Lancer Cavalry are a type of cavalry in the Total War series. They are so-named for the lances they wield in battle, granting them high charge bonuses at the cost of usually poor melee and defense.
Cavalry are generally best used to charge a target, retreat, and charge again. This allows them to take full advantage of their powerful charging bonuses while keeping losses at a minimum. This is particularly true of lancer cavalry, which are characterized by their high charging bonuses but low melee stats.
Empire: Total WarEdit
Lancer cavalry are available to most factions in Empire: Total War, though some factions have wider access than others. France, for example, fields lancers as its standard early-game cavalry; for most factions, lancers are only available after upgrading recruitment facilities to some extent. All lancers are characterized by their very high charging bonuses: with few exceptions, they have the best charge in the game. On the other hand, their melee statistics are usually poor: after the initial charge, they are vulnerable if they're bogged down in a melee and don't rout their target. Certain lancers, such as Sipahis or Winged Hussars, have good melee stats despite their status as lancer cavalry.
Lancer cavalry are particularly effective against cavalry. A frontal charge from lancers is usually enough to heavily maim a cavalry regiment, if not rout it outright. Like all cavalry, lancers are best used when well-rested, charging downhill, hitting the flanks or rear of their targets. Even the most formidable lancer regiments are unlikely to inflict much damage when tired and charging uphill.
Napoleon: Total WarEdit
Lancer cavalry are more exclusive in Napoleon: Total War: a large portion of minor factions don't have access to them, and among the major factions, Great Britain cannot field lancers outside of The Peninsular Campaign. This is a significant weakness for these factions, as lancers are much stronger than they were in Empire: Total War. Whereas lancer cavalry in Empire: Total War had usually between 20 and 30 charging bonus, in Napoleon: Total War they regularly exceed 30 and sometimes break 40. A single well-angled charge can break most units not deployed in a Square Formation, and cavalry stats are sufficiently strong to cause morale problems for those units that do not break. Countering this is the fact that Square Formation is stronger than its Empire: Total War counterpart, to the point that even elite cavalry charging a square of inferior line infantry sometimes inflicts next to no casualties.
Aside from their general increase in power, lancer cavalry in Napoleon: Total War function similarly to their older counterparts: cavalry with heightened charge bonuses but generally poorer melee statistics. They are best employed charging the flanks or rear of enemy units, downhill, and while well-rested. The final point is not too hard to achieve as most lancers in Napoleon: Total War have the "good stamina" attribute. A well-timed frontal charge can still achieve good results as long as enough lancers survive the charge to make contact with their targets.
The Peninsular CampaignEdit
Lancers return in The Peninsular Campaign. Aside from Portugal, all factions can field lancers. French lancers are the best statistically, but both Great Britain and Spain can train Guerrilla Lanceros, which can be deployed anywhere on the battlefield during the deployment phase. This allows them to attack from unexpected locations and angles--a particularly powerful tool for such units, who deal high initial damage thanks to their charge bonus.
Total War: Shogun 2Edit
In Total War: Shogun 2, lancer cavalry are named Spear Cavalry, and are functionally similar to lancer cavalry from previous games: cavalry with high charge bonuses but poorer attack and defense than sword-armed cavalry.
"Bonus vs. cavalry" stats are introduced in Total War: Shogun 2, and spear-armed cavalry have very high bonus versus other cavalry. This makes them the superior choice for recruiting as a mobile counter-cavalry role. The anti-cavalry bonus they are granted allows them to comfortably dominate sword-armed cavalry despite their poorer attack and defense. They are by no means specialized against fighting cavalry only, however, and can inflict fearsome damage against infantry, particularly when charging downhill on the flanks or rear.
As nearly all factions have highly similar unit rosters, most all factions have access to spear cavalry.
Fall of the SamuraiEdit
Spear cavalry return in Fall of the Samurai, and are restricted to just two units: Yari Ki and Shogunate Guard Cavalry. Unlike most other traditional units, Yari Ki retain their usefulness throughout the campaign due to their anti-cavalry bonus, and they can do well against infantry if they can avoid being shot during their charge. Shogunate Guard Cavalry are an improved version of Yari Ki, but are limited to pro-Shogunate factions and otherwise function similarly to Yari Ki.
Missile fire in Fall of the Samurai is more devastating than that of any other Total War game, so extra care must be given to shield cavalry from fire in order to retain their effectiveness.