Napoleon Total War Guide

Napoleon Total War Guide
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Getting Started in Napoleon Total War - Napoleon Total War Guide

This Napoleon Total War Guide provides a basic understanding of what you, as the lead French general need to focus on throughout the gameplay. Napoleon Total War is a campaign oriented RTS, which uses the keyboard top left W, A, S, D key to move your forces around the map. Actual guidance and troop orders take place with the mouse. Staying true to history, the player wages war through the Italian campaign, the Egyptian campaign, Russia and of course the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon Total War provides a turn-based strategic feel as the player controls economy, diplomacy as well as technology driven goals.

Within this Napoleon Total War Guide, note the emphasis on leader control, the damaging effects of weather and more common needs for troop reinforcements. A word of warning: multiplayer still has some bugs with compatible version downloading, maps and player base issues.

A player’s most common hotkeys will be the standard directional keys, scanning, camera, formations, fire, engaging and halting commands. See below for my personal set-up.

I highly suggest you use this Napoleon Total War Guide to assist in setting up your hotkeys as follows:

Madcap’s Hotkeys

Guide Me To Victory French Forces!


One of the first tactical decisions you need to make is the obtainment of the “fire and advance” maneuver to commence attacks with opposing forces. This allows for focus on other battlefield decisions and gives the troops more autonomy (requiring less micromanagement to defeat fleeing forces). Without such ability you are forced to position your units in columns, exercising unit timing decisions immediately after each round of fires.

Common to all rifle squads is the dreaded cavalry charges that pretty much obliterate closely grouped columns. Accordingly, to deal with the common charges throughout the campaigns, you need to maximize firepower by anticipating where the cavalry charge is going to take place and responding with closely grouped units to maximize unit effectiveness.

Never forget the Two on One rule. Artillery: The key to Napoleon’s victories.


The combined firepower in Napoleon Total War, which uses artillery throughout the game, requires precise management. Not only do you need to protect your artillery with riflemen, but you have to determine where the highest elevation is for each battle. Obtaining these spots is key to increasing their targeting site for both defense and offense. Protecting these units prevents your slow-moving artillery (and I mean molasses-like) from ambush – by terrain abusing armies. For the most part I only use Howitzer and canisters for my artillery as damage output is the key, not rocket distraction.

King of the Battle!

Interestingly enough use of artillery on high ground is not a general’s only consideration. Cannonballs have to be optimized with unimpeded ground in order to create what I call the (bowling) bouncing effect on opposing troops. The goal here is to destroy more than simple patches of units and get more bangs for your buck for every shot. The point to keep in mind is that you are looking for maximized damage, and if you are too high, you simply can’t scope your targeting area properly. Consider using dual-pronged artillery, with some set on the very-high ground and another squad placed with a clear field of vision on lower ground. As mentioned before, have a supporting rifle squad to protect both sections of cannon power.

Flanking, Sacrifice and Seizing Advantage


When engaged in countless amounts of exchanged fire, prepare all tactical considerations with Flanking, Sacrificing and use of Melee forces in Napoleon Total War. If forces are in an equal firefight, do what you can to create the two column versus one before the conclusion of the battle. All great generals need to predict and stack the odds for these equal exchanges and truth be told Napoleon was good at this (except for Waterloo). Unless you are flanking, try to form your rifle armies in a square for your own flank protection and cavalry defense. Find sharpshooters for empty buildings and consider retreating forces to this area as the enemy follows and gets decimated. This is a tried and true trap and bait tactic (does not work as well on humans).

Melee Tips

Similarly, melee is an essential part of the game and you need to constantly be aware of any shortcomings with your units versus your opponents. Charging is a skill that recognizes these advantages early and you don’t want your columns that have extreme melee advantages to engage in fair fights which in reality equal the playing ground. This mistake happens often as generals (myself) are concentrating too much on artillery and terrain to watch these disparities. Use a post it note, or some kind of mental trigger to watch for these opportunities. A key technique is constant use of the “insert” key to get that individual soldier’s stats. Consider this option along with camera rotations via mouse wheel. Do not let orange or red flagged enemy units retreat without full butchering of their troops. If you let it go, they can regroup. Similarly where morale is concerned be very keen on general usage as this can tip fair fights into your favor.

Sacrifice: A Time-Honored Tradition

Sacrificing units is an important concept to realize not just in melee, but in positioning your strongest troops. It’s often the case that you know you will lose several skirmishes, so prepare your stronger forces in a position to “clean up” resulting battles while the enemy’s stronger armies are occupied. They key point here is timing. If you lose an open skirmish, prepare for the counter, because you have bought time and this is extremely important as the battles lengthen.

This post is part of the series: Napoleon: Total War Battle Guides

A guide to winning battles in Napoleon: Total War

  1. Winning Battles in Napoleon: Total War
  2. Setting Up Land Battles in Napoleon Total War
  3. Battle Plans for Napoleon Total War