Total War Rome 2 Roman Units Composition Tips and Strategy Guide

You want to play war eh? Well, back in those good ol’ savage days Rome was the one true empire, with all kinds of weapons, soldiers, and perversions.

But we’re not here to talk about the ethical state of Rome or how shiny their weapons were; we’re here to talk about their strategic formations and how their soldiers and weapons (but not perversions) combined together to form arguably the most disciplined army setup of its time.

Yes, we’re here to talk about Rome’s formal categorization of battle units, or at least their representations in Total War Rome 2. Rome is the largest faction in the game in-terms of Unit types and resources, making it a great side to select.

For more help on Rome 2, read our Sparta Units, Iceni Units and Suebi Units Guide.

Key Rome Units

The Roman army gets its charm from a powerful set of melee infantry units and threatening cavalry units, making them superior in overall balance and land warfare.

Artillery Ships

Yeah, there were no Howitzers to bombard a region to bits at that time, but what the Romans did have were Artillery Ships. No, we’re not talking about the USS New Mexico, we’re talking crappy wooden catapults stationed on top of wooden boats that shoot rocks and other heavy things.

So when should you have Artillery Ships? Well, whenever you can of course! They’re a great method to assault from the coast from a distance, but their massive downside is that they are easily (and by easily I mean quite easily) susceptible to sabotage by the enemy.

Yeah, all that needs to be done by them foes is to board your ship and screw up those catapults, and that’s the end of your investment in these. Note that the catapults carried are actually different kinds of artilleries that are also found on ground.

Romans have two Artillery Ships they can utilize, which are:

  • Artillery Quinquereme, Roman Onager (Ship)
  • Light Artillery Quinquereme, Roman Ballista (Ship)

Now, investment in these ships can be expensive if done on a regular basis. Don’t go into every battle with these – just make sure to use them when you’re doing surprise attacks. Never, ever use these in a defensive/espionage styled approach.

Also, you might want to keep at least one infantry unit for every artillery ship for protection purposes. Do this only for the first few periods of a battle, and when you have pushed forward and closed down all potential flanking methods, you can leave the ships be.

Use the ships for collateral damage rather than specific targets; they don’t have much accuracy but can destroy enemy units quickly. Don’t forget to avoid friendly fire!


There’s really no need of introducing a commanding unit. It consists of the following:

  • General and Body Guard
  • Legatus

Yeah, there’s not much you can do with this silly unit, apart from keeping it safe. They have fantastic defense and the Legatus are very good melee damage dealers, but you want to make sure you keep this unit right in between the fore-front infantry and whatever is protecting your flank.

The General can raise the morale of your entire army with Encourage, which is a great boost to some of the unit types in the game, and in general very good to prevent scared Roman soldiers running away. Apart from that, there really is no strategic important of the Command unit.

Elephant Unit
Elephants are a force to be reckoned with because of their high penetrative rampages.

They have plenty of uses in land battles, and are typically an invasion/offensive unit. Moreover, the Elephant units have fantastic defense against standard attacks, and not even a swarm of soldiers in Testudo form can prevent being stomped and trampled by them.

Here are the two Elephant units available to the Roman faction:

  • Auxiliary African Elephants
  • Auxiliary Indian War Elephants

Strangely enough, the Indian elephants are much stronger than the African ones, but also cost a ton (literally). They are an expensive war investment, and should be used against heavy enemy threats and defenses.

I wouldn’t recommend them for fortress invasions, but they appear to work best in planes.

What makes elephants so good is their mobility and durability. They are hard to hit in general, and arrows and normal melee won’t do them much harm due to their tough skin.

So how do you exactly counter an intimidating elephant unit, you ask? Simple, you just put in a unit of pike-carrying badasses, and have the men from behind them throw spears. You’ll feel a little ache in your heart as you watch them beasts fall to the ground so quickly.

Field Artillery

So you want some artillery on your field eh? Nope, the Howitzer option still isn’t available, we just don’t have witty scientists for that in ancient Rome. What we do have is a set of old-school catapult and scorpion weapons to crush their heads and poke ‘em in the eye.

Field Artilleries differ from Fixed Artillery because they are moveable. Yeah, you can move around these beasts to get the best out of their range.

But don’t expect it to be a horse-ride, because it’s not. Moving Field Artilleries is slow as hell and should only be done when you are absolutely sure there is zero chances of an enemy unit popping up anywhere close to your current and target position. Sound complicated? Yeah, it kind of is, which is why you have to be ultra-careful while you move these things around.

Rome’s got plenty of different field artilleries for you. Have a look at them:

  • Roman Ballista
  • Roman Giant Ballista
  • Roman Heavy Onager
  • Roman Onager
  • Roman Polybolos
  • Roman Scorpion

These artilleries and their operators are very weak against enemies, which is why they should always be placed in areas that have zero flanking options and have been cleared of enemies.

Are they effective? Yes. Are they worth the investment? Yes.

Are they worth being used in every battle? Definitely no – keep them for defense or when you are invading in the same manner the Samnites do in the prologue of the campaign. Just make sure your fate isn’t the same as theirs though. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Go play the campaign you fool!)

Fixed Artillery

‘But we already did that’, you say? Nope, we didn’t. What we did was Field Artilleries, meaning you deploy them in the field, and then you can move them anywhere you want. Fixed Artilleries are different.

Yes, they are artillery units, but they stay wherever they are deployed.

“Why would you want that!?” you ask? Well, you would definitely want that in a defensive setup, and in my opinion it’s much better to have Fixed Artillery deployed and then forgotten about instead of constantly having to worry about ‘where should I put it next?’

Here are the Fixed Aritillery units for Rome by the way:

  • Roman Giant Ballista
  • Roman Polybolos
  • Roman Scorpion (Fixed)

So yes, Fixed Artillery units do have their uses, and like I said, they are best used in battles that you will conduct in a defensive approach

Melee Cavalry

It’s time to stop holding your horses and get on the move. Melee cavalry are pretty awesome, and I like to think of them as ‘burst damage’ units that have that ‘surprise-mathafucka’ attribute to them, which makes them just that more badass.

Now, prepare your eyes to witness the stupendously large amount of melee cavalry units available to Rome:

  • Auxiliary Arabian Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Bactrian Light Horse
  • Auxiliary Briton Scout Riders
  • Auxiliary Camel Spearmen
  • Auxiliary Spear Horsemen
  • Auxiliary Cantabrian Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Cappadocian Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Celtic Light Horse
  • Auxiliary Bactrian Light Horse
  • Auxiliary Briton Scout Riders
  • Auxiliary Camel Spearmen
  • Auxiliary Citizen Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Gallic Light Horse
  • Auxiliary Germanic Scout Riders
  • Auxiliary Iberian Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Illyrian Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Persian Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Spear Horsemen
  • Auxiliary Bactrian Light Horse
  • Auxiliary Briton Scout Riders
  • Auxiliary Camel Spearmen
  • Auxiliary Citizen Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Gallic Light Horse
  • Auxiliary Germanic Scout Riders
  • Auxiliary Iberian Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Illyrian Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Persian Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Sabaean Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Sarmatian Lancers
  • Auxiliary Tarantine Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Thracian Cavalry
  • Equites
  • Cavalry
  • Praetorian Cavalry
  • Socii Equites

Right, now I’d be an idiot to give you brief descriptions of all these horse-riders, so let’s just sum it up in a general manner to make it more understandable and less tedious for me to scribble down.

Melee cavalries can turn the tide of battles really quickly, provided they are used properly. What makes them such a devastating force is the Charge Bonus, which greatly increases their attack for a short period of time.

Now, you shouldn’t expect the Cavalry to be the main body of your army, but instead consider them as highly specialized mobile forces that move in-and-out of dense places, destroying everything in their way, and then quickly disappearing. I would like to call them the ninjas of the battle.

This trait makes them fantastic for ambushes and flanking, and they can utilize various terrains like hills and forests perfectly for such dirty warfare.

So what makes them horses shiver? One word: spears. Yes, your proud flock of cavalry units will go down within seconds against a spear-wielding enemy battalion, or a unit that uses pikes (just the thought of it gives me shivers). For this reason, it’s often good to have a set of spear-wielding units set up to cover the flank if you’re suspecting an ambush from a melee cavalry.

And Chariots, let’s not forget Chariots. They will destroy your cavalry in no time.

Do note though that there are a hell lot of different units for the Melee Cavalries. The heavy melee cavalry are great and will last some time even against spears (can’t guarantee the same success with pikes though), while the naked-riders are fearless, fast, and will deliver quick damage but won’t have much survivability.

Melee Infantry

What makes up the bulk of your Roman army, or any other army for that matter, are the different variations of the melee infantry units.

The melee infantry units use standard sword and shield or spear and shield combinations, and are your primary factors of your battle prowess. A weak, untrained and under-developed melee infantry will almost guarantee a defeat.

There are two things that count a lot in-terms of melee infantry. One is the sheer number of units, while the other is the set of attributes that determine their offensive and defensive skills.

Remember, melee infantries work best when used in combination, and their disciplined warfare is easily tweakable with formations and ‘patterned’ setups.

Here are the Melee Infantry units that belong to Rome:

  • Armored Legionaries
  • Auxiliary Arabian Spearmen
  • Auxiliary Axe Warriors
  • Auxiliary Bactrian Hillmen
  • Auxiliary Celtic Warriors
  • Auxiliary Coastal Levies
  • Auxiliary Dacian Spears
  • Auxiliary Egyptian Infantry
  • Auxiliary Gallic Warriors
  • Auxiliary Hillmen
  • Auxiliary Hoplites
  • Auxiliary Iberian Swordsmen
  • Auxiliary Parthian Spearmen
  • Auxiliary Sabaean Spearmen
  • Auxiliary Spear Band
  • Auxiliary Spear Brothers
  • Auxiliary Sabaean Spearmen
  • Eagle Cohort
  • Evocati Cohort
  • First Cohort
  • Gladiator Spearmen
  • Gladiators
  • Hastati
  • Legionaries
  • Legionary Cohort
  • Plebs
  • Praetorian Guard
  • Praetorians
  • Principes
  • Rorarii
  • Socii Extraordinarii
  • Socii Hastati
  • Triarii
  • Veteran Legionaries
  • Vigiles

One of the most important factors for the melee infantry is their Base Morale, which gives them higher enthusiasm and superior presence in the battlefield. This, along with attributes like attach and defense, give the melee infantry units their superiority in battle against enemies.

The Praetorians and Praetorian Guards in this case are arguably one of the strongest melee infantry units in the game, but they have a very high recruitment cost, towering requirements, and are often too precious to be used in mild battles.

Rome’s melee infantry is overall balanced to give a great mix of both offensive and defensive options to their commander.

You can use the Testudos to create a turtle-shelled, slow marching infantry, ideal against a folly of arrows raining down upon you. This technique can be used for both defensive and offensive play, and is one of the highlighted aspects of the Roman melee infantry.

Other infantry units like the Gladiators and lighter armed foreigners aren’t going to last as much as the rest of your disciplined home-grown men, but they are excellent for assaulting enemy frontlines and being used as distraction (what a horribly Roman strategy!).

Remember that spear infantries are just as important as your sword-bearing units, and in certain situations are more viable. This is specifically true when you are combating cavalries – short swords won’t put down men on horses easily, but pointy spears will certainly do the trick.

In addition to that, spears are the best and only real option (alongside javelins) against Elephants for Rome. Yeah, Rome doesn’t have any Pike wielders, so you will just have to make-do with these units.

Melee Ship

No, I don’t mean a ship that wields a sword in one hand and a shield in another. Melee Ships are sea vessels that carry crew. Now, most of us will argue that it’s quite pointless to be picky with your ships when assaulting land, but it may not be entirely true.

You would actually need larger ships to carry a large passenger of crew, not to mention it also affects the crew-type you can carry and the durability of the ship.

When it comes to sea battles, the choice becomes much more important. You need to have a fine balance of speed, durability, dependability, and capacity to successfully board/invade enemy ships and take them out.

For example, the Tower Hexareme are the obvious favorites at first look, while the Fire Pot Bireme seem awful. But despite great capacity and fantastic defense, the Tower Hexareme is terribly slow, while the Fire Pot can evade enemy ships and out maneuver them due to its light weight and small crew.

It all depends on priorities really, so pick your choice wisely with what kind of melee ships you want your soldiers on.

Here are the Roman Melee Ships:

  • Assault Bireme, Auxiliary Arabian Spearmen
  • Assault Bireme, Auxiliary Axe Warriors
  • Assault Bireme, Auxiliary Bactrian Hillmen
  • Assault Bireme, Auxiliary Celtic Warriors
  • Assault Bireme, Auxiliary Coastal Levies
  • Assault Bireme, Auxiliary Dacian Spears
  • Assault Bireme, Auxiliary Gallic Warriors
  • Assault Bireme, Auxiliary Hillmen
  • Assault Bireme, Auxiliary Iberian Swordsmen
  • Assault Bireme, Auxiliary Infantry
  • Assault Bireme, Auxiliary Parthian Spearmen
  • Assault Bireme, Auxiliary Sabaean Spearmen
  • Assault Bireme, Auxiliary Spear Band
  • Assault Bireme, Auxiliary Spear Brothers
  • Assault Bireme, Hastati
  • Assault Bireme, Legionaries
  • Assault Bireme, Legionary Cohort
  • Assault Hexareme, Evocati Cohort
  • Assault Hexareme, Triarii
  • Assault Hexareme, Veteran Legionaries
  • Assault Quadreme, Auxiliary Egyptian Infantry
  • Assault Quadreme, Auxiliary Hoplites
  • Assault Quadreme, Legionaries
  • Assault Quadreme, Legionary Cohort
  • Assault Quadreme, Principes
  • Assault Quadreme, Socii Extraordinarii
  • Assault Quadreme, Socii Hastati
  • Fire Pot Bireme, Hastati
  • Fire Pot Bireme, Legionaries
  • Fire Pot Bireme, Legionary Cohort
  • Tower Hexareme, Evocati Cohort
  • Tower Hexareme, Triarii
  • Tower Hexareme, Veteran Legionaries

Missile Cavalry

Yeah, there are horse riders that wield swords and spears, and there are horse riders that wield bows & arrows and javelins.

This are those annoying stooges that will never come close to you (unless the person behind the keyboard is an idiot) but keeping harassing you with torrents of arrows and spears that can hit you either in the face or on your buttocks, or even in the ground beside you.

The unpredictability of this group make them both reliable (ironic, eh?) and fun to play with, as you watch your enemy commander tear his virtual hair out.

But any clever person would know that a missile cavalry is doomed when it comes in melee range. Yes, these units aren’t like your standard archer guys who also have enough in them to fight at close range.

Instead, Missile Cavalry units have no real means of countering melee soldiers at close range, and will almost always fail if found in this situation. Your best bet is to use them as bait by kiting and constantly harassing the enemy, which might force the enemy to make a stupid move.

The Rome faction’s missile cavalries are fantastic, and can be used for both ambushes (in the same way as melee cavalry) and as highly mobile archers for bait.

Just make sure you have a couple of melee units protecting them in the specific area they run around (and they should be running around, a stationary cavalry unit is as good as a potato in the battlefield).

Oh, I almost forgot to list the units:

  • Auxiliary Camel Archers
  • Auxiliary Horse Skirmishers
  • Auxiliary Numidian Cavalry
  • Auxiliary Parthian Horse Archers
  • Auxiliary Sarmatian Horse Archers
  • Auxiliary Scythian Horse Archers
  • Auxiliary Thracian Cavalry

Missile Infantry

Archers, javelin wielders, and axe throwers are what make up your missile infantry. While archers are the best choice when it comes to accuracy, range, and consistency, javelin wielders and wild axes throwers are excellent for penetrating shields when the archers aren’t able to.

The missile infantry is nearly as important as the melee infantry, and will almost always be your main source of initiation due to their range.

  • Auxiliary Balearic Slingers
  • Auxiliary Briton Slingers
  • Auxiliary Celtic Skirmishers
  • Auxiliary Cretan Archers
  • Auxiliary Dacian Bowmen
  • Auxiliary Eastern Javelinmen
  • Auxiliary Iberian Slingers
  • Auxiliary Longbow Hunters
  • Auxiliary Numidian Javelinmen
  • Auxiliary Peltasts
  • Auxiliary Persian Archers
  • Auxiliary Rhodian Slingers
  • Auxiliary Sabaean Archers
  • Auxiliary Syrian Archers
  • Auxiliary Thracian Peltasts
  • Leves
  • Velites

While most of the missile infantries can actually fight in melee range, they are very, very weak overall in such situations, and it is best to avoid close-skirmishes.

Missile Infantry units need to be positioned according to what weapon they wield. Javelins, axes, and rocks are heavy and don’t have the aerodynamics to travel large distances, so you will need to put them in riskier close positions.

For this reason, I always prefer javelin and axes wielders for defensive battles rather than when you are attacking.

Archers in general will remain the best kind of missile infantry, but the aerial threat can be nullified with Testudo, since arrows don’t really pierce through shields.

A clever strategy is to use Archers against enemy melee units, forcing them into Testudo, and then executing an ambush with your cavalry from behind, and ultimately having your melee infantry march and finish off the remainder of the forces. It does work well!

Missile Ship

No, we’re not talking about ships that launch ICBMs, we’re just talking about ships that carry missile infantry units. I personally love these ship units for how well they work against other ships.

They are great of ranged initiation in sea battles and can be the starting point of an enemy ship’s invasion.

The issue with these ships is that they have poor boarding, very average health, and are quite unstable, making your missiles rather inaccurate. But, when you have more than one in your fleet, they can combine to pick out single targets very well.

Here are the units Rome has available:

  • Missile Quinquereme, Auxiliary Cretan Archers
  • Missile Quinquereme, Auxiliary Egyptian Archers
  • Missile Quinquereme, Auxiliary Peltasts
  • Missile Quinquereme, Auxiliary Rhodian Slingers
  • Missile Quinquereme, Velites
  • Missile Trireme, Auxiliary Balearic Slingers
  • Missile Trireme, Auxiliary Briton Slingers
  • Missile Trireme, Auxiliary Celtic Skirmishers
  • Missile Trireme, Auxiliary Dacian Bowmen
  • Missile Trireme, Auxiliary Eastern Javelinmen
  • Missile Trireme, Auxiliary Iberian Slingers
  • Missile Trireme, Auxiliary Longbow Hunters
  • Missile Trireme, Auxiliary Numidian Javelinmen
  • Missile Trireme, Auxiliary Persian Archers
  • Missile Trireme, Auxiliary Sabaean Archers
  • Missile Trireme, Auxiliary Thracian Peltasts
  • Missile Trireme, Leves


When we say ‘special’, we primarily mean Wardogs. Yes, unforgiving dogs that are specifically trained to chew on enemy bones.

They have fantastic attack and are very fast, and work best against lightly armored units. War-dogs are excellent for a burst of damage and to create gaps in light-armored enemy infantry units.

However, their Handlers are weak against melee, which is why they need to be protected by a nearby infantry unit.

Haider is a freelance contributor, who loves video games, playing guitar, and aviation. He is a competitive FPS player and also enjoys exotic RPG games like Diablo and Xenogears (his favorite game of all time) ...