As I fend off endless assaults from the mysterious Sea Peoples', neighbouring factions happily cross into my borders to raid me for resources, and my rivals in the Royal Court seek to tarnish my name. I realise at this point, with my head in hands, that I have much to learn in Total War: Pharaoh.
That's how my first run through Creative Assembly's new strategy game looked, but I picked myself up and dusted the sand off my knees, learning from my mistakes and establishing a powerful dominion on the banks of the Nile.
Here are some tips, tricks, and things I picked up along the way that'll make your first run for the Egyptian throne a strong one.
Don't lose your Stones
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As with all 4X and grand strategy games, the campaign in Total War: Pharaoh is largely a game of resource management, but unlike those games, there's one resource here that won't last forever: stone, so you'll want to make the most of it once you get it.
Stone is essential to building up your outposts and settlements, so taking control of a stone mine early on is critical. Even before you take over a settlement that produces stone, research the 'Stone Shapers' and 'Experienced Miners' Royal Decress so that when you get your hands on it you're maximising your output. Once you have stone, build a Trading Post in that province to increase production.
Play the Court
Once you unlock the Royal Court, you can curry favour with courtiers to gain various short-term boosts (or even push for a position in Court yourself). Each turn, you get two Court Actions which you can use to build Regard with courtiers, and eventually plot schemes to bolster your own legitimacy.
It's easy to overlook playing your Court Actions each turn, but it's critical that you do, because it's basically a free way of gaining resources. Your Court Actions don't roll over to the next turn if you don't use them either, so don't forget about them.
A plague of locusts on the strategy game developers who don't let you restart your turn when it all goes wrong. Whether you mis-click or realise you made a critical error that'll cost you a settlement in your next turn, Total War Pharaoh lets you undo your turn at no penalty. Unless you're some kind of Iron Man Mode masochist, use this button shamelessly. We won't judge.
Don't expand too fast
The early game of Total War Pharaoh is filled with smaller factions that hold just a couple of provinces, and it may be tempting to just blitz them and make an early grab for a ton of territory. However, conquered cities suffer heavy happiness penalties that affect the whole province and can incite rebellions.
Unless you're conquering settlements in different provinces, it's best to wait for the happiness penalties to die down before moving onto the next one. Repair buildings in conquered settlements, construct buildings that generate Happiness, then move on.
Amidst all that war, it's easy to forget that you can conduct diplomacy with factions across the entirety of Egypt (well, the ones you're not fighting anyway). But how do you know what resources a given faction has and which ones they need?
On the Diplomacy screen, you can filter the visible factions by using the small checkboxes to see what resources they're looking for, and which ones they have plenty of. Naturally, you'll get the best prices selling a given resource to a faction that needs it, and buying a resource from factions that have a surplus.
Watch your army upkeep
You're not going to conquer Egypt with polite conversations, and you'll need strength of arms to do it, but if you overexpand your armies you'll soon find yourself grappling with food shortages. Armies cost a lot of food (as well as Bronze) to upkeep, so you'll need the infrastructure to support them.
Food-focused settlements are useful in this regard, as are Fort outposts, where you can garrison armies at half the upkeep cost. When you level up your generals, you can also give them competencies, titles, and inventory items that reduce upkeep.
Pursue those traits
Over time, your generals level up, letting you improve and customise them to suit your strategies. But there's a more subtle way of improving your generals outside the levelling system.
Go to your General screen, click Details, and you'll see that each general has 'Traits' that you acquire by performing certain actions with them. Figure out which traits each general is predisposed to, then play towards those as your general will gain those quicker. Each trait has three tiers, so the bonuses for building up traits can get pretty significant.
And with those, you should be ready to stake your claim for the Egyptian throne, or at least not completely squander your game in the first couple of dozen turns.