Opening Moves – Rome

By EnemyofJupitor

This is an Opening Moves article for Rome on VH mode. It’ll detail the first 5 turns, and provide guidelines up to around turn 10. Some things will start to differ in your play through- the identity of the conqueror of Epirus for one, or where Etruscan armies will scatter to after you take their settlements- but these opening turns should follow the same rough track. Should you wish to get started on attacking Carthage before heading to Cisalpine, then the guide should hold true for the first 5 turns, as well as various building and technology instructions later on.

This guide has been written and tested on Very Hard difficulty and under Patch 3 conditions, but will be updated upon patch releases.

Comments? Questions? Visit the thread in the thread in the Guides and Articles Forum. Also, apologies for the small images at present- when we get a gallery working this shall be fixed. In the mean time, all images are HTML thumbs- click to enlarge.

Before starting

The objective is to gain the rest of the province Italia within the first 5 turns or so, followed by working on Cisalpine Gaul in the medium term. For the purposes of this guide, I shall refer to the two armies present at the start of the game by their originally-given Legion numbers. Legio II starts near Roma, and will be used to attack Vetathri. Legio I will (force) march north into Italia in order to recruit some Hastati and make for Ariminum, before being used to tidy up any pesky Etruscans still in the area.

Epirus will be too tied up in a war against Sparta (and 9/10 times Athens too) to take advantage of the relatively light forces guarding Magna Graecia. Likewise, keeping Syracuse sweet with trade will prevent it from expanding in your direction, and Carthage will not be able to get its act together in time to seriously threaten the boot of Italy.

Your main threat will be rouge Etrsucan armies striking at lightly defended cities in Italia- to combat this a Legio III will eventually be formed near Rome. It should be lead by a Triarii general- far better for getting into combat than the more supportive mounted General.

Technology-wise- at lower difficulties Hastati are currently very powerful, at least compared to what you’ll be facing in the first 20 turns, and so military technologies aren’t really needed at present. At very hard, you’ll find that they’re a closer match but will ultimately triumph against Italian Spearmen, your primary adversaries in the first 5 turns. It’s much better to go for economic early techs so that you can get some more income. I also played around with the tax slider but decided not moving it was probably best.

Trade routes are quite hard to get without some serious cash, but the Illyrian tribes such as the Ardiaei will sign non-aggression pacts fairly quickly that can then develop into trading relationships. If you’re not looking to expand across the Adriatic, then this perhaps should be the route to take.

A nice side note- the live update on expected profit for next turn is back! Yay! Go to the finance scroll and on to “summery”- the profits section there takes into account your building and recruitment. Use this to not wreck your treasury.

I’ve also not got any notes about dealing with internal faction politics. That is a long term concern, and this is more to do with the first 10 turns- if you’ve managed to provoke the civil war before then you’re onto something special.

Turn 1


  • Legio I towards the Northern Border with Ariminium on forced march stance. Disband Levees.
  • Legio II – Disband Levees, move to Rome’s northern border with Velathri, and recruit 2x Hastati.
  • Fleet I – move west towards Corsica and Alalia. Make sure you have just over half your movement points left, and change stance to patrol. This will combat piracy and increase Neapolis’ income.
  • Spy- North, find Etruscan army, then sabotage a building in the Etruscan settlement. She has a trait that makes her very good at burning things, so take advantage of this to gain easy experience.

Diplomacy and Technology

  • Non aggression Pacts with the Ardiaei and Athens. If nations don’t accept a diplomatic deal during the turn I first mention, they might in subsequent turns. Keep trying!
  • Research Land Management for reasons I went into above.


  • Expand Rome, make a forum. We’re going to use this building chain to keep Italia happy as we expand our industry in the area.

Turn 2


  • Before you move the Legio I, change its stance to neutral. This turn you want to move it as close as possible to the front line but also recruit some more men, as it’s only 1 hastati and 1 velites. Recruit 3x hastati.
  • Move the spy to Ariminum and engage in sabotage there, too. She should hopefully hit or be near rank 2 by now.
  • Legio II – It’s time for your first battle of the campaign. Attack Velathri, where the Etruscans have most likely retreated to- the Hastati should carry you through the battle, but run a unit of Velites around another side street to draw off some spearmen from the main meatgrinder and inflict damage. Congratulations- Rome wasn’t built in a day, but that’s because we weren’t organising the job.
  • During end turn, watch for the Etruscan turn- they may have one or two-unit armies that may escape from Ariminum before the Legio I appears. Keep an eye on them- you will have to recruit a general to deal with them later.

Diplomacy and Technology

  • None


  • In one of Magna Graecia – Expand and build Forum. This chain will be developed along more economic lines.
  • Don’t worry about public order effects from taking Velathri- despite what the tool tip makes out, you will not have a rebellion in 3 turns (it only takes into account “at current rate”, which is skewed)

Turn 3


  • The spy may either poison wells or sabotage in Ariminum.
  • By now the Legio I should have enough men to assault the lightly defended Ariminum. Go for it- approach from the more open south, and close the gap quickly so missiles don’t wear you down.
  • Legio II should now look to sail west- the final Etruscan town on Corsica is your target. Get them to the beach West of Velathria and get on the boats.

Diplomacy and Technology

  • Land Management is now complete. Go for Tax Labour.
  • The Ardiaei should now accept that trade agreement for about 1000.


  • Ariminum may have a spare construction slot, as you might have assaulted during a turn the Etruscans were building something. Build a villa this turn before it fills with slums.
  • Build a villa in Cosentia, too. Get that food rolling in.

You now have your very first province! Congratulations. You can now issue an edict- Bread and Circuses will help on the long slow process to restoring public order. This is crucial, as a happy populace will give you more money.

Your Imperium has also increased, enabling you to maintain more armies and agents- useful in hunting down small armies that would otherwise pull your Legio I and II away from the front line. Finally, secure the position of Tribune if possible for your general- it decreases the upkeep of his army by 5%.

Turn 4


  • The Legio II should be at sea heading for Alalia on Corsica- should should be able to disembark due north of the city- that’s good enough! Take your fleet off patrol duty, and blockade the Etruscans. Then, assault. Use your raiding ships to pelt the enemy with javalins from the safety of the sea whilst your land forces hug the coast for support. When battle is joined, beach your assault legionaries ship and have them flank the Italians. The city should fall easily.
  • In the collapse of their ancient civilisation, the Etruscans could have some forces scattered about- a navy from Arminium is quite common, and may blockade Brundisum, but an Etruscan army or two may also be on the prowl in Italy itself. Should you see one of these armies eluding the Legio I and II, recruit the Legio III in Rome/Neapolis (whichever is closer), and have its general unit of Triarii. This general will hunt down the last remnants of the Etruscans before later embarking for Corsica. Recruit a unit of hastati should you need it, but for now the Triarii and city garrisons should be enough to repel any pesky assault on your city.
  • I will not specify where exactly to move the Legio III during its mop up operations- it seems to differ between campaigns. However, clever use of javalins in town garrisons are the way to go.
  • Legio I should by now have replenished its losses. If there are not any Etruscans that require attention, march towards Genua and recruit another Hastati. They are going to strike at the Liguria before they have a chance to build up.
  • Ahead of them, the spy should move towards Genua so that the Legio I are not marching blind.

Diplomacy and Technology

  • A non-aggression pact with Delmatae can be gained. They will also do Trade Rights for ~400 if pushed.


  • Build a Roman Village in Neopolis.

Turn 5


  • The Legio III should continue its mop up operation. Unless any threats are around, move them to Neapolis- make sure you now have or are recruiting that hastati unit into the army.
  • The Legio II shall once more embark on its transport ships, bound for Velathri’s border with Genua and the Ligurians.
  • The Legio I will keep marching towards Genua. Do not declare war yet.

Diplomacy and Technology

  • Tax labour is now complete. It is now time to go for Supply reforms- we want those Triarii!


  • Build a herding ground in Cosentia.
  • Build a temple of Mercury in Neapolis. This will again help your public order problems (enabling you later to build squalor-inducing buildings elsewhere) and increase the amount of money you get from all buildings within the province.

Congratulations. In the space of 5 turns you have secured Italia, wiped out the last Etruscan town, and are building up a healthy economy. But where next? Well, Alalia isn’t happy, and Cisalpine beckons. March on!

Turns 6 and 7


  • The Legio III will embark on ships and move to Alalia- they will be policing the settlement and putting down any rebellion with the help of the local navy and garrison.
  • Legio I and II will march to Genua. There is a chance that the Insurbres will be sieging the settlement- seeing as they’re next on your shopping list if the siege persists you should consider attacking the Insurbres and beat them off to allow you to overwhelm the small garrison with two legions. Make sure you have all the hastati you need before doing so- these barbarians will put up more a fight than the Etruscans, especially their slingers- close them down or use buildings as cover in assaults.

Diplomacy and Technology

  • As said before, if any of the Illyrian tribes have been holding out against you, continue to try and gain trade rights from them. Athens is a very sticky customer, but if you have a desperate need to trade with them, they will do so for a payment in the excess of 1000. It isn’t quite worth it yet in my opinion unless they go on to take over all of Greece.


  • Build a harbour in Ariminum. Again, this will increase your income, and enable you to recruit some better ships, too. On that note, using the “Patrol” stance in navies reduces piracy in a sea control zone- identify which settlements make the most out of sea trade and recruit a navy to patrol in that area.

Turns 8, 9 and 10


  • It is harder to divine what happens from here, but one thing that is certain is that you will face a rebellion from Alalia. Put it down before it gathers strength, rinse, repeat.
  • The Insurbres will have the remains of their army hanging around near Genua. Ignore it, and head straight for their capital, Medhlan with a legion, leaving the other to box in the barbarians so they cannot relieve it or attack Genua (as well as being on the lookout for rebellion). This city is more formidable than anything you’ve faced so far, and you’ll be tempted to make ladders. However, decimating the Insurbres army in Cisalpine and having their only city under siege may trigger them to seek a confederation with some of their northern neighbors, ending your siege just as that final ladder is built. Avoid this happening- assault immediately by burning down the gates with your infantry. If it is a particularly buggy battle, autoresolving usually yields a satisfactory result. Be aware of barbarian tribes from the north attacking in later turns.

Diplomacy and Technology

  • Research Manipular Organisation- you’re going to need these troops to take the rest of Cisalpine.
  • Massalia desperately needs help. It will by now readily agree to non-aggression pacts, trade, and after a few turns potentially a Client State agreement. Do as you see fit with this.
  • Across the water, non-aggression pacts and other diplomatic overtures should be sent off to the victors of the inevitable Epirus-Sparta-Athens conflict in order to stave off a seaborne invasion.


  • Genua will be very unhappy at being taken over, and will rebel within a couple of turns. You should look to convert some buildings over to being Roman, but prioritise demolishing one slot and building Hallowed Ground instead- this will enable you to start the conversion of the province to Latin and regain control. A Patrician will also help in this area. The Legio I will be fighting rebels for the next few turns- it is tempting to leave them alone when they spawn, however, as the province gains a +20 Public Order bonus that is greater than squashing them with your military. Be aware, however, that some of the other Cisalpine tribes may trespass and squash your rebels for you instead.
  • In Alalia build a shrine of some kind to aid in public order- I favour Minerva to speed up technology.
  • Build a Manipular Barracks in Rome as soon as technology allows. Finally, you’re going to get the heavier infantry, and you’ll need it against the Veneti, who usually have a sizable force by now. An amphitheatre built in the forum will also increase public order- useful when you start reaching squalor-inducing buildings.
  • Further south in Brundisium a Field of Mars should be built to enable you to (finally) recruit hastati there and defend the province from attack. It took me until turn ten to achieve the population growth needed- the below screenshot comes from turn 9.

And beyond…

Unless you are unfortunate with a confederation forming, you should have two thirds of Cisalpine in your grasp, along with some hardened men at your back. Rebellion will happen frequently until you manage to make Latin the dominant culture- do your best with it, build happiness-inducing buildings and soldier through. If you were unlucky and had the Celtic Confederation appear, I would suggest against immediately waging war and instead prepare for a long conflict- the Confederation is able to replenish its forces quite rapidly, and will call in a couple of tribal allies.

At some stage, you will want to move your Legions back to Italia in order to recruit some Princepes and Triarii, perhaps before confronting the Celtic Confederation, or attacking the Veneti. The latter will have a sizable army- do not underestimate. Finish them off to gain your second province.

It is now up to you to go from here- march into Gaul? Greece? Carthage? The historical objectives encourage you to declare war on the latter, but it is up to you- leave them for a more suitable conflict, or nip them in the bud so they do not have to be dealt with later. The choice is yours.

Comments? Questions? Visit the thread in the thread in the Guides and Articles Forum.