Choose your character’s culture
This may sound obvious, but you want to choose your starting faction and character stats based on what you’ll use — not on what sounds good if you’re reading the lore and background of the choices you have before you. What do I mean by that?
Upon starting a new campaign, you have the option to choose one of 6 character Cultures. They are Vlandians, Sturgians, Empire, Aserai, Khuzaits, and Battanians respectively.
Upon reading the Sturgian Culture description, it says they “had a ready market for furs” throughout the empire, they “became princes”, and “travel far and wide for trade and plunder.” This description makes them *sound* like rich, Viking traders who raid and are savvy, almost Venetian merchants.
That sounds really cool but is it? What’s the Culture bonus you get if you choose to go Sturgian?
20% less speed penalty from snow
Coupled with the fact that no matter what, you will (as of April 30th) ALWAYS start somewhere outside of Lycaron (a central city deep within the Empire) in a Training Field. You will belong to no faction and start off with only your basic weapons and some food. Listed below are all faction bonuses, after which I’ll tell you which ones I think are best.
- Vlandians: 20% more upgrade XP to troops from battles.
- Sturgians: 20% less speed penalty from snow.
- Empire: 20% construction speed bonus to town projects, wall repairs and siege engines.
- Aserai: Caravans are 30% cheaper to build. 10% less trade penalty.
- Khuzaits: 10% extra speed bonus for horsemen on campaign map.
- Battanians: Forests give 10% less speed penalty to parties
Clearly, some of these are better than others. In my humble opinion, the only 3 we should even give a serious look at are Vlandia’s, the Aerai’s and Empire’s culture bonuses. These are ranked all by usefulness (my opinion):
Vlandia: Training troops is not only important in the beginning of the game when you only have access to peasants as soldiers, but also throughout the entirety of the game since you will be taking casualties and you will need to recruit peasants to bolster your ranks. The faster you can train them up, the better. It’s very cheap to upgrade troops in Bannerlord, unlike Warband where you could go broke if you didn’t pay enough attention. This perk is definitely worth it as you will use it throughout your entire campaign.
Aserai: The Aserai bonus is very useful, more towards the beginning/if you enjoy employing Trade Caravans but even throughout the game with the reduced 10% trade penalty. All that means is that you get a 10% better rate of trading items with NPCs in the game. Over time that’s a pretty huge sum of money — more important than the 15,000 gold you’d save from buying your third caravan. Why?
Trade Caravans, at least as of right now, aren’t worth it later on. You need to devote 15,000 gold to each caravan no matter where. Town Prosperity and access to goods has nothing to do with it, nor does the game take risk into account. Now that the recent patch has made caravans ‘fair game’ when two cultures are at war, it’s become more risky than opening up a workshop in a city far away from the borderlands between two cultures.
On top of that, your companions need to be tied up, marching around the map buying and selling goods for you to make money. They would be better used in combat by your side, Governing one of your settlements, leading their own army, or even completing the side quests you sometimes encounter. All would be better uses of their time than be shuffled city to city with the potential risk of being captured by an enemy lord. They will escape eventually but then you need to go ‘pick them up’ from whatever city they were closest to when they escaped. Not worth it! Buy a workshop instead!
Empire: The Empire’s speed bonuses are attractive, for sure. This will be important more towards the middle of the game and continue to be. Towns cap out pretty quickly however in their constructions, and in my experience getting an entire Town or Castle to level 3 everything takes very little time. I could see Siege Engine construction being very useful, but if you hire a Companion with a high Siege skill, anything above 60, you should be good to go, and focus your personal character on other skills like Steward or Charm instead of Engineering.
Family, Childhood, Story Background
Again, this is a section where, reading the lore and background can be really fun. Taleworlds has done a great job so far creating the culture and immersing us all in the world of Calradia. However, none of this matters when it comes to your character. Simply choose the backgrounds which give you the bonuses you want and need to make a name for yourself and conquer the continent.
Throughout your Early Childhood to your Adolescence, Youth, Young Adulthood and Story Background, make sure you pick weapons and skills you will use throughout the game. I would choose only one main melee style, one ranged style, and then choose the rest based on playstyle.
Attributes to avoid are Scouting, Tactics and Leadership
Avoid Scouting. Please. You can hit N and look for any NPC in the game you want to. It will even tell you at the top right of the screen at which town, castle, or village they were spotted last and how recently. You don’t need to track footprints. It’s useless.
Avoid Tactics because you won’t auto-resolve unless you have good odds, at least to start. I found that once I had a good T2-T3 army, even if outnumbered, I would win hand over fist against a larger enemy army, and my tactics was never buffed. In fact, there have been some simulated/auto-resolve battles I did that had better results than I would’ve dreamed of if I fought and led the battle myself.
Leadership. This one’s counter-intuitive and it was for me for a while, until I realized that Charm is better, and so is Clan Size, which you unlock higher tiers of by simply earning Renown in the game. You “learn” higher levels of Leadership by “Maintain high morale in your party. Assemble and lead armies” but you can maintain high morale without it. You simply need a decent variety of food, win battles, don’t run from them, and that’s it. A higher Clan Size = You can lead more troops in battle. Leadership, AFAIK, either has a small or non-existent bonus to the amount of troops you can lead. Regardless, troop quality is more important than troop quantity!
Join a Faction Early On
“Why not just roam around, shanking Looters for their white cotton blouses? It’ll be me against the world!!! As a free man!!!” I’ll tell you why:
Joining a faction early on will help you gain valuable experience fighting alongside allies. Even if your personal army is smaller, the army you roll with will give you and your troops much needed experience, and loot (which includes weapons, horses, armor, food, prisoners, and trade goods). *Those trade goods will go a long way toward fueling your treasury which we’ll go over in a later section of the guide!
Whether you support a faction, or you decide to become King of all Calradia and create your own faction, befriending lords will allow you to recruit them as generals working for you on your quest to conquer the continent!
There are two ways to join a faction:
Mercenary: Becoming a mercenary is good at the very beginning if you need gold because you’re basically just a sword for hire, and that means you’re only paid gold based on how well you fare against an enemy faction. It can be as low as 10 gold per day, and go as high as 500 gold per day (I’ve seen) depending on how good you’re doing against factions you’re at war with!
Vassal: The rewards are much better. The Influence you gain allows you to partake in the voting for who gets a Town or Castle after a battle. Accrue enough Influence, you can sway the vote and get the King of that faction to gift you Towns you want. When you have a Town, you are now in charge of a potentially huge source of income in the game. Upgrade the amenities, keep the roads safe of bandits, and prevent enemy lords from raiding your villages and you will become a very rich dude!
You can leave a faction at any time by hitting the K for Kingdom menu, and hitting Leave at the top right. You’ll take a relation penalty for leaving but it’s not catastrophic. If that lord gave you control of towns or castles and you refuse to give them up, they will declare war on you immediately. This is usually only useful when you have decided to start your own kingdom and want to strike out on your own! Otherwise, I would advise giving them back and earning new fiefs to manage under your new faction leader.
Getting Supplies & Troops When Part of Another Army
When you’ve joined a faction and either see a notification of a friendly lord building an army, or you see one roaming around, you can go to it, join it, and become part of that coalescing force and take part in huge battles, sieges, or even earn yourself your own fief! The AI takes control, and the controlling lord usually stops at Towns and villages for recruits and supplies. This is where my tips come in:
As the lord’s army is approaching a Village or Town, make sure you press 2 to set the Speed to normal, and then hit 1 or Space bar as soon as you get to the Settlement. This will allow you to buy much-needed supplies, recruits, or even start quests. Once you’re finished you can return to the army without issue. This is really useful so that enemy armies can’t pick you off as a straggler, and so you can gather much-needed supplies while on campaign with your battle bros!
Bonus Tip 1:
If your friendly army is starving (you can see on the bottom right), you can opt to buy a little extra food so that it’s donated to the friendly army. This will grant you a small Influence bonus as well! 🙂
Bonus Tip 2:
It’s also a good idea to buy locally-produced goods in bulk, since they’re usually cheap and can be sold at a recently-captured town, or any town you visit for the matter — at a profit!
Archers & Throwers Set to “Hold Fire”
If you’ve ever attacked a bandit hideout and charged archers headlong into sword fights they were never going to win, have you ever wondered why they never fired their arrows?
That’s because by default, they’re set to “Hold Fire.”
Make sure as soon as you spawn at a bandit hideout, you hit F4. A little message in the bottom left will notify you that your archers and throwers have been set to “Fire at Will.”
How many Fian Champions have I saved you from getting needlessly slaughtered? Countless!
Now your ranged units actually stand a chance!
Shift Click and Trade All
These are two very quick, but very time-saving and useful tips.
Have you been slaughtering Looters, and want to offload hundreds of items of clothing that are probably covered in sweat, blood and bandit tears?
Hold Shift while clicking on an item’s arrow, and you will move them in stacks of 5 into the trade menu. If there’s less than 5, like say 2 or 3, it will move that whole stack.
You can trade all without losing precious items, like horses (which we’ll get to in a minute). Next to your items in the trade screen is a little empty circle on the far right column with the header, “Locked.” If you click that, it will fill in yellow. Once you lock everything you don’t want to trade, such as blacksmithing resources, horses, food, or anything else, you can now click the two big grey arrows at the top of your inventory to trade everything that IS unlocked. This makes selling off HUGE quantities of blood soaked shoes and other bandit trash that much easier!
Keep All Horses
Horses, as well as camels and mules, ALL have inventory space!
Now, if you’re going for a *faster* army composition that can go across the campaign map quicker, and perhaps outrun enemy armies — not only will you want to get rid of all of your prisoners, but you’ll also want to get rid of all of your camels, mules, and Sumpter Horses as well.
However, *if you want to carry as much as possible*, I recommend you keep all of these pack-loving animals so that they can carry all of your loot across Calradia.
You’ll see your max inventory capacity go up any time you acquire new horses, camels or mules. This is very good for when you want to purchase stacks of hundreds of items at a time. Even Grain can be sold at a profit if a Town is starving!
Do the math: Even if you only profit 10 gold per trade good, if you sell 500 items at 10 gold each, that’s a profit of 5,000 gold. Keep that in mind when there are donkeys as loot! They’re much more profitable than you might think!
At first glance, something like Olives, Tools, or Flax Bundles, might seem useless — but some cities either have no access to these things whatsoever, or the tides of war have ravaged the countryside — making for dangerous trade routes and shortages.
What did we all learn in Economics?
Supply and Demand
While that is true in real life, it’s also true in Bannerlord. You can get a rough idea of what a good might sell for in nearby cities just by hovering over it and looking at the Trade Rumors. These are by no means complete, and might not always hold true if a trade caravan gets to a town and offloads that resource before you do. This satisfies the local supply, reduces demand, and thus the price you’ll get for the item.
You can always hold onto your goods as you travel, and explore the various cities in the game. Again, if you have all of those horses and camels, it’ll be worth it even if you’re riding a little bit slower. Trade goods won’t slow you down like Prisoners will!
Press ‘N’. N for Encyclopedia
By pressing N, a whole slew of categories open up with all of the game’s info. One of the first you should check out is Heroes. Then scroll down and filter by Wanderer.
This will allow you to see all of the Companions in your world! Including their stats!
Not sure if you want to fork over 2,000 gold dubloons for this guy with the last name, “the Wronged” or “Willowbark” or “Ironeye”? Look at their stats to see if they’re worth the loot you’re about to drop to recruit them!
You can also use ‘N’ to search for the best marriage partners in the game by filtering by Gender, Noble, and verifying they’re unmarried. Check their stats to make sure they’re up to your standards 😉
‘B’ is for Banner
By pressing ‘B’ you can retroactively edit your banner! Whether with the base banner editor that comes with the game or by using any mods that add to this functionality, you can edit the colors, tabard — anything you want — just like you’re creating your character all over again!
The 3 Types of Settlements and What They Are Used For
There are 3 types of Settlements in Bannerlord: Villages, Castles, and Towns. Each have their own uses, quests, economic and military value. It’s very important that you know all of these, if you wish to have a successful campaign within the world of Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord!
Best for early-game quests, building reputation with Notables in town by completing those quests successfully, improving your Renown, buying higher quality troops once your reputation with Notables goes up enough, and finally buying cheap trade goods produced locally within the village. *You can often sell those trade goods at a nearby town for a very handsome profit!*
The main value in castles is in defense. These settlements are usually situated on cliff sides, checkpoints, and overlooking mountain passes and valleys. Castles act as an anchor and projection of strength for the lord or faction. These bulwarks of force act as a bank for troops to garrison, and as a kind of shield or deterrent for the general area. If you have 400 troops in the castle garrison, the enemy AI will think twice about raiding the local area or even laying siege to the castle itself.
When you get to the late-early to early-middle part of the game, when you’re attacking enemy settlements — it doesn’t make much strategic sense to skip over a heavily garrisoned enemy castle to get to a Town further into the interior of a faction’s territory, even if it’s less defended, and I’ll explain why:
The city itself may be a softer target and easier to take in the short run, but once it’s captured, your armies will most likely be drained of strength, and will need some time to heal and recruit new troops. The nearby castle that your enemy still controls, again acting as an anchor for the local countryside will be used to rally troops against you, and will cut your new city off from the rest of your empire.
There’s a chance that enemy lords are holed up in the castle you passed over. This means they can leave and conduct raids on their own, or even hit you in your backside while you’re vulnerable, trying to build siege equipment. This puts your new prize of a city, fought over long and hard by your witless peasants and allies, at huge risk to being easily recaptured by the enemy faction.
If the enemy faction does lay siege and they do recapture it, it will be a very quick affair, and they will now be able to use the opportunity to blitzkrieg through your territory and capture cities and castles of their own! This is why in my opinion, in the long-run, capturing castles along the way is vitally important. Shore them up with defenders and prisoners (to recruit from later on), and use that castle as a springboard for your eventual assault (and hopefully successful siege) of the nearby enemy city!
Towns aka Cities
Last but certainly not least are the money-makers: Towns AKA Cities. Towns, or cities, in my opinion, are the most valuable of the 3 settlement types in Bannerlord. The villages bound to the city in the surrounding area are what provide a major amount of the city’s prosperity and growth over time. Cities can have very profitable tax incomes, even if they’re only moderate prosperous economically.
You can look at a city’s Prosperity number by clicking on the city and looking at the top left of your screen. You can also find the city’s most stable — if not most lucrative workshops, but finding out what villages are bound to it by hovering over the city and looking at the tooltip, then seeing what those bound villages produce.
You can also look at far-away city’s bound villages, by again clicking ‘N‘, and searching for the city from there. This will allow you to plan ahead and open workshops far away from the front lines of war!
If a city has 3 villages bound to it, say, one producing Grain and the other 2 producing Grapes. It’s probably a good idea to buy a workshop in town, and choose Wine Press. This will press the Grapes into Wine, which will then be sold as a finished good in the local city to which the villages are bound to.
Since Wine is valuable everywhere, caravans — even caravans from enemy factions — will buy the surplus bottles of Wine in the Town’s trade menu, and sell it elsewhere for a profit, making you money for very little work or risk!
In my humble opinion, cities/towns are the most valuable fiefs, then castles, then villages. While castles don’t produce a lot of tax income, but they are extremely valuable militarily, and this is a game where you fight non-stop battles — I would say they’re second in importance. Even if villages are raided, they do repair relatively fast, even on Realistic Settings which I play on.