Apr
03

Dev Blog #133: City States, Part III

Last week we’ve learned about gunpowder weapons. In this conclusion of our dev blog series exploring the southern city states, we take a look at their remaining troop types that make use of these weapons. Onwards!

Gunners

Armies of the city states train men in the use of the Handgonne, a metal barrel with a long wooden handle that uses gunpowder to propel shrapnel in a wide cone. Below you see Gunners armed with a Handgonne. Its visuals have been revised since last week to make it more readily apparent that this is an unreliable early firearm and not some kind of blunderbuss.

Because their weapons cover a cone, Gunners excel against tightly packed enemy formations. But because their weapons also have a very limited effective range, they often have to position themselves right behind their own frontline, leaving them vulnerable to polearms and firearms themselves. The city states do not make use of traditional ranged weapons like bows and crossbows, but desert raiders – essentially the southern equivalent of brigands – make use of a new composite bow with advantages and disadvantages over northern bows.

Engineers

Malnutritioned slaves toil in the fields and quarries beneath a city of golden domes that reflect the glory of the Gilder. It’s a city of architectural marvels made possible by the application of mathematics and engineering. These sciences are taught in several colleges between the city states, and their graduates make for sought-after engineers. They devise intricate water pumps and fountains that create a private oasis in the gardens of wealthy citizens, and they produce mechanical toys that makes eyes go wide.

But where a child sees but a toy, a man with ambition sees what can become a weapon. And so it is that engineers of the city states also devise terrible weapons of war, and that they operate them on the battlefield to rain down destruction on the enemies of men with ambition.

As you face engineers in battle, they don’t pose much of a threat by themselves. In fact, they try to stay as far away from the frontline as possible. Their role is not to engage the enemy in direct combat, but to operate the technical marvel that is the mortar. A bronze-cast muzzle-loaded piece of artillery, the mortar is able to fire every other round as long as it is operated by at least one engineer next to it.

The mortar has enough range to cover the whole battlefield, but it’s entirely immobile during combat. It fires explosive shells that cover a large area of effect, but it’s highly inaccurate. The howling sound of incoming mortar shells has as much a psychological impact on combatants as it has an explosive impact, or perhaps even more so. Characters in the blast zone lose morale and receive the new ‘Shellshocked’ status effect that lowers their efficiency in combat, but receive only moderate physical damage.

Luckily, because the mortar is heavy, relatively immobile and hard to operate, it’s an uncommon weapon used only with large armies, and one that you’ll most likely face only as part of the new ‘Holy War’ late game crisis.

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Mar
27

Dev Blog #132: Gunpowder Weapons

As you’ve already learned here, the southern city states are places where medieval science flourishes. Advancements in medicine, astrology and alchemy are unlike anything found in the north. You’ve also learned a good deal about the alchemy part already, but now it’s time to look at their finest alchemical achievement: Gunpowder weapons. This requires a bit of an introduction, so let’s start!

Introduction

Battle Brothers is set in an era spanning the early to high medieval ages as we move from Scramasax to Greatsword and across all the tiers of equipment. There’s a few outliers, such as the Fencing Sword, but by and large this dictates what kind of equipment may make its way into the game. It’s also the reason why there isn’t any full-blown plate armor available. Naturally, the same restrictions apply to any gunpowder weapons we’re going to introduce.   

Until the ‘Blazing Deserts’ DLC, the setting was limited to draw inspiration from Europe. Gunpowder weapons weren’t much of a thing there at the time, but it doesn’t mean that other cultures weren’t employing them. The gunpowder weapons we’re going to introduce aren’t the muskets that many people may immediately think of, because these clearly would fall out of the era that Battle Brothers covers. Instead, they are very early firearms based on what eastern cultures actually had available at the time. 

Gunpowder weapons work differently from any other ranged weapons in the game and fill their own niche. Their attacks don’t target individual opponents, but instead hit an area of effect covering multiple tiles and always hit both body and head. Also differently from any other weapons, the skill of a shooter and the defenses of a target don’t determine whether a target is hit at all, but rather for how much damage it is hit. The higher the skill of a shooter, the more damage a target receives. The higher the defenses of a target, the less damage it receives. For example, while you’ll have a hard time dodging a load of shrapnel being shot at you in its entirety, a shield offers good protection against it and will reduce any damage you might otherwise take.

Because it’s important to understand the area of effect an attack with a gunpowder weapon will cover, not least to avoid friendly fire, we’ve revised how these are displayed in the game. No matter if a tile is empty or not, you’ll now always see which tiles are in the line of fire. Naturally, this goes for any melee attacks already in the game as well. So with all that said, let’s take a closer look at the gunpowder weapons available for you to use. 

The Firelance

The Firelance is an explosive charge mounted on a wooden stick. Once ignited, it will spew fire in a straight line covering multiple tiles in front of the shooter. It has limited range, but can still be safely fired from the backline without hitting your own men. Victims caught in the jet of fire may suffer one of the new burning injuries.

The Firelance has a single use in combat, after which it is burned out and useless. Like throwing weapons, it is automatically refilled after each battle and can be used again in the next one. Firelances are particularly useful to soften enemy ranks in deep formation, as they are able to set ablaze opponents in their backline that are out of reach of most polearms or Greatswords and are guaranteed to hit. The conscripted armies of city states regularly make use of them before battle lines clash.

The Handgonne

The Handgonne is a massive cast iron cannon with a wooden handle. It fires shrapnel in a cone and can hit multiple targets with one shot for devastating damage, but at less range than either bow or crossbow. Similar to a crossbow, it has to be reloaded after every shot with shrapnel and powder carried in the ammunition slot. As it is heavier and more cumbersome to reload than even a crossbow, a character carrying a Handgonne can not fire, reload and move in the same turn.

The Handgonne excels against multiple lightly armored targets, but can also be effectively employed for damaging several more heavily armored opponents at once. Because the Handgonne covers a wide cone, smart positioning and watching out for friendly fire is important. Used right, it can quickly even the odds if overwhelmed by superior enemy numbers – after all, the more enemies, the more targets to hit. And any target thus hit may suffer both piercing and burning injuries.

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Mar
20

Dev Blog #131: City States, Part II

We’ve previously covered a good chunk of what the southern city states are about. Now it’s time to take a look at some of their troops that you may end up facing on the field of battle. Charge!

Slaves

Whether born into slavery, made into a slave as punishment by law, or taken on a raid into foreign territory and sold to the highest bidder on a slave auction, it’s on the back of slaves like these that much of the economy of the city states is built. But slaves are not just cheap labor in peacetime, they’re also used as expendable troops in war.

Life is cheap in the south, as the saying goes, and nothing makes this harsh reality sink in better than how the city states treat their slaves. In battle, they’re usually send first against the enemy to tire out their lines before the real battle begins. They’re poorly armed, many just carrying tools used as improvised weapons, and rely on swarming, flanking and overwhelming the enemy. They have poor morale and flee easily, but killing or breaking them does not affect the morale of any city state troops that aren’t slaves themselves. In fact, the city state troops have no qualms about friendly fire when it comes to slaves, and they may seize the opportunity that slaves provide by locking down the enemy and fire their ranged weapons into the thick of battle. 

Conscripts

Citizens of the great city states enjoy privileges that neither slaves nor outsiders do. For example, they have the opportunity to conduct business with the legal certainty of a codified law and can even hire legal council. In turn, they also have certain obligations to their state. Having to pay taxes is one such obligation, but another one for every adult male citizen is either mandatory military service or paying a hefty sum into the state’s coffers to be exempt. The council of Viziers may decide to conscript the citizens for the defense of the city state or for otherwise protecting and furthering the interests of the state. In practise, this can mean anything between border skirmishes with other states, doomed punitive expeditions deep into the deserts to hunt down raiders, and crushing slave rebellions.

Conscripts make up the bulk of the military force of the city states. They have received some military drill and are most often dressed in a distinct southern armor made of several layers of linen, called a Linothorax, that is relatively cheap to produce. If they don’t have access to helmets, they choose to wrap cloth around their heads to protect against the sun. The color and patterns of these head wraps are often linked to a particular region of the south, and one familiar would know what place a southern conscript calls home by his headwear alone. Just before battle lines clash, Conscripts employ a unique weapon of the city states. It’s one reason why they are a military power to be reckoned with, and you’ll learn about next week in detail!

Officers

Officers of the city states are mostly made up of the wealthy who would have enough funds to buy themselves free of conscription, but seek a career commanding troops in the military by their own volition. A victorious commander will accrue influence and gravitas, and some Officers may consider the army but a stepping stone in a fledgling political career.

Considerably better armed than Conscripts, Officers carry finely crafted mail and lamellar armor with intricate southern ornaments into battle. Naturally, all armors can also be bought, looted and worn by your own men in the game!

Assassins

Members of a secretive ritualistic cult, Assassins deal in death and provide murder as a service. They have no political ambition beyond the continued survival of their cult and that of their warped philosophy, and so act only in service to other parties, like individual city states. They’re not encountered roaming on the world map, but exclusively as part of contracts and events.

In battle, Assassins wear traditional black robes over finely crafted mail. Many also choose to exchange their own face for that of their master and founder of their cult, the old man on the mountain, by wearing metal face masks. Assassins have a nimble combat style and employ a variety of alchemical contraptions like Flash Pots and Smoke Pots to daze their opponents and move freely between them, only to then use a Qatal Dagger for greater impact on their debilitated victims.

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Mar
13

Dev Blog #130: Southern Arms

Naturally, the southern city states of the ‘Blazing Deserts’ DLC also have their own arsenal of weapons. Some are southern variants of weapons you already know, while others are entirely new and come with unique skills. You’ll be able to buy them in the city states and loot them from southern opponents. Let’s take a look at a selection of them!

The Saif

If you’ve been playing Battle Brothers for a while, you may already know of the Scimitar and the Shamshir, both introduced with the ‘Warriors of the North’ DLC. They were a teaser of a southern culture with their own arms to come – which now is about to arrive. As we’re adding the Saif, we’re also doing some work on the existing Scimitar and Shamshir.

A curved sword, the Saif is excellent for cutting deep wounds. It’s less suited for thrusting than straight swords, however, and therefore has a harder time penetrating armor. The Saif is a southern variant of the northern shortsword and at the lowest tier in the line of curved swords. The Scimitar has been buffed to be a middle tier weapon now, while the Shamshir remains the highest tier. All of those weapons share the ‘Slash’ skill with northern swords, but also have the unique ‘Gash’ Skill, which is much more likely to inflict serious injuries with adverse secondary effects than regular attacks are.

Not all injuries are equally useful against opponents, and many of the cutting injuries inflicted by the ‘Gash’ skill were previously among the weaker ones. We’ve combed through all cutting injuries to rectify this. Inflicting a ‘Deep Chest Cut’, for example, will now always reduce an opponent’s hitpoints by a percentage of their maximum hitpoints in addition to any damage your attack caused. It may not make much of a difference against Brigand Thugs who don’t have a lot of hitpoints to begin with, but it can mean a lot against barbarians, orcs and many beasts. As cutting injuries become more worthwhile to inflict, the ‘Crippling Strikes’ perk also becomes a more worthwhile pick – particularly if used together with the Saif, Scimitar or Shamshir to basically guarantee an injury..

The Shields

Identical in function to other shields already in the game, but with somewhat different stats, southerners also have their own shield designs that show well how their arms are inspired by those of historical Arabian and Persian cultures.

The Polemace

Southern armies are rather fond of maces, and so you’ll find a variety of southern maces with stats slightly different from their northern cousins while in the city states. In fact, they also mounted a mace on a long pole and aptly called it a Polemace. It offers the advantages of a regular mace combined with the range of a polearm.

The Polemace inflicts additional damage to fatigue with every blow. Using its secondary skill, a target can be stunned for one turn over a distance of two tiles.

The Nomad Sling

The south is no less plagued by banditry and pillaging than the north is. While the north has brigands lying in ambush along the road, the south has desert raiders descending upon trade caravans. These desert raiders – or nomads, as they’re sometimes called – have some equipment not otherwise available, including one particular weapon: the Nomad Sling.

A simple weapon used since ancient times, and the favorite of many a shepherd, a sling is used to hurl stones towards the enemy. The Nomad Sling is a higher tier variant of the existing Staff Sling with similar strengths and weaknesses, but better suited for the later parts of a campaign. It’s not particularly accurate or damaging, but with stones abundant everywhere, it will never run out of ammunition. Two stones can be hurled each turn, and on hitting a target in the head it will inflict the ‘Dazed’ status effect.

The Qatal Dagger

The Qatal Dagger is a short curved blade notoriously used by assassins of the southern deserts. Like northern daggers, it’s intended for quick attacks. Unlike northern daggers, it’s not meant to puncture weak points of armor, but to cut throats of debilitated opponents.

Using its ‘Deathblow’ skill, this dagger inflicts significantly increased damage to targets which have the Dazed, Stunned or Sleeping status effects. It’s much less fatiguing to use than the ‘Puncture’ skill of other daggers, and it can be used three times a turn with the ‘Dagger Mastery’ perk. It works best, of course, in a combo with other equipment used to debilitate opponents – such as the new Flash Pot available from alchemists, or that Nomad Sling shown above.

The Swordlance

As you’ve already learned, the city states were built atop the ruins of the Ancient Empire. It’s no surprise, then, that they also inherited some of their weapons. The Swordlance is a sharp curved blade attached to a long pole and used to deliver deep sweeping strikes over a distance of two tiles. It’s effectively a Warscythe that performs slightly worse against armor, but is much more durable because it wasn’t lying in some sealed crypt for hundreds of years.

Like all polearms, the Swordlance can be used to strike a single target over a distance of two tiles. Its unique feature is the ability to perform sweeping strikes in a wide arc that hit three adjacent tiles in counter-clockwise order over some distance, which can cause mayhem in the opponent’s backline. 

There’s more new weapons coming with unique mechanics, and we’ll take a look at those as well over the coming weeks!

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Mar
06

Dev Blog #129: City States, Part I

A major feature of the upcoming ‘Blazing Deserts’ DLC is an expanded south with several city states that have their own distinct culture, looks, services, contracts, and more, based loosely on medieval-era Arabian and Persian culture. Time to talk about it in detail!

The City States

The southern deserts. What is a barren wasteland now once was green and fruitful. An ancient empire ruled these lands long ago, but a cataclysmic event purged it from the face of the world along with their god-emperor, leaving but ruins and ashes. And from the ashes the belief in a new god arose, a powerful god manifest in the sun, the Gilder. And from the ruins new cities arose, the southern city states. 

“Are these wastes? You see nothing but sand, air so hot it burns the lungs, ferine creatures malforming just to survive, and what of the man who strides here? Distilled to his essence. The north finds nobility between the empty chatter of their artifices. Here, nature is nobility, and under such auspices it is the strongest who rise, basking beneath the shine of the Gilder, and the weak who are burned beneath His sublimity. It is a measurement most peculiar, and one not often understood by interlopers.”

The southern city states are magnificent cities now, easily as large as the largest cities found in the north. They dot the southern deserts where water is to be found, reigning over a precious resource in the otherwise dry and blazingly hot lands. Their streets are abuzz with traders offering their wares on busy bazaars. Trade with exotic spices and fabrics has made them rich, and their wealthy elite are patrons of the arts and sciences. Advancements in medicine, astrology and alchemy are unlike anything found in the north. But much of their economy was built on the back of slaves, and life is cheap here. 

The city states are not ruled by nobility, but by wealth. Ruling councils consist of Viziers, ministers each responsible for a different aspect of governing the state, elected from the rich bourgeois. So decadent and removed are they from the plight of the common man, that they regard everyone as tools used for their amusement. A mercenary captain could find plenty of work here – whether hunting down desert raiders or crushing slave rebellions – but they would also find disdain from their employers, who regard a mercenary as but a ‘Crownling’, a slave of a different kind, a slave to the coin.

The southerners, who call themselves Gilded for their belief in their single god in whose shine they bask day in and out, are of darker complexion than northern folks. You’ll find many of the same professions here as in the north, but also some unique to their culture. For example, slaves can be bought on slave auctions and put to use even in a mercenary company. You pay for a slave once, but never pay them any wages, and the morale of southern backgrounds will not suffer should the slaves perish on the field of battle, for they are considered very much expendable here.

The Arena

You’ve already learned about the Alchemist, a trader that offers unique alchemical contraptions only found in the city states. Another building entirely unique to the south is the Arena. 

While northerners will duel for honor, southerners do so for the entertainment of the masses, and not always willingly. Arena fights are to the death and in front of crowds that cheer for the most gruesome manner in which lives are dispatched. It is a different way to earn money with advantages and disadvantages over mercenary contracts.

Unlike with mercenary contracts, in arena fights you’re limited to fight with but a few men of your choice against various opponents. Also unlike mercenary contracts, you’ll know exactly which and how many opponents you’re about to face – a certain number of beasts, slaves, captured desert raiders or professional gladiators, for example. There’s no lengthy travelling involved, nor ambushes along the road, and you’re paid well for victory in front of cheering spectators. However, you can’t retreat once a battle has started and you won’t be able to loot after the battle has ended. If your men survive long enough, fighting in the arena will earn them unique traits as they climb the ranks from pit fighter to champion of the arena. Naturally, there’s also a new Gladiator background to be hired in the city states.

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Feb
28

Dev Blog #128: The Retinue, Part II

Last week we introduced a new gameplay mechanic with a retinue of non-combat followers coming with the ‘Blazing Deserts’ DLC. This week we’re taking a closer look at a selection of three more of these non-combat followers in order to give you a better idea on how all this is going to work. 

There’s a total of five slots available for you to fill, but several times as many followers available to choose from. Choosing the right set of followers for your company is another way to customize it to your playstyle and to make each company and playthrough feel more unique. Do keep in mind that everything you’re about to learn is still under development and therefore subject to change depending on how testing goes. This is doubly true for numbers, which is why we’re not showing any of them this week. Onwards, then!

The Surgeon

A studied man from the south, the Surgeon is a walking tome of anatomical knowledge. A mercenary company seems the perfect place both to apply that knowledge in healing, but also to learn more about how the insides of men are made up.

With the Surgeon in your retinue, characters that fall in battle have a significantly improved chance to survive with a permanent injury instead of dying outright. A permanent injury can still end a career, of course, but it can just as well end up being but a reminder of a particularly hard-fought battle. The important point is that now it’s up to you and no one else to decide whether to let go of a character or keep them on the roster – which can be particularly helpful in the late game and with experienced and key characters. In addition, the Surgeon also looks after injuries of the non-permanent kind, and helps your men to recover from them faster, which reduces downtime.

The Scavenger

Whether the son of one of your men or an urchin you took pity on, the Scavenger pulls his weight by collecting bits and pieces from every battlefield.

With the Scavenger around, each armor destroyed will grant you a certain amount of tools and supplies after battle, the exact amount depending on what kind of armor it was. This makes the Scavenger a useful choice for heavily armored compositions that need a lot of tools and supplies for upkeep, but also for companies that destroy most enemy armors with hammers and so can’t loot those, but in this way still receive some loot anyway, and when fighting lots of Greenskins. The Scavenger also returns a part of all ammunition you spend during a battle, making ranged-heavy companies more self-sufficient, and the use of throwing weapons less expensive.

The Cartographer

The Cartographer is a man of culture and knowledge, but he also realizes that traveling in the company of well-armed mercenaries is one of the best ways to safely see the world and explore places that few visited before.

Available once you’ve found at least one legendary location, the Cartographer will pay you for each location that you discover out in the world on your own. The further away from civilization a location is, the more he’ll arrange for you to be paid. And legendary locations pay extra. The Cartographer is one example of several followers that further support specialized playstyles – if you’re more interested in heading out on your own terms, explore the world and raid locations rather than doing contracts, he’ll make this a more profitable venture. In a similar vein, there are other followers available that support playstyles like banditry, trade and hunting enemy champions for bounties and loot! 

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