Buying the best armor is not always the best option because then you lack funds for other things.
Hire some cheap soldiers. Farmers, brawlers are one of the best early choices.
Equip them well(but cheaply – cloth is enough but sometimes you can spot damaged armor on market that you can buy cheap and then repair).
On begging and early the most cost efficient combo is cheap cloth/leather armor plus CAP(helmets are rather costly but heck even hat is better than nothing). Any form of head protection is essential as hits to the head will mostly kill or maim your soldier if he not wear any. It is even more important than having a armor because it come with bonus(+50%) dmg. Which often lead to one shooting your guys even with weak low tier weapons.
>so any man need a cap
>and some cheap armor
Forget two handed weapons – with low defense skill and no armor and perks you will get hit often and they are not reliable hitters as you will miss often with low attack skill.
So early the best combo is shield plus one handed weapon. Shield is obvious it increase defense directly and block enemy hits increasing survival of your troops. It also comes with two great skills – one that increase defense even more and second that allow you push enemy around and is great utility skill.
>So Cap, armor and shield for your frontline troops. With it they should survive longer.
Don’t forget that putting your troops on high ground offer advantage both in defense and in offense against enemy on lower ground. Its 10% both to defense and attack chance so early its really important. positioning is the key both for defense and offense.
Surrounding enemy not only grant better chance to hit him(+5% chance to hit per ally – but this work for enemy too) but also can trigger morale checks and lower enemy morale or even make them panic and run.
Early most of your troops should consist of shieldmen.
Now offense. For your frontline troops spear, sword or flail is the best early.
>spear is great because basic attack come with +20 chance to hit and its pretty reliable weapon even damage is not impressive, don’t worry it hit often and if you concentrate attacks enemy will die fast, it also have ability Spearwall that offer more crowd control mostly by denying enemy movement(so good to protect your flanks or denied enemy access to your weaker troops) or make enemy move get hit making him bleed and waste his Action points
>swords are pretty decent weapons that have solid damage(better than spear) and +10 chance to hit on basic attacks
>flails normal attack ignore enemy shields basic defense bonus which make your troops hit more often against enemy with shields(although spear is still more reliable against them) and also offer special attack that hit enemy head ONLY(which is great because early enemy often not wear any head protection – or weak one and you can often one-two hit them plus if you don’t destroy their armor you have chance to loot it)
With these weapons you can reliable hit enemy.
I recommend spears as they are cheap and reliable weapon with lot of utility.
Your main damage should come from a backrow – a either xbowmen or pikeman. The polearms have 2tile range so you can use it from safety and also it allow you to concentrate your attacks. It also have solid damage and accuracy bonus but is not cheap so early even pitchfork is fine.
>recruit farmers and brawlers
>equip them with cheap head protection and armor and SHIELDS
>have one or two brother with polearms or ranged(preferably xbows as they are more accurate early) to support your initial xbow bro
take high ground when you can
>tie enemy with your shieldmen
>then concentrate attacks where you have advantage and defend(by raising shields) where enemy have
>kill enemy units in place where you can advantage and then use them to crush rest