This is the first in a series of Friday Updates in which I'll elaborate on the way each civ obtains units. While this is all largely the same, as they're either trained from buildings, sent with techs or sent with HC cards, there are slight differences that reflect the historical way of obtaining a military. As said, this is only the first in a series, which is a series of five, so that we have all the Prologue civs covered. If you like them then, I might continue with non-Prologue civs, provided there's nothing more important to show. So get some crisps, a cola and some low expectations, and settle down for the next five weeks.
1. Italians: Hire them
2. Crusaders: Convince them
3. Byzantines: Pretend you like them
4. Turks: Invest time in them
5. Saracens: Show them your power
but get rid of them as soon as you can.
Venice. Milan. Genoa. Rome. Ferrara. Siena. Pisa. Savoy. Bologna. Modena. Some more Milan. Take a look at the medieval map of Northern Italy that you do not have in your bookcase and you will see list of city states, more than anywhere else in the world, and far longer than my short summary. Apart from Naples and Sicily, which were in firm hands of the Norman Sicilian king, Italy was so full of city states that not a single one of them had enough population to properly raise an army. Sure, the cities of Rome, Milan and Venice may have been populous, but they were full of merchants and sailors, both of which were unmissable in the mercantile nature of Italian economy, and conscripting these people would be equal to immediate bankrupcy, not a good idea in a region where money can buy you everything. This is, including soldiers. Italy was awash with mercenaries from all possible places, including the region itself, but also the Balkans, Switzerland, France, Spain and particularly Germany. The number of German mercenaries that started out as a simple hired sword and ended up affluent and living in an Italian city as nigh-noble is not known, but it can't have been low, partly due to their sheer number and partly due to the fact that being a mercenary was one of the quickest ways to earn large sums of money. Of course, the "follow the money" attitude of the Italians themselves soon got in the way, and only so often noblemen who were trained to fight but had not the money to keep up their lifestyle of nobility would become mercenary captains, or to use the proper Italian term, Condotierri. These men permanently hired entire companies of mercenaries, get on the market and, when one or two cities smelt blood, make a good profit.
The Condotierro unit. Unlike other mercenaries, the Condotierro isn't an exceptional fighter in itself, but it gives powerful bonuses to other mercenaries nearby. For those who care about heraldry: The coat-of-arms is that of the Orsini family, one of the more famous Condotierro families from the early Renaissance.
Mercenary captains in Europe and particularly the Middle East were viewed with disdain and a certain amount of disgust at the time, since loyalty was seen as one of the greatest virtues, and of all the things one could have said in favour of a mercenary, loyalty wasn't among it. Italy was a bit different though. Today we might blame it on their macho-culture, but whatever the reason, Condotierri didn't just become rich, they became popular, some even heroes of the people (or at least the middle class), often resulting in the second or third generation of a Condotierro family going into politics and possibly becoming Count or even Duke of an independent fiefdom. One could argue that nobility didn't matter in Italy, particularly not as the Middle Ages drew to a close and the Renaissance began, as there were only three proper ways of getting to rule: Being a banker, being a fried of the Pope's or being a Condotierro.
A Condotierro and a number of Genoese Crossbowmen, both mercenary units in K&B
Condotierri it is then, right? I imagine that at this point you're probably guessing the Condotierro is going to be a unique unit for the Italians in K&B, but joy of joys, it isn't. No, the Condotierro is there for all civs to hire (provided that mercenaries.xs is on your side) but the Italians have one tech that enables Condotierri to be trained in your Stables. This may seem like a relatively minor bonus, as the Condotierro only gives bonuses to mercenaries and not regular units, but your opinion may change if you hear that one of the main civ bonuses of the Italians is that they can hire all mercenary units (both from the Tavern and from the HC) for less coin than any other civ. As such, the Italians give you two choices: Either you can build a 'normal' economy and train ordinary units, or you can focus completely on coin production, undoubtedly helped by Merchant ships, cheaper Market upgrades and cheaper Trading Posts (I may just have given away three more main civ bonuses), and focus completely on mercenaries, which the presence of a Condotierro will then make stronger still. The choice is yours.
-Quoted from peugeot407