The first (method of incendiary attack) is to burn the enemy in their camp; the second by buring their stores; the third by buring their baggage train; the fourth by burning their magazines and arsenals; and the fifth by hurling fire amongst their troops.
— Sun Zi, the Art of War (Ch 12)
Gunpowder unit which enters the game one age earlier than Arquebusiers, has relatively poor accuracy and range but is quick and cheap to develop and train.
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Possibly one of the more exotic weapons around, the fire lance is in fact a spear with a bamboo cannon attached, which is used to fire projectiles at the enemy using a charge of explosive powder. While this weapon is pretty crude, and also has fairly poor accuracy and range, it is guaranteed to function as a highly destructive weapon, especially if used against massed enemy units. Against archers with long range such as Longbowmen or Saburai, however, the Fire Lancers are vastly less impressive, and if melee units do step into their guard, the results will be ominous indeed. Nevertheless, these units are somewhat cheap to produce, and so China can count on being capable of creating a near-to-impenetrable wall of missile infantry if so required. This is aided further by the fact that unlike other gunpowder units, only Level 4 Science is required to access them, thus giving China an edge in developing gunpowder-based armies faster than anyone else. The fact that China starts with free Science research from the beginning of any game only makes these units even easier to obtain.
- Knight Mare — Although devastating as an anti-personnel weapon, and also capable of dealing serious damage to light cavalry, the Fire Lance is near to worthless when facing Imperial Era heavy cavalry, especially unique ones, which will have an anti-gunpowder bonus.
- Assault and Gunnery — Portugal's Arquebusiers may be harder to obtain, but are very useful against enemy melee units, particularly melee infantry and light cavalry once you receive them.
- More Is Better — Because of their poor accuracy and their relatively cheaper cost, Fire Lances are best used against massed enemy units.
- A Shot Too Far — The poor range of Fire Lancers means that they are always at a disadvantage against archer units with long range and fast-moving units, such as cavalry.
Gunpowder was first discovered possibly as early as the Han dynasty in China around 142 CE by the late Han alchemist Wei Boyang who wrote of having discovered an explosive substance. Although its explosive qualities were soon seized upon by experts realising its potential military use later in the Tang dynasty, modern firearms did not make an appearance worldwide until the Hundred Years' War.
The Fire Lance (in Chinese, huoqiang) was the very first personal firearm created in history. Unlike modern guns, this weapon functioned more like a rocket launcher with a spear doubling as a launcher for a gunpowder-propelled projectile, most usually a dart. Later on, the spear was replaced with a tube for better range and accuracy, although like many early gunpowder weapons it would still be very inaccurate. Much later, the projectiles were mounted en masse in wooden frames which allowed launching of multiple missiles in volleys, which formed the world's first multi-rocket launchers, in the form of the Bee's Nest in China and the hwacha in Korea.