There are a total of 6 individual factions in Bannerlord, each one controlling a portion of land within Calradia. At the beginning of the game you are given the opportunity to choose one faction with which you will identify. However, rather than this being a permanent choice which commits you to serving that faction, it is more an aspect of character development. Think of it as a kind of cultural heritage, which comes with specific benefits that have real significance in game. These are listed below.
"The Vlandianis are descendants of adventurers from the west who lived under the empire for centuries before forming an independant kingdom. With the decline of imperial authority, they have evolved into a well organised feudal society led by a cast of warlike nobles who prefer to fight with spears and lances on horseback."
Faction Bonus: 20% more upgrade XP to troops from battles.
"Sturgians are the descendants of the foreign tribes of northern Calradia. As the empire expanded into their cold forests, they found a ready market for the luxurious furs of woodland animals whom they traditionally hunted and trapped. Sturgian chieftains became princes, vying for pre-eminence with the help of Nord mercenaries who migrated into their realm. They are good hunters and wanderers, travelling far in search of opportunities both for trade and for plunder."
Faction Bonus: 20% less speed penalty from snow.
"The Calradian Empire is in decline. Even before the murder of the Emperor Arenicos, the once united realm was torn by political rivalries. Today, those factions are in open war. Yet Calradians endure. They are technologically more advanced than their neighbours and their mastery of engineering is not just evident in their aqueducts, beautiful architecture and massive city walls. It also makes them experts in siege warfare."
Faction Bonus: 20% construction speed bonus to town projects, wall repairs and siege engines.
"The Aserai are the inhabitants of the Nahasa desert, a mixture of nomadic bedouin and settled oasis farmers. They are famous for their horsemanship and their knowledge of the learning of many lands, especially medicine, gained from lying on some of the continent's most lucrative trade routes. Each clan is fiercely proud of its lineage and often jealous of the others, but when united by a charasmatic leader, they become a major force in the south."
Faction Bonus: Caravans are 30% cheaper to build. 10% less trade penalty.
"The Khuzait confederation of steppe tribes used to live a nomadic life, but have recently settled in the eastern frontier of the Empire and are slowly transitioning into an agrarian society with permanent town centres. Despite this, they still retain many aspects of their nomadic life, including their affinity with horses. They are masters of mounted archery, shooting and then galloping out of reach."
Faction Bonus: 10% extra speed bonus for horsemen on campaign map.
"The Battanians still remember the olden days when the woods stretched across northern Calradia, and the Empire and its cities had yet to violate their sanctity. The firce warriors remain loyal to their traditional ways. They paint their faces when going to battle and even their noblemen prefer to fight on foot while using great axes and two-handed swords with deadly efficiency."
Faction Bonus: Forests give 10% less speed penalty to parties.
Choosing a Faction
The first playthrough will most likely not be your only playthrough. With so much to learn, mistakes will be made and you may want to reconsider your faction configuration. To begin with, choosing a faction with movement speed bonuses is advised. This will allow you to take advantage of small groups of enemies which will be light on their feet or on horseback. In this way you can hunt them down without chasing them all over the map. It is for this reason that speed plays a surprisingly central role in Bannerlord; if your enemies are faster than you are, they may elude you for great distances around the map. This can result in your forces being exposed to other dangers such as larger armies, your supply chains being cut off, and your settlements made vulnerable.
In light of this, although the Vlandian faction bonus seems initially enticing, it won't do you much good if you you're unable to pursue enemies in the first place. You can earn much more XP and money by taking out numerous small groups of enemies, rather than being forced to chase potentially larger ones while exposing yourself to danger. On the other hand, if you navigate the map effectively, you may be able to zig-zag your way around an ememy, forcing them into a tight spot where their speed advantage is nullified. This however requires practice, and a good deal of luck based on the type of terrain that you're moving through. If you try to move with precision atop a snowy mountain range, it will be much more difficult to corner a foe.
The construction and repair bonuses that come with choosing the Empire faction are more applicable in mid to late game scenarios, when you actually have the capability to capture and sustain multiple settlements. It is advised that you choose this on a later playthrough, as you will have no specific speed boosts to basic gameplay mechanics in the same way that the other factions provide in the early game. The Aserai is entirely viable as a starting faction, with the reduced trade penalty being useful throughout the game and the reduced cost of caravans allowing you to purchase one much sooner. The trading caravans are extremely useful in Bannerlord, costing you a fair bit to maintain to begin with, but soon paying dividends on the initial investment.
Did You Know?: The factions in Mount & Blade: Bannerlord are the predecessors to those seen in Mount & Blade: Warband. Bannerlord is set 200 years before the events of Warband, at a time when the Calradian Empire is in the throes of its demise. If you have played Warband, you will not only recognise many of the trait similarities between the factions in each game, but also something of their historical and geographical inspiration.