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There are several ways to acquire high-rank soldiers for your squad:
- Recruitment and training of recruits,
- Hiring mercenaries at the tavern,
- Recruiting prisoners,
- Recruiting freed prisoners from another squad.
In this guide to leveling up troops quickly in Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlord, we will go over each of these methods.
Training New Recruits
While playing Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord (especially at realistic difficulty), it is important to understand that recruiting newbies from villages and towns is only applicable for the very early stages of the game.
Recruits are very weak warriors. Out of hundreds, only tens will survive, and only a few will reach the highest ranks. Moreover, training them is completely unprofitable as it requires money, time, and dozens of won battles.
If you plan to use this method of troop leveling as the primary one, it is recommended at the beginning of the game to choose the Sturgians culture (recruiting and upgrading infantry troops are 25% cheaper) or Khuzaits (recruiting and upgrading mounted troops are 10% cheaper).
From the early stages of the game, it is important to actively use “auto-combat” and not to spare your newly minted recruits. To minimize losses, level up the corresponding skills of your character. Specifically, level up “Steward” to increase the size of your squad, “Tactics” and weapon skills to strengthen your troops in battles, Leadership to increase soldiers’ morale.
It is also necessary to have a medic in the squad, but it is even better to maximize “Medicine” for your character. This will speed up the recovery of soldiers after a battle and reduce combat losses.
Many players aim to first level up their weapon handling or horse-riding skills, however, in practice, it is not worth putting the main emphasis on this at the beginning of the game. A lone warrior isn’t much help, no matter how you look at it. But strategic skills will serve you well in many respects.
All that remains is to recruit newbies and actively attack enemy squads in auto-combat mode. Some soldiers will die, but ultimately, with sensible command, your army will grow.
At the middle and late stages of the game, you will be able to recruit elite troops in villages and towns that are already maxed out and ready for battle. However, to do this, you will first have to complete quite a lot of tasks for a specific village to improve relations with it.
I recommend improving relations with villages where there are many NPCs. As you can see, each NPC is an additional line of available troops in the recruiting window. I also strongly recommend leveling up villages where you can hire cavalry units, as they are among the strongest in the game, and they are the hardest to get.
Hiring Mercenaries at the Tavern
As soon as your hero has any significant passive income from Workshops and Caravans (read the guide in the link to learn how to make maximum earnings from workshops and caravans), and the amount of gold in the treasury reaches at least 30-40k, you can start buying mercenaries at taverns. Mercenaries are quite expensive, but they are already leveled up troops that will significantly strengthen your army.
At this stage of the game, you should progress as follows.
- Actively attack squads of bandits on the map. Capture prisoners, obtain combat trophies.
- Sell prisoners at the tavern and trophies at the market.
- Purchase mercenaries at the tavern.
- Recruit up to the maximum number of squad members.
- Repeat the procedure.
Even on realistic difficulty, you will come out ahead in terms of both money and troops. Your army will gradually grow and strengthen, and the amount of gold will increase. It is assumed that at this stage of the game you already have 1-2 workshops and 1-2 caravans.
When your troop becomes stronger and its number reaches 50-100 soldiers, you should temporarily join one of the factions and start actively robbing caravans of hostile kingdoms. This will allow you to level up the “Roguery” skill. This skill increases the amount of loot you get in battles. In the later stages of the game, this is one of the main ways to earn denars in Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlord.
When you join one of the factions as a vassal or mercenary, that’s when serious battles will begin.
After any battle, always take the maximum number of prisoners, choosing high-rank fighters, and try to carry them with you. Periodically, they will express a desire to join your squad, and you will be able to hire them completely free of charge. Some of them will eventually escape, but some will stay with you. However, for this, you need to fight more often, and the fighting spirit of the squad should be high.
You can sell the weakest units from the prisoners at the tavern. Always carry the rest with you to replenish the squad with powerful units. Of course, having prisoners will slow down your squad, so make sure to have the maximum speed and that enemy lords can’t catch up with you. Read more about this in the guide on party speed in the link above.
Liberating Prisoners from Enemy Squads
At the middle and late stages of the game, recruiting liberated prisoners is the main source of high-rank troops in the game. By “middle” stages, we mean the moment when you establish your own kingdom. At the same time, it’s important to pass the “Royal Guard” bill, which will add 60 slots to your squad and provide a significant advantage in battles.
Liberating prisoners is very easy. If you hold down “ALT” while on the global map, you can see if there are any prisoners in the enemy squad. You should primarily hunt for enemy lords with a large number of prisoners. To catch up with them, it’s important to have a high movement speed, and to divide them – a large squad size.
We catch up with the enemy lord with prisoners, attack in auto-battle mode, lose a small number of troops (the screenshot shows the result of a battle on realistic difficulty).
But we liberate many good prisoners, from whom we can more than make up for the losses. At the same time, we capture a lot of good prisoners ourselves, from whom we will be able to recruit 5-10 people into our squad in the next few days.
In this way, once you have gathered a powerful army, you will never lose it and will win in battles until the end of the game (with reasonable command, of course).