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Squads - Types
4. SQUAD TYPES
4.1 Knives are the lightest, but fastest, weapon types. Their primary advantage lies in flanking, and thus they are good against polearm wielders and bowmen - the kind of soldiers that are best attacked from behind. However, in a straight-up fight, they're just about useless. Their knife throwing is sort of useful, but for the most part I tend to avoid these guys unless I'm working as part of a group. Specific variants include dual knives and the throwing-oriented chakram soldiers.
4.2 Rapiers are somewhere between knives and swords. They're fast and agile, better in a fight than knives, and have a strength/weakness rating somewhere between the two. Hafted weapons (axes and clubs) especially are vulnerable to rapiers. Furthermore, rapiers are fairly useful against armored opponents, with their armor-piercing special attack. Rapier variants are similar to sword variants, though there is no "rapier alone" style. Two of the rapier soldier types are female, and thus have the ridiculous "charm" ability.
4.3 Swords are the mainstay of battle. Balanced for combat, swords are best against most infantry types. Swords differ fairly drastically depending on the type used. One-handed swords are the most offense-oriented, with the tackle ability and both mighty arm and heavy strike. These soldiers are best used for rush attacks into melee. Sword and Shield troops trade off the tackle ability for a shield bash (which stuns the enemy) and a shield block. The shield block is fairly useful, not just against arrows and other ranged attacks but also to buy yourself time to recover your other attack types.
Two-handed swords are useful for their special attacks, primarily, though their attack power is otherwise fairly impressive. Mount Masher will even the field against cavalry (the sword unit's biggest weakness), though it doesn't always work. Try to trap your opponents before you hit them with it; don't just haphazardly swing as the cavalry charges through you. The sword blast is perhaps the most useful special attack in the game, provided you use it correctly. Do NOT use it in melee, as the attacks are too narrow to help in such conditions. Rather, use it like a musket; keep your soldiers tightly packed, wait until the enemy is right in front of you, and then loose them. Done properly, this can tear through an entire unit of enemies before you even make contact with them. Exotic Two-Handed Sword is similar in most ways to regular two-handed swords, with the added bonus that their sword blast is horizontal, rather than vertical; this allows them to cut even more enemies with it. They tend to be slightly less strong than regular two-handers and more focused on finesse, in my experience.
Dual Swords are the slashing machines of the sword book. Their abilities don't matter as much, tactically, as their peers, because once you get into melee you can just start mashing down on buttons to kill as many enemies as possible. Finally, the scythe-and-shield troopers tend to be the most exotic form of swordsman. Their soul reap is fairly helpful, as it drains from the enemy, but other than that they're fairly regular fighters.
4.4 Spears are similar to swords, except that they have a strength against swords and a weakness against axes. Other differences include the Spear-No-Shield's javelin throw attack (useful directly prior to a battle) and the presence of the heavy shield, which is more useful than the regular shield (also available for spearmen) but makes the unit slower. As a whole, spears vary in usefulness, but are roughly as good in some fields as swordsmen.
4.5 Long spears are a particularly unique unit that may be difficult to use for many. You see, despite being a "melee" class, they can't "attack". They can only fight through their special abilities. These abilities tend to, furthermore, be fairly specialized. The pikemen's main ability is forming a wall of spikes that absolutely destroys cavalry. Position yourself between charging enemy horse soldiers and allied units, hold down the ability, and watch as the knights are toppled from their lofty steeds. Aside from some minor attacks (the quick strike for no-shield pikemen, and shield attack for those with shields) they are otherwise vulnerable and left to a computer player.
4.6 Horses, properly used, dominate almost everything except pikes. They're fast, they hit hard, they trample infantry...everything is great about them. Their one weak spot is that they aren't as...thorough as other soldiers, but as long as you can keep up speed and continually charge through the enemy lines, you'll do all right. Sword Horsemen are the most melee-oriented, and the least charge-oriented. However, they're still fairly charge-based. Their ride-by slash is fairly useful for raids, but is only one chop - not useful enough to really be worth it. Spear horsemen are next up on the scale, but also have the ability to throw javelins, which is pretty useful. Lancers are the most charge-oriented, with the accelerate ability replacing the other cavalry's attack ability. Accelerate is fairly essential for them, as it brings a moving unit to a charging position immediately, which enables the unit to then charge into their enemy. Lancers are focused almost entirely around charging, so don't expect too much when they wade into melee. Finally, halberd horses are kind of the wild part of the bunch, but I haven't found much distinguishing or special about them.
As things go, horses are the most useful outside of combat because of their transportation. If you are in a horse unit, and that horse unit does not survive a battle, do not press X to leave the unit (and go back to your base infantry one-handed-sword style)- rather, remain on the horse, as it will give you a huge amount of mobility. Get to where a battle is, and THEN summon your new unit.
4.7 Halberds are one of the most useful units in the game, especially when paired with swordsmen. They're strong, or at least decent, against most of the things that swords are weak against, but are weak against knives and rapiers - the swords' favored opponents. There's only one unit type for halberds, so leveling them up is applicable to all halberd units and will get them pretty strong without worrying about leveling up units you won't use. Their scythe attack is really useful, both against infantry (in melee) and cavalry (outside of it). At higher levels, with greater strength, it's a giant death machine. Leg Breaker is best against horses, because it's easier to mash on mounted soldiers with your pole-axes when they can't run away and charge at you.
4.8 Axes are a fairly generic weapon; strong but slow in all their incarnations, axes suffer most against quick units like rapiers. As a whole, there's no particular reason to use them except that they are really really heavy hitters. So, if you like leading a unit of big armored soldiers carrying axes larger than they are and equipped with attacks that crack the earth and make giant whirlwinds of steel and death, well, there they are. Axes also come in the "shield" variety, which is fairly useful, but not quite as unique as the two-handed axe soldiers.
4.9 Clubs are like axes, but they hurt armor more. Also, they're better against mounted soldiers (again, the whole armored thing) so you can swarm over units of mounted knights and take them to pieces without using pikes. I find the mace-and-shield option to be the most useful; stun the enemy with the shield bash, and then take them apart with melee attacks. The notable different unit is the slingstaff, who are just a little bit too weird to be useful. They're all right, but not really that exceptional from what I've seen. Conventional weapons tend to work better.
4.10 Bows, in all their incarnations - short bow, long bow, crossbow, and heavy crossbow - are the same general idea: ranged attack, usually done from behind friendly troops. Despite their different specialties, they all have the same general ideas. Some useful techniques include the beast killer that crossbow troops possess (good against charging horses, if you can pull it off) and the poison attack Serpent's Sting. I, personally, never put too much stock in archers (the special first person view, especially, was a little disorienting) but depending on your play style you may disagree.
4.11 If you know about the Mongols, you know Horse Bows. If you know about the Mongols, you also know the proper way to use horse bows: circle and shoot. The side-pointed riding shot attack is best used if your unit is encircling the enemy, and with enough speed is absolutely deadly. They also have the regular first-person-shot attack, but you lose on the mobility that way so it's not worth it. There's not much else to say about them, except I prefer them to regular archers.
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