One of the most fundamental changes that comes with Total Realism is the expansion of the map. Not only is it bigger, in terms of reaching almost to India, but it is much denser as well. An army can often get from one city to the next in a single turn, and in some occasions, it can skip by a city into the next one. This has the effect of slowing the Roman advance considerably, since not only are there more cities to capture (and, consequently, more sieges), but your opponents start with much greater resources. In some cases, such as the Seleucids, they play essentially a scorched earth policy by default; as Roman armies advance, they strain their lines of supply (ie, ability to return to a city for replacements). The cities they capture along the way are essentially worthless for dozens of turns, unable to replenish Roman armies.
The constant sieges drag on the game considerably. This is one area where the developers took the opposite tack in making the expansion pack – Barbarian Invasion includes fewer cities, making for more field battles. Total Realism has so many cities and provinces that field battles are rare – doubly so if you discount siege relief efforts.
Furthermore, wars now last decades rather than mere turns. Foreign civilizations have huge pools of manpower to draw on now, and constantly replenish their armies. As the player smashes each subsequent enemy army, the economy of your foe recovers since he no longer has to support those units, and he builds a new one within a few turns. Now understand that most civilizations can support several stacks at a time, so the loss of one per turn is no big deal, and it will be replenished soon enough.
Accordingly, conquests are best planned well in advance, seizing several cities – key cities – at a time with several stacks. Of course, even if you capture five or six towns, which is a monumental effort, you have to slow down and wait for them to build up. As recent conquests, they become frontline and the subject of constant enemy attentions, but they also cannot support advanced armies in and of themselves. Since the AI is fanatical about persecuting wars no matter how they’re going, it is difficult to get peace without giving up many of those conquests – even if you’re besieging their capital! This is doubly true if a coalition is involved against you, since the AI seems to weigh the potential strength rather than the actual defeats it has suffered over the last decade.
Of course, once the player is big enough, he can engage in scorched earth as well, but this is not a decisive strategy for victory. Rather, it can serve to delay one opponent while you focus your forces on another. Furthermore, scorched earth almost necessarily implies the loss of your armies while the enemy’s grow more experienced through victory – a dangerous situation.