Cheat codesThink Feudal, Think Cows!
If you're going to fail anywhere during this extremely challenging game, chances are you'll do it in the early-game/ mid-game stages, where the most common cause of failure is over-expansion.
Economic development in the thirteenth century was slow, seasonal, labour-intensive and produced relatively small amounts of surplus goods. Although it may seem logical to divide your fields equally between livestock and wheat, it's not really the optimum method. To raise both population and "happiness" levels, follow this Monty-Python-ish maxim: think cows!
Forget about wheat until sometime in the mid-game, when you can afford the luxury of a seasonal crop. Instead, put herds of cows in all your fields. Then, as long as you're careful about labour allocation your herds should multiply rapidly. After all, wheat ripens only once a year, while cows do it pretty much whenever they feel like it.
When you've built up a food surplus sufficient to last two or three years, you can safely put your people on half-rations (just to make sure the economy doesn't overheat). Just be sure to monitor the situation carefully. Discontent when it strikes, has a bad way of spiralling out of control quickly. Once large numbers of your serfs start emigrating to other counties, you're in big trouble!
The Peasants are revolting!
Throughout the game, it is imperative that you keep your peoples' happiness rating as high as possible. You can always give their morale a quick boost by purchasing ale from a passing merchant, but this is really a band-aid solution because merchants have a fickle way of not being around when you need them the most.
A more reliable method is simply not to tax anybody for the first few years of game time; nothing else will elevate their happiness more quickly. Once your peasants' rating is up to the 90-100% range, then go ahead and sock them with a five or six percent tax rate. It will take many seasons before their happiness starts declining, at which point you can start fiddling with the tax rates to find a happy medium; meanwhile, you've received a hefty infusion of cash.
Check your City Centre screen frequently to see how many unemployed serfs are loitering about the village commons. Blacksmithing, castle-building, and mining are good tasks for absorbing excess population; so are new armies. However you may not be able to arm them if you create too many, too early in the game.
In the beginning, you and your opponents start the game on an level playing field. But as tempting as it is to seize two or three nearby regions as soon as you have the forces to do so, unless you're playing against human opponents, this is hardly the wisest course. It's hard enough to get your home county running on a smooth economic base; the complexities and possibilities for failure grow exponentially with each new county you seize.
The easiest way to raise an army early on is to order a mass levee of peasants. True, they're not very impressive from the standpoint of armament, but a large enough force of peasants is usually quite sufficient to conquer or defend a couple of counties in the early years of a game.
Even if your nearest opponent has raised a small army of real men-at-arms, you can still triumph over him if you have a large enough peasant force. As a rule, you need at least 50% numerical superiority to defeat another large peasant army, and a three-to-one superiority to vanquish an army comprising both peasants and regular soldiers.
When you're ready to raise a professional army, check first to see if your county is host to any bands of roving mercenaries. If you have the money, consider hiring them. A mercenary force already comes with its own arms and armor, and buying its services will have no negative impact on either population or happiness rating.
If you do go the mercenary route, use them quickly to conquer a county or defend against a threatened invasion. Their seasonal maintenance fee is high, and if you just leave them standing around on idle garrison duty, you'll drain your treasury and have nothing to show for it but a marginal measure of added security.
Taking the Field
Ideally, you want to create a large and balanced army, but it's unlikely you'll be able to afford one until mid-way through the game. In the earlier stages, it is easier and generally more cost-effective to develop an army equipped with one or two weapons than a collection of smaller units armed with many.
Arming your troops is a tricky business, it takes a large number of blacksmiths to produce even a modest flow of weapons. If you're in a county that gets frequent visits from merchants, you should consider buying as many weapons as you can afford, rather than waiting for your own production efforts to bear fruit.
Take time to study both the landscape and the nature of the opposing force before committing to battle. Combat in Lords II accurately reflects the scale and ferocity of medieval engagements, which seldom displayed a great deal of tactical finesse. Even so, tactics and maneuver can compensate, to a certain extent, for numerical inferiority.
Search the terrain carefully. Are there bridges or narrow isthmuses of land on this battlefield? If so, they form natural choke-points where an attacking force must funnel-through, and in so doing lose its numerical advantage to any defending force that blocks the narrow end of the funnel. Are there lakes, ponds, or streams that you can use to protect your flanks? Are there natural outcroppings of rock that can be used as defensive barriers? To be successful, a Lords II commander must learn to use these and every other possible advantage until the process becomes instinctive.
Sieges and Raids
When you move from the open battlefield to siege warfare, be prepared to shift your whole attitude. Whereas conventional battles tend to be resolved rather quickly, sieges will take several seasons to conclude, successfully or not. Whether you're planning to storm a castle or defend one, you must plan siege operations carefully and methodically.
True, most sieges climax with a desperate melee inside the castle walls, but you'll usually spend much more time trying to breach those walls or prevent the enemy from doing so. Archers really come into their own during sieges, so you may want to reorganize your army a season or two in advance of a siege, so that you'll have more of them.
Before you can hope to storm a castle, you must thin out the ranks of the defenders. Only massed arrow fire or catapults can do that. If you attempt to wheel up your siege towers and battering rams before you've weakened the garrison, chances are that the crews will be slaughtered and the siege will fail.
If you're defending a castle, be very careful about when and where you deploy your vats of boiling oil. Remember that you only get a certain number of these per castle, and once they're used up, your ability to repulse an assault diminishes greatly. Watch out for feints by the attacker and try to save the oil for use against towers and battering rams - its effect can be spectacular, if not decisive.
And finally, a word about guerrilla tactics. If you are not yet strong enough to engage in a full-strength campaign against a more powerful neighbor - simply march an army cross-country and on to a square containing a mine, quarry, sawmill or forge. That facility will turn to a pile of blackened cinders with serious consequences to your enemy's economy. This only works if you can hurriedly withdraw your force before the enemy can intercept it.
It's also a double-edged tactic. If you conduct such raids into a province you plan to occupy soon, you'll also be damaging your own economy, since those ruined facilities cannot be made operational again without many seasons of effort being devoted to rebuilding them.
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