Milan: Opening Moves

By Aftermath.

I am currently playing a campaign as Milan. Everything was peachy, waging crusades in the east and snatching up rebel settlements. Then around turn 30 the whole thing soured. I was under attack, The Holy Roman Empire poured through the alps, the French swarmed all over Marseille, the Spanish and/or Portugese consistently tried to yank Ajaccio and Cagliari from my grasp. Now Venice marches on their former capital from the east and Sicily has recaptured Palermo.

I frantically try to regroup, retrain and hold off the assault from all sides but am slowly being ground down. So I sit back and try to wonder how and when it could have all gone wrong, and my conclusion was that I was a fool during the opening moves of my campaign. This guide focuses on the first few turns as Milan, it is neither a concrete strategy nor a recipe for an easy game but it should set a foundation for a strong and secure homeland for Milan in your grand campaign. This guide was written for the Very Hard difficulty, but can easily be adapted for any other difficulty you play.

Overview

The Milanese starting position.

Milan is a potential powerhouse, thanks to their ability to raise competent armies from their cities in the form of militia, and the relatively rich provinces that exist within their grasp. However, Milan is also surrounded by possible enemies.

Moves in Turn 1.

The first order of business should be to send your diplomat to secure trade rights with your immediate neighbours (and if you opt for the Papal States an alliance would be useful). Leave your Cardinal in the province of Milan, as it has the lowest Christian population. Move your merchant towards one of the silver mines north-east of Venice. Next take the army west of Genoa and head straight for Florence, before the Holy Roman Empire or Venice snatch it up. You should also send your spy in this direction to keep an eye on the Holy Roman Empire in Bologna. Finally, take the troop garrison in Genoa and join it with your army headed for Florence and send the troop garrison in Milan down towards Florence along the path shown in the next screenshot. Leave only the generals behind. Adjust tax rates as needed. I typically leave them up there at very high, the public order will be restored next turn following recruitment. Besides you are in deep trouble if your florins run low in the early stages of the game.

Buildings to be constructed:

Milan - Church
To boost your reputation with the pope, all important as within a few turns one of your neighbours will be knocking at your walls.
Genoa - Land Clearance
I recommend the first farming upgrade to boost population and combat any upping of the tax rate.

Units to train:

Milan - 2 Italian Militia
To fill up the garrison and make up for you moving the others into your army headed for Florence. Do the same in Genoa.
Genoa - Also 2 Italian Militia
See above.

Turn 2

Continue to press your army on towards Florence and lay siege. Proceed to acquire trade rights from nearby factions. Also, consider an alliance with Sicily as their settlements are a little out of your way at the moment. Train an additional diplomat in Milan. Combine your fleet and send them to wait on the coast of Florence.

Turn 3

The position at the end of Turn 3.

Your army should now be ready to assault Florence. (Note: In 2/5 the games I tested the units I sent from Milan turned into rebels, if so, feel free to recruit 2 units of mercenary spearmen and 1 unit of crossbowmen.) Once you have taken the settlement you can either sack it or occupy, it depends on how you want to play the game. Sacking is obviously the more financially beneficial and I recommend it due to the public order bonuses too. Once you have taken the city set tax rate to low and leave a unit of peasant archers in there, but move all other troops towards the galleys you placed at the coast in the previous turn. Move your spy into the area between Bologna and Venice to keep an eye on the two of them.

Buildings to be constructed:

Milan - Market
Economy is a priority at this stage.
Genoa - Shipwright
Gives biggest boost to trade in comparison to other available buildings.
Florence - Grain Exchange
Trade trade trade!

In both Milan and Genoa train a unit of Italian Milita.

Turn 4

Press your army on to siege Ajaccio. Continue to use both diplomats to trade map information and gain trade rights.

Train another Italian militia at both Milan and Genoa.

Turn 5

Assault Ajaccio. Occupy rather than sack as the rewards for sacking are not worth it in such a small settlement, unless you are desperate for some quick florins.

Buildings to be constructed:

Florence - Land Clearance
Trade and Population bonuses.
Ajaccio - Land Clearance
Same reasons.

Train Mounted Sergeants in Ajaccio.

Turn 6

Now move your garrison out of Ajaccio and back into the fleet, leaving only one unit of Italian militia behind. Set sail for the next island where you will find Cagliari on the southern coast.

Build a Grain Exchange in Genoa and Paved Roads in Milan; train a unit of Italian Militia at both Genoa and Milan.

Turn 7

Besieging Cagliari.

You should now be able to besiege Cagliari.

Buildings to be constructed:

Florence - Dirt Roads
Trade and movement are both useful here.
Ajaccio - Convert to village
No use in putting florins into making this a fully blown castle when one lies just to the north of Genoa...

Again, train a unit of Italian militia at both Genoa and Milan.

Turn 8

Leaving Milan.

Assault Cagliari, again I don't recommend sacking because it reduces the population in an already small settlement. Now, move one of your generals from within either Genoa or Milan, along with a great deal of the troops you have been training in each. I typically leave only one unit of militia in each.

Buildings to be constructed:

Genoa - Dirt roads
Movement and trade bonuses.
Florence - Town Watch
Improved choice of militia units.
Ajaccio - Wooden Palisade
Upgrade the village into a town.
Cagliari - Mustering Hall
Better Infantry selection.

Train one unit each of mounted sergeants and Mailed Knights at Cagliari.

Turn 9

Move your general with his army full of Italian militia towards Bern. Recruit some mercenaries to have some more "heavyweight" soldiers.

Buildings to be constructed:

Milan - Council Chambers
Greater public order bonuses mean taxes can be set higher and a lower garrison is tolerated.
Genoa - Town Hall
For the same reasons.
Cagliari - Garrison Quarters
Better Infantry selection.

Units to be trained:

Cagliari - Mounted Sergeants.
Cagliari is the only place you can recruit cavalry.
Milan and Genoa - Italian Militia
Most of the militia you have are on their way to take Bern, and there are still two potential enemies to the east... so you need more troops.

Turn 10

Move your general on to lay siege to Bern.

Build a Wooden Wall in Florence and a Grain Exchange in Ajaccio; train Italian Militia in both Milan and Genoa again.

Turn 11

Now have your general take Bern. It isn't ideal, but I found sacking to be a necessity due to the heavy upkeep and recruitment burdens on my income. This turn you should have a new general who has come of age and he typically has respectable stats. Bear this in mind for the upcoming turns where you will be looking to take Bologna and Venice, also you could seize the opportunity to get him some experience by removing any rebels from the area. I found that I could up tax rates once again, which was much needed due to more recruitment costs.

Buildings to be constructed:

Genoa - Town Guard
This building gives you the ability to recruit the Italian Spear Militia.
Cagliari - Land Clearance
The farming boost is always useful.
Bern - Land Clearance
See above.

Units to be trained:

Florence - Italian Militia
You need the garrison.
Cagliari - Mailed Knights and Sergeant Spearmen
You are putting together your first real army.
Bern - Mailed Knights and Mounted Sergeants
See above.

Summary

Moving towards Bologna.

By now you have taken and secured the nearby settlements without starting any wars. You have two armies awaiting your next orders. Your priority should certainly be to march on to sack Bologna, which tends to have a rather weak garrison and expel the Holy Roman Empire from Italy before they become a thorn in your side. Also be mindful of Venice, as soon as they start sniffing around in your territories they'll soon be sending attacks.

Cagliari.

The army you have at Cagliari I usually use to assault Palermo from the ocean to neutralise the Sicilians which are typically a pain in the ass. On the other hand if you do not wish to wage war with Sicily head on up to Marseille, it is a key city to have to watch the French and also turns quite a profit.

Targets.

Long term goals, once you have Venice and Bologna should definitely be to march through the alps to Innsbruck. Once you have Innsbruck and Bern you are pretty much safe from attacks from the north. And from here you have a strong economic base, safe homelands and being pretty much in the middle of the map you can go anywhere you like. Good Luck!