Mount & Blade is the sort of game that has intrigued me for a long time: it's unique first person melee and realistic battles looked very interesting and frankly quite cool. I'm looking forward to playing the Napoleonic War expansion for Warband, but in preparation for that bit of multiplayer madness I decided to play some single-player to try and get a handle on things. What I didn't expect to find was a swath of RPG elements and a shockingly steep learning curve. From the start, you're barraged by a mass of statistics with only vague descriptors and after a very short combat tutorial (RPG elements are left entirely unexplained) you are thrust into the world of Mount & Blade and left to your own devices. Needless to say, my first attempt at the game (a character fittingly named Mortimer the Brazen) was met with unmitigated failure. Battles were constantly lost, my men: captured, my purse: empty, my horse: stolen, and Mortimer's dignity: shattered. I retired the character after 10 short in-game days. With my next character, Cali the Bold, I took a different approach. Having noticed the importance of the economy and price fluctuation in Mortimer's game, I invested points in my trade skill. Instead of accepting quests and seeking battle, I focused on trading goods and building up a competent fighting force. I just started this second character, but the results are already much more positive: I'm making a good amount of money, which I can use to upgrade my equipment, and my band of men is already large enough to scare away small groups of bandits.