Napoleon: Total War Strategy Guide

Originally posted 1 March 2010


Strategy Guide

It was Napoleon who said “Ability is nothing without opportunity.”

With that in mind, one of the clever chaps on the Napoleon: Total War team has put together this list of tips to sate all of your megalomaniac desires. Opportunity for a bit of (world) domination is now yours!

Land battles

An eye for battle! – Try pressing the ‘insert’ key during a battle to get a first-person view from one of your soldiers on the battlefield. Use the mouse wheel in this mode to scroll through available cameras.

Eye in the sky – Use the minimap to quickly assess the battlefield. Cavalry is represented by a triangle, infantry by a square, artillery by a cross and your general by a star.

Square up! – Be sure to form an infantry square in the face of cavalry. This will protect your men as much as possible, while providing many angles to fire from.

Orders, sir! – Know your shortcuts. Set up hotkeys and use them effectively. It is extremely effective to form groups and use hotkeys to cycle through them.

They’re routing! – Keep an eye on the flag above enemy units. When this turns from green to orange or red, consider moving in quickly to break their spirit!

Rearguard action – Remember to keep an eye on enemy units that have routed. They could rally, leaving your flanks potentially threatened.

Rally troops, rally! – Rallying (see generals) also works on allied units. You can use your general to perk up friendly armies.

Incoming! – Artillery is as important as ever, so when deploying, pick your high ground wisely. Use targeted fire and barrage abilities to your advantage. Also consider using carcass shot and explosive shells where possible. Rockets can help to cause confusion amongst enemy units. Howitzers and canister shot can fire over your units, but don’t have them stand too close to the business end of the guns!

Form up! – Don’t be afraid to give your lines some depth. Thin lines can be broken through easily.

He’s fallen! – Consider taking out the enemy general as soon as possible. This will affect enemy morale substantially. The same hold true for your general: keep him alive, or suffer similar consequences.

Numbers, men, numbers! – When attacking in siege battles, ensure you have a mix of artillery, cavalry and infantry units. Try to outnumber your enemy’s infantry numbers. If you’re defending, deploying a few rockets is a good idea to reduce the number of attackers before they reach you.

Hole up – Place sharpshooter units in buildings if you can. Their excellent line of sight and range means you’ll be making the most of them shooting from windows.


Make ready! – Generals now play a more active role on the battlefield than ever before. New general abilities can change the flow of a battle, but be careful. Abilities have a cool-down timer and a limited number of uses. Use them wisely, as they can be the difference between victory and defeat.

Aura of confidence – Your generals now have an aura, indicated by the circle surrounding him on the battlefield. Troops inside this area will receive morale benefits and further bonuses when you activate your general’s special abilities.

Rally the men! – Using the rally ability will provide a large morale boost to troops within your general’s aura, potentially preventing them from routing.

Inspirational leader – Using the inspire ability will return routing units to the battlefield. A timely use of this is a crucial tactic in turning the balance of power.

Naval battles

Full steam ahead! – Use steam ships to your advantage against traditional ships. Steam ships can sail into the wind, while traditional ships cannot.

Keep your enemies closer – lethal at close range, carronade ships can be highly effective when mixed with long-range ships. Protect them well.

Bring her about! – Take down your most fearful enemies first: focus on flagships and ships with many guns. Try to set them on fire with rocket ships, if you can afford them. Remember, grouping your ships is crucial in order to succeed.

All hands to the pump! – Repairing ships during battles is a new feature in Napoleon: Total War and one which can significantly increase your chances of success. If your ship is damaged, move it away out of action. Your ship is inactive while being repaired, so keep it protected!

Fire! Fire! – Deal with fire as soon as it breaks out on your ship or suffer devastating (and explosive) consequences.

Iron fist – Ironclads are tough and durable – but expensive. A fleet of these will be a match for anyone!


The man for the job – When hiring generals, choose the right one to support your campaign. Weigh up the financial cost versus the benefits you will receive. Remember you cannot recruit an unlimited number of generals!

The path well trodden – History can be a good guide when choosing your campaign strategy, but your game enemies may not be as keen to roll over as their historical counterparts.

Everything in moderation – Balance your campaign buildings, trade strategy and war effort where needs must. Always keep an eye on the bigger picture.

Liberate! – Liberating settlements means they will become your protectorate, count towards your victory objectives and provide you with a small army as well. Use liberation to create “buffer regions” between yourself and your enemy. Remember, though, that they are your protectorates and you should protect them!

Loot! – If you’re in need of a cash injection, consider looting a region when you’ve taken it. Be warned that the populace aren’t going to like wholesale theft. Keep a very large garrison in a region if you intend to hang on to it.

Builders, ready! – Experiment with the new building options. Build supply posts and barracks on your front lines. Perhaps change these to bank houses when they are no longer in the thick of battle.


In the wild – Units in Napoleon: Total War are now affected by attrition. Leaving them in areas of extreme heat or cold will cause damage as long as they are exposed to harsh conditions.

Cold heart – Consider the number of troops you may lose against your overall potential gains when walking across an area of attrition. Expect to lose units and don’t leave them standing around doing nothing. Keep moving!

Grit and steel – Some units are better at dealing with attrition than others. Check your unit stats and tailor your army appropriately to the terrain.

Avoid! Avoid! – Take a sea route where possible to avoid areas of attrition – but watch out for enemy fleets. Losing an army in a sea battle can be devastating to your campaign.


Oil the wheels – There are new diplomatic options in Napoleon: Total War. Use them to your advantage!

Ghost in the machine – Ask nations to join the war against your rivals, break any alliances or establish trade embargoes. Doing this can weaken your enemies before you declare war (or while you are already at war) and result in fewer friends helping their cause.

Sweeten the deal – Don’t be afraid to offer technology, military access or money to sweeten a diplomatic deal. It’s all part of oiling the wheels of the diplomatic machine.


Route established! – Place ships on trade nodes wherever possible and try to dislodge enemy ships from the same nodes. More ships on a trade node means more money, but be careful to check the price of resources at the market. Choose the most profitable options and be prepared to defend them.

The long game – Long-term trade with a partner results in bonuses over time. Be loyal to your greatest friends. War can cost money in lost profitable trade routes, so pick your enemies wisely, and be careful you don’t find yourself funding a war against your allies!

Growing pains – Be aware that focusing too much on trade growth can leave your nation militarily vulnerable. Strike a balance.


The pursuit of happiness – Keep your people happy and avoid rebellions at all costs! Increase your garrisons, lower taxes or choose buildings which generate happiness bonuses, such as opera houses.

Clamour for reform – Beware that universities and colleges can have an adverse impact on region happiness. Balance your gains against the potential costs.

Yes, minister – Try to build the best cabinet you can. Don’t be afraid to kick a low-ranked minister from your government, if it means replacing him with a better one. Ministers have a number of national effects, from happiness bonuses to reduced upkeep or even boosts to diplomatic efforts.


License to kill – Use assassins wisely to remove troublesome rival generals.

Network established! – Leave a spy in a settlement for a few turns to establish a spy network. This will remove the shroud in that region and may provide you with an interesting view behind enemy lines.

Saboteur – Sabotage enemy buildings or armies. Sabotaging an enemy army freezes it in position, potentially gaining you the time to face an invasion properly.

Infiltrate – Use infiltration to spy on enemy armies before you attack them. Tailor your attacking army to the information your spies uncover.

Beg, borrow? Steal – Steal research from your foes wherever possible. Stolen technologies can then be traded with allies.


A nation of science – Some technology has a negative happiness effect. Be careful of this when researching. Try to focus your research on one area, and don’t be afraid to trade technology through diplomacy.

And finally – The fluffy kitten has made a return. Can you find it? ;-)


Mark O'Connell

The Creative Assembly