Total War

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
Total War logo 702.png

Total War is a series of strategy games developed by The Creative Assembly and published by Sega. The series combines Turn-Based Strategy with Real Time Strategy and each game takes place in a distinctive historical period.

To date, there have been nine installments in the series:

  • Shogun: Total War (2001)
  • Medieval: Total War (2002)
  • Rome: Total War (2004)
  • Medieval 2: Total War (2006)
  • Medivial 2: Total War Kingdoms (2007)
  • Empire: Total War (2009)
  • Napoleon: Total War (2010)
  • Total War: Shogun 2 (2011)[1]
  • Total War: shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai (2012)
  • Total War: Rome 2 (2013)
  • Total War: Attila (2015)
  • Total War: Warhammer (2016)
  • Total War: Warhammer II (2017)
  • Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia (2018)

The games' system is an interesting hybrid, with a continent-scale strategic turn-based game that jumps to real-time battles for resolving conflicts between opposing armies. The main campaign takes place on a Risk-Style Map divided into territories, cities, and fortifications. Here the player manages his or her empire, selects construction projects for settlements, raises armies, hires and dispatches agents, conducts diplomacy, and marches troops around. When those troops encounter a hostile army or attack a settlement, the game zooms in to the conflict and loads a battle map, where the engagement plays out in real-time.

Battles in the Total War series are known as much for spectacle as strategy, to the extent that the History Channel used the Rome: Total War engine to provide visuals for a series on noteworthy Classical Era battle, and The BBC used the same engine for the Game Show Time Commanders.

Tropes used in Total War include:
  • The Alliance: And one you'll hate with every molecule of your being. Realm Divide in Shogun 2 and Rise of the Samurai is essentially The Alliance of clans who aren't you, desperately fighting your titanic might from occupying Kyoto and declaring yourself Shogun. And you can't make a counter-alliance (or at least keep it for long), because Realm Divide also give you -50 to your diplomatic influence, with another -5 for each turn Realm Divide is going. (To give you an idea, -50 to diplomacy is equal to your daimyo publicly pissing on the tenets of bushido.)
    • The Realm Divide in Fall of the Samurai, meanwhile, makes an effort to balance the above out by giving you the option to lead either the Imperialist or pro-Shogunate clans under your banner. Going Republican on the other hand warrants more or less the same effect from the original game, namely Everything Trying to Kill You.
  • Amazon Brigade: Shogun 2 has the onna-bushi (warrior women), heavy infantry units that fight using naginata. Only available when defending a province with a high level castle (Shogun 2) or a high level Koryo dojo (Rise of the Samurai). Rise of the Samurai adds Onna Bushi Heroines, highly skilled cavalry equipped with naginata and bows.
    • Shogun 2 also has Warrior Nuns, available from high level Buddhist temples.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Your general, with the right traits (such as "Uninhibited," "A Bit Odd," and "Unmanly.") Of course, he can also be unambiguously gay with the traits "Shameful" and "Too Well-Groomed," and/or the retinue member "Foreign Fruitcake." This being the Middle Ages, all of these traits decrease the stats you want him to have as well as his popularity and public order. Also frustrating if you're running low on heirs, as many of these traits decrease the chance of having children.
    • In Empire it's possible for Politicians to get "mistresses", heavily implied to be men. If your Monarch is female she may also take a female mistress.
  • Anachronism Stew: The Total War games generally pay more attention to historical detail than other games of the same calibre. There have still been a number of minor mistakes in most of the games, albeit forgivable ones. Rome, however, caused an outcry among history buffs in its fandom, regarding a large number of issues. Most Egregious were the Egyptians, who were closer to New Kingdom Egypt, i.e. several centuries before the game was set. A number of mods have since come out to make the game much more accurate, the most notable being Europa Barbarorum.
    • If you have the stand alone expansion Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai (focusing on the conflict preceding the Meiji Restoration) as well as the original game, it is possible to take an army of fifteenth century samurai and fight a 1860's army of riflemen, cannons, carbine armed cavalry and Gatling guns during online multiplayer matches. There are achievements for winning a match using an army from either end of the Timey-Wimey Ball against an opponent roughly two centuries ahead or behind you technologically.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted. Arrow volleys are often very lethal; arrows are the bane of slow moving or tightly packed units. In fact, the Greek City State's cavalry in Rome was made just to get rid of archers. Anything else, the cavalry would be demolished. They need protection though; an archer unit versus a unit of infantry of equal tier will generally find itself cut to pieces before it can do proper damage with the arrows. They work best in conjunction with shock troops; the extra casualties and morale loss the archers inflict can be followed up by a brutal cavalry or shock infantry charge to scatter the foe.
    • Arrow towers, during sieges, continually shoot arrows at a machine gun-like pace. If you leave a unit in their range for a few minutes, you'll probably find a large pile of corpses and a few demoralized survivors. Furthermore, they never run out of ammunition, and they will continue to shoot arrows at your men until you capture THAT section of the wall or the troops manning the tower withdraw.
    • In Medieval II, the sheer power of archers gives England an absurd edge over its neighbors, thanks to their longbowmen coupled with reasonably strong cavalrymen and good infantry They're not particularly spectacular, but they are nasty at range and can win most battles before the infantry lines ever meet. The Stainless Steel mod makes this even worse, as Scotland is able to combine pike formations with longbows (recruitable from any castle on the British Isles) which allows them to brutally reduce any advancing force until it crashes into their incredibly tough pike formations, which will eventually cause them to rout.
    • Played straight with the Roman factions in Rome, due to being able to use the testudo formation after the Marian Reforms event. This will allow your legionaries to march around unimpeded by arrows unless they're from the back, allowing you to approach walls with impunity. Roman legions in general tend to be tough to take down with missiles from the front anyway.
    • The Naginata Samurai in Shogun 2 have a lot of armor that prevents arrows from getting almost any kills against them. Most other units avert it to different degrees.
  • Another Side, Another Story: Most factions you encounter in the game are playable, but are only unlocked if you defeat them at least once in the Grand Campaign. Other nations are unlocked only by beating the Grand Campaign.
  • Antagonist Title: Napoleon and Attila.
  • Anti-Cavalry: Comes in various forms across the games. In order of game release:
    • Shogun I: Cavalry were never best used from the front in the first place, but cavalry fell foul to spears (obviously) and units deployed in forests or on hills. As spearmen are your default pick for your armies being the most balanced, and hills and trees are omnipresent in the game, cavalry are at just about their weakest point in this game. The exception is the Mongol Heavy Cavalry, who might just manage to roll over an unlucky spear unit by sheer force. (Mongol Heavy Cav. are devastating.)
    • Medieval I: Spears, trees and hills again. Also, camels are capable of taking down horse units of far greater quality than the camels, an effect that all later Total War games that had camel-riding cavalry incorporated; all camel units naturally give all nearby horse units significant penalties, because the horses can't stand the smell of the camels. Bedouin Warriors can become the bane of western crusader armies.
    • Rome: Spears again, though cavalry no longer suffer from bad terrain, but in general cavalry are extremely vulnerable to infantry and any cavalry unit trying to take a heavy infantry unit on from the front can expect defeat unless they use the cavalry cycle, charging in and out repeatedly to hammer the opponent. Even then the infantry have just as good a chance of pulling through, and bear in mind we're talking sword infantry here, not phalanxes or spearmen, even short spearmen who don't get the bonus but still seem to be good at giving cavalry hell. This is Justified, as infantry were the dominant feature in the Roman world (the lack of stirrups limited cavalry effectiveness), particularly heavy infantry. The exception is the cataphract heavy cavalry unit, which can give anything short of a front-facing phalanx a serious beating.
    • Barbarian Invasion: The expansion pack is worth mentioning because cavalry are far more effective in this version, as the quality of the Roman legions decline, phalanxes become extinct and the heavy cavalry of all factions get better. Spearmen once again become the real answer to cavalry; just throwing heavy infantry at the cavalrymen no longer guarantees a good result.
    • Medieval II: Spears as usual, but they have to be good quality spears. Heavy cavalry will just roll straight over militia spear units (unless they're Italian militia or in schiltrom formation; Heaven help the cavalry who try to charge an Italian spear militia formation in schiltrom) and you really need pikes or very heavy spears to guarantee bringing a cavalry charge to a grinding halt. Even then, a cavalry cycle might fail, but heavy cavalry will always be a problem for infantry if they are allowed to repeatedly charge them. Spears really come into their own as a counter if the cavalry can become bogged down. Certain archers also have an option to deploy stakes pre-battle, which can murder any cavalry that tries to cross them, but are immobile. If the archers need to relocate or the cavalry flanks them, they're useless.
    • Empire/Napoleon: The square formation is the infantryman's very eloquent and persuasive argument against cavalry, but charging your cavalry head on into infantry is a bad idea in general. Cavalry are restricted to flanking and maneuvering by this time in history, and the vast majority of infantry can hold their own against any force of cavalry stupid enough to try a full frontal charge, thank you very much. Cavalry are best used as flankers; failing that, they are best concentrated against small segments of line to break units in detail while the infantry focus on keeping the other sides infantry from turning their guns on the cavalry.
    • Shogun 2: Spears (especially Yari Ashigaru in Yari Wall formation), archers and guns will cause chaos amongst cavalry units, who aren't nearly as powerful as in Medieval II and are far more vulnerable to missile fire. If you're a swordsman, on the other hand... cavalry, while not as capable, are still formidable on the frontal charge against the right unit type, making anti-cavalry more relevant.
  • Anticlimax Boss: The Mongols are scary as hell in the open field, and are hard to beat back. However, once they hit your cities or a defended bridge, their horse archers are just cannon fodder for your spearmen, archers, and crossbows. The Timurids on the other hand... there are a couple ways to defeat them at their own game in the field, but all require locking down their archers. And cavalry. Lots and lots of cavalry.
    • For the Britannia expansion, William Wallace's army is presented as an enormous and impressively badass army, with fully-armed and armored and high experience troops. In a straight fight, they'd be tough to beat....except that Wallace himself is an infantry general in an otherwise normal unit of Highland Nobles. That means is that all it takes is one well-timed heavy cavalry charge to rout/kill Wallace, cutting the head off the snake in the process.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: Longbows, crossbows, axes... in Medieval I and II, it may be a good idea to keep a few unarmoured units around specifically because of the vast range of units who actually get a bonus fighting heavily armoured troopers. This is particularly problematic for nations who invested heavily in upgrading their soldiers armour via the various armoury buildings, as even their militia may be armoured in heavy mail.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: From Rome 2, which is partially directed at you:
  • Arrow Cam: Thrill as your volley of arrows/artillery fire arcs into an enemy unit.
  • Arrows on Fire: You can order your archers to set their projectiles alight, but doing so makes them burn through their ammo supply twice as fast, and the arrows take longer to reload, are much less accurate, and generally don't do as much damage. However, they are quite effective as breaking enemy morale, and of course can set fire to siege equipment, buildings and ships. You can also order your catapults, ballistae, and cannons to fire flaming rounds. Shogun II has flaming arrows not only cause morale damage, but also cause more damage to the unit in general; a rather unrealistic feature.
  • Art Shift: This is played with in the aesthetics of Shogun 2 but is most evident with the Fall of the Samurai DLC. Complete with old-style photographs and Victorian-esque illustrations standing in for the usual Japanese stylings of the main game's interface.
  • Artificial Brilliance
    • While the AI suffers in attacking cities, they are very good at defending them; it will ruthlessly exploit both fighting on the walls (and is very good at flanking your troops if they try to climb the walls) and the perfect morale boost from holding the square. Almost all city assaults end with a prolonged bloodbath as your men slowly hack and stab their way through the defenders. In most city fights, you're lucky if you end up killing the enemy at a roughly 1 to 1 ratio because of that.
  • Artifact Title: The Alexander expansion for Rome historically takes place before Rome comes to power.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Total War's AI is prone to wallbanging stupidity.
    • You've built an empire spanning most of Europe, the Pope is firmly on your side (and in your pocket), the Middle Eastern powers are currently dealing with the Timurids and are in no position to oppose you, and next turn your armies will be in position to deliver the final blow to Russia...and then Spain, who is currently being thrashed by the Moors, is down to its last territory, and has exactly five military units, declares war on you.
    • In an extreme example, England in Empire is effectively invincible due to the AI's inability to transport armies by ship, though England's "invincibility" has been fixed with patch work and is now vulnerable to AI sea invasions.
    • In siege battles, attackers have a habit of standing right in front of your towers doing entirely nothing as they get shot to pieces, leading to easy, if rather uneventful battles. Sometimes said attackers are archers or javelin throwers who are hurling shit up at your wall defenders or even over the walls at your defenders on the ground, but melee units share the same tendencies, which is an incredibly stupid move even by units that have a chance of dealing some minimal damage before getting annihilated. It's extremely easy to exploit this; the AI seems to assume that you'll never actually try to disrupt the attack once the siege transitions to an assault; if you can hit the troops manning the siege equipment, if even for a moment, they'll drop their rams/ladders/siege towers to fight. Then usually forget all about the equipment even after the fight is over. It's possible to suck a large army into a brutal, costly entryway fight by destroying/disrupting their ladders and towers and forcing them to ram the gate, and then let them run inside. A good player can kill and possibly even disband a two-thousand man army with only a few hundred spearmen by just holding them like that and pummeling them with flaming arrows or catapults.
    • For that matter, siege battles as a whole suffer from severe Artificial Stupidity from both computer units and your own units. You will almost always be guaranteed to have a group of units somehow end up with half its numbers outside the walls attacking, and another half stuck inside, running into the wall, or other such monstrosities of logic. Generally, it's a good idea to consider a unit on a wall as "committed" to that wall; trying to pull them off the wall for quick redeployment is not a bright idea unless you've got extra time to pull it off. On the one hand, defenders fighting on their walls get big combat bonuses. On the other hand, city squares are easy to defend/bottleneck, the enemy will tire itself covering the distance, you can easily shift forces from one side to the other should the AI try to encircle (which it rarely ever does), and your units instantly regain morale when they pass the flag line. Plus, it's mostly out of siege engine range. That said, an army outnumbering the player's army 2:1 can easily be beaten if you just place your archers on the walls and let them rain death on the enemy while you place your spearmen at the gates to slaughter the enemy cavalry as they ride in. However, avoid the wall if the enemy has cannons. Or catapults. Or any siege gear beyond ballistae. The AI will mercilessly pound any wall that has archers on it if it has any effective siege gear.
    • Bring gate-smashing artillery to a city. Stand far enough back that the AI rushes its troops to the square. As soon as the gate is broken, run your men into the city. The AI always walks to the breach. 95% of the time you can trap the enemy defenders in a bottle neck on a long street with spearmen while raining missiles both from behind your spearmen and from atop their own city wall at an angle. Another tactic mentioned earlier that defies conventional wisdom: instead of hiding your troops behind the wall, rush them out to meet the enemy when they start the assault. Tie up the siege operators and infantry to let your crossbows/wall towers unload on the thickly concentrated enemy. This is especially effective if you went and got the ballista or cannon tower upgrades.
    • In Shogun I, it's perfectly possible to take a bridge, rout the opposing army, and then turn right back around and amass a staggering number of taken heads as the enemy's reinforcements arrive, presumably meaning to outflank you on the ground you have just left. If their comrades have already routed, they will first attack you and then try to run away across the bridge you are now guarding; the result can be some fairly skewed kill ratios. A somewhat more forgivable method pops up in Medieval II, where if you manage to outflank an enemy unit during a city battle by getting troops in the street behind them, they'll likely rout straight through your flankers (though when you think about it, there's no where else to run to).
    • Your artillery captains may need to be hung in Empire. When told to cease fire, they tend to discharge their loaded guns directly into the line of battle. If they aren't relentlessly baby-sat, the second their target moves within musket range of friendly infantry expect embarrassing friendly-fire incidents. God forbid cannon arranged in a line, and the target moves to their immediate right or left. However unintentionally hilarious it is to see them shooting each other in the back from mere feet away, the fact that in many campaign battles friendly fire causes far more deaths than the enemy is frustrating indeed.
      • Horizontal-firing artillery is a bit of a liability in all of the games that feature it - in Medieval II, ribault and bombard teams see no problem continuing to fire even when the general himself is standing four feet from the mouth of the cannon.
    • Deploy longbowmen's stakes behind gates and watch as the enemy General comes charging through and impales himself, along with all the best cavalry in the opponent's army. This is most fun against the Mongols, since they will inevitably send all of their cavalry through. It's also rather satisfying to turn things around that way since the Mongols are usually terrifying. However, your own cavalry can suffer from this. If you order your cavalry to return back to wall of stakes(most likely after dealing with enemy catapults or archers) they will happily impale themselves.
    • Improved greatly in Shogun 2. While not perfect (they will still stand idly by as archers outside of an AI defended castle shoot down their precious melee troops instead of sallying out) the AI is definitely a far more capable opponent and will ruin your day on the higher difficulties. However, the AI is still prone to the occasional moment of jaw-gaping stupidity. If you get two missile units in a duel with one another (one isolated missile unit attacks another isolated missile unit in the field) then you'll sometimes be treated to the sight of archers and gunners forgetting about their area of expertise altogether and charging a wall of bows. Utter slaughter is, naturally, inevitable.
    • If a Siege Tower is set alight after it reaches your walls but before the ramps drop in Medieval II, the units pushing it will still try to run up to your walls while the siege tower is engulfed in flames.
  • Ascended Extra: This sometimes happens to the Captain of an army after it goes into a difficult fight and comes out victorious - assuming the army didn't have a General at the start of the battle. The Captain-turned-General becomes a member of the royal family and a powerful combat unit. It ain't cheap after Medieval II though, and promoted characters become generals rather than relations (though all generals are non-royalty in Empire and Napoleon anyway.)
    • In Shogun 2 at least, your Daimyo's wife, who otherwise is more or less completely irrelevant, will take over if your Daimyo dies and you have no heirs that are of age yet. This can actually be a good thing if your Daimyo had low honour since she doesn't even have that stat.
  • Astronomic Zoom: When it's time to fight.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: If you're lucky, captains of armies not lead by officers can be promoted out of the ranks into the royal family after battle for their good work at kicking ass. (And become Emperor of Rome!!!) Unfortunately this costs a lot of money post-Empire.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Units with high morale don't balk at charging the entire enemy army unsupported. Impetuous units occasionally do this without being asked! This is less common in Shogun II, completely outmatched units (particularly those that have already taken casualties in a previous battle) will flee before contact under the right circumstances.
    • AI armies will generally just keep charging against the most invulnerable positions (directly into a pikewall up a mountainside while under arrow fire, say) until they're routed. Commonly, they'll often do this even with their general unit, often resulting in the AI army's general biting the dust, which makes the rest of the fight easier.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Played straight with Alexander, who comes with a 60-man strong unit of what might be the best cavalry in the entire series.
  • Awesome but Impractical: Berserkers in Rome. They're extremely powerful units with high stamina, however, they easily become enraged which makes them uncontrollable (similar to elephants). They also don't have shields which makes them highly vulnerable to missile units, and to recruit these units you have to build a specific shrine in a city, one that doesn't give you many other benefits.
  • Badass: Berserkers in Rome are so ridiculously strong that they prove a match against elephants.
  • Badass Beard/Beard of Evil: When a general gets older, they'll start to go gray, but during middle age their character portrait may show them sprouting a beard.
  • Badass Boast: The intro of Napoleon:

"My enemies are many. My equals are none.
In the shade of olive trees, they said Italy could never be conquered.
In the land of pharaohs and kings, they said Egypt could never be humbled.
In the realm of forest and snow, they said Russia could never be tamed.
Now they say nothing. They fear me. Like a force of nature - a dealer in thunder and death.
I say: I am Napoleon - I am EMPEROR!"

    • The narration of the announcement trailer for Attila is no slouch either:

You built an empire beyond imagining: the pinnacle of human achievement and the envy of the world. Did you think it would last? The eternal city — that glorious monument to power, culture, and learning... but the old wolf lies wounded by jackals, circled by vultures, worried to death by a thousand, tiny, faceless mouths, brought low by your own arrogance. These are the death throes of Rome. The light of civilization dims and scatters. And if such precious time left to hide your women, for your children to cry. Even at the moment of your final defeat, you will take no comfort in oblivion — for I am coming for you. I RIDE WITH A MILLION WARRIORS! I BRING THE END OF DAYS! I AM! THE SCOURGE! OF GOD!... And I will watch your world... burn.

  • Badass Bookworm: Your generals can gain this trait, and it reflects in their pre-battle speeches.

General: "I am a well-read man, I have studied law and mathematics, decoded and scribed, yet I can still swing a sword and cleave a head or two!"

  • Badass Grandpa: Even at 60+ years of age, most generals still kick ass as part of their bodyguards. And usually, by that time, they'll be literal grandfathers. In the original Shogun, Daimyos could be found going into battle at seventy.
    • And in Shogun 2, expect to laugh gleefully as you see your highest-level Ninja skilfully fillet enemy Daimyos... at the age of 65!
  • Badass Family: Given that many of your generals in Shogun 2 come from your family, this can easily result. For that matter, since keeping a dynasty alive is a key game play element from Rome onward, this could apply to most of the series.
  • Barbarian Tribe: So, so many.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Despite the fact that he just disemboweled someone, the Red Samurai in the intro sequence of Shogun 2 has not a speck of blood on his sword.
  • Blood Knight: A small number of units are explicitly this, including Slavic Peasants.
    • Your generals as well, with the right traits and/or a high enough Dread rating.
    • Berserkers in Rome: Total War.
  • Bonus Boss: The Aztecs in Medieval II could count as such. Their continent shows up late in the game, and they have several full stacks of units to guard their territory.
    • And unlike real life, those huge armies don't crumble as soon as you get a few horses and guns on the field with them.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Large armies without a general can be surprisingly hair-raising to fight, particularly if they use their numbers to overwhelm you. Also, just because a faction is classed as "minor" doesn't mean it's not capable of defeating you at war; especially in Shogun I and II, where the great clans are frequently devoured by rebels and ronin in the former and minor clans in the latter.
    • In Shogun 2, in an army without a general or daimyo leading it will have the highest ranking unit in the army take on their role. It will even say "our general is in grave danger!" when they are attacked, and killing them, just like killing a real general, is vital to destroying an army's morale.
      • Not to mention that hero units are fully capable of taking on multiple units by themselves.
  • Bow and Sword in Accord: Some archer and javelin units are quite capable in melee.
    • The Bow Samurai have this as their personal operating philosophy in Shogun 2. Switching to melee mode leaves you at least with a chance against charging melee units.
      • Taken Up to Eleven with the samurai units in Rise of the Samurai, which are equally highly skilled with bow and sword. They're some of the best units at range and in melee.
  • Break Meter: As of Shogun 2, unit morale runs on the following scale:
    • "Heroic" - Only available in Rome and Barbarian Invasion, impossibly high morale, the soldiers are so eager to fight that they become oblivious to all of your commands and absolutely nothing can cause their morale to drop until there is no one left to fight. Only berserkers can enter this state, which are only available to Germania in Rome. Barbarian Invasion adds a few more, with the Alemanni and the Lombardi sharing the Lombard Berserker, while the Celts get the Hounds of Culann. In this state, virtually every hit a berserker makes sends several infantrymen flying (even if they are weighed down by 70 pounds of armor or a twenty foot long pike) their attack score goes way up, and inflict a substantial morale penalty on their soon to be slaughtered enemies.
    • "Impetuous" - very high morale; soldiers want to fight -whether you like it or not! In Shogun, Rome, and Medieval, units at this level of morale may charge without orders. In Napoleon, generals can sometimes inspire troops to reach this state.
    • "Eager" - high morale; soldiers are happy to fight. The default morale level from Shogun to Medieval II.
    • "Confident" - medium-high morale; soldiers are ready to fight. The default morale level in Napoleon and Shogun 2.
    • "Steady" - medium morale; soldiers are fighting but aren't as enthusiastic.
    • "Shaken" - medium-low morale; troops are getting skittish.
    • "Wavering" - low morale; unit breaking up and about to flee. The games will warn you (via an icon on the unit's card) that the unit is on the verge of running.
    • "Broken" - very low morale; soldiers are fleeing in panic and oblivious to the world. Units with broken status will try to leave the field and cannot fight back against other units post-Medieval I, and have their offensive strength severely curtailed from Shogun to Medieval I against any units they do happen across as they flee. A general who gets close to one of these units may be able to rally them and get them back in the fight. Post-Empire, Broken units that are attacked can fall one level lower, to...
    • "Shattered" - zero morale; soldiers are running for their lives and have no intention of returning. No amount of rallying, inspiration, or force can convince these soldiers to come back to the fight. Its worth noting that soldiers in the earlier games can reach a point where they will just refuse to return, its just not explicitly called "shattered."
  • Brian Blessed: He narrates and voices Alexander the Great in the Alexander expansion for Rome.
  • Call That a Formation: Thoroughly averted, units that should be in formation are, and those who shouldn't be usually aren't... and the way these units usually get cut to pieces demonstrates aptly why this is a bad idea. That said, German warbands using phalanxes... yeah... bit odd, that one... though some Germanic soldiers did present a disciplined pike wall, so a phalanx isn't as implausible as it sounds. (Technically that one is a shield wall with pikes though, not a phalanx.)
  • Cannon Fodder: Peasant units have no armor and attack with farming implements, and tend to run away if the enemy so much as looks at them threateningly. They have absolutely no purpose on the battlefield other than to absorb arrows or tie down an enemy unit while you flank it. Peasants can be useful in defensive battles for settlements, if you've got nothing else available. Someone needs to man the walls so the towers can fire on attackers, after all, and better to have your relatively useless peasants up there than a unit that can actually fight.
    • Ashigaru from Shogun I and 2 are far more capable cannon fodder. While weaker than the samurai and best used in overwhelming numbers, they are still definitely worth recruiting, especially since samurai units tend to be much more expensive. Good tactics can also allow them to beat samurai units with relatively few casualties.
    • The Armed Citizenry in Empire and Napoleon are little more than local townsfolk hastily given muskets and would break before just about any other unit. They are mainly used in sieges, either in massed rushes or for garrisoning buildings.
  • Church Militant: In Medieval I, the Roman Catholic Church won't hesitate to commission Crusades, nor will it hesitate to send its armies out to smash the uppity heathens. The original Shogun had militant Buddhist, and later Christian, samurai, who would rise up if upset at your daimyo's religious policy, be it conversion to Christianity or refusal to give up Shintoism if said daimyo conquers a territory that has been converted to Christianity. In Medieval II, if a faction falls out of the Pope's favor and gets excommunicated (or simply doesn't belong to the Catholic church), be prepared for Crusades to such far off lands as... France.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: In Medieval II, a priest's Piety rating not only affects how good he is at conversion and killing heretics, it'll also protect him from assassins. That's right, in this game, quite literally Jesus Saves (or Allah, for the Muslims.)
    • Its implied that he's so widely considered a saint that people don't dare attack him for fear of reprisal.
    • Likewise, the zeal rating of Buddhist Monks or Christian Missionaries protects against ninja attacks in Shogun II.
  • Clown Car Base: Honestly, how does a full stack army consisting of Maratha war elephants fit onto a dhow?
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Your generals can deliver these as part of their pre-battle speeches if they've got the right traits.
  • Command and Conquer Economy: There's no resource harvesting, only tax farming, but your samurai/knights/whatever will require barracks or stables or blacksmiths to be built before you can hire them. Historically, the Medieval-era units at least ought to be providing their own equipment and training. However, reading the info cards shows that the better-equipped units actually are purchasing their own equipment, especially if they're nobles. You're simply paying for them to join your army. This also explains perfectly where all those massive armies of well-equipped rebels come from.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: In Empire, the AI knows exactly which kind of ammunition you load in your cannons even before they fire a single shot. Early on, the only viable anti-personnel option is canister shot, which basically turns your cannons into gigantic shotguns. Switch to canister shot as the enemy closes in. Watch them immediately stop just out of range, then move around precisely following the edge of your range cone. Switch to round shot, they move in again. Switch back and oh look, they're all running right back out of range!
  • Cowardly Lion: In both Rome and Medieval 2, the generals speeches sometimes include a line that it is normal to be afraid before battle, but shameful to let fear rule you.

"There is no shame in fear! There is only shame in letting fear rule you! Try not to look scared, and you will find bravery in your heart!"

  • Crack Defeat: It can happen. Defeats of Roman armies by Frankish forces outnumbered 6:1 have been sighted, and this is hardly the only occurrence. A historical one is the battle of Okehazema in Shogun I and II, where Oda Nobunaga defeats a force of Imagawa samurai ten times his forces' size.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: In Medieval II, the "Foreign Fruitcake" who will sometimes join your generals' retinue. On one hand, it increases Dread, but it also decreases Authority, Command, Piety, morale, chance of having children, and public order. A general without many other redeeming qualities who gains this retinue member can become totally useless.
  • The Crusades
    • And if you're a Catholic faction that gets excommunicated, they can happen to you. On the other hand, if you control the Pope, you can do this to others.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Able to be handed out both by you and to you, and is denoted by a Heroic Victory or Crushing Defeat respectively post-Medieval I.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Can sometimes apply to High Command (and Chivalry, where it exists) Generals. Sure, they give a massive boost to morale whilst they're on the battlefield and make battles loads easier, but when they die, the hit to your army's morale is huge - far bigger than simply losing a captain, and thus statistically far more likely to push them over breaking point.
    • Also applies to AI Reinforcements, which believe in Attack! Attack! Attack!. At least Medieval II gives you limited control over the buggers.
  • Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain: The original Shogun had such a near-future Japan as its victory cinematic.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Wallachia (in one mod) can still have Chivalrous generals and family members, despite their reputation and iconography.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Medieval 2 is this to the original Medieval, due to the more graphic detail.
    • Napoleon serves as this to Empire, in part to highlight both Napoleon Bonaparte's power and the nature of the Napoleonic Wars.
    • Fall of the Samurai is this for Shogun 2. As it depicts Japan's bloodied march into modernity.
    • Attila not only serves as one for Rome 2 and the Barbarian Invasion expansion for the original Rome, but takes is considerably further. The game does this by showing the apocalyptic threat Attila the Hun posed and the more bleak consequences of war.
  • Death From Above: Get yourself a decent number of heavy howitzers and bombardment mortars with percussive shells in Empire, then repeat after me: And how! Incidentally, this function is actually what makes it safe to stick your own units in front of them... as long as you're not aiming there, anyway. For other games, any medieval archer unit with the "Long range" trait is capable of this; and always beware of archers in Shogun I and 2.
    • The English longbowmen are pretty much the epitome of this in Medieval II. You'll be hard-pressed any ranged unit that can consistently cause as much damage at long range short of extreme late-game artillery units like the culverin. Longbowmen can get into shooting matches with multiple artillery units and consistently win. Taken even further in the Stainless Steel mod, where the longbowmen have range comparable to most artillery units. And in that mod, Scotland can use them, too.
    • In addition to even more potent artillery than in Empire or Napoleon, Fall of the Samurai for Shogun 2 makes it possible to deploy naval bombardments against enemies on the battlefield, so long as there are friendly ships within range.
  • Decapitated Army: Killing the enemy army's general causes its morale to drop like a stone, making it easier to rout them. In extreme cases, the general going down can, indeed, cause an entire army to rout. For example: an army of 800+ attacks a castle. Your walls are lost, the gate is down and you are pulling what is left of your infantry to support knights in the Last Stand. THEN, a lucky pikeman kills the enemy general. Outcome? Entire enemy army routs and flees after the first cavalry charge.
    • In the first Medieval, if you try to engage the Mongol hordes when they arrive, you just might get lucky enough to kill the Khan. You will probably still lose the battle unless you had a huge force sitting on the eastern border of the map, but after the battle is lost the entire Mongolian army turns into rebel scum... albeit with very good units.
    • Averted in Empire and Napoleon, as folks have actually seen an online battle where the winner had lost his General's Staff (the generic non-historical "general") unit almost in the first artillery bombardment. It got ugly, but since a GS was cheaper than any named historical general, he'd been able to afford other units that were good enough for him to win anyway. In Napoleon it's also possible for a general to only be wounded, which will deprive the unit of its Rally and Inspire special abilities (and thus much of the point of having him there) and his aura of "morale boosting," but in the campaign he will survive for future battles (Although he will have to return to the capital, stay for two turns and return to his army before he can be used again, something unhelpful when fighting a difficult war right on the border, especially as Russia, seeing as the border is miles from the capital). This is continued on to Shogun II, which is just as well as generals die right, left and centre there if you are not careful, due to the greater emphasis on melee and the bodyguards being far weaker than in Medieval II or Rome.
  • Depraved Homosexual/Depraved Bisexual: Your general can get traits that reflect his lack of inhibitions when pursuing same-sex pleasures. And if he has one, he tend to get another trait with worse effects, to the point that a city will break into riot the moment he sits on the governor's seat. One of the worst traits is Catamite, in which your general keep a boy-toy Sex Slave. Squick.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Pushing the enemy to this point is often the entire objective in battles, as once the entire enemy army is routed you've automatically won the battle. Assaults on cities and castles add an extra layer of complication, as they have "squares" - usually either at the base of the castle or the middle of the city - where any unit that enters the square automatically rallies and can't rout, causing them to fight to the death. Since pitching your melee troops into battle with an enemy who won't break is a recipe for a costly meat-grinder, most city battles center around trying to kill as many of the enemy as possible before they retreat to the square, usually by maneuvering cavalry or fast light infantry around on the flanks to cut off the defenders before they can fall back. Note that this makes it very hard to take higher-level fortresses and citadels without suffering major losses, as these grades of castles have multiple layers of walls and gates, making it much easier to retreat to the heart of the castle and hold out. The AI naturally exploits this, quite mercilessly.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything:
    • In Empire, if you are fighting nearby a city with fortifications, Scroll over to the map's edge closest to the city. You can see the fort in the far distance. It's a nice touch.
    • In Rome this was more detailed, fight next to a city and you'll be able to see it almost entirely on the battle map. Fight near the ocean with a fleet nearby, and you can see the ships on the edge of the map, in the background. Fight next to one of the Wonders and you'll see it in the distance. Fight a battle in Sicily, and you'll see Mt. Etna spewing smoke on the horizon.
    • In Medieval II, nearly anything your generals do can earn them one form of trait or another. Have a general visit or become governor to a town with a brothel? He might pick up a trait about becoming a womanizer. Leave a general between cities at the end of a turn? Might gain a trait regarding logistics. Have a general regularly fight armies of a particular faction, and they'll earn a trait that has them hate that particular faction and get a bonus commanding against them. Hire mercenaries and get a mercenary captain in the retinue, visit a town with an artist's studio and the general becomes a patron of the arts, visit a region with high Pagan religion and get a pagan astrologer or magician in your retinue, and so on. This even applies to agents; for example, a diplomat from an area with majority of one particular religion will be religiously intolerant, while ones from mixed-religion regions will be religiously tolerant.
    • If you're trying to get your cavalry back behind your front line, don't charge them through your bracing pikemen in shieldwall formation. They'll kill your cavalry just as easily as they kill the enemy.
  • Distinctive Appearances: Medieval II introduced enhancements allowing specially upgraded and veteran units to look visibly distinctive from their "standard" variants.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: In Shogun II, one geisha assassination involves this.
  • Downloadable Content: Beginning with Rome: Total War: Alexander. By Total War: Rome 2, full expansion packs have become this as well.
  • The Dreaded: A character in either of the Medievals can keep order with a high dread rating. It even says that the room goes silent when your character enters the room in the first Medieval with a maxed out dread. Medieval II has dreaded characters lower the morale of entire enemy armies by their mere presence. This is very annoying when fighting the Mongols, who all have high dread generals. Use chivalrous generals to balance it up... or use a general of your own with even higher Dread to make the Mongols break first.
    • With a general whose Dread is maxed out, it's possible to break an entire enemy army by simply charging them. You don't even have to hit them; simply charge the entire army straight at them, and there's a pretty good chance that the lower-morale units break immediately, starting a chain reaction of routing that sends the entire army fleeing. With your faction leader, if you push the Dread high enough and execute enough prisoners/exterminate enough populations, he'll end up with the moniker "The Lord of Terror."
  • Dropped a Bridget On Him: A rare trait for priests in Medieval II is "Secretly A Woman." The character portrait even includes notably rosier cheeks if they have this, and with careful Papal politicking you can get a woman elected pope.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The Eastern Roman Empire and the Norse factions in Attila, after a fashion. In the case of the ERE, it gradually diverges from its Western counterpart and becomes more Greek, foreshadowing its incarnation in the Medieval games as the Byzantine Empire. While the Norse factions increasingly behave like the (in)famous Vikings of the Middle Ages.
    • Minor factions in Attila include the Magyars, a nomadic horde whose descendants would be known as Hungary centuries later.
    • The Age of Charlemagne DLC meanwhile adds in factions that would be known in the Medieval games as France, the Moors and the Holy Roman Empire, among others.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first Shogun and Medieval games could count, as many game play elements associated with the series debuted in Rome. Among others, a stricter Risk-Style Map was used, meaning units could only move one province at a time every turn. In addition, the first games used 2D sprites over a 3D-rendered battlefield, in sharp contrast to Rome, which brought the series fully into 3D.
  • Early Game Hell: Shogun 2 and its DLC are notoriously difficult in the early game, given how you're generally surrounded by various enemies and with limited resources and manpower at your disposal. Attila is also a challenge, particularly if you're playing as the Western Roman Empire.
  • Easy Communication: Probably one of the most blatant examples in gaming. You can command a group of knights half a battlefield away from your general, and surrounded, to break off, struggle through the enemies, and reform, before having them charge right back into the enemy (assuming they haven't routed.) In Rome and Medieval II at least, you can select an option that forces the camera to stay at your general's unit to counter this somewhat. The Easy Communication on the Campaign map, on the other hand, can be explained by the fact that each turn lasts half a year, and it is entirely reasonable to acquire the status of every asset in your empire and communicate orders back in that time. Also this way in Empire... but that was pretty annoying (11 years to research a technology?!), so each turn became half a month in Napoleon. One can ultimately treat the whole affair as a Hand Wave on account of the player representing the whole of one's own force's commanders at both "overall" and unit levels, though of course the player still has the advantage of being able to see unit statuses exactly (i.e. morale), being able to give orders with the "big picture" in mind (nominally anyway...), and the complete lack of tactical fog of war unless a unit is hidden.
  • Elite Mooks: Every single faction has them, and usually they are an extreme nuisance to kill, if not a threat all unto themselves. Unless you break their morale, that is... though one of the reasons the Elite Mooks are such a nuisance is that they're much less likely to break and run than other units. Hell, some of them, in addition to having innately high morale and traits giving them resistance to morale shocks, will have traits that cause them to inflict morale penalties on your troops by their very presence.
  • End of an Age: More than once in the series.
    • The Americas campaign for the Kingdoms expansion for Medieval 2 is set at the twilight of the pre-Columbian civilizations as Spain makes landfall in the New World.
    • For Shogun 2:
      • Rise of the Samurai is set at the tail end of the classical Heian period of Japanese history.
      • The main game's campaign, set during the Sengoku period, starts off towards the latter part of it, as what's left of the Ashikaga Shogunate struggles to survive.
      • Fall of the Samurai starts off at the end of the Edo period in the 19th Century, as Japan begins opening up to the world and the Tokugawa Shogunate is on the brink of collapse.
    • The Imperator Augustus campaign for Rome 2 follows the last gasps of the old Roman Republic as a young Octavian asserts himself as Rome's first true Emperor.
    • For Attila:
      • The main game itself starts off in AD 395, at the tail end of Late Antiquity and with a weakened Roman Empire divided into East and West besieged by various enemies, as well as the titular figure.
      • The Last Roman fast-forwards to AD 533, long after Rome itself had fallen and primarily follows the exploits of the Eastern Roman/Byzantine general, Flavius Belisarius.
      • Age of Charlemagne goes even further by starting off in AD 768 and mixing in Dawn of an Era, as it follows the rise of Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire.
  • Enemy Civil War: Several games in the series allow for this, at least from the perspective of opposing factions.
    • In Medieval, a faction whose royal family was destroyed or are in possession of a particularly weak monarch could suffer rebellion as rival claimants attempted to seize the throne for themselves.
      • In both Medieval and Medieval 2, Catholic factions who have been excommunicated may suffer from widespread hostility from Papal loyalists, which can be seen as an Enemy Civil War from the perspective of any Muslim factions holding the Holy Land at that point. When the French are sending crusaders to Frankfurt, they're not sending them to Jerusalem...
    • The Barbarian Invasion expansion to Rome also featured possible civil wars in the Eastern and Western Roman Empires, as well as the division of the Gothic faction into Ostrogoths and Visigoths.
    • Empire includes emergent factions which can emerge into dissatisfied regions of an existing faction, e.g. Ireland, Scotland and the United States may rebel against British rule.
    • In Shogun II and its expansions, you can actually cause civil wars with Monks/Missionaries (Shogun 2), Sou (Rise of the Samurai) and Ishin Shishi/Shinsengumi (Fall of the Samurai) agents, which rallies the populace of a province in an attempt to overthrow the clan that currently is in control.
  • Epic Fail: Those assassinations/infiltrations that don't end thanks to reality ensuing are these. For example, an assassin hiding behind a door who stabs himself with his own dagger when someone opens the door, or an assassin who gets bitten by the very snake he's trying to slip into your bed, or a ninja trying to drop-kick a target off a railing only to miss and take a tumble himself.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Averted by the fact that the only part of the game series that features bagpipes is some of the soundtrack. This was painfully received by many fans, especially since Empire and Napoleon, where all Scottish regiments were given the same boring drums as everyone else (not to mention the Medieval style games that have Scotland as an own faction). Even mods could not yet introduce bagpipes into the gameplay, although those get more and more historically relevant as the series advanced.
  • Evil Laugh: Generals with high Dread are fond of this upon victory.
  • Evil Pays Better: Instead of occupying a settlement with a minimum of fuss, you can choose to sack it, looting and tearing up the place while eliminating part of the troublesome population. Or just kill most of them which gives you even more money than just sacking the place (in Rome at least). In Medieval II this just kills off lots of people, gives you the same amount of money as occupation, brings the settlements public order up a bit due to fear and up a lot due to a massive fall in squalor, and greatly reduces the value of the city. Some Middle-eastern factions can enslave the populace instead, which is functionally the same thing. Rome has slavery as the replacement for sack; it disperses the enemy population around other cities with governors; be careful as while this relieves you of the squalor problems in addition to your unrest woes in the captured city, it can cause problems in the cities you dispatch the slaves to. Check where you have situated your governors. This is averted in Napoleon and Shogun II, where looting and pillaging cities actually hurts your economy in the long run and actually causes more unrest and gives you a hit to your daimyo's honor in Shogun II, and as mentioned, it is a bad idea to exterminate valuable settlements in Medieval II in the long term.
    • It really depends on where you're attacking. If you're playing, say, Spain or England and are on a Crusade to Jerusalem with one or two armies, it might make more sense to invade cities along the way, massacre the populace, sack the town, destroy every structure in the city for money, and then keep on going without leaving any troops to garrison. The city will rebel and go into anarchy, but that's fine, because you're not there to take territory, you're there to pillage and plunder and destroy the faction you're crusading against.
    • Practically speaking, it's better to just outright execute enemy prisoners than release them. Ransoming them might get you some money, but doesn't earn your general Dread, which is an incredibly useful trait to have when pushing the enemy to the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Many historical battles have you playing as the side that historically loses, leaving you to do your best to try and change history by winning.
  • Fearless Fool: One of the generals of the game makes reference to these characters, describing them as moonstruck fools.
  • Flavor Text: Each unit, building and technology (especially from Empire onwards) has a lengthy description of its use and some of its history in Real Life.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: A well-executed cavalry charge can do this. This is particularly true of the General's bodyguards in Medieval II or the Cliblinarii in Barbarian Invasion, both of whom are quite capable of murdering entire formations of infantry and far more than their fair share of opposing cavalry... and that's without infantry support!
  • Fridge Brilliance: Ever wonder why mainland France is all of two provinces in Empire? [2] It's because of the centralizing nature of Louis XIV's government.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Averted. Firing artillery into close combat is only advisable if you like huge casualty reports. Mounted archers in particular seem adept at hitting their own squadmates.
    • PrinceofMacedon's YouTube videos for Napoleon have shown several incidents of artillery-induced friendly fire, the possible most hilarious being here. Ranged infantry can cause friendly fire too, but it's unknown whether melee units can inflict "friendly fire" kills. Units with the "light infantry behavior" ability are useful because of its skirmish ability, which lets the light infantry kneel down so as to avoid getting shot from behind by friendly soldiers.
    • In older games, it's a well-known "rule" of things like this that if you fail to call your archers off shooting a target in time, before the General's bodyguard units slams home, the last volley will cause one casualty... and whatever you do, call your archers off in Shogun II, where they seem better at hitting their allies than they do the enemy.
  • Funetik Aksent: The Japanese-accented English used by the advisors in Shogun 2. By Fall of the Samurai, however, just about everyone is given the same treatment.
  • Game Mod: The Rome: Total Realism and Europa Barbarorum mods are both ambitious and intricate projects attempting to more accurately portray Europe during the days of Ancient Rome. For Medieval II, there's the Stainless Steel mod, which goes a step above, adding new units, retexturing many of the units, adding more historically accurate troops, a wider range of traits and titles, a realistic aging system, and including several of the Kingdoms factions while adding a few others (including the Mongols!)
    • The Fourth Age Total War is one based off The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien's abandoned story called The New Shadow. It deals with the Reunited Kingdom having to deal with it's people turning to evil. Still being updated and worked on today and is filled with references of Tolkien's works while made as detailed as possible.
    • Medieval II has some excellent ones based on other universes: Third Age: Total War, Call of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, and Westeros: Total War are all excellent.
    • In addition, there's the Thera campaign mod, placing the campaign map in an alternate Low Fantasy universe.
    • There's also Darth Mod, Imperial Spendor, Rights of Man and several other mods for Empire.
    • The XL Mod, one of the first mods for the first Medieval mods that while not changing core gameplay managed to expand the scope by introducing new factions and units, deserves mention.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: In Napoleon, certain historical generals can only be wounded, even in the event of a successful "assassination" attempt—they simply respawn later at their national capital. Subverted in that if he is wounded on the battlefield, his unit loses his special abilities and aura for that battle, essentially "mission killing" it.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: Attila gives this sort of treatment to the man himself. Attila the Hun even lampshades this in one trailer, showing how he's aware of his historical notoriety as the "Scourge of God." And doesn't give a single damn about it.
  • Genghis Gambit: All over the place, man. But in Shogun 2, this is actually inevitable: when you control about 1/3 of the landmass, the Ashikaga Shogun will sic everyone in Japan who is not you, at you. It's called Realm Divide, and is the sole reason you kill everyone on your way to the throne instead of sparing them by making them vassals. Same thing happens in Rise of the Samurai, only it's the Emperor himself calling the rest of Japan down on you.
  • Genre Shift: Of sorts with Total War: Warhammer, as the game takes place in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, rather than being based on history. Also, Total War: Attila to a degree as it incorporates elements of Survival Horror, fittingly dubbed "Survival Strategy."
  • Gladiator Revolt: The Thera mod for Medieval II has this as part of the background for the Uruk Dominion.
    • Some cities in anarchy in Rome will also have "The Gladiator Uprising" as their rebellion, though it's not different mechanically from other rebels.
  • Glass Cannon: Mounted ballista in Barbarian Invasion. They will tear apart Mighty Glacier units with ease, but die whenever a cool breeze blows on them.
    • To some extent, artillery in Empire and Napoleon. Despite being the core of a proper army, even moreso in the latter, they are extremely vulnerable in close quarters unless immediately supported by infantry (preferably line) or cavalry to check a charge... or unless with canister shot ready and waiting to be fired to do the same. Part of the role of cavalry in the game is to destroy (can't capture 'em) any undefended guns that they can charge... from the side or behind, that is.
    • Most light cavalry units. Their light armor makes them exceedingly vulnerable in pitched combat, but they are fast and hit almost as hard as heavy cavalry on a charge. Just keep in mind that they have to be babysat constantly because if a heavy cavalry unit catches them, slaughter will ensue. It is not uncommon for a battle that inflicts even light casualties to take out ten to twenty percent of your light cavalry troops. On the flip side, they gain experience very quickly due to the high attrition rate.
    • The No-Dachi Samurai from Shogun 2 have a massive attack, a large charge bonus and an ability that gives them unbreakable morale for a short time, but they lack any kind of melee defense or armor, so one must get them into combat with a charge or watch them get slaughtered.
  • Going Native: The Eastern Roman Empire in Attila starts out almost identical to its crumbling Western counterpart. But over time begins diverging, following down a path that would characterise it in later on as the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire.
  • Gorn: Shogun 2 has the Blood Pack DLC explicitly designed to put this trope in the game.
  • Government in Exile: Even if you defeat a faction and take over their lands, if you don't keep your citizens happy you'll see revolts and the spawning of nationalist rebels.
    • In the original Medieval, factions could occasionally reappear to try and reclaim their independence. In both Medieval and Medieval II, taking control of Rome and defeating the Pope will result in the immediate election of a new Pope, who generally appears right next to Rome with a sizeable army.
    • Rome's Expansion Pack Barbarian Invasion features Hordes, where taking the last settlement of a faction causes several large armies to spawn and the faction to get on the move until they find a new homeland.
  • Guns Are Worthless: The early, medieval-era ones anyway. Hand cannons have less range than a javelin and can't hit squat, but they make a lot of noise and are therefore effective at breaking enemy morale. Arquebuses and muskets are more useful, while guns from Empire onwards are a completely different story.
    • Artillery weapons are far more effective - though they lack the pure range of trebuchets in some cases, their accuracy is far greater, and they are better suited to taking out 'sheltered' targets (namely city gates) and incoming infantry groups, as one cannon shot can tear through several armoured men before stopping.
    • Napoleon goes further: artillery are the kings of the battlefield, which rather fits with his background in artillery.
    • While the Matchlocks units are generally well balanced (and have been considered overpowered at points) in Shogun 2, the one cavalry unit that uses matchlocks doesn't go into battle loaded, and reloads very slowly only once an enemy is within its range.
    • Fall of the Samurai plays with the trope. Japan is in the transition period between pre-isolation and the Meiji Restoration, so while guns are very much not worthless, it'd be wise to back them up with melee units in the beginning of the campaign; spears and swords are not out of the running just yet, and if you're not ready, they'll be more than happy to validate this trope for you.
  • Harder Than Hard: Legendary mode in Shogun 2 takes away the pause part of the Real Time with Pause, removes the save function bar autosaves after turn passages and battles to foil Save Scumming, and you still have to deal with the rules of Very Hard. As this can make coordinating your forces an absolute nightmare, and there are no second chances, even hardened veterans of Total War games will find this difficulty mode a struggle.
    • Playing as the Western Roman Empire in Attila is this by default. Not only do you start at Legendary difficulty,[3] but you have the daunting task of both fighting the barbarians within your midsts and keeping some semblance of order across the crumbling provinces. There's a reason after why Word of God tends to treat playing the WRE as akin to Survival Horror.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Invoked when Empire hails artillery-centric generals: "Here's a man who knows when to blow his load!"
    • Certain Greek cities might be ruled by "Lesbian Rebels" [4] during anarchy.
  • Heel Faith Turn: In Shogun 2, your monk/missionary can enlighten the agents of another clans, effectively disbanding them from their service to their lord. You can even do this to ninjas... if you can spot one.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: In Rome, it seems that the more the People loves you, the more bitter the Senate become toward you. Considering that crushing the Senate and ruling Rome by force is a winning condition, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
    • Truth in Television: This is pretty much how the pattern went with Populari reformists, some of which were part of the Senate. Their fate was to be stabbed to death in increasingly creative ways by the senators. The example that mostly overcame this pattern was Julius Caesar.
  • Hit and Run Tactics: Possible after Shogun. If you tried that there, your soldiers just randomly ran away. Damn samurai honour!
    • Skirmishers can of course do this better than any other infantry, but this to some extent is the main role of cavalry in Empire and Napoleon—other than cuirassiers, the cavalry are unarmored and thus rely more on their speed for committing flanking attacks.
  • Honor Before Reason: All units in the mobile game Total War Battles: Shogun can only move and attack forward or forward-diagonally. Never to the side or backwards. The same applies to the enemy. This turns the game into a glorified chess game where every piece is a pawn. According to the game, this is because every Japanese warrior abides by the code of Bushido, which demands no retreat.
  • Horse Archer: Present in every game in some form or another. Varies in deadliness from game to game.
  • Incest Is Relative: You can order your princesses to marry within the royal family. In Medieval I it's also a surprisingly common trait for your units to acquire, always with their daughter. Nothing is stopping a prince from having a relationship with his daughter. Even if he isn't married, and is in his teens...
  • Instrument of Murder: There is a brief cutscene in Shogun that shows a ninja assassinating his target with a poison dart blown out of a flute. Not to forget the Geisha's several fairly brutal instrumental kills. Special mention goes to the assassination scene where a Geisha kills a room full of enemies, armed only with a violin-type instrument.
  • Karma Meter: Medieval II has a Chivalry-Dread axis. Being nice to prisoners, keeping your cities on a low tax rate when your general is governing them, and honorably attacking the enemy head-on builds Chivalry points, which makes characters better administrators and boosts their armies' morale on the battlefield. Dreaded characters aren't much use in cities, but enemy armies who face them will have lowered morale. Dread points are built by performing heinous acts such as butchering prisoners, using assassins, keeping the tax rate high when governing and running down fleeing units...and also by using spies and "fighting dirty."
  • The Knights Templar: Not only do the original Templars show up in Medieval II, but The Knights Hospitallers and The Teutonic Knights make an appearance as well. It's random whether or not you get them (see the Thieves' Guild example below), but to start, they'll approach you about setting up a small Chapter house in your province. Accept, and you can recruit from the order in limited numbers. If you're really lucky, the Grand Master will set up his order's HQ in your kingdom.
  • Large Ham: Dreaded generals in Medieval II, regardless of nationality. "ORDAH ME NOT!!! I'M BUSY TORTAHING CAPTIVES!"
  • Last Stand: Units that are in a city or castle's square will fight to the death. And if they have to fight there, they usually are fighting to the death. In city or castle fights, if defending unit routs it will attempt to run to the city square. Sometimes, if you get to the square and are controlling it, enemy unit somewhere else might rout and when they run right into your soldiers. Soldiers completely surrounded in the field will also fight to the death; but this is just to break out.
    • From Medieval I to Rome, you can get special defensive traits for being great at these. Risky Attacker gives an attack bonus, and is gained when you attack enemies who outnumber you greatly, and Skilled Last Stand is gained for defending against enemies outnumbering you 2-1.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Some glory-hungry units, such as medieval knights, may charge without orders, thus dooming themselves by chasing skirmishers into an ambush or throwing your careful redeployment into utter confusion.
  • Losing the Team Spirit: Losing a standard in Rome, or your general in any of the games, will have an instant demoralization effect on your army. Losing the entire royal family will end the game. While in Empire the death of one's general won't cost you the battle outright, it often ends up being a Morale Event Horizon. In Alexander, an expansion for Rome, losing Alexander, naturally, ends the campaign, as it would have done historically.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Even before the formal invention of gunpowder, the Mongols in Medieval II have access to crude rocket launchers.
    • There's rocket troops and rocket ships as late as Empire and Napoleon, but their tactical effectiveness is much more limited compared to simply getting proper artillery (although rocket ships can kill the largest ship in the game if you have enough, due to their forward firing guns, long range, and ability to cause fires).
  • Mercy Rewarded: In one sense, as letting prisoners go will earn your generals in Medieval points for Chivalry. But there's nothing preventing those prisoners from fighting you in the next turn, so...
    • And if you do it too often you start to lose dread. The best way can be the rather schizophrenic tactic of letting all of them go, then killing them all the next time. This only applies to Medieval I; in II you get Chivalry as a reward for releasing captives.
  • Military Mashup Machine: For a Middle Ages variant, there is the Timurid rocket elephant, an armored war elephant with a hwacha in the howdah. The description for it runs along the lines of "what sort of sick person would add a rocket launcher to an elephant?!" The Timurids also have cannon elephants. Who would do such a thing? Ditzamer Spofulam would. Though if you want sick, look at Rome's incendiary pigs; the pigs are pointed at enemy units and then set on fire! Stand well back.
  • Mission Pack Sequel: Fans disagree as to whether Napoleon was this in regards to Empire, or simply a stand-alone expansion. The Creative Assembly's silence on the issue just makes things more complicated.
  • More Dakka: Canister shot turns an ordinary cannon into an enormous shotgun that rips Mighty Glaciers to bloody shreds. Shrapnel shot does this at long range, meaning you can subject your enemy to an unending hail of buckshot.
  • Multi Melee Master: Phalanxes in Rome and pikemen in Medieval II and Empire caught out of formation or at extreme close range will down spears (or, apparently, stash pikes taller than they are in their trousers) and haul out short swords. Only the Spartans and a few really tough pike units (like Swiss pikemen or Spanish Tercios) truly fit the mastery of both weapons part of the trope however. For others, its an Emergency Weapon.
  • Multiple Endings: Medieval allowed you to declare victory after conquering 60% of the map or go for 100% instead. If you chose the latter course, the ending was suitably more epic... "more epic" meaning that the little cutscene was the same, but the text below was slightly different. Likewise, after finishing a Short Campaign in Rome (Capture 15 settlements and destroy/outlive one or two specific factions), you can continue your campaign as an Imperial Campaign (capture 50 settlements including Rome). Both give an identical cutscene with different text below. The game's text files also have text for conquering everything.Here is an example. It's from a mod, Rome: Total Realism, but it's the same message and video you'd get as the House of Julii.
  • The Musketeer: All gunpowder units can fight in melee. Why you'd want them to is another matter, as they generally have plentiful ammo.
    • In Empire and Napoleon, infantry and ranged cavalry can run out of ammunition, and can befit the trope with varying effectiveness depending on unit stats and abilities. Dragoons are the best example but are limited to melee attack when on horseback (since they're basically "infantry who ride to the fight"), while France in Napoleon and several minor nations in Empire at least have cavalry who can fire carbines from horseback, such as Napoleon's chasseurs à cheval. Averted though with artillery—they don't run out of ammo, but their crews are not skilled in melee and are way too few (i.e. 12-18 men per battery) to survive against most units. As a result, one of the main roles of cavalry as of this game is to get close enough to unprotected batteries to prey on them. Most of the above still applies to Shogun 2 and Fall of the Samurai, though artillery no longer has unlimited ammo and can now be captured.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Anyone, potentially, as titles and nicknames are assigned based on traits, reputation, and deeds. What's more, if the character in question has high enough Dread, enemy forces often actually will run away from them. Nothing like seeing King Edward, the Lord of Terror, charging an army of several thousand all by his lonesome only to see them turn and rout at the mere sight of him.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: There's nothing stopping you from fielding ninja warriors (kisho ninja) and sending them on a pirate ship. In fact, this is an effective combination if you want to strike a general who hides behind several layers of thoroughly garrisoned territories. Barring mods though, the game doesn't have zombies or robots.
  • Nintendo Hard: Shogun 2 is one of the most difficult games in the series, most noticeably with the introduction of Legendary mode. Attila is more or less in the same league, given its emphasis on "Survival Strategy" and especially if you're playing the Western Roman Empire.
  • No Arc in Archery: Averted. If the front rank of a unit of archers or crossbowmen has direct line-of-fire to the enemy they'll take a straight shot, but otherwise archers will, well, arch. This lets them fire while safely behind tougher units or hit enemies on the other side of cover, but such volleys are less accurate and damaging than direct arrow fire. Archers in earlier games and Shogun II have an unfortunate tendency to shoot shielding units in the back.
    • Wonderfully averted in Empire: even individual bullets from infantry volleys receive realistic arcs. This aversion is also the point of using howitzers, although their different ammunition from foot and horse artillery (cannons) can be a nice, nasty touch. It's also the only safe way to use cannons behind one's own units, if said cannons are also overhead.
  • Not Playing Fair with Resources: The AI in Shogun II gets discounts on unit recruitment on Hard, Very Hard and Legendary, allowing it to assemble larger armies than the player.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore:
    • The Americas campaign for Medieval 2: Total War: Kingdoms. Even if you manage to fight off the Europeans as a native faction, there is no going back to the way things were before the introduction of guns and horses.
    • Fall of the Samurai is this in a nutshell. Even if your clan manages to hold fast as a traditionalist, the arrival of railroads, rifle infantry and Gatling guns mean that there's no returning to the past for Japan.
    • It's still possible - if difficult - to save and reinvigorate the Western Roman Empire in Attila. But the very technologies and developments you need in order to make it so encourage decentralization and have elements reminiscent of medieval feudalism.
    • The Eastern Roman Empire in Attila meanwhile, is directed such that it gradually develops its own Byzantine identity. One that while still Roman, is more evidently embracing Greek and Eastern Christian influences; by The Last Roman, its late-game units are tellingly in Greek rather than Latin.
  • One-Man Army: Thoroughly averted for the most part, save in the case of the Kensai unit in Shogun, a master swordsman capable of tearing through entire units or holding a choke point all by his lonesome.
    • Subverted in Shogun's Tokugawa campaign. You command a unit containing three of them, and your opponent on the same map also has one.
    • Both Shogun and the first Medieval also featured the infamous Jedi Generals. Simply put, the more command stars a general accrued (mostly by winning battles), the harder and tougher to kill he became (this to counterbalance the fact that killing him made the entire army's morale drop like a stone, and the AI wasn't programmed to protect its generals). A single dude on horseback could rack up hundreds of kills until he was finally put down... or he could win the battle by himself. The later games fixed this, firstly by segregating command and combat abilities, and secondly by making all cavalry units much more vulnerable to protracted melees.
    • Comparing both games, it worth noting. An undefeated conqueror with ten stars in command, max dread and authority, and all the traits that give him additional hit points, to a grand total of 12-15 [5] would at most take 30 highly qualified soldiers by himself. Worthy of legends, but not unrealistic. Empire onwards (except for Rise of the Samurai) has generals as light cavalry, so they are much weaker compared to previous games.
  • Overdrawn At the Blood Bank: The Blood Pack for Shogun 2 invokes this trope. The units bleed freaking gallons of blood, that consequently splashes all over the combatants, their armor, their weapons, the game's camera...
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The Mongols...sometimes. On easier difficulty levels, they'll just sort of sit there and occasionally besiege one of your settlements, only to retreat later. Perhaps they're busy razing the countryside or something.
  • Power of Love: Your royal family's princesses can attempt to bring foreign characters onto your side through marriage, though there's a chance this will backfire.
  • Praetorian Guard: Family members take to the field in units of (usually mounted) bodyguard, elite soldiers that can either protect the general from harm or provide a powerful punch to an offensive. Sometimes both if things go sour.
    • In Rome you can build a unit of actual Praetorian Guards. Needless to say, they are extremely powerful, if costly.
    • The general's bodyguards in Empire and Napoleon aren't exactly the strongest cavalry in the game. You start off with somewhat weaker (but more numerous) cavalry and end the game with much stronger (and still more numerous) cavalry in comparison to the guards.
      • The reason for this is that by the Napoleonic era these are not in fact elite guards, but simply the general's staff officers, there to ferry orders and reports to and from the general.
    • Many of the elite units across the series are drawn from military units that historically were body guards to national rulers. Byzantine Varangian Guards, Napoleon's Imperial Guard, and many different nations' Life Guards/Republican Guards in Empire and Napoleon are some examples. Really, pretty much any unit with the name "Guard" in its name has a good chance of fulfilling this trope.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Almost inevitable, given the nature (and the design) of the game. In Shogun 2, you can actually have a Pyrrhic Victory if you have too great a loss in a battle you won, though depending on the circumstance this can be a mere annoyance.
  • The Quisling: The Otomo clan in Shogun 2 have shades of this, given how in addition to subscribing to Christianity it has access to gunpowder units early on and Western-based technologies as well as Portuguese Tercios. In Fall of the Samurai meanwhile, the Shimazu-led Satsuma clan are implied to be this, due to its relatively close ties to the Western powers.
  • Rags to Royalty: Recruit a unit of peasants. Win enough battles with that unit so that its commander is promoted to a general. You can now make that general the faction heir or marry him to the ruler's daughter, depending on the game, and he can succeed as ruler.
  • Reality Ensues: More than half of the failed assassination/infiltration videos involve the would-be assassins/spies getting caught doing something fairly obvious and getting killed instantly. Especially notable in Shogun II with one of the geisha assassinations where the geisha approaches two guards with polearms armed with two very short daggers. If successful, she kills both of them, while if unsuccessful....
    • In Fall of the Samurai, you'll eventually reach a point wherein sending traditionalist forces head-on against a modernized army of rifle infantry, Armstrong artillery and Gatling guns is guaranteed to make them target practice.
    • Attila shows in more stark light the consequences of war and how taxing attacking, razing and rebuilding cities can be. Which in turn can affect morale among your men and across your faction, especially if you're at war for a prolonged period of time.
  • Real Time with Pause: In the single-player battle portions. Extremely useful, as it allows effortlessly commanding massive armies, as well as minimizing casualties. The strategy part of the game is strictly Turn-Based. Shogun II's Legendary mode throws a blinder at veterans by taking away the "With Pause" bit.
  • Risk-Style Map: The campaign map.
  • Rousing Speech: Delivered by your generals before every battle. Some are straightforward, some are hilarious, and some are downright bizarre.
    • Later games in the series will alter the content of the speech based on context. Things like the general's experience, previous battles against the same faction, the weather, and the relative sizes of the armies will affect which lines the general delivers.
  • RPG Elements: Keep your units alive throughout the campaign and they gain experience, allowing them to hold their own against green units from further along the Tech Tree in Empire onwards, and against units from more advanced settlements in other games. Your generals also gain traits according to their performance as generals, governors and other duties, as well as their surroundings, and this is codified in Shogun II as you can purchase traits as your generals or agents gain experience.
  • Running Gag: The two guards who are always there whenever you fail an assassin or spy attempt in Medieval II.
  • Save Scumming: Pretty much mandatory to level up your agents. Since you only get city improvements that allow you to train better spies, merchants and the like after you have an experienced agent in the field, your starting agents are breathtakingly incompetent morons who somehow swallow their murder implements or never learned basic mathematics. Quicksaving before sending them on a mission and reloading until the Random Number God smiles upon you is the best way to level them up without constantly recruiting replacements. Nastily averted in Shogun II's Legendary difficulty; the game takes the power of saving away from you and puts you in the hands of the autosave, which saves too often to get much mileage out of Save Scumming.
  • Scripted Event: Rome has the Marian Reforms. Medieval II has five: the Mongol Invasion, the Black Death, the invention of gunpowder, the Timurid Invasion, and the discovery of the New World.
    • Barbarian Invasion gives us the emergence of rebel factions if a settlement belonging to either the Roman (Western Empire), the Roman (Eastern Empire), or the Goth rebels. If the Western Empire loses control of Britannia, the Romano-British emerge, and at a certain year the Slavs come into the game.
    • Attila has its fair share of these. Such as the arrival of Attila the Hun himself, or the arrival of Eastern Roman/Byzantine reinforcements in The Last Roman.
  • Secret Police: The metsuke in Shogun 2, bureaucrats who also double as judges and spies. While they can't be normally dealt with by armies, they can be neutralized, one way or the other, by enemy agents. They can learn iaijutsu to make them more resistant to assassination attempts.
  • Sedgwick Speech: Your general gives an inspiring speech before every battle, even when utterly outmatched. These vary in quality based on the general's leadership skill, from "I have never lost a battle in all my campaigns!" to "Maybe we'll survive if they do something utterly stupid."
    • An example in Rome: the general's speech mentioned he had no idea why they were even there, but his mother said he should at least put in an appearance.
      • Which is oddly appropriate to how Roman generals were often apointed.
  • Shout-Out: One of the randomly generated princess names for Parthia (ancient Iran) is "Jasmine".
    • And four available traits for characters in the game to pick up are: 'Arse', 'Feck', 'Drink', and 'Girls'
    • A random leader name for the Scots is "Captain Kirk." Play as Scotland and have him defeat the Mongols and their... KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!?
    • Diplomacy in the various games sometimes gets absolutely crazy. Egypt in Rome would tell you that "All your Base are Belong to Us", and in Empire, every single response from the Swedish diplomat is a quote from an ABBA song.
    • One of the starting Carthaginian Admirals is called 'Admiral Akbar'. Even funnier if you stumble onto a large enemy fleet.
    • Two retainers in Shogun 2 are Shimada Kambei and Kyuzo. The latter is a "Hyoho Niten Ichi-Ryu Duelist," which is probably a reference to his Samurai 7 incarnation.
    • Also in Shogun 2, one of the random retainers for the Monk agent is the Bo. The caption reads "You wouldn't deny an holy man his only support".
  • Sincerest Form of Flattery: From Rome 2 onwards, the franchise begins to incorporate elements inspired by Paradox Interactive games like the Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings series.
  • Smash Cut: The trailer for Fall of the Samurai begins with a philosophical and peaceful, yellowish introduction of the process of forging and wielding a Katana, as well as its strong and ancient cultural ties to Japan. It stops abruptly in the very middle, and then cuts to a bluish view of the same samurai from the intro being mowed down by multiple Gatling Guns handled by Imperial Japanese soldiers, with a hammy American voice-over moderating the technological peculiarities of the weapon, and then asking the listener whether they now want to sign the contract.
  • Springtime for Hitler : See Uriah Gambit below. Sometimes, you just prefer that the heir of the throne is that epic conqueror with eight stars in command and seven in dread, instead of a shitty governor from nowhereland, since it gives bonuses (i.e. counter assassination attempts). So you send the 0 star general and have him attack Milan alone, facing his personal guard of at most 30 men against at least 300 soldiers. He wins. And gets a trait which makes him much harder to kill.
  • Sprite Polygon Mix: Shogun and Medieval; Rome, apart from its series defining changes, also introduced full 3D.
  • Stop Helping Me!: "Your siege equipment is automatically deployed-" (click)
  • Storming the Castle: Pretty much how you take down most fortifications in the game, unless you're willing to tie up an army for five to ten turns besieging the fortress. In Medieval II, if you're a Catholic faction fighting another Catholic faction, you pretty much have to do this if your Papal favor isn't very high, lest you face excommunication next turn when you either don't lift the siege or assault the walls. This is, of course, why packing siege equipment with your army is always a good investment, so you can snatch the city/castle before the Pope gets noisy.
  • The Siege: The only way to take cities and fortifications. In a bit of a subversion, the attackers can just besiege the city until the defenders run out of food, and will either have to desperately sally forth or surrender.
    • The AI (unless barbarian) will often wait for the last turn of the siege and then attack. Enemy units will slowly be depleted during the siege, however. Could be justified by that rebels are alone and hope that enemy tires out before they do and attack as a last attempt to remain independent. Settlements belonging to AI player most likely wait for reinforcements before making last attempt to hold the city.
    • It can be costly to maintain a siege, as you need to have an army capable of matching the enemy army locked in place until the siege ends. That can potentially mean that you'll be forced to have a full-sized stack of troops tied up for ten turns doing nothing but siegeing and weakening the enemy.
  • Stock Footage: Kind of, in that the opening cinematic of Shogun 1 - Warlord Edition is an actual scene from Ran.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Once you acquire gunpowder, this is your assassins' favorite method of either killing or sabotaging.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: The strategic AI tends to gravely overestimate its chances and will gleefully attack an empire five times its size and three times as powerful. They'll also refuse terms if you try to reason with them, somehow still confident that they can destroy you with one city. On the tactical level, however, the AI will form a defensive block or flee outright if you clearly outmatch it.
  • Suspiciously Small Army: Despite being one of the most realistic representations of battlefield tactics in the gaming industry, Total War does this, or at least the earlier games do. A unit's standard size in Rome is between 40 and 60 men, and even at the huge unit size, where unit sizes can reach a massive 240 men, armies can't exceed 4800 men. The actual Roman army, meanwhile, could number tens of thousands in single battles. Naturally this is due to graphical limitations, a 10,000 man army would break all but the most advanced computers. Every faction bringing that many or more to the field would make the game impossible to run. There is however a mod for empire that increases unit size to about 500 man for each unit making a full stack grow close to 10 000 man.
    • Shogun 2 is set to expand this, though, with each side being capable of fielding up to sixty-four thousand men in a battle.
    • Done if you or the enemy hide your army in trees during battle, leaving only a small number of units visible. When the enemy gets close enough they stand up, and if the woods are big enough they can conceal a very sizeable army.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Priests with the trait "Secretly Female" in Medieval II. This raises her Piety rating, as she is so devoted to her faith that she would risk discovery and death for it. With careful maneuvering, you can even get her elected Pope!
  • Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: While the sheer mind-boggling amount of units renders this somewhat moot in combat, 'Shogun 2 has a clear-cut case in the specialist characters on the strategic map: Ninja/Geisha beat monks/missionaries (they can't detect ninja, ninja/geisha are hard to convert, monks/missionaries are vulnerable to assassination, ninja scouting armies makes them harder to demoralize), monks/missionaries beat metsuke (monks are hard to arrest and metsuke are vulnerable to conversion, adding monks to armies make them harder to bribe), and metsuke beat ninja and geisha (are good detectors, ninja/geisha are vulnerable to arrests, metsuke are harder to assassinate and overseeing armies make them resistant to assassination and sabotage)
  • Take a Third Option: While your chosen clan in Fall of the Samurai can side either with the Shogun or Emperor, it can eventually opt to basically say "screw it" and go against both of them as a Republic.
  • Tempting Fate: The description of the Turks in Medieval 2: "After all, how likely is it that an even more fierce and formidable race of nomads sweep down from the steppes?"
  • The Thirty-Six Stratagems: Well, obviously in a series like this they're going to come in. #16 is most obvious, though - a surrounded enemy who would otherwise be 'broken' will 'fight to the death' if there is no avenue for escape. As soon as you create one (by ordering a unit to break off), they'll down tools and leg it, allowing you to butcher whatever's left of them with zero losses.
  • Thieves' Guild: Building one enhances your spies and assassins. Conditions have to be right for it to appear however.
  • Time Skip:
    • For Shogun 2 it happens twice.
      • Rise of the Samurai turns the clock back to the end of the Heian period of Japanese history, during the Genpei Wars that signified the Samurai's rise to power.
      • Fall of the Samurai fast forwards to the Boshin War, Meiji Restoration and Satsuma Rebellion in the 19th Century, following Japan's opening to the Western world.
    • Happens as well in major DLC for Attila.
  • Title Drop: In the opening cutscene for every game, the narrator will manage to work "Total War" into his final sentence, often rather conspicuously.
  • Token Minority: Shogun 2 has the Otomo-exclusive Portuguese Tercios, which are armored European infantry. Fall of the Samurai meanwhile allows you to deploy Foreign Marines (of the French, British or American flavor) by the mid-late game.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire serves as this in the Medieval games, Barbarian Invasion and Attila. While in Fall of the Samurai, the Tokugawa Shogunate becomes this.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Pay your captured soldiers' ransoms and hear them sigh in relief and cheer, or free captured enemies to earn Chivalry points in Medieval II...
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: ...or refuse to pay for your underlings' failures and butcher captured foes so they may never oppose you again. Assassinate your own family members. Order your princesses to marry their brothers. If the Pope excommunicates you, order him assassinated. Sack your neighbors' cities or exterminate the population. Order a Spy from a plague-infested town to spread his contagion through your enemy's empire as one final act of spite. Send units or family members you don't want in charges against vastly superior forces. Then there's Rome's incendiary pigs. 'nuff said. Conquer and sack a city in the Middle East between two Muslim nations. Sell it to the Papacy for a few thousand florins. Watch the hilarity ensue. And in the original Medieval, you could actually use Inquisitors. Leaving your inquisitor alone in an enemy province for a few years has interesting results. Your inquisitor starts a rebellion and usually hundreds or thousands are killed. One writer once had 90,000 people killed in one round. Someone really piss you off? In Rome, take a town, exterminate it, recruit peasants en-masse until its down to 400 people, demolish all the buildings, leave it to revolt and send an infected spy in to give it the plague. Congratulations, you have effectively depopulated the region for decades to come, and ensure that province will never advance much beyond village potential. This is recommended on the official site. Deny adopted sons and distant relatives freedom to marry in order to purify the bloodline? Check. Rape, Pillage and Burn captured cities? Check. Try to assassinate leaders from a rival religion, get fed up and declare brutal holy war (which encourages the Rape, Pillage and Burn solution to alien cities), then assassinate your own pope because he soured on the war when you attacked those stupid Byzantines? Check, check and check. It's sometimes quite a bit harder to not be extremely cruel and effective than it is to become globally notorious and effective.
    • If you actually listened to the credit songs whose lyrics are listed below, doing any of the above may induce a What The Hell Hero to your conscience. Yes, you.
  • Video Game Historical Revisionism: Though it's obvious the developers are doing their research, sometimes there are goofs. The page mentions Medieval II's portrayal of Finland as an example. Despite it's great gameplay, Rome also murdalates history with its depiction of Egypt. Egypt in the time the game starts was dominated by heavy Macedonian/Greek influence, and had armies similar to that used by the other Diadokhoi (Seleucid Empire, Macedonian Kingdom, etcetera), but for reasons ranging from "it looks cooler" to "we don't want to make an 'Egypt: Total War'", the game developers make the Egypt faction one straight out of "The Ten Commandments" and "The Mummy Returns", complete with makeupped Pharaohs and chariots and soldiers wearing headdresses and wearing armor made of gold and outdated bronze. Not to mention the splitting of the nation of Rome into three separate Roman nations, seemingly ruled by family lines ("The House of Julii", "The House of Brutii (sic, Bruti)", "The House of Scipii (sic, Scipiones)"),[6] though this is forgivable, as it is done to characterize the Roman Civil wars (although the expansion pack Barbarian Invasion had a much better and more realistic way of dealing with that, with scripted events.) Urban Cohorts and Arcani were not elite troops, and the Britons certainly wouldn't hurl severed heads at enemies. Most Roman crosses had no top bars, and resembled a 'T'; the bar on the Christian cross was added to post the "King of the Jews" sign. All this in one game. This is the reason for several realism mods such as the appropriately titled Rome: Total Realism and Europa Barbarorum, both of which many fans swear by.
    • Fall of the Samurai is pretty much nothing but this. The use of 'traditional' troops is an almost outright historical falsification, as in reality, the samurai caste had been more or less entirely de-fanged as warriors since the inception of the Edo period; the Boshin War had both sides using modern weapons and professional armies (or armies-in-the-making). 'Traditional' weapons were used during the opening stages, but it was not because of any wish to preserve the 'old ways' but simply because they didn't have anything better to use. Though to be fair, it is solely the player's choice if he wants to make use of traditional units; he doesn't have to use them, as he gets access to firearms from the every beginning (and that counts for every faction). It's not as much a requirement as it is a bonus or a historical joke.
    • Rome 2 made a point to correct many of the errors seen in the original Rome. Most noteworthy being the depiction of Egypt, which is a proper Hellenistic faction this time around with some local touches.
    • Downplayed with Attila. The game does much better to represent Late Antiquity than Barbarian Invasion,[7] though some goofs remain like the Visigoths being pagans despite being Arian Christians in real life by then.
  • Violence Is the Only Option: You can try diplomacy and being nice to people, but either the AI will force you to fight or you'll get tired of your annoying neighbors. That said, it's possible to bribe armies to disband or settlements to defect to your side... except there is no more bribing armies in Empire due to the revamped diplomacy system, and in Empire the AI will eventually declare war on all neighboring nations regardless of public opinion. In Medieval II, the AI never seems to learn. You'll be thrashing it, then either the Pope will make you stop, or they will offer you a substantial amount of gold to let them go. Then a few turns later they seem to forget this and attack you again. This can lead to several long and costly wars throughout the campaign. The AI in general is famously stubborn. At times, it will not even accept a gift of all the territories the player has seized in a war, and that is a gift, with no ceasefire. This is averted in Shogun I, or the easier settings at least. It is possible to win the game without ever declaring war on any rival clan, and to make alliances with them to this end. Said method, however, is to create dozen of spies to forment rebellions in enemy provinces again and again and then sweep in yourself after the old clan was expelled, and to train a few Geisha and unleash them on your allies until, sooner or later, you inherit half the country. The only time you are at war is against peasant rebellions, and they are the most likely to flee without fighting, though eventually they will run out of places to hide and you will be pitted against an amalgation of armies in one final, climatic super-fight.
    • Played straight in Shogun 2 with the "Realm Divide" event. Once you have control of about one-third of the map, the Shogun will send EVERYONE against you. All of the remaining clans (except those allied with you, but don't expect them to stay that way for long) will also promptly stop fighting each other, ally with one another, and declare war against you. And they'll often each send an army of about twenty units (of varying degrees of quality) at a minimum. At this point, diplomacy is worthless.
  • Violent Glaswegian: In Medieval II when you click on a dreaded Scottish general, "I'll rep off yer head an' spet down yer neck!"
  • War Elephants: They appear in Rome, with the more advanced types carrying archers on their backs. Only Carthage and the Seleucids can train them.
  • War Is Hell: While the games themselves tends to glorify war, the composer and his wife who happens to be the lead singer clearly has his view set on the nature of war. Just check out the lyrics of Jeff Van Dyck's credit song for Medieval 2, We Are All One and Rome, Forever

I know you fight for God and you believe it's right
to risk your home, your life, to face the evil night.
But in the darkest night, when our children are asleep,
I think about the families of our enemy.
Do they feel the same believing their own truth?
They must love their children as fiercely as we do.
We all share one thing: our hearts were given from above
and the only thing worth fighting for in this world is love.
On and on through the years the war continues on
why can't we see the truth - we are all one.
On and on through the years the war continues on
on and on through the years - we are all one.

    • A general who repeatedly suffers heavy losses to his bodyguard can become convinced that this is true. Keep in mind that those free, readily-replaceable bodyguard cavalrymen are your general's friends who have sworn their lives to defend him.
  • The War Sequence: Games can be as fun to watch as they are to play, just to see thousands of little soldiers hacking or blasting away at each other on panoramic battlefields. One of the niceties about Napoleon is that it upgrades this a lot... although sometimes you have some not so funny moments, such as a hapless cavalryman from a shattered unit whose foot is trapped in a stirrup, hence his being literally dragged away by his galloping horse... here's hoping that that was a corpse. The battles themselves can get pretty brutal as well when viewed up close. You sometimes can't help but cringe as someone gets stabbed by several soldiers at once, run over by heavy cavalry and blown away by artillery.
  • We Cannot Go on Without You: If a faction's entire royal family is killed, their empire descends into anarchy and the faction is defeated. This is averted in Shogun 2, in which it is now impossible to destroy factions through family assassination: The wife of the daimyo will lead the faction until a new heir comes of age/a new leader can be appointed. Apparently, even Ninja consider it uncouth to kill people's wives and children.
  • We Have Reserves: The combat system discourages this. First of all, hardened veterans tend to be too valuable to throw away-aside from the possibly multiple turns of training and the gold it took to train them, their experience makes them very valuable. You CAN go this way with throwaway cheap units, but having other units rout is a major morale hit for even veteran units. However this tactic is very effective when besieging cities without a siege weapon, send the cheap units to climb the walls, fight the defences there (normally they're just archers) and control the gates to allow the hardened veterans to go through the gates and finish the job.
    • Played straight with Ashigaru in Shogun 2. While losing an entire experienced unit of them is still somewhat painful, they are cheap, can be recruited from pretty much everywhere and replace their combat losses very quickly, compared to Samurai who require specialized dojos to be recruited, as well as to replace battlefield casualties in any decent amount of time.
    • From Empire onwards, the creation of units with experience from the get-go is possible, but requires buildings further down a building chain, or units that support them from a different tree. (For example, both the fishery and trading port and their subsequent upgrades allow you to build brigs and sloops, but the shipyard allows you to build inexperienced sixth rates, plus brigs and sloops with one chevron of experience already.)
    • It isn't uncommon for a player to throw a General's bodyguard into the fray instead of another cavalry unit, because the bodyguard troops are replaced for free so long as the general is inside a town. However, throwing away the bodyguard needlessly can get your general killed, and even if he survives, there is a small chance he will go into a depression thanks to losing so many of his friends.
  • A Winner Is You: Especially Egregious in the first Medieval, where all you get after conquering much of the known world, having been campaigning for days or even weeks in real time, is an image with a short congratulatory text.
    • Averted rather nicely in the first Shogun, though, where it gives you a full cutscene with a short but epic description of the history of the shogunate after your victory, and then a flash forward to a modern-day Japan with a statue of your general, discussing how he's still legendary to this day.
      • The same goes for Shogun 2, which is a homage to the original. The ending cutscene shows not only your daimyo triumphantly become Shogun and the statue of your daimyo in modern Japan but also suggests that your clan would remain influential well into the present.
  • Uriah Gambit: The vagaries of fortune mean that some of your royal family members will be utterly lacking in redeeming qualities. You can't retire them, but you can order them to, say, charge the enemy army on their lonesome... on the plus side, if they do survive after getting beat up, they have a good chance of getting one of the "Scars" perks, which increases their health in battle, allowing them to take even more of a beating next time!
    • In the Medieval games, you can also refuse to pay the ransom if they get captured. This can become a Morton's Fork, however, if you would also lose some valuable (i.e. experienced) troops as well...
    • You may want to keep even your shittiest family members alive however, because the cavalry unit that comes with them is typically a very powerful unit.
    • Want to be rid of all your superfluous family members at once? Pack them onto a single weak ship and have them go on a cruise, attacking the pirates where you can!
  • Video Game Time: The time scale of a turn on the world map and technological developments doesn't match up well with the travel time for a unit (e.g. from London to Edinburgh taking nine months) and nobles can die while units will march for decades. Napoleon is a lot better about this, due to turns equating to two weeks, though with some buildings and research it still is a little off in that it now happens too fast.
    • And then there's the discrepancy between time scales and character aging. As Medieval II was built on Rome's engine, characters still aged by one "year" every two turns (the same as in Rome), but for balance purposes each turn lasted two years. Thus the impression that characters only turn a year older every four years.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: The lyrics to the "map view" music in Rome are just a disconnected series of Latin nouns. Which is, admittedly, characteristic of some Roman poetry.
  • You All Look Familiar: Especially in the early games. In Medieval II the series added more randomization to soldiers' faces and uniforms, but made them all have the same face again in Empire. Fixed in Napoleon, where there's differing (though often similar or reused) appearances for individual soldiers, but named historical generals will have their their distinct looks. For example, Thomas Picton appears in a long red coat and top hat (his luggage having not arrived to Waterloo in time), while Napoleon wears a long gray overcoat and distinctive hat.
  • Zerg Rush: Expect the AI in Rome Total War to commit its entire army to the fight at once, especially during bridge battles or other bottlenack scenarios. This either ends up causing a massive chain rout in their ranks, or it'll overwhelm your units due to the massive army likely breaking through your formations eventually. It's an ugly brawl when it happens, and annoyingly, this zerg rush tactic the AI uses which contains no strategy whatsoever, can actually work out for them.
    • The favored tactic of peasant rebellions is to create huge armies of peasants with a few archers mixed in for variety, and charge you. However because they all run away if their general dies and their general is usually in a peasant unit like the rest, 20 knights can send hundreds of peasants running. Which has actually happened in real life before.
    • Zerging is a viable strategy against the Mongols and Timurids, too. When they first appear, they're just unsupported armies with no cities backing them up, which means that any Mongol or Timurid warrior you kill stays dead and cannot be replaced. Since by the time the Mongols show up you'll already have a strong empire that can take some losses, it's possible to simply keep sending waves of suicide armies against the Mongols and the Timurids to batter them down. You can replace your losses; they can't.
    • Semi-averted in Empire and Napoleon due to the presence of field artillery, and almost completely averted once the enemy infantry or cavalry are in range for canister shot. This can work against if the numerical advantage is sufficiently lopsided or if advancing against infantry, but usually by the time you can effectively zerg, you've tended to have gained the advantage anyway. On a campaign scale, however, Zerg rushing is still a viable tactic and is usually called "blitzing". At the beginning of the Empire campaign, each province - especially for the larger empires - only has a minimal amount of units, meaning that if you can build up a stack fast enough, you can sweep up most of their territory before they are able to muster up an army large enough to halt yours. If you use the Game Mod that enables minor factions, Persia is good for this, as it is able to recruit Bedouin warriors (who are cheap but plentiful) and borders two overstretched empires - the Ottomans and the Mughals. The main obstacle is keeping your newly-acquired provinces under control while your army immediately moves on, although all but the capitals require a token occupation force and tax exemption status to be kept under the boot.
    • Upon Shogun II, this is required in the early game on higher difficulties. You need to get an army out, and get it out quickly, otherwise you will be overwhelmed. Ashigaru, thankfully, are pretty good for being the bog-standard cheap units; use this to your advantage to get an army out quickly and get in the face of your rivals.
    • Throwing mobs of light cavalry at heavy cavalry is a viable option, as light cavalry are generally cheaper than heavy cavalry, allowing you to outnumber and surround the heavies. Don't try it with a bodyguard unit, though, unless you like seeing piles of slaughtered light horsemen.
  1. (where the name format was reversed to "increase Brand Awareness".)
  2. France proper and Alsace-Lorraine.
  3. The first time in the franchise that a faction begins at this level of difficulty.
  4. Rebels from Lesbos, that is
  5. Elephants have 6
  6. Although, if you really want to be pedantic, they're actually gens Julia, gens Junia, and gens Cornelia respectively, but that might be expecting a little too much.
  7. Examples include smaller, more heavily fortified cities for the Roman factions, representing the Diocletan reforms and further militarization of the Roman Empire.