The release of Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is slowly approaching and, a few months ago, I got into the original Mount & Blade game which led me to buying every single iteration of them. They’re all quite complex games and they all share a number of elements which are, in my mind, quite difficult to understand. However, the main reason they are difficult to get your head around isn’t because they are inherrantly complex mechanics, not to any great degree anyway, but because of the lack of a good explanation of how they impact the game, so I am here to deliver a complete guide to how to use Mount & Blade’s advanced mechanics. If you want a beginners guide then I can highly recommend you have this open in the background and open it up whenever you are confused.
Renown & party size
The tutorial explains that renown affects the maximum size of your party. Renown is earned a number of ways, primarily through completing quests and winning battles, however, not all battles will yield renown and, since quests don’t have a guarantee of giving you renown and are actually quite boring after a while as the speed you move across the map is incredibly slow, you might find it difficult getting to the point where you can gain lots of renown, so how can you do this?
The answer is quite simply grinding, but not in the way you might expect. The biggest problem with winning battles for renown is that, if you get your party up to maximum members quite early, you will be big enough so that taking on the roaming bandits won’t grant you much renown, but you will still be too weak to take on lords and nobles with armies twice the size of yours. The player has an advantage in combat but not to an extent where you can engage 100 men with 5 of your own and walk out with 2 left standing.What I think is the best way is to get about 10-20 cavalry and then just prowl on the bandits. You’ll get good levels, the battles will be quick and you earn renown very quickly. This way, after only an hour or so of doing this combined with quests, you’ll have a pretty decently sized party.
Becoming a Vassal
It’s pretty easy to become a vassal of a king (you just need to have enough renown) but I wanted to talk about the two ways people seem to go about it. The simplest way is just to become a vassal at the lowest possible renown and then not care about your reputation with that particular faction, just invade the peoples that they are invading and you will eventually start getting rewards. The second way is far more long-winded. I’m fully aware that Mount & Blade is a game whose campaigns are expected to last 100-200 hours but I think it comes down to what you want from the game. I just wanted the satisfaction of commanding my army that I had built up, and fighting battles where you can become ridiculously over powered if you have some fairly decent reactions and know how to exploit the games economy, something which I’ll cover later.
However, numerous people like to Role-play or just get satisfaction from immersing themselves in the world and so, when they become a vassal, or even before, they befriend the nobles under a certain king’s rule by doing errands for them or fighting with them in battles. This way you certainly get more immediate rewards after becoming a vassal as the people who like you will want to give you the lands you or they conquer, but the time you have to put in beforehand is a drawback for me. But this leads us nicely into our next topic.
Manipulating the games economy
The trade skill is really easy to make money with. Better yet; it is a party skill so if you recruit a follower that has a high trade skill then you don’t even have to spend your own experience leveling it up. I recommend getting the “collect overdue taxes from a village quest.” While quests give you a timer to complete the main objective, they don’t have a timer for handing them in so this quest can give an effectively 0% interest loan for as long as you want to hold onto it. Try and get one or two of these early on in the game and this should get you a quick 10,000-20,000 gold, then there are two things you can do.
You can hire an elite army and go and raid villages and sell the things you loot to nearby towns or you can travel from capital to capital selling high end goods. The first one is much quicker but you run the risk of annoying numerous lords so try to keep your raiding to one country and just avoid it as much as possible unless your confident. The second method is slower but there is a certain satisfaction in buying and selling things to make money as a middle man. The game has a reactive economy which is fairly self explanatory as long as you use your brain. I have no real preference in this but it mostly depends on what stage of the game I am in. If I already have a party of 200 heavy cavalry then I just raid every village I see if I need some cash but, earlier in the game, I tend towards the peaceful merchant option.
Building your army
You only want cavalry. I seriously see no benefit to having any infantry except in Fire & Sword and Vikings, and even then I like the massed cavalry charge. Vikings is more difficult so one strategy tends not to work on everything but for others you want the heaviest cavalry you can get. They heal up to full health after each battle and they already start with way more health than you anyway. They are still useful if their mount gets killed and they don’t have the problem that infantry have when facing another cavalry army where they can’t even get a hit on their enemy because, by the time you’ve pulled back your spear, the enemy has already galloped off.
Besieging castles and towns
You get the hang of this pretty quickly. Heavy infantry and heavy cavalry are best for this, and you should expect to lost a good 1/3 of your force at least. If you have an army made up almost solely of heavy troops then you should aim to have around the same amount of troops as the defenders, though take note of who is defending as, if they have one hundred heavy troops and another hundred archers then that battle really won’t go well for you. Most of the time however, they tend to have very mixed armies and so attacking shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
I would also recommend not being the first one to engage the enemy. Let your troops take the brunt of the damage until they force themselves onto the walls, then you can start your own rampage. Some more advice which is hard learned; don’t stand on the walls and shoot at the troops spawning in the yard below: it doesn’t matter how bad their aim is, when you have 1 bow and they have 20, they can hit 5% of their shots and you will die before them. It’s far better to go completely melee in sieges unless you have somewhere to hide and take pot shots from.
As far as positioning your army once you are into the city goes; it completely depends on the layout of the castle you’ve besieged. I have found it good on occasion to place my troops at the top of some protected stairways so the enemy has to run up to fight us and we can mow them down. Anyway, now I’m getting far too specific. I hope this helps someone because I wish I had found a guide like this when I started playing Mount & Blade.