DaElf's Living Steamroller - A Comprehensive (Rambling) Guide
This strategy, which is my personal favourite to use in Floris, utilises the Horse/Pike Damage Tweak to use a wedge of cavalry to pummel your foes into oblivion time and time again. That's it in a nutshell, really, but it's a little more complicated than that, which I'll try to illustrate in this guide and, hopefully, show you some ways to overcome the weaknesses that this army-build suffers from.
I should also mention that this is for your field army only; you should have a dedicated Infantry/Archer team in your garrison(s).
I'm probably going to drone on about many little minute details and make endless sections, but bear with me and it might just make sense by the end. If you don't like my style of writing, then, eh, stop reading right now, because there's going to be a lot of it (4,600ish words), and I don't plan on providing many summaries! >: D
Now, Cavalry are often seen as a sort of 'easy-mode' in M&B, given their immense advantage over foot troops on the battlefield. Indeed, in Native you can pretty much just charge in with a load of Swadian Knights (which are quick to train) and watch the kills roll in without thinking anything else of it. Now, it isn't exactly that easy (or boring) in Floris, and the Cavalry strategy I'm going to explain (in tiring detail) to you here is a little more involved than simply hitting the 'Charge' button, else even I would have stopped talking by now.
Whilst Floris does make the Native option of blind charges obsolete, Cavalry does (and rightly so) remain the medieval tank of the battlefield with the riders clearly superior to their ground-level counterparts, who you will grow to, literally, look down on whilst you lead your army of crushing oblivion to trample not just your enemies' spirits, but their broken, bloodied bodies, too.
Interested? Of course you are, you sadistic little (wo)man. Then ride with me, and I shall teach you my ways and sing you the song of my people.
Note: You must have the Pike/Horse Damage Tweak (found in Camp->Mod Options) ticked in order for this strategy to work, so go do that.
Yes, you! In order to become the absolutely super-awesome general/cavalryman/'Death, Destroyer of Worlds' that you will become, you must first learn a few skills and equip yourself with the right gear.
If you haven't already realised: you will be riding a horse, and not just any horse! So, train yourself up in the Riding skill to at least level 4.
Next, you're going to be taking a lot of prisoners (which will be discussed, to extraneous lengths, later on in the guide), so be prepared to be just as good at Prisoner Management as you are at Leadership; these should be respectable, if you want to be respected by your men and loved by Ransom Brokers, so make sure you're at level 6 in both as the minimum, with an aim to improve them over time.
Now, I know you young adventurers coming to Calradia are barely educated these days, but you'll also be needing to take a course in Surgery, in order to help those poor men you plan on leading to their glorious deaths on the field of battle actually survive. Naturally, you wont be wanting to get your hands dirty yourself, but your knowledge could prove valuable to the Fisique you hire, so have at least a basic understanding (2+, boosted by the Surgeon you'll have in your party).
Of course, you'll also need to show yourself to be a fine Trainer if you want to fulfil your ambition of hosting the greatest army the pretender-Lords of Calradia have ever seen. A level of 7 should suffice as a starting point.
Naturally, you should also invest points in Power Strike and all the normal combat ones of your choosing, so get on with that, we haven't got all day; there are empires to fell and bandits to annihilate.
A Skill Summary
Prisoner Management 6+
Power Strike and other skills of your choosing (Path Finding/Spotting are always handy to have a couple of points in)
Of course, nobody wants you to go in to battle mentally and physically prepared but without any equipment; it's not a nice sight for your men and embarrassing, not to mention potentially painful, for you.
Thus, get the strongest armour you can get your hands on, a Charger (not a Warhorse) with a base Speed of 40+ (you're not going to be hanging around) and, of course, some weaponry.
As for weaponry, it's ultimately up to you, but I choose a 1H Horseman's Mace, Shield, Bow and Arrows. If you're no good with a bow, a spare Shield to protect your back and either a lance or 2H as a secondary weapon could be used. Note that I would suggest a Blunt primary weapon for pummelling your foes to the ground and later dragging them from the battlefield to die another day, once they've been ransomed off, of course.
This was supposed to be a short section, so.. prepare yourself for the rest.
Even you, as beautiful as you now look in that fine armour sat upon your mighty steed, need friends.
I tend to split these into two groups, and so will now bore you with those details, too:
These are the companions who you train in nothing but the art of war, death and misery to mankind. They won't be particularly good compared to the rest of your Army, but hey, they're immortal, which has got to be a plus.
Most of these should be given a similar build to the one that you have, ready to ride with you in your wedge of horsey doom. These companions should have Chargers, heavy armour and preferably 1H maces and a Shield as their primary weapon setup. I tend to also give them a Lance and a Thrown weapon, too, but this is down to your personal preference.
Some of them, however, are less suited to Melee, and more versed in the ways of Ranged combat. These should be made into Cavalry Archers, with the fastest horse you can find, a fast, piercing bow and medium-heavy armour. I tend to also give them a Polearm in case they run out of arrows, but for most of the game they'll be too fragile to last until that point. (So, Bow+2xArrows+Polearm).
Floris would make a good Cavalryman with you, so it's a good idea to get him, especially since he comes with other decent support stats and should last longer/be knocked unconscious less than most of your other fighting companions.
These are actually the most important companions you'll have and you will need to train them purely in the Party skills they will each be contributing in. Only once they've become the best that they can be in these areas should you be giving them any combat skills. Don't worry, they won't be entering combat with you, anyway (you should place them lower in your Party list than any of your Cavalrymen/Cav. Archers).
You need a Medic; this is non-negotiable and you will grow to love him/her. I choose Fisique Jeremus for this role, and will train him up in Surgery, Wound Treatment and First Aid (as well as Trainer, since you'll have a few left-over skill points as you go along).
Second in importance in this area is a Scout. I've chosen Edwyn for this, but you could choose differently. This Palantinus should be at one with his/her surrounding, proving to be an adept Tracker, Spotter and Path-finder. They'll also pick up the slack of Engineering, but this is of lesser importance.
Finally, we have your Street Urchin, with plenty of experience in both Foraging and Looting. Katrin fills this role pretty well.
"Finally", I hear you say, "something I can get my teeth into". Firstly, don't bite people; they don't tend to like it. Secondly, I'll be talking at you about this at length, so don't rejoice too soon.
Note: Percentages ignore any Support elements of your army.
85-90% Heavy Cavalry
Slaver Chiefs (2-5)
Slave Crushers (enough to give you a total of 12+ Slavers)
Swadian/Sarranid Heavy Cavalry
Cavalry Fighting Companions
10-15% Cavalry Archers
H6 Black Widows
Any H6/7 Khergit/Sarranid Cav. Archers you free from captivity.
Cavalry Archer Fighting Companions
Support Troops should, of course, be at the bottom of your party list.
These are a very niche troop. Thankfully for you, their niche is this exact build; hurrah! Slaver Chiefs are very slow on the field but, since you're going to be charging down the enemy, their Charge damage will be an immense boon for you; they can OHKO Forest Bandits, for example, just by running in to them. They'll then be able to do the same again about half a second down the road.
Expect just 2-3 of these guys to bring you about 1/4 of your enemy's casualties in a typical battle. They are hard to train up to, though, so having 5 isn't as easy as you might think, especially since their slow speed makes them vulnerable to a lucky arrow going through the back of their head, which I'll discuss a bit later. Anyway, having more than 5 of these magnificent beasts will mean your army will lack the speed to get around the battlefield at the pace you'd like since you'll have so many stragglers.
These are pretty much a C6 unit in terms of equipment, and, coupled with the Slaver Chiefs, will give you a nice +1 boost to your Prisoner Management if you have 10 or more of them. I advise using them to bring your Slaver total to 12-14 so that you can afford for a couple of Slavers to suffer from a case of the dead-ness or a mild concussion and still keep the PM bonus. Heck, if you really love these guys then knock yourself out (preferably not literally) and get 25 of them for the +2 boost, but this will mean that training any Swadian/Sarranid troops to C6 will take longer, since you'll have fewer of them, so I wouldn't particularly advise it.
These will form the majority of your C6+ units. They've got respectable stats, have decent equipment and, most importantly, are quick, cheap and easy to recruit. You could find, perhaps, 15 of these just from one encounter in a Tavern, paying 600~ denars for each one in order to immediately have some high-levelled cavalry at your service. Their weekly pay is also in line with other C6 units, so you won't be paying through the teeth to maintain them, either.
Swadian/Sarranid C6/7 Heavy Cavalry
These will take a while to train up, apart from the handful that you might manage to free as prisoners. Thus, for a long time, these will be C4/5 Cavalry, and thus pretty vulnerable. The key here is to try to recruit in bulk, so that plenty of Exp gets added to the Exp pool for that stack of units each day.
As for which of of the types you go for, that's really down to your personal preference.
The Swadians will give you the heaviest armour, and are the stereotypical Heavy Cav. unit.
The Sarranids have two lines of Heavy Cav., one ending with the C7 Hasham and one with the C6 Sekban. The C7 Hasham line is the closest to the Swadian-style, although (as eastpaw's analysis shows, quite correctly) they're stronger up-close than the Swadians are. The C6 Sekban line, on the other hand, is a Blunt Weapon version of the Sarranid's other Heavy Cav. line, but with the added advantage of having a Ranged option, helpful for getting the odd kill of a troop that your charge of fate passes at a distance, and for cleaning up at the end of a fight. The obvious disadvantage, though is that they have no C7 unit in this line, although, given that it's rare to manage to train one to C7, I regard this as a non-issue.
I, personally, go with the Sarranid C6 Sekban line, since they're more versatile and give you an even greater pool of prisoners to choose from at the end of the battle.
Cavalry Fighting Companions
As previously mentioned, most of your Fighting Companions will be Heavy Cavalry, and these should join this group of Heavy Cav, forming part of your wedge-trail.
H6 Black Widow
These are excellent Cavalry Archers, and shouldn't be under-estimated simply based on their Skill levels. As with the C6 Kenau, you can recruit these in bulk (perhaps your entire contingent of Cav. Archers in one Tavern-visit), and they're cheap and immediately at a high level.
Their great Archery Weapon Proficiency (beaten only by the Khergit H7 Mandugai and Black Khergit Horsemen) is the best of ANY mounted T6 unit and is even superior to the Sarranid's H7 Iqta'dar. This means that they're fantastic at headshots and will actually rack up quite a few kills throughout the battle.
H6/7 Khergit/Sarranid Freed Prisoners
I must emphasise here that you should only have these if you've managed to free them from captivity; given the small number you need, they'll take far too long to train to an acceptable level if you attempt to build them from scratch.
Cavalry Archer Fighting Companions
As with the Heavy Cav. Fighting Companions joining your main Cavalry group, your Cav. Archer Fighting Companions should sidle up to the Cavalry Archer group.
If you're still reading this, have a cookie. There's plenty left to read, though, so don't scoff them all down at once. Also, remember how long it took me to write this compared to how long it's taking you to read it. I accept donations in the form of denars to be paid cash-in-hand to my Chamberlain based in Uxkhal.
This will be your typical field-battle strategy when conditions are optimal or passable, hence, your default, general strategy. I'll discuss later the weaknesses of the build and ways to overcome them.
So, your Army should be split into three sections as I outlined in the Army Composition section:
These are the PBOD that I issue each section with before a battle:
Cavalry - Follow Me, Wedge.
Cavalry Archers - (No Order), Avoid Combat.
Support - Hold, Avoid Combat.
Upon the start of the battle, your Cavalry Archers will race ahead to the front of the enemy lines and then begin harassing them by running circles around them whilst perhaps getting a few headshots in. The aim of this is to disorganise them from their Formation and distract their attention from the main body of your army.
Once your Cavalry have untangled themselves from the mess they spawn in (taking a couple/few seconds), they'll form a wedge behind you. Once your Cavalry Archers have got a little way ahead, you should begin your gallop toward the enemy. It's important not to follow your Cavalry Archers straight away, else you'll run into them when they turn away from the enemy to begin their arrow bombardment, and the enemy won't have been distracted yet.
Hopefully, by the time you reach the enemy, their attention won't be entirely on you, making it easy for you to charge your way through their ranks (Infantry or Archers; both if it's possible to line your route up to crash through both sections of their army). Now, make sure you keep on the move; don't charge your way into a group of enemies so dense that they'll manage to halt your charge, instead find a route round them. The rest of your wedge should soften them up on their way through, aided by the fact that the enemy will have about-faced to watch you racing off into the sunset. Continue your charge, running a good distance away from the enemy (1/3rd of the entire field should do it), before looping back round to face them once again, allowing your Wedge to regroup a little (don't wait for them all) behind you. Then, rinse and repeat.
If the enemy has a cavalry contingent, you'll need to charge into this at some point, and you personally should attempt to deal with their top cavalry units. You will likely have to stop and deal with them there and then, effectively swarming them with your own, larger, cavalry group. If they're lucky, they'll fell a couple of your units, but they will take considerably more casualties. If you manage to get a good swing in on them at speed, your blunt weapon should aid you in destroying them straight away. The need to swarm enemy cavalry is a good reason to choose Sarranid, rather than Swadian, Heavy Cavalry.
If any enemies attempt to kill any Support troops who might have spawned, your Cav. Archers will normally deal with them, but paying them a visit after a charge in that direction can occasionally be a good idea.
When there are a lot of Archers in the opposing army, it's a good idea to cut back and begin your second etc. charges earlier than you would otherwise do in order to form a shield to protect the rear of your slow Slaver Chiefs attempting to catch up with the rest of your wedge.
Archers and Non-Pike Infantry
This is a no-brainer. This strategy is specifically designed to crush these sorts of troops, and you have the distinct advantage over them.
Dominance on Open Plains
On an open plain, your medieval tanks of brain-crunching metal are in their prime, and the opposing side has nothing to help lessen the sheer force of the impact when your annihilating death-riders of the apocalypse burst forth unto them.
Given that all but your Support troops are mounted, you will have phenomenal speed on the World Map, able to outpace any party other than routers or Lords lacking an army.
This is strengthened by the fact that you have a Supporting Companion devoted to increasing your advantage on the Map. Well done, you.
Normally money is a major issue when fielding a cavalry army, given their cost. That is far from the case with this strategy; roughly 2/3-3/4 of enemies you face will be knocked unconscious rather than be killed on the battlefield, meaning that you can expect to fill your Prisoner slots with quality prisoners every battle. I'd encourage you to regularly (numerous times a week) go hunting for Bandits, preferably Forest Bandits; each one is worth 130 denars, meaning that 2 or 3 loads will pay for your entire army+a garrisoned army per week. After that, everything is profit.
Expect to go Tavern-trawling for Ransom Brokers often, though.
Whilst this strategy's Strengths are particularly potent, so, unfortunately, are its weaknesses. I'll attempt to give some ideas for how to minimise the effects of them after outlining each one, though.
Problem level: 9/10
This is, without a doubt, your biggest weakness.
Whilst the Horse/Pike Damage Tweak makes this build, it also provides its biggest downfall. Pikes will deal considerable damage to horses, as well as having the potential to stop your charge right in its tracks.
Solution effectiveness: 2/10
Really, you need your Cavalry Archers to distract the Pikemen enough that they turn away from your Cavalry charge. Even then, you will take considerable casualties (they WILL fell some Cav. Archers and Heavy Cav.). If you do manage to get a charge in whilst they're facing away, you can wreak havoc amongst their ranks, though, and considerably weaken them. They will still, however, get some hits on your horses. If possible, have allies deal with Pikemen.
Problem level: 7/10
Mountains will stop your tactic from being plausible, apart from in a few cases. It will be especially problematic when you're facing Crossbowmen, who will chew you up as you slowly approach them.
There are two solutions here:
Solution level: 9/10
Lure the enemy away from the mountains on the World Map before engaging them. Thanks to your Cavalry army, you should easily have greater speed than them, so bring them away from the mountains toward flatter terrain before fighting them, eliminating the problem altogether.
Solution effectiveness: 3/10
If the above solution isn't an option for whatever reason, and you have to fight them in the mountains, then this is your best bet:
Search for a gentler slope up the mountains to get in and amongst the enemy. If you're lucky, the mountains will actually shield your approach. If no such opportunity exists on the terrain, you may have to make your army dismount and approach on foot. Your Cav. Archers will then become normal archers and should help you, and, thanks to the quality of your cavalrymen, they will still make respectable infantry. You will still take casualties, though.
Problem level: 4/10
This is mainly a problem in that it distracts you from utilising your true strategy and the fact that they might well cause you to have a few casualties. Not a major problem.
Solution effectiveness: 4/10
As described in the General Strategy section, swarm the Cavalry with your own superior numbers and make sure you get a few of them yourself.
Problem level: 3/10
Note that these are a distinctly different weakness than mountains in that they have different effects. Rather than eliminating your strategy, they'll help to neutralise it by significantly slowing your speed on arrival.
Solution effectiveness: 7/10
Normally the AI isn't smart enough to position all their troops at the top of the hill, so most of the opposing army should still be easy pickings. When approaching those on the top of the hill, try to use high-ground as an approach, since then you might manage to keep your speed up a little bit more. You'll likely have to stop and engage them in close-up combat, but this shouldn't normally be too problematic. Watch out, though, for them having the height advantage over you.
Problem level: 3/10
More of an irritation than a problem, but they can cause your Cavalry to get stuck and become a target for enemies. For me, I find the worst thing about it the fact that I can't always see where I'm going.
Solution effectiveness: 4/10
Either try to lure the enemy away, which might not be as easy as doing so with mountains, given how much more of the map is forested than it is mountainous, or just work with it, looking to lead your Wedge-trail through the largest gaps in the trees you can find. Be sensible; if you can only just squeeze through, it's going to cause some problems for the horde following you.
Problem level: 2/10
I've given this a low problem level because of how effective the solution is, but, if you were to ignore my solution, the problem would be more like 6/10. Rivers will slow your charge to a slow speed, and the terrain could quickly be a killing ground for your own troops.
Solution effectiveness: 8/10
Depending on where the river is in relation to you and the enemy on the map, either wait (call Cav. Archers back at first and don't lead your Wedge into battle) for them to have crossed the river and be on flat ground or, if the river is going vertically down the middle of the map, cross the river straight away and charge as quickly as you can toward the enemy to reach them before they reach the point where they want to cross the river.
If you misjudge either of these, don't be afraid of changing your mind, turning around and heading back until the enemy reaches a more favourable piece of terrain for you to engage them on.
You will, of course, perform differently against different Factions. This section is meant as a (short?) analysis of how effective you can expect to be.
Whilst their Infantry power is colossal, they are effectively neutralised by this strategy. Only one branch of their troop tree has polearms, so you don't have to worry too much. Make sure you don't get over ambitious when charging into their ranks and end up getting yourself trapped, though!
As long as you do things right, the biggest threat here is the possibility of them getting some lucky Thrown-Weapon hits.
Watch out for their Cavalry (you'll need to take down any C6/7 units they have, else they'll take down a few of your own troops) and lucky headshots from their archers against your slower Cavalry.
I4 Piquiers are a pain, too, with their Polearms, but they don't make up much of their army, so you should be alright. If you see a band of I4 Piquier deserters, though, I'd suggest you save yourself for another fight.
Similar to the Swadians, but without the Polearm-Infantry threat. These shouldn't be a problem, as long as you take down their Cavalry.
You'll take some casualties, especially amongst your Cav. Archers, who will be thoroughly outnumbered. Take down most of their ground-based troops with an initial charge or two and then see about dealing with their Cavalry. You may need to get your Heavy Cavalry to Charge after their Cavalry Archers on their own, otherwise you'll never catch them. You should outnumber them, and have strong Cavalry yourself, though.
Pretty much a mixture of all the Factions I've mentioned so far, really. Their I4 Al-Haqas will be of a similar threat level as the Swadian I4 Piquiers, their Cavalry will be better at fighting you off in close combat than the Swadians were, but you should still vastly outnumber them, and you may well have to charge after their Cavalry Archers as with the Khergits. Oh, and they have Thrown Weapons, like the Nords. Have fun.
These are the direct counter to your strategy. Their Infantry is liable destroy you, given how impressive their Polearm-Infantry is. Their Archers have Crossbows, which are renowned as being better against Cavalry than conventional Bows. Also, they live in the mountains.
You're in for an extremely tough fight if you want to fight them, but at least their Cavalry won't be much of a threat.
A Couple of Considerations
This is the final section (I've been sitting here for 3 hours writing all this o.O) and is really for me to bring a couple of considerations to your mind, assuming I haven't blown your mind (knocked it unconscious, perhaps?) already.
1) When looking for a base of operations for yourself (your home city, etc.), choose somewhere which has lots of terrain advantageous to you around it. Whilst the Sarranid lands seem ideal for this, also remember that you'll need to be taking lots of prisoners for income to pay for your army, and the easiest way to do this is going after bandits. In the desert, the bandits are mounted and have Black Khergits with them, so this isn't necessarily a great idea for a base. I chose Uxkhal, since it has lots of Forest Bandits nearby and a huge open plain to the East.
2) If becoming a vassal of a Faction, consider which Faction you'd least like to face in combat. I enjoy playing the game as a vassal, rather than a King, and so this is a particularly potent issue for myself. I chose to join the Rhodoks, since they're both close enough to Uxkhal to help me to defend it from the Swadians I took it from, and I'd really rather fight with them than against them.
Congratulations for reading all of this 4.6k word monstrosity. I'm going to take a well-earned rest, and I suggest you do the same. You are now, after all, the General of the finest army in the land. Go forth and wreak havoc with thine enemies and drink dry the taverns of yonder kingdom, and all that jazz.