Current Issues of Mercenaries
Completely random mercenaries is not a proper way to allocate them, especially with the ever expanding number of units that occupy very similar roles. Right now you could end up with a unit set of all musketeers (Highlander, Irish Brigadier, and Fusilier) or all lancers (Jat Lancer, Elmetto, Bosniak), and in that situation, you just pick the best and ignore the rest. There’s only so much that can be done to differentiate units that occupy the same role, so a system like this really limits what mercenaries can be added to the game.
Organizing mercenaries into companies would solve the issue of getting redundant units while also providing unique historical and geographical themes. Each company should consist of 3 similarly themed mercenaries that also have distinct roles. Players could have the option to select one of 2-3 randomly available companies available at the Tavern. Once a company is chosen, only the units from that company would be locked in. A technology could be available to reset the choices of companies (could be themed on gambling).
Below is a list of potential ways to organize mercenaries into companies with primarily geographical groupings. Some of these are based on groupings already in the game such as the Hire Holy Roman Mercenary Army and Hire Highland Mercenary Army cards. I’ve also suggested many new units to round out the companies. This does increase the number of potentially redundant units, but since they’re separated into different companies this is less of an issue. Names are just a suggestion, but I’ve tried to go with names for different sub-regions rather than larger countries where possible. For the suggested new mercenaries I’ve focused on units with a historic role as mercenaries, particularly ones from regions that are unlikely to see their region covered by a major or minor civilization.
Holy Roman Company
Consists of Jaegers, Landsknechts, and Black Riders. Themed around the German states of the HRE.
Consists of Highlanders, Swiss Pikemen, and Harquebusiers. Themed around the units from the rugged highlands who also all hold to the Calvinist faith.
Consists of Ninjas, Ronin, and Yojimbos. Themed around units from Japan. Both Ninjas and Ronin are melee heavy infantry, but their roles are unique enough that they wouldn’t be redundant.
Consists of Barbary Corsairs, Zenata Riders, and Xebecs. Themed around the Berber pirates from the Barbary coast.
Consists of Mamelukes, Sennar Horsemen, and Gatling Camels.Themed around Egyptian and Sudanese units from around the course of the Nile. It contains two heavy cavalry units, however, Sennar Horsemen are available earlier and have a more specialized role than Mamelukes so there is a function for both.
Consists of Armoued Pistoleers, Elmetti, and Li’l Bombards. Themed around units from Italy.
Consists of Giant Grenadiers and Bosniaks, and Teutonic Knights. The current prospects for a Prussian civilization are slim, but they could get a little recognition with a mercenary company.
Despite their Balkan origins, the Bosniak Corps actually served Prussia.
Teutonic Knights would be a new mercenary to complete the company. As a nod to their AoE2 counterpart, they should be a swordsman with ridiculously high melee armour. They could also possess some of the same abilities as Hospitallers.
Consists of Fusiliers, Chasseurs, and Napoleon Guns. Themed around French and Belgian units.
Chasseur is what the Mounted Rifleman is trying and failing to represent. It could be renamed and reworked into a dismounting unit to fix the many flaws with the unit.
Consists of Iron Troops, Manchus, and Tiger Warriors. Themed around units from China.
The Rattan Shields of the Shaolin Temple would be reworked into Tiger Warrior mercenaries and could be replaced with an actual Shaolin monk armed with a monk’s spade. Their depiction could be like this reskin.
Company of the Isles
Consists of Irish Brigadiers, Privateers, and Gallowglasses. Themed around the descendants of the Norse–Gaels and the Kingdom of the Isles.
Privateers would represent local boats such as Birlinn and the many pirates from the region.
Gallowglasses were Norse–Gael mercenaries from the region that could act as powerful heavy infantry armed with a Claymore or Dane Axe.
Consists of Mysorean Rocketeers, Jat Lancers, and Purbiyas. Themed around units from India. Realistically, units like Ghurkas and Sepoys were more like mercenaries for the European powers instead of standard units in the armies of local powers. However, changes like that would require a significant rework of the Indian civilization.
Mysorean Rocketeers already exist as an upgraded form of Arsonists but they lack a proper skin to distinguish them. Rocketeers should entirely replace Arsonists as mercenaries since Arsonists only really make sense as an outlaw.
Purbiyas would be a completely new mercenary based on camel cavalry. A common complaint with India is that Sowars overwhelmingly rode horses and the depiction of that unit riding a camel is inaccurate. This could be fixed by giving Indian Sowars a proper horse mount, and using the old skin for a Purbiya.
Consists of Pandurs, Stradiots, and Crabats. Themed around units from the Balkan frontier between the Austrian and Ottoman lands.
Crabats fit the model of mercenary far better than outlaw. Outlaws are bandits operating in their local area, but Crabats were hired into armies and gained great prestige fighting in far away places like Scandinavia and France. On top of that, the promotion mechanic is not something that works well with outlaws. Outlaws are powerful, cheap, and available early, so giving them a mechanic that lets them snowball from small early fights is a bad idea that just leads to cheese gameplay.
One good option to replace the outlaw role left vacant by Crabats could be Uskoks. These were Slavic pirates from the Dalmatian coast that raided Ottoman territories. A lot of their depictions show them with a mace or pick, so they could be either a heavy infantry, or a shock infantry like the other pirates.
West African Company
Consists of Dahomey Amazons, Zappo Zaps, and Kanuri Guards. Themed around units from native Western African kingdoms and colonial allies.
Zappo Zaps were feared mercenaries in the Congo that allied themselves with foreign powers such as Belgium. They fought with hatchets that could be thrown or used in close quarters combat. They should be heavy infantry with a ranged attack that inflicts melee damage. Dahomey Amazons could be toned down to avoid a conflicting role with another hatchet throwing unit.
East African Company
Consists of Boer Commandos, Ruga Rugas, and Askari. Themed around colonial units from Eastern and Southern Africa.
Boer Commandos (or Kommandos) were the militias of the Boer colonists. During their conflicts with the British, they were mobile and well armed with long ranged rifles. Therefore, they could function somewhat like a mobile Jaeger.
Ruga Rugas were local troops first raised by the chieftain Mirambo to guard caravans, but later used by colonial powers. They were often recruited to supplement more professionally trained and equipped Askari forces. To differentiate them from Askaris and represent their inadequate equipment, they could feature as a pikeman unit with an additional charged musket attack (just like the Oromo charged attack).
Consists of Zouaves, Miquelets, and Ribauldequins. Themed around units that operated in and around the shores of the western Mediterranean such as Catalonia, North Africa, Italy, and France.
Miquelets were Catalan irregular and mercenary light troops. This role would lend them to being light infantry, however, the most common depiction of Miquelets shows them in uniforms that strongly resemble various musket infantry in the game. For this reason, they could be a type of musket infantry that either counters other heavy infantry or has various multipliers in different stances.
A common complaint about the Portuguese civ is that they never actually used Organ Guns. This could be remedied by giving Portugal a Berço (swivel gun) unit, and making Ribauldequins (Organ Guns) a mercenary unit. These weapons saw extensive use in Italy and France.) so they would fit in with a Mediterranean army.
Consists of Cannoneers, Luzones, and White Elephants.Themed around units that operated in Southeast Asia.
White Elephants (or alternatively Royal Elephants) would be powerful mercenary war elephants based on the prized white elephants of Southeast Asian monarchs. White/Royal Elephants (and all other elephant units) should have a stamped attack like the current Royal Horseman mercenary to offset the pathing difficulties of such bulky units. This ability is so much more suited to elephants, that White Elephants should fully replace the Royal Horseman mercenary.
Luzones were mercenaries and sailors from the island of Luzon who served in the armies of Burma, Siam, and Malaysia. They could function as a spearman equipped with a kalasag shield like the ones used by the Igorot warriors from the mountains of Luzon.
Consists of I-Kiribati Warriors, Headhunters, and Kotta Maras. Themed around Austronesian peoples from across the Pacific. None of these units currently exist, but they could be a great way to represent peoples that don’t necessarily fit well as natives or part of a potential civilization.
I-Kiribati Warriors fought in formidable spine covered armour made from coconut fibers and pufferfish spikes. They were armed with shark tooth swords. Due to their unique spikey armour, they could reflect some melee damage dealt back at their attacker.
Headhunting is a practice carried out by many disparate cultures. However, the Headhunters of Papua and nearby Southeast Asian islands are some of the most famous. Headhunters could be based on Papuan warriors with their ornate daggers and shields. A promotion mechanic for gaining strength with each kill would be very fitting for this unit.
Kotta Mara were essentially floating castles made by the natives of Borneo. These ships were strong enough to shrug off cannon fire from European steamships. They could function as a mercenary equivalent of an Ironclad.
Consists of Bashkirs, Murtazeki, and Dzungars. Themed around peoples of central Asia who bitterly resisted genocidal campaigns of conquest against them.
Bashkirs are a Turkic minority in Russia. During the Napoleonic wars, they fought as mercenaries on the Russian side, participating in the battle of Paris. They currently are depicted as a shipment of Hussars granted from the Russian church card. Therefore, the mercenary version could also be a heavy cavalry unit to replace the Hussars from this shipment.
Murtazeki were Circassian mercenaries that fought against Russian expansion into the Caucasus. The peoples of the Caucasus have such an engrained warrior culture that they have ammunition pockets as part of their traditional dress. Their role could be that of a skirmisher or dismounting counter-skirmisher.
The Dzungars were a Mongol people that carved out a powerful expansionist Khanate that was eventually annihilated by the Qing in a series of brutal wars. They had strong cavalry and utilized a variety of weapons ranging from bows and spears to zamburaks. To fit with the rest of this mercenary company, they could be depicted as a dragoon unit.
I haven’t included every single mercenary warship as part of these companies. Ones like Battleships and War Dhows can be reliably recruited by some/all civilizations so they don’t necessarily need to be linked to the Tavern
Other Changes to Mercenaries
Mercenary Contractor & Mercenary Camps
The Mercenary Contractor politician should enable your Explorer to build Mercenary Camps and to choose a second mercenary company (could be predetermined by civ). The current way that Mercenary Camps replace the Tavern of the most beer loving civ in the game doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. These buildings also shouldn’t be generating coin and could lose the table with a bone saw that’s a holdover from the Hospital reskin.
Covered in a previous post:
Points 2 and 4 mentioned in that post are further clarified in this one.