"Black arrow! I have saved you to the last. You have never failed me and always I have recovered you.'"
— John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, The Hobbit
Unlike spears, guns or crossbows, longbows are very difficult weapons to master, but highly deadly if in highly trained hands. And so for this reason, English noblemen of the Imperial Era are known for raising picked bands of Retinue Longbowmen to bolster their king's armies. Although outranged by crossbows, and also not very capable of piercing armour, the English Retinue Longbowman, based off the Welsh helwyr , has a rate of fire that compensates well its lack of range along with greater attack and robustness compared to their Yeoman predecessors.
If sufficiently massed together and protected, longbowmen can easily mess up massed formations of infantry and can even pack sufficient punch to down more heavily-armed foes. This is helped further by longbowmen having a medium splash attack radius, meaning that they can shower an area with plenty of arrows, causing a definite psychological if not physical effect on their enemies. Because of their good movement speed, Retinue Longbowmen can be used to outflank even the more heavily armoured heavy archers of eastern nations like Venice and Turkey.
- Rush Crush — Massed infantry can easily overwhelm archers. Bring your ownheavy infantry as a "moving wall" to protect them.
Although the longbow has always been seen as a distinctively English weapon ever since the Hundred Years' War, all nations in the world at some point have recognised the value of archery, whether in obtaining meat for the pot or in obtaining victory from war. For this reason, however, some English renegades have taken up the practice of mercenary wayfaring on the Continent and may be found serving some king or the other. Renegade Longbowmen, as these are called, can be found amongst the ranks of armies serving the rulers of Scotland, Portugal, Burgundy, and the Papal States.
It was thought that the Normans owed victory over the Saxons in 1066 to the use of Breton archery as well as strategically timed cavalry charges against the Saxon shieldwall at Hastings, yet after this episode the Normans were slow to appreciate the value of massed archery as a tactical asset until their forays into Welsh territory, during which the guerilla tactics of the Welsh, aided by their use of the longbow, exacted a price so high in Norman blood that the Normans themselves were impressed enough to begin recruiting the survivors of Norman rule in Wales into their armies. Unlike the Welsh, who preferred silent, sniping attacks, the Normans arrayed their new longbowmen en masse, turning a single-shot weapon into a deadly hail of pointed ends which could even penetrate steel armour at a proper angle.