In Stronghold 2, besides Kingmaker you can play against human players from all around the world. This mode roughly follows the Kingmaker mode, with the difference that AI lords cannot be added to the game. Each game supports 8 players, although it can vary on the map size and/or players needs. The multiplayer service used to be powered by Gamespy, but with their servers shut down, it moved to GameRanger. Network games can be started from the GameRanger client, after a free download and registration is complete.
Setting up a game from GameRangerEdit
The first player needs to host a game by starting it. He/she can choose a server title, which will appear in the servers list (the player's name by default). Further options are available like allowing friends only to join, setting room size and protecting the room by a password to prevent unwanted players to join (indicated by a lock).
If one wants to join to a server, he needs to choose a game from the servers list. If it is a protected server, the password is needed to be typed in to join.
Chat is available in the server room until the game is started. The room host can start the game by pressing its button, which will cause every roommate to load the game and join to the host's Stronghold 2 lobby, after the host finished loading.
The in-game lobbyEdit
The host has several abilities, most of which is already found in Kingmaker:
- Forge alliances: clicking a player's name then a colored crest will add a player to a team.
- Cancel alliances: clicking on a player's name then the torn treaty will remove a player from a team.
- Kick players: clicking on a player's name then on the boot will throw a player out from the server.
- Set starting rank (four options):
- Freeman: 100 starting gold, tiny starting force, access to Freeman rank tech
- Knight: 500 starting gold, small starting force, access to Knight rank tech
- Baron: 1000 starting gold, medium starting force, access to Baron rank tech
- Duke: 5000 starting gold, huge starting force, every tech unlocked
- Set starting gold (and stockpile) ranging from 50% to 150% of base gold.
To start the game, every player must indicate that he/she is ready to fight. A ticked crest can be changed back to a crossed one, if one is not still ready yet.
Players can send messages globally by tapping 'Enter', then typing in their text. A tick button or 'Enter' can be used to send the message, and the cross button or 'Esc' to cancel it.
A small built-in library of taunts is usable by the F1-F10 buttons. It is advisable to use them with measure or else you risk being kicked out.
Goods can be traded with allies through the utility of a carter. You can use the built-in chat interface or third party programs for more efficient communication.
While not included in game (as opposed to Stronghold Crusader), there do exist various limitations to the multiplayer games (typically determined by the host or the player's mutual agreement) to tweak the actual gameplay. They usually have a great impact on the players that skill often becomes more important, emphasizing strategy and tactics. It is a must to abide these rules in order to not cripple the joy and ethics of the gameplay. The most common ones are:
- Peace time ('pt' in short): players mustn't attack each other or capture estates for a certain period. This period can be a date or a number of years. Very rarely, recruitment is also prohibited, only the starting troops can be moved around.
- Unit restrictions: certain units may not be recruited or hired in the entire game. Typical examples are trebuchets and assassins.
- Disabling carters (also seen as Keine Beförderung): players cannot deliver goods to each other, so everyone must manage their economy without assistance.
- Peasant war (also seen as Bauern Krieg): the only usable unit in the game is the armed peasant. Most of these games start with 'Freeman' rank as well.
- A common strategy is using knights in hordes to butcher through enemy ranks. Knights on horseback are simply the best unit in the game, possessing very high mobility, high attack speed and superior melee abilities. Having dozens of knights can be devastating, but knights are almost always useless when they lose their mount, so back them up with some missile troops to soften enemy resistance. Horse archers are perfect for escorting these raids matching in speed and efficiency.
- Pushing through the battlefield is another good strategy. This includes employing 'clusters', which consist of a number of mixed troops and numerous cats: the cats provide protection while the soldiers can advance in relative safety. Missile troops can hold back any advancing troops and soften up defenders (even under walls), while melee troops serve as bodyguards. While this formation is very powerful and dense, it may be vulnerable if the cats are repeatedly destroyed.
- A very effective and cheap defense against army groups is the burning cart rush. It includes a siege camp (in relative safety), which pumps out burning carts and mantlets. When this group is ordered to attack, the mantlets will move on the fore, so they will absorb any incoming damage. Although armoured units would not take too many wounds, siege equipment and any non-armored units will die or lose most of their health. To counter this, mounted knights with good micromanagement are needed.
- A very effective way to gain money is massive food production. Apple farms (around 6-8) would make it decent for the first moments of the game, or else you can initiate bread production by spamming wheat fields, mills and bakeries. You can have a massive gold income by utilizing double rations and -8 taxes with a treasury. Or else, if you have the skills, periodically sell food at the market to gain a huge gold boost. It is enough to leave 40-50 units of food once production starts running. You can combine these two options to achieve an even greater gold flow!
- Taxation is very rewarding when population is very high. Use every source of popularity to collect high taxes from peasants. Build the jousting field, travelling fair, church and inn to adjust taxes to -12 or even -16. Months pass very quickly and you can get thousands of gold as a passive income. Get soon ale and candles production and see the effects.
- In attrition warfare, you will need more and more troops to counter the enemy power. Alas, you need honour for most troops and you will need constant honour production. Employ cheap punishments, which do not need a torturer, hold masses, feasts (make sure the Lord is reset to civilian jobs) and jousting tournaments.
Beware that most of the points above apply to normal games only.