"... like gray wolves, they lope in the field, seeking for themselves honor, and for their prince, glory."
— Lay of Igor's Campaign (c1185)
Heavy polearms infantry. slower than normal Spear Sergeants with an exorbitant ramp cost in metal, but with a diminished food cost and the ability to deal serious splash damage.
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Once the Imperial Era is reached, the hitherto ineffectual Gridny heavy axemen can be upgraded into something more exciting: Berdishy Dvor or, "retinue bardiches". Although armed with somewhat antiquated weapons, these are still formidable heavies which are considered the personal retinue of a Kynaz. Unlike the Boyary whose power and strength are tied to the Kynaz by feudal contract, the Dvor are directly under the control of the resident Kynaz. Unlike normal Spear Sergeants, Berdishy Dvor are slow but extremely hard-hitting due to the reach of their weapons which is very useful for taking out packed formations of melee units, a;though they may be outranged by those who manage to raise Pikemen, although unlike Pikemen they can be trained without ever needed Centralisation (a tech which Russia cannot research)
While it is true that they consequently have no ramp costs in food (for infantry) or wealth (for heavy cavalry), the fact is that the sheer metal cost blocks Russia's ability to upgrade its defensive strength, yet alone produce additional instances of these units for the battlefield. As such, these units may perhaps provide savings that can be pumped into Russian armoured militia or light cavalry, but are limited if not useless by the fact that one cannot amass sufficient numbers of these troops to fight. A good method, however, around this would be to trade resources with others. The most valuable trade partner would be Byzantium, whose infantry do not consume that much metal as Russian heavy units do.
- First Strike — As the Berdishy Dvor can be obtained in the pre-Centralisation late game, they are a great boost for those capable of recruiting them, although they will soon be outranged by the costlier but more efficient Pikemen.
- Battleship Bulk — Berdishy Dvor are slow but extremely hard-hitting due to the reach of their weapons which is very useful for taking out packed formations of melee units.
- A Question of Mettle — Berdish Dvor have a very high metal cost, but a very low food cost to compensate. If Russian metal production is stymied, trade might be the only way to obtain sufficient metal to create them.
The use and popularity of polearms throughout Europe and Asia attests much to the popularity of this weapon: despite being deceptively simple to make, a polearm was highly lethal, especially in the hands of well-trained users. Polearms combined the long reach of spears and shorter weapons, such as warhammers or swords to form a highly versatile anti-personnel weapon. Caesar's naval victory in north-eastern Gaul (present-day Brittany, France) was attributed to the use of billhooks which were used to disable Gaulish ships, granting the Romans north-western Gaul. In Northern Asia and Northern Europe, polearms were often the favourite weapons of various armies, because of their availability and were even used from horseback in China and Japan. It was an unnamed Lorrainian peasant soldier who killed Charles the Bold with a halberd at Nancy in 1477, ending the Burgundian Wars in one stroke.
The use of heavy axes as polearm weapons dated back to the moment mankind learnt to create battle axes. Axes were used in Greece, Romania, Italy and France by Etuscans and early Celts. As swords became cheaper, they displaced axes. However, the ascendance of chain mail and cavalry as time went on made axes more practical, and the Franks, Saxons, Vikings, Slavs and other "Barbarians" adopted them. They were part of the European arsenal until the coming of gunpowder (and even then halberds stuck around), but were still used in Eastern Europe-Hungary, Poland, and Russia used axes as rests for muskets and were a good peasant weapon until bayonets reached them. The Byzantines adopted Axes again after centuries of just the sword, and used them as weapons for archers.