Yeah they do, but depends on the %. Once most are are behind a shield wall, sure.
Archer spam is too powerful as it is. Nothing has changed enough in 2.5 years, it's still to your benefit to go archer heavy from the get go. It's only a slight liability with some of the quests.
You only really need to think about getting actual infantry/cavalry when you're getting to mercenary/vassal stage and risk encountering cavalry or higher tier infantry
I say "bumper rails" cause you pretty much have to start the game the same way every time, unless you're going pure trader. If you try to deviate from that at all (fighting small bands of looters, arena/tournament), well you can't. I fail to see how amassing a large number of recruits is any less valid than amassing a large number T2 shield infantry to beat a T3 Archer party. Though given how terrified some are at the thought of recruits having some flimsy shields, maybe it was apt.
I've been playing with my shielded recruits and it has not wildly changed anything in my experience, at least in terms of Army battles and Sieges. I mean let's think this out...
You attack a 500 man enemy army, it's composed of 20% recruits (not unusual).
So that's 100 recruits, only 33 of them are going to have shields give or take.
Will that really ruin your experience? Their armor is still crap/non-existent, their skills are poor, they are not going to overwhelm you - because at the end of the day they are still poor fighters. If anything I nerfed recruits by taking away their scythes
(also a shield wouldn't help scythe wielders because it sits on their back anyways), which is if you pay attention where they overwhelmingly get kills on higher tier units.
Just to drive it home a little further; here's 100 Imperial Palatine/Sergeant Crossbowmen versus 600 Recruits (w/ shields) in a siege. About the only micro I did was placing left archer formation behind walls so they wouldn't spill down siege tower, otherwise I let the A.I. use it's own Sun Tzu tactics.
Oh god, oh man, oh wow, oh god, oh man, oh wow! Some of the peasants have wooden shields! We're doomed! THE END IS NIGH!
We win, crazy huh?
And if we run the same scenario via the base game, no unit mods
, what do we get? Surely a flawless victory right?
Again 100 Imperial Palatine/Sergeant Crossbowmen versus 600 Recruits...
So lost 8 less units, which could all boil to RNG anyways. 🙃
Well how else are you going to balance it? Though not really my intent to begin with, again shields is to make recruits more useful early game and less sacrificial lambs for the sake of getting a T2 unit.
A) Get rid of Recruits so they don't trash up large armies
B) Make Lords train up their troops (I can not see TW doing this)
If I still haven't have convinced folks at this point, well to each their own I suppose.