Content of the article: "A whole bunch of Bannerlord tips and tricks you may not know (as of version e.1.5.1)"
Bannerlord is a great game that is currently plagued by some serious issues, from glitches and bugs to simply not bothering to explain its own mechanics. Without any mitigation or forewarning, these little problems can really snowball and ruin your experience. I've compiled this list of tips and tricks to help other players get around some of these problems and also to maximise your fun while the game remains in early access.
I've separated everything up into categories so that you don't have to dig through too much to get to the stuff you're interested in. Also, stuff that's relevant to new players only is marked with a
How Stats, Skills and Perks work
So how does leveling work in Bannerlord? Well here's what the Skills screen looks like using the character (C) menu Using skills with slowly increase your ability with them. The more focus points you have in a skill, the faster it's skill points will go up. Furthermore, your character will gain "exp" every time he/she gains skill points. Or more accurately, exp in this game IS skill points. That is to say, training the various skills is the only way to level up. NOT killing enemies, as you might have first thought. This means you can level up just by trading, smithing, running around, or leading armies. You don't even need to fight simulated battles mostly, though doing so will award you with tactics points and some combat skill points. Every level you gain will award you with either a stat point, a focus point, or both. You can spend these points to increase the relevant stat or skill focus bar. When you have points to assign, they will show up on your character screen. In the earlier screenshot is your NPC brother who you always start with, though his name and appearance is randomized. Because I chose the "assign perks myself" option, I can choose his perks right away (represented by little numbered shield icons next to his skills that tell you how many perks are available to choose). You'll note that to the left and right of the "Skills" table there are weird icons with the number 0 next to them. The left number represents stat points to assign, and the right number is focus points. Your new character will start with 1 free focus point to assign. To assign a focus point, select the desired skill and click the "+" sign. REMEMBER: No choices will be saved unless you click "Done", and you can revert all changes made so far by clicking the curved arrow between "Done" and "Cancel". To assign perks, click on the shield icons in the banner in the middle of the skill page and a popup will appear. Click on the perk you wish to choose – again making sure it's actually implemented first – and then when finished click "Done" to finalize your choices. Don't forget that you can use the left/right arrows to assign skills and perks for your NPCs too!
One more thing about perks. The "Governor" perks DO NOT APPLY to your character, because you can't be the governor of any of your cities/castles. Thus, don't pick governor perks for your main hero unless they also come with side-abilities that you want.
Starting the Game and the Main Storyline
If you follow the story you will play through a storyline quest for a while until you've rescued your siblings and experienced the execution mechanic in action. Then you will have to chase down a bunch of clan leaders and lie to two special characters who will never interact with you again once you've made your final choice. However, and this is something I want to emphasize heavily: You do NOT need to make a choice about what to do with the dragon banner immediately. In fact, I strongly recommend you do NOT make a decision until you're very well situated in the game. Why? Because it starts a doomsday timer that you cannot slow down or affect in any way, and when it runs out 3 factions will declare war on you all at once and try to grind your entire faction into the dust. Instead, forget about the story quest and just enjoy the game at that point until you are extra powerful and ready to take on the world. Once you succeed at that quest I'm pretty sure you win the game, and if you start it before you're ready you'll be in for a world of hurt.
The Campaign Map
The game has a really useful feature called the "Encyclopedia". Press 'N' to open it when in the campaign screen. If you want to track down a notable figure, you can search their name or clan in the search bar and it will tell you where they were last seen. Anytime you speak to another noble or visit a settlement, town or castle, it will update the rumours of where that noble was seen most recently. This will allow you to track down anyone with ease. You can also see if they were taken prisoner, got pregnant, or switched allegiances recently. Furthermore, you can use the Encyclopedia to check nobles' relations with you or each other, allowing you to single out the nobles who hate their liege and are ripe for conversion to your kingdom. You can also use the encyclopedia to check troop upgrade paths, details about cities/settlements, and info on minor factions, who are like secret clans that you can recruit if you choose to be your own kingdom. All in all, it's incredibly useful for planning your next move.
There's a circle next to city/settlement names in the overworld and the encyclopedia. Clicking that circle "bookmarks" the city/settlement, which means you can easily find it on the map. Clicking it again removes the bookmark.
Against minor enemies like looters, it's usually relatively safe to use "Send Troops" instead of going in there yourself. You won't gain tactics skill from this, but your troops will gain all the exp instantly instead of spending 5 minutes fighting first.
Some basic strategies for manually commanding troops during simulated battles are as follows:
- The lazy way: Immediately press 0 and then F6 at the start of a battle. Your troops will do their own thing and you can just run/ride around increasing your combat skills without having to worry about managing battles.
- The terrain way: Place infantry in front of your archers and put your archers on high ground. The archers will pick off lots of enemy troops before their infantry get close enough to do any damage, and your infantry will protect the archers when the troops finally do arrive.
- The big brain way: Research your opponents' army composition and culture by riding close (but not too close!) to their army to scout them. For example, Sturgians generally will have lots of shield infantry while Battania will have a lot of ranged folks. Figure out the counter infantry type (e.g. for shielded infantry it's heavy 2-handed weapon infantry. For heavy 2-handed infantry it's archers. For cavalry it's spear-throwers. For archers it's cavalry, etc) and fill your army with those units. Engage in wholesale slaughter. Note: This works best when you have a fief garrison you can switch veteran troops in and out of, because rookies get rekt even with a "type" advantage.
- The OP way: Get just zillions of horse archers, select them at the start of the battle and press F6. The horse archers will run up to the enemy, fill them with arrows, then run away again and repeat. Currently there's no really effective AI counter to this and they will just bleed troops while you sit there wondering why you're even there.
You can cheese simulated battles by abusing the "Retreat" command. Hold "Tab" to bring up the stats menu, and press middle mouse button to get your cursor back. Then you can click "Retreat" to teleport your entire army safely out of the battle. Then you can restart the battle with the number of troops remaining from before, but both armies are placed far away from each other again. Combine this with a lot of archers, and you can whittle the enemy numbers down before they reach your army and then simply retreat and start over again until the odds are solidly in your favour. This lets you overcome basically any odds so long as you ensure your opponent takes more losses than you do each time.
Building your Clan
The game doesn't tell you this anywhere, but you can have your family join your party by visiting them in whatever city they are hiding in and talking to them (or left-clicking their portrait in that city). Your brother in particular is basically a veteran soldier right from the start of the game, so adding him to your party will give you a huge early-game boost. His high steward score also increases your party size by a lot, so having him around lets you field more soldiers until your own steward score catches up. Later on, set him up as governor of your best city/settlement to give it a huge boost.
You can recruit companions at taverns in major cities. Not all companions are created equally, so I recommend using a companion guide to figure out which ones have skills that you want. You can also manually check their skills by right clicking the character's portrait from the city screen or searching them in the encyclopedia. That way you'll know what they are good and bad at before you go through the long dialogue with them. I personally find the tacticians/stewards most valuable as you can make them lead armies for you (more on that in a bit), and the ones with high trade are helpful because you can create caravans with them for bonus income during peacetime. You can only recruit your clan level +1 companions at a time, (e.g. 2 at clan level 1). This means you should be very picky about who you hire.
If you have joined a kingdom (or started your own), you can persuade other factions' nobles to betray their current faction and join yours. For this you need three things: High charm, luck and money. Save your game. Speak to the noble and say you have something to discuss. Ask about their liege. This will lead to a skill challenge where you have to get 4 successes in 4 attempts (either 100% successes or at least 1 critical success). This is entirely RNG, so choose the highest % options and pray. Or load back a lot. If they hate their monarch you'll have a very high chance of succeeding in at least 1 of the 4 challenges. Once you've successfully convinced them, you then need to bribe them. The bribe usually is about 100k denars, but can go all the way to more than a million denars if they own lots of land (because your team gets the fiefs too when they convert). Unless you're insanely rich, use the encyclopedia to find the poorest, most disenfranchised nobles and you'll discover that you might be able to pay them even a single denar and they'll happily convert. Beware, others can convert YOUR allies too, so try to make sure you give every noble at least one castle to keep them happy and on your side. Also if you save a lot and see the message that a noble has left your kingdom, you can load back and often they won't leave the second time.
If you release a noble whom you beat in combat instead of taking them prisoner, you will get a 6-7 point relationship increase with everyone in that noble's clan. Doing this is an excellent way to butter them up for future conversion to your kingdom.
Convert the head of a clan to your kingdom and their entire clan will also convert along with them!
You can use your influence points to put policies in place that suit you before adding others to the clan. In the Kingdom menu (K), you can go to the policy tab and scroll through the various policies there. Basically, most policies either benefit only the ruler, benefit only the vassals, or adjust your kingdom's rates (e.g. tax rate and growth rate). If you're going to start your own kingdom, take this chance to vote in all the royalty-favouring policies before you add people who disagree with you. Conversely, if you're a vassal, you want to add more vassals to the clan and THEN vote in all the vassal-favouring policies. Both of these strategies will not only increase your influence gain rate, but also make it much harder for a rogue AI to steal power/cities from you later on in the game. It will also prevent you from getting disliked by other nobles from voting against their wishes since they won't even be in your kingdom yet.
As a male character, you can marry a noble to have her join your clan. I'm not sure if it's the reverse situation for female heroes or not (i.e. you join their clan). This provides two main benefits. One, you gain another party member to bring along in battle, and two, you can make babies (heirs) who will inherit your stuff if/when your character dies. If you end up playing for enough time you can also eventually add those heirs to your party once they've grown up enough. To woo a noble, simply profess your love to them then return and visit them a few times. You'll have to pass charm checks to woo them properly, so as always, save beforehand! Eventually they'll tell you to talk to the clan leader, and then you'll barter for their hand in marriage. Usually it's pretty cheap.
Did you know that war declarations can be avoided (by sort of cheating)? If you save often and then suddenly get war declared on you (or by your kingdom on someone else), just load back to that save. It's a (low) random chance for war to be declared so there's a strong likelihood that the next time you get to that point in time literally nothing will happen. This allows you to avoid all wars that you don't want! Since the game AI is so bad right now, sometimes this is the only way to save your kingdom from utter annihilation.
You can equip the companions in your party with awesome gear too! This took me 40 hours to realize, but on the Inventory (I) or trade screens, there are arrows at the top that let you select a different character to equip. This works with the Character (C) screen too, allowing you to assign perks or stats/skills to your companions.
In your clan management screen (L), under the parties tab, you can assign your companions to various roles within your party. Generally, this causes the game to act as if your own skill with that particular role is the same level as the assigned companion. For example, if you assign a companion with 80 medicine skill as surgeon, the game will cause you and your troops to heal as if you had 80 medicine skill. Keep in mind that if you don't assign a party member to a role then you will gain the exp for doing that role. In other words, it's a trade-off between gaining free experience and having your party be more effective on the campaign map. The one role in your party you definitely don't want to assign a companion to is Quartermaster, because that trains the Steward skill which you want to raise as high as possible.
You can create separate parties under your clan management screen's "Parties" tab. This allows you to send companions off to raise armies and gain exp all on their own without your intervention. You can also assign them to their own personal role within that party (even the Quartermaster role!) for bonus exp and it won't affect your own exp. Parties have three major benefits that make them very useful. Firstly, they will recruit their own troops for you! The max party size is dependent on the companion's steward skill and your clan rank. This means that with enough time you can create an allied party that's virtually equal in size to your own army. Secondly, those parties can be summoned to your army on a whim (click the flag icon down the bottom right of the screen – you must be in a kingdom to do this) and it costs 0 influence! Thirdly, the parties automatically will go around fighting battles for you and increasing your own influence and reputation. I highly recommend creating at least a few parties. There's a few downsides to be aware of, however. Firstly, you pay all the troop wages for the other parties. This can get VERY expensive if you're not at war and constantly defeating armies for money. Secondly, like any roaming entity, your companions can get attacked and captured by enemy armies. If that happens, you have to wait for them to escape or be ransomed and then track them down in whichever city they end up in to reclaim your companion. This can be very annoying. Lastly, if you're a vassal, your liege can actually summon your companions to their army, thereby using your hard-earned troops for their own personal gain! That's the price of being a vassal though.
Sometimes you cannot assign roles to party members through the clan screen. This tends to happen if you assign a companion to a role and they die in battle. If this happens, instead select them in the party screen (P) and talk to them. You can assign them roles from the conversation menu instead.
The best way to make money in Bannerlord is smithing (once you've unlocked enough recipes and have about 140 smithing skill). Early on, the stuff you produce is worthless, but as you start making tier 4 and higher weapons you will discover combinations that create weapons work up to 100k denars in value! Make a handful of these and you can go around from city to city, buying up all the expensive armor while still walking away with 20k+ more denars each time. There are many guides to smithing that can be found elsewhere, but here's a few minor tips:
- Try not to sell anything you make that's worth less than 10k denars. Otherwise you will encounter these items as arena prizes which will generally make it harder to get the rare arena prizes (e.g. special horses and armour). Instead, smelt it down.
- 2h swords and javelins seem to be a great money maker once you hit T4+
- Smelt the weapons you loot from battles if you need the materials for smithing. Even worthless rusty iron spathas can be broken down into huge amounts of valuable materials.
- No matter how many days pass from traveling, none of that will allow you to be able to smelt again once you've hit the limit. This means that even if you come back 3 months later, if you haven't rested in any villages or settlements in that time, you will not be able to continue smelting. You MUST click "Wait here for a while" and just sit around for a day or so to get all of your smithing stamina back.
- Weapons worth 100k make decent bribes for bringing nobles over to your side, but expect about a 30% value loss when using them this way. If you just straight up give them money it's cheaper overall.
- Smithed weapons are not necessarily better than the ones you can buy. Sometimes they will be, but smithing mostly gives you the ability to trade off damage types and attack speed on weapons. For example, you can increase a sword's length and swing damage but it will reduce it's swing speed and thrust. In other words, smithing is useful for making very specialized weapons, but not for making some OP magical sword of head-lopping.
The second-best way to make money is by thrashing other nobles in combat. If you're at war, target every enemy noble you see whom you can easily beat and trounce them. Not only do you get money and items for beating them, you can also ransom them at taverns for even more money. You also get money when you capture cities in sieges. Naturally, when you're at peace, you'll find it much harder to make money this way.
You can purchase workshops in cities and have them produce goods for a small profit (around 75-125 denars per day). It generally costs about 13k denars to buy a workshop, so it won't become profitable for approximately 140 days. Because of this, if you wish to use workshops you should select cities which you are unlikely to be at war with for a long time (e.g. your own faction's cities!). After all, if you end up at war with a faction, all of your workshops in that faction are stolen from you. To buy a workshop you must physically walk around town. If you hold alt you will see three semi-random workshops throughout the city (e.g. wine press, brewery, smithy). If you walk to one of these shops during the day you will find NPCs loitering around nearby called "Shop Worker". Talk to the shop worker and tell them you want to purchase the workshop.
To decide which workshops to build in which city, examine the fiefs which feed into that city. You can also use a workshop guide, but I find these aren't always correct due to frequent patches. The bottom line is this: Pick a city which has at least one source of workshop materials (e.g. grain, sheep, hardwood) in its settlements. More than one source is even better. Next, buy a workshop and select the type that uses that material. For example, grain is used by breweries, and wood is used by a wood workshop etc. Then, you wait. You can check the workshop's profitability from the clan tab (L), but remember, don't expect it to become super profitable anytime soon. These are long-term investments.
Another way to make money is caravans. Caravans are more profitable than workshops, but come with significant risk, especially if you're at war with anyone. Basically, you assign a companion to manage a caravan (which costs 15000-25000 denars to make depending on the troops you assign), and the caravan will travel from city to city buying and selling goods. Companions with high Trade skills are essential here. While travelling, the caravans can be attacked by looters, bandits, and worst, enemy armies. If the caravan is captured, you'll have to go rescue your companion or wait for them to be released. Then you'll have to spend another 15-25k to get the caravan going again. Basically, don't do this if you're a warmonger. Anyway, to form a caravan, talk to any merchant in a city and choose the "I want to form a caravan in this city" option. Caravans will net you varying amounts of money, and the income will not be every day, but in my experience they are more profitable than workshops and much more annoying to keep track of.
If you have a high trade skill, instead of making caravans you can be a caravan. Load up on sumpter horses which increase your max load, and then use trade rumours (talk to civilians hanging out in town markets) to determine the best places to buy and sell stuff. Buy low, travel, sell high. If you make 30 denars per sale and sell 100 trade items, that's 3k of profit. If you make 100 denars per sale, that's 30k profit! Again, keep in mind that cities generally only keep 20k-30k denars on them at a time, so if you take too many goods you will not be able to sell them all.
Holding the alt key highlights both important people and weapons that are lying around. You can use this during sieges to replenish ranged ammo and locate nearby interactible things.
You can use the siege weapons that your army/city has built. This will train your throwing skill and also open some neat opportunities. For example, you can use catapults to smash siege towers! It takes 4 hits to achieve but boy is it worth it!
Catapults and trebuchets can be aimed left and right but also have a red gauge on the side which affects the distance that your shots travel. You can change this bar using W/S to choose how close or far to shoot. Generally you want the distance to be less than half the red bar because your targets are a lot closer than the range on the siege engines.
When defending a city you will notice piles of rocks (called merlons) lying around upstairs in the gatehouse. You can take these rocks and drop them on enemy troops for massive damage (400+). You can also use them to smash the battering ram with a few good throws, thereby protecting your gates.
You can place your troops before a siege by pressing the numbers (e.g. 1 for infantry) and then clicking where you want them to go. However they just run back to where the AI would have put them anyway, so it's not worth it right now. But someday it might actually work as intended!
Is the castle you were staying in being beseiged by overwhelming numbers? You can sally forth to attack, use archers to pick some troops off, and then retreat from battle before their enormous army starts hacking your party apart. Repeat this about a dozen times and you'll have a much more manageable enemy to fight, with very few casualties on your side. For the love of god though save before you try this. Also note that, due to a bug, when you sally out of the castle you'll be plonked onto the overworld map when you retreat and won't be able to get back in without sacrificing troops.
- Save often. Make multiple save files so that you can jump back in time up to half a year if need be. Sometimes bad decisions (e.g. a war with a much stronger faction) take a long time to bite you in the ass.
- Buy lots of (non-sumpter) horses. As long as you have at least a 1:1 horse to troop ratio, your campaign movement speed will be hugely increased, allowing you to chase and catch foes must more easily.
THINGS NOT TO DO
Don't give anyone the dragon banner before you're ready to fight the whole world. That also applies to founding your own kingdom by completing the relevant quest.
Don't put companions in the Quartermaster role of your party. Otherwise you deprive yourself of an easy way to gain Steward exp, which increases your troop size.
Don't buy workshops in cities you plan on warring with anytime soon, because once war is declared you automatically lose those workshops.
Don't make caravans if you want to go to war a lot. The enemy nobles will target your caravans mercilessly.
Don't leave siege weapons you've built out in the open to get destroyed one by one. Instead, click on the weapon immediately once it's finished and choose "Send to reserve". Once you have 4 weapons built, place them all simultaneously and watch the mayhem unfold!
Don't fight battles where your army strengths are similar (unless it's really important to do so e.g. you're defending your own fiefs against a siege). You will lose a lot of good troops this way, and if you instead fight easy battles you'll get way more rewards with way less casualties in the long run.
Don't execute nobles unless you want to make the game harder on yourself. They breed like rabbits and everyone hates you when you execute someone. Plus there's a good chance they'll execute you too if they capture you in a fight after that. Releasing other nobles grants the most benefit to you by far, even if it's not as satisfying.
And… that's it for now! I'm sure I forgot some tips but I'll edit them in as I remember. At the very least it should open up some new gameplay avenues for some people, and maybe make things a little less stupid for others. If you made it to the end of this very long post: well done!
- Current Maximum Level 1.4.1
- (Bannerlord) How to Recruit Battanian Fians Fast
- Guide on Battanian Fian Recruitment
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