Medieval 2 Total War Stainless Steel Install Guide

A guide to the export_descr_units.txt file

By Mythic Commodore

  • Download Stainless Steel:Steel FAQ:
  • Re: Full install for Stainless Steel 6.4, Meloo Fix, Steam compatible For some reason Stainless Steel just refuses to believe that the kingdoms.exe is in the medieval 2 directory, I mean it's there, the steammodfixer bat from this confirms it, other mods certainly work.
  • It's about time we had another Stainless Steel discussion methinks, probably the best and most popular Medieval 2 mod. I haven't actually downloaded the new 1.4 patch as I don't like the sound of some of the changes.

Total War: MEDIEVAL II - Definitive Edition. Full Install for Stainless Steel 6.4, with Meloo Fix. No fuss guide on installing Stainless Steel 6.3 and 6.4.

This guide assumes that you have unpacked the data files using the method found here.

Once you have successfully unpacked the game's files, you may be wondering where to begin. A good starting point is the export_descr_unit file, or EDU. Here you will find the definitions that tell the game about all of the different soldiers and ships that you will encounter. First, a sample. We will be using Swiss Pikemen as our example. Here is the code which defines Swiss Pikemen:

Looks daunting, huh? ;)

In reality, the file is simple once it gets broken down with each line being analysed. This guide is mainly a line-by-line breakdown, with a brief final section about the file and its limitations.

Part I - The Line-by-Line Breakdown

This part is intended to be more of a reference than anything else. It is not essential for anyone to know what each line does but it helps.

type Swiss Pikemen
type - This line defines the unit's internal lookup name, which is the name that the game uses in its files whenever it refers to a unit. Note that there are two internal lookup names, the other one being defined by the dictionary line. Each one is used in different applications but the names are usually identical, except for where the type line uses spaces, the dictionary line uses underscores. Which files use the type name?

  • descr_rebel_factions.txt
  • descr_sm_factions.txt
  • descr_sounds_units_x.txt
  • campaign_script.txt
  • descr_mercenaries.txt
  • descr_strat.txt
  • export_descr_buildings.txt

These are the primary examples. As a general rule, if you see a file which references units and no underscores are used, then you must use the type name.

dictionary Swiss_Pikemen ; Swiss Pikemen
dictionary - This line defines the unit's other name, which is the name used in some other applications, including creating unit cards. Note the second part with the semicolon. A semicolon is called a comment. What putting a semicolon into your code will do is tell the game to ignore the rest of that line. So although we see:

  • dictionary Swiss_Pikemen ; Swiss Pikemen
The game sees:
  • dictionary Swiss_Pikemen

This is useful for inserting comments. In this case, the developers used it to tell you what the name of the unit is. It may seem self-explanatory, but some units have names which are not the same in the game's files as they are in-game. Retinue Longbowmen and Unhorsed Knights are good examples. Retinue Longbowmen are referred to as Dismounted Longbowmen, while Unhorsed Knights are Dismounted Crusader Knights. In that case, comments are useful.

category infantry
category - This tells the game what troop type this particular unit is. This should be fairly self-explanatory. Options include:

  • infantry
  • cavalry
  • siege
  • ship

Note that 'wagons' like the Great Cross and the Carroccio Standard fall under the siege class. Although the game lists handler and non_combatant as also being options, those are most likely relics from Rome: Total War days, which should not work.

class spearmen
class - This tells the game what particular type of unit it is. Options include:

  • light (used with infantry, cavalry, and ships)
  • heavy (used with infantry, cavalry, and ships)
  • missile (used with infantry, cavalry, and siege)
  • spearmen (used with infantry)

Note that if you want to create a 'wagon' like the Great Cross, you would have light as the class - an exception to the other members of the siege category, which only use the missile class.

voice_type Heavy
voice_type - This determines the type of voice used by the unit. The options are:

  • Light - Use this for ships or for troops that need a weaker-sounding voice (like Peasants)
  • Heavy - Use this for troops requiring a stronger voice (like Feudal Knights)
  • General - Use this for a general's bodyguard.

accent German
accent - This optional line will tell the unit to always speak with a particular accent. If this line is not present, then the unit will speak using the accent of the owning faction e.g. if it is owned by England, it will have an English accent. However, because of this line, Swiss Pikemen owned by England will have a German accent. Accents are described in the descr_sounds_accents.txt file and include:

  • English
  • Scottish
  • French
  • German
  • Mediterranean
  • East_European
  • Arabic
  • Mongolian

banner faction main_spear
banner faction - This tells the game what sort of banner the unit is to use as its main banner - the really big one. The main banner also specifies the 'mini banners' that show on the unit once you get experience, armour, and weapons upgrades. The available banners are described in the descr_banners_new.xml file and include:

  • main_spear
  • main_infantry
  • main_cavalry
  • main_missile

Basically, the banner corresponds to the unit type. Of course, you are free to use whichever one you want since the only effect of this line is the banner of the unit. Note that since ships never appear on the battlefield, they do not have this line in their entries.

banner holy crusade
banner holy - A unit will have any of a number of secondary banners which indicate various things. For example, the king will have a 'royal banner'. This optional line defines whether or not the unit will have a secondary banner to indicate that it is on a holy war. Again, this is defined in the descr_banners_new.xml file If this line is present, then the unit will use the indicated banner as a secondary banner on a holy war. The options that you would probably want to use are:

  • crusade
  • jihad

If you do not include this line, then the unit will have no secondary banner when on a holy war.

soldier Swiss_Pikemen, 60, 0, 1
soldier - This is the first line with multiple values. They are all separated by commas and do different things. The first value (Swiss_Pikemen, 60, 0, 1) is the soldier model to use. This references an entry in the battle_models.modelsdb file, which determines how the unit looks. Changing this to a different entry will change the look. The second value (Swiss_Pikemen, 60, 0, 1) is the number of men in the unit. This is affected by your size settings in the options page. The smallest possible is 4, while the largest is 60. In the Kingdoms expansion, however, unit sizes can be increased up to 100! The third value (Swiss_Pikemen, 60, 0, 1) is used only with units with 'extras' such as siege equipment. It tells thegame how many of those to have. Here is an example from the Trebuchet line:

  • soldier NE_Trebuchet_Crew, 16, 2, 1

The bolded 2 tells the game that there are 2 Trebuchets in a unit.

The fourth and final value (Swiss_Pikemen, 60, 0, 1) tells the mass of the soldiers. 1 is normal. Note that this does not affect cavalry, as their mass is determined by their mount. More on that later. What this means is the higher the number, the more your troops weigh. Troops with a higher mass may blast people back on the charge like cavalry do. While funny and good for supermen, you may want to leave your mass at 1.

attributes sea_faring, hide_forest, very_hardy, can_withdraw, pike
attributes - This line gives any special attributes that the unit may have. They can affect all sorts of things about the unit and what it does. Here is a list:

  • sea_faring - This unit can board ships and cross the water. It does not affect the unit's ability to take advantage of landbridges. Also given to ships.
  • hide_foresthide_improved_forest - Allows the unit to hide in forests. Whether or not you include improved determines how good the unit is at hiding. This also has effects on the campaign map.
  • hide_anywhere - The unit can hide anywhere on the battlefield, like Hashashim or Battlefield Assassins. This does not seem to affect the ability to hide on the campaign map.
  • frighten_foot - The unit frightens foot soldiers.
  • frighten_mounted - The unit frightens mounted soldiers.
  • can_run_amok - The unit can 'go crazy' like Elephants. It only works with mounted units.
  • general_unit - The unit can be used as a general's bodyguard.
  • general_unit_upgrade - Used in the Late General's Bodyguards. Of course, they never show up, so this seems to be useless.
  • cantabrian_circle - The unit has the 'Circle and Shoot' special ability. Note that a unit may only have one special ability.
  • no_custom - The unit cannot be selected in custom battles, like Mounted Longbowmen.
  • command - The unit provides a morale bonus to nearby units. I am unsure whether it works properly.
  • mercenary_unit - This has two effects - the unit will only use the 'merc' version of its model. This means that if I were to allow the French to train Swiss Pikemen, since they have this attribute, they would not wear the French blue and white unless I removed the attribute (or the grayish colouring that they usually have). The second effect is that the unit can now be hired as a mercenary - which is referenced in the descr_mercenaries.txt file.
  • is_peasant - This unit only counts as half for public order purposes. This means that if I had a unit of 150 Swiss Pikemen but they had this trait, then they would only count as a garrison of 75 for the purpose of counting public order in the settlement.
  • druid - The unit has the ability to chant. This raises your morale and lowers the enemy's morale.
  • power_charge - Seems to improve the charging ability of a unit.
  • free_upkeep_unit - The unit can be supported for free in a city, like militia.
  • can_withdraw - The unit can withdraw from battles.
  • hardyvery_hardy - The unit has more stamina than normal.
  • can_formed_charge - The unit can form up and charge, like Mailed Knights.
  • knight - The unit is a knight. This means that they get bonuses from the Jousting Lists and Tourney Field.
  • gunpowder_unit - The unit uses a gunpowder weapon.
  • start_not_skirmishing - Only for missile units. The unit has skirmish mode off by default instead of on.
  • stakes - The unit can lay stakes before battle, like Longbowmen.
  • fire_by_rank - They fire and rotate like Musketeers.
  • cannot_skirmish - I think that this is Kingdoms-only. Disables skirmish for a missile unit.
  • There are also various AI labels. These tell the computer how to use these units and are optional. The AI labels are - guncavalry, crossbow, gunmen, peasant, pike, incendiary (used on Naffatun), artillery, cannon, rocket, mortar, explode, standard (like Great Cross) and wagon_fort (which seems to be unused).

formation 1.2, 1.2, 2.4, 2.4, 8, square, phalanx
formation - The first two values are about formation spacing in close formation. The first one (1.2, 1.2, 2.4, 2.4, 8, square, phalanx) is the distance in meters side to side in close formation, and the other (1.2, 1.2, 2.4, 2.4, 8, square, phalanx) is front to back.

The next two numbers (1.2, 1.2, 2.4, 2.4, 8, square, phalanx) are the side-to-side and front-to-back spacing numbers in loose formation.

The fifth number (1.2, 1.2, 2.4, 2.4, 8, square, phalanx) shows the number of ranks by default. So Swiss Pikemen have 8 ranks by default.

The next two values (1.2, 1.2, 2.4, 2.4, 8, square, phalanx) are the formations. The first one is the default. The other one is the one that they can switch into. If there are two formations defined on this line, then one must be either square or horde (circle) and the other must be shield_wall, phalanx (Spear Wall), schiltrom, or wedge.

stat_health 1, 0
stat_health - The first value (1, 0) shows the number of hitpoints. Basically, units with x hitpoints must be dealt a killing blow x number of times. The second number (1, 0) is no longer used for anything.

stat_pri 14, 4, no, 0, 0, melee, melee_blade, piercing, spear, 25, 1
stat_pri - This details the character's primary weapon. If the unit has a missile weapon, then it is the primary weapon. The exception is artillery, where the crew's weapons are the primary weapon. The first number (14, 4, no, 0, 0, melee, melee_blade, piercing, spear, 25, 1) is the amount of damage that the weapon deals, which is capped at 63. The next number (14, 4, no, 0, 0, melee, melee_blade, piercing, spear, 25, 1) is the unit's charge bonus, extra damage dealt when charging. The next value (14, 4, no, 0, 0, melee, melee_blade, piercing, spear, 25, 1) is the type of ammunition that the unit fires. They are listed in descr_projectile.txt. Options include:

  • no
  • arrow
  • arrow_fiery
  • composite_arrow
  • composite_arrow_fiery
  • cav_composite_arrow
  • cav_composite_arrow_fiery
  • bodkin_arrow
  • bodkin_arrow_fiery
  • cav_bodkin_arrow
  • cav_bodkin_arrow_fiery
  • catapult
  • fiery_catapult
  • trebuchet
  • fiery_trebuchet
  • tarred_rock
  • stone
  • bolt
  • javelin
  • ballista
  • flaming_ballista
  • tower_ballista
  • tower_flaming_ballista
  • scorpion
  • flaming_scorpion
  • repeating_ballista
  • bombard_shot
  • flaming_bombard_shot
  • ribault_shot
  • monster_ribault_shot
  • grand_bombard_shot
  • flaming_grand_bombard_shot
  • monster_bombard_shot
  • cannon_shot
  • exploding_cannon_shot
  • culverin_shot
  • exploding_culverin_shot
  • mortar_shot
  • basilisk_shot
  • exploding_basilisk_shot
  • serpentine_shot
  • elephant_cannon_shot
  • cow_carcass
  • rocket
  • elephant_rocket
  • test_cannon_ball
  • naphtha_bomb
  • hand_gun_bullet
  • arquebus_bullet
  • musket_bullet
  • pistol_bullet
  • camel_gun_bullet
  • crossbow_bolt
  • steel_crossbow_bolt
  • norman_catapult
  • fiery_norman_catapult
Value #4 (14, 4, no, 0, 0, melee, melee_blade, piercing, spear, 25, 1) is the range of the missile. This details how far the unit can fire. A higher number means the unit can fire further. Next (14, 4, no, 0, 0, melee, melee_blade, piercing, spear, 25, 1) is the amount of ammunition per man. After that (14, 4, no, 0, 0, melee, melee_blade, piercing, spear, 25, 1) is the weapon type - melee, thrown, missile, or siege_missile. The seventh value (14, 4, no, 0, 0, melee, melee_blade, piercing, spear, 25, 1) is the tech type. This seems to affect unit upgrades. Available options are:
  • melee_simple
  • melee_blade
  • missile_mechanical
  • missile_gunpowder
  • artillery_mechanical
  • artillery_gunpowder
Then there is the damage type (14, 4, no, 0, 0, melee, melee_blade, piercing, spear, 25, 1). The available damage types are slashing, blunt, and piercing. After the damage type is the sound type (14, 4, no, 0, 0, melee, melee_blade, piercing, spear, 25, 1). The sound types are none, spear, sword, axe, mace, and knife. If the unit uses a gun, be sure to put musket_shot_set after this. After that (14, 4, no, 0, 0, melee, melee_blade, piercing, spear, 25, 1) is the minimum delay between attacks in tenths of a second. Lowering this number lets the unit attack more quickly. I have never seen it as anything but 25. The final number (14, 4, no, 0, 0, melee, melee_blade, piercing, spear, 25, 1) is used when the unit has multiple weapons. Basically, it sets a preference.

;stat_pri_ex 0, 0, 0
Lines with semicolons in front - Just ignore them. The game does.

stat_pri_attr spear, long_pike, spear_bonus_8
stat_pri_attr - This sets any special attributes of the primary weapon. If it does not have any, type 'no'. The available options are:

  • ap - Armor piercing. Only counts half of the target's armor.
  • thrown - The weapon is thrown
  • area - The attack affects an area rather than a single target.
  • launching - The attack launches people into the air.
  • bp - Only valid for missile weapons. The attack can pass through people.
  • spear - Gives bonuses against cavalry and bracing bonuses (is better on defense) but penalties against infantry.
  • light_spear - Gives a bracing bonus.
  • long_pike - Just put this in for any pike unit.
  • spear_bonus_x - An attack bonus against cavalry. x = 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12
  • prec - This relic from Rome: Total War surprisingly seems to be totally functional. You add this to a missile unit's primary weapon to allow it to throw one volley to weaken the enemy and then charge into melee, like the Legionaries of Rome: Total War.

stat_sec 13, 3, no, 0, 0, melee, melee_blade, piercing, sword, 25, 1
;stat_sec_ex 0, 0, 0
stat_sec_attr no

stat_sec - This is for the unit's secondary weapon, if it has one. Use it just like the stat_pri section. If the unit doesn't have a secondary weapon, then do this:
stat_sec 0, 0, no, 0, 0, no, melee_simple, blunt, none, 25, 1
;stat_sec_ex 0, 0, 0
stat_sec_attr no

The game recognizes this as meaning that it has no secondary weapon.

stat_pri_armour 0, 5, 0, flesh
stat_pri_armour - This line defines the unit's armor. The first value (0, 5, 0, flesh) is the unit's armor rating. The second (0, 5, 0, flesh) is defense skill and the third (0, 5, 0, flesh) is shield. The last value (0, 5, 0, flesh) is all about the sound that a weapon makes when impacting the armor. Options are:

  • flesh
  • metal
  • leather

stat_sec_armour 0, 0, flesh
stat_sec_armour - This details the defense of any attached vehicles (artillery or wagons). The first value (0, 0, flesh) is the vehicle's armor rating, the second (0, 0, flesh) is the defense skill (weird, I know) and the third (0, 0, flesh) is the sound type. If it has no attached vehicle, then use the one here (flesh).

stat_heat 2
stat_heat - This is any extra fatigue that the unit gets in hot climates. The higher the number, the more fatigued the unit gets.

stat_ground 1, -2, 3, 2
stat_ground - This shows the unit's attack bonuses (or penalties) in certain climates. The first value (1, -2, 3, 2) is the modifier in scrub. The second (1, -2, 3, 2) is sand. The third (1, -2, 3, 2) is forest, and the fourth (1, -2, 3, 2) is snow.

stat_mental 11, impetuous, highly_trained
stat_mental - This details the mindset of the unit. The first value (11, impetuous, highly_trained) is the base morale level. The higher the number, the higher the base morale. The second value (11, impetuous, highly_trained) is the discipline. This is how well the unit responds to hits to their morale (a charge from the rear, the general's death, etc.) The higher the discipline, the better they respond. The available options are:

Stainless steel medieval 2 total war
  • low
  • normal
  • disciplined
  • impetuous
Impetuous units may charge without orders. The final value (11, impetuous, highly_trained) is the training. This determines the neatness of the unit's formation. Options are:
  • untrained
  • trained
  • highly_trained
There is an optional fourth value, which is lock_morale, which means that the unit will never rout. An example of how to use it:
  • 11, impetuous, highly_trained, lock_morale

stat_charge_dist 40
stat_charge_dist - This is the distance at which a unit begins a charge. A larger number means a charge from farther away.

stat_fire_delay 0
stat_fire_delay - In ranged units, the delay between volleys. A larger number means a larger delay.

stat_food 60, 300
stat_food - Obsolete

stat_cost 1, 470, 185, 115, 90, 470, 4, 110
stat_cost - This line determines all of the different florin values that the unit costs. The first value (1, 470, 185, 115, 90, 470, 4, 110) is how many turns the unit takes to build. The second (1, 470, 185, 115, 90, 470, 4, 110) is how many florins the unit costs in the campaign game. This does not affect how many florins it takes to recruit mercenaries. The third (1, 470, 185, 115, 90, 470, 4, 110) is how many florins per turn upkeep costs. The fourth (1, 470, 185, 115, 90, 470, 4, 110) is how much it costs to upgrade the unit's weapons. The fifth (1, 470, 185, 115, 90, 470, 4, 110) is how much it costs to upgrade the unit's armor. The sixth (1, 470, 185, 115, 90, 470, 4, 110) is the cost in custom battles. The seventh (1, 470, 185, 115, 90, 470, 4, 110) tells how many times you must purchase a unit in a custom battle before the price goes up. The last value (1, 470, 185, 115, 90, 470, 4, 110) tells the game how much it goes up by.

armour_ug_levels 0
armour_ug_levels - This tells the game what the armor upgrades are. The Swiss Pikemen don't have any, so our example will be from one that does - Viking Raiders.
armour_ug_levels 0, 1, 2, 3
The first value is the default armor level. The next are ones that can be upgraded. This is by smithy level. So Viking Raiders can be upgraded at smithy levels 1-3. Fairly simple.

armour_ug_models Swiss_Pikemen
armour_ug_models - Fairly simple. Each value corresponds to an armor upgrade level and a model in the battle_models.modelsdb. For example, armour_ug_models Viking_Raiders, Viking_Raiders_ug1, Viking_Raiders_ug2, Viking_Raiders_ug3Each of those means a different look for the unit at every one of the armor upgrade levels in the battle_models.modelsdb.

ownership slave
ownership - Basically, you can list factions or cultures here. Any faction or culture listed here can purchase the unit in 'All' era custom battles. In addition, if you try to give a faction the ability to train a unit without giving it ownership, it will not work.

Other Lines

There are some lines that Swiss Pikemen do not have, because they do not need them. A quick guide on those:

officer Catalans
officer - Another relic of Rome: Total War that works fine. Officer lines are put right after the soldier lines. You can have up to three. Each line adds an officer. Basically, an officer is an extra soldier. The way that it works is by referencing the battle_models.modelsdb for a model, for example, Catalans. If I was to add the line

  • officer Catalans

after the soldier entry for Swiss Pikemen, so that it looked like:

There would be a Catalan with every unit of Swiss Pikemen, sort of like a mini-captain for that unit but without any morale consequences if he dies. You can have up to three officers per unit.

ship heavy warship
ship - This is only used for ships. The line goes right after the soldier line and is used to classify the ship. The available ship types are listed in descr_ship.txt and are:

  • heavy warship
  • light warship
  • flagship

engine ballista
engine - This tells the game what type of siege engine the unit has. The options are listed in descr_engines.txt and include:

  • huge_bombard
  • rocket_launcher
  • monster_ribault
  • culverin
  • serpentine
  • catapult
  • bombard
  • mortar
  • basilisk
  • ballista
  • great_bombard
  • trebuchet
  • cannon
  • ribault
  • great_cross
  • great_standart_milan
  • great_standart_venice
  • siege_tower
  • middle_tower
  • heliopolis
  • tortoise_ram
  • town_ladder
  • medium_ladder
  • sap_point

mount heavy horse
mount - This tells the game what type of mount the animal uses. The available mounts are listed in descr_mount.txt and include:

  • camel
  • eastern armoured horse
  • armoured horse
  • barded horse
  • mailed horse
  • pony
  • fast pony
  • heavy horse
  • elephant_cannon
  • elephant_rocket
  • elephant

mount_effect elephant -4, camel -4
mount_effect - This lists the unit's attack bonuses (or penalties) against specific mount types. You may either list a specific mount (e.g. mailed horse) or a mount type (camel, elephant, or horse). Keep in mind that each unit may only have up to three mount effects.

stat_ter 12, 3, cow_carcass, 215, 3, siege_missile, artillery_mechanical, blunt, none, 25, 1
;stat_ter_ex 0, 0, 0
stat_ter_attr ap, bp, launching,

stat_ter - Use this just like you would stat_pri or stat_sec, but keep in kind that it is completely optional. In the game, the only use of this is to give the Trebuchets the ability to fire rotten cow carcasses.

era 0 england, scotland, france, hre, spain, portugal, milan, venice, papal_states, sicily,
era 1 england, scotland, france, hre, spain, portugal, milan, venice, papal_states, sicily,
era 2 scotland
era x - This allows you to put the unit on the custom battle rosters for different factions by era. Era 0 is Early, Era 1 is High, and Era 2 is Late. In this example, the unit is available to England, Scotland, France, The Holy Roman Empire, Spain, Portugal, Milan, Venice, The Papal States and Sicily in the Early and High Eras, but is only available to Scotland in the Late Era.

recruit_priority_offset 10
recruit_priority_offset - This Kingdoms-only line allows you to tell the AI how often to recruit this unit. A higher number means that the AI will 'want' to recruit it more. It goes at the end of a definition.

move_speed_mod 1.3
move_speed_mod - This Kingdoms-only line allows you to set the unit's speed. Normally this is defined by the 'skeleton' of the unit, which is basically the fighting style. But you can use this to modify the speed. A number above 1 means faster, and one below means slower.

Part II - Notes on the file

The EDU itself has limitations as well. One of these is that you can only have 500 units in the file at any given time. However if you run out of space, then here are some suggestions:

  • There is a useless unit called Mounted Longbowmen. It is basically an English version of French Mounted Archers. Either enable it or delete it.
  • Delete CE Wagon Fort and Gulay Gorod. They don't work at all.
  • If you know how to edit the historical battles that came with the game, then you can take out the useless historical generals and replace them in the historical battles with generic generals.
  • The following units have two identical versions. Delete the entries that are listed:
    Welsh Longbowmen
    Bulgarian Brigands
    Irish Kerns
    Welsh Spearmen
    Flemish Pikemen
    Swiss Pikemen
    Sudanese Tribesmen

Note that for last method you will have to edit the descr_strat.txt as well as the descr_rebel_factions.txt and that this will corrupt all of your saves, so it really is a last resort.

If you are curious how to use this file to actually make new units, then keep an eye out for my next guide:
How to Make New Units.

Good Luck,

England: Opening Moves Guide

By Gaius Colinius.

Part of the Bayeux Tapestry.

England has an enviable starting position in that it can very easily have 7 secure & safe provinces very early in the game with a 'beachhead' province in Caen. Common sense alone dictates that eradicating the Scots is the key to the opening moves.

It is very likely that missions at the start will lead towards you taking York & Caernarfon. Gather together all available troops, leaving only small garrisons in London & Nottingham. Caen should be armed with a few extra bowmen for a defensive garrison until later. Our mini-army should take York first if possible because the Scots will also be looking to take it. You can then take Caernarfon. You want all your British Isles towns to be cities. This slightly hamstrings you for troop selection against the Scots but use mercenaries if necessary.

If you're going to use mercenaries, you'll need to have money so start building up your economy in your four British towns. You should also look to take the town to the west of Caen, Rennes. It is a rebel held town and can be quite easily defended with a small garrison at that town and a bigger garrison at Caen. It is critical that Caen is held. Lose that and you lose your foothold in France. Caen should be built up into a formidable castle. Towards the middle of the game, it will be your primary troop factory.

You may get a mission or be tempted otherwise to take Bruges until you have secured the British Isles. Avoid this temptation but I do stress that this is my personal preference. While Rennes has the Atlantic to its rear. Bruges has French to the south and the Holy Roman Empire to the east once they take Antwerp. Towards the middle of the game, the Danes will probably take Antwerp. You really don't want to be in a war with these three factions when the home countries are not yet secure. You'll be getting warnings from the Pope and all that so stick with Caen & Rennes until you are ready to move all troops to France. If you don't already have a family member in Caen, move a young one across.

Meanwhile, back home you have York and Caernarfon and are ready to attack Edinburgh. Be warned that the Scots are no pushover and that your troops are quite weak at this stage, especially in infantry. Use archers and knights for your army. Infantry are really just cannon fodder to bog the Scots down with your knights providing the flanking coup de grace. It is possible to hire mercenaries to flesh out your army a bit more but they can be expensive. Consider it if your economy is strong. Play cautious in your battles. Don't be afraid to move right to the back of the map and make the Scots march towards you. This gives you more room to manoeuvre your knights, tires the Scots out and also maximises the use of your archers. You should put your archers onto flaming arrows and switch off fire at will. I also prefer to switch off skirmish mode as archers can be handy for slowing the Scots down giving your knights more time.

Your knights are the key. Don't waste them on attacking spear units front on. In fact, keep enemy spear units till last. Concentrate on neutralising enemy cavalry and missile troops in that order. Spear units can't hurt anybody unless you are up close & personal and if you strip away their supporting troops, they haven't got a chance.

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Send replacement militia troops from your English cities if you can. Make sure to move them from city to city because they might rebel if they don't have a general with them.

Once you have taken Edinburgh, you may also have to take Inverness from the Scots. It starts as a rebel province but the Scots usually take it quite quickly. This is a castle town and is a useful place to replenish depleted units. Once I have done this, I convert it into a town. My reasoning is that a castle on the edge of the map is little or no use and you want a strong economy. Fixing up your army and keeping them in the town until the initial civil disorder dies down will be of great benefit later on.

You should look to take Dublin next across the land bridge. In my game, the Scots had already taken it so I went to war with them. You can get some handy mercenaries here so consider it if you need troops and have cash to spare.

If you get any 'cease & desist' orders from the Pope at any stage, just call off sieges and wait out the order. If they attack while the order is in place, defend yourself. Once the order expires, siege again and finish the job if possible. Trying to get the Scots excommunicated would take too long so don't bother trying.

With the British Isles secure, you can now afford to move excess troops to Caen and start thinking further ahead. You will need multiple armies to make reasonable gains against the French because they have a tendency to siege your own towns if you take theirs one by one. What I usually do is look at the French troops disposition. They usually leave one or two towns/castles very lightly defended. Send only a small army to that place while big armies go to heavily defended towns. I went for a three-pronged approach sieging Paris, Angiers and Rheims in one turn. Hopefully you will be able to take these before the Pope intervenes. By producing a lot of archer units in Caen, you should get a woodsman's guild. This will give you Sherwood archer units. I'm not a major fan of them as they are hard to re-train but they are excellent for use in France with the guild in Caen available for retraining.

A word on spies. Send spies into all the French cities. If a city has a small garrison, send a load of spies in. This will cause public order to drop and if the city rebels which can happen, you can take it without getting into trouble with the Pope. I managed to take Zarazoga from the French by this method. It won't work all the time but every province helps.


A medieval illustration.

If you are having problems with the Pope, send a diplomat to him and give him gifts of map information & small amounts of cash to keep him happy. It is very likely that he will have called a crusade by this stage, probably on Jerusalem. This crusade may even be called before you have secured the British Isles. You can approach crusades in two different ways.

  1. Send a family member and eight cheap units like militia or peasants. Their upkeep will be zero while on crusade. This is a good approach to take if you don't want to keep Jerusalem and are just crusading for the sake of keeping the pope happy.
  2. Send a decent army with good quality troops supplemented by crusading mercenaries. Army upkeep is zero while on crusade so feel free to hire crusading mercenaries and disband them when the crusade is over.

Crusades are important because they keep the pope happy and when successful, give your family members valuable traits, like piety and chivalry.

To be able to make the holy land from England in time, you will have to use boats. Your boats at this time are weak so you need to gang them together. Eight or so in the fleet should be safe. If you lose your fleet, you lose your army. The overland route is just too far for England. At this stage, Jerusalem is usually lightly defended so taking it is not a problem.

Now you are left with the problem of what to do with it. Exterminate the population and you solve the civil unrest problem at the cost of giving your general Dread traits. Occupy the city and it will take ages to quell the civil disorder. Personally, I usually gift the city to the Papal States as holding onto it causes too many problems for too little gain but this can cause unexpected consequences like giving the Papal States a taste for expansion. Try gifting the province to somebody with almost no chance of holding onto it. Do you need a ceasefire with some annoying pest who keeps blockading your ports but is too far away for you to hit them back? Yup. Gift it to them. Before you give the city away produce a few priests. These guys will be important later on.

Building Up & Opening New Fronts Outside of France

An image of the Battle of

Okay so now you have an army with a better general and +1 experience troops. Now is the time to start wrecking havoc. Take Nicosia on Cyprus. This is a Byzantine fortress and is a great place to produce troops. I usually keep it as a fortress until I get a better one on the mainland and then convert it into a city.

Take any other islands you can. They are great bases as the AI rarely seems to invade and the trade will be excellent. If Sicily hasn't already taken them, take Sardinia and Corsica. In fact, you should probably take them anyway as Sicily seem to get excommunicated nearly as much as the Holy Roman Empire in my game. Rhodes is a little trickier. The Venetians are to be found there as they nearly always take it early. You can take it from them but they are aggressive and are bound to try and take it back but it's worth the chance. Likewise Crete. At this stage, you should have the British Isles secure, northern France and as many of the Mediterranean islands as possible. With these provinces, your economy should be at a decent level and you can start looking at new fronts aside from France. I chose to pick on the Moors. Since they are Muslim, you'll have no problems with the Pope and they are not all that tough. Take Tunis first and work west from there. Ignore the province to the east of Tunis as this will give you a buffer when the Mongols arrive.

Now that you are taking Muslim provinces, you need to get your college of cardinals controlling phase into gear. Start churning out priests from a central town until you reach your agent limit. I used Tunis. You should get a theologians guild after a while. Refuse all other guilds until you get this. Keep doing this again until you get the master guild upgrade. It takes quite a while to get the headquarters upgrade but you will get it eventually if you keep producing priests. Send these priests in bulk into the Muslim provinces. They will start converting and gaining piety. The beauty is that all priests in that province will gain piety from conversion so this will give you loads of cardinals in no time. Once you have a province up to about 80% catholic, move to another. It may be possible to keep moving your priests/cardinals between two provinces as the Muslim owners convert them back once your priests are gone. Ship your top cardinals back home to England and France to stamp out heretics. You really don't want the inquisition poking around your provinces and burning your family members at the stake.

The reason I opened a front in North Africa is because the Pope is going to get in the way of your French campaign a lot. He issued at least 4-5 'cease & desist' orders in my English campaign. Unless you are lucky enough to get the French excommunicated, your campaign will be a slow one. This will not help you gain provinces quickly enough. Once North Africa is secure you can look elsewhere. I like to take Corinth when I can. It is an excellent point to churn out troops to expand into the Balkans [turn Nicosia into a city now]. The Byzantines tend to be weak from battling Venice, Hungary, Turks plus the Mongols and are easily knocked off. Mind the Venetians. They are aggressive and will torment you unless you take Durazzo. It is very worth your while to take Constantinople & Sofia. In Sofia, you'll have another castle to replenish your troops.

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Back in Western Europe

Part of the Bayeux Tapestry.

Back in Western Europe you will hopefully have subdued France or most of it. If they are down to a few provinces, try and make them your vassal. You have a reasonable chance of success if you propose a decent tribute as well. Now you are likely to come into conflict with Spain, Portugal, Denmark, the Holy Roman Empire and possibly Milan too. Hopefully your economy will be a power house at this point. Caen, Angiers, Toulouse & Bordeaux should be your troop factories. Consider a two-pronged approach on the Iberian Peninsula from France & North Africa. This could take time depending on the Pope.

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Your eastern border needs to be defended. If the HRE is excommunicated, attack them but be wary of extending your borders too far. The Danes tend to be aggressive and will take towns if you leave them unguarded. Milan could do the same to your southern border. Expand slowly & cautiously, leaving no gaps for the Danes or Milanese to exploit. The bulk of your expansion can be done in the near/middle east.

Expand in the East

A medieval illustration.

If you have a secure position in the Balkans, now is the time to push into Asia Minor [Turkey]. I prefer this route as the provinces to the north tend to be large & poorly developed. It would also require a huge amount of troops to campaign effectively and the travel distance required is very large. Asia Minor is far more compact and sets you up for taking Jerusalem which you need to win. If you hold the British Isles, France, North Africa, Balkans, Asia Minor & the holy land, you will have the 45 provinces required to win as well as Jerusalem.

When expanding this way, remember that the Mongols will be here if they have not arrived already. They tend to be very expansionist but by keeping battles to sieges, I negate the effect of their horse archers somewhat. Use peasants as arrow fodder if you are concerned about your better quality troops being depleted by arrow fire.

The New World

An old map of the Americas.

Once you have the 'world is round' event, you can build carracks and sail into the west. It's a land of opportunity this New World. Firstly, you get new towns without bothering your European neighbours. Secondly, the Pope doesn't mind you slaughtering them. Thirdly, since they are 100% pagan, it's a great place to train cardinals.

The natives have almost zero armour so send in the heavy infantry to sort them out. They do have spearmen so mind your family members, it'll take a long time to send a fresh batch over.

The Aztecs are not a complete walkover. They have many units with high attack and seem to maintain full-stacks with huge unit numbers. They will very easily swarm your foot troops so make sure you use your cavalry properly. They also move fast so use artillery to soften them up a bit first. In some ways, they are similar to Germania in RTW with low armour, high attack & huge numbers. Missiles & mobility are your best friend.

Units Available to the English

Three knights in their

A word on units. England doesn't have access to decent quality spear units so you'll be relying on armoured swordsmen & dismounted English knights a lot for your infantry backbone. They will take casualties from cavalry charges but there's not a whole lot you can do about that. Use armoured swordsmen instead of dismounted feudal knights. They have a slightly higher defence and much cheaper maintenance. Dismounted English knights have excellent attack but lower defence than swordsmen. Use them as your primary attack troops. The swordsmen will take the brunt of the enemy attacks. I usually go with five of each.

Archers are very important and since the English have such good archer units to select from, it would be rude not to make use of them. Retinue longbowmen are excellent but can be hard to retrain on campaign. Use their stakes before a battle. Every bit helps against cavalry heavy factions.

Billmen have great attack but poor defence. They also get no bonus against cavalry. You could use them as flanking troops but dismounted nobles do that as well and have better defence. I don't use billmen personally as they are not as flexible & multi-purpose as the other infantry available.

I always try to have two family members with each full stack army. There's nothing worse than having one die and then losing the army as they rebel. Try to ensure that the second general is young, in case the older guy dies. There's nothing more frustrating than having to wait ten turns while you ship a family member all the way from Western Europe to Asia Minor.

English knights are great troops [as well as looking great] but they can be hard to retrain on campaign. Feudal knights don't really hack it in the late game though.

Lancers are very far up the technology tree so I wouldn't use them for that reason but they are not all that good either for the investment required.

I usually go for:

  • 2 generals
  • 3 knights
  • 5 dismounted English knights
  • 5 armoured swordsmen
  • 5 longbowmen

It would be entirely feasible to reduce the infantry component and go for more cavalry instead. Try to fight on open battlefields and avoid forests because they hamper your archers and the movement of your troops.

Alternatives are:

  • 2 generals
  • 5 knights
  • 4 dismounted English knights
  • 4 armoured swordsmen
  • 5 longbowmen


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  • 2 generals
  • 3 knights
  • 4 dismounted English knights
  • 4 armoured swordsmen
  • 5 longbowmen
  • 2 artillery

Alternatives & Conclusions

So you disagree with this guide? Sure, no problem. They are just suggestions. You could very easily land an invasion force in Denmark but that would bring you into conflict with another catholic faction and they never seem to get excommunicated in my games.

Expanding further into Europe will also bring you into conflict with other catholic factions.

The strategy suggested here will see you build a safe & solid base in Europe with the possibility of real expansion in the middle/near east.