Total Soldier : Unit Selection

how to play total war arena

Choosing Units In Total War: Arena

A big part of the strategy in Total War Arena is your army composition.  You can take three units with no restrictions.  Your Commander will dictate which unit types you want to take.  For example, Germanicus likes infantry, while Alexander the Great likes cavalry.  I’ve created a cheat sheet for us below.  Just pick your Commander, and then come here to see which units will best fit your playstyle.

Unit Counters

  • Cavalry > Javelin > Swords
  • Cavalry > Archers > Swords
  • Archers > Spears > Cavalry
  • Pikes > Cavalry > Archers
  • Javelins > Swords > Archers
  • Cavalry > Artillery > Swords
  • Archers > Pikes > Cavalry
  • Pikes > Swords > Archers

Unit Counters Streamlined

  • Cavalry strong against: Archers, Javelins, Artillery
  • Javelins strong against: Swords, Archers (melee)
  • Archers strong against: Spears, Swords, Pikes
  • Swords strong against: Archers
  • Spears strong against: Cavalry
  • Pikes strong against: Cavalry

Damage Statistics

Units without upgrades are commonly worse than fully upgraded units from the previous tier. For example, a fully upgraded Tier V Cavalry unit will be better than a Tier VI Cavalry unit with no upgrades. Click the scroll (In the unit upgrades tree, top right) and you can see the unit stats. When you see a +7 (or whatever number) in green, that number is not accounted for in the current stat value.  Add it.

Overall Damage Potential

Artillery > Swords > Spears > Javelins > Archers > Pikes > Slingers

*Cavalry depends on whether they use swords or spears.
*Does not take armor piercing into account.

Damage is mitigated by Armor. Units with Armor Piercing will always deal a minimum amount of damage (sometimes called True Damage). For example, let’s say Javelins deal 100 damage, and have 20 armor piercing. Javelins will always deal 20 damage, and then the 80 remaining damage will be mitigated by armor. Javelins, Spears, Pikes, and Archers all have armor piercing.

alexander the great total war arenaUnit Descriptions

Below are quick descriptions of what playstyles to expect from each unit type, and how to play them.

Melee Combatants

Infantry players, there is one tip above all for you. Flank. FLANK, FLANK, FLANK! Never send in all 3 units together in one blob. Send in one, then try to flank from the side or back.  Back is best. When the enemy counter flanks, so do you. Also keep your units spread out. Blobbing them up makes it easier for ranged and arty.


Cavalry players, you are generally the scouts. You help show your team where the enemy is approaching from. Never charge someone head on, always from the side or rear. Heavy Cavalry is not well suited for scouting. Missile Cavalry can move while shooting. Just hold down CTRL and click on a target. Your unit will automatically attack it when it comes into the line of fire. Again, FF is a problem with Missile Cavalry too, and you’ll mostly be hurting yourself. Finally, try to stay out of the forest. You’ll be vulnerable in many ways.

Ranged Combatants

Missile players, do NOT FRIENDLY FIRE. You can kill your allies, which really hurts yourself and your team. In fact, do not ever fire into an engagement. As you gain familiarity with skirmisher units and the game, you’ll learn when to fire into a melee. In the meantime never friendly fire (FF), it is the absolute worst thing you can do as a Missile unit. Position and patience are required.


Artillery in Total War: Arena has incredible, long ranges. So long that you’ll need another unit to spot for you. It is incredibly easy to FF with artillery, so be very mindful of where you are shooting. There are two types, mobile and heavy.

  • Mobile artillery is man-sized, and easy to pick up and move around. Mobile artillery has a longer range than any missile. The down side is that it cannot fire up or down too far. You’ll need a decent, light sloping straightaway. Firing down from cliffs isn’t doable.  You’ll generally just click on your target, and let it auto-fire.
  • Heavy artillery can shoot long, long ranges. Halfway across maps or more. They launch giant boulders or arrows, and are best fired using the ALT mode. Just click your ALT key, and you’ll see a 0 type target on the ground. Red means reloading/aiming, green means ready to fire. Gray means you can’t fire there, be it out of range or blocked by a mountain or structure. Remember to adjust for moving targets!

Occasionally with artillery, your men won’t be firing. Sometimes they come unattached from the artillery piece. Simply right-click on the artillery piece and they will return. Once an artillery piece is broken, it cannot be prepared. Hide your units as best you can so the enemy won’t get easy points.