When you selected a faction, you also chose a family or party to represent within its political system. Your faction leader is the head of that party. Many characters in your campaign contribute gravitas to your party's overall influence within your faction. The more ambitious a character is, the more useful they are likely to be to your faction. However, ambition is a double-edged sword: high ambition can lead to a bid for power through civil war, so it is important to keep an eye on such characters, they are not necessarily to be trusted. You can interact with any character involved in politics on the faction summary tab by adopting them, bribing them, marrying them to a daughter of your party, spreading reputation-damaging rumours about them, or having them assassinated.
By carefully managing characters of political importance and engaging in the various political actions available to you, it is possible to control the flow of power between the parties within your faction. Ultimately, balance is the key – your goal is to maintain inner stability, ensuring that no single party dominates the political arena. As a general rule, too much or too little influence held by any one party, whether ruling or not, will always equate to political imbalance, potentially causing insurrection. The choices you make during the course of your campaign affect the influence that each party possesses. This includes military and civil choices that might not seem directly political, such as which generals to appoint, which skills or ancillaries to upgrade them with, and even the order in which technologies are researched.
There is no single approach; political non-involvement (in other words, letting the situation unfold on its own while concentrating on civil and military matters) is not necessarily a bad thing, at least in the short term. However, in the long term, inaction will likely result in certain parties gaining or losing influence excessively without you knowing. On the other hand, a player who is politically active will be able to maintain stability for as long as possible, increasing the amount of time before a challenge is made to their leadership. When such a challenge occurs all existing generals and admirals in the opposition party will defect – along with their forces – into a newly formed enemy faction, whose sole purpose is to defeat you in the ensuing civil war. Players who choose not to pay attention to influence levels run the risk of this occurring when they least expect it, especially in the late game as their imperium reaches the upper tiers.
Civil war can occur multiple times in a campaign, representing one of the biggest challenges in the game. See below for further details.
Depending on your chosen faction, the total number of political parties ranges from two to four. Note that only Rome and Carthage have multi-family politics – that is, their political parties are divided between two or more groups representing specific houses. The choice of which Roman or Carthaginian house to control is made on the faction selection screen immediately prior to beginning a campaign, with each dynasty having their own faction-wide effects. Other than these two cases, there is only the ruling party and one opposition party per faction. Throughout the campaign you must manage your party’s influence in relation to the others such as the Senate, court or tribal council. However, controlling the balance of political power is more challenging when influence has to be maintained between more than two parties, as is the case for Rome and Carthage. Therefore, players unfamiliar with the politics system might wish to play as another faction to begin with, for which the balance only has to be kept between the ruling party and one opposition group.
Subjects are characters that take part in the your faction’s life and politics. Appearing throughout the game in missions, incidents and dilemmas, as well as the faction summary tab, they are not just serving generals and admirals (commanders), but also wider members of your faction, party, or (the faction leader’s) family. More importantly, your subjects are also made up of statesmen representing the various parties, who reside in your faction capital. In political terms, statesmen are the same as commanders and have influence-contributing gravitas, but unlike commanders they don’t have a physical presence on the campaign map, instead holding positions in political office until a new army or fleet is raised and requires leadership. Additionally, a commander does not have to die to be replaced; you can replace him by selecting his army on the campaign map and navigating to the replace option on the general’s details panel. If you choose to put an existing statesman in command of an existing military force, a swap will occur and the previous commander will be removed from the field, becoming a statesman instead.
Gravitas is a character’s popularity and standing in the Roman world and is the key factor in determining their party's influence. All the characters in a party contribute, but the effect is relative to the total gravitas of its rival parties. So, if an opposition party has several high-Gravitas members and you don't, the likelihood is that their influence will increase each turn, while yours will decrease.
Also remember that a character’s ambition can increase the effect their gravitas has on their party’s influence, so it is prudent to keep an eye on your generals, as victory increases personal ambition. The more ambitious a character is in relation to others, the more effect his gravitas will have on his party’s share of power.
To manipulate a party’s influence, increase or reduce the amount of gravitas their characters possess. For example, one could attempt to discredit a party by spreading rumours about some or all of its members, reducing their overall gravitas. However, assassination of a prominent opposition member might have an even greater effect, since all of a character’s contributing gravitas can be removed completely in one swift action. Conversely, adoption steals a character from another party, taking gravitas away from them and adding it to your own. More details will be given about political actions later on.
Your party can gain influence by completing missions, winning victories on the battlefield, and through political machinations back home. Generals with some experience can be left to lead your armies and fleets or be granted political office, known as cursus honorum. While offices cause a gradual increase, a successful general provides a major boost to your party’s influence during wartime. Although it can be left to accumulate at times when your party’s has superior gravitas levels over the opposition, influence can also be used to carry out political actions, such as assassination, aimed at undermining the influence of another party within your faction.
Influence is shared out in percentages amongst the parties and can be viewed within the list of important characters, located in the faction politics and faction character tabs. These percentages correlate with the amount of support each party has from within the faction, usually from an invisible ‘patrician’ class. These individuals, such as senators, tribal elders, court nobles, vary depending on the culture of the player faction (for example, the support given to the parties of the democratic Hellenistic factions comes from their citizens, rather than a patrician class). In any case, there is always a limited number of these power-granting individuals, and they can only give support to one party at any one time. Therefore, losing or gaining their support results in a change in influence. This is important when deciding whether or not to carry out political actions, as in the short term many of them cost the support of a fixed number of patricians, subjects or citizens. Observe the exact amount of support each party has by mousing-over the associated percentages displayed in the character list.
Faction traits related to your level of influence may be awarded, depending on the power held. They can be viewed on the faction politics tab.
Your faction’s imperium is a measure of your progress during a campaign as viewed by rivals within your faction. It can be increased by conquests. As your imperium becomes great, politics has greater importance, because this is when other parties start to consider you a real threat, increasing the chances of civil war breaking out with every turn. Larger empires will find it much more difficult to maintain inner stability due to much more frequent occurrences of political incidents. When full imperium has been achieved it is important to keep a very close eye on the situation, because fluctuations in influence may be more extreme as a result of the machinations of the opposition. Also, keep in mind that you may not always be able to recruit a general from the ‘right’ party. Too much power in your party may result in a civil war against separatists; too little and those scheming to take advantage of your political weakness may attempt to oust you, snatching the leadership for themselves. It is therefore important to use the early game to learn how politics can help you, and, once your empire has grown, actively try to keep everything in balance.
All information regarding your faction’s imperium levels, including the associated traits and effects, can be viewed on the faction summary tab.
Politics in Total War: ROME II is about maintaining the balance of influence. Left unchecked, it is possible for stability to deteriorate to a point where the gulf in political power between the parties causes a civil war. If your party becomes too weak or too powerful in a republic, mistrust and paranoia ultimately lead to a challenge for control of your faction. At this point, civil war ensues: the remaining parties unite to lead rebel forces against you, immediately snatching control of some of your provinces as a first step towards overthrowing your regime. Similarly, in a tribal society or a monarchy, your tribe or family branch could also be challenged should they be deemed too weak or powerful, again leading to civil war. In all cases, a new enemy faction emerges to attempt a coup d’état, initially taking control of the regions in which opposition generals and their armies are present, but not garrisoned. Additionally, based on the ratio of commanders in your party to defecting commanders in the opposition party, some owned regions with no military presence will also join the civil war. The newly emerged faction is a direct result of the opposition to your party's rule within your own; it is not possible to engage in diplomacy with them, and they will always try to capture and hold your settlements in an effort to ultimately destroy you. Civil wars will continue indefinitely until the opposition faction is defeated, and will occur multiple times in a campaign if power levels are not consistently kept in check.
Cursus honorum are the offices and commissions that can be allocated to subjects in your faction when they reach a certain age or rank. They work rather like character traits or household members or objects in that they give useful effects. There is a power cost associated with cursus honorum, meaning they can be used to placate useful but potentially dangerous individuals. When all the criteria for a level of cursus honorum have been met, the secure promotion button will be enabled; click on it to bestow the office.
This is the main hub of the politics system, accessed by clicking the faction symbol at the centre of the main campaign user interface. Here you can view everything you need to know about the inner politics of your faction, such as who the opposition is and how much influence they have compared to you, as well as the traits and attributes of all politically relevant characters. The faction summary tab is where you can manipulate the balance of power between parties by using character-targeted political actions like assassinations, marriage proposals, or promotions to higher office, amongst others.
The important characters listed here are your political pawns or subjects; their turn-to-turn triumphs, trials, and tribulations directly affect the levels of influence their parties can accumulate or lose. Clicking on a portrait reveals a detailed breakdown of a character’s attributes, the most important being gravitas and ambition. In the political arena, these are the numbers to keep an eye on.
Maintaining political stability is about making sure total levels of gravitas are at comparable levels between parties. In order to help achieve or maintain this balance there are various political actions available, most of which incur a financial or political cost, or both. The political cost is always a loss of support from a few individuals in the patrician class, which in turn immediately affects your party’s share of influence. However, these actions can affect influence levels in the long term; if attempts to manipulate gravitas are successful there will be favourable changes over successive turns.
Clicking on a character’s portrait on the faction summary tab reveals the UI with which to carry out these actions, the costs of which are displayed on their respective tooltips. Not all characters can be targeted with all actions; only valid actions will be displayed for each of them. The possible actions are as follows:
Promotion can only be secured for members of your ruling party and its effects are not entirely political. A character given higher political office will see an immediate boost to his gravitas. However, such promotions also bestow special Cursus Honorum traits, which also have their own effects. This action can be carried out multiple times (up to a maximum level) as long as the target character is the right age and rank required for each successive promotion. At the first level, the cost is the support of a few patricians. With each promotion thereafter, there is an ascending financial cost in addition to the loss of support.
Self-explanatory and with the most obvious effect – it completely removes target characters from the game. Killing a troublesome member of a faction is no small matter, so it comes with a considerable financial cost, alongside a small political cost. The target character may be ambitious with high gravitas, someone who is upsetting the balance by causing his party to gain excessive support. Even your own commanders or statesmen can be marked for death, your faction leader being the only exception. Characters with higher gravitas are harder to eliminate, so cost much more to assassinate. Also note that it is not possible to completely destroy a political party by killing off all members – the party always exists regardless and will be repopulated turn by turn.
This is the only action that does not have any direct political outcomes. Only the ruling party's members can be targeted. The higher the target character's gravitas, the higher cost to arrange the killing of his wife. There is also the benefit that this will remove the household slot the wife occupies, freeing it up for something else.
Bribery has the simple effect of moving a character between an opposition party and your own, at a financial and a political cost. It is useful to decrease the opposition’s gravitas and increase your own in order to restore the political balance. If successful, the bribed character loses gravitas when he moves. The financial cost is also greater for high-gravitas characters.
This is the most effective of all political actions, but is also the most expensive, coming at a high political and financial cost. Arranging a marriage between the target character and someone from another party instantly redresses the influence both parties involved, bringing them into better harmony. Only unmarried members of opposition parties can be targeted.
From time to time, event messages will be received detailing political actions being taken by opposition parties. For instance, they may be trying to adopt one of your characters or spread rumours. You will be given the option to respond in various ways at a political or financial cost, or both.