"They rode armed for war, curved swords at their side and the thick horn-and-sinew bows of mounted archers in cases at their knees..."
- —S. M. Stirling, The Scourge of God
Weak but fairly fast and mobile unit, capable of a weak, mid-ranged missile attack.
|Prereq:||Build time||HP||LOS||Attack||Attack speed||Movement
|Cost||Created from||Armour||Weapon range||Specialty|
Can attack enemies to the left while moving.
Although fairly weak, having almost no armour, and being incapable of dishing out a great deal of damage, the Horse Archer's appeal lies in the fact that it is the fastest missile cavalry unit in the Dark Ages: aside from traditional light horse units and archers, there is no way to take them out. Additionally, Horse Archers have the best range and rate of fire for any Dark Age ranged cavalry, excluding a variety of unique units, and so if used properly can be fairly lethal in sufficient numbers. Accompany horse archers with other units, such as heavy cavalry, as horse archers have one enemy, and that is other ranged units: foot archers are particularly lethal because they outrange Horse Archers. Otherwise, Horse Archers can be very flexible — unlike Javelin Cavalry they can be used in frontal assaults, or be sent to ambush an enemy's rear or flanks.
- Swift of Speed, Sure of Sight — Because they have the best range, rate of fire and speed for any ranged cavalry unit, Horse Archers are highly versatile and fairly lethal if used in sufficient numbers.
- The Weakest Link? — Note, however, that since these units have low constitution you must always keep them out of the range of any other units — being caught by archers must be avoided, and being surrounded by enemy melee units is a no-no.
- Steppe Nomad — Mongolia fields the Steppe Nomad, which not only is vastly superior to Horse Archers but is also capable of resisting attrition.
- Kipchak Nomad — The skills of Turks in horse archery mean that some factions can purchase their services as mercenaries. Although they cannot be upgraded and are very weak in later ages, they still train very fast and face no complexity in their training.
- Bedouin Archers — Bedouin Archers are a special kind of cavalry archer employed by the Saracens, which although slower have more hitpoints and armour. Mercenary variants of these units are also employed by various other factions, most notably by the Turks and Chinese.
Horse Archers are a common sight in Magyar armies, where they boost the production of food, making them highly dangerous, alongside the Persians. Taking them out is a must if you can raise sufficient resources, since they can translate excesses of wealth in the Persian stockpile into more food, which in turn means more infantry to block your way.
Cavalry archery traditions in antiquity were often associated with cultures in Central Asia, where various nomadic tribes made their living off the practice of animal herding and horses ever since the prehistoric period. The land lends itself to breed a people who were used to harsh living conditions and mobility.
It was thus unsurprising that the various Turkic and Mongol-Tungusic tribes (among the most notable of these being the Magyar and the Mongols) inhabiting these steppes were often the bane of each other as well as more "civilised" sedentary cultures, such as those of Rome and Persia to the west and China in the far east. However, such contact between empire and barbarians wasn't always that acrimonious — many a king and prince in the Middle Ages appreciated the skills of the Turks in horse archery enough to purchase their services and even assimilate them into mainstream society — for instance, the emergence of Turcopole units amongst the armies of the Crusader States, and the establishment of Cuman colonies in Hungary following the destruction of their homeland by the Mongols. Horses weren't the only animals used as cavalry platforms for archers — camels were also used in Central Asia wherever the climate was too harsh for the use of horses.