Battle Brothers

Battle Brothers

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Fritz's Treatise on Builds, Perks, Gear, Archetypes & Formations
By REST IN PISS and 1 collaborators
This is a guide on how to reliably beat the game, regardless of difficulty.

It aims to help you build an all-star crew of veterans that can handle any encounter while suffering a minimum of casualties. Your own skill comes into effect, of course, but the builds outlined here will definitely help since they're designed to minimize player error and maximize efficiency (both through individual perk choices and team-wide synergy).

I run this setup when I'm looking to test stuff without worrying about losing the game.

If you're already experienced with Battle Brothers and have sunk many hours into the game, the guide may not help you much (or even at all). But it should be invaluable for newer players who are finding themselves frustrated with the game's mechanics and its indifferent RNG.

The guide itself started when I was asked for build advice, and so proceeded to type stuff out, but it got blown out of proportion and resulted in a full-on manual. I'll assemble a legit one after I get some pics, but for the time being I'll post it here as a normal thread, to help out new(er) players and gather feedback in the process. Feel free to offer comments/critique, and any tips you'd like to share! :)

Also a huuuuge thank you to Slice, for putting together a spreadsheet with the most important info (stats, traits, perks)! Check it out after you've read the guide, because it's a huge help with planning future builds. Here's the link:

Anyway, on to the guide itself...
Where There Be Dragons...
My build methodology tends to be quite rigid.

I beef up an individual merc's strengths, while working around or patching their weaknesses. Perk choices reflect this; each archetype has a core group that I always pick for them (things like Brawny on plate wearers). The rest is filling that I choose depending on the situation, and a particular merc's individual stats/traits.

I build my crew for the late game. Outside of disposable mercs whom I hire to babysit my budding fledglings, I won't invest in perks that justify their later loss of utility through some kind of early advantage (ex: Gifted). This means a rockier and more difficult early game, but it's paid offwhen crises start rolling around and I have a min/maxxed team of slayers that can obliterate even orc cities with relative ease.

I do this because I feel any early and mid game danger can be mitigated with careful play and experience, but when late game rolls around -- and you have to fight multiple battles against overwhelming odds -- that's when you need perfectly calibrated characters that can obliterate many times their number, and do so without incurring debilitating wounds in the process. It's also the only way to minimize downtime enough so that your company can safeguard most of the towns on the map (they don't get permanently destroyed like before the newest patch, but they'll still lose out on useful services and utilities if you neglect their defense).

Veteran levels are a welcome addition to the game, and allow me to play this way.

Which brings me to another point...

There's been a lot of talk about how much of this or that stat a particular merc needs. Some people prefer not to go above, say, 80 melee attack on their primary damage dealers. Personally, I feel this isn't the optimal route because debuffs are plentiful (nets, vines, wounds, etc.), and shielded enemies are thicker than tics on a dog. What this means is that a 5 or 10 point difference in a stat can easily mean the difference between success or failure. Over many battles, and many mercs, that's thousands of points of damage that you're not doing (or taking, as is the case with defensive stats). And every subsequent turn that a fight goes on, means another turn for one of your men to die or suffer a permanent injury.

Ergo, melee/ranged attack shouldn't be 'soft capped'. Pump it as high as you can!

The same can be said for Fatigue on archers, Initiative on Nimble duelists, etc.

Here's how I treat stat levelups...

Note that these are optimal scenarios, and aren't always achievable:
  • Health - more is always better, but not at the detriment of other things... I aim for 60 on archers; 80 on frontliners; 100 on tanks
  • Fatigue - after armor, it should be 100+ for longbow users, 90 for plated damage dealers, 80 for tanks, 70 for lancers and crossbowmen
  • Resolve - after Fortified Mind, ~75 on tanks, ~60 for plated damage dealers, not over 50 for ranged weapon specialists, maximum for Sergeants
  • Initiative - at least 100 for ranged characters and Nimble duelists (Dodge synergy), 0 for tanks (ie. dump stat), situational for everyone else
  • Melee Skill - no limit for physical damage dealers; around 70 for tanks; 0 on ranged weapons specialists (I keep them strictly ranged-based)
  • Ranged Skill - no limit for archers; ~65 on lancers; 0 for the rest (I'm not a fan of throwing weapons, mostly because the UI is a PITA)
  • Melee Defense - no limit for lightly armored frontliners like Nimble duelists; ~55 for tanks; ~40 for shield-less plate wearers
  • Ranged Defense - 35+ for archers; ~25 for Nimble duelists; ~15 for plated damagers; 10 or less for tanks (kite shields ftw!)
I classify each merc into one of the main types, depending on their stats, stars, and traits.

I'll list the core perks for each archetype, then the luxury picks, and finally the inadvisable ones that people seem to favor for some bizarre reason.

I'll also include a few words about their role on the battlefield, and what they bring to the table, as well potential weaknesses (if any).

Now, on to the builds themselves...
Archetype - Tanks
Classification: Immovable Obstacles
Recommended Amount: 4-5
Primary Stats: Health, Resolve, Melee Defense
Secondary Stats: Fatigue, Melee Attack, Ranged Defense
Role in Fights: damage soaking, shield breaking, rotations, multiple hostile entanglement, zone of control manipulation
Item Loadout: heavy armor, heavy helmet, 1h weapon, shield, dagger, backup buckler, bandages, bolts/arrows (drops for allies)
Sub-Specs: shield breaker (axes), head hunter (flails), undead slayer (hammers), riposte master (swords), beast killer (cleavers)
Strengths: can reliably hold multiple melee enemies, shrugs off most ranged attacks
Weaknesses: nets, roots, vines, rough terrain, goblin -AP poison, shield-breakers
Ideal Trait(s): Brave, Fearless, Optimist, Sure Footing, Tough

Build these guys to last. They're the company's primary means of defense, and have to be able to take a beating. That means lots of health, melee defense, the heaviest of armors, a good amount of fatigue, and a moderately high resolve second only to Sergeants and lancers (more about those guys later). You can never have too much health, and you'll thank yourself for investing in it once you start fighting Undead Priests and their miasma puddles (which you often can't move out of since the tank will be engaging multiple enemies). Note also that a high health pool reduces the chance of suffering wounds, which frees up a perk point from Hold Out.

Tanks' damage output isn't all that important. A lot of people insist that tanks *MUST* do damage to pull their weight and justify a place on the battle roster, but as already mentioned, I build my crew for late game, and by that point you'll have 6 or so interchangeable wreckers+duelists who'll put out so much damage your poor tanks won't manage to get a shot in. Ditto for ranged chars.

What your front-line meatslabs *are* useful for, is tying up multiple enemies, stripping them of shields (thus allowing your backline to hit with scythes or billhooks), and generally being a huge pain in the ass for the AI when you get in its face. One of the best (and funniest) ways of absolutely dismantling a range-heavy enemy party is to have your strongest tank run into the enemy's flank, right next to their archers. The AI gets its panties in a bunch and scrambles to stop your merc, often sending 5 or even 6 of its own melee dudes forward, while pulling back its ranged assets. This breaks the enemy's formation, splits its forces into 2 smaller clumps, wrecks their cohesion, allows your *own* team to move forward like a wedge, and has the bonus effect of cutting off a large force into 2 manageable chunks (effectively splitting them in half).

But in order to set up and survive such sitations, you gotta min/max your tanks or else they'll die faster than Sean Bean in a Hollywood movie!

Apart from that, tanks also make competent armor thieves since they have high melee defense, and shields to further buff it. This means they're not worried about eating a Brigand Leader's warbrand to the face, like other, squishier characters might be. Having 2-3 tanks surround a high-value target (after you've killed off his entire posse), and then poke him to death is one of the safest ways of obtaining expensive armor during the early game.

The core picks speak for themselves. Someone might wonder why opt for 'Fortified Mind' if we're also fielding a Sergeant, but with the change to morale mechanics it's easier than ever to become overwhelmed by low morale (you can't always guarantee your Sergeant will be nearby, or have the fatigue to Rally). For tanks, this is disastrous, because even if they don't break, their defenses will take a huge penalty. Which means enemies will land hits more often, which means more fatigue generated, which means less chance to mount subsequent shieldwalls, which means taking even *more* hits (that can turn into wounds), and if things go really badly, suffering death.

Also, having high resolve guarantees your front line won't crumble in the face of geists (or at least not as easily). Don't neglect your tanks' resolve - it's one of their core stats! You absolutely need them to become immovable rocks, both physically and mentally!

As Gandalf said: "YOU! SHALL! NOT! PASS!"

Core Picks (7):
  • Colossus - since you should be aiming for 100 HP, a percent-based perk like Colossus synergizes quite well with that
  • Fortified Mind - aim for at least 65 Resolve with this perk... you absoutely can't allow your front line to waver, ever!
  • Shield Expert - the corest of core perks! (not only does it buff your defenses, it also makes your shields much tougher to crack!)
  • Brawny - tanks are very limited by their heavy plate and low-ish Fatigue (unless you have a 3-star Wildman), which Brawny helps with
  • Rotation - get this ASAP (it'll save your men countless times, and can be used defensively to save the tank himself, not just others)
  • Underdog - you absolutely need this, since your goal is to tie up as many enemies with as few of your own tanks... an essential pick
  • Battle Forged - another essential pick, despite its nerf... this also renders enemy archers impotent (worry only about arbalesters)
Luxury Perks (3):
  • Fast Adaptation - nice to have, but not essential; comes in handy if your tank can't hit the broad side of a barn (low melee attack)
  • Nine Lives - another luxury perk that can save your♥♥♥♥♥.. but then again, if you ever find yourself needing it, you're in deep doodoo
  • Bags & Belts - some people swear by it, but I found it so-so... useful for carrying nets, or multiple weapon sets for fast switching
  • Quick Hands - good if you give your tank the previous perk, and then outfit him with every weapon type (the Swiss army knife approach)
  • Hold Out - nice, but you have high resolve, and your huge health serves as a buffer against injuries (which Colossus further augments)
  • Steel Brow - good early, but come late-game your tank will have a load of other protections (high HP, plate, kite shield, ranged def)
  • Backstabber - another semi-useful pick that matters more early (when all your dudes suck) than late when you have zweihander allies
  • Weapon Mastery - feel free to ignore if your tank has abysmal melee attack, but definitely take if he's an axe dude (shield wrecker)
  • Recover - for those long, drawn-out fights vs. Undead... mostly an issue for axe tanks, since they have to crack open enemy shields
Not Advisable:
  • Anticipation - archers will mostly ignore a tank, and arrows plink off plate anyway (only bolts are a problem, and then only sometimes)
  • Taunt - might seem good, but the enemy frontline should be tied up by your own, and their 2nd row ignores Taunt... situational, at best
  • Footwork - would be nice to have, but Rotation is much better... also, if you need to move, use Shieldwall (+def) and just walk away! :D
  • Indomitable - terribly situational... outside Orc charges, not really recommended (and even then, they'll go for your non-tanks anyway)
  • Student - you need so many core perks ASAP, there's r
Archetype - Wreckers
Classification: Plated Two-Hander Crew
Recommended Amount: 4+
Primary Stats: Melee Attack, Melee Defense, Fatigue
Secondary Stats: Health, Resolve, Ranged Defense
Role in Fights: obliteration, armor theft, boss slaying, AoE cleave mayhem, off-tanking, flanking (situational)
Item Loadout: heavy armor, heavy helmet, 2h weapon, dagger (for armor looting), bandages, orc mushrooms (use with care!)
Sub-Specs: man splitter (axes), head hunter (chains), orc murderer (hammers), AoE master (swords), undead LARPer (cleavers)
Strengths: can one-shot regular enemies later on (and seriously wound even elite ones)
Weaknesses: anything that hampers mobility, gobbo shamans' insect swarm (♥♥♥♥ that spell)
Ideal Trait(s): Athletic, Dexterous, Fearless, Impatient, Iron Lungs, Strong, Sure Footing, Tough

These are your killers. Your slayers. Your wreckers. Your two-handed-weapons wielders.

Outfit them in heavy armors with a good 'fatigue:protection' ratio (a la scale), and give them the best weapons. If you get lucky with Fatigue rolls, put them in 320 plate (or any suitably powerful unique version).

Their one and only job is to mow down enemies, and in ascending order of lethality (ie., kill the least dangerous foes first). I usually dispatch a powerful tank to tie up any elite enemies (swordmasters, bringand bosses, orc warlords), and use the wrecking crew to clean the field of trash mobs. This not only introduces morale failure in everything but undead, but it also allows you to minimize the amount of disastrous RNG rolls coming your way (less enemies = less incoming damage). Once the trash is dead, any critically wounded men are pulled back and the healthy dudes pile up on the elite(s). Mop-up ensues (as well as a good amount of daggering and armor theft)...

Owing to their heavy gear and high melee defense, the wreckers can offtank in a pinch, but they're much more useful simply killing things left and right. And when end-game rolls around, their melee attack will be so high they'll be able to attack shielded targets without any problem. Which is why I always pump their melee proficiency as high as possible - it's nice seeing 95% all the time... or at least most of it! :)

And there's something to be said about not having to waste fatigue and multiple turns cracking 72-durability orc shields.

In battles, you'll want to wait a bit for the enemy to crash into your tanks (or vice versa), and then move in with the wrecking crew. Try to set up AoE attacks that hit multiple enemies with one strike. You'll definitely need to make use of Recover after a few turns - the trick is knowing when to rest, and when to move (extremely situational and comes with practice).

Enemy archers can't touch you (thanks to Battle Forged and heavy plate), and even arbalesters are more of a nuisance than a true threat (Steel Brow, moderate ranged defense). These bros can also go toe-to-toe with enemy blademasters and come out miles ahead (due to having similar offensive potential, but vastly outclassing the enemy in the damage-soaking department). No more running away from Noble swordmasters like girly-men! Laugh as your 120-melee hammer-wielder crushes those puny nobles to pulp!

Humor aside, the wreckers' only real problem are snares like nets and vines, not because of the rooting effect (which can easily be broken), but because they force you to spend valuable Fatigue to escape - and Fatigue is the lifeblood of this build. The only upside is that you'll have 100% (or more) chance to break the snares, owing to the build's stupidly high melee attack stat (another reason to max it, instead of stopping at 80 or 90).

Another thing they're proficient at is stealing armor - their high attack scores and large fatigue pools allow them to reliably bring down a named NPC without destroying its valuable items (poke! poke! poke!), while their respectable survivability means they can take a few hits to the face when doing so.

All in all, build these guys for damage, but don't neglect their defense!

Core Picks (9):
  • Recover - fatigue generation is always an issue, especially since you'll put this guys in heavy armor... grab this ASAP
  • Steel Brow - headshots are an ever-present danger, and enemy crossbowmen a constant threat... you have no shield - get this
  • Brawny - heavy armor imparts a huge penalty to Fatigue, and this perk will help lighten the load (expect a 10-15 or so return)
  • Weapon Mastery - not much to say here, except that you should vary your picks; don't grab 'Sword' on everyone - mix it up a bit!
  • Underdog - your melee defense won't be the greatest, and you'll want to stop enemies from lowering it further; don't skip this!
  • Footwork - there are times you'll want to move your bro (for whatever reason) but lack the uber melee defense to just waltz away
  • Berserk - every time you make a kill, you get +4 AP... coupled with AoE attacks, this is what makes your DPS output so amazing!
  • Battle Forged - you want to make your shieldless battle bro immune to archer fire... death by a thousand cuts, and all that :(
  • Killing Frenzy - synergizes nicely with Berserk, and will give you a welcome damage boost for the next 2 turns - use it well!
Luxury Perks (1):
  • Colossus - you need a good amount of HP, and Colossus is a good choice, but only if you roll really high/low HP on levelups!
  • Nine Lives - another very situational perk that you can live without (but probably don't want to)... grab it for ease of mind
  • Pathfinder - this is more useful than it looks, especially on swamp and snow maps... but, also incredibly situational as well
  • Fortified Mind - you should aim for a moderate amount of Resolve, and Fortified Mind can help if the RNG gods give you grief
  • Hold Out - probably my 1st pick among all these... wounds will cripple your DPS bros (miss chance, -APs, -Fatigue, -damage)
  • Rotation - nice to have, but we picked Footwork instead... you *can* grab it for extra mobility, or to save wounded allies
  • Reach Advantage - another *very* strong choice, but *only* if RNG blessed you with good melee defense rolls! (otherwise skip)
  • Head Hunter - good for dudes with the 2H chain and one of the +headshot backgrounds... skip on anyone wielding a 2H greataxe!
  • Fearsome - deceptively good for 2H hammer-wielders (guaranteed HP damage)... still, there are other, stronger perks to choose
  • Overwhelm - this raises your allies' defenses in a roundabout way (-hit % for enemies)... but smart positioning does the same
  • Indomitable - useful for surviving surrounds (and rampaging orc young)... then again, positioning solves *both* those issues
Archetype - Wreckers (continued)
Not Advisable:
  • Fast Adaptation - semi-useful early game, and absolutely useless by late... besides, your DPS dudes will have 100+ melee attack
  • Crippling Strikes - sounds fun, but does nothing vs. Undead... also, there are so many other, better and stronger perks to pick
  • Adrenaline - if it gave +APs or an extra attack, then it'd be great, but bumping your turn order (and for 25 Fatigue!!) is trash
  • Student - another semi-useless pick that robs you of better things earlier on... get only if you want to level your dude(s) ASAP
  • Executioner - synergizes nicely with Crippling Strikes, but it's inadequate for all the same reasons... my advice is to skip it
  • Gifted - a valuable pick before we had Veteran levels... not so much nowadays... not the worst perk, but far from worth a point
  • Backstabber - trash on any dedicated DPS bro (like the one we're building here!)... it *does* make the early game easier though
  • Lone Wolf - looks promising on paper, but any bro who goes Lone-Wolfing on his own usually ends up dead, more often than not :(
Archetype - Duelists
Classification: One-Handed Weapon Wielders
Recommended Amount: 1-2
Primary Stats: Melee Attack, Melee Defense, Fatigue
Secondary Stats: Health, Ranged Defense, Resolve, Ranged Attack
Role in Fights: inflicting wounds, stacking bleeds, hunting elites, supporting the frontline /w thrown weapons, offtanking in a pinch
Item Loadout: light/heavy armor & helm, one-handed weapon, shield (inventory), net, arrows/bolts, bandages, orc mushrooms (not for Nimble builds!!)
Sub-Specs: demolisher (hammer), riposter (sword), boss-killer (cleaver), stunner (mace), head-basher (flail), shieldwrecker (axe), armor hunter (dagger)
Strengths: extremely fun to build and play, amazing single-target killing potential, devastating if used correctly
Weaknesses: excessive micromanagement, dependance on procs to achieve full damage, high need for unique gear
Ideal Trait(s): Bloodthirsty, Brute, Deathwish, Dexterous, Drunkard, Iron Jaw, Quick, Strong, Tough

The great thing about duelists is that you can build them one of two ways...

The first is the heavily-armored, plated merc with a unique orc weapon (axe, cleaver). These guys are very tanky, survivable, dangerous, and don't require much babysitting. You point them at a powerful enemy (elites like brigand bosses, orc warlords, noble knights, etc.), and watch the target crumble.

The second is the lightly-armored, dodgy Nimble duelist. You outfit these guys with light weapons (sword, dagger), and deploy them to the flanks where their evasive nature makes them shine. Their only downside is the fact they have light armor, and it's easy to lose them to a string of bad RNG if you're not careful and allow them to get fully surrounded.

Regardless of build, each duelist is a powerhouse. Whether you're hunting big game like orc warlords with your trusty cleaver, or tying down multiple weaker enemies with your riposting sword-saint, or bashing goblin heads with a flailmaster, a duelist's role is always the same - surgical excision. Always keep your eye on them, and switch to a shield (or backup buckler) if you find them getting into trouble.

Furthermore, unlike 2H wreckers who act like fire-and-forget nukes, you need to micro your duelists (well, more than other mercs, at least). They're best used if deployed exactly where they'll have the greatest impact, and really shine if you take the time to learn their strengths and weaknesses. Don't treat them like generic melee cannons - think of them more like fine-tuned scalpels.

Also, unlike most other archetypes I've listed, you really should plan their development from the ground up. The other builds in this guide can work with a variety of merc backgrounds, and this isn't an exception for duelists, but you'll get the most out of them if you min/max them fully and implement their unique traits into the build.

For example, Thieves, Killers on the Run, and Jesters make amazing flail duelists. Give them Head Hunter, heavy armor, a unique flail (which has added hit-chance for heads), and watch them one-shot raiders, orc young, gobbo skirmishers, and just about anything without a heavy helmet. Even undead take a beating from the sheer amount of head damage that such a merc can put out.

Swordmasters are, logically enough, the perfect pick for Riposte sword duelists. Outfit them in unique leather/padded armor + helm, give them Nimble, arm them with a powerful one-handed sword, put them on your company's flank, and watch them make mincemeat out of multiple enemies as they hold the line with impunity (just don't make the mistake of giving them Lone Wolf and expecting them to Hattori Hanzo 10 enemies!).

Wildmen are amazing axe-carriers and cleaver-wielders, due to their huge fatigue and health. Patch up their defenses with some levelups (try to get a merc with at least 2 stars in melee def), give them a unique orc axe/cleaver, deck them out in the heaviest of armors, and sic them on a line of enemies as you watch heads fly.

Raiders -- owing to their impressively high melee and ranged attack scores, as well as defenses -- can be turned into lethal combatants that make use of both throwing and melee weapons. Find a unique version of each, give it to the raider, stick them in scale armor, get them the Quick Hands perk, and watch them carve through enemies like knives through butter, maiming foes from afar and finishing them up close.

There really is no 'cookie-cutter' way to build a duelist, as the relationship between backgrounds, traits, gear choices, and stats allows you to assemble anything you want, the only difference being how much use and efficiency you'll get out of the final product. Which is why there are some perks that 'make the most sense' for any given duelist build, and ignoring them may lead to sub-optimal performance.

Speaking of which...

Core Picks (7):
  • Crippling Strikes - one of the goals for this type of build is to inflict heavy injuries, so Crippling Strikes is perfect here
  • Executioner - we want to maximize our damage (since we're using one-handed weapons) and this perk is the perfect way to do that
  • Weapon Mastery - pick whatever suits your fancy... cleavers work well /w plated Duelists, while swords go nicely /w Nimble ones
  • Underdog - an essential pick, since we won't have our shield out all the time (or ever, if we're trying to maximize our Fatigue)
  • Footwork - we need at least 1 mobility perk to get out of trouble, and unlike Rotation, Footwork doesn't have any conditionals!
  • Battle Forged // Nimble - get the 1st on heavy armor units (cleaver mercs), and the 2nd on light (dagger mercs) - never both!
  • Duelist - the perk that gives the builds their name... also synergizes extremely well with thrown weapons (axes are amazing)
Archetype - Duelists (continued)
    Luxury Perks (3):
  • Colossus - depending on levelup RNG, you'll either get this to patch a horrible health score, or further pad an amazing one
  • Nine Lives - this is a core pick on Nimble duelists, so treat it as such... you simply can't afford to play dice with RNG
  • Pathfinder - useful, but far from essential... pick it up if you're planning to spend lots of time getting into position
  • Adrenaline - a *very* powerful pick for plated mercs with low Initiative... the less of it you have, the better this choice!
  • Recover - can be considered a semi-core on plated Duelists (they tend to run out of steam quickly), especially with Berserk
  • Fortified Mind - aim for ~60 Resolve after Fortified Mind - it's the minimum to guarantee at least some safety from geists
  • Hold Out - my 1st pick among all these, unless I'm running a 125-HP Colossus Wildman with heavy armor and a unique orc cleaver
  • Steel Brow - core pick on Nimble duelists... not so much on armored ones (though it's still worth a pick, even on plated units)
  • Quick Hands - nice if you want to attack twice, and then switch to a shield for downtime... not essential, but not bad either
  • Brawny - core pick on heavily armored duelists, who usually run around with flails or cleavers... useful even on Nimble builds
  • Head Hunter - core pick on flail builds (especially when combined with Thief, Jester, or Killer on the Run merc backgrounds!)
  • Weapon Mastery (Thrown) - this can be a great addition if you hire a talented Raider with 2 or even 3 stars in Ranged Attack
  • Berserk - could be considered core, but duelists lack the AoE of 2H weapons; it's not always easy landing the killing blow
  • Killing Frenzy - same as above (they're still good picks, just not as all-encompassing as they are on 2H weapon wielders)
    Not Advisable:
  • Fast Adaptation - aim for 95+ in melee attack by late game... sure, early it can be rough, but you save yourself a perk point
  • Bullseye - not worth a perk point... unless you're going for some gimmicky missile build that plans to ignore melee weapons
  • Backstabber - this would be useful if we didn't have Veteran levels, and were capped at level 11... but we do, and are not
  • Rotation - amazing ability on its own, and is here only because we've already picked up the much less demanding Footwork!
  • Lone Wolf - experience has shown me that even Nimble swordmasters tend to die if sent out on their own to proc Lone Wolf
  • Fearsome - I dislike this simply because large amounts of damage achieves the same effect, and without spending a point
Archetype - Spearmen
Classification: Anti-Flankers
Recommended Amount: exactly 2
Primary Stats: Melee Attack, Melee Defense, Resolve
Secondary Stats: Health, Fatigue, Ranged Defense
Role in Fights: anti-flanking, offtanking, rallying, spearwalling, geist hunting, rotations & bandaging
Item Loadout: heavy armor & helmet, spear, shield(s), dagger, backup buckler, bandages, nets, bolts/arrows
Sub-Specs: only 1 - dedicated anti-flanker (spears)
Strengths: tying up multiple enemies, keeping your backline safe, trolling the AI via spearwall
Weaknesses: axe-wielding orcs that destroy shields, heavily armored enemies, stun attacks, maces
Ideal Trait(s): Brave, Determined, Dexterous, Fearless, Sure Footing, Tiny, Tough

Resolve is important for all tanks (as previously explained), but it's absolutely essential for spearmen.

Their primary role is to protect your flanks, which means they sometimes have to break formation and sooner or later end up surrounded. It isn't uncommon to end up with 5 orcs around you during crises or city battles. Hence, you need to get that Resolve as high as possible.

Also, spearmen make for excellent geist hunters (a tip kindly offered by Muscarine!). Ergo, another reason for that high Resolve score.

Unlike 'regular' tanks, these guys also need to invest into melee attack, to help keep enemies at bay via the spearwall. There are perks which help with this (Fast Adaptation being one), but that doesn't mean you can skimp on raising the stat while leveling. Keep it as high as the RNG gods permit!

Apart from that, spearmen are your regular frontline troop. You'll want to position them on the flanks, and sometimes that means sticking them in the 2nd row, which is fine as well - it all depends on your party's composition and the type/number of bros you're fielding.

An added benefit of a high Resolve score allows these guys to serve as mini-Sergeants, and they can Rally your company while the Sergeant is indisposed or off the field of battle.

You'll want to fill their bags with nets and bandages, using the former to tie down enemies who manage to get around the spearman, and the latter to patch up any bleeding bros that need immediate aid. The Pathfinder perk helps when you need to traverse a lot of rough terrain.

To sum things up, a good spearman is worth his weight in gold, so try to find talented recruits to fill permanent positions.

You only ever need 2 of these guys, so make them count.

[Note: Thanks to Muscarine for pointing out some of the strengths of this build to me!]
    Core Picks (8):
  • Fortified Mind - being surrounded by 4-5 enemies is never fun, and you'll need all the Resolve you can get... also, for +Rally %
  • Shield Expert - not a lot to be said here that already hasn't been... expect to have your primary shield shredded, so carry spares
  • Brawny - this build needs a lot of fatigue to keep up spearwall and shieldwall when things get ugly, so Brawny is an essential pick
  • Rotation - since we're gonna be tanking mostly 24/7, we'll need to use Rotation sooner or later (either offensively, or defensively)
  • Rally - don't spam this unless you absolutely need it since this build is already fatigue-hungry; use when multiple bros are wavering
  • Spear Mastery - the axis of the entire build; getting mastery in spears allows us to keep the spearwall active even *after* a breach
  • Underdog - your defense is your lifeblood, and since you'll have multiple opponents around you we need to make sure it won't falter
  • Battle Forged - as always, this helps immensely with enemy archers, as well as lowering the amount of melee damage coming your way
    Luxury Perks (2):
  • Fast Adaptation - can be useful is you're missing attacks even with the +20% hit-chance of spears... a nice perk, but not mandatory
  • Bags & Belts - grab this if you're gonna turn your spearman into a field medic... if you do, fill his bags with bandages and nets
  • Pathfinder - meshes nicely with the above perk, since you can run up/down hills at no penalty to get to and save a bleeding ally
  • Colossus - more health is always good, especially if the character will find himself imperiled... as this one inevitably will
  • Nine Lives - works extremely well with high defense ratings, since a subsequent attack isn't guaranteed to hit (and kill) you
  • Steel Brow - ignore this if you manage to roll high on ranged defense, or if you aren't intimidated by greataxe-wielding orcs
  • Quick Hands - goes together with Bags & Belts, especially if you want to immobilize passing enemies by rooting them in nets
  • Taunt - a decent pick, but by no means essential... the spearman's positioning practically guarantees he'll tank 3-5 enemies
  • Footwork - useful to pick up if you feel you absolutely *must* have a ton of mobility... personally, I make do with Rotation
  • Indomitable - orc young are troublesome because if one stuns you, they'll all swarm in... alternatively, get the Orc Trophy
    Not Advisable:
  • Hold Out - tanks aren't as gimped by wounds as damage-dealers... Hold Out isn't bad, but there's a lot of other stuff to choose
  • Backstabber - I personally don't use my spearmen to inflict damage (except passively via spearwall), so I can't justify this pick
  • Anticipation - seems like this should be a staple of tank builds, but you gotta remember that most missiles don't get past shields
  • Lone Wolf - picking this perk makes people feel like they have to make use of it, which leads to dead bros... don't be that guy
  • Head Hunter - often procs just as you're about to finish an enemy whose body armor is wrecked... and then you hit his helmet!!
Archetype - Lancers
Classification: 2-tile Melee Infielders
Recommended Amount: 2-3
Primary Stats: Melee Attack, Ranged Attack, Initiative, Resolve (only if Sergeant /w Banner!)
Secondary Stats: Health, Fatigue, Resolve (if the bro is *not* a Sergeant, and uses regular weapons!)
Role in Fights: shield stripping, armor breaking, displacement (repel/hook), netting, situational anti-flanking
Item Loadout: medium/heavy armor & helmet, 2-tile weapon, heavy crossbow, bandages, multiple nets (at least 2)
Sub-Specs: shield splitter (axes), armor destroyer (billhooks), eye gouger (pikes), THE REAPER!! (warscythes)
Strengths: excellent vs. soft but numerous enemies (weidegangers, nezschers, orc young)
Weaknesses: nothing, if you play perfectly... lots of things, if you're not careful
Ideal Trait(s): Impatient, Dexterous, Strong

Most people overlook this archetype, but I find it invaluable.

A well played lancer can make your life so much easier, that it's not even funny.

This guy is your link between the front and back lines: he protects your squishy ranged units while providing fire support to the plated heavies upfront, first by peppering enemies with crossbow bolts and then by switching to a 2-tile weapon. He also finishes off whatever manages to flank around your sides, and is tasked with netting and killing Necrosavants, as well as immobilizing those annoyingly dodgy Swordmasters.

When deploying this bro, make sure to do it in pairs - it's either 2, or 0. For best results, give each at least 2 nets.This is because their utility synergizes, and each lancer makes the other one even more potent (their mobility perks allow 'hop-skipping'). It's also to physically box in your archers, and deny enemies access to adjacent tiles (it's impossible to cover *all* angles, but between lancers and tanks, most approaches are blocked off).

I usually place each lancer right next to a dedicated spearman who guards the group's flanks. This maximizes the amount of tiles the lancer can attack, while also keeping him within 1 tile of the squishy ranged character next to him (whom he protects).

You don't need a huge amount of melee attack on these guys since they're more of a utility unit than true damage-dealers; their job is to shred shields and armor so the true DPS (whether melee or ranged) can murder the enemy. For this reason, the extra points you'd sink into melee attack go instead into ranged attack. Aim for 65 on each. This archetype isn't uber with either, but competent in both. What it *does* excell at, however, is making the enemy *think* it's easy prey (due to its absolute lack of shielding, and low defense scores).

"But why would you leave them exposed?", you ask. "Wouldn't it be better to give them *some* defense at levelups? Maybe even a shield?"

No. The point is to *trick* the AI into attacking them!

The AI looooooooves going after low-def bros; they're like a magnet for arbalesters and other assorted scum (like Necrosavants!).

"But it'll get them killed!"

That's the beauty of it - they don't die... if you play them right!

First of all, they start out in the backline, which means enemy ranged units have a low(ish) chance of hitting them. Second, they have a slew of defensive perks that help them survive and get out of sticky situations. And third, they're outfitted in medium-heavy armor which reduces the damage they *do* take (neither crossbows nor 2-tile weapons require a large fatigue pool, which means you can spend most of it on wearing the heavier armors once late game rolls around).

And if anyone wants to catch them in melee, there's a whole line of plated bros to go through first!

The AI doesn't *always* prioritize lancers, but it will gladly choose them over another frontliner who invested in defense - which is the entire point.

These guys are bait. They're well-armored, net-throwing, shield-cracking, armor-shredding bait. And they can lay down a serious beating when the situation calls for it (thanks to the Backstabber perk!). And when they *do* get cornered -- or need to escape after having offtanked for a round or two -- they Footwork away!

Or they can Rotate a tank into their place (hilarious to do), or even save a dying bro by Rotating in and taking the heat for a while.

They're your utility infielders, proudly doing what needs to be done to set up kills and rescue dying allies!

Which is why they're incredibly rewarding to play, and probably my 2nd favorite unit (right after flail duelists).The tricky part is getting their Initiative high enough so they always sequence first (or close to it); you want them to move *before* your damage-dealing units, because you need shields stripped and armor cracked and nets thrown out so your wrecking crew can lay down the *real* pain! The 'Impatient' perk is a godsend for these guys. Since most won't have it, you'll need to find a balance between heavy armor and Initiative levelups in order to keep them at the head of the attack queue, so they can shred a shield or net a particularly troublesome enemy.

And on the topic of nets - buy them, use them, love them! They're an incredibly potent item, and you need 3 apiece on each melee backliner. Not only do nets stop Necrosavants from porting around, they reduce an enemy's defense values, allowing other bros to easily land attacks.

Nets are also dirt-cheap, readily available in fishing towns/villages, and can help you control the movement of dangerous/elite enemies. But don't spam nets on auto-fire like a machine gun - use them strategically to root pesky flankers or immobilize dodgy elites!

Finally, note that Wildmen make excellent lancers due to their high Fatigue (heavy armor), high HP (more = better), and negative defense stats (to better bait the AI!). Just remember to level their Resolve a bit, as needed.

You can also swap crossbows for throwing axes, as personal prefence and enemy composition dictates.
    Core Picks (8):
  • Bags & Belts - this is the perk that 'makes' the build - you'll use the extra space to store 1 crossbow and 2-3 nets
  • Steel Brow - with no ranged defense at all, you *will* get hit, sooner or later - this (along with armor) minimizes the threat
  • Quick Hands - another absolutely essential perk: use it to swap your gear (meele, ranged, nets) as the current situation dictates
  • Backstabber - essential for billmen and scythers who have to land hits; still good (but not as useful) for shield-wrecking axe bros
  • Rotation - use it to rotate into place of heavily damage bros for some offtanking, or to save your own skin by rotating out and away
  • Weapon Mastery - you'll need the appropriate mastery for whatever weapon... this is especially important for axe bros (Split Shield)
  • Footwork - for all those times when you bite off more than you can chew, or the AI tricks you and somehow manages to pin you down
  • Battle Forged - an essential pick that will render enemy archers impotent, and also somewhat help with absorbing melee damage
Archetype - Lancers (continued)
    Luxury Perks (2):
  • Fast Adaptation - it's nice to have, but by no means essential... pick it up if leveling RNG fails, or you're using a scythe
  • Colossus - armor is the only thing standing between this bro and death, so a bit of extra health can sometimes go a long way
  • Adrenaline - this is a core pick if you end up with crappy Initiative (which you shouldn't)... if you do, definitely get this
  • Pathfinder - you shouldn't be doing a lot of moving, but sometimes you gotta if you wanna save an ally... situational choice
  • Fortified Mind - useful to patch a low Resolve score, but backliners don't need more than 50 anyway, which isn't hard to get
  • Brawny - you either take or pass on this, depending how your Fatigue levelups go... keep in mind you need ~65 after armor!
  • Taunt - another useful tool to mess with Necrosavants, and keep them occupied... and the trolling soundbyte is hilarious! :D
  • Overwhelm - if the bro has an abysmal melee attack -- and you don't care -- then get a warscythe and use it as a debuff stick
  • Fearsome - another perk that synergizes with a scythe, but you need a *respectable* melee attack score to land reliable hits
  • Indomitable - good if you're planning to offtank, but remember you already have Footwork and Rotation to get out of trouble

    Not Advisable:
  • Crippling Strikes - semi-useful at best, it requires Executioner to really make it worthwhile... no room for it in this build
  • Executioner - see above... comes in a 'package' with Crippling Strikes, and you simply can't spare 2 perk points on this stuff
  • Nine Lives - this perk is strongest when def. stats are high - this build has none, so Nine Lives won't help much (it at all)
  • Dodge - a pity we can't use the super-high Initiative to help with survivability (counter-productive if we're baiting the AI)
  • Recover - useful for Berserker procs and AoE spam, or one-handed-axe shield stripping... this build has none of those things
  • Bullseye - core on dedicated ranged builds, which this one isn't... skip, and use crossbows for just 1 or 2 opening salvos
Archetype - Marksmen
Classification: Longbowmen, Crossbowmen
Recommended Amount: 4-6
Primary Stats: Ranged Attack, Ranged Defense, Initiative
Secondary Stats: Fatigue, Melee Defense, Health
Role in Fights: sniping, arbalester kiling, establishing ranged superiority, necromancer hunting
Item Loadout: light/medium armor & helm, warbow/xbow, longaxe, net, arrows/bolts, falcon
Sub-Specs: counter-ranged (warbows), plate killers (xbows)
Strengths: moderate/long range, respectable damage, high survivability (if played correctly), range debuffing (Overwhelm)
Weaknesses: enemy melee, Necrosavants, height disadvantages, goblin shamans, narrow gear choice, relatively useless before level 8
Ideal Trait(s): Athletic, Eagle Eyes, Iron Lungs, Quick, Tiny

A powerful ranged backline is a thing of beauty... and indiscriminate death.

Your ranged characters come in two flavors: the mighty xbowman (whose duty it is to punch through plated offensive units), and the lithe longbowman (who's primarily tasked with counter-sniping and debuff distribution). I like to outfit the former in medium armor for added protection, and the latter in light since they need more Fatigue than xbow wielders (and can't afford to lose range due to -vision helmets).

Keep in mind that xbows have a range of 6 tiles, unlike longbows that reach 8 with Weapon Mastery. This means your longbowmen are severely limited by what they can equip in the helmet slot (unless they come with the Eagle-Eyed trait).

It also means that stat distribution is a bit different between the 2 sub-types. Namely, your longbowmen need more Fatigue and Initiative and Ranged Skill (since they'll shoot more often, have to do it sooner to land Overwhelm, have less armor and so rely on Dodge, and need more hit-chance to reliably land arrows at extreme distances), while your xbowmen need more Health and Melee Defense, and not as much Ranged Skill (since their range is lower, they'll have to get closer to the enemy, their crossbows have bonus to-hit %, and they can survive a hit or two in melee due to their heavier armor -- meaning that each point of Melee Defense goes *much* further than on a unit with light armor). Both, however, need Ranged Skill, Ranged Defense, and at least 50 Resolve (less, if you're feeling confident about your positioning).

On the topic of melee defense, you could raise it for your longbowmen as well, but I find that it's a waste of points (and warbow builds are point-hungry as is). The reason is that melee defense is a binary thing - either you're hit, or you're not; raising it on units with light armor like longbowmen means you get a false sense of security, even with Nimble present, since no amount of damage reduction will save you from orc weapons and necrosavant cleavers, especially when you can't afford to sink dozens of points into it like a Swordmaster would to reach relative safety. Better then to allocate points where they're more needed (and useful!) - to compensate, ensure good positioning and keep a watchful eye on your men.

I also build my marksmen exclusively for ranged combat.

"But why the longaxe, then?" you ask.

It's to destroy enemy shields once the lines meet and combat is joined.

Ideally you'd keep your marksmen firing at all times, but there are situations where you'll need their longaxes more than you need their ranged weapons. Examples are protracted fights against Weidegangers where you run out of ammo, or huge orc cities where, once you've sniped all the Young and Berserkers, you're left with 10 or so Warriors whose shields need chewing through. Ditto for Undead crisis fights that pit you against 15+ auxillaries with tower shields (not that you should be bringing ranged units into Undead fights, but whatever, sometimes it can't be helped).

Raiders with kite shields are also a good example where longaxes shine.

Apart from all that, the biggest benefit of fielding multiple veteran marksmen is that the enemy will charge you, instead of turtling like a little ♥♥♥♥♥ (as it often does). This not only makes battles a lot easier (since it's much simpler to defend than attack), it also gives you at least 2 turns of indiscriminate ranged superiority where your marksmen can kill or maim multiple enemies. That alone is reason enough to invest the time and care into cultivating a powerful stable of dedicated ranged mercs.

The exact number of them varies according to preference and spawn RNG, but I aim for 5.

Also, try not to hire sub-par recruits that will never turn into amazing veterans. The reason is that, unlike tanks (and even melee damage-dealers to a lesser extent), ranged mercs are largely useless and inaccurate for a very long time, and leveling one to the point where it becomes a worthy addition to the roster takes forever. You need to pour a lot of work and resources into each ranged unit (ie., babysit them), and you simply can't afford to waste time with sub-optimal recruits. So make sure to pick only the most talented individuals!

And once you find those rare gems, protect them to the best of your ability.

Which is why Nimble is such an amazing perk for long-range units like our marskmen. It serves as an added layer of protection that minimizes damage in those rare occassions when they actually get hit by enemy ranged fire. And that's about the only type of damage they should be taking - outside rare Necrosavant encounters, your backline should not find itself subject to melee harassment (if it does -- and often -- you're doing something wrong).

Furthermore, you have a choice between going for glass cannons outfitted with all-offense perks, or losing out on some DPS but gaining quite a bit of survivability in the process. I opt for the latter, because dead men do 0 damage. Each layer of defense that you drape over your merc (armor, Dodge, Anticipation, Nimble, ranged def) acts as a force multiplier toward all the others. Having 1 is good; having 2 is great; having 3+ is excellent, and RNGJesus would need to hate you with the fury of a burning sun for you to lose such a survivable ranged unit.

The perk suggestions reflect this - build for survivability.

And when things go south, Footwork is there to bail you out (as well as all those Rotations on other, nearby mercs). Try to keep your ranged units on the highground, to maximize their reach and accuracy. Likewise, be wary of orc warriors who'll throw you off ledges and into holes, regardless of the angle they're coming from. And snipe enemy ranged ASAP - once that's done, even the most overwhelming enemy force will stop turtling and charge forward... giving you enough time to pincushion them to death!

To put everything into perspective, here are 2 examples of late-game rangers (after armor):
  • Crossbowman: 75 HP, 70 Fatigue, 50 Resolve, 85 Initiative, 90 Ranged Skill, 30 Ranged Defense, 15 Melee Defense
  • Longbowman: 55 HP, 100 Fatigue, 50 Resolve, 110 Initiative, 105 Ranged Skill, 45 Ranged Defense, 0 Melee Defense
Outfit the crossbowman in Direwolf Mail Armor & Nasal Helmet (or Mail Coif, if vision is a problem). It's not only a great way to protect him, but also looks stylish as well! The longbowman you want in unique padded/leather armor and helm, the more powerful the better (you want to preserve as much Fatigue as possible - you'll need every single point of it when 'Berserk' starts proccing... and it will, often).

You can do even better, of course, given favorable RNG, talented recruits, and a bunch of Veteran levels. Also note the xbow dude needs ~50 points less to reach 'endgame' stats than the warbow guy (meaning you'll definitely want talented Hunters for the latter).
Archetype - Marksmen (continued)
    Core Picks (7):
  • Pathfinder - absolutely essential pick, both for positioning and scaling height levels... also lovely to have in forest fights
  • Bullseye - another core pick that could be discarded if you play perfectly, but it's just easier to take it for quality of life
  • Dodge - with easily 100 Initiative (+/- 15 points depending on loadout), this will give you a good deal of added, bonus survivability
  • Anticipation - your Ranged Defense should be at a respectable number, and you'll always be far from enemy archers, so that's 2x the synergy
  • Weapon Mastery - both Crossbows and Longbows gain very nice bonuses, so pick one depending on the loadout/build of each particular mercenary
  • Footwork - you simply can't do without this... I've tried, but combat is messy and you don't want to leave things to chance... take it ASAP
  • Nimble - doesn't matter if it's "just 45%" after armor, it's still useful... and don't keep your mercs naked to hit 90+, it's not worth it (skip if you outfit the xbow bro in plate)
  • Battle Forged - for a specific xbowman build that has terrible defenses and uses heavy plate to compensate (ranged tanking ftw!)

    Luxury Perks (3):
  • Crippling Strikes - can be very useful on ranged mercs, since you shouldn't be taking them into Undead fights anyway (usually)
  • Colossus - pick it up to repair an abysmal health pool on an otherwise amazing merc, or nab it when you hit 60HP on your xbowman
  • Nine Lives - very nice to have in almost any situation, but you really can do without it with careful play... pick/ignore at will
  • Bags & Belts - it's nice to get +2 extra slots to store ammo, but rare are the fights where you'll burn through 20 bolts/arrows (useful for nets, though)
  • Recover - core pick on warbow mercs (especially if you skill Berserk, which you definitely should), not so much for xbow dudes
  • Executioner - works well with Crippling Strikes, and can give you an added edge against fleshy enemies like humans and greenskins
  • Fortified Mind - you should be able to hit ~50 Resolve without too much trouble, so pick this if RNG shows you the middle finger
  • Steel Brow - can be a life-saver early on, but later you'll have a ton of Ranged Def (+Anticipation)... regardless, worth a pick
  • Brawny - for those rare occassions when your warbow merc comes with Eagle-Eye, and you decide to deck him out in heavier gear
  • Weapon Mastery (Axe) - bait human enemies into melee, then switch to Longaxes for shield demolition... situational, but fun!
  • Overwhelm - mostly for longbowmen, since they can attack 3x in a turn (if Berserk procs)... not so useful on crossbow dudes
  • Berserk - usually a core pick for longbowmen, but I've put it here since it isn't nearly as potent on crossbow-using mercs
  • Head Hunter - core pick for anyone with an xbow... not as much with longbows, since you don't want to hit a fresh helmet!
  • Killing Frenzy - get this if you pick Berserk... making 3 different kills in a single turn becomes a frequent occurrence

    Not Advisable:
  • Fast Adaptation - not bad early, but we're building for the late game (and our mercs will be mostly useless until level 8 anyway)
  • Adrenaline - you should have the Initiative to guarantee early sequencing... picking Adrenaline on a ranged merc is a huge waste
  • Hold Out - between all the ways you have of mitigating ranged threat, you shouldn't be getting hit... Footwork solves melee issues
  • Quick Hands - move around and get into position on those turns when you have to spend APs to swap ammo (useful for netting, though)
  • Backstabber - the longaxes in our inventory are there to strip shields, nothing else...
  • Rotation - change tactics if you're finding your ranged mercs dying to melee despite having Footwork to escape rough situations
  • Lone Wolf - looks promising, but that 15% isn't worth a point, especially since an exposed merc usually turns into a dead one!
  • Underdog - same as Rotation, you shouldn't be finding yourself in rough situations (except vs. Necrosavants)... use Footwork
  • Fearsome - unlike the player, enemies field a huge number of units, and losing a few to morale means nothing... skip this
Archetype - Martyrs
Classification: Disposable Heroes
Recommended Amount: 6+ early on (1-2 late)
Primary Stats: Health, Melee Defense, Ranged Defense
Secondary Stats: Resolve, Fatigue, Melee Attack (for spearwall)
Role in Fights: cannonfodder, saving more worthy mercs, blocking/engaging powerful enemies, dying on the flanks, delaying the foe's advance, holding choke points
Item Loadout: medium/heavy armor & helm, one-handed weapon (spear), shield, backup buckler, net, bandages, arrows/bolts
Sub-Specs: just 1 really (shield & any 1H non-unique weapon, usually a spear)
Strengths: infinite supply, cheap, outfitted in salvaged (crappy) gear, death is expected
Weaknesses: soaks up XP that could've gone to a better merc, morale hit on others upon dying
Ideal Trait(s): Brave, Bright, Deathwish, Determined, Fat, Sure Footing, Survivor, Tiny, Tough

Martyrs are probably the central axis of this entire guide.

They're the Beggars, Rat Catchers, Cripples, and Daytalers that are used to tank for -- and babysit! -- the star crew. And despite 'stealing XP' from your other mercs, their sheer availability and the disposable nature of their role makes their inclusion into the roster a wise decision. In short, the gains outweigh the losses (XP-wise).

You basically need a revolving door of cheap recruits who'll hold the line and keep the heat off your more worthwhile mercs, while the latter are leveling and acquiring better gear. Once you manage to hit level 7-8 on your core team (ie., the guys that you're fattening up), then the martyrs become less important (though they still have a place, even in mid/late parties). Until then, they're a staple of the company.

Early on, after I've got some gold saved up, I'll hire 5-10 of these guys and outfit them in any leftover gear I have in the stash. They usually end up wearing stuff I would've sold, and are a great way to put to use all those kite/heater shields you'll acquire while running bandit contracts (not to
mention the mountains of mid-game armor as well). Once so outfitted, they're positioned on the flanks and toward the sides (the middle of the formation is reserved for mercs I'm planning to keep). Basically, think of them like disposable spearmen.

As the battle starts, martyrs are sent to intercept any exceedingly dangerous foes (or to keep the flanks from crumbling, in which case they end up tanking 3-5 enemies depending on battlefield RNG and height levels). Their spears allow them to keep some hostiles at bay, thus prolonging their own lives - and keeping pressure off the rest of your crew.

For added lulz, play Metallica's "Disposable Heroes" as you march into battle with 4+ cannonfodder mercs! :D

After mid-game rolls around, they 'graduate' to medium/heavy armor, depending on what's available (those fatigue-heavy and inefficient Fallen Hero and Ancient Undead armors are pretty much tailor-made for martyrs to wear, since they would've been sold anyway). Undead tower shields are also a perfect item for the disposable mercs, since they're easy to come by and offer great buffs. Most martyrs won't survive for more than a few levels, but those that do are given better gear... at least in comparison to their freshly-recruited brethren (who are hired to plug holes in the battle line).

You might be tempted to 'upgrade' a high-level martyr into another, more permanent role. I've had this happen, because I'm a sentimental sap! ^^

Regardless, remember that the one and only goal of this archetype is to die... eventually. This doesn't mean you should throw them away, because that costs gold in general and morale in particular. Don't sell them cheaply! You want them to hold out for multiple turns, so your star crew can clean the field and come out with more resources than you've spent going in (ie., even if you lose a martyr or two, the payout should be worth it, either in XP or gear... ideally both).

Come late-game, I still keep a few of them around, if only for those crisis missions where I'm expecting to go against an overwhelming number of dangerous enemies. No matter how uber your veterans -- and how powerful their gear -- RNG can always screw you over, so having a disposable merc to rescue valuable veterans (and take their place in the killing line) is something you'll definitely want. I can't count the numbr of times a level 5 martyr held off multiple Undead auxilliaries and lancers, while the rest of the company wrapped around the Undead and demolished them.

You'll usually be swimming in cash after day 100 (at least you should be, if you play carefully and minimize risks), so outfitting even a fresh martyr in full plate and sending him alongside veterans to raze an orc city shouldn't be out of the questions. It might seem wasteful, because he'll probably get shreddded (and his plate destroyed), but the 3-4 turns he buys with his sacrifice means the company has to contend with 5-6 less orcs, at least 2 of them warriors (or maybe even a warlord). Ditto for goblin and undead battles.

My point is, don't skimp on resources - everything is expendable, except your prized veterans. They're the *true* treasure! And no amount of gold or items can take the place of a perfectly min/maxxed level 20 veteran who dies due to bad RNG or positioning.

It's for this reason that you should also prioritize mobility perks on your martyrs (after they've got their core defensive ones, and *if* they survive long enough to get to that point). You want them acting not only as damage sponges and missile magnets, but also rescuing superior mercs if the latter get in trouble. I've had situations where I've sacrificed up to 3 martyrs to pull out a badly-damaged and heavily wounded 2H veteran, and believe me, it's worth it!

The martyrs' perk choice is all about survivability, and thus prolonged usefulness.

Don't expect these guys to do much damage, and don't build them for it!
    Core Picks (8):
  • Colossus - probably the most useful perk you can get for any martyr merc, especially if they have respectable HP to begin with!
  • Nine Lives - another core perk that will, in conjunction with moderate defense values, increase the life expectancy of a martyr
  • Steel Brow - not as essential as the previous two, but I've found it works wonders during the early game where you lack armor
  • Gifted - get this the moment it opens up... you want as many levels (and stats) as soon as possible; absolutely essential pick!
  • Shield Expert - another essential pick, more for the increase to shield durability than for the defensive bonuses it also gives
  • Rotation - your primary tool for getting prized allies out of life-threatening situations... learn it, love it, and use it often
  • Underdog - the martyr will get surrounded, and then murdered in a single turn unless he can keep his Melee Defense from decreasing
  • Battle Forged - few martyrs make it this far, but if they do make sure to grab Battle Forged for them (and give them heavy armor)
Archetype - Martyrs (continued)
    Luxury Perks (2):
  • Pathfinder - quite useful, especially on mountainous or swampy maps where every single AP is worth its weight in gold
  • Adrenaline - can be incredibly useful to move first and save an ally that's about to die... it's also very situational
  • Fortified Mind - I'm on the fence about this one... its use can't be denied, but most martyrs come with terrible Resolve
  • Quick Hands - fun for shenanigans including nets, but your martyr will spend most of his time keeping up shieldwall anyway
  • Backstabber - unlike Fast Adaptation (that needs multiple turns to build!), Backstabber + Spears can be surprisingly good!
  • Brawny - skip if your martyr has enough Fatigue for shieldwall + rotation; pick if he's under 40 Fatigue after armor/gear
  • Taunt - you might want to get this, but only if you have the Fatigue to spare... personally, I make do with just Rotation
  • Footwork - another great mobility tool - one that's rendered less useful by good positioning and enemy movement awareness
  • Indomitable - few (if any) martyrs live long enough to unlock this... for those that do, it can offer even more survivability

    Not Advisable:
  • Fast Adaptation - takes too long to build, and even then you'll be carrying mostly spears (meaning damage will be low)
  • Crippling Strikes // Executioner - your martyr should only be attacking in critical situations when all else has failed
  • Bags & Belts - fun can be had with nets, but spending a precious perk point to unlock more slots isn't worthwhile here
  • Student - absolutely the *WORST* pick, since we want our short-lived martyr to get all the defensive perks, and ASAP!
  • Recover - you don't have the luxury of spending APs on anything except moving, shieldwalling, spearwalling, and Rotations
  • Bullseye - extremely gimmicky, since you should never be prioritizing Ranged Attack on any of your martyr-oriented mercs
  • Dodge // Anticipation - martyrs wear heavy armor, so their Initiative usually sucks... Anticipation simply isn't needed
  • Weapon Mastery - with few levelups in Melee Attack, you won't have the accuracy to hit/damage most stuff anyway!
  • Hold Out - wounds are relatively unimportant for true tanks, and that means they're even less of an issue for martyrs
Slice's Traits, Stats & Perks Charts
Formations vs. Undead
Zombies, Fallen Heroes, and Necromancers are your garden variety chumps that aren't difficult to defeat, nor do they require special tactics. As long as you keep a spearman or two to deal with the initial rush (and delay the zombie advance) while sniping the necro, you'll be fine.

Now, the Ancient Dead are a whole other matter, so we'll focus on them and their particular strengths/weaknesses. The thing to note is that their line phalanx is incredibly powerful simply because you can't break it through fatigue depletion or morale cascades (in addition to the unholy amount of accuracy the pikmen exhibit, even when attacking high-def tanks). This becomes a problem if you want to challenge them at their own game (line vs. line, backline vs. backline) by using greatsword cleave setups. It's possible to win that way, but you need talented bros with good gear and a decent amount of hit-chance.

Much better to make use of a specific formation, because you can win the engagement even if underleveled and/or undergeared. Mind you, there's still a certain threshold of gear/perks/stats you need to have to even attempt tackling 6 auxiliaries and 6 pikemen (at a minimum), but all other things being equal, you can usually come out ahead if you employ what I call the 'concave bait'.

The premise is simple: Ancient Dead are strongest when their tanks can tie down your front line, while their pikemen chew through your men's armor... and later, the health. It's very difficult to engage the pikemen on their own, because the auxiliaries will intercept you if you try to beeline toward their stabby friends.The pikemen themselves have a 2-tile range with their lances, so if any one of your damage-oriented bros (who usually lack shields) gets caught by 2-3 undead, he's pretty much a goner (unless he's a late-game veteran with uber gear, but we're talking about generic encounters, not super late game).

As such, the easiest way to 'bait' the undead is either by sending 2 disposable decoys to 'peel' away a few of them (while your formation tackles the rest of the undead head-on) or to wrap around them in a concave 'C' formation. I prefer the latter, simply because the odds of survival increase for the disposable martyrs among your team (not by much, but hey, we need all the help we can get!).

If you set up a concave, as shown above, the auxiliaries will move forward to fill the empty space. Their pikemen will follow, but the geometric distribution of the enemy units leaves their flanks and backside exposed. Not only that, but the enemy won't be able to focus your own melee damage-dealers, simply because of how the setup develops once the lines meet. This ensures you can line-cleave with greatswords without worrying about reprisal, since each of your shieldless men can't be targeted by more than 1 undead pikeman (in addition to a single shield-bearer). And to make things even better, your own wreckers can 'cross-pollinate' targets, so to speak, since by attacking in an 'X' pattern, they can hit a single enemy 3 times per turn (the top wrecker attacks angled downwards, the bottom one upwards, and the middle one straight). It's even better if you're using 2H hammers, since auxiliaries die even faster once you strip their shields, and 2 of your hammerbros can freely AoE-cleave without hitting a nearby ally (the only one who can't do this is the central wrecker, but you can give him a greatsword to compensate).

This specific setup obliterates the Ancient Dead.

You can also make use of natural choke points and nets (and you should!), but the tactics outlined above work even in worst-case scenarios when you're forced to fight the undead phalanx on empty maps lacking any sort of funnel points. Your martyrs will (probably) die, since they'll be face-tanking 3 enemies each (at which point your spearmen pick up the slack), but the rest of your crew should come out with nothing more than a light repair bill. Just make sure to bring longaxes to take down shields, and employ Rotation to swap out any spearmen who get too badly damaged. Also note that your lancers can offtank if needed, and will be able to Footwork away once the time comes. Your sergeant can toss out nets, and your xbowmen can chew through shields after they're done chipping away at armor. Bonus points if you manage to squeeze a turn of spearwall in there somewhere, before the lines meet (it messes up the undead formation even harder, making your victory that much easier).

Of course, other party compositions work as well, so experiment to find what works best for you. As long as you bait the undead into a concave battle, you'll (usually) come out ahead by a mile.
Formations vs. Orcs
A lot of people have trouble with orcs because they try to fight fire with fire, instead of adapting, and exploiting the particular weaknesses of the orcs' own tactics (their initial charge, being the primary one). The trick to beating the orcs is to use goblin tricks against them. Of course, you can always faceroll once you get level 20 veterans, but until then, cunning will serve you better than brute force!

The secret to dismantling orc formations is to prevent their initial charge from stunning your entire front line (while at the same time controlling their warriors and berserkers). Their young will slam into your men, and you'll lose the initial turn once the lines meet. This can be even worse if the young come equipped with clubs (and many of them do); in some cases, it's entirely possible for 1-2 of your main damage dealers to spend multiple turns stunned. And this is NOT how you want things to start off.

On top of that, once the warriors make their way to the fight (2-3 turns, on average), your formation will likely crumble, and your backline will be in complete disarray, because you will not have killed the young (due to them stunning so many of your damage-dealing bros). More damage will now come your way, and a single morale failure can trigger a cascade; it's not difficult to lose multiple men once heads start flying, which is bound to happen if you allow their berserkers to flank you. To prevent all that from happening, you have to aim to win the fight prior to deployment...

This is my go-to formation for orc fights. Remember what we said about orc young? How they looooove stunning your melee bros? The same melee bros that HAVE to be in melee to do any damage? And how orc warriors will make a mess of your backline, while their jerk berserkers creep in from the sides and wreck your face?

This formation solves all those issues.

The spearmen are your front line of defense, and they'll stall the advance, sometimes for as long as 3 turns. Any orc dumb enough to charge gets pushed back. Your tanks in the middle of the formation WILL get stunned, but that's their role - to tank stuff. Plus, they're survivable and defensive enough to shrug it off. Your wreckers (melee DPS bros) can attack with impunity, since no young can charge-stun them due to being zone-of-control blocked by tanks and spearmen. Your crossbowmen also have free over-shoulder shots to abuse (and are protected by all the surrounding allies). The lancers on the sides (right behind the spearmen) simply net-root anything that gets past/around them, and then hack it to pieces with their 2-tile weapons. And the Sarge can poke with his banner (when not spamming Rally or tossing out nets via Quick Hands).

Once you mop up the young, you can break formation and freely engage the netted warriors, surrounding them on all sides to trigger those juicy morale debuffs. Just make sure to kill any remaining berserkers ASAP, because those guys can wreck your day in a heartbeat.

Rotation/Footwork shenanigans are there to bail out dying bros.

I don't recommend using martyrs (disposable cannonfodder) during orc fights, because you need to keep your flanks iron-clad. You simply can't afford to have any of your men dying, not only due to the morale debuffs that causes (which, to be fair, a Sergeant and 2 spearmen can easily mitigate), but because it opens up your flanks to disruption - and with orcs, the one thing you need to avoid at all costs is their forced relocation trolling.

Also keep in mind that if you're going to use height to your advantage, you have to keep all 6 hexes around the merc full. If you fail to do that, an orc warrior WILL knock you off the ledge, and climb it himself (they frickin' LOVE doing this!). And there's nothing worse than an orc warrior on a heightened hex, since you can't knock him off it.

A final point I need to make is that you have potentially up to 10 nets at your disposal (4 carried by the Sarge, and 3 by each of the two lancers). Use them all. Don't skimp! Nets are ~50 crowns (give or take a few), and your men's lives are worth a helluva lot more! Burn through all your nets, because each orc warrior rooted, is one less iron mountain you have to contend with... at least for the current turn. Nets also lower an enemy's defenses, making him easier to hit, and force him to spend resources to get free.

So make them waste those action points and fatigue!

Play smart, play carefully, use Rotation/Footwork, net dangerous targets (warlords, warriors, zerkers), and you'll be steamrolling orcs in no time.

P.S. I don't recommend using Indomitable on your tanks because eating a single stun isn't that dangerous, especially since orc young don't do all that much damage on their own. It's much more important to keep fatigue as low as possible, to be able to spam shieldwall thorough the entire fight, especially once the surround sets in.
Formations vs. Raiders
These guys are the reason for 90% of the QQ threads here on the forum. Their melee absolutely demolishes unprepared parties, and their ranged will poke you full of holes until you look like Emmental cheese. Add to that the insane amount of Initiative they all have at their disposal, and you're looking at a whole world of pain just waiting to smack you in the face (doubly so because they're your go-to farming mobs for the majority of the game).

So what to do, and how to reliably win against them?

And without incurring debilitating repair costs in the process?

The trick to tackling raiders is S E P A R A T I O N. For the better part of the early game (while you're at your most vulnerable, and your bros at their most noobish), you simply can't afford to fight raiders 'fairly'. Going up against them face-to-face, as it were, will see your men getting decimated. The thing most people fail to realize is that raiders are usually level 6-7. On top of that, they have pretty good gear (when you have none) and won't hesitate to use it to spill your bros' brains.

You can abuse friendly parties on the world map to get a leg-up on raiders, or lure them into forests and fight them there, but for the purpose of this guide, we'll assume you're gonna be tackling them man-to-man (because sometimes you don't have a choice, either due to getting ambushed, or there being no nearby friendlies/terrain to make use of).

In order to reach parity with raiders (ie., the point at which you can reliably kill them without needing fancy tactics and 1337 skillz), your dudes need to be level 8. Yes, level 8! Because only at level 8 can your 12 guys take on 15+ raiders, and do so without praying to RNGesus to spare their miserable, greedy hides (this is purely anecdotal, but it's been my experience from 800+ hours of BB). Up until that point -- and a good amount of heavy armor -- you're basically food for raiders.

Which is why you have to stack the deck and fight dirty!

This is where cannonfodder martyrs absolutely shine...

I call this deployment the 'sideways wedge'.

You start the fight with your bros across the way from the raider crew. The game will always position both parties in a centered distribution, so you're evenly matched along the horizontal axis (the 'central half-line', in the picture above). This is good for you, because raiders usually outnumber your party, and this kind of placement sees more than 50% of their members being placed much further from the rest of their formation. In practice, this means that the raider crew is spread out vertically, usually in 2 rows (sometimes even just 1, which is the best-case scenario).

We exploit this by slamming into half of their force (either upper or lower), while entangling the other half (via zone-of-control lockdown through the use of 2 martyrs, further reinforced by a spearman and Sergeant). The point is to overwhelm half of them quickly, and kill them off, sacrificing 1-2 martyrs while doing so... and then shift to the other half, using weight of numbers and morale buffs to take the remaining enemies down.

Basically, it's a blitzkrieg type of strategy.

Your main goal, then, is to quickly shift two thirds of your team (8 men) to engage one half of the raider force. You do this by moving in an angled line either downward or upward (depending on which chunk of the raider force is easier to kill and has poorer armor and less shielding), while your martyrs go in the opposite direction and suicide-tank the remaining half of the raiders (ideally enemies with heavy shields that will spend their turns turtling). The Picasso a few paragraphs above represents a situation where the lower half of the raider team was 'weaker', so the bros moved down (while the martyrs went up).

What this does is essentially cleave the raider force into two identical halves, allowing you to kill the first very quickly, and then use your numerical superiority to crush the second one. It doesn't matter if it's day 25 and you're fighting 8 enemies, or day 100 and you face 30, because the principle is the same; divide, and conquer!

The key to this tactic is using the martyrs to hold out for 3 or so turns, and then having your spearman + Sergeant jump in and pick up the slack for the remaining 2 or so (it shouldn't take you more than 5-6 turns to murder 50% of the raider force, if you prioritize targets and use nets to debuff heavy raiders with kite shields, while using hand/long axes to strip the shields from normal ones).

The key here is kill hierarchy - you want to take out soft targets first.

Don't get into prolonged fights with turtling raiders. If they're behind a kite shield, net them to lower their defense, and stab them to death with pikes, swords, and spears (early game, destroying kite shields takes way to long). Have your wreckers flank from the sides, and set up line-cleave with warbrands (or greatswords, if you're lucky enough to get your hands on them early). Your crossbowmen (since longbowbros suck early) should position right behind your tanks, and attack from a minimal distance.

Basically, envelop the raiders, cut off their escape, lock them down in place, and dismember them piecemeal. While all that is happening, keep up shieldwalling with your 2 martyrs, and spearwalling with the 1 spearman (while the nearby Sergeant tosses out nets and further slows the enemy's advance from completely overwhelming the diversionary tanks). Also note that your Sergeant can and should use Rally (if he has access to it) to boost the morale of the wavering martyrs (which is bound to happen).

The only tricky part about this whole strategy is executing the approach vector, since you'll be picking up a hail of crossbow bolts when you try to close distance. Kite shields are invaluable here, and you'll want to advance under the cover of your tanks. Also, don't forget to put kite shields on your duelists/wreckers as well while they're advancing, unless they have a huge amount of ranged defense.

Finally, someone might say that this formation falls apart mid-game once you start going up against 15+ enemies, since the martyrs will die too quickly to be of any use. The counter to that is outfitting them in medium/heavy armor (don't forget that 'trash' gear on day 50 is uber gear on day 10). So as your enemies increase in numbers, so too does the amount of disposable equipment you'll have rotting in your inventory.
    Things to keep in mind:
  • both of your martyrs will die, but they've done their job if they live 3+ turns
  • your spearman and Sarge will die as well, if you don't kill quickly enough
  • nets counter shields (flails are far too heavy and inaccurate early game)
  • take good care of your lancer, since he'll have terrible defense scores
  • don't go chasing after enemy marksmen; kill their melee allies ASAP
  • your diversionary crew is there to tank, not to do any kind of damage
Another, completely different tactic is to try to out-shoot the raiders by bringing 6 or more ranged bros to the fight, but that only works later on in the game when you can actually survive the return fire (while being accurate enough to kill their ranged). It's a difficult battle to win, because the enemy only has to kill 1 of your bros to mess you up (economically), while you have to murder all of them to come out with a clean win.
Frequently Asked Questions
These are various posts & responses I've skimmed off the original thread, either questions & answers, or debates that I've found informative.

Why don't you take Student on all your mercs? It allows you to be ready for late-game 20% faster!

Leveling faster and having 1 level of extra stats doesn't even come close to compensating for the loss of a single perk. You're looking at a mostly +3 or +4 to melee/ranged def and melee/ranged attack (and maybe some fatigue). That's not even +5% hit/def rate. Not to mention your archers will be beyond useless for an additional level (they reach parity at around level 8, at the earliest).

Student is amazing for powerleveling late-game superstar bros who you get beyond day 100 and want to pump up ASAP (Training Hall works immensely well here). But for the remainder of the game -- ie, 95% of it -- it's a terrible pick. Get it if you want (we all have our fav perks), but its choice can't be justified if your main goal is unit cohesion and utilitarian force multipliers (ie., each tank that gets Battle Forged earlier means the dude can hold the flank longer... each Flailmaster who's given Head Hunter earlier means more and faster kills, which translates into less damage coming your own way).

Student is far from optimal, and is a niche pick for niche situations.

But if you enjoy it, more power to you! :)

Only a handful of perks are 'vital', you can easily do without something like steel brow for a few levels and still have it ready for arbalesters late game. I'm also confused as to why student is bad for archers; deadeye and bow specialty are the only 2 parks that they really need in the early/mid game so you will have plenty of 'spare' perk points to play with and you will get frenzy a lot sooner which will also give you a reason to get quick hands.

Basically only a couple of perks are vital for a given build, you can easily skip on a 'nice to have' perk in order to get to lvl 11 a lot more quickly and then pick up the 'missed' perk.

You can get anything you like; there's no "wrong" way to play the game.

However, I want my defensive trifecta ASAP: Dodge, Anticipation, Nimble.

Student delays that, and reduces my ranged mercs' survivability.

I want them 95% safe from enemy ranged, not 80% or 75% or 60%.

Why don't you take Fast Adaptation on your archers?

Fast Adaptation is a poor choice on archers, since they're mostly useless until level 7-8, and will have 100+ ranged skill afterwards. As for obstacles blocking your shots, well, you have Pathfinder to scale cliffs and move around allies/enemies to set up the best attacks. Even if you end up with 35% hit-rate on that pesky necromancers who's hiding behind a Fallen Hero, picking a perk that needs 3-4 levels to build up enough resources to 'proc' means you're pretty much ♥♥♥♥ in the wind (not to mention that you should have cleared the board of trash mobs during those 3-4 turns, or least sent an evasive Duelist or tanky Spearman to poke the necro to death).

Fast Adaptation isn't completely useless, but neither can it be justified.

Archer builds are starved for perk points even at the best of times.

But if you enjoy picking it, who am I to tell you otherwise? :)

Is there a soft cap for melee/ranged defense?

The 'soft cap' on defense stats on tanks is about 55 for melee and 25 for ranged. Beyond that point, you run into a steep cliff where your return on investment -- point wise -- drops off sharply. Some find 55/25 excessive, but keep in mind gobbo nets and shaman roots will debuff that to a ridiculous amount, which means you need high stats to be able to survive skirmisher polearms after shieldwalling.

And strictly speaking, 45+ goblin cities are the only real threat a tank faces late-game, due to 10+ nets and 2-3 chaincasting shamans. Nothing else in the game can reliably bring down a dedicated plate tank (outside of a ridiculously unlucky string of RNG). Nimble builds are another matter altogether, but for plate-wearers (Battle Forged, Steel Brow), there's little that presents a problem (geists are an exception, of course).

After 55/25, there's not only a drop in efficiency, but you do yourself a disservice since gobbo debuffs work on percentages, and the more you have, the more they'll debuff you. So it's in your tank's interest not to go TOO high with base def stats.

Furthermore, once you hit veterancy levels -- and obtain at least 40/20 on melee/ranged def -- work on hitting ~75 on melee attack. With it -- and Backstabber or Fast Adaptation -- your tank becomes a formidable frontline unit that can actually contribute to late game battles by doing a respectable amount of damage to non-shielded enemies.

Also note that you can shoot for 35/10 melee/ranged def if you're confident, and don't plan to fight too many gobbos (outside of greenskin crisis battles, which usually spawn with ambushers and wolf riders).

55/25 is only required if you're planning to tackle gobbo cities. You don't *need* such a high score, but I've found it minimizes the danger to a large degree. It's also nice being almost immune to orcs, even when they wreck both of your tank's shields! :)

What are some baseline qualities to look for a level 1 bro? Talent points? Solid base stats? Good backgrounds? Is a Daytaler worthy of building up or will they always be hamstrung by their background?

My advice is to mentally separate your men into 3 tiers: Tier 1 is the disposable trash tier (ie., Martyrs). Tier 2 are semi-servicable bros that you don't want to throw away, but won't mind sacrificing to save a more worthy merc. They should also make the bulk of your crew during mid-game (day 100-200), and are there to reliably farm gold so you can prepare for the late game. Tier 3 are the superstars (Swordmasters with 2-3 stars in melee attack and melee def, Hedge Knights with 1-2 stars in melee attack and 1-2 stars in melee def and 2-3 stars in fatigue, Hunters with 2-3 stars in ranged attack and 2 stars in ranged def and 1-2 stars in fatigue, etc.). Tier 3 dudes are those who you babysit, and won't hesitate to sacrifice multiple lesser bros to save if things go bad in battles.

As for stats and stars and traits and backgrounds, you gotta be flexible. If you have money to burn, always hire all the mercs in any city that cost less than 300 gold. You'd be surprised how many times you'll run into a Tier 3 battle bro.

Also, when you find a gem that's worth polishing, build the bro -- and outfit him -- according to his talents. You find a thief with amazing melee attack and fatigue, but terrible melee def? Turn him into a plated 1H duelist armed with a unique flail.

Or you stumble upon a wildman with negative def scores, but 3 stars in HP and 2 stars in melee attack? That's your future lancer, outfitted in scale and wielding a warscythe. Watch him reap heads and laugh off crossbow bolts after you give him Steel Brow and Colossus.

Be flexible, and build your team around each individual bro by patching up their weaknesses (either through levelups or perks) and fortifying their strengths. The game is amazing because there's no 'wrong' way to play it... as long as you're having fun! :)
Frequently Asked Questions (continued)
How do you reliably kill goblin shamans?

There's no easy way. Goblins are usually more trouble than they're worth.

If you're looking for a safe win, you need to outlevel and outgear them by a massive margin.

But having a group of 4-6 high level archers with a lot of ranged defense sure helps.

You said you don't have a cap for melee defense on Nimble Duelists. Can you elaborate?
I never stop increasing melee defense for Duelists because they're 3 hits away from death at all times. For tanks, there's a cliff at 55/25 after which efficiency takes a nose dive (read my explanation above as to why).

Also, yes, don't try to turn a -4/-3 def wildman into a Nimble duelist. It's simply unworkable. There's no reason to adhere to rigid build orders. Archetype perk choices and gearsets, yes, but build orders, no. You have to be flexible when you're decididing which bro will fill what role. Try to play on their strengths, and build with late game in mind. Killing 25 raiders on day 300 might be fun, but what you SHOULD be preparing for is the 45+ gobbo city and 55+ noble war crisis army. Those are your targets.

And for that, you need perfectly min/maxxed bros.

Well, you don't NEED them, but it's the best way to minimize risk and RNG.

I think it should be noted that taking Adrenaline on your "Marksmen" is INCREDIBLY strong, and finding this potential has saved so many lives for me. Perhaps you would rethink that recommendation.

Enemy Marksmen are always going to out-initiative you, and being able to go before them the second time could mean the difference between taking 8 bolts to the face rather than 4.

Adrenaline on marksmen is wasteful, because you're taking a perk to out-initiate a small subset of human enemies (hostile archers). How often are they gonna kill you anyway? As soon as early game ends -- and you acquire mail for your crew -- enemy archers stop being a problem. Enemy crossbowmen are always a pain, but you're not gonna kill all of them so quickly anyway, even with Adrenaline. Your ranged dudes have terrible accuracy up to level 7-8, and will miss most of them time.

And come mid/late game, enemy ranged units degrade from a lethal threat into a nuisance (since your backline has huge ranged defense and a bunch of defensive perks, and your frontline is probably riding in plate and kite shields).

My point is, spending a valuable perk on a subset of a subset of enemies that's only really formidable during the first 50 days is extremely wasteful. It's the same with taking Fast Adaptation and Backstabber for dedicated melee bros who'll end up with 100+ in melee skill by endgame, just so you can kill bandits 10% faster.

Do whatever you're comfortable with, but keep in mind early game -- ie., the first 50 days -- is a very short time in a full campaign that can last upwards of 300 days. Unless you're playing just to beat the 1st crisis - then you're looking at a whole different build order.

You're making conflicting points here, referring to end game and early game insofar as advantage and disadvantages.

Enemy marksmen (which include crossbows, as per the game's terminology) as well as dedicated arbalesters, are a problem always and will never stop being a problem unless you're slapping -3 vision helmets on your backline. There are dozens of threads dedicated to finding ways to be safe against this "subset of a subset of enemies" that are notorious for 1-2 shotting absolutely anything with their extreme damage and damage penetration, and I honestly find it pretty ridiculous that you dismiss this formidable threat as insignificant when they are the bane of even the best players.

As I've said, I appreciated your OP very much yet you are being rather hypocritical when you assign two defensive perks solely for survivability against this exact same "subset of subset of enemies" making Anticipation and Nimble as "core picks". That is not a waste, apparently, yet you think that 1 offensive perk that fights for the same reason is a waste? I'd say that 1 perk dedicated to their elimination is more than worth it, and it works very well. These guys wear lighter armor than you, and unless you're been wasting 1 stat on every level up just to dedicate directly to Initiative, they WILL go before you and that is a fact.

I cannot count the amount of times that going first the next round was enough to finish off anywhere from 2-6 units of a subset of a subset of enemies that could permadeath anybody their RNG feels like that day.

That aside, there are further uses of Adrenaline, even in keeping that this was already strong enough. There are light enemies that can easily murder you - Billmen, in mid game a full grown Nachzehrer or even a frenzied wolf after a particularly long string of battles could be just 1 action away from finishing off your guy forever, but you get to go first and kill him. You get to go first with 4 archers and that kill is absolutely guaranteed and a live is saved again.

Dodge + Anticipation + Nimble + Ranged Def is my core for archers. I don't consider them wasteful because what else are you gonna do with perk choice, build for pseudo-melee?

Having said that, I'd rather be 95% immune to enemy ranged (and with the aforementioned stack, you are), than drop 1-2 of those perks in favor of Adrenaline and excessive micromanagement where I have to live in fear if I'll have the fatigue to pull off Adren + 2x shot + Berserk + 3rd shot.

As I said, I'll gladly sacrifice 30% damage for extra convenience and survivability.

Especially if I can mitigate incoming enemy damage to a non-issue.

Overwhelm isn't a core for me on archer builds, but I like to get it anyway. I also pump initiative during levelups (I'll gladly take +5 Ini than +1 Dmg.), so my ranged bros usually always sequence first, even against campy enemies like bandit raiders and noble arbalesters.

Having said all that, enemy ranged -- of whatever variety -- is only a problem until you get the trifecta of perks I mentioned above. With 3 -- and about 20 Rdef -- you're safe. Once Nimble comes online, it's pretty much smooth sailing. Footwork ensures enemy melee can't pin you down (even if you ♥♥♥♥ up, and allow them to get close enough to do so).

All in all, enemy ranged is a non-issue for me (Steel Brow on frontliners).

Adrenaline + glass cannon builds that do excessive damage aren't an optimal way to build your ranged force simply because anything without armor falls easily enough anyway to Berserker procs, and anything WITH armor you're not gonna crack with archers anyway. You can give them all manner of fancy stuff like Crippling Strikes and whatnot, but most enemies die too fast anyway, and the really heavy duty stuff like orc warriors and undead honor guard you shouldn't be tackling with ranged anyway.

As far as xbow dudes are concerned, I give them heavier armor, plus defensive perks.

All of you live in fear of enemy ranged because you stack offense to a ridiculous degree.

On melee it might be justified if you know what you're doing, but on ranged it isn't.

As I said before, enemy xbowmen are a threat the first 20 or so days. And just to clarify, they're still a pain in the ♥♥♥ for another 30 or so, but they're only a true terror the first couple of weeks in-game. As soon as you get mail + coif + dodge + 15 rdef, they become a lot less hazardous to your backline.

And soon after that, they become a non-issue.
Frequently Asked Questions (continued)
I'm struggling to decide when to keep trying to upgrade my day 1 guys or bringing in some fresh meat with really strong backgrounds. I think this might play into the martyr plan - as your day 1 becomes meat for the grinder by day 100 - but how do you know when to do it?

Even day 1 bros shouldn't be meat for the grinder at day 100 if you manage to keep them alive that long. Gearing is the main issue here, since heavy armor + defensive perks makes for survivable men, any way you slice it.

But more to the point, the main thing to keep in mind is efficiency. Use your intermediate crew (ie., not total trash but not end-game material) to farm up some 30-50k gold, so you can purchase and outfit the end-game party. Also hire most dirt-cheap men you come across, to check for those rare 3-star gems, and then either dismiss or sacrifice in battle if they don't meet end-game criteria.

Even on day 100, a disposable beggar outfitted in lamelar harness and kite shield can hold his own for a few turns (you should have tons of similar gear lying around, if you've been daggering bandit leaders to death... as you should be). This is especially viable if you deploy 2-3 such guys next to 9 or so veterans. Clear bandit camps and orc outposts to increase your cash flow, until you have enough gold to start assembling an all-star roster.

How do you keep your men alive? I'm consistently losing mercs in battle, and constantly training up new recruits.

It's normal to lose men to bad RNG procs (crossbow bolts especially).

Thing is, you can minimize all that by deploying in formations. Put your disposable mercs on the flanks, and give them normal shields + spars (you don't want them in kite shields since that increases their ranged def too much, and the AI marksmen might decide to ignore them and go after your shieldless frontliner 2H bros). Give your main tanks kite shields. Place your shieldless dudes in the backline, and advance 2-3 tiles at a time (depending on terrain), keeping up shield wall between each turn. Once you're close enough, send the disposable dudes to engage first and eat up the first volley of melee attacks.

Rinse, repeat.

The important thing is to lose only disposable mercs. Ideally, each fight you'd have 8-9 dudes who survive (and gain XP to keep on leveling), while you'd lose maybe 3 disposable bros at max. Hit the next settlement, recruit some trash bros (beggars, cripples, etc.), outfit them in salvaged garbage gear (shields are a must!), and sacrifice them in the next battle. Keep repeating until you get to a point (usually level 7-8) where your core team can reliably farm most 2-skull bandit contracts without losing more than 1 trash bro. At this point, start prepping for the mid/late game by amassing gold and looking for all-star recruits who'll become your day 150+ core roster.

Also, build defensively.

Dead men do 0 damage! :)

Can you elaborate on how you build your Sergeant?

Sergeant is basically just a lancer with Battle Standard and 4 nets, instead of polearm + crossbow + 3 nets. I use him to spam Rally, toss out nets, and mess with the enemy through Footwork & Rotation.

One of the lancers is usually the Sergeant. Maxing Resolve leaves you without points elsewhere, and I skip melee/ranged defense on lancers anyway, so that means I can stick them in the backline with the banner. Also, they don't carry shields, so I give 'em Quickhands + B&B, and a bunch of nets.

My Sergeant -- like other lancers outlined in the guide -- is basically a utility unit; the banner's low damage isn't an issue because he spends most of his time tossing nets, casting Rally, and using Rotation/Footwork to mess with the AI. It's inefficient to try to turn a banner-using Sergeant into a damage unit because that means you either do low damage with the banner, or you're switching back-and-forth between banner and another polearm (which, IMHO, defeats the entire point of having a banner if you're gonna field the dude only when you're fighting geists).

He's probably my most versatile and useful character in any playthrough.

This is too complex. I'm just gonna run with 6 tanks, 2 archers, a sergeant, and some 2-tile melee backliners.

You can play the game any way you like, but what you're describing is a great way to never make it past day 100. The problem is that you'll have an entire crew of middling jacks-of-all-trades who won't be prepared to tackle mid-game challenges that require you to minimize casualties in order to farm up tens of thousands of gold to prepare for day 150+ or so.

Yes, you might have an easier time with early game (day <100), but once you make it past that you're in for a world of hurt. And you'll also develop bad habits as far as company composition and unit synergy is concerned.

Furthermore, non-specialist units can't kill fast enough -- and efficiently enough -- to make it through crisis battles without punishing the company with serious losses. Melee-oriented archers can't win shooting wars with noble arbalesters and gobbo ambushers. And by 'win', I mean not take any casualties. Neither can your crew of tanks kill orcs fast enough to finish the fight before they shred you to pieces.

The builds I outlined for 2H bros and Duelists and Lancers and Marksmen all show you how to have them survive the early game, while remaining marginally useful and piggybacking on the corpses of Martyrs until they reach level 7-8 and become part of your core roster.

What kind of armor and helmet do you outfit your Nimble duelists? The reason I'm asking this is because I'm really confused as to what kind of armor makes Nimble worth taking, instead of just go full on heavy gear + Forged since the benefits are at least obvious. There are a lot of people who say maintain a Nimble value of 50% or so, but that requires my unit to wear a 100+ Armor/Helmet while my Forged dudes are at 200+ minimum, so I'm seriously unsure if it's worth taking Nimble at all tbh.

Also, there seems to be some kind of hidden stat that I can't identify that affects Nimble? I have a brother who for some unfathomable reason is apparently a very, VERY bad Nimble pick since the best number he can get is around 95 Armor 50% Nimble, but anything heavier drops the value down to 30% and even 0 straight away. But a different Brother with similar stats - heck, lousier stats even - could use a heavier set of armor and maintain a similar or higher % of Nimble for some reason.

Nimble is too gimmicky in its current incarnation to be really useful.

You can build a duelist or two with it, just don't expect them to facetank multiple enemies like high-def plated bros can. And like Banjo said, anything your merc has in his backpack will reduce his fatigue.

As per armors, I put off leveling a Nimble fighter until I find a unique padded/leather armor and helm. You can do it a lot earlier, of course, but the stringent stat requirements (high melee attack, high melee def, moderate HP, good resolve, respectable ranged def etc.) needed to really make a Nimble build work, pretty much guarantee you won't find a potential bro until at least mid game... at which point you should have a few uniques laying around in your stash.

Just make sure you don't give the Nimble bro Lone Wolf, and send him off on his own. They work best when put on the flank of your formation, since they can off-tank 3 enemies, but can easily be bailed out via Rotation if things go bad.

If you really want one ASAP, get them nasal/kettle helm, and direwolf armor.

You can also try coifs, but it looks... unaesthetic.
Frequently Asked Questions (continued)
If you had to field a squad of 12 without worrying about adding extra brothers to swap in etc as seems to be the case for certain fights what would that roster be?

I can't give you a definitive answer to company composition since you won't use the same setup to fight orcs as you do goblins or humans. It all depends on what you find, who you recruit, and where you fight. But the 'default' setup (if you wanna call it that) can be 2 frontline tanks + 2 spearmen + 2 heavy wreckers (or duelists) + 4 marksmen + 2 lancers.

Obviously you won't field marksmen vs. undead, but most setups work vs. most enemies.

How do you know if the merc you just hired is good? I mean, not just right now, but in the long run. Is it totally necessary to have at least one star in melee skill for a duelist or two handed soldiers, or at least one star in ranged skill for an archer?

Stars help, but the starting stats make a huge difference as well. You can pretty well average where anybody is going to end up by taking the average level roll for that stat, multiply by 10 levels and then add the bro's base stats.

For example for melee attack, the rolls range from 1-3 with no stars. Average roll will be 2, over 10 levels will lead to +20 in that stat give or take a few for good or bad rolls. So if your bro has 50 base melee, take 50 + (2x10) = 70 melee skill average, so he will end up right around 70 give or take a few for good or bad rolls when leveling up

If you have 1 star the rolls will always be 2-3 so the average becomes 2.5 or +25.

If you have 2 stars, the roll will always be +3, no average needed, he will have +30 to that stat.

If he has 3 stars then he has a chance to roll a +4 and his average level roll will be 3.5, so +35 when hes finished.

If you have somebody that stars with 50 melee attack, those stars are vitally important. If he starts with 65 melee attack hes probably going to hit around 85 without stars anyway so it isn't as important. The more expensive backgrounds start with higher base stats so they are guaranteed to be decent no matter where the stars land.

Ranged is a bit nicer because the average roll is 2-4 so with no stars a recruit will average + 30. Somebody with 45 starting ranged skill and 2 stars will end up with 85 ranged skill. Somebody that starts with 55 ranged skill and no stars will likely also end up at 85 but with a bit of variance for high or low rolls.

- courtesy of Fiasco

How do you assign bros to their roles? How do you decide if recruits are good enough to keep?

You assign bros to their roles based on a kind of 'fallthrough' system, where you start at the top of the archetype pyramid, and move toward the bottom. At the top are elites which require strict leveling, expensive gear, and rare traits (hedge knight wreckers, hunter longbowmen, nimble swordmaster duelists), while the bottom is occupied by disposable cannonfodder martyrs. In between you have everything else (the more 'mandatory' perks and stats a build requires, the higher it is on the pyramid).

Say you hire a brawler. Obviously he'll never make an elite archer, and the best he can do is become a 2h skirmisher (wrecker). Does he have at least 2 stars in melee attack? How about at least 1 star in fatigue in addition to that? No? Ok, is his defense and health good, and possibly starred? If yes, he could become a capable tank.

If not, does he have any worthwhile traits? Maybe he's impatient, and has 1 star in both melee and ranged attack, but no defense and only a mediocre health and fatigue scores. If so, he'd make a good lancer.

What if he has a terribly debilitating trait like asthma? Or he's club-footed? Instant martyr material, right there.

The point is, when you hire a bro and look over his stats to determine his future role, you want him to occupy the most optimal position dictated by his individual scores. The stats mentioned in each archetype show you what's optimal for each 'class', and the stars are there to further reinforce that.

Furthermore, once you decide on a role -- and start leveling -- the levelups themselves will guide your decision making process. You want to maximize your bros' gains, while patching their deficiencies...

Terrible HP that would take ages to repair, and is giving you low rolls on levelup? Colossus. Same with resolve? Fortified Mind. Your hedge knight rolls +1 to melee attack and +5 to fatigue. Go with fatigue. Your raider gets +4 in both melee and ranged attack? Get both. Etc.

Prioritize, plan, and build around the archetypes. Each has a role, and each has preferred stats/traits. Tweak the builds where and when necessary, to mesh with your playstyle and what the RNG gives you for recruits.

None of this is written in stone, and you can be as flexible (or rigid) with your builds as you like, but a cripple will never turn into an endgame elite archer, just like a hedge knight is far better utilized in frontline melee than backline support.

As far as recruiting for the end game, that's dictated solely by how much gold you have. The more the merrier, because you can afford to play the RNG casino with recruits.

My recommendation is to stock up on good gear, hardy (but not necessarily elite) bros, and a certain financial buffer (~15k crowns) for a rainy day, before fishing for 10,000-crown hedge knights and swordmasters.

The first crisis is midgame anyway, and you can easily get through it with mid-tier bros equpped and specc'd to perform certain roles. You'll be fine, just as long as you follow a weighted priority system when determining how to level each bro (as explained above).
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Rockageddon Feb 22 @ 5:13pm 
It's good. Nothing will ever be truly helpful with a game with so much randomosity. For those looking for an easy guide: Melee defence for close quarters, range defence for distance. These are your most important skills in the game. And Reload, reload, reload. Challenging battles teach you how to play, Edge of Tomorrow your way into learning and success.:pigface::Magnum_GGC::Boyz:
MerlinCross Jan 2 @ 8:33pm 
Coming back to the game and this guide still feels useful
Lampros May 11, 2022 @ 11:04am 

Will you ever consider updating this?
Ryuk Mar 23, 2022 @ 12:05am 
hi! nice guide first of all.!! very usefull.
i have a question... im playing with limited roaster of 12 man so i cant rotate bros.. soo wich could be my build of 12 taking in mind this guide?
RabidSquirrelX Jan 10, 2022 @ 1:25am 
Cant find the hold out perk.. is it changed?
Spartan007 Jan 7, 2022 @ 5:16pm 
I really like this Guide its not full of spoilers, Doesn't say you have to play this way, it gives a variety of perks to aim for and builds to use. Some of the guides I've watch make me feel like there's a right way and wrong way to play this one doesn't. I only have 1 question, how do you work through the beginning when you can only field 6 bros? Do you just power level renown?I just got the game a few days ago. thanks for any reply
76561198074709395  [author] Jan 1, 2022 @ 11:54am 
Hah, nice to see this is still up! :D
I'd lost my Steam account info, but I'm back now!
Might re-install BBros and write an updated version of this old thing if I get some free time...Many props to RIP for posting the thread discussion in guide format, and adding the pics! And obviously Overhype for continuing to produce content for this amazing game.
Oh and happy New Year everyone! :)
Coocoodas Jul 24, 2021 @ 2:55am 
Yeah, I somewhat understand it but still think it was a poor choice for a guide. By the time veteran levels roll in it's crystal clear what stats you want to increase since you have 1/1/1 stat increase and just want to put those points in the stats you've invested so far.
Lampros Jul 21, 2021 @ 6:43pm 
The author, I think, says somewhere that the target stats assume characters quite a bit into veterancy, not level 11s.
Coocoodas Jul 21, 2021 @ 6:01pm 
The recommended stats are absolutely impossible to achieve by level 11. Can you lower it to more realistic level so I could use it as a point of reference? Tank having 55 MD requires a hedge knight with maximum MD role (10) with 3 stars(45). That's never going to happen.