With Fire & Sword – Captain Smith, Pt. 3

By Quintin Smith on May 24th, 2011 at 6:11 pm.

That horse couldn't care less, could it?
Last week’s instalment of Captain Smith saw my bookish, ambitious mercenary captain having some actual success. Would it last, or would the game once again cast me into the gutter like a cigarette butt? No prizes for guessing that one.

They say that pride comes before a fall. Pish, I say. What “they” don’t realise is that pride is what makes you stand up again.

I manage to reunite the mayor and his kidnapped daughter, though only just. On the way there I had to chase off some bandits on the way home and as the battle began, who should I see rushing into battle with the rest of my rag-tag force than the girl herself. With an axe. Which at least cleared up the mystery of how she’d gotten kidnapped in the first place.

Seeing as I’d solved the problem of getting shot off my horse by selling the sodding thing my only option is to go jogging into battle after her. Seeing as she was fitter than me, too, she soon disappeared from my sight. I let out a sigh of relief like the air being let out of a zepplin when I spotted her cheering with the rest of my men after the battle.

I spend the next week idly hunting looters down for a different, Swedish mayor. Seeing as these days I visit the pub like pensioners visit the toilet, I manage to find and recruit some cheap and (occasionally) cheerful heroes- special soldiers who, unlike your regular men, level up and develop skills. Though “hero” is, perhaps, an overstatement.

NAME: Sarabun
LOOKS LIKE: Hercule Poirot played by a decaying grapefruit
SPECIAL SKILLS: First aid.
BACK STORY: I’m not entirely sure. I wasn’t giving him my full attention when we started talking and only pricked up my ears when he informed me that the Cossacks apparently “treat fever by mixing vodka with gunpowder”. Ours is a working relationship.

NAME: Yelisei
LOOKS LIKE: A banker suffering through the. world’s worst fancy dress stag party
SPECIAL SKILLS: Non-specific
BACK STORY: Yelisei claims to be descended of noble birth, and when I met him he agreed to sign up with my warband if I just gave him 300 thaler for a new coat. So there’s a chance he might just be a liar and a bum, but I like his enthusiasm. I just kind point him in a direction and off he goes, waving his sword in the air like he was ringing an imaginary bell.

NAME: Algirdas
LOOKS LIKE: A disgraced Danish TV presenter
SPECIAL SKILLS: Engineer
BACK STORY: Algirdas also claims to be descended of noble birth. Unlike Yelisei, he hasn’t somehow lived a life developing no skills whatsoever, and can tell me how to build siege engines. He is therefore my favourite. We’ll need those skills one day, Algirdas! Mark my words.

Sarabun likes Yelisei.

Sarabun doesn’t like Algirdas.

Shut up, Sarabun.

I complete my contract to hunt down the looters and then escort yet another caravan, but after that I decide I’ve had enough. I was born to protect more than barrels of beer, and I was born to do battle with greater foes than stinky mono-testicled scum who inhabit the ditches and tall trees of this land.

I have a very slightly positive reputation with the Polish folk around here for rescuing that mayor’s daughter. I decide that I’ll make my start with them. No more mayors! From now on, Captain Smith does business with lords and nobles.

The Polish lords are like something out of a David Lynch movie. In every castle they can be found standing in the far corner of identical rooms, and they all want the same thing from me- to deliver a letter to one of the other Polish lords. For a week I become a miserable, simpering, unpaid postman, performing these errands in such a daze that at one point I click three or four times to try and initiate conversation with an empty suit of armour. See below.

Eventually I catch a break. One of the lords, Jan Skrzetuski, wants me to collect a debt from another lord, Cornet Siegmund Slushka. Be still my beating heart. On the way there I get the feeling that this can’t possibly end well.

There he is! Alright, here I go.


Ah. Cock. Wait, what happens if I click the ‘Persuade’ button again?

Amazing!

I click Persuade over and over again (each time lowering the amount I’ll be expected to bribe him) without actually considering whether this will have any kind of consequence. It will. Abruptly after my fifth or sixth impassioned speech, the good Cornet Siegmund Slushka fucking explodes, telling me he’s had enough of my gibbering and to shut up immediately. Meekly, I hand over some 300 thaler and go transporting the rest of the debt back to Jan. This working for lords instead of nobles really isn’t working out for me.

In need of some light relaxation, I spot a band of deserters half my size a few miles away and decide to annihilate them for fun and profit. The game informs me that the deserters “retreat to their fort”, but my mind’s still clouded and impatient from fannying around as an errand boy for weeks on end. Ignorning the game’s warning, I attack anyway.

What a sight it is to see my gang of mercenaries, heroes, opportunists and rescued prisoners go sprinting off towards victory. I’m telling you, every battle in this game feels like dropping your kids off at their first day of school. Joy, fear and pride go ricocheting around your head like pinballs in equal measure. “Come back to me safe, lads,” I mumble at my monitor.

I’ve made the biggest mistake of my career so far and I don’t even know it yet.

As my band goes lurching awkwardly towards the deserters the message “Mercenary rifleman killed by Zolnier” pops up once, then twice, then again and again. I sit there, trying to remember which of my three heroes is called Zolnier, because Jesus, he’s a machine! Then I realise that none of my heroes is called Zolnier, and my blood starts running a little colder. “Zolnier” is the type of deserter I’m fighting, and I’m getting massacred.

The “fort” the deserters retreated to is a wagon fort, one of Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword’s new features. It’s little more than the group’s baggage carts pulled into a circle, which sounds crap, but in practice I was discovering its absurd effectiveness. You see, by just standing on the inside of the circle with muskets equipped, they could shoot out with ease while my men would have incredible trouble hitting them. Worse, my melee troops couldn’t touch them without running all the way round the circle, where they’d get shot on the way.

Thanks to the heroic surgical efforts of Sarabun and myself, almost twenty of my forty men survived. But it was a cruel lesson, like being beaten upside the face with a blackboard, and it left me shellshocked. I swore to myself that I would not lose a fight through stupidity again. I would learn tactics and strategy, I would learn to construct my own forts, and I might even try and learn the game’s hotkey command system. Maybe.

The following week saw me performing another menial task for a Polish lord (Siegmund Slushka again, as it happens), collecting outstanding taxes from a village of peasants. Don’t knock the hat, it gives me +2 armour. I’d been warned that the peasants were liable to fight back, but I wasn’t expecting what happened next.

Abruptly the game cut to myself, Sarabun and a couple of my pikemen armed with what looked like overgrown breadsticks. What the shit? Oh, right- this represented us being surprised while collecting taxes? Or something? There was no time to think- six peasants were bearing down on us. I would use tactics to win this fight, whether it was with swords or sticks, whether it was against six men or sixty.

First things first- men! Get behind that house!

Dashing behind a cottage, the lot of us wait patiently for the first thug to round the corner, whereupon we all beat him like a dusty carpet. Success! A second thug comes around the corner and we deliver another surprise beating. Pow!

My plan is working! It’s WORKING! Uh, I mean, of course my plan’s working. These are commoners. Their brains are little more than sweat-soaked sawdust.

At the exact moment I’m congratulating myself, one of my pikemen is hit in the head by a stone and crumples to the ground like a slinky.

Turns out the rest of the peasants are throwing rocks, like savages. Actually that’s not entirely correct- they’re throwing rocks like those pitching machines you find in batting cages. I order my men to charge them, and I swear to you it was like the Normandy beach landings.

Myself and Sarabun were the only ones to reach them. There was only time for us to take a few maddened swipes, squinting through the blood in our eyes, before we ourselves were cut down.

Myself and my men go limping back to Slushka’s keep with half the taxes- some 2,000 thaler. A small fortune, really. I expect a browbeating, but to my surprise, Slushka’s not home. Idly, I visit another Polish lord who tells me to hunt a man called, no word of a lie, “Barnabas the Squint”. Which sounds to me more like an obscure sexual position than anything else.

Following rumours, I quickly find Barnabas the Squint.

It goes well. By which I mean I forgot that I’d rebound the hotkey to draw my pistol and Barnabas shanked me with such animal momentum that I was knocked clean off my horse.

Screw this. Screw the Polish, and screw doing battle with furious peasants. Where’s the honour in that? And honour is what I’m in this game for.

With this in mind, I carefully deposit the 2,000 thaler in taxes in my storage chest and head East. Perhaps the Cossacks are in need of a hero.

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64 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Andy_Panthro says:

    Absolute brilliance.

    Have recently started playing the original Mount & Blade, and am enjoying it immensely. Wondering if I should buy either Warband or this one though.

    I’ve managed to capture an enemy king too – although it’s been 20 days and I’m not sure what to do with him.

    • Jumwa says:

      It seems like Warband’s the way to go as it has more options. Unless guns and real life based factions are really important to you, in which case go for Fire & Sword.

    • abremms says:

      “try warband” was the advice given me on another forum when I expressed frustration with Fire and Sword, and I haven’t looked back since. to the point where I literally forgot to eat last Saturday. Fire and Sword is fun, but Warband is the crown jewel in the franchise.

      funnily enough, the way I understand it, Fire and Sword is actually an older game, having been developed before Warband but only released in eastern Europe or some such, what we have now is just a translated version (note: that may just be internet malarkey)

      Warband with mods is a glorious thing to behold, many of the mods even include guns, though the ones I’v seen aren’t as well implemented as native Fire and Sword. I highly recommend Floris or Blood and Steel after you play a game or two without mods to see how everything works.

    • Archonsod says:

      WFaS was originally developed for Mount & Blade. The international release is pretty much the same game (well, Sich re-released it in 2010 slightly before Warband, with some new features from Warband incorporated) ported fully into the Warband engine and translated.

      Warband is likely the more intuitive to get to grips with thanks to it’s medieval setting, and is more focused on your character. WFaS on the other hand is in the middle of the Pike & Shot era which is generally less familiar to most, and as a result there’s more emphasis on army composition and tactics than the individual.
      Beyond that Warband is more of a sandbox while WFaS is storyline based.

    • megalomania says:

      I would say even if guns and real life factions are important to you, stick with Warband. There’s more than a few historical, gun-featuring Warband mods that outdo WF&S: Mount & Musket, 1755: Old Frontier, Age of Blackpowder, and my personal favourite, 1866: Western (cowboys and Indians!)

    • Premium User Badge

      Andy_Panthro says:

      Will deffo be getting Warband then I think!

      The whole guns thing doesn’t impress me too much, and like you say there are mods available if I do get the urge.

      I’m really enjoying M&B though, haven’t played a game so much since I first got Minecraft, or the last time I played Civilization 4. Very much a case of “just one more battle!”.

      One question: One of my (minor) gripes about M&B (original flavour) is that my influence as a Lord seems relatively minor (I have one village and would prefer something larger, and perhaps a better title!). Does this improve in Warband?

      (Sorry for derailing with non-F&S stuff Capt. Quinns!)

    • FRIENDLYUNIT says:

      @Andy_Panthro

      Throw heim into thee Piets Off Icccceee!

      This series is making me want to dust off my Warband campaign.

    • Mattressi says:

      Yeah, Andy, Warband significantly improves on what you can do with regards to running a faction. You can still choose to simply work for a king of an existing faction or become the king of an existing faction, but you can also make your own faction too and assign your companions as vassals of the various cities and towns that you own. You can also affect the economy of your towns (you can build production houses to produce various materials) which is nice.

      Warband really is the way to go. WFaS is fine, but it pales in comparison to the absolutely brilliant game that Warband is. Plus, I can’t see anyone making big mods for WFaS – Warband has more features to work with already, so WFaS will likely only get small community patches and the like.

    • Mayjori says:

      Warband is definately the way to go, and if your looking for good tactics involved you need to play
      Prophesy of Pendor, its one of the most balanced mods I’ve ever played, and just ridiculous amounts of fun (its a completely new world, new factions, etc).

      Floris modpack is decent (deals with same world as vanilla.
      Brytanwalde (sp?) is good too (based in British Isles)

      There are others, but thus far PoP is my favorite, I love how different the factions are, its very well thought out and very well made, very ,very well made :).

  2. Da5id Jaz says:

    After reading the first two of these I downloaded the Mount and Blade demo and became totally addicted. Now its over, I’m lost. I need to scrape some dough together and buy this immediately!

    Great storytelling skills, by the by, Quincy

  3. Daniel Rivas says:

    I’ve never seen any reason to actually give the taxes and debts to the people owed them. By the time standing with lords means more than money, you’re not doing missions anyway—you’re riding to war in order to gain reputation.

  4. McDan says:

    “He can tell me how to build siege engines. He is therefore my favourite” This, along with many other lines that made me laugh out loud, is why I come to RPS. Also that hat may give you +2 armour, but it’s still ridiculous. Atleast you aren’t running away from everything now though.

    • Premium User Badge

      JB says:

      It was “I was born to do battle with greater foes than stinky mono-testicled scum who inhabit the ditches and tall trees of this land.” that made me laugh the most though.

  5. President Weasel says:

    I’m rather enjoying the Captain Smith series, especially as it’s coincided with me playing M&B again.
    It is possible to bounce back from disaster; I went from having a 60-strong army to being an unarmed pedestrian with 3 mates due to being captured the enemy, but I managed to grind my way back to 20 mostly cavalry again, which gave me the speed to choose my fights. By picking on weak enemies who had useful prisoners, I got my army back up to 80 decent troops without paying any hiring fees, saving me enough to buy another decent horse and pistol. I never seem to be able to save enough to buy anything really fancy though, like one of those extra-sharp swords that retail for 12,000 thaler or whatever. I still miss the nice Cossack saber I lost to those dirty Poles, or the spare cossack saber I took back off a companion and immediately lost to some tartars.
    As for the wanted man quests, I failed the first one horribly as well. They go from talky talky to viciously chopping at your legs with little time to do anything (I remember one of them started pinging viciously sharp knives at me when I’d parked my horse in the “getaway position” before doing the talky talky, too). It’s easiest to dismount for those conversations, then just block the swings and hit back.
    The forts are a bugger, although if you send your cavalry in as a distraction you can usually ride up and pick a good few on them off with your pistol before they notice you.
    If you do enough mail delivery quests to build up good relations with the noble, you can usually get them to agree to pay up out of friendship, which loses you 3 relationship but gets you a decent amount of cash.
    Oh, and Algirdas is an arse; loot so much as a single measly village and he starts moaning about his honour.

    • Rakysh says:

      The trick to the bounty quests I find is to have your pistol drawn and pointed at his bollocks before you initiate conversation, just so he doesn’t try anything cheeky.

    • Premium User Badge

      QuantaCat says:

      Well, there is a trade run in Fire & Sword that lets you get about 100,000 thaler per run. Its not an exploit of any kind, you just need to know where a certain product is really cheap, and where it costs HEAPS and HEAPS. Then caravan it.

      Which is what I did, and the game instantly was more fun.

  6. Conor says:

    I haven’t laughed so much in a long while. Well done, Quinton, well done.

  7. Alexander Norris says:

    Join us next week for another episode of WILL QUINNS FINISH ONE OF THESE ANY OF THESE DAYS.

    (Hopefully this is the one that Quinns will finish some day in the future.)

    • McDan says:

      But can you ever finish a M&B? Even if you own everything there’ll still be more money to be made and bandits, deserters etc.?

  8. Drake Sigar says:

    “What’s the rallying point?”

  9. Premium User Badge

    Faldrath says:

    Hmm, are heroes random? Because I’m pretty sure that in my game Algirdas knows tactics and Yelisei is an engineer.

    And yeah, the “find a thug” quests can be horrible… better to dismount and have your shield ready, because they always seem to strike first.

    • Stranglove says:

      Nah, mount up, initiate conversation on the move and by the time he wants to attack you, you’re 20 meters away and readying a carbine shot.

  10. Jahandar says:

    Nothing has made me interested in playing this game more than this feature.

  11. Jason Lefkowitz says:

    Sarabun likes Yelisei. Sarabun doesn’t like Algirdas.

    One of the “heroes” who pop up in taverns occasionally is a Hungarian fellow named Tepes. I made the mistake of hiring him. Turns out that all the other heroes loathe him, due mostly to his strange habits, things like avoiding sunlight and drinking blood.

    (Seriously! I love M&B.)

  12. Gorm says:

    Knew i would end up buying this game at some point and these Captain Smith articles have really encouraged me to ride down peasants

  13. Torgen says:

    I started Warband last week (since I’d bought it last summer in the Steam sale and it was sitting there,) but am so rubbish at the combat I’m afraid to leave the tutorial :P

    • Cradlejoe says:

      I DARE you to try multiplayer! :P

    • Torgen says:

      I’d have to change my Steam handle to “bodybag” :P

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      Torgen -

      But, as Quinns is showing, that’s the fun. You get ‘better’ by leveling, and getting gear. Once you recruit cannon fodder, er, troops, you’ll be in much better shape. Although getting whomped by half-starving peasants in their underware can be a wee bit discouraging(thinking of the first few hours), once you’re ‘leading’ the charge in forts(from the rear, natch ;)), you’ll feel most embiggened.

    • Torgen says:

      I believe my error is standing still, thinking I’ll get a shot in as my opponent closes. Must learn to dance- dance the Dance of DEATH!

    • Archonsod says:

      Turn on autoblock and drop the damage you take to half. Don’t worry too much about fancy footwork, chamber blocks or the like till you’re happy with how the various weapons and attacks work.

      Alternatively, try going pure archer. A horse archer doesn’t need to worry about melee, the idea is not to let them catch you in the first place.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy and very fun to take out any number of foot soldiers (no bows or horses) all by yourself. Just gallop around waving the biggest, longest sword you can hold.

      When you’re approaching a mass of enemies, pick off the stragglers or the ones on the edges. Don’t stop, just make one big decapitating slash as you gallop by; momentum increases damage and doesn’t give them the chance to retaliate. Then turn around and charge again.

      Oh, and go into options and change swing direction to be “relative to enemy position”. Much easier, and it rarely does the wrong thing.

    • Mattressi says:

      When I first started, I found that the easiest way to play is to invest in riding, horse archery and the bow proficiency. Then, load up with a bow, two lots of arrows and a lance and get the horse with the most armour and health that you can afford. Ride circles around enemies and shoot them. Then, when you run out of arrows (or if you’ve sufficiently thinned them out or if they’re all using shields so your arrows don’t work), press ‘x’ to couch the lance (alternatively put the couching on ‘easy’ in the options and it will do it automatically when you’re riding fast enough IIRC) when you’re closish to someone. Press R to go into first person view mode (makes it easier to aim the lance) and just ride that lance straight into them for an instant kill in almost every case. Goes through blocks, breaks shields, 1-shots horses. Very fun when you’re just starting out and want to not die in every fight. Also very useful for arena tournaments (whatever you spawn with, just kill a guy on a horse and grab his lance, then own everyone else).

      This won’t help you get better at melee of course, but it certainly helps ease the frustration of trying to learn to melee effectively.

    • phanatic62 says:

      If you want to invest a bit of time in to your character, and really want to learn the combat well, try out the Arena and look for tournaments. I played through two characters before deciding to make a “proper” noble who fought in all of the tourneys (a la A Knights Tale, although sadly I don’t have Chaucer) and I was amazed by how much better I am at combat now. Admittedly, the arena and tournaments are not good for learning bow & arrow/crossbow/throwing, but those skills can be learned pretty rapidly once you join a faction and start fighting in sieges. One of the best feelings in the game is nearly decapitating opponents in the tournaments with a lance while mounted. It really makes you feel like you’re a knight in the middle ages.

  14. svge says:

    “Shut up, Sarabun.”

    Classic.

  15. El Stevo says:

    Speaking of the kidnapped daughter running into battle, in the beta versions of the original Mount and Blade you could level up and equip her like you can with the heroes. Seeing as there’s no time limit on the quest once you’ve got her from the bandits, people would keep her in their party for months and months before eventually returning her to her father as rock-hard warrior. Sadly that bug was fixed.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Keymonk says:

    I didn’t enjoy Mount and Blade much, but I will say that this series is really fantastic. I’ve laughed so hard at some of this.

  17. Balm says:

    If you are not going to play good why bother playing at all?

  18. ezekiel2517 says:

    How I regret not buying the collection on the last steam sale.

  19. Basilicus says:

    Bravo, sir. An excellent read to follow the workday!

  20. Premium User Badge

    BathroomCitizen says:

    I literally laughed my ass off!

    Great job, Quintin!

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      I literally laughed my ass off!

      Posting from the hospital, are you?

  21. Qjuad says:

    Love these

  22. Betamax says:

    “Dashing behind a cottage, the lot of us wait patiently for the first thug to round the corner, whereupon we all beat him like a dusty carpet. Success!”

    Brilliant. This deserves a TV adaptation!

    • Premium User Badge

      corbain says:

      TV adaptation might lose some of the humor, and become just a “let’s play”, but i take your point… Quinn’s writing is hilarious.
      More of the same please!

      (should that be , Quinns writes hilariously? I wish i’d never taken the David Foster Wallace grammar test http://htmlgiant.com/craft-notes/grammar-challenge/)

  23. lunarplasma says:

    I don’t think any form of publicity would equal what Quin is doing for Warband. Not to mention the sheeeeeer entertainment value. Hear hear!

  24. adonf says:

    Pictures 10 and 11 are 404ing.

  25. FKD says:

    I have to agree with the others piling praise onto this. These types of writings are always my favorite because it is how I “think” in game (making some usually corny story for myself) and if I were to write anything down I am sure it would be something along these lines.

    I ended up buying F&S based off of this (and already having around 100 hours in Warband) eventhough a friend of mine (and many comments) said it was no where near as good as Warband itself. But you just make it seem like SO MUCH FUN! And really I am not regretting the purchase. The way I see it they are two different games with somewhat different mechanics, and I think alot of people (my friend included) were expecting a better version of Warband but with guns.

    • Berzee says:

      As for me, this is not how I think when playing games usually. Rather it is teaching me that if I *did* think this way I would have a lot more fun. So reading something like this increases my game-enjoying skills, and that’s quite good quite good.

  26. rhizo says:

    These LPs/AARs are always such treats. Maybe this time we’ll get to see a growth story where Cpt. Smith becomes the new Rurik.

  27. onasnerd says:

    Ah deliriously funny. More of this please! More More MORE! *waves scimitar*

  28. Ploppy says:

    Haven’t laughed so much in ages! The articles are wonderful. Especially the screenshot of Captain Smith with the pudding bowl haircut.

    Inspired me to download the Warband demo. Not because of the articles’ amusement factor, but because it sounded as though the series has a lot of player freedom.

    Which it does. Got addicted, then bought the full game the next night. The ups and downs of fortune are just hilarious. Having said that, after sixty game days of being mugged and dragged around the coutryside, I just had to start a new game. All my money had been stolen and I had no prospect of earning any (the arena combat is just to hard for my poor reflexes and it’s the only way I could find of making money if you’ve got no money left). On top of that, I’d had my sword, hat, shirt and bow stolen from me. Bizarrely, the bandits had left me a shield.

    New game going much better. It’s hard and there’s a lot to learn, but it’s totally worth it. Very special game.

    Hope Quintin writes more!

  29. roethle says:

    About time for another one of these.