I get what you’re saying @hruza , but your counterplay requires perfect generation luck on a combat encounter. I’ll go down the list.
1. Mercenaries are not a common enemy. The player usually does not encounter them often over the course of the game. When I have, I see maybe 2 crossbowmen? They also seem to spawn much less frequently with shields, and in fewer numbers. Where a bandit engagement could be 12+, obstructing your ability to get to vulnerable crossbow units, Mercs tend to spawn in armies of 8-12 if you choose to engage them on the worldmap. I don’t often see them at all outside of that. Between the smaller unit count on the field and fewer units with crossbows. They aren’t much of an issue. Similarly, noble house units do not make up a bulk of engagements. When they are most commonly fought, during the end game crisis, the player has had at least 75 days to prepare. Even then, most noble units i’ve fought have had 3 arbalesters, 1 with the heavy crossbow. Not 4-5 shooting within the first few seconds of the first round.
2. I use a counter archer with anticipation, dodge, heavy points in initiative/ranged def and bow specialty. That role has frequently been killed by concentrated fire. More often, the counter archer in training gets killed before getting specced and the process starts all over again.
3. More on perfect generation, it’s not infrequent for maps to generate with the backline marksmen simply given the high ground. In the past this was counterable. It used to be that if you moved out of range, the markesmen would chase and expose themselves. I have not seen that in recent patches. So in a situation where by diceroll 3-4 marksmen are shooting you from high ground and your own ranged troops don’t have the range to counter, what are you proposing to do? Don’t get me wrong. Challenge is good. A fight like this every now and again is great, but not every other fight.
4. Bringing kite shields is fine in theory, but it also means that once your shields are engaged in melee combat (where your frontline spends most of its time) they have sacrificed a major stat to deal with the skirmish phase. So it basically boils down to pick your death, ranged or melee. In a scenario where your entire frontline has kite shields, but you don’t have a capable archer/marksmen with bullseye and a few more levels, you’re in for a slogfest with a high chance of losses one way or another.
5. Bandit marksmen lack armor, but I’ve mentioned that they have rotation. The AI is smart and crossbowmen usually take cover. When caught, they often rotate out. On top of that, any single brother attempting to close with backline marksmen is usually focus fired and rendered incapable of safely chasing. Bandit Marksmen have high initiative, so it’s extremely difficult for an armored brother with a kite shield to actually catch up before being intercepted. The lack of armor is only a factor if you can actually close the distance before heavy damage is done. That doesn’t happen too often, and again, untrained archers are often clusterlucked by 3-4 marksmen before developing skills to counter them.
Wardogs? Well yea, send him out. If you’re lucky, he’ll run after the enemy marksmen and not a shield brother. Another dice roll.
I’ve frequently been in engagements where the enemy raiders have a frontline with shields and chainmail. Raiders have a chance of spawning with leather armor, but they also have a chance of spawning with very good equipment. I build my essential ranged units with ranged defense and anticipation, but have still had some 1st round killed by 3-4 marksmen that were given high ground on spawn. This is a complete diceroll. It’s completely down to chance. A gamble.
I’ve also been in situations where i’ll move a unit into a brush for cover and an enemy archer will still target him. The last time there was no brother on any adjacent tile. He hadn’t made an active move after moving into the bush and so shouldn’t have been visible. He was still shot. Moving an archer into a bush isn’t a catch all solution if he plans on shooting at all either, since after exposing himself he could be focus fired after getting a single shot off.
Most of your counter play scenarios require time to implement (leveled brothers), or perfect generation circumstances i.e a poorly equipped bandit frontline. Bandit armies make up what, 40-60% of engagements in battle brothers? Losing a level 6 to a backline of marksmen that spawned on a hill within 5 seconds of the first turn doesn’t do much for me.. Especially when there’s a chance of that happening every few quests/encounters given how often you fight bandits. I’ve defended some of the game design decisions myself. I’ve said before, I want to believe it’s balanced, but when all of the counterplay for a given enemy requires perfect generation circumstances, unlikely given their frequency, you’re gambling and not gaming.
I take a bit of exception to the suggestion that I’m simply not developing ranged brothers properly or I don’t understand the game. We’re talking enemy units spawning en-masse with a tier 4 perk. These are units that just spawn frequently in armies over the course of a game whether you’re prepared to deal with them or not. Was your army just set back hard by a tough orc encounter? Tough luck, here’s a bandit party with 4 marksmen. What about your army? You as the player are constrained by time and by roster space. You have logistical concerns like gold/replacements for other roles/equipment/brothers currently injured/brothers that need to be replaced. The AI? Well they just spawn out of randomly generated camps with high tier perks and no need to waste time ramping up. In the future when I can hire several brothers with access to weapon mastery perks with no concern for gold in the space of 1 in-game day, I’ll consider it fair. When bandits constantly need to go back and spend their restricted pool of gold in the temple, conserve ammunition, take time to spec properly, manage equipment with a limited roster, and spend time leveling up marksmen, I’ll consider it fair.
I’ve survived Iron Man playthroughs and restarted out of boredom. Bandits have never ended my playthrough on their own. You don’t have to assume that I have no idea how to deal with this enemy type in order for me to have a problem with them. Believe it or not, it’s possible for someone to be capable of handling a challenge in the game consistently while acknowledging that it’s an unattractive part of the combat. It’s also possible for someone to disagree with you without just being a bad player. I don’t neglect stats like HP and ranged def. I’ve even killed goblins! I know right? There’s no way an idiot like me could manage something like that.
If I’m being perfectly blunt, a few of the enemy armies need tweaking. I have a bone to pick with bandit marksmen because they are common but just because they’re one tall blade of grass among many, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some others that could use some trimming too. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. The game needs a balance patch. Some armies need to be toned down, some need to spawn much later. Some enemies could actually stand to be a bit harder. I know right? Blasphemy. There’s no way a crap player like me would suggest such a thing.
I’m a bit tweaked if it isn’t obvious. I can acknowledge different philosophies of game design. Some like RNG, some don’t. That’s fine. Having to assume the least of a player because he/she has a problem with the design crosses a line for me.
The frequency with which bandit marksmen spawn, their high lethality, the lack of logistical concerns from AI camps means that just by simple eventuality they’ll kill a high level brother and turn the game into a grindfest of attrition. That wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t take hours to retrain brothers to be prepared for more dangerous enemies in the endgame.