Only the sword now carries any weight in the balance for the destiny of a nation.
— Józef Piłsudski, 20th century Polish statesman
Heavy cavalry, with powerful attack, exceptional armour, but far more limited mobility compared to more agile medium cavalry or horse archers.
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Arguably, perhaps the best heavy cavalry unit in the Imperial Era would be the Towarzysz Veteran. Although the French gendarmes will have better speed and attack, the Imperial and Ottoman factions more hitpoints, and the Italian condottieri outrule them all, the Polish Towarzysz Veteran distinguishes itself in one department: cost. Polish heavy cavalry is a bit like Russian cavalry, but whereas the Russians will be digging around for that extra metal, the Poles will be able to skimp on wealth costs!
So the Poles have a heavy cavalry unit that costs no wealth in ramp, and which also works well in weeding out the newfangled arquebusiers on the field. However, there is one downside that prevents Polish units from dominating heavy cavalry battles — the speed at which they can be fostered. Like all Polish unique units, including units like Lithuanian Axe Retinues and Crossbowmen, the Towarzysz Veteran has a production time penalty compared to other heavy cavalry units of the same period and availability. With such a heavy number of time penalties, Poland cannot use one unit alone to win. Indeed, mediaeval history has shown that combined arms have always shown the best results — such as the iconic battle of Tannenberg, where a combination of light and heavy forces helped the Poles beat the odds and the Teutonic Order too — but in Poland's case, it will be far more important. Research too will be necessary if Poland wishes to remain competitive, otherwise, its general inability to out-produce the enemy in heavy cavalry and archers may prove to be its death knell.
- Polish unique heavy cavalry unit, easier to research and cheaper in wealth, but costlier in production time compared to normal Men-At-Arms.
- There Cannot Be Only One — The Towarzysz Veteran costs no wealth in ramp and does not need Centralisation, but is produced more slowly. You should either use your savings to recruit other units, or build infrastructure and research technologies to speed up production.
- Shiny Happy People Holding Spears — The Towarzysz Veteran is fairly slow, but still fast enough to chase and hunt down lightly-armed infantry, and thus the bane of light or medium cavalry. Its main weakness is in being swarmed — or being force-fed into a grinder of spearwalls, such as those at Kortrijk.
- Bulletproof — Like all unique cavalry units the Towarzysz Veteran's specialty is putting down units gunpowder units. Its hitpoints and its ability to reduce damage from incoming enemy fire should help it well in this task.
The relatively unbroken terrain and fertile soil of Poland lent itself to a strong cavalry tradition, which lasted for almost a millenium since the founding of the Polish nation in the 10th century. Numerous wars in east and west alike, as well as internal unrest gave rise to a class of magnates called the szlachta by the Late Mediaeval Era, who in turn had their own armed retainers. Of these, the heavy cavalry component often comprised junior noblemen subservient to the magnates. By the 16th century, these armed retainers were being referred to as the "Towarzysz" or "companions", on account of how they accompanied their masters into battle as junior officers, and long after the ages of plate mail and mace had passed, the term Towarzysz (later Germanised as Towarczy) remained in military parlance, albeit in reference to a corps of professional heavy cavalry within Poland and her neighbours, as the cavalry continued to be the prestige of the nobility in Poland well into the late 19th century.