I've basically been using a lance with a horse running around couching as many people as I can. The more open and flatter the terrain, the more I can kill. But there's got to be a better way.
Missile weapons just straight up suck, because you need way too many proficiency points just so it actually shoots where I aim.
So, what's the fastest way to kill an army without cheating?
It all depends on your playing style. Missile weapons are great (or annoying, depending on your opinion) en masse because accuracy tends to be optional when it comes to a rain of arrows, bolts, or whatever projectiles you and your men use.
At least it can't get any worse. Ooooh but it can, for I am the ultimate soldier of chaos, d00d!!!!
OK, I tried it out.
Projectiles suck. I suppose that's why they call it mount&blade. Implying the best unit is mounted with a blade. (swadian knights)
They are so damn weak, if the opponent has shields, it's over. The shields last forever until they get into melee range to rape them up in ass.
I suppose they might do well in defending a castle, but that's it.
flank them. set up 2 groups, or have your infantry in front. if they have to deal with two sides, they'll often go after one, letting the other have their flanks.
Death is a journey. The funeral is the last stop. The coffin is the train, the reaper the conductor. Me, I'm the guy who sells you a ticket at half price...
When going against shields with a bow, the only type I find annoying are the larger board shields, as otherwise I'll just kneecap the enemy if I can't get around them for a proper flanking shot.
My first played through, I played with a lance / one-handed axe & shield combo, but now am trying with a war-bow and shortened two-handed scythe. Although I miss the couching damage of the lance, once I got good at hitting a target at different angles from a speeding horse with a bow, it became one of my favorite weapons.
Trying for head-shots can be quite fun as well.
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I have 2 level 30 characters, one is sword/shield and bow/arrow, and the other is morningstar/shield, 2h sword, and spear.
I used to think the same thing about bow weapons. It seemed like it was a lot of work with not a lot of payoff, but my opinion has changed drastically the higher up I got it. Yes, you will have to deal with the slow leveling of the weapon (not to mention that you only have around 30 shots per battle), but they are great weapons for taking out fleeing soldiers. This character is highly skilled in riding and horse archery, and you also need to take into account that the more power draw you have, the more damage your bow will do (this also applies to thrown weapons, but not crossbows), and for each successive point after the requirement of the bow adds bonus damage, up to 4 skill levels (so 4 in power draw and a 4 requirement bow, will do an extra 72% damage with 8 power draw).
Horse archery takes some definite skill to get down, and you'll rarely want to use a ranged weapon on foot (you probably won't get much chance to follow through with more than a few shots), but they are dangerous weapons in the right hands and head shots can straight up single-shot practically every class. It's also cool as hell if you fire an arrow across the map and hit someone from far away - seeing those skill shot modifiers skyrocket is pretty satisfying. You'll also want to grab a good horse that has high maneuverability (speed is important, but not as important IMO). This is key for being a succesful horse archer, as to be able to switch directions quickly to line up shots is something you'll have to get down and be fairly good at.
For the other character, I use a Morningstar, and this weapon is awesome because it has a chance to ignore shields completely and connect - and that's a great thing to have. 2h swords I don't use very often, but on foot, they can wipe the floor with the enemy (they swing slower on horseback). I'm not much of a fan of Spears and Polearms, and the spear I have can't couch, but it's good for catching fleeing enemies with that extra range, and a regular spear strikes fairly quickly.
All and all, I think every weapon has a use, and some more than others. Ranged weapons are devastating when properly trained and a little practice, and while thrown weapons have few rounds, you can swap it in and out of throwing or melee status, so it's a good weapon that covers both spectrums.
OK, so the lances aren't what they used to be in the original M&B. I remember being able to couch like crazy. Now there's this huuuuuuuuge cooldown. Which is kinda ridiculous. Now most of the time I have to keep poking at them.
So I picked up a nice 1hand sword and shield. Just let them come up to me and started slashing away as fast as I could. And damn did I get a lot of kills :D
I don't like the idea of having very limited ammo for your bow. Just takes forever, not worth it. Too much of an investment and sacrifice with very little benefit.
If you run out of arrows or thrown weapons in a non-siege battle you can always go back to your baggage (the box by your flag where you start), open up your inventory, and re-equip you arrows or thrown weapons. Just click on them like you were going to swap them out and put them back in your inventory. This will reset the missile count.