"You shall leave everything you love most:
this is the arrow that the bow of exile
— Dante Alighieri
Although these units have the hitting power and range of crossbows, don't expect them to be as skilled as regular crossbowmen: these units have a far poorer fire rate, and are, for all purposes, dead meat if facing enhanced archer UUs or cavalry — also note that they have a minimum range, so they will inherently run if cornered by melee weapons. These units, however, are ideal for massing ranged power, although many factions will often find that they have better units around for the job.
The best use for Levy Crossbowmen is therefore as a skirmishing force that can be used to thin out an enemy's ranks, as their weapons are still fairly accurate and still have a fairly good range. Of all factions, China, the Papal States and France benefit greatly from this unit as they can be used as a stopgap measure for their units until gunpowder becomes available. France only gets Arbalest Infantry, while China can recruit powerful but shortranged Divine Machinists but for the Papal States, Crossbow Levy are useful as long as Pavise Arbalests are not available.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the shaky foundations of political power and scarcity of arable land meant that competition and conflict between communities were extremely fierce, and this was especially so in Europe during the late Mediaeval Era in the wake of the Great Famine. As a result, it was often necessary for towns and cities to institute national service in which all and sundry were required to bear arms in defence of the community. Crossbows were a favourite weapon amongst militiamen and conscripts and from the 11th century, Italian city-states developed semi-professional militia units, which were well-known for their skills with the crossbow as a response to the need for a professional fighting force where manpower was short to come by. Originally this practice however didn't catch on in the more hierarchical feudal societies of Northern Europe, where greater emphasis on the prowess of the warrior nobility over lowly peasants was placed, but over time, these factions instituted their own crossbow militias to keep up with the pressures of national conflict.
- Levy militia armed with crossbows, but with a poorer firing rate.
- Keep Them Safe And Sound — Crossbow Levy can thin out your opponent's ranks but are dead meat if facing more powerful archers, and have a minimum range. Protect them at all costs with accompanying heavy infantry and cavalry.
- Replacement Killers — The cheap cost of Crossbow Levy makes them useful for protecting and garrisoning cities, and making up the numbers required to flesh out an army. This is especially moreso for the Papal States given how costly their best units are.