Divine Machinist Division
Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow; decision, to the releasing of a trigger.
— Sun Zi, the Art of War (Ch 5)
The armour-piercing misery that your opponents may suffer when fighting Chinese Castle-Age armies continues into the Imperial Era with the Shenjinu, or "Divine Machine Crossbow". With a magazine mechanism that feeds bolts faster into their weapons, the Divine Machinist Division can rain down more ammo and pain per shot, and also can deal splash damage against unwary opponents — making it the ultimate "ranged melee weapon". Yet, the mediocre range of their weapons leaves them at the mercy of European arbalests, and so as a force, the Divine Machinists are at a high disadvantage if facing foot archers. Next, as all archers go, they are highly vulnerable against heavy cavalry. It is true that medium cavalry and even ranged cavalry might be easily seen off if precautions are taken, but a determined charge with Western-style men-at-arms will always spell nothing but disaster, unless, of course, you ring them around with entrenchments and spear sergeants to keep them at bay. Still, with China's penchant for cheap light infantry and gunpowder infantry as well as Battle Wagons or Gajnal Mahouts imported from Southeast Asia should be sufficient to overwhelm your opponent in the field, provided you can stay clear of their archers and cannon.
- The splash damage of the Divine Machinists allows them to decimate massed ranks of enemies even faster than ever before.
- Although they wield powerful weapons, Divine Machinists are at a disadvantage against faster-firing foot archers and heavy cavalry.
- Up In Arms — Shenbinu Infantry are known for their prolific shots. Use these units to tear apart melee infantry and cavalry archers — against which the hail of missiles that they can send will be extremely devastating — but beware of melee cavalry.
- Closing-in Time — Shenbinu are effective at taking out most archer units. To defeat western crossbow infantry, just move in closer with your Shenbinu Infantry, accompanied by cavalry for a breakthrough.
- Repeating Crossbowman — This mercenary unit has 33% less hitpoints but 50% added training time, and is recruitable to Saracens and Mongols in the Imperial Era, thanks to the diffusion of Chinese peoples and technology across the Steppes.
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.
Reputedly first introduced in the Warring States period before the Common Era, the magazine crossbow was a ranged weapon unique to China, and consisted of a magazine linked by a contraption to the crossbow stock which functioned as a reloading mechanism. Whenever this magazine was pulled down, a bolt would fall into the stock and the crossbow would cock itself, speeding up the rate of fire. While this weapon was limited in range (the size of a crossbow limited its ability to be readily cocked using this manner), the magazine crossbow proved to be a cheap yet effective weapon, allowing for volley firing through its fast rate of fire. So highly prized were repeating crossbows in Chinese eyes that at the Yihe Uprising of 1900, Chinese militias were still using magazine crossbows as defensive weapons against European cannon, machine guns and rifles.