Empire: Total War Guide to Playing as the British Empire

Empire: Total War Guide to Playing as the British Empire
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The British Empire

In the glory days they used to say the sun never set on the British Empire and there were colonies run by the British all across the globe. A steady trade into bustling ports made the country rich and a strong navy combined with an efficient army led to this small, craggy island being the most powerful country on the planet. Of course it was achieved through violent pillaging and widespread slaughter. Many believed they were improving the world as “civilization” was spread at the barrel of a musket and others just seized the opportunity to make a fortune.

Empire: Total War gives you the chance to see if you can match those achievements and brings back a time when global empire was more than just a dim and distant memory. Can you rise to the challenge and develop the home territories while seizing more colonies abroad? Can you rule the seven seas with a well drilled navy protecting your ill gotten gains on the trade routes? Can you defeat the natives, put down rebellions and hold your own against the powerful old nations of Europe? Will you spread the Protestant faith in the face of Catholic opposition and avoid a revolution such as that facing the French? Time to find out as we take a look at the British in Empire: Total War.

Starting Advantages

This guide will suggest some strategies that should help you win as the British. They start with a number of advantages so it is far from impossible to achieve a crushing victory. The ideas here are by no means the only way to gain a victory, these are just the things that worked well for me. To begin with, the fact that you are on an island and not continental Europe is a huge bonus. I have tried the game on various difficulty settings and even after leaving the homeland relatively weak Britain has never been invaded. You start the game in a position of strength relative to many of the other factions and you’ll find yourself in possession of a number of colonies. This is a great starting base to build from.

Trade and Consolidate Britain

Empire: Total War British Land Battle

Build Indiamen ships and send them to each of the trade theatres as fast as possible. You should be able to sneak them there without escort and ensure you establish a trade route from each theatre. You may need to send some naval support out later but generally I found once in place on the trade spot the Indiamen never got attacked. Start building up your school in Oxford and send the gentlemen straight in there so that your technology research is as fast as possible. You could consider destroying the church and building a second school for faster research, there didn’t seem to be much point in having the church development in England, but be warned this will increase clamour for reform. In terms of research you will want to develop bayonets as quickly as possible because the Native Americans in particular tend to charge you in battle and they’ll make short work of your troops in melee combat. You should also develop farming so you can make more money and increase population growth.

First War - India

Empire: Total War British Forces

In order the get the Thirteen Colonies to join you they will ask you to capture three settlements. You will want to do this fairly quickly but war with France is not a pleasant prospect and the Cherokees are tougher than they look. Instead you should begin by heading for the Eastern theatre. Take virtually all of your armies on the British Isles and board the fleet. Send your forces to India and attack the Mughal Empire. They are incredibly weak and ripe for the plucking: you should be able to sweep through Northern India very quickly.

Kill the Pirates

It is worth while hunting down the pirates and destroying their fleets once and for all. You will probably need to combine all your starting ships for this. They also hold an island settlement near Port Royal which you will need to take for victory anyway and they are quite easy to beat in a land battle. You might find the pirate fleet a bit more challenging but destroying it will prevent them from hassling you in the trade theatres.

General Development

You should build schools and trade ports when you get the option because schools will allow you to research more technology and trade ports will bring the cash rolling in. If you manage to establish some spare trade slots then try and get new agreements with other countries. They will be resistant at first but you can persuade them with gifts if you feel it is worth it and it often is. Keep an eye on your government members as well, watch out as they develop good or bad traits and take action accordingly. If you reduce taxes for the middle/low class you will grow faster and new towns and ports will spring up. Try to ensure you spread your gentlemen throughout your schools as they are more likely to have an impact that way than if you stick them all in the same one.


It is best to avoid being dragged into any continental wars during the early phase of the game. Try and get alliances with Poland or Russia. Avoid Prussia because they always fight with Austria. You ideally want to stay friends with Austria until they go to war with France and that way you get the opportunity to declare war on France without Spain joining in. Later on you can drop Austria as an ally because they keep trying to drag you into wars.

Attack the Cherokees

As the money begins to pour in from India and the trade routes you have established, you can begin to build an army to attack the Cherokees. Do not underestimate them: the individual troops may not be great but they have big numbers and while your initial progress might seem easy they usually hit back quite hard. In the majority of games I have played they take Florida and since it has a fort I used it as the base of operations on the American mainland. The fort also makes it possible to defend when they strike back with a full stack or two. Try not to delay too long because they will keep sending armies down at you. March on Georgia and Cherokee Territory to get the Thirteen Colonies as quickly as possible.

Turn on France

Take the French colonies starting with New France. It should be relatively easy especially if you have veteran troops from the Cherokee campaign. Once you have secured New France the Thirteen Colonies will join the Empire so be ready to defend them because they will be turned over completely empty.

India and Persia

It is worth taking the south of India now as well and you might consider expanding north into Afghanistan. Attacking the Marathas in the south won’t be as easy as it was against the Mughals so prepare properly. You should have some good troops left over from the Mughal campaign and you can amass them on the border and unleash a sneaky lightning attack.

End Game and Gibraltar

The Real British Empire at its Height

You also need to take Gibraltar in order to win and so war with the Spanish is increasingly inevitable. You may find that wiping out the Cherokees brought you close to their holdings in South America. I’d take these first because it will significantly eat into their wealth. With the Americas and India consolidated you can cast your eyes towards continental Europe. The chances are that various regions have changed hands so send some rakes over to survey the scene. Plan your invasion with care and if you have plenty of turns left then bring some top quality troops back from the Eastern and Western theatres. With your armies amassed you should start blockading ports in France and Spain and then land an army to take Gibraltar. With India and the Americas under control and mastery over the trade routes you will be completely unstoppable and ridiculously rich.

Rule Britannia!

This post is part of the series: Empire: Total War

Strategies and tips to help you reign supreme in Empire: Total War.

  1. Empire: Total War Road to Independence Guide
  2. Playing as the British in Empire: Total War
  3. Empire: Total War Guide to Playing as Prussia
  4. Empire: Total War Land Battle Guide
  5. Empire: Total War Naval Tactics Guide
  6. How to Win in Empire: Total War
  7. Empire: Total War Review: Epic RTS and Turn Based Strategy