9 tips to help you survive Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlord

(Image credit: TaleWorlds)
Master Bannerlord's medieval sandbox with these guides

(Image credit: TaleWorlds)

Bannerlord cheats: Get rich and dominate battles
Bannerlord companions: How to recruit the best
Bannerlord difficulty: Which to choose
Bannerlord mods: The best player-made additions
Bannerlord marriage: How to start a family
Bannerlord combat: Battle and 1v1 tips
Bannerlord money: Get rich quick
Bannerlord factions: Which should you choose?
Bannerlord workshop: Make easy money
Bannerlord caravan: How best to trade

After a seven-year wait, Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlord is finally here. This medieval life sim expands on the cult classic in nearly every way, making an already intimidating game even more daunting for newcomers. But fear not, aspiring warlord, because half of the fun of Bannerlord is failing spectacularly, going from rags to riches back to rags again as you travel the wartorn settlements of Calradia.

Whether you're new to the series or a megafan of Warband, the previous game, we've rounded up some tips that will help make your inevitable rise and fall a little bit less frustrating. That said, we recommend just getting out there and exploring. Bannerlord is unlike any other RPG, and half of the fun is just seeing what you can get away with. But if you want to give yourself an edge, here's some helpful tips to get you started.

Always strive to have at least 20 soldiers 

Going it alone in Bannerlord is a quick way to end up someone else's prisoner. As you ride around to different towns, you'll see bands of looters and bandits prowling the countryside looking to pounce on any groups that are smaller or poorly equipped. So, right off the bat, spend time circling around to different villages and recruiting any soldiers they have to offer until you number around 20, which should be more than enough to fight off weaker enemies or take on early quests.

That might prove a little challenging to start since most notable village NPCs won't give you access to their full recruitment pool until they like you better. You can improve your relations in a variety of ways, but doing quests (explained further down) for those characters is the most straightforward. Until then, though, you'll have to travel far and wide to keep your army around 20 strong.

Don't be afraid to relocate to new areas 

Unlike most RPGs, Bannerlord's world isn't designed so that the further you travel away from home the more dangerous it becomes. Each of the various kingdoms are relatively safe and offer similar opportunities, so if you're not particularly happy where you are, or if you've broken the law or pissed off the wrong people, feel free to move onto a different region and explore there.

Kingdoms do have some major differences to keep in mind, like the strength of their economies and armies, the types of weapons and armor they favor, and who their ruling lords and ladies are. The Khuzait, for example, are steppe nomads who favor mounted combat, making them a great faction to align yourself with if you fancy yourself a horse person. When you're just starting out none of this matters a great deal—and you can always pick up sticks and start over elsewhere without much pain—but it will deeply affect you later. If you're a merchant, you'll want to set up shop in kingdoms with healthy economies or that have an abundance of a certain resource, while aspiring warlords might want to join up with like minded heroes who share a similar combat style.

Don't play on realistic difficulty if you're new 

Bannerlord's difficulty settings are a little daunting at first because they're so granular. Instead of just setting a global difficulty, you can change different factors like how much damage your units take in combat. What's also weird is that the only settings you can choose are very easy, easy, and realistic. Naturally, you might think that realistic is the equivalent of normal, but it's actually more comparable to a hard difficulty setting. If you set your own combat damage to realistic, for example, enemies will kill you with just one or two blows—which is way too punishing for newcomers struggling to understand Bannerlord's unique combat system.

So do yourself a favor and set everything to very easy or easy to begin with. You can change these settings at any time, so once you become a bit more familiar with combat you can up the challenge as you see fit.

One final option that you should always turn on is "Enable Death." This makes it so all named characters, even you and those you recruit, can die. It's a crucial part of Bannerlord's medieval simulation. With death enabled, Bannerlord becomes a lot more high stakes and more fun, since your actions have more profound consequences. Don't worry, though: This doesn't mean that falling in combat deletes your save file or anything. Most times when you're defeated, you'll be taken prisoner and will have to buy your freedom or get lucky and escape. But it will mean towns and castles might suddenly change hands as younger generations are born and raised to take up their parents' wars.

(Image credit: Taleworlds)

Tournaments are a great way to make money, but only if you're good at combat 

It's really hard getting started in Bannerlord because you're broke and no one cares about you, but if you can swing a sword you can quickly change your fortunes. The main cities around Calradia frequently hold tournaments that anyone can join, and the winners take home big sums of gold and a rare item or two that can be sold for even more money. If you're good at combat (or just playing on very easy), this is one of the best ways to get started. Winning tournaments will not only give you the finances to hire better recruits, it'll also increase your renown and help establish your clan among the other ruling families of Calradia.

Even if you're not great at fighting, tournaments are a fun, risk-free way to try new weapons and get some practice swinging a sword. If you stop in a town and there's no tournament happening, though, be sure to physically enter the arena anyway (there's an option in the menu to do that). When you spawn into the arena, a Tournament Master will be standing right in front of you who will tell you where nearby tournaments are being held and how long they'll be available for.

Grab yourself a shield if you want to live 

There are a lot of weapons in Bannerlord, but most of the two-handed ones require exceptional skill and impeccable timing to use properly. If you're new, there's no shame in sticking to the basic sword and shield as your armaments of choice. Though two handed weapons have superior damage and reach, blocking enemy attacks requires flicking your mouse in the appropriate direction at the right time. It's challenging to get right—especially when you're in the chaos of an all-out melee. The shield, however, blocks anything regardless of whether it's an overhead chop or a left-handed swing. You just have to be facing your opponent and holding the block button.

Having a shield makes combat a little easier to grasp because if you're feeling overwhelmed (or outnumbered), you can rely on your shield to soak up damage while you reposition or slowly back away. Just beware: Shields can only absorb so much damage before they break.

(Image credit: Taleworlds Entertainment)

Keep an eye on your food stores 

You and your recruits will eat every day from whatever items are in your inventory, so you should always have an ample supply of food to survive whatever journey you're taking. In the bottom right of the screen you'll find a counter that tracks the rate of consumption and displays how many days your food stores will last. When starting out, it can be hard to judge how far you can travel in a day (it's also dependent on whether your army is mounted or not), so always err on the side of caution. I aim to always aim to have five days of food saved up.

One thing you might not notice is that food also affects the morale of your troops. While grain is cheap, it's not exactly a delicious snack and doesn't inspire much loyalty. Buying some butter and some meat will add a nice morale bonus, which can make you travel faster and fight better. If your morale is low from a staggering defeat, units might begin to desert your cause too, so food is a quick way to win some favor back.

Compare the speed of nearby enemies before you make any decisions 

When traveling through Calradia, every caravan has a speed stat that's determined by what units are in that group, whether they're mounted, the weight of their armor, and what goods they may be hauling. You can see this by simply mousing over any unit, including your own. That number is extremely important because if your speed is 4.1 and you're chasing some bandits for a quest and their speed is 4.3, you'll never be able to catch them without buying some horses or ditching some weight. You can save yourself a lot of time (and food) knowing when to give up.

Get in the habit of checking the speed stat of enemy units when they come into your field of view so you can make the best decision on how to deal with them. A big army might seem scary at first, but if you're moving twice as fast you'll easily outmaneuver them. Likewise, it's probably better to turn and fight rather than have a slightly faster pursuer slowly chase you down—unless you can make it to the safety of a friendly town before they catch you.

(Image credit: Taleworlds)

Press 'N' to see the encyclopedia 

The encyclopedia is an incredibly useful resource that is completely absent from the main user interface for some reason, so use the default hotkey of 'N' to bring it up. As its name implies, the this is a massive repository of information about everything from different kingdoms and their ruling families to different characters you might run into on your adventures. There's also a small section that explains some of Bannerlord's hidden or less obvious systems.

The best thing about the encyclopedia is that it shows you what other lords and ladies are up to and their relationships with the other major characters. This is extremely useful if you plan on getting political in Bannerlord, since you can win favor with characters by buddying up to their less famous (and therefore more accessible) friends or by dispatching their worst enemies. The encyclopedia also shows a useful timeline for both characters and settlements, helping you get up to speed on what's been happening in the world lately.

Take on new quests carefully, failure has consequences 

Early on you might think it best to say yes to every favor an NPC asks of you, but that is a good way to end up bloodied, penniless, and hated. Quests are frequently challenging and failing to complete them will make the quest giver like you less, so take extra caution when telling someone that you'll hunt down a pack of bandits for them.

If you are keen to take up some quests, always make sure you have at least 20 recruits with you (preferably more) and do a bit of research. If someone asks you to escort some trade goods to a nearby city, it's worth turning them down just so you can check the map first and gauge the distance and risk of being attacked on the way. But if you're worried things might turn out poorly, it's okay to say no and walk away.

For newcomers, I'd avoid any quest that outright involves fighting. Sometimes you might be up against a scraggly band of starving looters, but other times you might face well-armed cavalry that absolutely destroy you. Any quest that requires you to transport goods is a relatively safe bet so long as you stop to check enemy unit speeds, giving a wide berth to any who can outpace you.

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.