I’m playing on challenging level and I am not trying to kill everything on the map. Just trying to survive. There’s only so many missions you can turn down before you run out of money and/or food.
I think that’s the source of the problem. On even enemies seem to be easier and you get more gold, and everything is less expensive. On challenging my zombies wear leather and mail armors with decent weapons (such as short swords, etc.), while on even they are more peasant-like. Same goes for bandits: I encounter more raiders than thugs, who often are better equipped than me in the beginning.
This means that fights are more tough, you lose brothers more often, have to replace them (including some of their gear, like armor or shields) and that costs money. You have to repair the damage and heal up, this is extra cost (stuff is more expensive on challenging than on even). On top of that you get paid LESS and have to work with that.
That’s, in my opinion, why challenging is so hard to go through right now in comparison to even. Not because of enemies alone but the overall cost of running your mercenary band AND encountering more challenging enemies. Most quests we have in the game now are combat related so it’s not like you can get together some coin by doing delivery or exploration mission to recover. I only managed to recover from a pyrrhic victory because I had some assets stockpiled from past battles for emergencies.