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Mercenary Units

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In the majority of Real-Time Strategy or Turn-Based Strategy games, units are bought with a quantity of resources and spend some time training before they become usable. Some games have the option of hiring special "mercenary" units that are paid for with a large quantity of resources and become available almost immediately.

They're often more powerful than ordinary units but will have some disadvantages, such as high cost, often paying just the currency resource, or they may only be available for a limited time, or in limited units at the same time. If there's a Morale Mechanic, they'll probably have rather low morale, perhaps to represent the fact that they're Only in It for the Money.

Similar to Guest-Star Party Member.

This page is for the mercenaries as a game unit. For mercenaries in general, see Hired Guns and Private Military Contractors.


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    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Act of War: High Treason. Factions can recruit mercenaries by building a Mercenary Outpost. Mercenaries require an insurance fee and a small rolling fee after that. Also you can only recruit one team of mercs at a time.
  • Age of Empires III has this as a game mechanic. Every time players level up in a match, they can play a card, half of which are tech upgrades, while the other half send small armies to the Town Center. Some of these armies are composed of mercenary units which cannot be created in any other building in the civilization's tech tree. In addition, there are also native settlements scattered across the map in any given match, and building a Trading Post at said settlements allows players to recruit native warriors.
    • All civilizations except the Native American ones have a unique building in which they can train mercenaries and outlaws. The Europeans have the Saloon (Tavern in the Definitive Edition, with the Saloon being given to the American civilizations), the Asians have the Monastery, and the Africans have the Palace.
    • The Asian civilizations also have Consulate, which allows them to get buildings and units from another country in exchange for a civilization-specific resource called "Export", gathered automatically as the civilization gather the other types of resources. Similarly, the African civilizations have a similar mechanic in that they age up by selecting a different alliance, which allows them to recruit units they would not normally have access to at the Palace in exchange for "Influence", their civilization-specific resource.
    • In the Definitive Edition, the aptly named Mercenary Contractor politician for the Europeans was reworked so that he would unlock a unique set of mercenaries depending on the civilization at the Tavern. On a similar note, the Swedes have access to "Contract" mercenary cards which not only ship a specific type of mercenary but also unlock that mercenary type for recruitment at the Tavern. Similar cards were later given to the Dutch, Germans, Maltese, and both American civilizations (the Mexicans and United States).
  • Egyptians in Age of Mythology can hire mercenary infantry and cavalry that vanish once their timer expires.
  • Black Command has mercenaries that you need to recruit in order to head out on missions. The mercenaries you can recruit consist of ranks, Rookie, Pro, Specialist, Veteran, Expert, Master and Legend in this order. Sometimes in collaboration events or special promos, you'll be able to recruit mercenaries based on actual or historical figures, or from other tie-in events that could for example grant access to characters from the Resident Evil franchise.
  • Company of Heroes allows factions to choose between one of three specialisms that confer a mix of passive bonuses, off-map support, and the ability to call-in exclusive mercenary units. Their applications can differ greatly. For example, the USA's Infantry Company offers Rangers, which essentially function like elite Riflemen. Other options are more specialist, such as the Armor Company's Sherman Calliope, which gives the USA rocket artillery.
  • Cossacks: European Wars: Mercenaries can be hired at the Diplomatic Center for gold and are produced extremely fast. They're all less effective versions of regular infantry and cavalry (Austrian roundshier, Algerian light infantry, Algerian archer, grenadier, Zaporozhian Cossack and 18th century dragoon) that can't be upgraded and thus serve primarily as Cannon Fodder (or cheap recon unit in the case of the Zaporozhian Cossack). A good supply of gold is needed in order for them not to mutiny, and the gold cost of the dragoons increases the more the player produces them (to truly ludicrous levels just to get a lot of them). Until Back to War introduced the Bedouin, mercenary grenadiers and dragoons were the only units with firearms that Algeria could get.
  • In Crusader Kings, rulers can hire mercenary companies who will abandon you as soon as you run out of gold. Alternatively, you can petition holy orders such as the Knights Templar to join your cause in exchange for Piety points, but they'll only fight against infidels.
  • In Europa Universalis there are mercenary units that act just like regular units except they cost considerably more to hire and maintain, but with the benefit that they don't draw from your manpower pool and are much faster to recruit. This makes them a good choice for nations with lots of spare cash but low manpower, or as a last resort when you desperately need more troops quickly.
  • Knights and Merchants features the Town Hall, where units can be hired for multiple chests of gold (the regular warriors require a single chest, but you also need to produce weapons and armor for them).
  • In Lords of Magic, you can either recruit units or hire mercenaries. Hired units are more expensive up front but cost less to maintain. Mercenaries are cheap upfront but are expensive to maintain. Their combat stats are the same either way.
  • Sins of a Solar Empire has a variant. Players can post anonymous bounties on rival empires and the pirates will focus their raids on the one with the highest price on their heads. Though the AI has a habit of bid sniping. In the Rebellion Expansion Pack, TEC-Rebels can hire a small fleet of those selfsame pirates through the broadcast station.
  • StarCraft II
    • In Starcraft II Wings Of Liberty Raynor can hire merc companies with credits between missions. Allowing access to merc units that are more powerful versions of regular units, but still have to be bought with minerals and vespene during missions, though they show up immediately in a Drop Pod.
    • On the multiplayer side of things Terrans gain access to the MULE, a call-in support unit that only costs a quarter of the Orbital Command's energy and lasts 64 seconds before expiring. It can be used for emergency repairs, but their primary purpose is to speed up resource gathering; they are four times more effective than a single SCV at doing so.
    • The custom map "Diplomacy - DV" lets you recruit local mercenaries if you control cities corresponding to their place of origins (e.g. Gallowglass archers from Ireland or Nubian warriors from Egypt).
  • Stellaris:
    • The Apocalypse DLC adds Marauders, a cross between Space Pirates and The Horde in space. Normally, they send raiding fleets out to demand tribute from/pillage regular empires at random intervals, but any empire can also pay them to raid one of their rivals or hire an admiral or general to lead their military. After the first century of the game, they'll even start hiring out entire fleets as mercenaries, though said fleets will leave their clients and join up with the Great Khan if one arises.
    • Overlord enables regular empires to convert fleets into mercenary enclaves that can hire out fleets and armies to other empires, they can also provide logistical support for a client (raising naval capacity) or provide trainers that increase fire rates. The empire that established the enclave can spend resources to upgrade them and in return is paid periodic dividends, and can persuade them to recall fleets hired out to their rivals.
  • Total War:
  • Warcraft III:
    • In some maps there are mercenary camps where "creeps" can be hired for gold and lumber. Some have useful spells or abilities, but for the most part they tend to be underpowered. Except, of course, for the Dragon Roosts...
    • One Alliance mission introduces mercenary units by giving you no other units to train, as Arthas is trying to destroy his own ships to keep his troops from going home as they were ordered to by Uther. He then blames the mercenaries for the destruction, joins his men in killing them, and declares that they have no choice but to continue their campaign in Northrend.
    • The expansion pack The Frozen Throne introduced the tavern, which is similar to the mercenary camp but you can hire Hero Units from it (though no more than three of the standard or mercenary heroes). It also allows you to revive a dead hero instantly, but at a much higher cost, at half HP, and no mana.
  • The Empire faction in Warlords Battle Cry III has mercenary cavalry, which has the advantage of being recruited instantly. It can also hire random units from other factions as mercenaries for Confusion Fu.

  • One of the gods in Dungeon Crawl is Gozag Ym Sagoz, the god of money and greed; it can grant particularly wealthy followers the ability to bribe branches of the dungeon. While expensive, this results in various monsters in that area either becoming peaceful (and thereby ignoring you) or even choosing to fight for you for a time (which gradually costs more money). There also used to be a Mercenary card among the game's magical decks of cards; it would summon a single powerful monster to either permanently fight alongside you if you paid them or try to murder you if you didn't.

    Tactical RPG 
  • One expensive way to get allies in Kenshi is to hire members of the Mercenary Guild at a bar. Mercenaries have higher-than-usual stats and tend to excel in combat, but are very pricey, making them unaffordable for poor parties.
  • In the tactical-RPG Mount & Blade, there is a whole "Mercenary" troop tree, each type of unit from this tree has a chance of being hireable in a tavern already trained. Which unit, is determined randomly: you can come across barely-skilled Watchmen, elite Hired Blades or everything in between. Mercenaries demand larger salaries than national units, but they are of neutral nationality and have no morale penalties regardless of which kingdom you fight (normally, units lose morale if you force them to fight agaist their own nation).

    Turn-Based Strategy  
  • Age of Wonders: Planetfall: Units and technologies can be purchased from NPC minor factions. The units available depend on your diplomatic status with the faction, with the best stuff reserved for closest allies. Purchases are made using the Influence resource, which is primarily gained by completing quests for factions or annexing certain landmark buildings.
  • Dukedom, a Hamurabi spin-off in The Middle Ages, allows the player to hire up to 75 mercenaries who, if not paid, will kill, plunder and rape peasants.
  • Endless Legend has a Mercenary Market technology that allows you to hire units from minor factions, including from those that you haven't assimilated into your empire. Mercenaries hired by the Roving Clans are stronger than average, which is good for them since their regular military units are a little on the weak side. A later technology lets you use bands of mercenaries to pull off False Flag Operations.
  • In Master of Magic you occasionally get offers from mercs and heroes to join you for the price. How often it happens depends on your fame and how rich you are.
  • Shadowrun Returns has a variety of 'Runners you can hire when you go on missions. In the first game, this is your only option for reinforcements except in specific missions where they're provided, but in Dragonfall and Hong Kong they're done as extras.
  • In Symphony Of War, mercenary units can be recruited through markets and bazaars. They are far better than the default recruits, but also far more expensive and they start out with the lowest possible loyalty rating, giving them a +2 capacity penalty unless they are used as squad leaders.
  • World in Conflict had a variant where normal units would be summoned at the team base after a set period of time using a limited pool of reinforcement points. However, you could also summon units (including unique units like the paratroopers) via Tactical Aid points, which is usually much faster and allows you to have more units at one time than your reinforcement points normally would allow.

    Other Video Games 
  • Cultist Simulator allows you to hire on temporary followers to aid you in the business of your cult. They require an up-front payment and will leave after a short time if not re-hired. Hirelings are principally useful in the early game, when you don't have many permanent followers and lack the resources to promote the ones you do have. While it's possible to run out permanent followers, hirelings can respawn without limit and make a good choice for rites that requires a sacrifice.
  • Some games in the Total War series let your generals hire mercenary units while out on campaign, usually for a higher initial and recurring gold cost than normal units, but they join the army instantly. Sometimes these mercs are best used as Cannon Fodder, but they can also be quality troops that outperform your initial levy units, and in the right regions you can hire elite soldiers like Cretan Archers or War Elephants. Medieval II: Total War also lets armies on crusade/jihad hire special religious mercenaries that make up in fervor and zeal what they might lack in discipline and training.

    Tabletop Games  
  • BattleTech: Mercenaries are ubiquitous in the Inner Sphere for most of the common gameplay time periods. Many famous mercenary units have special optional rules tor represent their unique skill sets in scenarios.
  • In Blood Bowl you can hire cheap mercenaries and/or expensive Star Players who will play for your team for one match.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Forgotten Realms setting has a large number of mercenary groups, many of which are listed and detailed in the original grey 1st Edition boxed set and the 2nd Edition supplement Gold and Glory. Most of them have fees so low that moderately well-off Player Characters could hire them.
    • The 3rd Edition Arms and Equipment Guide has, among other things, a section on normal and exotic mercenary troops, which are treated similarly to non-combat hirelings. A basic skirmisher with padded armor, a buckler, sling and halfspear only costs 21 gold to hire up-front with a 2 silver piece daily wage, while a mercenary knight with a lance, half-plate and a barded warhorse will cost 1,671 gp up front and 24 sp per day. Mercenaries expect to face threats roughly equal to their capacities, and will become unfriendly or even hostile if their employers put them in unnecessary danger, either demanding more pay or ditching the party. "Monster" races can also make for effective mercenaries, but come with their own challenges: goblins are notoriously treacherous and cowardly, minotaurs might let their bloodlust consume them in the heat of combat, and centaurs bristle at being treated as pack animals and will refuse to carry more than their own gear, to say nothing of riders.
  • Warhammer Fantasy:
    • "Dogs of War" are generic mercenary troops, usually representing the petty human domains of Estalia and Tilea, stand-ins for Medieval Spain and Renaissance Italy, respectively. These pikemen, crossbowmen, etc. can be hired to supplement other armies, or form their own all-mercenary army, though in the latter case their willingness to fight is largely contingent on whether their general still has control of the army's pay chest.
    • "Regiments of Renown" are more specialized and powerful mercenary units led by named characters, such as Pirazzo's Lost Legion, Richard Kreugar's Cursed Company, Long Drong's Pirate Slayers, Asarnil the Dragonlord, Beorg Bearstruck's Bearmen of Urslo, Menghil's Manflayers, and so on. They're elite units that can join other armies, but can often be picky about which ones they'll work with, though any combination of them can be part of a Dogs of War army.