Units: A General Overview

By Brass45

Part I: Introduction

Many players, especially new ones, seem to be not getting the most out of their armies:cavalry charges into squares, exposed artillery, firing 6-ranks deep, etc. , and unbalanced armies as well;6 units of artillery, a spam of cavalry, and all elite infantry armies can bring doom to even the best of players. Due to mistakes like this, new players are often smacked down hard by better players, even if they try to go easy on them. Most players eventually get better over time, but what about the ones who get so discouraged that they stop playing, or they simply can’t find what they’re doing wrong?I hope that this article can help those players and all players in general to get better at this game and to ultimately become a more effective tactician.

note: this guide just details the basics of each unit type. their may be more techniques i don’t know, or tactics not yet discovered. this guide may not be enough; trial and error may be the best tool for learning

Part II:Units And Uses

Now, we’re on to the actual descriptions and potential uses of units. Note that in certain situations, such as endgame scenarios, it may boil down to a melee charge with skirmishers, or charging straight into a square with cavalry. Attacks like those, however, are only LAST RESORT options.

Line Infantry

Line Infantry is the core of your body. These guys should hold down the opponents center and either overpower it or hold it in place for a flanking force. These guys are extremely versatile, but here are some general tips for using them(and for pretty much all infantry units). If you plan on shooting out your opponent with as little melee action as possible, spread out your lines to 3 units thick. If you plan on an attrition battle, 2 units for a blitzkrieg attack or increased firepower, 1 unit if you want to really steamroll over your opponent (not advisable as a melee charge will kill pretty much anything in that case), and 4 units if using fire and advance (which does decrease the range, so you should have it activated at the beginning of the battle) or are doing a melee charge. If your opponent has an army heavy in artillery, however, your troops would be better off 2 or even 1 line thick as an artillery blast into thick troop formations will take out significantly more than a spread out one. Also, as with all units, take any high ground ASAP! This will maximize the range of your own troops while minimizing your opponents, add to your charge bonus while decreasing your opponents etc., along with some artillery protection by placing your troops behind the hill. Also, on slopes where it goes up and then flattens out (pretty much a ridge that you can travel through), you can make it extremely dangerous for the opponent to go near you as he will need to get to the top of the ridge to set up and be able to get of shots at you, all the while taking fire from your troops.

Elite Infantry

Elite Infantry are, of course, your heavy hitters, with incredibly high morale and melee combat scores, and still impressive reload rates. These guys, however, often result in a very common mistake: all-elite armies. At first, it sounds very appealing:a powerful army that can crush any unit on a one on one fight. But that’s just the problem: your army is going to be half the size of a smart opponents because your units are far more expensive than normal infantry. In no time, you’ll be under heavy fire, likely from the flanks, and no matter how elite your units are or how inspiring your general is your army will crumble to dust. However, they do serve a very important purpose:backup and late-game forces. The concept is simple:you keep a unit or two of elite infantry behind your lines, with fire at will turned off, ready to assist. As soon as you see your line starting to lose, or a unit breaks and more are to follow(as in it wasn’t a one-in-a-thousand artillery attack), you rush in your elites to give your line some desperately needed firepower. Or if neither your nor your opponents line are faltering, don’t give your opponent time to plan;rush over your infantry to your opponents line and fire, preferably into the opponents flank or rear. And later on in the game, when all of the units are depleted and tired and low on ammunition, some fresh reinforcements of elite infantry will easily turn the tide of battle!

Skirmishers / Light Infantry

Skirmishers and light infantry are almost identical, except skirmishers generally have a longer range. They both have the same reload rate as most line infantry, and they have anywhere from 30-60 troops. Yet skirmishers are vitally important because of one thing:range. They can have a range of up to 125, enough for them to wear down the enemy before the main force arrives, or for them to attack without ever getting hit. Because of their range, skirmishers are great for hit-and-run attacks;they actually have a button just for that purpose, skirmish mode. They also make great flanking troops as they can circle around the enemy without getting hit, and ambushes are perfect for them;you simply hide a skirmisher unit on the map (skirmishers can hide about anywhere), wait for the enemy to come by, and then BAM! Hit them from maximum range so they can’t retaliate. Skirmishers can also protect artillery from cavalry attacks via anti-cavalry stakes. However, skirmishers have one weakness that keeps them from being perfect: melee stats. Skirmishers are horrible in melee fights, and light infantry is only a little better. They’re extremely vulnerable to cavalry because of this, and though stakes do help, they take long enough to set up that cavalry may reach you during that period of vulnerability. You should also never go into a melee fight head-on against line infantry with skirmishers. Overall, however, skirmishers are a valuable asset and should make up part of any army.

Heavy Cavalry

Heavy Cavalry is just that:cavalry that’s bigger, but not always better. They’re significantly slower than light cavalry, making them not ideal for chasing down routing units, and they usually have higher melee base stats (their charge bonus is about the same as light cavalry). This makes them good for clearing away the enemy’s cavalry;once you catch up to light cavalry, the heavies will make short work of them, clearing the way for light cavalry to wreak havoc on your opponents line. Heavy cavalry are also good as shock troops for THIN LINES!If you charge into a thick line, the opponent’s infantry may hold the charge and form into a square. Although you should know this, let me say it here: SQUARES OF INFANTRY=DEAD HORSES! Charging into a square with any kind of cavalry is suicide, and let me describe a square to you to show why. A square formation of infantry is a 2-rank deep square facing in all directions. The front rank have their bayonets poised, turning any charge into a self-created slaughter. The second rank behind them are firing with their muskets, further weakening any cavalry unit charging or within range.

Another tip with all cavalry is to keep them in motion. Cavalry doesn’t fight well standing still due to their charge bonuses and fairly low numbers, along with the fact that they aren’t ranged units, allowing infantry to easily pick them off if they’re standing still. However, heavy cavalry is a great addition for clearing the way for other units, and they’re also a must-have for protecting your flanks unless you send your cavalry ahead of your infantry. They aren’t perfect, but heavy cav are an important asset to any army.

Light Cavalry

Light Cavalry is very similar to heavy cavalry, but also in many ways different. The lights have slightly lower melee base stats, similar charge bonuses, can hide more easily, and are much faster than the heavies (although both are faster than infantry). This makes them ideal for chasing after units that have routed, to ensure that they don’t return to the fray (occasionally behind your lines!), “mopping up” so to speak. But they’re far more versatile then that. They can take out isolated skirmishers and militia with ease (just mind the stakes). Similarly, artillery that is left undefended your lights can quickly charge through and rout fast. Because of their speed, their also ideal for split-second hammer and anvil strikes (for any new players who don’t know, a hammer and anvil attack is where one unit attacks an opponent from the front, and another unit circles around and strikes them in the rear). Also, while heavy cavalry may not be able to hide at all, light cavalry can often hide in woodland, making them perfect for sudden ambushes on the opponent (especially when they’re already engaged). Overall, therefore, light cavalry serves its purposes and serves them well, and should always be a part of a good army.


I unfortunately won’t be able to give as much information on grenadiers as some others could, as I rarely use them in my battles (for now), but I’ll try to give as much information as I can. Grenadiers are similar to line infantry in most respects except that they have higher melee stats, lower reload rates, and significantly less troops (60-90, almost always 90). Now, anyway, here’s the only reason I didn’t use grenadiers; their only value, grenade shot, was a complete joke. It had ridiculously short range, only killed 6-10 troops, and didn’t even cause that much morale damage. And with their troop counts down so low, they weren’t even extremely effective in a one-on-one shootout. However, I recently did a test to see if CA had rectified this in a patch. In it, I tested my two-rank deep elite 90-troop Dutch Grenadiers against the AI’s 3-rank deep British Fencibles (I used militia because I just wanted to test the kill rate, not the morale factor). I got within range, then threw the grenades at the running fencibles. I only got 1 kill!However, the fencibles were running at the time to get to a closer range because of their accuracy, so I had to dismiss the results. I then tried again when the fencibles were firing, killing about 12 of my grenadiers. However, the grenades killed 40 troops, and sent their morale down into the orange level, enough so that a melee charge could have routed them (I instead just fired close range volleys until the AI charged and routed). This has made me rethink the grenadiers usefulness, and they could really do some damage with their higher stats.

Anyway, let’s get to the grenadiers uses. First off, their grenade shot is extremely effective against thick formations because the blast would kill all around, rather than just horizontally. However, when your using it against infantry, make sure that the line is stationary and that you attack between volleys to minimize casualties. If your attacking line infantry and your numbers are fairly close to the line infantry’s, charge, but if it’s an elite unit or if your outnumbered retreat your grenadiers instead. Cavalry is a different matter because, although I haven’t tested this yet, their thicker formations should mean that “Grenading” them when they’re charging is okay, you just need to hope you get in the throw quickly. Also, when you position grenadiers behind the crest of a hill, but still close to an infantry line to retreat to, they and your army will be protected from fire and artillery, enabling your grenadiers to throw their grenades and peel out without a single casualty. Apart from that, grenadiers are very similar to line infantry and, though not a necessity to every army, open up a whole new host of tactical possibilities.

Missile Cavalry

Again, as with grenadiers, I can’t tell you as much as I would like to about Missile Cavalry, but I’ll try. Missile cavalry I personally don’t use at all, and that’s due to several reasons. First off, missile cavalry usually have lower melee stats than regular light or heavy cavalry, meaning that if they’re caught up to (especially lights are able to do this) then your cavalry force is in trouble. Secondly, these guys only have a range of 80 (the same as line infantry), so they can’t outshoot normal infantry units, and the infantry will always win due to a higher unit count. Finally, even if you use them to take out artillery, they will do it much slower than normal cavalry because of missile cavalry’s reloading time. Their only real use is hit-and-run attacks, which skirmishers are far better at due to their superior range (and think about which one is easier to hit… ), and even if they attack on the flanks or rear normal cavalry or line infantry is far better for a maneuver like that than missile cavalry. Anyway, there may be some amazing combo that you could do with these guys that I’m missing, but I personally don’t see them very useful in an army.


Artillery are important units, and as the game says, “Cannons win battles”. But as important as artillery are, they always need support to be successful, and their are certain situations where you may not use them. Anyway, let me describe a typical artillery unit. In this unit, there are 3-4 cannons in each unit, with a range between 450-600(fixed artillery, such as rockets, may have ranges as high as 750, but they are extremely inaccurate and fixed artillery is banned in most games). This “Average cannon” has a firepower of 6-35(the mortar of the ottomans has a 70 firepower, but will hardly ever hit and, again, will be banned in most games), and though they can deal fantastic damage at a distance, they’re as good as dead in a melee unless you have a unit nearby to save the day(artillery usually has morale down in the 3-4 range to boot). Finally, the average artillery piece is very, VERY slow, with the exception of horse artillery, which can keep up with heavy cavalry when unlimbered.

Anyway, let’s get down to the tactics. Never leave your artillery unguarded or they’ll be crushed due to their slow reload rate and horrible melee stats, making them an especially tempting target for cavalry. A good idea is to protect them against cavalry by having skirmishers deploy their stakes in front of your artillery. As for what targets to choose, it ultimately depends on the situation. If his army’s demoralized, go for his general; if his cavalry’s coming in for a charge, start shooting them;and if his infantry outnumbers you, start the slaughter with them (either aim for his elite units or units on the flanks; elite units die just as easily as militia, while routing units on the flanks may allow you to outflank your opponent). And if they get close enough, immediately switch to canister shot, as it does a great deal of damage to close-range enemy troops. Also, let me make a note here about cannons and howitzers.

Cannons are artillery that fire a normal iron cannonball at a straight or low angle;howitzers are artillery that fire an explosive shell at a mid-to-high angle. I personally prefer howitzers as they do more damage because of their shells, but they do have a shorter range. Therefore, what kind of artillery you bring really depends on the terrain. Cannons, especially twelve pounders, are well suited to flat terrain relatively free of obstacles, while howitzers are better suited for maps full of choke points and rocks, as they can fire over them.

One situation where you shouldn’t use artillery period, however, is in rush armies. This is because a rush armies objective is to hit fast and hard, hopefully catching the enemy out of position, and almost always forcing the enemy to abandon their plans. Artillery, however, moves and sets up far too slowly to be any help to a rush army.

Finally, here’s one trick that I haven’t been able to try but I hear is effective;first, place a unit or two of artillery away from the rest of your army, so that it looks vulnerable. Then, hide a few units of skirmishers or line infantry nearby. Then, when an enemy unit(likely light cavalry) comes to destroy your seemingly-undefended artillery, ambush them and quickly destroy the threat!Overall, artillery is an essential part of most armies, and is a welcome help to any Total War player.


Now, lancers are similar to light cavalry (and can be used as such)except for one fact:they have ridiculous charge bonuses, even as high as 44 for the French Dutch Guard Lancers. However, what they have in their charge barely justifies their standard melee stats; even elite lancer units only have 12 for their standard stats. Thankfully, lancers are the fastest units in the game, and therefore can actually stand up to even heavy cavalry by cycle charging (see below) thanks to their ability to outrun enemy cavalry units. Also, because of their charge, they make extremely good shock troops and are probably the best units in the game to flank with, especially when combined with cycle charging (or charging repeatedly into an enemy by withdrawing, then charging again). Overall, a lancer units uses for flanking far outweighs any risks in bringing them, and you should always have a unit or two of them in your army.


General units are, of course, the center of your army;you should never leave home without them (you can actually put a general staff member in an infantry unit, but I wouldn’t recommend that as you get a 0 star general without his two abilities). Now, all factions have four general’s to choose from; each is a heavy cavalry unit with 10 morale, 7 melee attack and 8 melee defense. The general’s are: a General’s Staff (0 star’s), a 3-Star General, a 6-Star General, and a 9-Star General. The more star’s that a general has, the less likely your troops will be to run away and, less evident, the better they will fight. I did a test to see the comparisons between the four general’s, by having an Austrian Cuirassier fight against a British Horse Guard, and I varied the Austrian general’s that would be in the test. Even though the Cuirassier were hopelessly outmatched, the number of soldiers they routed at would change, and so I came up with these results (also, I kept the unit in the General’s sphere the whole time): 0 star = 8 men, 3 star = 7 men, 6 star = 4 men, and 9 star = 7 men. Though these tests probably aren’t perfectly accurate (the 9 star general took a step backwards), they should still help you nonetheless to decide which general to take along, but ultimately it will be a trade between cost and fighting ability (I personally use the 3-Star ones as they give a noticeable boost without being too expensive).

Now, your men take a big morale hit if your general dies, so you want to keep him safe while still being in proximity of your army. This generally means right behind your main force, which offers suitable protection from stray bullets while still allowing the general to be close enough to inspire his units. This also brings us up to the point of the general’s special abilities. If you see a part of your line that’s wavering or just doesn’t seem to stand a chance, rush your general over and use the “inspire” and “rally” abilities to give your units the extra kick they need! Overall, I hope this part shows you the importance of selecting and using your general properly.

Experience Chevrons

Now, I know Chevrons aren’t units, but they’re still an integral part of N:TW and any total war game in general. Basically, you can have a maximum of 14 chevrons on one unit, and each chevron gives a unit 2 more accuracy, 1 more melee attack, 1 more melee defense, 1 more reloading speed, and 1/2 more morale. Chevrons are most important to place on key units, such as your general or elite infantry, or ones that you feel are important but not very strong, such as militia skirmishers. Overall, you may not use chevrons so that you can field a better army, but chevrons can still often give a unit the extra boost they need to win!

Part III: Creating a Balanced Army

Their are many different kinds of armies;rush armies, camping armies, guerrilla armies, etc. , but those could fill up another two articles, and I actually don’t know all of them, so let’s just get started with a simple, versatile army that can get you through 90% of the battles you’ll fight:

  • x8 Line Infantry
  • x2 Elite Infantry
  • x3 Skirmishers
  • x2 Lancers
  • x2 Heavy Cavalry
  • x2 Howitzers
  • x1 3-Star General

Part IV: Conclusion

First off, I just want to thank you all for reading my first article, you have no idea how much it means to me. I hope that you all can take away some tactics and win some battles with this guide, but if you ignored everything else in this article (unlikely), don’t ignore this:

N:TW is just a game, and nothing more. If you lose, don’t get frustrated, don’t get upset;just have some fun, laugh it off, figure out what went wrong, and then move on.

After all, it’s kind of odd that people cry over a 3-inch disk these days.