Taking the field
Ideally, you want to create a large and balanced army, but it's unlikely you'll be able to afford one until mid-way through the game. In the earlier stages, it is easier and generally more cost-effective to develop an army equipped with one or two weapons than a collection of smaller units armed with many.
Arming your troops is a tricky business, it takes a large number of blacksmiths to produce even a modest flow of weapons. If you're in a county that gets frequent visits from merchants, you should consider buying as many weapons as you can afford, rather than waiting for your own production efforts to bear fruit.
Take time to study both the landscape and the nature of the opposing force before committing to battle. Combat in Lords II accurately reflects the scale and ferocity of medieval engagements, which seldom displayed a great deal of tactical finesse. Even so, tactics and maneuver can compensate, to a certain extent, for numerical inferiority.
Search the terrain carefully. Are there bridges or narrow isthmuses of land on this battlefield? If so, they form natural choke-points where an attacking force must funnel-through, and in so doing lose its numerical advantage to any defending force that blocks the narrow end of the funnel. Are there lakes, ponds, or streams that you can use to protect your flanks? Are there natural outcroppings of rock that can be used as defensive barriers? To be successful, a Lords II commander must learn to use these and every other possible advantage until the process becomes instinctive.
In the beginning, you and your opponents start the game on an level playing field. But as tempting as it is to seize two or three nearby regions as soon as you have the forces to do so, unless you're playing against human opponents, this is hardly the wisest course. It's hard enough to get your home county running on a smooth economic base; the complexities and possibilities for failure grow exponentially with each new county you seize.
The easiest way to raise an army early on is to order a mass levee of peasants. True, they're not very impressive from the standpoint of armament, but a large enough force of peasants is usually quite sufficient to conquer or defend a couple of counties in the early years of a game.
Even if your nearest opponent has raised a small army of real men-at-arms, you can still triumph over him if you have a large enough peasant force. As a rule, you need at least 50% numerical superiority to defeat another large peasant army, and a three-to-one superiority to vanquish an army comprising both peasants and regular soldiers.
When you're ready to raise a professional army, check first to see if your county is host to any bands of roving mercenaries. If you have the money, consider hiring them. A mercenary force already comes with its own arms and armor, and buying its services will have no negative impact on either population or happiness rating.
If you do go the mercenary route, use them quickly to conquer a county or defend against a threatened invasion. Their seasonal maintenance fee is high, and if you just leave them standing around on idle garrison duty, you'll drain your treasury and have nothing to show for it but a marginal measure of added security.
Sieges and Raids
When you move from the open battlefield to siege warfare, be prepared to shift your whole attitude. Whereas conventional battles tend to be resolved rather quickly, sieges will take several seasons to conclude, successfully or not. Whether you're planning to storm a castle or defend one, you must plan siege operations carefully and methodically.
True, most sieges climax with a desperate melee inside the castle walls, but you'll usually spend much more time trying to breach those walls or prevent the enemy from doing so. Archers really come into their own during sieges, so you may want to reorganize your army a season or two in advance of a siege, so that you'll have more of them.
Before you can hope to storm a castle, you must thin out the ranks of the defenders. Only massed arrow fire or catapults can do that. If you attempt to wheel up your siege towers and battering rams before you've weakened the garrison, chances are that the crews will be slaughtered and the siege will fail.
If you're defending a castle, be very careful about when and where you deploy your vats of boiling oil. Remember that you only get a certain number of these per castle, and once they're used up, your ability to repulse an assault diminishes greatly. Watch out for feints by the attacker and try to save the oil for use against towers and battering rams -- its effect can be spectacular, if not decisive.
And finally, a word about guerrilla tactics. If you are not yet strong enough to engage in a full-strength campaign against a more powerful neighbor, simply march an army cross-country and on to a square containing a mine, quarry, sawmill or forge and that facility will turn to a pile of blackened cinders, with serious consequences to your enemy's economy. Of course, this only works if you can hurriedly withdraw your force before the enemy can intercept it.
It's also a double-edged tactic. If you conduct such raids into a province you plan to occupy soon, you'll also be damaging your own economy, since those ruined facilities cannot be made operational again without many seasons of effort being devoted to rebuilding them.
Many different maps are available in both Lords of the Realm II and the Lords II Siege Pack. My favorite map is the Crusades. A challenging, fun game can be achieved here by selecting either "hard" or "medium" difficulty (if you are starting a custom game) and starting over until you are situated in the Latin Empire. This location isolates yourself, and thus while your opponents wage petty wars against each other, you can conquer counties, amass wealth, and build royal castles.
The Autocalc Option
While in battle, at the bottom right of the screen, there is a bar of options available to you. The one furthest to the right portrays a picture of a computer. This is the autocalc option. When faced against small, stupid armies full of peasants, this option works wonders. NEVER use this during a seige, though. Any dummy with half a brain can seige with better results.
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