Gets Stale Quick
I'm a long time fan of strategy war games going all the way back to the first Strategic Conquest game by Delta Tao. I love every flavor of Civilization, from Sid Meier's to Stardock, and games like Stronghold. So, I was looking forward to playing Rome because I thought it had elements of all of those classics. And it does. You have to build and maintain cities, raise armies and duke it out on the battlefield.
But it just didn't grab me. Not in the way those other games did. For one thing, I never could figure out what made one city a happy cash cow and another city a money pit full of pissed off plebes. It seemed to have more to do with population than with infrastructure or tax rates (certain buildings give moral bonuses; higher tax rates make people unhappy). It just seemed kind of random. The only way to conquer a city and not have a riot on your hands for ten terms seemed to be to enslave the population or exterminate them. Me, I don't even like to step on a Sim Ant when I can avoid it.
I played Rome: Total War through one time as the Romans and Barbarian Invasion through three times; once as the Saxons, once as the Romans and once as the Horde...actually I never finished the Horde game. I was just over it by that point.
So, as with most games, it's going depend on what the player enjoys and the sort of game they like to play as to whether or not Rome is for you. By this point, the game is old enough where you can find it fairly cheap on E-bay or Amazon, so it's worth checking out. I think part of my problem was reading all these rave reviews, I had big expectations that weren't quite satisfied. Hope you get more out of it.
The battles are fun at first, but eventually I let the computer take care of the majority of them. You tend to lose a lot more soldiers that way, but even a medium scale battle can last a half hour or more. The same strategy worked almost every time. Keep a solid center of soldiers, flank the enemy with some calvary, use your skirmishers to soften them up, then sandwich them. I'd say 90% of the fights went down that way, the main exception being seiges where you could try to take the walls in a couple of different ways.