Scythia is one of the minor factions in Rome: Total War designed to be non-playable. However they can be made playable by simple modifications to the game files. Scythia starts game on the northern coast of Black Sea. They are bordered by Dacia and Thrace to the south, Armenia to the southeast, and Parthia to the east.
Their cities are:
- Campus Scythii: Scythian Capital; Region - Scythia
- Tanais: Scythian Town; Region - Maeotis
- Campus Samartae: Scythian Town; Region - Tribus Sarmatae
- Campurs Allani: Scythian Town; Region - Tribus Alanni
Peasants are reluctant warriors, but barbarian peasants are better fighters than most: hard lives produce hard men. Numbers are useful in all armies, and forcing peasants to fight is one way of getting lots of men in the field quickly and cheaply. They have little tactical sense, and even less willingness to fight - they would rather be defending their own homes than be dragged to a battle they neither care about nor understand. They are, however, experts at reading the land and hiding when there is cover.
Archer warbands are used to harass and break up enemy formations, so that other warriors can then get in amongst their enemies. The members of the warband are lightly armed and equipped, relying more on speed as a protection from foes. Any archers caught in the open by cavalry will be in trouble unless they can withdraw to more favourable ground or behind a shield wall of friendly warriors.
Their bows have a short range, but each warrior carries a good selection of hunting and war arrows, designed to cause massive bleeding and pierce armour respectively. Their choice of missile is matched to the nature of the target.
These archers are at their best in wooded country, where their superior stalking skills learned on the hunt can be put to use.
Chosen archers are highly prized for their superior skills in war. They are the best archers available to barbarian warlords. They are all, as might be expected, excellent bowmen, fleet of foot and expert hunters. They are given the best bows available to their people, and are also equipped with good swords and chainmail armour too. This equipment means that they can do more than just defend themselves in hand-to-hand combat. They can, when required, act as light infantry. Their presence on a battlefield is always useful, as they have the flexibility to be both archers and infantry and do a good job in both tasks.
Axemen are steadfast and aggressive warriors, the 'infantry of the line' for barbarian warlords. They are not very disciplined at times, as their sense of honour and bravery can make them eager to get into any fray, but they are uniformly superb fighters. They are equipped with good axes and small shields.
Every warlord worth the name makes sure he has a couple of warbands of these hard men under his command.
Warhounds are bred for a savage nature and great size, but then hunting men is only a little more dangerous than hunting wild boar! The beasts are muscular and powerful. Originally bred for hunting large prey, they are now trained to hunt and attack men. Warhounds are usually unleashed on an enemy to break a line and unnerve opponents. Few men are able to stand steadily in the face of a snarling and partially-starved beast. The dogs are trained to bite and hold on, dragging down their human targets, and hamstringing horses.
Their handlers are brave, foolhardy and not easily intimidated: many have fingers, hands or even chunks of limbs missing!
Barbarian cavalry are lightly armoured and carry spears and shields. They are best used as scouts and in pursuit of fleeing enemies, and ride sturdy, sure-footed ponies with a good turn of speed. Like many barbarian warriors, however, they can lack battle-discipline and be over-keen to enter battle against worthy opponents. Honour and standing come from fighting, and sometimes the urge for glory overwhelms good sense! These men are all good fighters, but find organised, formal warfare goes against the grain. They are unlikely to be very effective against steady infantry unless attacking from an unexpected direction.
On the vast steppes, the horse archer reigns supreme.
These riders are the product of generations spent perfecting the skills needed to effectively wield a bow while mounted. They can circle an enemy, thickening the air with arrows until they are sufficiently weakened for heavier troops to launch a main attack. Their superb horsemanship means catching them with a counter charge is difficult, even one with light cavalry.
The Scythians are not a squeamish people and cover their quivers with human skin, which is valued for its whiteness. They aren’t fastidious either, and many never wash themselves or their clothes!
Their horses are often smaller than those of other nations, partly because many Scythians ride geldings. These animals are, reputedly, less likely to snort and whinny, giving away their position inadvertently.
Horse-archery is the defining characteristic of warfare on the wide-open steppes of the east. Most nobles and their retinues from these territories are highly practiced in this deadly art from an early age. Scythian nobles are disciplined, following the well-established code of honour of the upper circles of their people.
These units of aristocratic mounted bowmen are composed of men of well above average station. They can afford a better class of equipment than typical horse archers, including coats of mail that hang to the rider’s knees when he is in the saddle. They also carry swords, and are not afraid to close for a melee if the opportunity presents itself but are sensible enough not to hurl themselves into the fray without orders.
Among many Scythian tribes, the culture of war is so strong that both sexes are admired for their prowess in combat. Head hunting maidens are a product of this ethos, and have a strong motive for drawing blood in battle: they are forbidden from marrying until they do so. In the same fashion as any other Scythian warrior, high-ranking maidens who fall in battle are given honour burials along with their weapons and equipment.
For all their valour, these virgin warriors are physically weaker than most of their male opponents. Consequently, they make good light cavalry, riding down and disrupting enemy archers and light infantry, but (for the sake of future generations if nothing else) they should be protected from the enemy’s stronger forces.
Scythian noble women are excellent and well-armoured horse archers, but they are vulnerable in close combat. Among the horse tribes of Scythia, it is expected that women of noble families will ride into battle alongside the men. These women provide valuable support to their male kin, softening up the enemy prior to the main battle with a deadly hail of missiles. They are excellent archers and riders, even by the standards of Scythian horsemen. They are armed with superbly accurate and powerful composite bows, but only carry knives for defence.
The martial culture of Scythia is not discriminatory when it comes to battle: Scythian women who fall in combat are usually buried with their war gear in the same way as the men. Some young girls even have their right breasts mutilated with a hot iron so they don’t restrict their right arms or a bow string. Perhaps such practices are the origin of the stories about the tribe of fearsome Amazon warrior women, said to rule a city hidden somewhere on the steppes!
Scythian nobles are superb horsemen: armoured lancers who can put many infantry units to flight. They are heavy cavalry who seek the good opinion of their people by acts of bravery. They are eager to prove their worth and the lure of glory is what drives them.
They are equipped as armoured lancers wearing heavy Scythian mail, reinforced with bronze and iron scales in vulnerable spots. They do not bother with shields so that both hands are free to manipulate the lance.
On the battlefield Scythian nobles are often used to break through an enemy line after it has been weakened by archery, carrying all before them in a disciplined, dangerous charge.
The onager is a catapult jokingly named for the tremendous kick it has when fired at the enemy (an "onager" is a wild ass). This war machine is powered by a twisted spring of animal sinew ropes, the most elastic substance available.
The throwing arm is held in tension by the sinews. When pulled back and held by a catch it can fling a boulder with considerable speed and range. This version can be used for reducing stone fortifications, but it can also be used on the battlefield for destroying enemy artillery and harassing troops (although admittedly by killing some of them outright).
The onager can also be used to launch incendiary missiles such as fire pots, making it a versatile piece of artillery to any commander.