"The arrow shot by an archer may or may not kill a single man; but skilful intrigue devised by wise men can kill even those who are in the womb."
— Arthashastra, Ch X
An Agent capable of conducting intelligence activities, including creation and destruction of informants as well as bribe enemy units.
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Gathers Knowledge when garrisoned in a University.
While not considered a military unit, a Spy however is still a valuable part of your arsenal: not only can Spies create informants in enemy cities and units, but they can also bribe enemy units and even kill enemy Spies and informants. Be careful of your opponents' Outposts and Scouts, however, as these units will easily reveal your Spies to the world, rendering them capable of being killed by your opponents' other units.
There are several ways to use Spies, but perhaps the best use for them is to create informants in enemy Merchants and Tradesmen. Because these units are often isolated and your opponent may not oversee them properly, placing an Informant in a Merchant or a travelling Tradesman is a good way of obtaining information on where your opponent is, or how many cities he or she controls. Another useful ability that Spies have is the ability to bribe: Spies in large group can be garrisoned in hotspots to lure and turn enemy units that invade your territory; equally, you can escort them with an army in battle, where they can turn defenders away from your opponent. Riskier and far more dangerous (but more rewarding) is to infiltrate an enemy's entire nation with Spies to turn his entire army; because these armies are often accompanied by Spies and Scouts, it might be impossible to pull this strategy off. Non-Christian factions have a bonus with Spies; they can accompany Spies with other agents, the Spies spotting targets and the agents being sent in to neutralise them.
- Ghost — A Spy's strength is in stealth so use them to infiltrate enemy lines, and take out individual targets
- Keep Under Wraps — The main enemy of Spies are scout-type units, such as the Welsh helwyr archers or the Papal States' Papal Inquisitors.
- Eastern Mysteries — While the Papal States and Wales have units ideal for countering Spies, the non-Christian factions (Japan and the Muslim nations especially) can raise specialised agent units that can be used in tandem with Spies to increase their survivability.
The use of secret agents was very widespread throughout the Middle Ages. They were used for many purposes and sometimes they had to climb trees or use stealth in order to acknowledge sensitive information. The tools used by spies included daggers, lock picks, poison, etc. Mediaeval armies were so afraid of spies that security had to be very tight in order to prevent them.
It is a well documented fact that spies very often carried poison with them for two purposes. First, if they were caught, they were told by the person who hired them to commit suicide. Secondly, if a spy was ordered to kill an enemy army or soldier, poison very often made things easier because spies were sometimes hired to infiltrate an enemy's camp and poison the enemy's supplies.
Even so, however, the most celebrated use of spies was to primarily gather information. By the High Middle Ages, the Mongols had learnt to coerce or recruit agents who would be used to explore for new lands to be turned to "pasture for Mongol herds", as well as to report back to the Khagan on areas of military and economic concern: ie how rich was the land, how strong were local military forces, and so forth. This was aided by the extensive links of the Silk Road, still in use by now, as well as the Mongol yam or pony courier services meant to speed up the gathering of information and increase administrative efficiency throughout the Mongol Empire.
The most common guise for spies was that of a merchant or any other person who had an itinerant lifestyle. Unfortunately for spies, they were often caught and punishments varied, but they were almost invariantly related to death. Torture was often used and more surprisingly, when caught by an attacking army, spies were often used as a projectile for a catapult (in order to spread diseases and as a form of punishment).