Warband was just released, so I expect a lot of new(er) players will arrive in the coming days and weeks. This guide is mostly for them, but it might be useful for some beta testers as well. I only played the beta for its few weeks, but archery has definitely been my strong suit so far. However, I’m not new to the archery mechanics of Mount & Blade as I have played the original game for years now. Against human opponents, though, the tactics change considerably. You have to know how to deal with more unpredictable moves from your opponents.
When I play an archer, I think of myself as a support class. I try to take out the most immediate threats to not only myself, but my teammates. Even if you don’t manage to kill every target, if you’ve put an arrow or two into them, you make the fight much easier for whoever has to engage them next. Don’t get caught up on getting kill shots. You’ll go through times when you wound 4-5 targets but see someone else beat you to the deathblow and then have other times where you land the killing blow 4-5 times. The way I see it, as long as enemies are consistently dying, things are going well. One of the most satisfying things I do is hit (and interrupt) an enemy engaged in combat with an ally and see that ally finish him off a second later. If not for my arrow maybe that fight goes differently and my ally dies instead. Also, since being an archer involves finding good vantage points, you have a good view of much of the battlefield and can report a lot of useful information to your team such as enemy troop movements. If you’re a defender in a castle siege you can alert your team when your gate is at risk of being opened or when your flag is being threatened by the enemy.
Also, note that I tend to be more of a cautious, calculating player, especially when I’m playing as an archer. This means I don’t take unnecessary risks just to pad my kill column because the death column is just as important, sometimes more so if you are defending and have a longer respawn time. There are times to play riskier, such as when you are out of time to take a flag or you are one of the few available to get down to the flag and defend. I also think that being patient and careful is an easier way to see your improvement. Your kill count will increase as you become more proficient at firing faster and more accurately. As such, I am writing this guide to follow a survival-oriented fashion of play.
If anyone reading this has any additional advice which would make this guide better feel free to offer it. Also, if you feel I am mistaken about something or have overlooked anything, let me know. I am sure there are more than a few little tactical nuances and tricks I haven’t noticed yet or just forgot to mention.
I’ll close by listing a few of the things I feel are most important to keep in mind when playing as an archer. I will go into detail about these aspects later in the guide. They are:
• Target priorities
• Utilizing good vantage points
• Survival skills
• When and how to properly fire into a crowdThe Basics
The following is just basic knowledge of archery, yet it is essential to understand these aspects in order to become a good archer.The Reticle
You want this to be at its narrowest point for the best accuracy. With bows you must quickly release the shot once it reaches this point or else the reticle begins to expand again, as the archer's muscles begin to give from holding the bow drawn too long, causing inaccuracy. The more powerful bows generally give you less of a window to fire accurately, while short bows gives you more time as it is less of a strain on your character’s muscles. Crossbows do not suffer from this problem.Aiming
As a general rule, you want your target to be in the center of the reticle when you release the shot. However, you will have to make adjustments according to what bow or crossbow you are using, the range, the vertical distance between you and your target, and if you or your target are moving. Generally you never want to be moving as you are shooting, but the crossbow can be fairly accurate at close range, even while you are running or back-peddling.Canceling a Shot/Resetting Your Draw
You can always cancel a shot by hitting the right mouse button. This is useful to save arrows and time and not give your position away when you don’t currently have a good shot and your character’s muscles are straining, causing the reticle to fluctuate.Draw, Sidestep, Shoot
This is a useful tactic as it ensures your reticle starts zooming in the instant you stop moving and are ready for your shot. It may also cause enemy archers to release their shot when they see you start your draw, which you will then sidestep.Zooming
You can zoom in to your target, making aiming easier. By default you zoom by holding down the left shift button. I use zoom for almost every shot.First Person View
I usually prefer the third person view as the peripheral vision it gives you is very helpful. Occasionally though an obstacle such as a bush, a wooden beam, or even your own head will obscure your view to your target. You can switch to the first person view to see past these visual obstacles. By default, hitting the ‘R’ key switches between first and third person views.Leading Targets
Often times it will be necessary to lead the target with your shot in order to hit them. For instance if you are facing their right side and they are running straight ahead, you will have to aim ahead of them in order for your shot to connect. How much you aim ahead depends on the speed of your target and your range from them. From a medium distance you would want to aim about 2 bodies' width ahead of them. You will have to lead someone on a horse significantly, as they are likely moving very fast. This is something you just need to develop a feel for via practice.Adjusting for Range
The farther away your target is, the harder the shot. When a target is close, the center of the reticle will be pretty close to where the arrow or bolt actually goes. As distance increases you will have to correct and aim ever higher over your target to actually hit them. How much higher you have to aim depends on both the exact distance away the target is and also the strength of the bow or crossbow you are using. Adjusting for Vertical Distance
Like adjusting for regular distance, when a target is above you, you must aim high to hit them. If your target is lower than you, you usually don’t need to adjust unless they are also far away from you.Adjusting After a Miss
Archery is all about patience and staying focused. Don’t worry about it when you miss, just note how high, left, right, and/or low you were and realign your reticle for the next shot to compensate. It is common, for me at least, to be a little more inaccurate when I’m playing for the first time in a day or when I have switched to a different ranged weapon than I was using previously. This is normal as the ranged weapons all have differing values with how far they make an arrow or bolt travel. Also arrows arch a bit and bolts shoot straight, until they begin to fall.Speed and Damage
Generally bows that do more damage shoot more slowly than those that do less damage. I usually prefer to go with the higher firepower, but if you are up against a lot of enemy archers who are using faster bows, you may be better off with a fast bow yourself. Otherwise, it will be much harder to try to pick them off when they are targeting you. You’ll have to dodge their shot before you get a good aim (thus canceling your shot), and they can just keep the pressure on this way forcing you to take risks or move to a new location. If you have some cover to work with, you can make a slower bow work with some patience. Otherwise you’re in a lot of trouble if the enemy archers are good.Ranged Weapon Types
There are 3 main types of ranged weapons - crossbows, bows, and throwing weapons. Each of them are a bit different from one another so here is a brief description of some of their common characteristics:Crossbows
Crossbows may be a good starting point for beginners to archery. Once you're loaded, you can get an accurate shot off faster than you can with most bows. You can also hold an accurate aim indefinitely (the reticle will not start to shake as with bows) so long as you do not move. This gives you all the time you need to line up the shot just as you want it and be able to pull the trigger when you are certain you will score a hit. Bows
Bows have a long-term faster rate of fire than crossbows, but many of them take longer to aim properly and have a short span of time in which you can fire accurately once the reticle is set how you want it. As I noted above, you can reset the reticle at any time by clicking the right mouse button. Arrows shot tend to arch a bit, so firing a bow is a bit different than firing a crossbow.Throwing Weapons
It’s a stretch to call this archery, but it is ranged attacking, so I thought I’d throw it in here anyway (no pun intended!). The reticle isn’t really going to do you much good here. The best advice I can offer is to just visualize where your given projectile needs to go and hone in on that spot, then release the throw. This may sound silly, but the Mount & Blade physics engine is pretty good and this technique works well for me. Of course, your accuracy will not be as good as it is with bows and crossbows. It just takes more practice to become good at.Target Priorities
Knowing the proper order in which to target enemies is perhaps the most important thing for archers understand. If you’re focusing on the wrong targets, you’re not only wasting your time, you’re hurting your team by making them and yourself easier targets in the near future, since you aren’t wounding or killing as many enemies as you could be.In general
Most of the time target priorities are as follows:Archers
Other archers (if there are any) are your most immediate threat, as they're the only ones who can hit you from range (also beware of melee and mounted classes with throwing weapons). Ideally you want to pick them off when they either aren't aware of your presence or are focused on someone else. If you and another archer are focused in on one another, and you're both good, you can be in for a long stalemate. This is usually bad for both of you as the focus has to intensify on the other archer, often distracting each other from other threats looming around the both of you.2-handers
These are a high priority since they are deadly up close and are relatively easy targets. When you take out a good 2-hander, you're doing your team a big favor.Mounted
I listed mounted after 2-handers, but if they charge ahead of the 2-handers and are an immediate threat to you or your allies, I would target them first. Just make sure they are in relatively close range, otherwise you could be shooting at easier targets. Unless cavalry are in very close range or their horse has run into something and has reared up you will have a hard time hitting them, as most good players will continuously zigzag their horses to make accurately targeting them nearly impossible.Shield users
These should have the lowest priority when they are facing you. Unless you have a vertical advantage over them, you'll almost never get past their shield as long as they are facing you and have their shield up. There are some tricks/opportunities to get hits in on them though, which I will discuss later on.Situational Targeting
This is really just common sense at work here, but there are obviously times when your target priorities should change or when special considerations should give you cause to rethink where your next shot should go.Flag
Kill count is great and all, but in castle sieges whoever wins/keeps the flag decides the winner. As such when, as a defender, your flag is threatened by the enemy you should switch your focus and target those players first before getting back to the normal routine. If you’re an attacker and the flag is within reach, it’s usually worth making yourself a bigger target by going for it if there is a real chance of taking the flag down all of the way. Alternatively, snipe the defending archers who are hailing bolts or arrows in at your allies at the flag.Gate
This goes towards castle sieges again. As a defender you definitely want the gate closed. If you see enemies near the gate you should do your best to take them out before they can open it. Once opened, a flood of enemies will rush for the flag and their chances of winning the round are vastly increased.Mixed Crowds
So there’s a nice juicy 2-hander target close to you, but he is currently engaged in combat with two of your allies. If you don’t have a clear shot or if one of your allies has a chance of moving into your line of fire, you should probably either enter the melee yourself or simply look for the next best target. Chances are that your allies will finish him off if it’s a 2 vs 1. The worst thing you can do is try to force a kill shot and accidentally wound or kill one of your teammates. If your allies have the advantage, leave well enough alone, and focus your attention elsewhere.Immediate Threats
This is pretty obvious, but if a non-archer is almost within striking distance of you, they become your top priority. Sometime you can afford to get off 1-2 more shots in an effort to take them down or inflict some more damage before it comes down to a melee fight. Be sure to get your melee gear out before they get too close or else they can get a free hit in on you.When to go for a headshot
You can opt to go for a headshot against other archers when they are firing, any immobile target, reared up cavalry, and enemies coming up a ladder. Most of the time you’re better off just aiming for a body shot, when your target is moving. This way your aim doesn’t have to be perfect to score a hit. If you aim for their torso, you can be off a little, or they can move slightly and you still have a good chance to hit them, compared to if you had gone for a head shot. A head shot is great and often an instant kill, but it is not practical to go for one every time, not unless you’re a true master anyway.Utilizing good vantage points
Finding and making use of good vantage points is very important for an archer. You can do much better if you have a solid piece of terrain or a good building to work with. You’ll kill more, die less, and be able to see where the enemy is going and report that information to your team should the match type warrant it.What makes a good vantage point?
Ideally your vantage point should allow you to attack in as many highly enemy trafficked areas as possible while still giving you the ability to take cover from most if not all directions of attack. Castles usually have the best of these kinds of spots, but there are a lot of great common buildings for this as well. You would also prefer that your vantage point have the least amount of entrances to it as possible. This decreases the chances of an enemy being able to sneak up behind you, especially if there is only one access point you have to ever keep an eye on. For sieges the top of gatehouses are great places for archers to camp, especially archers on the attacking side, as you have view of many of the defenders’ respawn points. If someone wants to come kill you, there’s only one stairway for them to get to you.
It is important to note that what was once a good vantage point can change during the course of a match. If the enemy has overrun your castle walls, when you’re a defender, what was once safe cover is now extremely vulnerable to attack. This is why it is so important to scan the surroundings around you every few seconds. When good positions turn bad, look to either relocate or make use of the small pockets of cover that may still existSurvival Skills
Simply put, you can do more damage if you stay alive as much as possible. I see a lot of players who are amazing offensively but have lousy defense and/or put themselves into very bad situations where death is almost certain. I know it can be "fun" to charge into a swarm of enemies and try to take 1 or 2 with you, but it isn't necessarily the wisest thing to do.Be constantly aware of your surroundings
Pan your camera frequently (to pan you hold down the ` key by default and move your mouse), so that you are alert to any potential threats. I believe that a large proportion of archer deaths result when archers get too much tunnel vision and are just focusing only on their targets, thus making themselves an easy target. If you're using a crossbow make it a habit to spin around 360 degrees every time you reload or, better yet, pan the camera 360 degrees. If you're using a bow try to get into the habit of looking around after every 2nd or 3rd shot. I recommend camera panning, because if you do spot an enemy coming for you, it's better if they think you still don't see them. Then you can surprise them with an arrow or bolt to the face or gut if their guard is down. Either way, getting into the habit of frequently checking your surroundings for enemies will save you a lot of frustrating deaths, and will also score you some additional kills.Discretion is the better part of valor
If you see a melee class bearing down on you, it is often prudent to fall back to another ally if that option is available to you. The simple fact is that you're an archer and, given you and the enemy melee player are of equal skill, you will lose in a straight up fight most of the time as they will usually have better melee weapons, shields, and armor. Unless you are supremely confident in your melee skills, it is a good idea to simply fall back to a safer position and resume your ranged attacks, especially when multiple enemies are closing in on you and you have no allies nearby.Scavenge better weapons and shields from the dead
As an archer you generally don't have the best melee gear, so get into the habit of picking up better weapons and/or shields from fallen allies and foes. Doing so may mean it takes one less hit for you to kill an enemy or that your shield will be able to take several more hits before breaking. If you can kill faster and defend longer, your survivability is increased.Stall for time, if it will help
When I must enter melee, I usually try to play defensively to buy time for allies to come help out. However, if you are already engaged in melee and have more enemies coming for you, it is best to try to take down the first one quickly before his allies arrive.Shoot and move/get in cover
The only time you should consider standing still between shots is when you are certain no other enemy player with a ranged weapon has line of sight to you. Even then, you never know when someone will pop around a corner which you saw was safe a few seconds earlier. As such, it is good practice to fire and then move left or right a few feet (preferably behind cover) after each shot. Chances are good that once you pop your head out an enemy archer is lining up a shot on you.Be random in direction when coming out from cover
Assuming your cover gives you multiple options to go when coming out of it, you should mix things up in order to make it harder for enemy archers to land a shot on you when you do come out. If they’ve lined up a shot counting on you to come out one way and you come out another, the half second or so it takes them to adjust can well be the difference in you getting hit or not. Likewise this can also buy you the extra time you need to get an accurate shot off yourself.Relocating
Occasionally it may be wise to relocate to a safer area if the enemy is converging too quickly on you or you are under considerable pressure from enemy archers. When multiple archers have clear shots at you with no cover, relocate, pull out your shield if you have one or grab one if you don’t.Make note of good archer positions and use them/keep an eye on them
I already talked about why good vantage points are essential, but it is also important to mention here since it is beneficial to your survival. Know of the spots which give good cover and be weary of the locations enemy archers can put to good use. Try to keep an eye on them and relocate if an enemy archer has taken up residence on a good perch and has clear vision to your current position.Be patient
Don’t be reckless or force bad shots, giving away your location. Don’t pop your head out from cover when you know multiple enemy archers are keyed in on your position. Sometimes, when you’re pinned down, the best thing you can do is simply wait 5-10 seconds before reemerging from your cover. By then most if not all of the enemy archers will have focused in on new targets, allowing you to more safely resume your attacks and begin picking those enemy archers off one by one.When and How to Properly Fire Into a Crowd
This is an important issue that new archers need to be aware of. Many archers will get overzealous and fire into crowds containing their allies when it is either not necessary or is ill advised to do so. Now some, but not many, servers may have no friendly fire for ranged attacks. I suppose if you’re on such a server, you can just go nuts. But I feel it is better long term to avoid such reckless habits. Other servers are set up so that if you do hit an ally with friendly fire, you instead take the damage. I think these are becoming more popular and it is indeed are a good tool to teach people not to attack so recklessly.
Anyway, there are several things you need to consider before opening fire into a mixed crowd. The first thing I consider is which side of the crowd seems to have the upper hand, if any. If your allies seem to have the situation well in hand, then it is usually wise to look for a high priority enemy target that isn’t in combat with any of your allies. If there is no such other target then feel free to either enter the melee or fire at enemy target in such a way that there is no possibility of an ally stepping into your line of fire. Often times you can read an enemy target’s movements. If he is back-peddling you can aim behind him (if you have a side view of the fight) and he will sometimes walk right into your shot. This is a safe shot because your allies cannot walk into it. Be careful when leading a target who is pressing forward into your allies. The momentum can suddenly turn and your allies can press forward into the shot. I would only attempt a shot like this if your ally is outnumbered 3:1 or more and the chances of him pressing forward are extremely slim. In that case you are likely doing the right thing by taking that shot, although you still may want to target the enemy who is furthest from your ally.
That covers the side shots, but what if you are positioned either behind your allies or behind the enemy? If you are behind the enemy and they have their backs to you it is very tempting to take the shot as quickly as you can. Usually it is safe to do so, but first make sure your shot won’t fly through and hit your ally if your target moves left or right at the last moment. If there is a thick crowd of enemies, you’re usually safe to let your bolt or arrow fly. Another way to make the shot safer in this instance is to either aim low for the enemy’s feet or high for their head. That way, even if they move at the last second, your shot will not hit your ally and may even hit another enemy. Be extremely careful if you are taking a shot when your allies’ backs are facing you. There will be brief openings when you have a clear shot at an enemy, but those can close in an instant if your allies suddenly maneuver into your line of fire. The general rule of thumb here is to take the safest shot possible which means targeting an enemy who has winged out a bit from the rest of the melee clump. If there is no such target, consider entering the melee yourself. Otherwise simply look for another target, but don’t take that high risk shot! You’re likely to do more harm than good.
In conclusion, just make sure that your shots have very little or no risk of hitting your allies. You can achieve this by leading back-peddling enemies via side shots or shooting higher or lower when the enemies’ backs are to you.Useful Tips
I mentioned some of these already, but I feel they bear repeating and will make one a better archer if they are actively followed.
• If you're facing a lot of enemy archers, it may well be best to stick to a bow which fires faster.
• You can sometimes sneak a hit in on shield users, if you wait for them to attack an ally.
• Be patient. Don’t force bad shots, alerting your target, or rush into a barrage of fire when enemy archers outnumber you.
• Consider finding another target if a 2-hander is being extremely random with their movement (or actively dodging).
• Beware infantry with throwing weapons. Learn to look for throwing axes, javelins and the like and be ready to dodge out of their way.
• Don't waste time and arrows/bolts on shielded targets facing you; find another target.
• Take a second or two to scan the field of battle to find the next, most logical target.
• Crossbows are accurate at close range, without aiming, and can score a hit on a melee player charging in at you.
• When you’re under heavy fire by enemy archers take cover and look around for 5-10 seconds. Then go back and see if you can catch those archers off guard. Many times they will think you have left or died and will allow you a window to safely pick one of them off.
• Aim straight for the head of someone coming up a ladder, as this will bypass or penetrate a shield. Aim for the top of a round shield if it is covering their face. Sometimes smarter players will move from side to side on the ladder to try to throw your shot off, but they often do so in a predictable manner. Just concentrate and shoot down the middle when the timing is right.When It Comes Down to Melee …
If you’re already good at melee, you probably don’t need to read this. I’m not great at melee myself, but I know a few of the more effective tricks which don’t rely on having a mastery of manual blocking. I won’t go into great detail about melee combat here as this is an archery guide. Besides, if you want that, just go look at Reapy’s Mount & Blade Warband Infantry Primer
What I am going to briefly cover is how to fight with a one-handed weapon & shield and how to fight with a two-handed weapon without having to rely a lot on manual blocking skills. I’ll also discuss how to make use of spacing, timing, how to wrap around your target’s defenses, and how to get off the fastest attack possible, given your current facing towards your opponent.Utilize your current fastest attack
I am mentioning this first, because it applies to both one-handed & shield users and two-handed users alike. As you are in melee, you will often find yourself not directly facing your opponent. You will either have your left or right side closer to them. Attack from whichever side of yours is closest to them and you will be able to land a quick hit, if they are unable to block it. If you swing from your far side, you have a much longer wait before impact. This gives your opponent more time to block or possibly launch a counter attack which will reach you before your attack reaches them. Naturally it is preferable to have your attack reach the target as quickly as possible, so be sure to swing from the closest direction. You can also hasten your blow if you turn your character into the swing as it is being released. One-handed & shield
Three of the factions (Khergit, Rhodok, and Swadian) have this loadout for their archers by default. With the other factions you can always just grab a shield off of the ground if you’d like. These archers are a great place to begin if you don’t feel at all confident with manual blocking. The block and wrap around technique
This is a very simple yet effective tactic to by bypass another shield user’s defenses. Simply raise your shield and press in towards them, but continue heading past them either to their left or right side. Usually they will launch an attack at you, which your shield will block. Then be quick about getting just behind them and launching your own counterattack while turning your character to face their back. Alternatively you can do a side attack with whichever side is adjacent to them. This will be a very fast attack as it doesn’t have far to travel to make contact with your enemy. Just be sure you’re past their shield before attempting this. You can often catch a lot of players off guard by doing this and score a hit. This rarely works against very good melee players, but then a lot of things don’t work against them.Spatial counterattacks
Even shield users leave themselves open to attack when they are attacking. You can break the common hit trading on each other’s shields by creating a bit of space between you and your enemy. Get just enough space between you so that their next attack will just miss you, then step forward with a counterattack and land a hit.Kicking
If your enemy is making a habit pressing in too close to your character, consider kicking them then following up with a quick slash to score a hit.Two-handed or one-handed and no shield
The other three factions (Nord, Sarranid, and Vaegir) have no option for their archers to start with shields. Nords are able to start with a two-handed axe while the Sarrands and Vaegirs are only armed with one-handed weapons. Rhodok archers also have access to two-handed hammers and a spiked staff.Spatial awareness
This is more important for two-handers and characters without shields than for shield users, especially if you aren’t great at manual blocking. Your goal is to know the reach of both your and your opponent’s weapons. If you have the reach advantage then you can safely be more offensive. If you have the shorter weapon, then you must be especially wary. Either way, if you aren’t interested in having to perform a lot of manual blocks, keep your distance and either wait for them to launch an attack you are just out of range of then step in with your own counterattack, or launch your strike just as they enter your range. Remember to make use of whichever attack is fastest, when applicable.When in doubt, side block
It is useful to know that most attacks are slashes from either the right or left. If you are unsure where to block in the heat of battle block the side which your opponent is currently closest to. This will block their fastest attack. If you guessed wrong and they have swung the long way, you can simply hold your current block and turn into their swing to block it. If they perform a thrusting or overhead attack you still have a chance to sidestep it so that they miss. Most good melee players will be able to adjust and still hit you as you sidestep. Kicking
This is the same as it is for one-handed and shield users, but if you’re playing the spatial game these opportunities will present themselves less often. It’s still a useful attack to have in your arsenal, so be prepared to use it.Good Luck!
Well, that’s all for now. I hope this guide will be helpful to a lot of new (or even old) players. Let me know what you think. If you have any specific questions about anything just ask, and I’ll do my best to give a good answer. Until then, happy sniping!