The Crusader Swordsmen have one purpose: Conquer the heathens and claim the holy lands in the name of their ‘noble’ cause. With sharp swords and a thick layer of armour, everything about the Swordsman suggests brute force. From the imposing bucket helm to the crosses adorning their shield and tunic, they are designed to inspire fear. One of the toughest units in the game, a formation of Swordsmen marching on your gates should always be treated as a threat to both your castle and your Lord.
Crusader Swordsmen are best used for attacking as part of your main army, especially when making a final assault on the enemy Lord. They have a high armour value, particularly against arrows. As such it is wise to use them as tanks, drawing as much of the defender’s arrow fire as possible while your main force marches on the castle. Once the walls are breached the defending player or AI will have no choice, he or she will have to face your Swordsmen head on. With their high attacking power and thick armour just a few Swordsmen can take out an enemy Lord.
Such power comes with a cost, Swordsmen are not cheap and they also require several key economic buildings to train and equip them for battle. As in previous Stronghold games, Swordsmen require Armour and Swords, made in Armourer Workshop and Blacksmith Workshop, before they can be recruited. This makes them an expensive unit, especially when you consider that Iron is also required to forge Armour and Swords. One alternative is to buy weapons and armour. In the long term this is an expensive option for building up an army, however it can be effective for surprise attacks or emergency defensive measures. Expect to see more Swordsmen towards the end half of skirmish and multiplayer games.
The downside of heavy armour is that it weighs down the Crusader Swordsman, reducing his walking speed to a slow march, which tends to make them poor defensive troops. A squad of Slaves or Macemen are able to deal plenty of damage by the time Swordsmen get within attacking range of them, escaping fairly easily when they do. As mentioned in our previous blog post, being clad in full armour means that Swordsmen are weak against fire.
If we had one warning about using Crusader Swordsmen it would be to beware the open desert, where slow moving troops such as these are most vulnerable. Without ranged protection from Archers a couple of well-placed Burning Carts can break the lines of a squad of Swordsmen. Although arrows are weak against them Horse Archers can run circles around the Crusader Swordsman, steadily chipping away at his health while staying comfortably outside their attacking range. Remember the desert is not conquered by iron and steel alone…