I’m really, really enjoying Battle Brothers, to the point that it’s heavily cut into my EVE time and I’ve been in maintenance mode (market, industry, and PI updating only) the last few weeks now. Luckily EVE isn’t going anywhere, and I did take a little BB break to burn a few things in Jita, which was great fun and it’s always amazing to see that level of coordination from Goons. But yes, back to Battle Brothers.
One of the things that is really holding my attention with the game is the overall difficulty has stayed very consistent, while the risks/reward aspect increases as you progress. BB is a difficult game, both in terms of in-battle decisions, and with regard to larger, long-term stuff (when and who to hire, when/what to buy).
At the very beginning, the challenge is learning the basics, but you are also facing basic enemies that don’t bring a great deal of complexity to combat, while your own units aren’t yet specialized. It’s not quite “line up and swing away”, but it’s not terribly far from that, especially if you aren’t hyper-focused on minimizing damage and just want to win. The economy aspect also starts simple, where you are mostly focused on having food and tools, and you aren’t really diving into buying equipment or moving trade goods between settlements.
At the mid-point of the game, more of these things start to factor in. As you gain levels, you open up more abilities or specializations, which you need to align with the gear you have. Say for example you hire an amazing archer with fantastic ranged stats/bonuses, but you haven’t gotten a single decent ranged weapon yet. It would make sense to seek one out on the market, but how much do you spend and where? (at the first city you find, or do you run contracts for a city with a bowyer to increase your reputation and lower the price to create a more long-term solution?)
Let’s say you have that great archer, and are working on reputation with a city that has a bowyer. Suddenly in an encounter that archer is killed. Now what? Do you scrap the whole general direction you were going in, or continue and attempt to hire a suitable replacement? What happens when you pay a high price for a replacement, and their stats/bonuses just aren’t worth really focusing on?
And all of that is just one example, and you will likely have half a dozen such example going at the same time in one game, with varying degrees of impact, complexity, and demand. If two settlements are in close proximity with each other and produce profitable trade goods, you will really want to focus on that area and build a reputation to get lower buy, higher sell prices. But maybe the game has other ideas, and the contracts you are offered are ones to protect a caravan that is traveling to the other side of the map. If you keep declining them, you might not have other work to do. If you accept them, now you aren’t in that area. If the towns are often hit by raiders pillaging supplies, or greenskin raids, prices and supply will also suffer, and your once profitable area is now (at least until you fix it) poor and doesn’t produce what you need to keep going.
The final layer is once you are further in, and you have higher-level mercenaries with mid to high-end gear, a single death or crippling injury is now far more of an issue than it was earlier in the game. Lost gear is much harder to replace, and if the merc lost was also a specialist, his replacement will be both costly and difficult to find. If your general battle strategy counted heavily on the specialist (say a center line holding defensive guy), until you replaced that guy and his general effectiveness, you either can’t fight the same difficulty of battles (not always an option), or you have to change up how you fight.
Now multiply the problem of a single merc lost with a battle that goes really poorly and you lose two, three, or even six+ guys. Sure you can give up and restart, but it’s far more fun to try and recover, which is possible but is its own complex set of problems.
All of this really only works in Ironman mode too. If you save scum BB, you really are going to ruin the game. Being able to reload after a failed contract negotiation, or a bad battle, or even to only hire the best recruits not only cheapens the whole experience of difficult decisions and dealing with them, but you will also out-scale the difficulty since you are accepting only the best results all the time, which the game isn’t balanced around. Even if you generally stay away from Ironman modes in other games, don’t do that here. It should also be noted that Battle Brothers is intended to be played multiple times. Each game has its own map, towns, units; basically everything is different but the game basics, so don’t be afraid of playing with one band, it going poorly, and now having to ‘repeat’ the game again. It really won’t feel like that, and you won’t see that brilliance if you save scum and progress with only one perfectly-played merc company.