Video games are a big part of my life, and I wish I wanted them to stay that way.
In Mount & Blade: Warband, one of the most important decisions you are going to make concerns which Kingdom you will swear fealty to. Of course, you can go the rogue route, living a life of sin and debauchery as a lone band of raiders, but we are honorable individuals who desire to have our right to rule be recognized as quickly as it possibly can. Thus we shall be getting on King Ragnar's good side, and swearing fealty to the Kingdom of the Nords.
Think of swearing fealty to these dirty, hairy vikings as a long-term investment that feels bad at the beginning, but the risk to reward ratio outweighs any negative aspect the longer you support them.
A Choice for Long-Term Gain
Once you build up your renown enough to swear fealty to King Ragnar of the Nords, you're going to feel like you made a terrible choice. In fact, many new players end up imprisoned, with permanent debuffs, and in an almost-infinite cycle of being captured before even reaching a sufficient level of renown to swear fealty to a king. However, you were patient and skillful enough to avoid being captured and imprisoned, and you're now a part of this wonderful viking kingdom; that alone is proof that you are making nothing but good choices.
In your choice to side with the Nords, you have not only joined the faction with the weakest unit diversity, but also one that tends to enter into war with more than one faction at a time. Not only do you not have ground superiority, you also have a leader who makes terrible choices as to whom he shall pester. Basically, you're questioning why the hell I would ever suggest these guys, right?
Well, you see, the Nords are absolutely terrible and most starting characters could handle a Nord army single-handed, if they play it safe. Personally, I've taken on a Nord army that was three-hundred strong, and I did so with a meager, mixed-unit army of ninety-five. This is exactly why I want you to swear fealty to the Nords.
In swearing fealty to the Nords, you are actively choosing to strengthen the weakest kingdom in the entire game. I'm sure that sounds a bit weird, and I assure you it is, but as you make their kingdom grow, they never get any stronger! Yeah, their numbers grow, they hold more of the map, and they defeat other characters in the game left and right; but they never get any stronger versus the player character!
Essentially, in the long-term, your choice to conquer Calradia in the name of the Nords has spread an already-weak nation even thinner across the map. When you finally have the military, financial, and fiefdom strength to do so, you can betray these weaklings and sweep the entire map, claiming Calradia as your own!
The only real problem with this excellent strategy would have to be the fact that the Nords do have geographical superiority, and that can make things a bit rough on you later on.
The two kingdoms in this game that have an unarguable geographic advantage are the Nords, and the Rhodoks. Many would argue that the Rhodoks have the true superiority because gaining access to their main cities is quite difficult, and the choke points they can utilize are plentiful, but it is the Kingdom of the Nords who truly hold the ability to boast a true advantage. This advantage is yet another reason you need to join up with them as soon as you possibly can.
As you can see in the picture above, the Nords have access to almost every type of terrain in the game. At their backs they have the ocean, on their tail they have the snow, and directly across their immediate mountain range are the forests of Swadia. What this means is that there is an overabundance of bandits and raiders to farm, but more importantly, it provides access to diverse types of market goods without traveling too far.
As you travel from place to place, recruiting troops, selling loot, and buying goods, you'll begin to notice how easy it is to diversify your food supply and corner those faster-moving bandit groups. When it comes to going to war, there is nothing sweeter than using these cornering methods to block in enemy armies and capture/wipe out entire kingdoms in one fell swoop. Like the Spartans did in the movie 300, you will push your enemies to the sea and eliminate them.
Assuming you are nowhere near the action, you can trust this geographic advantage to force your enemies to march through your allies to get to you. You can move safely behind friendly lines, farming loot and experience, all the while the enemy has to push through dire grounds where your backup is but a short march away. The only true disadvantage here is that you're pretty much limited to using foot units.
Foot Units Only
The Nords may be a great long-term investment, but you may as well sign away unit diversity and get used to having nothing but foot units available to you on the cheap. In the early game there won't be too many roving bandits and armies with prisoners to rescue and recruit, and buying high-tier mercs at the tavern will be a poor choice for spending your money, so shut up and get used to commanding infantry. In order to get over the fact you are losing half your army to mounted units, just think that these are the main antagonist for your later conquering of Calradia.
It cannot be expressed enough that in strengthening the Nords, you're weakening all of your future enemies. Their top-tier units are the Nord Huscarl and Nord Veteran Archer, and neither of them have the strongest equipment available on a non-hero character. Once the Nords have assisted you in becoming financially independent, and you've assisted them in spreading like a virus across the map, you'll be in a position to reign freely, nearly-unmatched in military might and tactical flexibility.
Join These Smelly Vikings Today!
I'm not sure what else I could possibly say about the Nords in order to get you to join these useful tools. That really is all they are, useful tools for your rise to glory and fame, and you'd be doing yourself a disservice by joining up with anyone else. I suppose I could let you know, however, that siding with these guys does have a blaring negative aspect that could ruin the game for you.
Once you have established your fiefdom under King Ragnar, you have a steady income flowing from workshops in cities, and you have claimed most of the map for the Nords, you will have made open-field battles extremely boring for yourself. Yes, this makes anything outside of siege battles so easy that the game becomes a slog of resupplying yourself and your fiefs. Most of your time will be spent recruiting men, leveling them, and reinforcing your current castles and cities, all the while you stomp out the Nords over and over again.
Essentially, you've established the weakest enemy in the game as the most prominent in numbers, and now you're just tipping over the dominoes and resetting them so you can do it again. However, this method is much nicer than making it to the end game only to realize you supported the Khergits, now every ground battle takes an hour or more to complete. Even better, you didn't support the Rhodoks only to lose half your force to Rhodok Sharpshooters during every initial charge.
So, that is all she wrote as it concerns why you, absolutely, must start with the Nord faction. Make sure you join up with them today!
See you in the field, butterlords!