This campaign covers four events from the Roman era. Only one of the scenarios has you playing the Romans. Cross the Alps with Hannibal, drive the Romans out of Greece as the Macedonians, defeat the Servile Rebellion, or fight against the Persians as the Palmyrans, who are allied with Rome.
There are too many variables in this scenario to say for certain all the things that you should or should not do. However, there are a few points that are definite.
First, you will get a very nasty surprise when you rescue your villagers. Second, there are no good surprises such as finding free units in this scenario. Third, you absolutely must rescue your villagers as soon as possible. Fourth, you must avoid all combat if at all possible until you are very well developed.
One thing you could do is cheat by looking at the whole map and figure out what you want to do based on that. Of course, this will make the scenario much easier, but it is not being recommended here.
Part 1: Get the villagers
The scenario instructions talk about using waypoints to get your troops through the mountain passes. This misses the point. The main problem you will face is that groups of units moving in congested terrain tend to get stuck, and the only way to unravel them is to move them backwards and then forwards again. It can happen with as little as two units. This means that you need to continuously control the movement personally. One way of mitigating the problem is to string out the army, as in road march order. It's actually quite realistic.
There are several flags positioned around the map. We are going to assume that they are there for a reason. Start by moving your Scout to the nearest flag. Employ this unit with the utmost delicacy. You will find out why later. Organize the rest of your army in groups of 3 or 4, and assign control numbers. Get them moving after the Scout.
Almost immediately, you run into a Red Tower. Your fast units should be able to get by it without taking any damage, but only your Scout qualifies as a fast unit. Since you don't want to take any damage at all yet, deploy your elephant archers to destroy the Tower before continuing. This is safe, because they outrange the Tower by a considerable margin.
At the first crossroads, the Scout heads directly for your villagers. Before long, you find a huge stone deposit that completely blocks the path. Backtrack to the first intersection and head north instead. The Red Tower should be gone by now, and your army is moving again. If you should happen to run into any enemy villagers, kill them. Each one is 50 points of food less for the bad guys.
Before long, the path opens up and you probably detect some Yellow buildings ahead of you. Turn right here. There is a ruin to the left and a large gold deposit ahead of you. Keep going around the ruin until the path opens up again. You probably detect some more Yellow buildings here. In fact, the whole north corner is a Yellow (Townsmen) base. It may be that your best option is to smash that base right now, but you can't really say that for sure based on currently available information. Anyway, you're supposed to cross the Alps.
Turn right again and head into the narrow passage. Getting everybody safely around the corner without letting anyone wander into the Townsmen base is a bit of a challenge. Again, the direct route to your villagers is blocked, this time by Townsmen. You are still avoiding combat, so backtrack and head north again. After that, the path winds its way towards the east map corner, and then down along the SE map edge. This time, you are blocked by an undefended wall. This time, you are going through.
Bring up most of your army before you attack. Then hit two or three adjacent wall sections with your Elephants, with the archers in support. When the wall goes down, step through carefully, and don't spread out. Now you have a serious fight on your hands. Make sure to focus fire, and keep the archers to the rear. Your infantry shouldn't be used at all; likewise for the Scout. When the first group of defenders is gone, push forward again. You will need to engage a Tower here. In order to save time, you need to commit a melee group. They will take some damage, of course, but that can't be helped. Your archers and a second melee group can deal with enemy units, while Hannibal's melee group, together with the Scout, heads for the villagers. You need to smash through two more walls to free the villagers.
Extract your army as soon as you have the villagers. You could get fancy here and leave the Townsmen base by a different route, and you could even wipe out a Red base nearby and set up shop there, but won't know about any of this unless you cheat. There is also the important question of whether your weak units can actually make it through the gauntlet. There is only one safe route out of the Townsmen base that you know about, and that is back the way you came in. In the march back across the Alps, make sure that your villagers are well protected.
Part 2: Get an economy
There are only two places that you know about where you might reasonably set up your base. One is near the stone deposit; the other is near the gold deposit. Getting one resource means that you won't get the other until later. When you check the build menu, you get a rude shock: several key buildings are unavailable, namely temples, docks, and stables. (Markets and Government Centres as well, but that doesn't matter much.)
This is very problematic. It means that your Elephants are irreplaceable, as is your Scout. You can't heal the existing ones, and you can't get new ones. You also won't be able to produce your usual deadly fleet. Without priests or cavalry, you can't heal your damage, and you will have trouble with siege weapons. You know that the Townsmen have a temple, so you can be expecting to see enemy priests, and you have no real anti-priest weapon. This is all very bad news. It means that you will be forced to fight a long, bloody war of attrition. You also will have difficulty scouting.
In any case, you need to set up your base near the gold deposit. This is dangerously close to the Townsmen northern base, and it will be difficult to get food there, because the terrain is too tight to allow for much farming, but you need the gold. There is also a significant stone deposit up on the ridge there, and you should be able to access it, although you might have to cut through the forest first. Furthermore, the large stone deposit is much farther away.
When you exit the narrow path near the Townsmen base, you are likely going to have to fight your way through a welcoming committee. Do the usual: melee units up front, archers to the rear, focus fire, and keep the villagers, Scout, and infantry well out of the action. You can expect to find a bunch of Townsmen villagers that got trapped in the gold deposit.
Build a Town Center and a bunch of Houses and produce four more villagers. Build a couple of farms and produce two more villagers. Get the wood, food, and gold rolling in.
You have been lucky so far that you didn't face any priests. You absolutely do not want to lose any elephants to conversion. You now need to sacrifice your Legions. Put them in the front, two at each entrance to your camp. As soon as possible, start producing Swordsmen or other cheap troops to stand in the front line and draw the attention of priests. Of course, you can't expect them to last long.
The Townsmen will probably keep sending miners of some type right through your base. Of course, they won't make it. You should not be facing any serious attacks, however. You will need to keep dressing your battle lines to keep the infantry up front and the elephants to the rear, and to keep your troops from wandering into the Townsmen base.
When you have significant stockpiles of food, wood, and gold, send some villagers to cut their way onto the ridge south of your base, and start bringing in some stone. The ridge is blocked by trees to the east, so you won't need to worry about melee troops bothering you here. The Townsmen may bring archers up from the south to interdict this operation. Don't worry about this too much for now. You could build some Towers for protection here, but what would you do about siege weapons attacking from the south? Note that you have to cut down a lot of trees to get space, but you don't need a lot of wood, so your wood stockpile will get very large.
Work up to 5 sword infantry at the front at each entrance to your base, with a couple more in reserve. When you get the chance, add a couple of slingers to each group. Remember that Barracks units use up only half a population spot in AoE-RoR. Build an Archery Range and add a couple of horse archers to each group. Your army is now getting very powerful, and the Townsmen should be quite weak. However, the Red Villagers are growing much stronger.
Part 3: Eliminate the Townsmen
It is time to produce a couple of catapults and eliminate the Townsmen base just north of your camp. You now get another disappointment. Your catapults are the most basic version possible. They still outrange the Townsmen Towers, however. Attack the Townsmen via the north exit from your base first, because they are much too close to your base there. Your Scout can now explore the NE part of the map. You find a bunch of free food there, as well as a lot of space to build things.
The Townsmen will respond to your attack as best they can, but they don't have a lot of combat units left by now, and many of them are in their SE base. Still, you can expect to lose a bunch of troops to priests here. If you've set it up right, you will take the hits on your cheap infantry.
Once you've eliminated everything in the north corner of the map that the Townsmen could possibly use, build some Towers and walls to guard the western approach to your territory. This may not be necessary, because your remaining enemies appear to be entirely defensive, but you do not know this for sure, and you should be able to afford the stone by now.
You can now explore the NW map edge. There is a huge gold deposit near where the first Red Tower used to be. It is guarded by some Alligator Kings. Alligator Kings are FAST! Don't be caught napping! As long as the Alligator Kings remains in the area, and you can see this from a distance, you know that no one else is stealing your gold.
You can see from the Achievements menu that the Townsmen are rebuilding. You need to finish them off while they're still weak. Replace your casualties, and put together a strike force consisting of 4 swordsmen, 2 slingers, 3 elephant archers, 2 horse archers, and 2 Ballistae. An equivalent force remains to guard the western approach to your base. Leave your melee elephants and the Legions at home, because they are irreplaceable. The catapults and Scout join the strike force.
Smash your way in to the front gate of the Townsmen SE base. You won't encounter much resistance. Just turn all Yellow buildings into dust. However, this probably does not finish them yet. They still have a couple of Storage Pits near the huge central stone deposit, which isn't so huge anymore, and a couple of villagers running around somewhere, and probably a spawning point as well. Hunt them down as best you can.
Part 4: The villagers
The southern route from the SE Townsmen base leads into 1st Legion territory, and you can't advance very far that way yet. The 1st Legion has super-heavy infantry and upgraded catapults. The good news is that your catapults still outrange their Towers, and they don't appear to have any archers or priests. You will eventually encounter slingers, however.
The western route from the SE Townsmen base leads to the large central stone deposit, and to a Villager base. They are quite strong by now. Their siege equipment is as good as yours, and they have priests, and their Towers outrange anything that you can have. The only good news is that your horse archers pwn their infantry. This would be a good reason to double your complement of horse archers, which should put you at the population limit.
When further progress into the Villager base becomes problematic, push forward along the NW map edge instead. Advance your stonework to the first crossroads you encountered at the beginning of the scenario. Not far east of this is a path that you have not explored yet. Send your western horse archer group down this path. You will find a bunch of free food, and the Villagers may have set up shop there. Dig them out if you can. You can expect to lose some horse archers to priests here.
The large central stone deposit is about 2/3 depleted by the time that you get there. You probably want to claim all the rest of it, but at least make sure that you deny it to your enemies. Once you have collected most of this stone, you will be able to link up your eastern and western armies. There is more stone on the ridge south of the main stone deposit, but you won't be able to access it due to interdiction by the Villagers.
The Villagers should be hurting a bit by now. It's time to explore the rest of the map. Leave most of your horse archers to keep the Villagers from re-establishing themselves near the food supply that you recently found, and send one HA to explore the W map corner, and then around along the coast. You find another Villager base on the SW map edge. Their guard force is too powerful for a single HA to deal with, so bring your own western guard force down to force them back into their base. This should reduce the Villager population further.
At this point, you should be camped outside three entrances to Villager bases, which may all be linked, and one entrance to the 1st Legion base. You now have two options to finish the scenario. First, you could build static defenses to seal the Villagers in and just go after the 1st Legion. There is no particular need to kill the Villagers. You have access to as much gold and stone as you could possibly want, the Villagers are not being aggressive, and their attack forces can be stopped by your undefended static defenses. Second, you could ignore the 1st Legion for now and crush the Villagers. However, you have no good way of dealing with their Towers, so you are guaranteed to lose a lot of troops this way.
When you scout the fringes of the Villager base carefully, you see that their main base has a lot of Towers in it. Accordingly, we are going to leave them to starve in their bases. Build three Towers and some walls at each entrance to their bases, and leave one villager each there for repairs. You should have large to enormous stockpiles of all resources by now, so there really isn't any work that needs to be done, anyway. Leave one of your Elephant groups at two of the entrances, and your Legion group at the third. Hannibal and his escorts wait around to fulfill the victory condition. This leaves you with 8 swordsmen, 4 slingers, 6 elephant archers, 8 horse archers, 4 Ballistae, and 2 catapults to deal with the 1st Legion. Of course, the Barracks units won't have much value for this fight, because the 1st Legion doesn't have priests. You may need to disband them and produce Ballistae.
Part 5: The 1st Legion
As you move down the valley leading to 1st Legion territory, you find a bunch of their villagers trapped on a ridge. They want to get to a stone deposit, but the game's default pathfinding has sent them into a cul-de-sac. This happens a lot in AoE. Anyway, bring up a catapult and start pounding away. This is a war crime, of course, but back in the day, no one even gave it a first thought. There are some points to be aware of in this kind of situation. First, a unit that is attacked directly by a catapult will run away, so you always miss. However, when a whole bunch of units is trapped like this, only those on the edge of the group can move. Third, only the unit that is directly under attack runs away, and those standing next to it wait to get hit by splash damage. Fourth, you can attack ground, and then none of the target units feels threatened until they feel the splash damage. It can be hard to hit units on a hill with this technique.
As you merrily pound away with your small catapult, a big enemy catapult shows up and tries to get some action. Run away as fast as your little wheels can carry you. Note that the 1st Legion has Ballistics, so you need to zig-zag cleverly. When a catapult shoots using Ballistics, the rock can go a very long way. You need to be careful about where your other units are standing, too.
It's time to bring up the horse archers. Use only one or two for this operation because you need perfect control for it to be effective. When a Horse Archer does the Catapult Dance, the HA almost always wins. However, each time you make a mistake, you lose a unit. Build an Archery Range nearby so that your replacements don't have to walk halfway across the map. While you're at it, build a Siege Workshop here too. You may wind up doing the Ballista Dance and the Slinger Dance as well.
When you've been at these two processes for a while, you realize that you need to do more. Bring up a catapult and start blowing up the enemy Towers along the ridge. This is pretty risky, but at least you won't have to face any attacks by melee units, at least not yet, and the 1st Legion doesn't have any cavalry at all. So really, as far as this goes, it's actually quite safe.
After your advance reaches the SW map edge and turns the corner, you will start to face attacks by Centurions. Bring up all of your horse archers, leaving one behind to keep grinding away at the enemy villagers on the ridge. Against 7 Horse Archers, Centurions just melt. Horse archers were always the nemesis of the Roman Legion.
Eventually you reach the victory area. Let it be noted that you are using only one catapult and 7 horse archers, plus a few replacements, to crush the entire 1st Legion. At this point you could take the win, but we are having so much fun that we will wipe the 1st Legion off the face of the map first.