Tips and Tricks
A good economy in medieval 2 is based off cities, and some well developed castles.
Whilst cities can grow fast and produce more income, you cannot train most of your forces there. They limit you to militia-tier units, and some others, depending on factions.
Castles are easily defensible locations that allow for recruitment and retraining of most unit types. They are slow to grow, and expensive to build up, but worth it in the end.
Now, it used to be recommended to keep 2 to 3 cities per castle. This is simply so you can keep the economy afloat. Castles can be turned into cities, and cities can be turned into castles, as long as you haven’t build stone walls for the city. This is a no going back point for cities (think of it as the city getting too big and no longer feasible for castle -like infrastructure)
I do somewhat follow the ratio, although with my own modifications. The game tends to have plenty of castles, so some of them can be converted. However, I like to organize them in clusters, and I will also put some in areas likely to be attacked.
The cluster reason is simple. You’d need about 7 turns to recruit an entire army. So I usually will have a castle with infantry – siege buildings and another one nearby with archery – cavalry, for example.
I find the effect of squalor is being overstated a bit. This isn’t Rome. I usually build my farms all the way, and encourage growth via low taxes pretty much the entire game. The game gives you tools like town halls and adjustable taxes. You can also just keep a few good governors and public order just isn’t an issue.
One thing though, never allow a governor or general in a settlement with a brothel. They keep public order up but rid them of bad traits.
Infantry should feel anything but flimsy. Say, if you went from this game to Warhammer, the first thing you’d notice is how little staying power the infantry had in that game.
Having said that, infantry is really the core for this game. Other troops, like archers and crossbowmen, need proper line of sight to be effective. Furthermore you will simply not get nearly the amount of kills of other total war games with them. (Usually 2 to 4 units would be fine. 4 being in the high side of things)
Cavalry is a bit trickier to set up. They have tremendous power with proper charges. However you got to be mindful of terrain or obstructions. Even your own troops can be obtructions.
I suggest you take it slowly and give them time to properly form up before a charge. If it is anything but spearmen (and even them have problems), you’ll know it when it happens – The unit will be decimated after a proper charge (I would suggest 2 to 4 as well whilst learning. You can bring 2 heavy o medium cavalry, and you can have 2 units of light cavalry to chase off routing units).
Most infantry in this game comes with a shield and I suggest sticking with that. Avoid pikes as those are bugged.
Also most infantry can opt for armor upgrades at the respective building. You get a lot of Bang for your buck for tier 1 and 2 upgrades.
After a castle reaches a certain threshold, it can upgrade and produce feudal knights. This is where it gets interesting as far as infantry is concerned.
There’s also artillery. I think catapults are good. Ballistas not so much. Anything above catapult is good.