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Demi-Lancers represent a genus of warrior that would have been very familiar to European knights or Mongol warriors of past centuries: they are essentially bodies of mounted men fitted out in the finest arms and armour. They differ from knights or tarkhans in that they are not always recruited from a nobleman's retinue, but can be recruited from any social class, from the lords of the land all the way to the peasantry, meritocracy willing.
Overall, that is the only distinction between Demi-Lancers and the paladins and champions fêted in stories of old. In battle, Demi-Lancers are still expected to function as shock cavalry with an armour-piercing melee attack Their armour gives some protection against the fairly weak shots of archers and arquebusiers, and the poor reach of swords, but they do very little were they to be used to attack pikemen, halberdiers or grenadiers. Equally, they also don't do well against musketeers who carry heavier and more lethal weapons in comparison to arquebusiers. Ultimately, your best bet is to use these units as an escort unit who can be used to function as a metal-plated meat shield to protect your more vulnerable troops — artillery, archers, skirmishers and such — from vicious attacks by light cavalry. If you are playing as either Austria, Spain or France, Demi-Lancers are best used in this role, although if needed they can be used to trample down infantry should their numbers suffice to allow them doing so.
Although the military culture that had created the lance-riding knight of the Middle Ages had mostly petered out by the onset of the 17th century, the weapons and accoutrement of such warriors had not completely died out. In many parts of Europe, lance-riding cavalry continued to form the shock cavalry component of many armies and for good reason too: the shock and morale effect of the lance when used mounted in cavalry warfare, combined with its reach, meant that it was a very effective melee weapon against most targets, whether on two feet or four.
Lancers, however, were not cheap. Mastery with lance required training and strong hand, and extra training to produce a competent lancer. A British training manual produced some years after Waterloo stated that he had to master 55 different exercises with his lance — 22 against cavalry, 18 against infantry, with 15 general ones thrown in for good measure." Thus, in melee combat, a lancer unhorsed could be a formidable opponent, but was a unit that was very costly to maintain and time-intensive to recruit, without consideration of the mount (or in the Early Modern Period of Europe, the armour required).
- Chinese Napoleon Site, Cavalry Tactics and Combat during the Napoleonic Wars.