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Rome: Total War

Rome: Total War (often abbreviated to RTW or Rome) is a critically acclaimed strategy game composed of both turn-based strategy and real-time tactics, in which the player fights historical and fictitious battles set during late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire (270 BC–AD 14). The game was developed by Creative Assembly and released on September 22, 2004. It is the third game of Creative Assembly's Total War series.

The endeavors of the player involve a duality of turn-based strategy and 3D real-time tactical battles. The high-quality 3D graphics engine is able to render over thirty thousand men on a single battlefield. The strategic and tactical modes integrate such that the landscape for the battles is the same as seen on that particular spot on the strategic map where the armies meet.

The player takes a role equivalent to the head of one the three great Roman houses at the time; the Julii, the Scipiones (called "Scipii" in the game) or the Bruti (called "Brutii"), or . Each of these factions has a different set of attributes and initial objectives. After winning campaign as Romans (or using a simple mod) it is possible to play with other factions and take on a role similar to that of Hannibal, commander-in-chief of the Carthaginian armies during the Second Punic War or the Gallic warlord Vercingetorix.

Prior to its release, a preliminary but completely workable version of the game engine was used in two series of TV programs: Decisive Battles by the History Channel where it was used to recreate famous historical battles, and Time Commanders by BBC Two, where teams of novice nongamers commanded ancient armies to replay key battles of antiquity. The game engine was fine-tuned specifically for these television shows by military historians for maximum historical accuracy.


The gameplay is similar to that of its predecessors, Shogun: Total War and Medieval: Total War, although there are some changes to the mechanics of sieges and city fights have been added. Most notable is that players now move their units with movement points; in previous games units were moved by territory.

Armies can be built to conquer nearby provinces; to conquer a province, you besiege and capture its capital. Fleets at sea can also ferry troops, and blockade enemy ports, thus cutting down income from trade. While doing so, players can build certain buildings within their cities to move up through the tech tree to train more advanced units, increase a province's income, and/or keep the population happy. The ultimate goal, as in previous Total War games, is to conquer 50 provinces and capture Rome from the Senate, thereby becoming Emperor.


The player takes control of a particular faction of the era. It is possible to unlock otherwise non-playable factions by a simple mod of the game's files; however, some may contain minor faults or bugs. The default playable status is listed next to each faction in parentheses.


There are three playable Roman factions: the Julii, the Brutii, the Scipii, along with the unplayable Senate, although it can be played in the Battle of Asculum, one of the game's historical battles. The three factions start out allied to each other and the Senate, and may not attack each other, and cannot bribe each other's units. Each Roman faction can also view the others' map information in real time, a benefit not accorded to any other alliance. Even after the inevitable civil war, all Roman units are visible to a Roman player. However, the factions generally function independently, and a player controlling a Roman faction will rarely lend direct assistance to a Roman ally unless the player is somehow threatened.

All three factions receive missions from the Senate, which are non-compulsory. However, the completion of Senate missions will increase the player's standing with the Senate, and possibly reward the player with rare and exotic units such as elephants. Players in good standing with the Senate will receive progressively greater rewards for completing missions. Failure to complete missions reduces the player's standing with the Senate, and the Senate may demand that future missions are completed or else a penalty will be incurred. In extreme situations, the army of the Senate may declare war on the faction that isn't following its orders, a move the other Roman factions will soon copy.

In addition to Senate standing, Roman factions must keep an eye on their popular standing within the Roman world. In general, popular standing tends to increase as a faction gains more territory; the public likes a conqueror. However, the Senate will get worried when a faction accumulates too much power. At a certain point, the Senate will request that the player's faction leader commit suicide. As with any Senate demand, the faction may accept or ignore—if it accepts, the faction leader dies and the heir becomes the new faction leader, giving the faction a few more years of Senate toleration before the demand is repeated. If the demand is ignored, the Roman factions are plunged into civil war. The player may also initiate a civil war once his popular standing is high enough by simply attacking another Roman faction. When playing as a non-Roman faction, the Roman civil war does not occur, unless the game files are altered.

Roman armies focus on superior, well-disciplined and well-armored infantry and weak cavalry, relative to other factions. The game simulates the reforms of Gaius Marius, which tend to take place sometime between 240 B.C. and 180 B.C. (rather than the historical time of 107 B.C.). Prior to the reforms, the army is made in the traditional hastati-principes-triarii model. After the reforms the army is made up of the famous legions, and better cavalry and ranged units are unlocked.

In addition, each of the three playable Roman factions has a different starting area, as well as regions into which they expand, although the latter can be influenced by the player. Each has different temples to build as well as their own type of gladiators, which can be fielded in battle:

  • The Julii start out in the northern portion of the Italian peninsula, and they deal with barbarian tribes to the north, especially in Gaul. They also have Samnite gladiators, and can build temples dedicated to Ceres, Bacchus and Jupiter.
  • The Brutii start out in the south of the peninsula, and they usually focus on the Greek factions to the east.Although if the Brutii expanse their territory quickly they may go to the south east and challenge the Egyptians. They have access to Velite Gladiators, and temples for Mars, Mercury and Juno.
  • The Scipii begin in Sicily as well as Capua, and are primarily involved in conflicts with Carthage, Numidia and Egypt to the south. Their temples can be dedicated to Neptune, Vulcan or Saturn. They have access to Mirmillo Gladiators, and the Temple of Neptune, when upgraded, ultimately gives access to special ships, such as corvi (English: raven), quinqueremes and deceres.

If the Senate faction is manually unlocked and played by a human player, its role in Roman policy is ignored. Senate missions no longer exist, there are no Senate officers, and there is no Senate or popular standing. If the player attempts to go to the Senate screen, which normally tells Roman factions about these things, the game crashes. Another thing to note is that the provinces under control of the Senate faction will never revolt, no matter how low public order is. The Senate faction requires all factions to be destroyed, including Rebels, which makes completing the campaign significantly more difficult than other factions.


Barbarian factions have both distinct advantages and disadvantages. Unlike more "civilized" factions, they cannot build stone walls, nor roads better than dirt paths, which inhibits their strategic movement. More importantly, their technology is limited to only three city levels, as opposed to five for civilized factions. Thus they tend to research their most advanced units quicker than other factions. Though barbarian armies are undisciplined and rely on overwhelming enemies, barbarian infantry are strong in comparison to infantry of other factions.

  • Gaul (unlockable) starts out with a very large territory mainly in modern France, northern Italy and part of Spain. The Gauls have good swordsmen and archers, but little cavalry and even fewer special units, making the Gauls a rather typical barbarian faction.
  • Britannia (unlockable) starts out in control of Great Britain, with a considerable foothold in Belgica in mainland Europe. Its units include chariots, frenzied swordsmen covered in intricate woad patterns, and units that hurl severed human heads covered in quicklime to demoralize enemies. This is a historical inaccuracy because the Celts viewed heads as trophies and the mark of a warrior, hence they would be reluctant to use them as missile weapons.
  • Germania (unlockable) begins to the northeast of Gaul and the east of Britannia, in what today would be considered the Netherlands and northern Germany. Germanic forces include strong but undisciplined infantry, including the only barbarian unit able to organize into the phalanx formation, powerful Gothic cavalry, and a few different units of axemen, who are especially effective against armored units such as Roman legionaries. After building certain temples, the Germans can also train berserkers, a powerful infantry unit.
  • Spain (non-playable) begins on the Iberian peninsula (Spain, Portugal, Andorra & Gibraltar), and represents the Iberian tribes who fought against the Gauls and Carthaginians, and later resisted Rome. They are a Cartho-Barbarian faction who combine elements of both cultures. Their units include solid infantry units, such as the scutarii who throw javelins prior to a charge and then fight with a gladius, a weapon that the Romans later adopted. The Spanish field several other similar units of Carthaginian origin, but they have relatively few cavalry and ranged units.
  • Dacia (non-playable) relies mainly on heavy infantry, notably the superior falx-wielding troops available early on in the game. The Dacians, along with the Scythians, are the only Barbarian tribes allowed to create siege weapons. They are located in eastern Europe around modern Romania.
  • Scythia (non-playable) is overwhelmingly composed of horse archers. Historically, the Scythians were a small tribe by the time of the game's start, and the Sarmatians had largely taken over the steppes. Sarmatians do, however, appear in the form of heavy cavalry mercenaries. The Scythians control an extensive territory in Eastern Europe, roughly corresponding to modern Ukraine and the surrounding area.


The Hellenic factions are located in or near the eastern Mediterranean sea, mainly on the Balkan peninsula and around Anatolia and also in Ptolemaic Egypt. Hellenic armies tend to focus on extremely strong infantry which utilize the superior phalanx formation at the expense of other forms of infantry, cavalry, and archers.

  • The Greek Cities (unlockable) start with a few cities in mainland Greece, along with several colonies scattered around the Mediterranean and Aegean. Its troop selection consists of hoplites and good ranged units including Heavy Peltasts (the Greek Cities are within a short distance of Crete, which provides excellent mercenary archers) and relatively weak cavalry. The Greek Cities can also field Spartan Hoplites which, although expensive, are some of the best troops in the game (their recruitment is limited to Sparta and Syracuse, though).
  • The armies of Macedon (non-playable) focus largely on the Macedonian phalanx and shock cavalry, including the Companion cavalry which was originally led by Alexander the Great. However, due to certain bugs with the game's handling of charging units, the Companion Cavalry is not as deadly as was originally intended, but is still a powerful force. Macedon begins with territories in the North and East coast of the Aegean. They usually fight against Thrace, the Greek Cities and later on, the Brutii.
  • The Seleucid Empire's (unlockable) main force is similar to that of the Macedonians, containing the same powerful Macedonian phalangites and shock cavalry (including Companion Cavalry). However, its armies can also contain scythe-armed chariots, war elephants, cataphracts, and Roman-style legionaries, giving it the most diverse troop selection in the game. The Seleucid Empire encompasses a strip of territory running from the Aegean coast to Mesopotamia. However the Seleucids are sandwiched between several different factions and under AI control it is usually destroyed by a combination of Egypt, Pontus and Parthia before it can deploy its powerful late-game units.
  • Thrace (non-playable) is a Greco-Barbarian faction, with both Greek and Barbarian troops. They begin the game in modern Bulgaria and Romania, along the western coast of the Black Sea. Perhaps the strongest Thracian troops are Bastarnae, who wield the rhomphaia or falx; however, the Thracians also have access to powerful phalanx infantry. Like both the Greeks and Barbarians in general, Thrace has little in the way of cavalry.


  • Egypt (unlockable) troops tend to be lightly armored due to the climate of the area. While historically the armies of Ptolemaic Egypt should be quite similar to those of the Macedonian factions (consisting mainly of phalanx troops along with light cavalry), the Egyptian army consists of large units of axemen, bowmen, phalanx spearmen and various types of chariots. In the game Egypt's location begins in today's Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Cyprus. When under AI control, Egypt usually destroys the Seleucid Empire and becomes the dominant power in the East.


The Carthaginian factions are found in North Africa. Their armies tend to rely on speedy, but good cavalry and various types of infantry of varying quality.

  • Carthage (unlockable) has a variety of units which include a good mixture of infantry, high-quality cavalry and powerful elephants, but a poor selection of ranged troops, including a notable lack of archers. They begin with territory in modern Tunisia and the surrounding area, along with colonies in southern Spain, Sicily, and Sardinia. Carthage is a very rich faction, and can often afford to employ units of mercenaries to bolster the ranks. However, under AI control Carthage rarely gains much territory and is usually destroyed by a combination of Roman factions.
  • Numidia (non-playable) has speedy javelin-throwing light cavalry and other javelin-based units, as well as some light spear-armed infantry. It can however create its own versions of the Roman legionaries. This kingdom encompasses the area west of Carthage.


The Eastern factions represent the major states of the Middle East not ruled by the Diadochi (Hellenistic successor states). Their armies tend to heavily rely on high-quality cavalry, and sometimes evidence some Greek influence due to Alexander's recent conquest of the area (which occurred some 50 years prior to the start of the game).

  • Parthia's (unlockable) specialty lies with mounted units, such as Persian cavalry, and the horse archer. While its cavalry is extremely powerful, it has virtually no infantry of value, which can make sieges difficult. Historically the Parthians inhabited central Asia east of the Caspian Sea or more commonly Iran. In Rome, they still do, but also start with territory north of the sea in the territory of the Saka. Ironically, while the introductory cutscene for Parthia emphasizes their potential for wealth, the first few turns prove very difficult financially for them.
  • Armenia (non-playable), like Parthia, focuses mainly on cavalry. Armenia is the only faction with cataphract archers and Eastern heavy infantry, the latter being comparable to the Macedonian phalanx. They also have their own copies of Roman legionaries. The Armenian territory is located in the mountains of what is today Armenia, Georgia and eastern Turkey.
  • Pontus (non-playable) is a Greco-Eastern faction, with Greek names and the Greek gods. Troops include fast-moving, javelin-armed cavalry as well as phalanx troops and chariots. In the game, Pontus starts in the north and east Asia Minor, with historical Greek colonies.


The Rebels are a unique faction. Rebels can be informally divided into three groups based on how they operate on the campaign map: Brigands and Pirates, Deserters and Freed Slaves, or Independent Kingdoms and Rebel Cities.

  • Brigands and Pirates will attack and rob factions for money in one or more ways. Brigands will sit on roads, blocking trade and ambushing armies that walk by. Pirates will attempt to cut sea-trade routes and blockade ports. Brigands and Pirates will grow in strength if they are allowed to roam freely, and may threaten important armies or generals if not destroyed quickly.
  • Deserters and Freed Slaves are any troops or slaves previously belonging to a faction who abandon their homes. They tend to hide out in the countryside and do not usually rob factions for money, although this is not a rule. Freed slaves usually consist of large numbers of peasant units, along with some basic paramilitary or quasi-military fighting units such as gladiators or town-watchmen. Deserters tend to be more dangerous and well-organized, with many professional military units; they move in formation and are not quick to flee or back down when threatened. Sometimes, Deserters may be led by a Rebel General, a non-faction member military leader. When one is present, Deserter armies can be larger and more dangerous than those lacking such leaders, and may sometimes attempt to capture cities.
  • Independent Kingdoms and Rebel Cities are Rebel-faction cities, and the only differences between them are their origin and their military capabilities. Independent kingdoms are independent, non-faction cities which have existed independently since the beginning of the game and have never been conquered. They usually have some very basic military units like Militia Hoplites or Town Watch, although if left unconquered, they may grow and develop a stronger military presence. Examples of Independent Kingdoms are Athens in Greece, Petra in Sinai, and Tara, a town in Hibernia (Ireland). Rebel cities, on the other hand, are cities which once were run by a faction, but which have revolted and come under their own management. The numbers and quality of the troops spawned through a revolt depends on the size of the settlement and the level of buildings present. For example, a Huge City will spawn more rebel troops of a better quality than Towns or Large Towns.
  • Amazon Rebels are exclusively situated in the province of Hyperboria, which, in the game, is located far to the north (in what is now Russia) and is difficult to reach due to intervening terrain. They have their own very powerful unique units, including Amazon chariots and gigantic war elephants called "Yubtseb" ("bestbuy" backwards).
  • The Gladiator Uprising are units independent of region/location and may appear in revolting settlements that have an Arena building or above. Gladiator Uprising armies are composed mainly of gladiator units and are noticeably more difficult to defeat in comparison with standard Rebel armies. An example of a historical gladiator uprising would be that of Spartacus.
  • Judean Zealots are units that are created whenever Jerusalem revolts against the faction that rules it. They are good all-around infantry with high morale. This, combined with the fact that Jerusalem is often a large city with good defences and that they are spawned in quite considerable numbers, can make suppressing the uprising very difficult if there are no powerful armies nearby.
  • Helot Uprising is a group of rebel slaves that overthrow Sparta, generally having high morale.


Each faction starts with a set of family members composed of that faction's leader, his spouse, their children, including a faction heir, any of their spouses, and any grandchildren. Only the male members of the family are controllable once they are 16, at which point they reach adulthood and become "full" family members. They govern provinces when stationed in a city, and, when fielded upon the world map, can command armies in the field, recruit mercenaries and/or construct watchtowers and forts. Male family members can be added to the family by the following methods:

  • The birth of a son. However, as mentioned above, he must reach age 16 before he becomes playable.
  • Marrying one of the faction's daughters to a suitor.
  • Adoption by one of two methods: a candidate for adoption proposed by a male faction member or the adoption of a "Man of the Hour", a captain of an outnumbered force who emerges victorious. This method and marriage imply that the candidates have extraordinary abilities.
  • Bribing an enemy general with a diplomat. By offering a generous sum of denarii, some generals may betray their faction in favor of the faction of the one offering the bribe. The new 'son' is adopted by an existing member of the family and is treated the same as any other male family member. Unfortunately, the loyalty of the bribed general is often weaker than 'full' family members, meaning that he can be more easily bribed by other factions.

Conversely, male family members can be lost by a family by the following methods:

  • Bribe
  • Death of old age
  • Assassination
  • Natural disasters (Will of God)
  • Plague/disease
  • Death in battle
  • Riot/Revolt

The death of a female family member by old age is also depicted by an in-game message.

In the absence of generals commanding field armies, captains are the commanders by default. Admirals fulfill a similar function for fleets. Neither are family members, but appear in the list of forces when displayed.

If an enemy force led by a captain is bribed, it disbands unless the troops are an exact match of the same type as the faction making the bribe (e.g. a Brutii diplomat bribing a Scipii force), at which point they are added to the faction's army. But a Britannic diplomat, for example, can not add a Gallic warband to the Britannic army through bribery even though they are the same troop type. This is because the graphics of the two factions are different and therefore not an exact match.

Family members can acquire traits depending on their actions in battle or when governing a city. These can have both positive and negative effects on their command, management, and influence, which in turn affect their battlefield performance and how well a province they govern operates. Some of these traits are hereditary, and can be inherited by the children of a family member. Family members can also acquire ancillaries by the same actions. These are members of a general's retinue, but can only number up to eight. These ancillary characters can be traded between two family members if they are in the same army or city.

Family traits on the battlefield

A family member's traits can also be seen on the battlefield (more hit points, more valour etc.); you can see some traits through the speeches that generals give before a battle. The speeches can also show the faction a general belongs to. Roman generals tend to give the player more battle advice, as opposed to barbarian generals who tend to emphasize the importance of slaughter. Sometimes when a family member has certain traits which imply madness, the speech given before battle can include somewhat strange anecdotes. For example, some 'crazy' generals talk about being outnumbered, but that it did not matter because his men have "sharper pointy things".


There are three types of agents that can be used by factions: spies, diplomats, and assassins. Like family members, agents can acquire traits and specific ancillaries, which can be traded, but only with other agents of the same type. They can independently cross into other territories (allied, neutral or hostile) without triggering a transgression message that happens when an army attempts to do the same. They can also be attached to an army, at which point they travel with them until detached to operate independently.

  • Spies can be recruited once a city has built a level 2 trade structure. The spy's role is to gather intelligence on the composition of field armies, and to infiltrate cities to determine what buildings it has and/or what forces are garrisoned there. Friendly spies can also aid in the capture of an enemy city by opening the gates during an attack; the higher a spy's skill level, the higher the probability that he will be able to open the gates. Multiple spies can infiltrate an enemy city at once, thereby increasing their chances of opening the gates. Spies can be killed in a number of ways, such as attempting to infiltrate a city, by being discovered after they have infiltrated (unless they escape), or by being targeted by an assassin. They also serve in a counter-espionage role when or attached to an army or city that the faction controls. This improves public security, which helps detect other spies. There is always a spy in the field at the start of the game. Spies are also used by some players in a form of biological warfare, sending a spy from a settlement which is infected with a plague into an enemy city that is free of the infection. The spy will often pass on the plague to the citizens of the target city, and this tactic can be devastating if executed properly - wiping out whole garrisoned armies in a few turns.
  • A diplomat can be recruited once a city builds a level 2 government. A diplomat can make treaties with other factions regarding trade rights, obtain map information, and create alliances. They can also present peace offers, make demands as well as bribe rival armies, cities or diplomats. Diplomats can negotiate with cities and any field army. There is always at least one diplomat in the field at the start of the game.
  • Assassins can be recruited once a city has built a level 3 trade structure. They can assassinate enemy commanders and agents and sabotage buildings in enemy cities. They can be killed when attempting to infiltrate a city or if discovered by their target's bodyguards. Assassins are the only agent not in the field at the start of the game.


On the campaign map, generals (family members, not captains) can hire mercenaries for an amount of gold when there are mercenaries available in a territory. Mercenaries are already trained and can be put to immediate use. Infantry, cavalry, and missile troop types can be hired. Mercenaries cannot be recruited in a city by factions, but can only be hired in certain regions; for example, Samnite mercenaries can only be hired in Italian provinces, while Numidian mercenaries are only hired in North Africa. They are usually suited for the local terrain, and can be used for various purposes, such as augmenting an army's strength, sustaining a campaign, or garrisoning a nearby settlement. Some mercenaries can be hired more frequently than others, while some are more geographically distributed and can be hired from more regions than other types. Although mercenaries can be used for many different purposes and allow a flexible management of an army, they do have their disadvantages. Mercenaries cannot be retrained other than improving their weapons and armor, thus their losses cannot be replenished except by merging. If a general hires mercenaries frequently, he acquires the mercenary captain ancillary. However, mercenaries are notoriously known to be very expensive with a very high recruitment cost. When conquering a settlement, mercenaries will take part of the looting for themselves, thereby decreasing the amount of money the player can loot from a settlement.

Historical inaccuracies

Rome: Total War contains numerous historical inaccuracies. Some of the errors are caused by the anachronistic use of military units. Other errors are the result of fictionalizing the historical account for the purpose of game-play.


The original music soundtrack for the game was composed by Jeff van Dyck, who received a BAFTA (British Academy) Interactive Awards nomination for his work. His wife Angela van Dyck features in some of the vocals; Angela also wrote the lyrics for the song Divinitus, the lyrics of which are in Latin. The game's most notable collaboration between Jeff and AngelForever, which plays while the game's credits are rolling. Forever was originally meant to be the game's main menu song.

Reviews and awards

Rome: Total War has been critically acclaimed by many reviewers and is generally regarded as one of the best strategy games of 2004, winning numerous awards and high scores from gaming websites and magazines alike. The review aggregator Game Rankings shows an average of 91.7% from 65 major critic reviews, with 48 reviews in the 90%s.


A demo of the game was released on August 23, 2004 and is freely available for downloading. It features a playable version of the Battle of the Trebia, with the player taking the role of Hannibal.


Rome Total War: Barbarian Invasion

Barbarian Invasion was the first expansion pack for Rome: Total War. It was released on September 27 2005. It allowed the player to take part in the fall of the Roman Empire, and the events which came after it. There were also a lot of new features in the game such as generals' loyalty, religion, hordes, and sacking cities. It was also commended for the fact that it did not have any unlockable factions— all the playable factions were available from the start.

Rome: Total War: Alexander

The Alexander expansion puts the player in the role of Alexander the Great and replays his conquests and battles.


Rome: Total War could be considered to be one of the most moddable PC games around because of the ease with which its text files and its units' skins can be edited. This has led to the creation of many modifications or "mods" made for Rome: Total War. Some of them change the game's units' skins and the game's campaign map to make it more realistic. Others still move the game's focus to a different time and place. Examples include:

  • Europa Barbarorum, a modification designed to be a definitive, historically accurate, full conversion of Rome: Total War.
  • Rome: Total Realism, a modification which aims toward a much more realistic and historically accurate Rome: Total War. Many new units, more historically accurate rosters and an extended map make it one of the most popular mods made for the game.

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