Mercenaries are complete armies for hire. To view the list of Mercenaries available for hire, use the military button at the top left of the screen. Once on the military pane, mercenaries will be in the lower tabbed section, on the middle tab.
- The leader of this mercenary band’s portrait. Clicking the portrait will take you to the leader’s character pane, where you can check his martial skill. There is a very wide range of skill with some mercenary leaders being far above average, and others that you would immediately replace if they were your own forces. If you are deciding between two equivalent mercenary groups, and troop compositions, size and cost are equal, take the one with the more skilled leader
- The up front hiring cost. This will be subtracted from your gold as soon as you click the ‘Hire’ button.
- The ‘Monthly Cost’ is the maintenance that will need to be paid for this unit. As the unit takes losses, this number will drop.
- If the unit has been hired, the coat of arms of the hiring realm will be here.
- The troop composition of the mercenary group. While there is not a lot of variety, the troop compositions do make some bands a better value for the money spent than others. Heavy infantry (heavy cavalry too, if available) should be prioritized, and light infantry de-prioritized.
- The total troop count. This will vary as units take losses in campaigns, and as they grow over time.
When hired, a mercenary band will appear immediately in your capital county, unless your capital is under siege, in which case they will arrive in a contiguous (if possible), owned (if possible) county. The hiring fee will be immediately deducted from your cash reserves. Mercenaries arrive with ZERO morale, and should not be immediately thrown into a fight (unless you are wanting to lower your maintenance costs, in which case, go for it, but remember that if they all die you are out the hiring fee).
Special Rules for Mercenaries
While you cannot declare war on another character while you have any levies raised, you are welcome to do so with a hired mercenary band parked on top of your opponent’s capital (or anywhere else you find strategically useful). If you choose to be a total jerk and do so (i know i do), you can be the defender in the battle, and prevent your opponent’s troops from linking up. (I have not yet seen the AI take advantage of this…)
Unlike levies, mercenaries replenish themselves while in the field. A mercenary band that has lost a few hundred members should be back to full strength in four or five months (assuming no additional losses of course).
Hints for using Mercenaries
If you are running out of money to pay for a mercenary band, you can lower their cost by getting a bunch of them killed. Assaulting a castle is often doubly useful in this case, as you will speed up the siege, so you don’t have to pay the mercenaries for as long a time, and you eliminate large numbers of them, so you don’t have to pay as much.
Hiring all the smallest mercenary bands instead of a single large one has several benefits. It is actually a better value money wise. Since large units can’t be separated, multiple small units will mean you have protection on your flanks in battle. Multiple small units also provide the strategic flexibility to split up and take on different tasks, where the single unit cannot.
Naval units can also be hired as mercenaries as of patch 1.05. There are several differences in how these units are treated that warrant their own page, which include a simple process for vassalizing them which will cut their fees dramatically.