Portugal: The Opening Moves

By Aftermath.

This is the second installment in my 'Opening Moves' series of guides. This one took me a long time to write because every time I played the Portugal campaign something different happened, meaning triple the amount of test runs to make sure everything I said was relative.

And apologies for longer load times, I know this guide is much larger and picture intensive than the previous outing (Milan) but it was necessary due to how difficult it was to write and convey.


Portugal. Your starting position is currently placing you at great risk from attacks from either the Moors, or your fellow Catholics the Spanish. Your two starting settlements are split up by two Spanish provinces. However once you have overcome your immediate threats and control Iberia you will be easily making a decent profit each turn and have a number of expansion options available - into Europe, the rich Italian cities, North Africa and the holy lands... all within your reach.

The Iberian Peninsula.

Due to the nature of the Portugese starting position, it is pretty important they focus on one of their immediate threats; the Moors or the Spanish. Fighting both at the same time could prove fatal given the distance between your settlements, each is 'on their own' so to speak. For the purpose of this guide, I will focus on the option of neutralising the Moors first. This is because you have a better chance of holding the Spanish off for at least a while in an alliance as they try to move past Pamplona into southern France, secondly they are a fellow catholic faction and so will get you into trouble if you attack them so soon. The quicker Iberia is yours the better, then you can focus on the remaining Moors to the south, and possibly the encroaching French moving down from the north.

Turn 1 at Lisbon.

Here is a screenshot of your starting status at your town and current capital, Lisbon. You get a Spy, Merchant, Princess and Cardinal. Military in the area consists of a boat just off the coast, your faction leader in Lisbon and Faction Heir just outside the town with a few low-end peasant/militia units. Garrisoned inside Lisbon is a unit of Mailed Knights.

Turn 1 at Pamplona.

Here is a screenshot of Pamplona, your castle. Your military presence in this area consists of another boat just off the coast, a young general and more of the same units. Also, a unit of Jinetes is in the small army just outside of the castle.

Please note that this guide was written for the Very Hard difficulty, however it can easily be adapted to any of the other difficulties. Also, this guide may not work step by step in your games - the AI may do something different for example. So bear these steps in mind as more guidelines than a recipe for total success.


Firstly send your agents about their business. Send the spy to the north to keep his beady eye on the Spaniards. Move your cardinal into the Cordoba region to being converting your future settlement. Due to your lack of a diplomat, use your Princess to acquire Trade rights with the Moors and try to sell them your map information.

Sieging Zaragoza.

Watching the borders.

What you do with your Merchant depends on how you want to play him, there are a few resources nearby that will make you a small sum of florins. I prefer to send him down towards Timbuktu and the gold in the region. Itíll take some time for him to reach it however.

Now move your general from Pamplona to command the nearby army. He should take with him some spear militia, peasant archers and a unit of Jinetes. Now set this small force on the nearby rebel settlement of Zaragoza. 2 rams should be enough to break the defences next turn.

Move your Faction Heir's army east towards the river crossing and have him wait there for the reinforcements next turn.

Buildings to be constructed:

Lisbon - Land Clearance. Income and population boosts to a low level settlement are valuable at this stage of the game.

Pamplona - Land Clearance. Your castle doesnít provide you with infantry that you need right now so an income supplement is a wise choice.

Units to be recruited:

Lisbon - Spear Militia and Town Militia. Town militia to keep Garrisoned for the sake of public order, the spear militia to join the nearby army.
Pamplona - Jinetes and 2 mailed knights. Jinetes are excellent units on the open field. Mailed Knights are valuable due to lack of cavalry on both your part and your neighbours, the Spanish and Moors.

Your turn is over.


Assault Zaragoza. Sack the settlement for a boost to public order and some florins. Your Princess can get trade agreements with the Moors now, as well as sell map information. Move all of the spear militia and a unit of peasant crossbowmen in Lisbon to your Faction Heir at the river crossing. You should use your spy to keep a weary eye on the strait of Gibraltar, incase of Moor reinforcements. I usually now move my princess south towards the coast, and move the boat I had at Lisbon to pick her up. Her destination is Italy for trade agreements with the Italians and a future marriage alliance with a promising young Milanese general. This turn I tend to crank taxes to up as much as possible without starting riots. Move your faction heir towards Cordoba.

Buildings to be constructed:

Zaragoza - Land Clearance. Population boost.

Units to be recruited:

Pamplona - Jinetes.


Sieging Cordoba.

Siege Cordoba. If there is a small army standing outside the city engage them first, when the city garrison turn up as the reinforcements try your best to completely wipe them out. This enables you to take Cordoba in one swift turn, and not have to commit to a bloody siege.

Buildings to be constructed:

Lisbon - Mines. These mines give you the best income boost out of all of the available structures and they pay for themselves in less than 5 turns giving you a nifty +440 florins each turn.

Units to be recruited:

Lisbon - Diplomat. To move into Europe and being securing trade rights and map information.
Pamplona - Mailed Knights.


Heavy handed diplomacy.

Assault Cordoba.

Once the battle is won sack the city for a sizeable amount of florins and public order boost. Proceed to move your agents about their business. Move your spy towards Granada, which is the next destination for your southern army garrisoned in Cordoba. Use the diplomat you previously recruited to approach Spain with trade rights and even an alliance if you see fit, they tend to be somewhat afraid of you at this point. Checkout the next screenshot for how I managed to extort them for an alliance.

Buildings to be constructed:

Zaragoza - Grain Exchange.
Cordoba - Land Clearance.

Units to be recruited:

Lisbon - Spear Militia
Pamplona - Mailed Knights.


Proceed moving your agents to their destinations. Around this turn money is running very tight, ensure your taxes are set high as possible without riots and end your turn. Move as much of your garrison in Zaragoza outside the city, move any spare military units in Pamplona to merge with them.

Units to be recruited:

Lisbon - Spear Militia.

Buildings to be constructed:

Pamplona - Port.


To counterattack the Sicilians.

Things are tough now. Let's take a moment to review the situation. Spain is massing troops on your borders, typically by Pamplona. You have taken Cordoba and the Moors could be preparing to assault you from across the strait of Gibraltar. Additionally, on a number trial-runs while writing this guide I had a stack from Sicily pop up out of nowhere and lay siege to Zaragoza. If Sicily do sucker punch Zaragoza, improvise; bring your garrison from Pamplona and your nearby army to defend the settlement. If Sicily do not attack on this turn you are free to move your occupation army in Zaragoza down to Valencia. However there is a respectable rebel garrison protecting the motte and bailey; a general; El Cid the Chivalrous, jinetes, mailed knights, spearmen and alumghavars. Beware that the siege will likely cost you a lot of your army, leaving your northern settlements relatively open for attack. Because of this I tend to recruit as many units of mercenary spearmen as possible.

Here is how I positioned my army to counter-attack the Sicilian's who thought they got the drop on me!

Units to be recruited:

Pamplona - 2 mailed knights and 1 jinetes.
Cordoba - Spear Milita.

Buildings to be constructed:

Zaragoza - Wooden Wall.
Cordoba - Small Church. Conversion bonus plus ability to recruit priests.


Guarding the borders.

Reinforcing Cordoba.

My army is positioned right on my border, watching the sneaky Italians loitering to the west.

Move your spear militia garrison in Lisbon out towards Cordoba.

On the occasions where Sicily invaded, and I positioned my forces as shown in the previous screenshot they tended to move further inland into the Spanish held lands. I let them go, perhaps they will soften up the Spanish castle in Toledo. In this screenshot you can see I moved my army back inside my borders, ready to strike if the Sicilians move back in my direction and ready to continue to Valencia if not.

If the Sicilians did not arrive on your shore use the army to continue towards Valencia and lay siege.

Moving to Valencia.

The army in Zaragoza has scared off the Sicilians, so they are free to move south towards El Cid in Valencia. You should try and be aware of the Sicilian's movements however, on occasion they would return to attack the now unportected Zaragoza the moment I let them disappear from my sights and was bearing down on rebel-held Valencia

Units to be recruited:

Lisbon - Spear Militia.

Buildings to be constructed:

Cordoba - Port
Cordoba - Priest. The nearby provinces have relatively low levels of Catholics, you should convert as much of the population in each as possible to improve relations with the pope and maintain public order.


Converting your future populace.

Move those spear militia into Cordoba. Readjust your taxes across your cities as needed. Move your priests into the Granada region, begin converting it ready for your conquest. For me, the plan worked, the Sicilians were intimidated into venturing further into Spanish territory, now I can move my army south towards Valencia.


Bearing down on the Moorish castle.

Sieging Valencia.

Move all of your spear miltia, faction heir and archer units out of Cordoba and head for Granada, leaving only town militia behind. You will probably need to lower the taxes to keep the populace happy. If you had to deal with the Sicilians your army should just about be ready to lay siege to Valencia. Recruit any available units of mercenary spearmen.

Units to be recruited:

Cordoba - Spear Milita.


Assault Valencia, sack the settlement upon itís capture. You should also use your faction heirís army to lay siege to Granada.

Units to be recruited:

Pamplona - 2 Mailed Knights.

Buildings to be constructed:

Zaragoza - Port. Trade bonuses plus the ability to build fleets on this side of Iberia is valuable.
Valencia - Land Clearance.


A potential husband.

Over in Genoa, Puccio Rossi has just come of age. He typically has excellent stats as shown on the screenshot below, use the princess you sent over there to try and marry him into your faction.

Sicilians come back to haunt me...

In my example, those pesky Sicilians came back to haunt me at Cordoba and laid siege. If this happens you have two choices; continue with the original plan and assault Granada, or break the siege and head up to fight them off. I chose to assault Granada. Firstly there were little units of value inside Cordoba, secondly my army would not be within range in one turn and thirdly I could see some Moors were approaching to reinforce Granada from the south. Expelling them from Iberia completely seemed like the best choice.

Puccio Rossi, Milanese general. Although your relatively low-charm princess may have trouble convincing him to wed her. To solve such a problem use her to secure some trade rights, alliances and sell map information. Be wary transporting him back to your homelands if you are successful.

Units to be recruited:

Pamplona - 2 Jinetes.
Lisbon - 2 Spear Militia.

Buildings to be constructed:

Granada - Land Clearance.


Toldeo is Spain's powercentre.

If the Moors haven't already offered, go and seek a ceasefire with them. Maybe an alliance if you feel the need. By now your game could have gone two ways: Youíll either control all of the Iberian provinces, minus the Spanish owned ones. OR you will own them all bar whichever one the Sicilians snatched from you. Either way the campaign from here is straight forward, whether you need to fight the Sicilians first or you are free to hit the Spanish. When it does come time to attack the Spanish try to get it over and done with in one or two turns maximum. I usually send one army up to deal with Leon while another larger army sieges Toledo in the same turn to minimise relationship troubles with the Pope.

A simultaneous attack on the Spanish settlements ensures a swift victory and total ownership of Iberia.


As it stands you should have 2 castles; One in Valencia and one in Granada. You do not really need both to be castles, normally in my games I convert the one in Valencia. Firstly because Pamplona is fairly close and secondly because Granada seems more strategically placed to be able to produce military units to counter future Moorish invasions. When you take Toledo from the Spanish you may as well convert it into a City too, a castle right in the middle of your homelands does nothing to help you.


Milan came after me on occasion.

As I said before, on a good number of test runs the Sicilians ventured into my territory. They can either be dealt with on the spot in the way I suggest around turn 7 or left in hopes theyíll fight it out with the Spanish. Be warned that this isnít a likely outcome however. Instead the Sicilians are much more likely to disappear in the Toledo area for a few turns then ambush Cordoba or Lisbon if either are left relatively unguarded. Their army typically consists of a few mailed knights, general, lots of Italian spear militia and some mercenary spearmen/crossbowmen. On two of my test-runs I was also attacked by the Milanese, but the same tactics apply.


As Portugal your starting papal favour sits at 5. Note that the Spanish and Sicilian's enjoy a 6. This is an immediate disadvantage and you should do your best to keep him happy by converting the Moorish provinces to Catholicism and doing as he tells you to do (within reason). Avoid provoking the Spanish into an early attack, you won't be able to cope on two fronts whilst losing papal favour rapidly. This is one of the reasons that it's not necessarily a good idea to attack Sicily first, because they have higher favour and if you get excommunicated fighting them Spain will be all over you like a rash, perhaps the Milanese and French too. As soon as possible you should move a diplomat or your princess to secure an alliance with the Papal States and gift map information, moving onto sums of money when your economy is rolling.

Good Luck!