Dev Blog #40: Progress Update – Campaign Customization, Retreating and Desertion, Men-at-Arms, Zombie Overhaul


Dev Blog #40: Progress Update – Campaign Customization, Retreating and Desertion, Men-at-Arms, Zombie Overhaul

As always we’ve added a bouqet of new features and content over the past two weeks. This time we have a new start campaign screen with difficulty and banner selection, more in-game mechanics with the ability to order retreat from combat, and mercenaries deserting you if you run out of money and/or food. And that’s not all. Let’s go into the details.

Campaign Customization

When starting a new campaign you’re now able to name your mercenary company, select a banner and choose a difficulty level. We believe it is important to allow you to brand your very own mercenary company here as you want to. The name you enter will be referred to in a lot of texts in the game (such as in contract offers and events) and the banner will be shown all the time on the worldmap.

New Campaign Battle Brothers

You may remember from a previous update that we want to provide the ability for creating custom banners by choosing shapes, colors and emblems. It’s not off the table but we decided to postpone this feature until later and concentrate instead on more significant things as we get the game ready for launch. For the time being you have 22 different premade banners to choose from.

One major point of feedback we took away from playtesting so far was how different testers rated the difficulty of the game and importantly also how different they felt about that challenge. Instead of streamlining the game into a one-size-fits-all, we’ve now added three difficulty levels. Those levels do not affect the AI and do not affect how strong enemy types are. Instead, they focus entirely on the economic aspect of things. Depending on difficulty, you’ll have different starting funds, availability and prices of equipment as well as recruits. The exact differences between the difficulty levels are shown via tooltips here in order to help you decide what level best fits your preference. 

Retreating from Combat

With an open world map that doesn’t scale to the player’s strength it’s quite possible to end up in a battle that can’t be won. Not every battle should need to be fought to the death, however, and so we added the option of retreating from tactical combat. It’s better to flee and fight another day than to die pointlessly now, as the saying goes, and this should provide a good in-game alternative to just reloading an older savegame.

To retreat from battle, you’re best advised to first move all your Battle Brothers to the very edges of the map. If you give the order to retreat, anyone on the edges will make it out alive and join up with you again on the worldmap. However, anyone not on the edges is going to be left behind and is likely going to die. Of course, how you start battle – whether surrounded by enemies or in formation with all your opponents in front of you – can have a big impact on whether you can make it to the edges in one piece. Likewise, it’s not hard to escape from slowly shambling zombies, but it can be difficult to escape from more mobile opponents, such as vampires that can transform into a flock of bats to cut you off. Sometimes it might be necessary even to sacrifice some of your men in order to save the others. Thanks to the simulated nature of the worldmap, killing even a few opponents and then retreating will still have a real impact on the world and means that your opponent’s faction is now missing some men for future engagements.


Mercenaries in your ranks expect two things for risking their lives on a regular basis – daily payment in silver crowns and food. If you fail to pay or feed them, they will eventually desert you. On hard difficulty they also take their equipment with them, but they’re nice enough to dump it into the stash for now on easy and normal difficulty before leaving you. If you run out of men completely, you’ll lose the game. 

Desertion Screen Battle Brothers

Luckily, your men won’t desert you the instant that you’ve spend the last of your crowns. A check is performed daily based on their bravery and a multitude of other factors. If you have an active contract going, people are a bit less eager to leave you, since there’s payment on the horizon. If they have the ‘Loyal’ trait they’ll generally stick a bit longer with you, whereas if they have the ‘Disloyal’ trait they’ll be quick to leave you. If you run out of money, characters with the ‘Greedy’ trait will take this especially serious, whereas running out of food, while certainly not a good thing, isn’t that serious for characters with the ‘Spartan’ trait who consume less food to begin with. As a general rule you really shouldn’t run out of either money or food. 


We’ve finished the final faction allied to the player for our Early Access release: the Men-at-Arms. They’ve been active on the worldmap for a while now, chasing bandits back into the forests and duking it out with orc raiders, but now they’re also able to fight alongside the player in tactical combat. Those usually well-trained and well-equipped professional soldiers are garrisoned in watchtowers and strongholds across the land and send out patrols to guard roads, villages and cities from raids and marauding beasts. You’re not the only one out there getting work done!

Men at arms faction battle brothers troops

The Footman is the standard infantry type and makes up the bulk of most units. They are relatively young men conscripted into service, decently trained and equipped but lacking in actual combat experience. They wear light weapons and armor, usually gambesons, and wooden round shields. 

The Arbalester, like the Footman, is a young man conscripted into service but trained in the use of the crossbow as opposed to melee weaponry. A relatively new weapon that requires less training than bows to use effectively, the crossbow makes Arbalesters dangerous opponents to face at range, even though the time needed to reload their weapon can leave them vulnerable.

The Footman Veteran started out as a regular Footman but has since become a professional soldier with better equipment subsidized by his lordship. They wear basic chainmails, kettle hats, kite shields and decent weaponry, sometimes even heavy two-handed weapons.

The Sergeant is an older and well-experienced man in command of smaller units of Men-at-Arms. He’s skilled as much in the use of weapons as he is in small scale tactics. In true movie fashion, the Sergeant often foregos wearing a helmet, prefering instead to be able to shout orders all across the battlefield. In gameplay terms, his presence raises the bravery of other Men-at-Arms quite a bit, boosting their confidence and making them less likely to flee. Should he fall, however, this can easily result in a ripple effect of morale plummeting.

The Knight is the most powerful combatant among the Men-at-Arms and usually in command of large units. Knights belong to the nobility of the land and always have a unique name. They boast the most expensive equipment available and sport the banner of their house on their shield in combat. Lifelong training at a quality only available to nobility and the attendance of tourneys have helped him hone his combat skills a great deal. A knight can usually take on several lesser opponents at once and still come out victorious.

Zombie Overhaul

Zombies were the very first opponents that made it into the game back at the end of 2013 when we were still prototyping the tactical combat. A lot has happened since – for one thing, we overhauled how Battle Brothers look and added human opponents with a lot of visual variety. Those old zombies were beginning to look quite a bit out of place.

zombie overhaul battle brothers new

To address this, we’ve overhauled the zombie visuals to make use of the existing human assets with zombified colors and additional layers of skin missing, blood and zombie mouths. The result is a cool new look on par with everything else, a lot of variety and some gameplay improvements as well. See that zombie with the chainmail? It’s a real chainmail now, meaning that zombie can take a beating but you’ll also be able to loot that armor after combat, even though it’s damaged already and may need some repairs (and a good disinfection) before wearing it.


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About Jaysen


  • Avatar photo
    Mar 9, 2015 @ 11:54 am

    Nice work. I was particularly interested in reading about the escape from battle mechanics as that was going to be my next question.
    I think the condition of getting your men to the edge of the map first is a very good idea too. On a side not, as I am sure plenty other people are eager to know it as well, are you guys still on course for the end of March early access release?

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      Mar 9, 2015 @ 12:58 pm

      Yeah, it’s looking good currently (:

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    Mar 9, 2015 @ 12:49 pm

    These are fantastic changes! I love the customization features…

    I really suggest that it would be unique to be able to add a group motto at the band creation screen as well.

    The desertion and retreating is brilliant… but one more thing in terms of map placement should be added in the long run…. ambushes in which the party can surround or start surrounded in terms of deployment

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      Mar 9, 2015 @ 12:59 pm

      Ambushes where you start surrounded by enemies are already in.

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    Mar 9, 2015 @ 22:53 pm

    Can charcters that deserted your band be found again in the future?

    Maybe working for some othe rfaction like the bandits?

    Or are they gone forever?

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      Mar 9, 2015 @ 23:57 pm

      Deserters or characters dismissed by the player can sometimes be found in the next village or city for a limited time until moving on. You won’t find them working for other factions.

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    Mar 10, 2015 @ 1:42 am

    This game will be beautiful gentlemen! Also the open access will be at a much better level than so many others :D

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    Mar 10, 2015 @ 20:19 pm

    I see company customization, but what about the first character? Can I configure his look anyway? Or would it be?

    And wery glad to see that player’s band is nod the only in the world couse to my mind it is the great problem of plenty of differnt games. I like when there are outher heroes like you that can make you rivalry.

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      Mar 10, 2015 @ 22:23 pm

      No, you can’t customize the look of starting characters. I’m unsure as to whether this will ever change.

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        Mar 11, 2015 @ 0:20 am

        Hey, I’ve been following your development for a while and I recently binged the recent let’s play and development updates. Reading the question about customization made me have a thought. Not about looks, I like that being randomized. Given that you have traits, and company customization, one thing that might be easy to implement and tie into your current systems (and I don’t know if you’re considering) is to have a simple option at the campaign menu. Difficulty, company name and banner as it is now, and then “Customize” or “To adventure”, which does whatever you do now which I assume that’s just randomly generate a character and starting equipment.

        Customize could be taking a page from Jagged Alliance 2. Have a text crawl, like; “You’re [Name], a [Gender] in [Generated World Town Name]. After years of hearing mercenaries tell tall tales in the tavern, you woke up one morning and asked yourself: “Well, how hard can it possibly be?”. You’re about to find out.”

        Then have a few options, each of which picks a trait for your first character, a specific set of starting equipment and maybe even a drawback. “You’ve spent years…. A) Watching over your decaying family manor (Lessened Noble, start with one rusty suit of ancient armor, one good sword) B) Working in the fields (Start with more health / fatigue, lots of tunics), C) Serving in a kitchen (Extra rations, lots of knives)…” so on. Given that the world is randomly generated, it means people get some influence over their first character pack and also sets up a neat emergent story (Sort of like the Hugo’s in the let’s play, by accident). You already have background elements and traits, so it might not be too much work?

        If you give the character a trait like “Founder of the Company” along with whatever is picked that could mean they won’t ever desert, so you build in an anti-frustration feature which means that people can know that they (until that person bites it from bolt, blade or black arts which judging from the let’s play will be right bloody quick) always fall back on having 1 person that won’t desert who can do those delivery or scouting contracts to build up the company after being decimated. Until they inevitably die and the game becomes a little tougher.

        Hell, I’m not sure how feasible it is judging your system, but you could also have a little question about the reason for striking out as a mercenary company that provides an overall change or trait to everyone who signs up. “Some find coin, some become corpses – what motivates the [Company Name]? 1) GOLD (Chance of higher paying contracts) 2) Glory! (All battlebrothers gain +x bravery after killing a foe) 3) The brotherhood of battle (Everyone gains more morale when next to another battle brother) 4) It beats actually working for a living” and so on.

        Since you generate the world anew with each game and it’s all simulated, allowing someone to change their first approach could make for a lot of easy replayability. Maybe the band was started by a failing noble out for coin, maybe it was a farmer who picked up a hoe and decided to bludgeon a brigand. And look at them now! Starving to death in the middle of a brigand infested forest. Good times.

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          Mar 11, 2015 @ 10:54 am

          excellent post, a great idea to add, possibly at a later stage, a player character customization. Even if the player char doesn’t appear ingame his traits would affect the party’s performance. The traits might be designed so that they would affect either the combat abilities of the companions such as moral, accuracy, defense, attack, initiative, experience gains and so on or combat unrelated attributes such as speed on the campaign map, trade, consumption, looting chance, equipment maintenance, surgery and so on. I really hope such kind of customization might be implemented, even in an expansion.

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          Mar 11, 2015 @ 11:16 am

          Hm, I like it the way it is now. If you have a favourite character who is “you” among your brothers wouldn’t it be Frustration of he dies pernamently? In JA2 I could never let my personal character die. Imo either you have an immortal character like in Mount & Blade or no custom character at all.

          On the other side I can understand that many players want to customize because it entertains and adds to replayability.

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          Mar 11, 2015 @ 11:20 am

          Good ideas and well thought out, thanks for sharing!

          I really like Jagged Alliance 2 for the similar system it uses to create your avatar at the start of the game. Also similar to Mount & Blade.

          Technically there is quite a lot of work connected to such a system but more importantly it has to be designed carefully not to give too much room for min/maxing as we want a “roguelike” feeling at the start of the game where you get dealt your cards and have to adapt and make the best of it.

          Another issue is permadeath. If you have an “avatar” that represents you on the battlefield what happens if he dies? Because making him immortal would really break immersion. In Battle Brothers characters die way easier than in JA2, in MB the avatar is even immortal.
          Losing your avatar can really discourage players and we do not want to limit combat to permanently babysitting your avatar so that he does not get hurt. You see there is a lot to consider before committing to such a system. That does not mean that its out of the question and I am sure that there will be a lot of requests in this direction when we go into Early Access so we will definitely come back to this!

          Finally, there is one thing you mentioned that is already in the game: All three of your initial Battle Brothers now get a “Founding Member” trait that gives them a special combat bonus ;)

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          Mar 11, 2015 @ 11:22 am

          hehe Jago, i think we posted the same argument at the exact same time ;)

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          Mar 11, 2015 @ 18:12 pm

          I really like your suggestion for customizing the starting conditions and setting up a bit of a story at the same time. That narrative-driven customization would fit right in with the rest of the game, I feel. We’ll get back to it once we’re a bit further on with development and have covered all of the basics. Thank you for the very comprehensive posting! (:

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    Mar 11, 2015 @ 11:43 am

    well, but a main character does exist, as the one who hires companions, trades and accepts jobs, so if such a character exists on the abstract level why not allowing some kind of customization? btw … what happens if the whole party gets annihilated, I suppose it’s not game over but you simply get to the next town and hire some new companions. So, in the background there is some kind of leader who even if not appearing in combat like in MB does act and whose personal attributes may be given an actual gameplay value.

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      Mar 11, 2015 @ 11:51 am

      Hi Salvo,

      sorry for not answering your questions before.

      The leader you incorporate in the game is like in X-Com – you get adressed directly just like a person but you never actually show up. You are the manager in the background. We want to use this approach for now.

      Regarding the campaign map skills you mentioned we have a whole “companion” system already planned out that evolves about non-combat characters in your mercenary company like smiths, nurses and so on. I do not want to spoil too much right here but it will add a lot to the worldmap gameplay and the customization of your mercenary company.

      When losing all characters you will lose the game and its over. You can not only lose them through combat but also by running out of food and/or money.

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        Mar 11, 2015 @ 11:57 am

        OK, Jaysen, thanks for the clarification, Looking forward to EA

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    Mar 11, 2015 @ 17:12 pm

    As I see people gives their ideas and propositions I would like to ask whould you do some interrogation like “What to add or change?” when the project will be close to release to let people pronounce their ideas?

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      Mar 11, 2015 @ 18:09 pm

      Can you elaborate on what you mean by ‘interrogation’?

      We really appreciate all the feedback and fresh ideas you guys give us – whether here, in different forums, on youtube or on steam – and will continue to listen to it all throughout the development of the game. As the game eventually gets close to release, however, it’ll get harder to still change things around. The earlier you can share your suggestions, the better.

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    Mar 11, 2015 @ 18:04 pm

    I love the sophisticated calculations you’re doing for desertion. Sounds very promising.

    Two things about the undead: I hope vampires will only appear at night. It’s really key to their whole mythology and it irritates me when movies or games ignore this. And it would be nice if you could decapitate a zombie, and then have it attack and move at random. Or maybe that would better be applied to skeletons…

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      Mar 11, 2015 @ 18:18 pm

      Well, I wouldn’t call the calculations sophisticated ;) But yeah, we’re trying to have different elements of the game be interconnected to give them a bit more depth and for everything to feel coherent and make sense. Once we have events in the game, those will to some degree also depend on character traits (like a greedy character asking you for more money).

      Vampires also appear at day. There is a concept to have them be stronger at night (or weaker at day, however you want to look at it), but it’s not yet implemented. We have a whole undead overhaul planned for when we have the resources to do so and the vampires will be a big part of that.

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    Mashed Zombie
    Mar 11, 2015 @ 23:08 pm

    The zombie mouths need a bit more variety.

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