Divide and Conquer is a Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms mod in Lord of the Rings setting. Technically a "sub" mod of Third Age: Total War, but at this point it is fair to say it is a mod on it's own since it greatly imroves and expands almost every aspect of TaTW.
I have finished TaTW campaign 3 times before so when the nostalgia kicked in again I decided to give DAC a try.
Difficulty: hard (I personally find the "very hard" setting just a grind with no added value in this case, hard is plenty of a challenge)
Style of play: try to follow the lore
Rohan Campaign playthrough – the beginning
I chose Rohan since I've already done High Elves, Dwarves and Gondor in TaTW. Events described here are as they unfolded in my playthrough but there can be major differences depending on faction politics.
You begin with a handful of known generals such as Theoden, Theodred, Eomer, Hama, Gamling and others. Your initial campaign will revolve entirely around defending and defeating Isengard which will attack almost immediatelly. You need to send all your available armies to Westfold (Foldburg) and defend it at all cost. Losing the region will set you back tens of turns so try to hold out. Place two general units since they are overpowered. You can do a bit of research on the side but most of your spending will go to replenishing the armies to defend wave after wave of attacks. Eventually Saruman himself may lead a siege and by killing Saruman the whole Isengard will fold into rebel territory.
In every captured settlement, the number one building you should always upgrade first is culture and then masonry. You need to convert non-native culture to your own and that takes tens of turns so you want to speed that up as much as possible.
You then proceed to expand further west and defeat the Dunlendings.
You should probably forge an alliance with Clans of Enedwaith to get some help here and secure your west border for the rest of the campaign. Create trade agreements with all the neighbouring nations, even some of the dark forces are acceptable in the beginning when you need to build up your income.
The next natural progression is to go further into the Misty Mountains and defeat the goblins there. At this point Moria will probably be divided so you can gift West Moria back to Dwarves of Khazad Dum and forge an alliance.
Building up your income
Depending on how other factions are progressing, you will probably have the whole west border secured with Enedwaith, Dunedain and High Elves at your borders (forge alliances if possible). This is still not big enough region for sufficient income so you can skip over High Elves and continue your conquest on Remnants of Angmar. Another possibility is to take Dol Guldur which is relatively easy to take but has a slightly negative position. First, if you retake any settlement which belonged to Woodland Realm you should gift it back or they might think about reclaiming it by declaring war on you. The second negative is that you get a likely border with Easterlings. If you take Dol Guldur, take the 2-3 cities inside the safety of forests and do not expand further east, except maybe for one single stronghold (with ballista towers). Having a major war with Easterlings is the absolute number one mistake as it drains a lot of your resources and you will make almost no advances into their vast no-choke point territories.
This far into the game Gondor can start having trouble defending itself so with sufficient income from your expansion you should be able to finance war against Mordor. You still have expansion options on the north to Snow Orcs or Ered Luin (which choose the dark side in an early Blue Wizard event) but if Gondor is getting in trouble you should not wait any longer.
I personally was a bit late and Minas Tirith already fell so I had to re-conquer it which is an unnecessary delay.
War against Mordor is pretty much the same with whatever faction you are playing, except maybe Dale and Dwarves of Erebor (which can backdoor into Mordor from the east). It is all about creating choke points and progressing eastwards settlement by settlement.
Let's focus on the campaign map around Minas Tirith for a bit.
As you arrive to the east, you should take Galebrin (not seen on the picture, region north of Cair Andros) which is a small useless village in the The Dead Marshes and give it to an ally or a neutral faction as a gift. This will block Easterlings or Mordor advancing on your native land across Anduin which is a total waste of time and a distraction so it is an utmost priority to seal that off.
You should also take Calenhad because you want as many cities as possible on the east to develop your armies closer to the war front. Training armies in Rohan and moving them to Gondor takes many turns and is inefficient. If Calenhad is still owned by Gondor when you arrive you can easily swap it with any region you recapture or just buy it off if finance allows it.
Next one is Cair Andros which you also do not really want to own because it creates a secondary target to Osgiliath. Once you take whole Osgiliath, Cair Andros can probably be owned by Gondor since Mordor will have full focus on you and not even attack there. If it is still attacked and falls when owned by Gondor, gift it to a neutral party.
Leave Minas Tirith to Gondor. It does not make much sense tactically but if you are into lore it makes sense to do that. It also leaves them some good income to fight their own wars.
Osgiliath is your primary choke point for quite a lot of turns but is relatively easy to defend because the battle map is hard to navigate and has narrow paths.
This setup makes Osgiliath the only route you need to defend. Once Osgiliath gets army production, you can continue on Minas Morgul. You continue this step by step progression, waiting for conquered cities to be able to produce army and then take the next one.
At some point after Minas Morgul and Cirith Ungol you can capture the two cities to the south for extra production. You can gift the settlement below Ostithil to Gondor or neutral party to avoid a second front with Haradrim.
When Gondor is safe from Mordor they will start thriving and go into big expansion into Harad and Rhun. You don't really need to worry about those two factions unless you arrive late and they already progress deep into south Gondor regions.
Once you have Minas Morgul (and Cirith Ungol) you might feel a bit exposed because you will also get attacked from the Black gate, usually on Osgiliath. You can take a bit of a rest by gifting Cirith Ungol to a neutral party but that might not last long since Mordor tends to attack them anyway and this can last just a few turns. Depending on diplomatic relations you could buy yourself quite a bit of time like this though.
The question of taking Barad Dur is just a matter of time then. Being this close has an annoying effect that each defeated Nazgul commander respawns in Barad Dur and is ready for another siege in a very short time, so you are almost constantly defending against 10 star commanders. You should defend with equally strong commanders to avoid any unnecessary fleeing troops.
You may also encounter Sauron as a commander. As a unit almost impossible to kill, unless you get a catapult kill, but defeating his army will send him fleeing and weaken the faction.
Once you start taking cities inside Mordor it gets increasingly easier to finish it off.
Once a faction is on their last stand, the capital will be filled up with army and can be pretty hard to conquer, especially if it is not an open type terrain like dwarven caves. Barad Dur is basically one small tunnel with only two access points. Bringing catapults to fire directly into the tunnel slope is a must or you will simply run out of time even with enough units in battle. You simply can't kill 3700+ units, a lot of them of heavy type, encamped in such a small area before the clock runs out.
What could go wrong?
Gifting regions to neutral parties works for some time but eventually everyone is at war with Mordor. These can buy you a lot of turns of peace or Mordor might just attack them immediatelly. Depending on your luck, you could start getting attacked by Mordor or Easterlings through Dead Marshes on your core territory where you have your main production and mostly undefended cities.
Another possible drain is attacking Snow Orcs or Ered Luin when you are already neck deep into eastern war. Your northern production takes quite some time to get up to speed and these two factions are holed up in dwarven caves which are hard to capture.
You essentially need full armies and catapults to have any chances to break through heavy units in time.
Rohan in itself is not a particularly powerful faction when it comes to units. You have almost no heavy infantry except Guards of Meduseld which can only be produced in Edoras. Your heavy cavalry is good but not much better than any other heavy cavalry and your archers are poor. In these cave scenarios, you have no advantages. The whole unit production of DAC is very slow, you need many fully upgraded settlements just to be able to retrain damaged armies every turn. A lot of times you won't be able to retrain due to lack of unit availability and you need to send units to far away settlements.
Finally, the biggest problem is how to avoid a major war with Easterlings. If you expand into Dol Guldur you get a border sooner or later (Dale tends to be pushed back). You can usually defend there with fully upgraded walls (ballista towers). You can potentially conquer one of their strongholds nearby and have it as a gravity point. Ballista towers can generally clear their armies a lot before they even break through the walls so defending is quite easy but it is problematic to replenish the defending army in the period when settlement can not yet produce units. You should absolutely not push deeper into their territory while you are fighting Mordor, they will push you back and probably crush you. By staying in close proximity you drain a bit of their resources and help Dale not getting eradicated this way.
Easterlings are basically an overpowered version of Rohan. Their cavalry is on par, archers are better and they have more heavy units so you have no particular advantages over them in battles.
You can have some more fun after bringing down Barad Dur. I personally finished up on the east and then defeated Ered Luin for a good measure.
Weird things can also happen with other factions. In my case, Dwarves of Khazad Dum went on a war path and completely eradicated Lothlorien and the Vale, leaving dozens of armies on my borders. If you don't watch your relationships (like trespassing without Military Access) you get yourself an enemy you can't handle.
Game event dialogs
Throughout the campaign you get events and commander traits as you conquer important settlements. Your commander will receive a title of the last big conquest or generic title such as Aggressive or Defender, depending if they are conquering regions or defending a lot. This attention to detail is incredible.
These events with very nice descriptions make the campaign feel alive.
As factions are near destruction or completely destroyed you also get these.
Trait descriptions are LOTR based and absolutely brilliant. Some samples below.
Soundtrack is absolutely brilliant. It includes LOTR movies soundtrack, The Hobbit trilogy soundtrack, LOTR Online, Battle of Middle Earth and many more for different factions. The best of all, almost all of the picked themes work nicely with the battle scenarios and campaign map, as if they were custom made just for this mod and they really give you that Middle Earth feeling while playing.
Someone made a playlist on YouTube.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us..
DAC is one of the best mods I played in my life and is everything a Total War and a LOTR fan could wish for. The soundtrack, attention to detail, city models and the campaign maps, everything just screams of incredible effort to make this mod as good as it is. If you haven't yet, give it a try.