Am I doing something wrong, or is this just how it is?

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I am around 150 hours into my second play-through. My first one was about 30 hours and I got too ambitious, made everyone hate me, and was too small to face the then bugged conspiracy war party quest.

I am King of the Southern Empire with a party of around 340 troops. With the max number of workshops, I currently lose between 7k and 8k a day. Even if I get rid of my two largest garrisons I'd still be in the hole 2-3k. I am at the part of the campaign where I conquered 2/3 of imperial lands and war with Aserai, Sturgia, and Vlandia is the new "quest". So I take some time and smith 2 handed swords, then I have to actually find a city that can pay me the 40-60k they sell for. Does prolonged war just destroy a cities ability to generate money?

The Khuzait, and the West are pretty much constantly at war with me, the north has been smashed and only holds 2 cities. I cant remember the last time I had any peace. I take a Khusait city, we make peace, Sturgia comes in with a 1500 large army takes that city, I siege I get attacked by an army. If I win I dont have the troops left to finish the siege, or if I do take the city by the time I have rebuilt my party...guess who is under siege again, rinse and repeat. Then come the Aserai, who I have a lot of good relation with. But while I'm up north holding the Sturgians back, they roll in with an army of 1400 and take a city. Meanwhile, I cant remember the last time I saw one of my empire armies over 1000 troops unless I made it.

The AI armies are almost never helpful, picking bad targets, and often losing sieges because they think its smart to go head on with no towers or a ram and no time with siege engines. A lot of times my army of only 500-600 is the only one on the map. I keep my armies smaller so I can attack/defend on what always seems like 2 fronts, and allow the AI to form armies in an attempt to save them from themselves when they get into a bad situation. I know its a thing that crushing an army of 1200 is basically meaningless because they just almost immediately get back to strength way faster than I can recruit back up to full. I have almost no ability or time to manage my fiefs because the idiot AI likes to ignore one of our cities or castles under siege, only to go lose at their attack somewhere else and retreat.

Feels bad man, but the best progress I made was when the North really made me mad so I executed every lord I came across. Oh look....We killed the north, but it isnt really a fun way to play for me. I always read executing is pretty bad, and yeah a lot of people hate me now, but is that really the best way to make progress? Otherwise every city is like Amprella for me, being taken, taken back, taken, taken back over and over and over. Am I the only one putting troops in garrisons? I'll dump every soldier I have that isn't cavalry into a garrison and then have to rebuild, in which time the enemies surely take more land. Even if I have the strategy set to defensive my AI armies will ignore an Aserai siege to go lose a battle at a khuzait castle.

I do well in battles, I can easily take armies up to or around twice my size and then some. But any progress I make is negated by having that -7200 denars per day as I eventually have to go smith and then find a city that isnt broke to sell it to.

If this post seems like it is on a loop....thats because its exactly how I feel. I love this game...but I don't know if I need a new character or what. It just seems like its at a stalemate. When I do make progress against one of the 3 alliance factions against me, the West or the Khuzait start war and pull my AI armies away from where I want them to focus and I lose progress on that questline, going from 60/100 back down to 12/100 or something. If I attempt to finish off the West or Khuzait, then one of the 3 alliance factions builds and army of 1500 and takes a stroll though my land.

I currently dont use any mods, I usually dont in most games. But at this point I am open to suggestions. I just feel like with 150 hours in, things are getting worse not better. If I grant myself a city then I have to pay the garrison making my situation worse. If I give the city to a lord, he or she doesn't defend it and its get lost 10 minutes later. Not to mention because of companion restrictions and the culture penalty I simply cant put a governor in most of my fiefs.

So I I doing something wrong...or is this just how it goes? Thanks in advance.
That's how it is. But you can stream line garrisons and actually make a budget based on what the fiefs are paying you to cover the garrisons + some pay for you to cover your party. If you have way too many t4-6 troops in garrisons and parties, you're not going to cover it because you can always put more in a garrison then the fief can pay, you need to budget no matter how many fiefs you have. Try like 100-140 t3/4 troops for a town and say 80-100 for a castle.

If you're constantly at war just constantly hunt and destroy enemy parties, you don't need to smith. You should easily cover 7k a day just going out and taking down everyone you find and return to sell in your towns. It should be a constant build of money if you just defeat everyone you can.

As far as actual progress as a faction, it's kinda bad IMO and needs a lot of work. What you need to do is CREATE HOMELESS CLANS by taking thier fiefs away, then get at least slight +(or close)relation (catch and release)and recruited those clans and give them a fief and repeat. Eventually you have enough vassals that you can kind of let them run the show, but they'll also vote for war and peace constantly so any real plans you have get kinda messed up. But if you just keep defeating all parties and poaching homeless clans they'll slowly grown the faction, even if it's very inferior to what you would want them to do if they could be controlled or were actually smart.

If I grant myself a city then I have to pay the garrison making my situation worse. If I give the city to a lord, he or she doesn't defend it and its get lost 10 minutes later.
You should learn to budget the garrison and take as many town for yourself until you're comfortable with your money, give vassals 1 fief for now, eventually you won't be able to give yourself more fiefs and this is important: You must defeat all enemy parties in the field! You cannot make huge garrisons to try to ward away armies in this game. Just doesn't work because they can always make a bigger army and it cost way too much.

You may need to re-build your main party to be a faster leaner party with powerful troops like say all khans guards (or other t5 horse archers) and zip around catching all the enemies and not bringing a huge slow bulky army.

^This above is general advice based on the situation you described. In future games you can take more deliberate approach to set yourself up as a rich power clan before you press the make kingdom button. Also I would just ignore the main quest(after rescue brother), I don't think it helps anything and may even add extra annoyance. What I think is best to build up a power full main force and then take fiefs as a solo clan, making peace when necessary as you cannot have war declared on you as a solo clan. This can be done completely solo or after breaking off from a faction, say you become a vassal and gain some fiefs, then at some point (say when you're finished using armies to get 150 leadership as many do) you leave the faction and fight it and take more and more fiefs for yourself. The only after making a large rich, totally settled down and comfortable pseudo-faction for myself will I press the make kingdom button and I will have an idea what homeless clans I can recruit right away too! To aid in this style I will build my character to obtain the perks keen sight (225 scouting) and mounted patrols (225 riding) with these both on MC I can hold lord prisoner forever in my party, meaning I can take an entire faction prisoner and just take thier fiefs at whatever pace I want with no resistance. This is sadly for only the preparation though, once you have kingdom and vassals, the vassals can vote in peace a cause you prisoners to be released.
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There is a lot to answer here and i don't have the time to give a long answer. but this is are my suggestions. well guess i did anyway...

1) You can limit the wage you want to be used for a specific garrison, i usually don't but it looks like in your case it may help.
2) You can also limit the wages for your other parties too
3) Funny enough you don't really need good units in your garrisons, recruits will do, especially if the town/castle is far from a war zone, still security is a thing so let's say don't leave many tier 4 & 5 units in garrisons.
4) Garrison have an auto recruit feature: when i get a new Settlement i leave 50 "bad" units in there and let the garrison recruit the rest. has worked real well in my last campaign.
5) Good Governors can help with Towns, like a lot. too bad good governors are kinda rare but that's what the wife is for. (don't kill me pls, it's a joke)

Ai armies:
1)Set them on Defensive in the War screen under Kingdom stuff, you know what i mean. This will make it so that they will prioritize defense first and then, when the enemy lost his few good armies go and attack. This doesn't mean you are not going to lose any army but it's less likely and my go to strategy.
2) Use "Balanced" & "Offensive" only when you have AT LEAST the entire strength of all the faction you are at war combined.
3) Take 1000 man or more and siege, the AI is for Defense.
4) Don't KILL your vassals: If a party in your army has less then 50 units let them go and let them recruit, it's not worth losing a party leader for an handful of units.

Kingdom management and Policies.
1) Since you are low on money and sounds like your kingdom owns a few share of towns try implementing this two "State Monopolies" & "War Tax"
2) Party size could be bigger and not just for you: Noble Retinues will give a boost to all Clan Leaders and Royal Guard is essential for you as it gives the ruler party an extra 60 units.
3) Any rebellions? just vote "Forgivness Of Debts"
4) Sounds like you need help with vassals, i have made a tutorial video a few months back on how to get your hands on vassals easier, and yes you need around 25 Clans if you want to take over the entire map, or a good axe.
5) Smithing is fine. i don't like it or use it but if you are struggling don't feel like you are cheating for exploiting the smithy.

Map Geography:
1) This may sound stupid but like any good kingdom it must be very well defended and the best way to defend a kingdom is a mountain or a body of water. look for the factions that aren't bounded to anything and push for their territories, as you are in the S. Empire and N.Empire i would suggest going for the Khuzait, form there you get an hold on Sturgia, maybe losing a few empire towns in the process. and then you kinda know what to do from there.
2) Leave the Aserai for last, i think they have always been the last i took out in any of my campaigns.

If you are interest on the video on vassals just look for my Nickname on the Tube, it should be there.

Hope this helped you to keep your Bannerlording going.
The AI armies are almost never helpful, picking bad targets, and often losing sieges because they think its smart to go head on with no towers or a ram and no time with siege engines.
Yeah they are bad and this is major gripe I have too. As I said, you just have to let them do thier thing and defeat as many enemy parties as you can. You can also do sneaky thing like attack and siege (like I do in my solo siege video in sig) and kill all the infantry then leave and have weak garrisons for you vassal to then siege...maybe. It would be much better if you could just tell them what to do.


Alright appreciate the far as lords go I have had little luck recruiting them. The ones I have positive relation with are generally in an army and wont talk, or they just hate my guts....and rightfully so. I did execute their friends and family in many cases.

I didn't know you could limit garrison wages. I got sick of my brother and sister getting taken prisoner all the time so I stopped paying for their parties and just either make them governors or keep them with me for now. That will be a big help. I'll try a combination of the suggestions you two have given me and hopefully can make a turn around somehow. Otherwise I'll just start a new character and learn from my mistakes on this one. I really appreciate the quick and helpful responses.

Edit/Add: well i just learned where the garrison wage bar is and that is helping greatly.
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