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.