"Pursai was good, skilled beyond the vast majority of tribesmen ... His speed was dazzling, and his nerve cool ...
He was dead within two minutes."
— David Gemmell, The King Beyond the Gate
Out of the schools of Europe's finest swordsmen comes a new unit: the sword-and-buckler man, known in Spanish as the Espadachine. Lightly armed, yet fast on foot and capable of some lightning-quick melee attacks, these expert swordsmen are perfect against crossbow infantry and flanking the heavier pike guardsmen. Be wary, however, as gunpowder units with their more powerful attack and cavalry with their shock force can put them under before they even see the whites of their foes' eyes. Also, as with other Centralisation units, Espadachines have a somewhat higher creation cost than normal, but their abilities and their edge over pikemen and archers must be acknowledged nonetheless.
Access to Espadachines is not universal, however, and they are more common in the southern nations of Europe and the Low Countries, and while they perform well against the more lightly armed Byzantine and Muslim warriors, they are however somewhat deficient against other units, such as pikes (with a longer range) and halberds (with splash damage). Still, they are, with few exceptions, the best light melee infantry of the Imperial Era, as their relatively low cost and added armour makes them highly attractive as a main line unit.
- Hack is the New Black — Versatility is key to using Swordsmen — they do exceedingly well against archers and possibly fortifications, and will perform well in melee against cavalry too but only if they enjoy crushing superiority.
- Assault Duty — Espadachines are perfect for assaulting crossbow infantry and are good for flanking Pikemen, but are still vulnerable to cavalry and gunpowder weapons.
- The Centre Must Be Held — Unlike most other light melee infantry, Espadachines require Centralisation to be created.
Throughout history, many cultures have developed swords and the arts of fencing, and swords have continued to have a ritual role even after the invention of firearms rendered them essentially obsolete as instruments of war.
Early Modern European infantry armies were increasingly characterised as consisting of mostly heavy spearmen and archers — which would eventually be replaced by gunners. Although these armies were fairly powerful against cavalry, intelligent commanders realised that infantry could still duck if attacked by pikes, and so attempted to re-introduce sword infantry armed and trained in the Roman style, as well as to absorb the shot of enemy gunners (although whether this was effective is not known). Espadachines were nevertheless highly vulnerable to cavalry, but still had their uses — in the jungles of America and Asia, they were effective in the close hand-to-hand combat against the local natives, and so many of the armed colonial forces of the early Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish armies overseas were sword-and-buckler men.