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Thread: Do you really need archers?

  1. #1
    Member Member History Geek's Avatar
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    Question Do you really need archers?

    Hi there,

    The last couple of weeks I've been playing, I have started to wonder if you really need archers. I mean - in situations when you have more than 16 units, and can choose between fielding an archer or a melee unit.

    My general line of though is, that with more melee guys on the field, you could outnumber and flank the enemy, once you've suffered the initial losses to arrow fire.
    Allways considering the individual enemy setup of cause, I would like to try it out on a 'balanced' enemy that fields both archers, spears, cav and swords/axes.

    What do you think?

    /HG

  2. #2
    Member Member Caerfanan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    Hmmmm... An interesting issue. I think that the arrows efficiency have to be considered. In the Viking campaign, armours are not that big, whil a late era armored knight would never die from an arrow.

    So the average armour worn by the enemy has probably a big influence on the choice. Against teched up chivalric sergeants, I wouldn't take any archers. Elite arbalests, though, with their AP and long range, could help breaking a line of spears?

    Secondly, I'll make a big difference between defensive battles and offensive battles. In offensive battle, I'd rather have two more fast units (eg. cavalry) and two less archers, but in a defensive battle, especially if you have hills or a bridge, you can rain arrows on your enemies, killing some, lowering their morale.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    Unlike in RTW and M2TW, casualties caused by missile fire add an additional morale penalty to the unit affected. Therefore it´s always useful to have at least some ranged units on the field.
    Archers have another advantage: their fast rate of fire depletes their ammo fast enough to retreat them off the field and replace them either by more archers or with melee infantry. The same doesn´t work as well with crossbow and arbalests, due to their slower rate of fire.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    What he said ^^^

    Missiles are very good defensively and not so useful offensively. I could not imagine playing defensive battles without some missile units. They are vital for wearing down enemy units before engaging them in melee, this saves your melee units from taking massive losses.

  5. #5
    Member Member History Geek's Avatar
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    Smile Re: Do you really need archers?

    Yes, true, but if you had fast units flanking both left and right on the advancing enemy army, they'd break faster and thous wouldn't cause as many casualties anyway. Since only a fraction of the unit is fighting at any moment, would you rather have the enemy killed by arrow fire enroute to your position or captured after being forced to rout? And I think the morale penalty is quite small (-2 or some such) and has hardly won the day for me in any battle.

    Bridges are offcourse a totally different matter

    /HG

  6. #6

    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    But what about if you hit them with several volleys from your arbs or bows and then hit them in the flanks? In any defensive battle melee troops will eventually become exhausted and battered if they are fighting totally unsupported by missile units. It's kind of like the Mongols deploying MHC without MHA. Instead of the MHA wearing down the enemy and the MHC going in for the kill when they're ready to break, the MHC would do all of the work and thus take many more losses, leaving less veterans to take part in the next battle. Apply the same to any other force. Combined arms tactics are almost always a winner.

    Also if you're playing as the Turks or Egyptians some of those missile units such as the Futuwwa or Nizari come in handy when their ammo has run out as they will still be fresh and can be used as effective flankers to relieve your other troops.
    Last edited by caravel; 06-07-2007 at 12:02.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    Assuming that: the battle is to be taken in relatively even ground (no hills) and neutral weather conditions ie (good weather) then the following IMO apply:

    The missiles role in an army is to: make skirmish (and so saving other units to take the first enemy fire) during the initial approach - take out expensive enemy melee units - act as tactical reserves.

    If the enemy decides to deploy piece meal (because he has no melee strength) then the battle turns out into a lengthy missile skirmish, that sometimes can last till all missiles from both sides are out of ammo - then both armies can deploy the melee units so they don't take unecessary casualties.

    More often a melee will be build up either from consecutive units joining an initial skirmish, ending up with both armies joining the fight or more consciously and "all at once" particularly if one is being outshooted.

    This is the "main melee" phase that is often critical: the enemy may rout there and if he doesn't, then what is left out of that phase will determine the winner. Missiles should stay out of trouble until the main melee is resolved, as the more you have by the end of the battle the better your chances to win. This is more important in MP rather than in SP, but equally applicable.

    A melee heavy army should do precisely what the OP states: rush - go straight for attack. A missiles heavy army by contrast has to stay out of decisisve encounters and inflict considerable losses to the key melee units of the enemy. If a melee heavy army "catches" a missiles heavy army on the run and early in the battle - that is usually indeed the end of the battle.

    Now just to make it more complicated add terrain and weather: in desert a catholic melee heavy army is doomed versus a Muslim missile heavy army.

    Where there is uneven ground (hills, slopes, gorges and the like) missiles become infinitely more important and this is usually how the SP game is played more succesfully ie by offensive defence: ie you wait on a province that gives you good high ground with a moderately good army to tempt the AI - then he attacks with all his might and loses due to the high ground: now you can occupy all his emptyied of troops provinces.

    Armies should have a tip of unbalance (slightly more cavalry or slightly more missiles or slightly more swords) and that is enough to press each advatage usually you don't need an 100% army of melee to be better in MP (all the more so as this is risky if your opponent picks a counter army or a balanced counter army). In SP unfortunately most of the time you know what you are fighting - in MP you don't. So (in SP) you can go for an 100% melee or missile army and win even more decisively.

    Many Thanks

    Noir
    Last edited by Noir; 06-07-2007 at 12:34.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Caravel
    What he said ^^^

    Missiles are very good defensively and not so useful offensively. I could not imagine playing defensive battles without some missile units. They are vital for wearing down enemy units before engaging them in melee, this saves your melee units from taking massive losses.
    What he said:

    In addition... since I have been playing the Russian Steppes factions...I would always take a few, but specific types...

    I NEVER build regular archers, nuff said... but...

    out of all the early factions one can play, I'd say the Boyars are the best, and can kick some butt verses any Mongol units, since you'll be building them ASAP to get ready for the Mongols

    For the factions, no matter if Lithuanian, Cuman, Keivan, Volga.. Horse archers will be a main gun....I do use mounted crossbowman often when they show up, and then switch to the "Elites" when they do...

    But if I use archers, I use "elite" horse archers, for the speed and weapon...

    That is why when I play the Novos, I have the King WITH the princes to form a big block of Boyars, supported with Armored Spearmen and a few other units to give it some punch.. and that stack usually has high morale, high command, very good defense and so casualties are few.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    I find missiles vital in attack as well as defence. Though the enemy seldom really has a strong position, using missiles and cavalry can be used to force the enemy to react and lose some of his footing. Arbalests in attack are of course a boon, as the enemy has to either attack or take considerable losses before it is engaged.

    After the main line engages the enemy, missiles can also be used to lower the enemy morale by running them around and letting them shoot the enemy's rear and even charge if they're of the stronger kind. It all depends on the tactics and how well the enemy reacts.

    Against Horse Archers foot missiles are always a boon - both in attack and defence.

    No, you don't need archers - I was happy using only mounted sergeants and Italian Infantry in one of my first campaigns... 8 dismounted and 8 mounted Chivalric Knights will be able to beat almost anything of course as well. I find Archers bring great flexibility to any army, though.

  10. #10
    Needs more flowers Moderator drone's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    When I play the Danes, I never use archers. A viking should meet an opponent face-to-face! That, and the early units rule, so archers are just a waste.
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    Member Member Agent Miles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    As far as the original post, no, I don’t need the unit called “archers”. I’m not talking about arbs, or Janissary Infantry, just archers. My Early/Catholic stacks usually consist of a general, five Royal Knights, five spear units and five blade units. As soon as possible, I’ll cut these groups to four each and add three mounted missile units (Mounted Crossbows or Steppe Heavy Cav). Theoretically, an army of archers may outshoot an army of HA’s, except that the HA’s would ride them down in melee combat. Archers suck.
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  12. #12

    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    Originally posted by Agent Miles
    Archers suck.
    True -vanilla archers indeed "suck". Xbows and Arbalests and pavised versions of them, as well as hybrids such as Bulgarian Brigands and Trebizond Archers in vanilla are way more viable missiles as they have some melee staying power other than against cavalry charges -following the STW principle that made archers viable even after guns were available.

    An army of archers would indeed lose to an army of HAs under any terrain possibly - but an army of archers (16 units) + 2 - 4 spears will slaughter in all probability the equivalent 16 HA's easily - especially if they can have high ground. HAs are so good though in flatlands/steppes as history demands, because they can encircle and move out of position the afformentioned archer + a few spears combo.

    Many Thanks

    Noir

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    Second-hand chariot salesman Senior Member macsen rufus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    I do like missile troops, maybe it's the coward in me, but I like to see the enemy wilting away without my troops being touched

    It's true that basic vanilla archers are a bit wimpy in melee, especially against cavalry, but if they are well protected by spears or backed up by spears they can skirmish behind, they can usually stay out of that sort of trouble. Where possible I prefer to get the more advanced types of bows, or "hybrids" (Ottoman infantry are about my favourite hybrids, tough in melee and with AP bonus).

    At least in early, arrows turn cav into pincushions, and archers are a great boon when defending against HAs or jinettes. They are IMHO the best antidote to jinettes, as that horseflesh is a great arrow-magnet

    Archers also tend to form a major part of any desert army I put together as well. Being very lightly armoured they can keep going in the heat and do a lot of damage, especially where the enemy field a lot of heavy infantry. Not to forget also (at least in VI, not vanilla MTW) they have flaming missiles for taking out wooden fortifications. Anything below a keep you can open up with a single unit of archers.

    I also tend to use more archers (or Xbows, whatever) in defensive rather than offensive battles. With the choice of position, and the chance to get a height advantage, you really get the best out of them. Offensively, I prefer mounted missiles for the speed, again especially those that have some melee capability like boyars or steppe heavies (even teched-up mounted Xbows can be pretty handy when then enemy doesn't expect it. One of my best generals of any campaign ever was a 9 valour mounted Xbow unit, with weapon upgrades, who ate kataphraktoi for breakfast )
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    Master of useless knowledge Senior Member Kitten Shooting Champion, Eskiv Champion Ironside's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Agent Miles
    As far as the original post, no, I don’t need the unit called “archers”. I’m not talking about arbs, or Janissary Infantry, just archers. My Early/Catholic stacks usually consist of a general, five Royal Knights, five spear units and five blade units.
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    Or for them who doesn't get it. Leon often ends up as Spain's jinette production center. Try beating 16 units of jinettes with an early catholic army without archers.


    As mentioned, it's not always you need ranged units especially in offensive battles with only one stack (ranged units value increases considerble with the number of waves), but they're good for flexibility, weakening the elite units that need 2-3 to 1 odds to be beaten and wither the enemy front line, making it break faster. It's not always you can get the aviability to make a proper flanking and without any extra morale penalties, the enemy can hold for quite some time. Sometimes you can have enough firepower to make the battle almost over before it even stated properly.

    Your regular archers doesn't have that long life time though as they are only good vs lightly to medium armoured targets and aren't good flankers, but they still have thier use early on.
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    Member Member cosminus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    IMHO the arcers and arbs are unusefull in offensive battles. After High emerge I found my offensive armies didn't use too much arrows, so excepting bridge battles I skipped to use archery.
    First of all because archery duel on offensive is almost a draw result, enemy being usual on higher ground, then if enemy have artillery they can shoot at my arcers, then the casualties inflicted is small if the enemy have good armor and my arcers do not have weapon improvement. When melee start, missiles causes also friendly fire. Therefore on offensive i tend to use only cav and melee units that will do A LOT of damage to enemies, and I'm using archers only in defensive battles.
    Also in castle assaults I do not ever use archery units.
    Sometime a go I did an experimental custom battle. One RK unit inside of a wooden castle and 6 pav arbs and 6 longbowmens as attackers. The Longbows deleted their ammo quick and killed few RK, the pav arbs after depleted the ammo kills NONE enemies. And the attacker lost many times more mens than the defender and also start routing (because of high casualties). So if for a wooden castle arbs proven unusefull, for masonry walls they will be only waste. Same for longbows, they arrows will never have the range to hit a defender inside of middle of a citadel/fortress with defensive walls improvements. IMHO

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    Camel Lord Senior Member Capture The Flag Champion Martok's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    I have a feeling History Geek was referring specifically to vanilla archers, since I don't think anyone really questions the usefulness of missile units in general. If that is indeed the case, then I would have to agree they're of only limited utility in MTW.

    Even setting aside the fact that they're (understandably) horrible in melee, vanilla archers just don't get enough missile kills IMHO. And I'm not talking about their inability to take down heavier units, either (which only makes sense that they can't). Even folks like peasants, militia units, and vanilla spearmen seem to be surprisingly resistant to arrows, despite the fact they're not armoured.

    This is one reason I'm looking forward to trying out the next version of The Pocket Mod once it's released, as it will attempt to improve vanilla archers' lethality. Not that I want them to be overpowered, but I've always found it a little ridiculous that they inflict such a relatively low casualty rate, even among lighter, non-armoured units.
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    Sir Loin of Lamb Member General Dazza's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    I haven't found them to be that bad. I tend not to use them that much other than when I play on early, as I prefer Xbows, but when I use them I find that they do their fair share of damage.

    I always use melee units in any case, and I think they're very important in offensive battles. I find that the melee-only rush tactic is only good if you outclass or outnumber the enemy. My focus often is usually to use missile units (preferrably nmounted) to send out to cause the opposition to break up their formation.

    Often you have to mindful of not exhausting your troops too, and often you can use melee units to draw out opposition units ands force them into an unsupported or tiring attack while conserving your own troops' energy.

    And if you're attacking uphill I find missile units even more important. If you just bum-rush up-hill into enemy missile fire, and then get charged downhill by their troops, you're likely to lose in a battle if troops are even. But you can send missile unkits to the flanks to try and break up their line, and then bum-rush into an unset defensive line. You can use cav well here too.

    I don't think vanilla archers suck - they play a valuable role IMHO. As a few people have said, it's about having flexibility.

  18. #18
    Spirit King Senior Member seireikhaan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    I find it interesting that people often seem to find that ranged units are unhelpful for offensive battles. I almost always bring some ranged units with me when on the offensive, unless the battlefield is comletely flat and devoid of forests. Many times, I have needed to give the AI some incentive to abandon their cozy little hilltop, hence why I like ranged units. In addition, ranged units can be very useful in drawing those enemy spear and heavy cav units right into a much less favorable position, like a forest, to be butchered by your heavy infantry. This is one of the reasons why I love the Turks and Egyptians. Nizaris for Egypt and a treasure trove of archers for the Turks, with the Turcomen foot soldiers being a personal favorite of mine, due to their amazing dueling abilities. Oh, not to mention Janny infantry later on, which are simply a great unit.
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  19. #19
    Camel Lord Senior Member Capture The Flag Champion Martok's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    Quote Originally Posted by greaterkhaan
    I find it interesting that people often seem to find that ranged units are unhelpful for offensive battles. I almost always bring some ranged units with me when on the offensive, unless the battlefield is comletely flat and devoid of forests. Many times, I have needed to give the AI some incentive to abandon their cozy little hilltop, hence why I like ranged units. In addition, ranged units can be very useful in drawing those enemy spear and heavy cav units right into a much less favorable position, like a forest, to be butchered by your heavy infantry. This is one of the reasons why I love the Turks and Egyptians. Nizaris for Egypt and a treasure trove of archers for the Turks, with the Turcomen foot soldiers being a personal favorite of mine, due to their amazing dueling abilities. Oh, not to mention Janny infantry later on, which are simply a great unit.
    While they obviously have greater utility when defending, I do agree that missile units are still useful on offense as well. My particular schtick is to use HA's or other mounted missile unit to entice defenders away from their entrenched (and often hard to assault) positions.

    I dislike using foot missiles when attacking, though, as they tend to outranged by their enemy counterparts, plus they're often too slow to move out of danger when the defender decides to advance on them.
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    It wasn't my intention to start a "missile units are useless in offence" thread. If you note my post I didn't say they were useless but that they were much more useful, decisive in fact, in defensive battles and "not so useful" in offensive ones. Just to clarify.

    Personally though I don't deploy foot archers offensively if I have other more capable units available.


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    Member Member Bregil the Bowman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    You don't need archers if you like being shot at and doing nothing in reply.
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    Of course you can always counter horse archers by bagging them with lots and lots of Steppe cavalry or Saharan cavalry, but it's not exactly cheap and takes a lot more work than letting foot archers do the job.

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    Member Member gunslinger's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Martok
    Even setting aside the fact that they're (understandably) horrible in melee, vanilla archers just don't get enough missile kills IMHO. And I'm not talking about their inability to take down heavier units, either (which only makes sense that they can't). Even folks like peasants, militia units, and vanilla spearmen seem to be surprisingly resistant to arrows, despite the fact they're not armoured.
    I agree that the kill rates seem a bit low, but I think that is a necessary evil since peasants, urban militia annd vanilla spearmen are all horrible units themselves. At the beginning of an early game, when you don't have jedi generals, high valor troops, or even churches for a little morale upgrade, you can hardly even get those troops to stand up and fight. I think the vanilla archers are "dumbed down" a bit to keep them from absolutely dominiating those other early units.
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    Hun of a kind Member Glyndwr in the Soke's Avatar
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    Smile Re: Do you really need archers?

    Okay, so short bow archers are not great when going for the heavies, but you may want to remember that one of the best ways of avoiding losses against Jedi is to shoot them repeatedly, before hand-to-hand combat is joined. I like using large groups of archers, and they are perfect for taking on enemy generals, which, especially early on, are guys that can wipe the floor with your melee units. The arrows might not get the head honcho himself, but if his troop is down to five royal knights before he hits you, he will hurt you a lot less, be outnumbered heavily, and thus be pinnable with a cheap group of your guys.


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  25. #25

    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    With a few archer units you can diminish the key units in an enemy army into a more manageable force, not only the AI but many of the others as well. The AI seldom fields elite armies, so killing off 66 % of his limited elite swordmen and his cavalry units really counts towards your victory. Even if that means 20-30 kills for all arrows spent, I prefer it to sending some of my units head-to-toe with them without all the advantage they can get.

  26. #26
    Member Member Caerfanan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    It depends a lot on the enemy's armor.... Killing one +3 armor chivalric men at arm with arrows may not be worth it. If your arrows are killing 66% of the elite enemy unit, you're right, you must go for it, but this doesn't happen so much.

    One good case is with berserkers in VI: there killing two berserkers befor initial contact is worth it, cause the'yre only 12.

  27. #27

    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    On defense, not having archers when facing a missile-heavy enemy army can be quite costly, as you will be forced to choose between leaving your chosen ground to go on the offensive or watching your men get peppered by arrows.
    Having missiles of your own to counter the enemy's cuts down your losses considerably.
    Facing a HA-heavy army in such a case would be even costlier, of course.

    As for archers being weak. I have no problem losing 75% of a cheap archer unit as long as they whack 25% of a costly elite unit.

  28. #28
    Camel Lord Senior Member Capture The Flag Champion Martok's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Est.
    As for archers being weak. I have no problem losing 75% of a cheap archer unit as long as they whack 25% of a costly elite unit.
    The problem is, archers will almost never take out 25% of *any* unit, much less an elite one. Unless I have so many archers massed as to make my army imbalanced (from being overly missile-heavy), they simply do not kill enough men. IMHO, they either need to have a better kill rate, or they should cost less to recruit and maintain. Note: I'm only talking about vanilla archers, btw.
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  29. #29
    Member Member Caerfanan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Martok
    The problem is, archers will almost never take out 25% of *any* unit, much less an elite one. Unless I have so many archers massed as to make my army imbalanced (from being overly missile-heavy), they simply do not kill enough men. IMHO, they either need to have a better kill rate, or they should cost less to recruit and maintain. Note: I'm only talking about vanilla archers, btw.
    I agree with this. The only units really suffering from vanilla archers are the light or no armored ones, with low defense stats. Peasants and Urban Militia fall like rotten apples, for sure, but in a small battle yesterday, I used 4 archers to shoot in a unit of 31 Feudal men at arms, they were "still" 25 after 3 volleys... Thats 20% of the unit, and there is the morale penalty, for sure. But what would this have done on chivalric sergeants?

  30. #30
    Member Member Tratorix's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you really need archers?

    Personally, I find it very important to have missile support. I've been playing as the scottish in early xl lately, and the lack of good archers really makes it harder to win battles. I find the only to kill the english king is missiles. Otherwise, he just runs away after his guards are dead.

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