You had me at German folklore. Battle Brothers is a quaint experience, one that revels in its board-game aesthetic, with top-down characters that appear almost like pieces with only their heads and shoulders on display, moving from hexagon to hexagon in this tactical RPG's grim and gloomy aesthetic. Cobbled paths and luscious swamps with palm trees and insipid snakes, Battle Brothers takes you on a journey you won't want to put down.
It's all about war, right? So naturally, troops are important. No, they're vital. They're what makes up this 'battle' so-to-speak, and that means getting to terms with them, honing them, and directing them to paths that would better suit the team. They gain levels individually, and you improve them individually, gearing towards a role-based strategy, pushing certain soldiers into the sneaky dagger-clad assassin club, while also peer-pressuring others into being heavy tanks that, like in any good RPG, divert attention unto themselves. They either have some strong armour or a hefty amount of resilience. Either way, they take a lot of hits, and they deserve a pat on the back for it - if they haven't had too many, that is.
So, why do you have troops? That's a good question, me - you have troops because you run a mercenary company. You go from city to city, recruiting and training new meat, and that means you need precious, precious gold to fund their wages. Otherwise, they won't work. This isn't a voluntary sitch. With your merry band of sellswords, you can travel the world, visit new cities, kill orcs - what's it with every RPG and their mothers depicting the green-folk as bad? Leave 'em alone - and, as you would when you have excess gold, trade. That way, you can get better medical supplies, ammo, tools and food. Sure, you pay their wages, but you oughta feed them too.
The intricacies of running a mercenary guild feels akin to handling your brotherhood of assassins in, well, Assassin's Creed 2: Brotherhood, only amped up to ten and made the focus. It's a treat. What more, this little romp lets you customise and I am a sucker for some customisation. You can go to the barber to change their looks and give them unique names. Why not give your band of red-shirts some personality? The more grief, the merrier. As for the expansion - which was kindly provided on top of the main game for this review - it only serves to elevate this fantastic RPG experience, transforming it from a decent adventure into a full-blown treasure trove. More enemies, more challenges, more fun.