Guide to conquering eastern europe without cheats and/or mods. Note: Conquering the entire map is very time consuming. Also, I will not be covering any questlines in this guide. Conquering the map also gives you the Power Shift achievement.
How to Take Over Eastern Europe
Since MB: With fire and sword is a sandbox game, there isn't an offical way to beat the game. Some argue that you beat the game by completing the questlines for the various factions. Though, IMO there is only one way to beat the game, and that is by joining/creating a faction and eliminating all other factions.
Everything I write in this guide comes from personal experience.
Character Creation and Early Game
You will want to dump most, if not all your points into Charisma. This stat regulates how many units you can have in your party, and each point you put into this stat allows you to recruit one extra unit.
Through Charisma you'll be able to level up Leadership. Which also lets you have more units in your party, along with other benefits such as higher morale and lower wages.
You can put points into strength and agility, but I don't recommend you put any point into "personal" stats. As you'll most likely lose them anyway through permanent stat reduction which occurs later in the game. Also, unlike in MB: Warband, you'll spend most of your time in the sidelines avoiding stray bullets in battles and sieges.
Early game you'll want to to build and army consisting mostly of peasants and merceneries. You'll want to start sucking up to one of the five factions as soon as possible. This is done through aiding your chosen faction in battle and by running errands for the faction leader.
Note: You will need to raid a village of an enemy faction to be able to participate in battles with your chosen faction. Check the war status via the Quests Tab and then choose Factions. You can see at the war status at the bottom of the page.
Once you join a faction you'll be granted a fief. Which, if possible, you should try to make prosper to gain the maximum amount of taxes. You'll have to manually collect taxes early game, but once you get your own town, taxes will be collected automatically.
Sadly however, most of the time the fiefs you'll be granted will be absolute sh*te that gets looted 24/7. So don't get your hopes up.
You'll be visiting Mercenary camps often as you'll need to replenish your troops fast and often to apply pressure to towns/castles. In the beginning of the game these mercanaries will be relatively cheap and I suggest that you refrain from upgrading the equipment of these units early on. As the cost piles up fast. Note also that the mercenaries get progressivly more expensive the more you buy from the same camp.
You may want to buy your mercenary infantry some shields to help in sieges, especially if you are besieging Crimean Khanate as they tend to use bows over rifles.
Once you have a strong and stable economy you can start to upgrade your mercenaries to give them better armor, rifles, swords etc. Note however that while you can degrade your mercenaries equipment you can never restore them to "basic/vanilla" condition. Upgrade at your own risk.
Factions in a Nutshell
I'll go briefly over the Pro's and Con's of each faction if you're having trouble deciding which one to join.
Kingdom of Sweden
This faction stomps, it is by far the strongest faction and biggest threat to you if you aim to conquer the map. The Swedish reiters are incredibly overpowered when it comes to defending against sieges. Making offense sieges almost unbearable. Well, if you cant beat em join em. They aren't too good when it comes fighting on open fields though. Good a defense, alright in offense.
Good overall, but they lack heavy- cavalry and infantry units, which makes them vurnerable in sieges. Good at defense, alright in offense.
This faction usually has a hard time early game thanks to the aggresive nature of Sweden. Good marksmen, okay overall. The Winged Hussars give the Swedish reiters a run for their money. Which is good. Good at offense, alright in defense.
No. This faction cannot take nor defend castles/towns, avoid at all costs. They do, however, stomp on open field as they are a cavalry oriented faction. Awful in defense, awful in offense.
Decent marksmen, not too good at defending Castles/towns. But are alright in offense. Alright on open fields.
Mid Game and Onwards
Once you've joined a faction of your choosing, your main goal will be to eliminate one of the other factions. This is where the grind begins.
You'll want to be apart in as many seiges as possible, since the game is designed so that the factions cant destroy each other without the players interveniance. If your game is in a standstill, you'll want to apply pressure on a town/castle to trigger a response from your faction. (You'll be relying a lot on the AI early- to mid game).
Start by attacking castles/towns even if you are at a disadvantage, since you can always just return with more troops later. You'll want to launch an assault, then retreat when things look bad, and return the next day with a full party. You dont have to win, you just have to weaken the enemies defenses enough so that your faction can justifiably launch an assault.
Note: The garrison of the town/castle your are attacking should be as low as 100-150 units for your faction to consider making a move.
Rinse and repeat this strategy until the enemy faction has been eliminated. Join as many military campaigns as you can to ensure victory.
Late Game and Onwards
Late game starts when you begin to recieve permanent stat reductions 24/7 IMO. Usually this happens when 2-3 factions have been eliminated and/or 1000 ingame days have passed.
Around this time you should have atleast one city and two villages as fiefs to ensure a steady income of taxes. Otherwise you'll have to raid villages til the end of time to fund your campaign.
Around this time you should have 150-200 units in your party and therefore you wont have to rely as much on the AI/NPCs of your faction to take castles/towns. Honestly, rinse and repeat the same tactic from mid game, apply pressure and join military campaigns.
Note: Avoid defeats at all costs, as stat reductions only happen if you are taken prisoner. Swallow your pride and retreat when things look grim to avoid having to pay the consequenses.
Only 2% of players have the Power Shift acheivement, which is granted to those who defeat all other factions and whose own faction reigns as sovreign over all of eastern europe. This achievement cannot be aquired using cheats to my knowledge. Anyways...
Obviously this is not an easy task, and it will be time consuming as hell. But it's far from impossible. Each game will look a bit different, but usually Sweden will be the hardest one to defeat, so if you aren't playing as Sweden you should aim to eliminate this faction as fast as possible.