I take back the solution for the tonal inconsistency. Battle Brothers feels like it’s not entirely sure what it wants to be. I think you guys have a strong game that stands on it’s own merits. Combat is already deep and rewarding, and I don’t think you can go wrong by expanding on the mercenary-specific elements that make the game fun.
If the player is meant to play through many loses, it shouldn’t take 5+ hours to get a brother up to level 11. Much easier to let go like you would in a rogue-like if wiping the board clean doesn’t come with such a high investment. I want to play the game in Iron-Mode if that’s how it’s meant to be played. At this point, the obituary screen in my current campaign is longer than a movie credits reel, so I’m not suggesting this because I can’t take a loss. I just think that save scumming is perfectly justifiable where the player has not been given a fair shake. Fair does not mean avoiding every loss. Conflicting design philosophies (leveling speed vs lethality/”losing is fun”) and incomplete systems (ambushes) make being save scummy justifiable.
Failing that, balance the game to where it’s impossible to justify save scumming, the game would need to feel like the player is given a fair shake to anticipate and outplay possible pitfalls (I’m looking at you ambushes). Maybe there should be flavor text to tell you when a contract is not worth the associated price. If i’m allied with a city, then the guildmaster’s aide should take me aside and tell me flat out that I’m about to escort goods that were stolen from a noble house. Where relations are cold, or the town doesn’t know my company, they probably would try to screw me on crowns or not give me all the information that I need. Hell, it would be great if a noble giving me a quest for greenskins could give me a “scout report” on enemy unit size and composition if we’re allied. Accuracy shouldn’t be perfect, but the player is screwed far too often with no means of counter-play. One of the first feedback threads I wrote here panned the game (unfairly) for being an rng heavy gambling sim. It was an unfair critique in the context then, but I don’t at all think it’s unfair when leveled at the current contract system. I believe contracts, negotiations, and town relationships could do with a more detailed overhaul.
Or make roster space much larger. Maybe after a while of campaigning and a significant investment of gold the band can set up a permanent base in an allied city. Brothers left at the home base might get paid a much smaller fee to account for the larger roster and payroll. It could even come with its own benefits, like brothers appreciating the paid time off, and the city offering a different set of contracts or paying better.
@Namespace: One thing I do love about the game is how much debate there is about perks being viable or not. I would like the game less if there was a very clear optimal path. There’s a surprising amount of allowance for play-style development and experimentation. It’s interesting that you don’t use Indomitable. I’ve always loved it because it helps my front line troll/tank orc warriors. What’s your strategy for dealing with the giant bastards in larger groups?