushabti and Tomb Scorpions. Their end-game Monstrous units are some of the most powerful in the entire game, with the Necrosphynx laughing at other equivalent end-game units and commanders, while Warsphinyxes and Hierotitans devour regular infantry and can even hold their own against Anti-Large infantry. Combined with the Legions of Legend - essentially the prenerf Regiments of Reknown from the first game - which can be summoned as extra upgraded armies anywhere for absolutely free once you get enough Canopic Jars to unlock them (very easy if you know what you're doing), it doesn't take long for the Tomb Kings to start utterly steamrolling other factions in short order. This is actually a bit of Fridge Brilliance too, since their campaign and their lore revolves around the Tomb Kings slowly reawakening from undeath and recapturing their empire's former glory.
- On that note, Tomb King chariot units, which are the fastest (albeit least tanky) in the game. Step One: Charge your skeletons straight into the enemy as meatshields. Step Two: Charge your chariots in the flanks of the central mass. Step Three: Laugh as the chariots instantly break the morale of whatever they hit and annihilate swaths of the enemy's starter units. This can swing the battle for you in an instant as the AI really, really doesn't know how to recover from this. This gets taken Up to Eleven if you research their respective Dynasty to make them even faster and hit even harder. Their only downside is the micromanagement aspect, since they die exceptionally fast if they get swamped by blobs.
- The Depth Guard of The Vampire Coast. During The Everchosen Invitational of Halloween 2018, these guys were seen plowing through nearly every single infantry in the game like it was nothing, dealing massive damage and healing from it thanks to a trait that allowed them to regenerate as long as they were in combat. Not even The Chosen of The Chaos Warriors could slow them down enough! The only things that kept them from winning the whole tournament singlehandedly was fire from artilery and Wulfric The Wanderer stampeding with his mammoth. Ironic that a faction mostly based around guns and cannons has arguably the strongest infantry in the game. They were, however, nerfed very quickly and are no longer able to stand up to high-tier elite infantry.
- Ikit Claw of Clan Skryre can use his faction-exclusive workshop in single player to make his signature Warp Lightning spell cost 2 Winds of Magic and have a cooldown of 1, allowing him to repeatedly chain-lightning everything in sight. As if that wasn't bad enough, his unique 'Second Wind Serum' gives Ikit a Healing Factor and increased Melee Defence whenever he casts a spell, meaning he's essentially immortal for as long as he has Winds of Magic left. He also has access to the 'Musk of Fear' caster attribute for the Lore of Ruin that stacks a Leadership penalty on all enemy units every time he casts a spell — while this debuff does not stack, any army facing Ikit basically permanently suffers from this Leadership penalty.
- Lord Kroak of the Lizardmen is known in the lore as the mightiest wizard of all of Warhammer Fantasy, and his portrayal as a Legendary Hero in II does a fair job living up this - his 3 versions of the Deliverance of Itza do not cause friendly fire and pretty much means he will rarely not be nuking his enemies to dust, and the Supreme Shield of the Old Ones is a significant defensive buff to your units while not costing any Winds of Magic at all. His presence pretty much means any defensive siege battle is doable unless facing particularly insane odds, like over 3-to-1 unit counts. It'll take a few quests to get to Lord Kroak for most Lizardmen Legendary Lords, but he's well worth it.
- Gor-Rok is rightly considered a very easy start out of all the Lizardmen Legendary Lords. This is because unlike the other Legendary Lords, he does not have to complete a quest to get Lord Kroak, but instead starts with him in his army. Gor-Rok being a particularly tough Legendary Lord pretty much means you can just send him into the enemy army while Kroak blasts them all apart around him.
- High Elves as a faction have a lot going for them, to the point they're often considered the strongest faction in the entire campaign.
- High Elves can have the Entrepreneur trait on Mages and Handmaidens. These give a +3% increase to tax income factionwide and 30% increase to income from buildings in the local region. This is nice, but not much. However, there's nothing but time stopping you from getting tons of mages with this trait and piling them all in the same province, resulting in an income so high you can't possibly spend it all, and since High Elves have five different recruiting pools for mages and start with one of the best provinces to let them amass in (Lothern) this isn't especially hard or unlikely. They can also get Administrator on Mages, which reduces construction cost and time. These also stack, making it possible to make all construction nearly-instant and free by having three of them in the same province. These were significantly nerfed as of the Total Waaagh! update, and the modified version of Entrepreneur given to Lords is widely considered to be a nerf since it eats up a valuable 60-Influence trait that could be filled by something better.
- High Elf Nobles can get the Conscientious trait which gives +2 levels to all Lords and Heroes recruited faction-wide. Like with Entrepreneur, this stacks with itself, so if you can get a number of them you can have a late-game situation where you can recruit new lords and heroes at maximum level. This trait also lets you embed them in an army to give +1 experience level to all units that army recruits, which also stacks. Every Noble regardless of trait also has a passive bonus that increases trade good production by 30%, which stacks well with Entrepreneur above to make them even more money. On top of that, you need Nobles anyway because they generate the Influence you need to hire more Mages. They can also eventually gain skills that increase the incomes of certain types of buildings factionwide, which compounds the above Entrepreneur spam even more. Emollient nobles are also highly valued for giving faction-wide Public Order.
- High Elves have one of the smoothest unit progression trees in the game, having strong choices of units at all levels. They can recruit Lothern Sea Guard at Tier 2, which solve the question of 'Do I want spearmen or archers' by being both of those things, allowing stacks of nothing but Lothern Sea Guard to function well into the mid-game with only their upkeep being a problem, one easily mitigated by the generally-wealthy Ulthuan economy. Tier 3 Sea Guards also get shields to resist return fire from other archers, though they cost more. They also get the Eagle Claw Bolt Thrower, which on its own seems unexceptional but it's one of the best anti-artillery pieces in the game due to its incredible precision, which can eliminate other artillery pieces extremely quickly. At higher tiers they get access to three different tiers of dragons that get increasingly better, with the Star Dragon being anti-everything, as well as the Sisters of Avelorn, an anti-everything archer unit that still performs passably in melee. High Elves also excel at the type of combat favored by higher difficulties, having an extremely heavy focus on ranged combat. While higher battle difficulties boost enemy melee stats and leadership, making the lives of melee infantry and cavalry harder, ranged units are largely unaffected.
- On top of all the above, their Legendary Lords are no slouches either. Tyrion is widely considered the best Legendary Lord in the game due to the incredible bonuses he offers his faction on top of being one of the game's strongest duelist Lords. He also has relatively easy access to the Sword of Khaine since he starts on Ulthuan, which turns him into a one-man army capable of taking on pretty much anything short of full end-game armies by himself. Alith Anar combines the strong roster of the High Elves with an Underway-style movement mechanic and the ability to ambush armies on the attack like Skaven or Beastmen, making Nagarythe possibly the most powerful, versatile faction in the game once they get rolling. Alarielle starts with an ability that greatly boosts the missile damage of Sisters of Avelorn, the High Elves' best unit, and eventually gains an ability that halves the recruitment time of them too; she can also recruit a handful of treemen units that give her archer armies an incredibly durable front line.
- As the icing on this many-layered cake, all the High Elf legendary lords except Imrik have significant faction-wide bonuses in their skill trees or from their quest items, meaning the more of them you successfully confederate the stronger the whole faction gets. Tyrion can boost Public Order in every settlement, reduce the upkeep of all armies and recruitment cost of all units, and reduce global recruitment time while adding more slots. Alarielle gives more public order, increases the tax rate, and reduces Sisters of Avelorn recruitment time (both local and global) even more while also allowing more liberal use and recruitment of Handmaidens. Alith Anar adds a 12% damage bonus to all missile units, which is what most High Elven armies are based around. Teclis gives significant bonuses to Mages and Loremasters, making them more likely to succeed at their actions and making those actions cheaper while also making mages widely available. Eltharion reduces the cost and increases the speed of wall construction, allowing for rapid fortification, and adds even more global recruitment slots. Even Imrik allows for the easier recruitment of more nobles. The end result is that fully-confederated High Elves can recruit nearly any hero from nearly anywhere, can materialize full armies of high-level archers with greatly improved damage in very few turns, have more and more successful mages than everyone else, fortify captured territory almost instantly, and almost never have to worry about rebellions, on top of the simple fact they have six Legendary Lords.
- Sisters of Avelorn are worth their own mention. These High Elven ladies have a very long reach for archers (Only Wood Elves can shoot farther) and their arrows are armor-piercing, magical, and flaming, meaning they deal maximum damage against everything without significant magical resistance or ward saves, both of which are rare. They have reasonable upkeep costs, less than that of a lot of factions' higher-tier units, meaning you can field a lot of them. The real kicker, though, is that with all the bonuses you can stack from Legendary Lords, research, and Handmaidens, they're not only devastating at range but also in melee, able to take down mid-tier infantry and cavalry on their own and hold the line against elites long enough for another unit to shoot them to pieces. They also benefit from the faction-specific powers of multiple Legendary Lords - Tyrion can recruit them in a single turn (even globally, after confederating Alarielle), Alarielle can build their recruitment building in minor settlements, and Alith Anar can ambush with them, removing their weakness against artillery. All in all, they're widely considered the best unit of an already very powerful roster for very good reasons. The only problem is they're only available if you own The Queen and the Crone.
- Archmages, a new Lord type included in the Warden and the Paunch are considered absurdly good. They are better than any other casters in the game (thanks to having access to all the lores of magic, latent magic cost reduction, a bound Chain Lightning spell, and both Arcane Conduit and Greater Arcane Conduit), they have access to Dragon Mounts, completely removing the "squishy" in their Squishy Wizard and makign them decent in melee and, like High Elf mages heroes they can also have the "Incendiary" trait, which buffs their melee stats to the point of absurdity, making them better Lords than almost every single non-High Elf Lord (including Legendary ones) in the rest of the game.
- The Wind of Death spell from the Lore of Vampires is infamous for practically being a "Delete infantry units that are directly hit" button; the overcast version is even able to scythe down Dwarfs. Any individual with that spell can expect to rack up hundreds of kills in a battle once infantry units are bogged down in combat, and every faction with access to the Lore of Vampires has a ton of cheap chaff that exists to bog enemies down in combat.
- The AI gets one in the form of Confederations on high difficulty. This is two-fold - One, the AI gets a lot of bonuses to confederations on high difficulty, and two, they get to ignore most of the restrictions that stop players from snowballing confederations. This often results in certain factions forming unstoppable juggernauts, especially the Dwarfs, who already have high bonuses to confederate without the assistance. It's not unusual for the Dwarfs to completely take over the Old World if the player doesn't stop them, leading to a phenomenon nicknamed 'Dawitide.' This was eventually dialed back in a patch that forces the AI to respect the same cooldown the player has on confederations, preventing them from forming huge conglomerations very quickly, though the Greenskins were given this back in the form of Norsca-styled confederations where a faction leader who beats another faction leader can immediately confederate the loser.
- Deathmaster Snikch gets an intentional one in the form of his final unique power, Plunge Into Anarchy. It requires him to be level 30 and has a 100 turn cooldown once used, but it allows Clan Eshin to simply choose a faction and kill it. The entire faction, all at once. All Lords, armies, and heroes that faction controls, even legendary ones, are instantly removed and all settlements that faction controls switch to rebel control as if they had successfully rebelled. All this ability costs is 20 Food (or 4 Eshin actions) and Snikch is wounded for five turns. This action is 100% successful and has no defense or counter. Thankfully, the AI can't use it and players in Head to Head can't use it on each other.
- There is an absolutely cheesy strategy a Beastman player can pull off in the campaign: one of the starting traits beastmen heroes can have is called Nurgle's Foul Stench, which reduces the leadership of all enemies in the region where the hero is present. This stacks. With no limit. Once amassing enough of these heroes (around fifteen of them should be enough to get any army's base Leadership down to zero), one just have to station them in the same region as the army they want to attack, then at the beginning of the battle charge their front line (or just drop a leadership-lowering spell on them), and watch the entire army turn tails and rout in seconds.
- The same tactics can also be utilized by the Vampire Counts (the Dread Incarnate trait) and the lizardmen (the Pompous trait), to the same effect, with the vampires in particular also having access to the Lore of Death to further lower morale and Isabella Von Carstein granting massive bonuses to embedded vampire heroes.
- Skaven Warlords gain access to a skill at level 12 that boosts the income of settlement buildings factionwide. This skill has two levels in it, for a 40% bonus. What makes this such a game-breaker is that the Lord doesn't need to be active for this to take effect; it still works even if you disband them, bypassing the Loyalty and Supply Lines mechanics altogether. A Skaven player who can recruit Warlords at level 13, which isn't terribly hard to do, can recruit a Warlord, take this skill, then disband them, every single turn for the rest of the game. Since every Skaven settlement building produces income, this can quickly lead to a Skaven player making hundreds of thousands of gold per turn. This was nerfed in the Total Waaagh! update.
- Walls. Not in the player's cities, but in the enemy cities. Sieges are noted by most veterans as being especially easy to win once you understand how the AI interacts with walls, because it is very stupid. The most important things to know are that towers will always shoot at the closest target in their firing arc and the enemy will almost never come out of the settlement, except when its units are routing. This means it's child's play to simply park a lord or hero in front of towers to draw their fire, knock them down with artillery, then move archers or mortars up to shoot the enemies standing on or just behind the walls until you run out of either ammunition or enemies. The AI prioritizes having its troops on the walls or behind the gates to maintain control of the zones, even when their towers have been destroyed and the last eight squads got shot to pieces by your forces. If that's not enough to win you always have the choice to withdraw, often without suffering a single casualty, then put the city back under siege so the garrison can't replenish any of the losses you just inflicted and attack again next turn with replenished ammunition. Once you become good at this it becomes significantly safer and easier to take out a dangerous enemy army that's behind walls than that same army minus the garrison in the open.
- Wood Elves factions have a mid-tier technology that renders your armies immune to attrition... All attrition. This includes the (otherwise crippling) attrition you take from running a budget deficit. As long as you are able to sack a settlement for enough money to queue up whatever you need to build or recruit before the turn ends (or squirrel it away by using Global Recruitment to queue up units you can cancel and refund in subsequent turns), the Wood Elves can literally ignore the game's economy.
- In multiplayer, the three Undead factions (Vampire Counts, Vampire Coast, and Tomb Kings) are consistently considered the best, or at least have the least bad matchups, due almost entirely to their different Morale Mechanic. Undead units will never rout and run from battle, but instead start to crumble and disintegrate when their leadership runs low. In singleplayer campaigns, this is fairly balanced - if anything, it can mean more losses if you don't notice a unit melting on the spot when other factions would run. In multiplayer, where the ending state of your army is meaningless as long as you win? This means your tarpit units have to be dead almost to a man before they can be shaken off, mass routing is less likely, and low-leadership chaff units will last longer, so it's extremely difficult for anything to punch through the lines and get a clean shot at your damage-dealers. This also means no micro in trying to get rallying units back into the fray, keeping your attention on the major engagements, which makes them more than worth having to sink some army value into support units to keep the army healed. Oh yeah, all of those armies have healers, and the Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings have easy access to resurrection, making their roadblocks last even longer.
Medieval II: Total War Stainless Steel
Medieval II: Total War Stainless Steel mod
- The mod manages to make the Scots even more broken. The Highland Nobles are nerfed (while still powerful, they're harder to recruit), but recruiting pikemen is even easier now, so most Scottish armies are going to be packing at least four to ten units of pikemen. Pikemen are powerful here, particularly thanks to the combat system. Every time a soldier takes a hit from a weapon that doesn't penetrate their armor, they have a brief "flinching" animation that either stops them from advancing or prevents them from attacking. Pikemen, thanks to their long pikes, inflict these "flinching" animations well before an opponent can get into striking range, and three or four men at least are going to be poking every enemy soldier, thanks to the pikes' reach. This dramatically slows them down and makes it hard to attack them (just like it did historically) and with hordes of pikes poking them, even heavy infantry will eventually go down, and the small size of a cavalry unit compared to the pike unit ensures that every cavalryman is getting stabbed by dozens of pikes at a time. But the real kicker comes from the fact that Scotland is based on the British Isles, and all castles in the British Isles, once upgraded with the right archery ranges, can produce longbowmen. Pikes + longbows = nearly unbreakable formations that render just about any form of cavalry into a sad joke. Even missile cavalry are largely useless against this formation, as the longbowmen generally out-range them, outnumber them, and have better bows. So, instead of the Scottish armies in vanilla Medieval II, which are a powerful infantry-oriented force that can destroy anything on a charge, you instead get a nearly-invincible Scottish army with unbreakable pike-and-shot formations, about three hundred years before widespread firearms use resulted in its development historically.
- Adding to Stainless Steel's brokenness is the 6.4 edition. Now, a few short turns after whenever England invades in the Late Era campaign, the Scots get William Wallace and his rebellion, just like in Brittania. That's right. Two full stacks of veteran infantry light years ahead of your recruitment capabilities, with incredibly high level generals and a thirst for English blood. If someone playing the Scots plays the right cards, they can go from struggling for survival to dominating the British Isles. If you're playing the English, prepare to lose your starting army and everything north of Nottingham.
- Stainless Steel's Holy Roman Empire faction gives you the most brokenly overpowered knights on horseback until the late game era, the fearsome Teutonic Ritterbruders. These are those famous Teutonic knights with horned and winged helmets that strike fear in the hearts of enemy infantry and cavalry alike. They also sport the hightest melee damage of any mounted knight, only being outclassed in the late game by armor-crushing Gothic Knights, which you will also have access to. They are one of the few cavalry units that can charge an enemy bodyguard unit and actually win. If mounted knights are the tanks of the Medieval era, Ritterbruders are the M1 Abrams compared to the rest.
Third Age: Total War
mods for Medieval II. The modders have generally done an excellent job of implementing and balancing widely different factions. There are, however, some glaring exceptions that make sense in the lore but are still murder:
- Dwarfs are notoriously heavily armored and dangerous in melee, meaning both arrows and infantry are ineffective against them. They're slow, but seeing as how most Total War combat revolves around city sieges...
- The High Elves can recruit an "archer" unit that not only has the longest range in the game and fires arrows which can kill most heavy infantry units through their shields, but also has armor and a melee attack greater than most infantry and can match the speed of the fastest cavalry. You might be tempted to scream at the cocky Noldar elves when cheap enemy infantry surge in on your very expensive and difficult to recruit archers. That impulse will likely go away after the first time they butcher and rout the orcs that hit their lines and then merrily execute the fleeing survivors with arrows to the back. The only thing slowing the High Elves down is that they start off in the campaign in a fairly poor position with limited expansion options. (Dwarfs to the north, Eriador to the east, Rohan to the south). As a result, expansion as the High Elves is slow and you won't be able to build a big, potent economy for a long time, so your armies will be rather small, unless you're willing to go totally against the lore and start conquering the other "good" races.
- The Silvan Elves as a whole. Even their basic Light Elven Archers have range and firepower comparable to most other factions' best archers, and the Sentinels that are their second-level archers are excessively long-ranged, hit hard and have excellent melee capabilities as well. Because of the versatility of their archers, it is possible to have the lion's share of any Silvan army be made up of Light and Sentinel archers, which will utterly butcher any army trying to charge them. Sure, their melee infantry aren't that great, but when 75% of the enemy army is already dead by the time the lines meet, and the archers are just as good in melee as the dedicated melee troops, they don't need to be. It's possible to destroy an entire enemy army that outnumbers yours two or even three to one, with trolls and wargs, while only taking a couple hundred casualties at most. Hell, the Silvans' ranged capability is so great that they can siege and assault small fortresses and villages without setting foot inside them. Casualty-free victories are not only quite possible, they're almost expected when playing the Silvans.
- The only thing that beats the above archers are trolls, which will beat them with absolutely no effort or direction from the player. If you see trolls on the other side, regardless of what your faction or army composition is, resign yourself to losing 300 men off the top. Oh, and trolls are also as fast as cavalry and can even climb siege ladders because they are coded as infantry.
- The Free Peoples of Eriador are actually one of the weaker factions, despite the large territory they control, mostly having militia and irregular troops... unless you bide your time, build up your economy, and eventually build the Hall of Kings to reestablish the old Kingdom of Arnor and get among the very best troops in the game. Arnor's roster resembles Gondor's, with heavy infantry and cavalry which can fight on-par with many of the Elves' units, but they're not set back by the whole "we're dying out and can only bring about fifty guys to this major battle" thing.
- As in un-modded Medieval II, heavy cavalry are very powerful. The mod writers did a very good job of rebalancing cavalry, but even so a dedicated Rohirrim cavalry army is very powerful. By using hit-and-run tactics to repeatedly charge, your 30-man cavalry units can easily crush 100-orc infantry units, even Uruk-Hai Pikes. About the only thing that can beat heavy cavalry is Trolls (which crush everything, of course).
- The Balrogs that spawn in Moria are, as you'd expect, quite capable of butchering entire armies of elite soldiers.
- Archers of any kind are extremely useful in many situations, as Third Age gameplay focuses a lot more on custom siege battles than the base game does. Many of the custom maps can be turned into horrifying deathtraps for even the largest enemy armies simply by knowing where best to position even weak archer units. Siege weapons are also extremely useful counters to many of the 'elite' units such as trolls and especially balrogs. Nothing is quite as amusing as potting a Nazgul capable of offhandedly slaughtering a hundred of your best troops in the first minute of a battle with a flaming catapult shot. Since most starting generals in the Third Age have incredible statistics, such an attack usually decides the battle in an instant. Just don't let it happen to you...
- Rhûn certainly has the potential to become this. They have the richest starting lands in the entire game, and their two opponents will be Dale and the Dwarfs: Dale are a joke early on, your forces can generally outshoot theirs and you're much, much more mobile to boot; and the Dwarfs' otherwise excellent heavy infantry are poorly suited for fighting Rhun's armies of missile cavalry and skirmishers. Later on they get many powerful infantry and cavalry options to round them out too.
Thera: Legacy of the Great Torment
Thera: Legacy of the Great Torment mod
- The mod has one of these in the form of the Uruk Dominion. The Uruk-Hai (which are pretty much exactly like the ones from the Third Age: Total War mod) are given some truly terrifying stats, including high attack, high armor and two hitpoints each. Essentially, they're an infantry version of a General's Bodyguard that doesn't suffer the sustained combat penalties that all cavalry get. Watch in horror (or glee, if you're controlling them) as they charge an entire stack's worth of elite heavy infantry and archers, and go right through their arrows to crush the infantry without stopping. And heaven forbid they assault a city or castle, because street fighting is where the Uruk-Hai troops excel. Fortunately, they're still vulnerable to cavalry, gunpowder and siege weaponry, and sieges drain their numbers if they're on the defensive.
- General's/Royal Bodyguards are already tremendously effective in vanilla Total War, but in Thera, they become a vastly different story once you start piling the faction-specific artifacts on them. Even a mediocre family member or general can become a terror on the battlefield when he's wielding Excalibur in one hand, Odin's War Axe in the other, flying three crusade banners, draped in the Cloak of Human Flesh, and carrying the Book of Morrigan and the Holy Grail. Entire armies break before these generals even hit their lines.
Warhammer Rage of Dark Gods: Battle for the Empire
- The total conversion mod was always notorious for giant enemy stacks spawning right on your doorstep, with little to no time to prepare whatsoever. But massed artillery and magicians will make mincemeat out of those stacks. And it´s not like there´s few of those. On the side of the Conclave of Light, we have Imperial Mortars and Bright Wizards as well as the famously inaccurate but devastating Helstorm Rocket Battery, the Kislevian Uragan Mortar, High Elves´ Archmages and the incredibly powerful dwarfen Anvil of Doom. On the side of the Forces of Chaos, there´s the sorcerers of Tzeentch and Nurgle, the Hellcannon (which also tremendously reduces morale), the Chaos Dwarf´s Earthshaker and Doom Rocket. Even Orks and Goblins get one in the form of Shamans of Gork and Mork. They tend to have very high upkeep and are fragile in close combat, but if properly protected and positioned these troops will win the battle for you easily ... or wipe you out if the enemy has them.
Hyrule: Total War
- In the mod, Goron are infamous for having an insanely strong and tough infantry, coupled with the skill to roll. And that is just for their weakest units, Din spare you if you encounter Fire Warriors mounted on Dodongos.