Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord troops: Tips for managing your armies
How to recruit troops, increase party size, and command troops in battle
How do you manage your troops in Bannerlord? Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord has you commanding large armies in epic battles! But first, you're going to have to win them over. Keeping their loyalty, feeding them, and upgrading them to stronger troop types will be the key to conquering the land. It'll take a lot of work, so we're here to help you learn the ins and outs.
On this page, we'll show you how to recruit troops, how to increase your party size, and how to command those troops in battle. (Note that this is not to be confused with how to recruit companions in Bannerlord, which is an entirely different process.)
How to recruit troops in Bannerlord
Unlike managing your army, the initial recruitment of troops in Bannerlord is quite easy. You'll need to either buy recruits from settlements for a small amount of gold, or convert prisoners into troops after capturing them. Regular troop types seem to be more favoured as the game progresses than any of the bandit classes, so consider raising troops from their respective factions rather than using a bandit force.
Once you've recruited a soldier, you can use them in battle to gain experience, which can then enable them to upgrade to better troop types. Below are some examples of the best troop types that you can recruit grouped by the faction they represent, and you can use the Encyclopedia (press the "N" key from the map and look at the troops pages) to learn how to upgrade them.
Maintaining troop morale
Once you have recruited troops, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. They are only loyal to you if you keep them well paid and well fed, since nobody works for free.
You can lose troops if:
- Your troops recruited is larger than your party size (more on that in a bit).
- You can't pay your troops a salary.
- Your troops overall morale is low.
- You lose a hideout mission (this eliminates your entire army, so be careful).
Outside of paying them, you should ensure that your troops participate in battles where they win often. A varied diet is also a great way to boost morale. One portion of food purchased will keep one of your troops fed, and there's no difference if that unit of food is meat or grain.
Best Bannerlord troop types by faction
Now you know how to get troops and what to do to keep them on your side, here are the best troops in the game:
- Empire: Has some heavily armoured troops, including the Imperial Elite Cataphracts, Legionaries, and Sergeant Crossbowmen. The Legionaries are the best infantry in the game as it has a lot of armour.
- Battania: Battania is the only faction that has a special ranged troop, which is the Fian Champion. Longbows are really good in Bannerlord, so have a few on your back line.
- Vlandia: These people are anti-cavalry specialists, so the Voulgier and Sharpshooters will make short work of horses. They also have a strong heavy cavalry troop in the form of the Banner Knight.
- Sturgia: For tackling infantry, look no further than the Shock Troops and the Ulfhednar. They also have the Druzhinnik Champion for a heavy cavalry troop.
- Aserai: Use these troops from afar, particularly the Mamelukes and Master Archers. The Vanguard Faris is also another great heavy cavalry troop.
- Khuzaits: These people are great for speedy attacks, with Heavy Lancers, Heavy Horse Archers, or even the Darkhan. They also have the Khan's Guard who can fire arrows from afar before charging in with polearms.
How to increase party size in Bannerlord
Your party size is tied to the Steward skill. This skill takes a long time to level up, but the key to increasing the Steward skill is to keep your troops morale high with food variety. You can also assign yourself or your companions who have a high Steward skill to be your army Quartermaster. You can increase your Steward skill by managing towns. This will eventually your overall party size.
I'd also note that the number of prisoners that can be kept is half your current party size number.
How to command an army in Bannerlord
So now you have a bunch of troops, but what do you do with them? When you enter battle, your army will be split into four units. Commanding them is a bit on the tricky side if you're not used to it, as it requires the use of the numbered keys and function keys.
First of all, you need to select the unit you wish to command. Normally these units are sorted into specific groups, where ranged units are all in one group, but mounted units are in a separate group that can be commanded to do something else. If your army isn't diverse in unit types, say if you're just leading a band of rogues, then they may be separated into groups containing multiple unit types.
In order to command your army, first press the numerical key associated with the squad. This will then allow you to give them orders with the function keys. Pressing the function keys for movement, changing the direction they're facing, and the troop's formation, will bring up a second menu of options. You can then press the second function key listed below to give them the order specified.
Bannerlord army commands list
The full list of commands is below with which buttons you need to press for each, in the order you need to press them. Some require you to move the mouse to assign a location for the selected unit to move or face, indicated by a banner.
Troop selection keys
- Select first unit: 1
- Select second unit: 2
- Select third unit: 3
- Select fourth unit: 4
Troop movement order keys
|To position||F1 + F1 + use your mouse to move the banner.||Moves selected unit to the banner.|
|Follow me||F1 + F2||Makes selected unit follow you.|
|Charge||F1 + F3||Selected unit will run towards enemy and attack.|
|Advance||F1 + F4||Selected unit will walk towards enemy in a certain way. This Reddit post by "The_Love_Pudding" has more details on the kind of movement they have.|
|Fallback||F1 + F5||Selected unit will withdraw but not retreat from battle.|
|Stop||F1 + F6||Selected unit will stop moving.|
|Retreat||F1 + F7||Selected unit will run from battle.|
|Return||F1 + F9||Cancel command to select movement type|
Troop facing order keys
|Face Direction||F2 + F1 + use your mouse to move the banner.||Makes selected unit face towards the banner.|
|Face Enemy||F2 + F2||Makes selected unit face the enemy.|
|Return||F2 + F9||Cancel command to select movement type|
Troop formation keys
|Line||F3 + F1||Selected unit moves to a line formation.|
|Shield wall||F3 + F2||Selected unit moves to form a shield wall.|
|Loose||F3 + F3||Selected unit adopts a loose formation.|
|Circle||F3 + F4||Selected unit adopts a circle formation.|
|Square||F3 + F5||Selected unit adopts a square formation.|
|Skein||F3 + F6||Selected unit adopts a skein formation. (Looks like a V)|
|Column||F3 + F7||Selected unit adopts a column formation.|
|Scatter||F3 + F8||Selected unit scatters.|
|Return||F3 + F9||Cancel command to select movement type|
Troop command keys (other)
|Fire||F4||Toggles between "Fire at will" or "Hold fire" states for selected unit.|
|Horse||F5||Toggles between mounting and dismounting horses for selected unit.|
|Command||F6||Toggles delegation of command between you and the troop's AI.|
|Transfer||F7||Allows you to transfer specific units to certain locations. (For example, you can select shield units to go out in front, then have ranged units follow behind them, and mounted units to the side).|
I hope that commanding your Bannerlord armies is now a little less stressful, but I would encourage you to practice with formations against bandits and rogues of smaller sizes, so that you're prepared to face armies! For more information on how to conduct yourself in the fray, be sure to check out our comprehensive Bannerlord combat guide.