Cavalier and Champion
|• Jousting bonus|
|• Jousting bonus|
"The horse-mounted cavalier and champion deal extra impact damage (+5% per hex traveled to creature attacked) when charging into battle." RoE manual
Moving before the attack will increase their damage by 5% for each hex. This ability has no cap, meaning the higher their Speed and traveled distance before attacking is, the higher their attack damage becomes. Obviously they don't benefit from this ability when counterattacking, and their optimal attack conditions require them to move the longest distance possible.
Pikemen and Halberdiers are immune to this jousting bonus, which means they only suffer the base damage from Cavaliers and Champions. When fighting them, it makes no difference whether your Champions move 9 hexes before attacking or none at all.
Heroes with a specialty
- Tyris the Knight has cavaliers as a specialty, which increases the attack and defense skills of any cavaliers or champions for each level attained after 6th level, and gives them a speed bonus of 1.
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The jousting ability of Cavaliers can increase their damage up to +35% and Champions up to +45% without any speed-increasing effects, meaning their damage can be higher than any level 6's, but Naga Queens and Dread Knights compensate for this with their specialties. The increase can be even higher, if the hero can increase their speed for example with artifacts (Cape of Velocity, Necklace of Swiftness or Ring of the Wayfarer) or with spells (Haste or Prayer). Additionally, using Tyris who specializes in Cavaliers and Champions or Sir Mullich, whose troops receive +2 to speed, can increase the damage of Cavaliers and Champions significantly. Because of the jousting ability, a player should always prioritize to attack across as many hexes as possible.
15/16 Attack and Defense is decent for level 6 unit. 15-25 damage is about average, but 20-25 of Champions is a bit better. In practice their damage done is almost always higher because even when dueling other stack in the middle of battlefield they can travel at least 3 hexes to get 15% bonus. Their first strikes from maximal possible range are especially powerful, as their average damage after moving full 9 hexes is 22,5 x 1,45 = 32,625, more than even Naga Queens can normally do, and maximum is 36,25 per Champion. 100 health is above average, but they are not as tough as Black Knights. 7-9 Speed is good for a non-flying creature.
Bless and Curse have much stronger effect on Cavaliers than Champions due to larger damage spread. Champions are usually more affected by spells changing their attack, like Bloodlust or Weakness. Shield and Stone Skin are probably their best defense buffs as they are quite fast and unless sieging a town, they will not be taking much ranged fire. Against level 7 creatures use Slayer combined with their jousting charge to ensure great damage. Frenzy can allow them to hit as hard as level 7 creatures themselves, but at cost of losing defense - if Frenzied Champions don't wipe the target out in first strike, they will be hit back hard too. Haste not only increases their initiative and range but also damage, if they can exploit it. Prayer increases their speed, attack and defense at once and stacks with Haste.
When using Cavaliers and Champions, beware of Slow, Force Field, ground obstacles, powerful shooters hiding behind tough melee troops. Conversely, when fighting them, exploit these weaknesses - don't let them charge your units, hide behind obstacles, decimate them from range before mopping up with your own shock troops.
Curiously, Berserk usually isn't so devastating on Cavaliers as it would be on some other troops, because the "nearest another troop" can be usually found just 1-2 hexes away, which means only 5-10% damage increase from jousting, if any at all.
In Castle army they have natural synergy with Archangels - one Archangel can resurrect one Cavalier or Champion.
Their 2-hex size means some caution should be exercised when fighting against dragons, especially when you also have Archangels and other melee units in army, as Archangels are also 2-hex sized and when attacking a 2-hex target, only 4 melee units at a time can do so safely (3 for 1-hex target) to not present 2 targets at once to dragon breath. They also might have some pathing issues in sieges or obstacle-ridden battlefields, as unlike Archangels they are land-bound. Remove Obstacle can be useful to solve such problems. Teleport might look useful, but take care not to teleport Cavaliers in a way that would rob them of their jousting damage bonus or leave them blocked by enemy stacks. Be especially careful to not let them cross moats or clear out Tower mines, unless you have plenty of Resurrections available.
Despite having above average stats and awesome damage potential they are not resilient enough to be Castle army tanks. Rather they are hit-and-runners who should charge into melee from the longest possible range, exploiting their special ability to kill enemy stack outright or at least weaken it as much as possible and then charge again at a different target. If they cannot charge, they lose much of their offensive power, as their base damage isn't that good. If you let them be surrounded, their otherwise rather average stats mean they will usually be wiped out, or win only at the cost of taking heavy casualties. Their 2-hex size also means they can be relatively easy lured into such traps, surrounded by tough troops, and then overwhelmed or shot at from close distance when they cannot escape or fight their way out.
While their jousting ability allows them to theoretically defeat troops stronger than themselves thanks to greatly improved first strike, in prolonged melee combat they are no match for 7th level creatures or the stronger 6th level units like Naga Queens, who will likely wipe them out, and Dread Knights who simply outclass them. Even Minotaur Kings, Ogres and Crusaders are a threat due to their toughness combined with high damage. Do not let them fight such an enemy unsupported.
Because jousting damage bonus is not capped, it doubles their damage at 20 hexes (5% x 20 = 100% bonus), but in non-lab conditions it is extremely unpractical: such speed would require stacking advanced Haste and Prayer, combined with either speed artifacts or possibly a hero bonus and grass terrain, and a very specific battlefield in which Champions would have to move more or less from one corner of the map to the opposite corner, around some obstacles. Then the jousting bonus comes back to realistic values, because troops on both sides are already in melee with each other. Also it's likely that after 2 rounds your army buffed with Haste and Prayer is already engaged in close quarters combat, instead of waiting for the right moment to strike.
The highest possible Speed would be 9 base + 2 (Sir Mullich) + 1 (grass) + 2 (Cape of Velocity) + 1 (Necklace of Swiftness) + 1 (Ring of the Wayfarer) + 4 (Prayer) + 5 (Haste) = 25 Speed, 125% damage bonus or 225% normal damage... but only if they can run all the 25 hexes into enemy stack, which would require a real maze of obstacles and also a clear path to the target.
Obviously the best secondary skills for Cavaliers and Champions are Offense and Armorer. Tactics is very good, as it allows you to set them in the exact place they need to execute a jousting charge, or at least denies use of troop placement to enemy. Leadership might be redundant, as same army type grants +1, Angels provide another +1, and artifacts or objects granting morale bonus are plentiful. Armorer is a good choice for any fight in which your Champions will be unable to wipe the enemy out before taking some hits.
While they synergize very well with any offense-focused hero like Crag Hack, top-tier selections might not always be available. Any hero with Offense and Tactics or good chance to learn these will do well, like Tyraxor, Dace or Shakti. Tyris is quite good starting hero, specialized in Cavaliers and Champions and having Tactics and Leadership that is later made redundant, but will do in early game. Loynis with his Prayer specialty might be useful, if for some reason you do not have Angels. Magic-oriented heroes can be surprisingly good as Champions can use some magic support, like Haste, Bloodlust or even Slayer. Any hero armed with such spells or even better specializing in them will be a boon to Champions.