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War without fire is like a sausage without mustard.

— Jean Juvénal des Ursins

2012-03-24 23.01.59

Although these units share the same traditions and build time as German landsknecht gunners, that is all the Bandes-Noires (or "Black Band" landsknechts) gunners have in common with their German counterparts: on the field, the "ability" of being able to run faster than normal arquebusiers. This means that they can more easily keep up with France's gendarmes in the field, deploying on the flanks of melee units and blasting them with a hail of lead shot before anyone noted what had happened. However, have them blunder into real landsknecht gunners, or the murderous range of the Kapkulu marksmen of the Turks, and they will be known as the "Black-and-Blue Band". Ditto the same, if your opponent decides to respond with a determined assault using several Byzantine pronoiars, or German Gothic knights. So, because they are weaker in other stats, save the strength of their guns, their ability to duck and run for cover will also prove useful when things go wrong for you.

Although less well-known than the Bande Nere or "Black Band" mercenaries (who fought as lance and gun cavalry) for the Pope in Italy, the Bandes-Noires were a group of mercenaries recruited to fight for France, following landsknecht traditions. Little is known of this group, and some speculate that they were renegades from yet another obscure mercenary company known as the Black Guard in Denmark (after all, landsknechts being mercenaries would abscond to whoever paid better), and others say they were not Germans but recruited from the many states of the Low Countries, such as Flanders. What is not in doubt is that they were intended to replace the Swiss in French once relations with the Swiss cantons deteoriated in 1515, and served during the Italian Wars of the early 16th century. By 1528, however, only a third of the original 17,000-man strong Black Bands had survived, and it is said that they soon deserted their French masters and joined the Habsburg armies in Italy.

Unit summaryEdit

  • Semi-mercenary gunpowder infantry, fast when being trained and on the march, but with substantially less hitpoints than normal arquebusiers.
  • Quirky Cost Structure — Bandes-Noires Gunners cost food and knowledge as opposed to the archer line's timber and wealth, meaning that they are suitable either to factions with a knowledge and research advantage or those intending to do their fighting in the late game.
  • On the Double Quick — The cross-country performance that Bandes-Noires Gunners can put in means that they are very useful for skirmishing, especially with the added power of the arquebus versus other ranged infantry weapons.
  • Bowing Out — The poor range of the Bandes-Noires Gunners' weapons along with their weak constitution means that if left unchecked, arbalests can easily destroy them, so supporting them with other units such as halberdiers or cavalry is necessary.
  • Knight Mare — Although devastating as an anti-infantry weapon, and also capable of dealing serious damage to any cavalry, the arquebus is near to worthless when facing Imperial Era heavy cavalry. The Norse Armed Clergy or the French Gendarmerie should be used alongside these units.

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