— Dante Alighieri
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Crossbow Infantry are the scourge of many spearmen and pikemen. Although only kitted out in rudimentary mail, these men need no armour to hold off any assault - the force of their crossbows is such that it has the ability to pierce the most formidable armour of the age. Used in large groups as like all other missile units, crossbowmen can be a dangerous enemy indeed.
Although you would have a higher rate of fire using a normal bow, crossbows in fact have a higher chance of piercing armour and also were less strenuous to use (marksmanship with the bow was seen as the hobby and profession of nobility in Asia) and so by the end of the 12th century, almost every organised polity on earth was armed predominantly with crossbows. Yet, like all missile weapons, crossbows take some time to load, and an even longer time to hit accurately if used against moving targets. Additionally, the crossbow by itself is a highly intricate weapon, and so players who upgrade from archers to crossbowmen will see a steeper cost and longer training time as well, although train time remains just as fast. But once complete, you have a fast-training, hard-hitting unit capable of demolishing waves of armoured men. Compared to normal bow units, Crossbow Infantry have an elevated ramp cost in wealth, compared with archers. Thus, while the crossbow could be a potent weapon against slow-moving masses of men, a wild dash by cavalry or fast-moving infantry could ruin your day and you must always keep your crossbowmen as far away from melee range as possible.
The ease of using crossbows made them common throughout Europe, and the Papal States sports Orsini Marksmen. These units have a devastating attack, along with the ability to cloak in the field but are weaker than most crossbow infantry of other nations. However, there were exceptions: states bordering the Middle East and Asia often had an eye for archery and so would recruit warriors armed with composite bows, which function as well as any crossbow, while the English continue to use longbows, which while still inferior in range and attack to a crossbow, have a rate of fire and fast train time that makes them one of the best archers Europe has to offer.
In Asia, the Chinese use a highly exotic weapon with a highly destructive potential: the magazine crossbow or shenbinu. This weapon, although somewhat clumsier than normal crossbows or bows, makes up for it with highly destructive potential, especially against unarmoured foes. Chinese shenbinu infantry have rather poor range, but they make up for it with tremendous firepower and rate of fire, and also being cheap, they can also be trained en masse whenever they are so needed. Archery is also practised, especially in Andalus where the Moorish jundis, armed with their bows, are highly specialised light archers whose main skill is in raiding an enemy, but remain incapable of standing up to stronger foes.
- Rush Crush — Massed infantry can easily overwhelm crossbowmen. Bring your own heavy infantry as a "moving wall" to protect them.
- Composite Bowmen — Throughout the Caucasus and the Black Sea, there exist nomadic tribes of toughened mountain men. Those factions sufficiently close to these regions such as Russia and Venice recruit composite bowmen whose weapons are more than a match for the crossbow, but also make up for it with their fighting spirit, making them highly dangerous even to light cavalry.
- Orsini Marksmen — In central Italy, it is an open secret that House Orsini have access to marksmen, hired killers who while are slower and of weaker constitution, are far more deadly because of the strength of their crossbows and their ability to slip into cities unseen.
- Yeomen Archers — The English continue to prefer using traditional-style bows, which are somewhat inferior to the crossbow as regards to range, but with a penchant for archery, English longbowmen can be expected to shoot faster too, making them highly dangerous foes - longbows don't shoot as far as crossbows, but can still lay down a great deal of hurt once range is obtained.
- Shenbinu Infantry — Chinese shenbinu infantry have rather poor range, but make up for it with tremendous firepower and rate of fire, as well as having a dirt-cheap cost.
The crossbow is a weapon consisting of a bow mounted on a wooden stock. Originally used in China and eastern Asia, the weapon eventually became popular in Europe as well as some Muslim polities. Crossbows were very effective, and could penetrate the armor of a knight. The death of Richard I of England at Chalus-Chabrol in 1199 was due to a wound caused by a crossbow bolt shot by one of the defenders, which became infected, eventually killing the king.