Missile infantry is the favorite of many people. They allow you to drown the enemy under a storm of arrows. Needless to say, it' s not meant for close combat and we should avoid it whenever we can. I know there are missile infantry with certain melee skills, but they' re usually expensive and unprofitable. The first game in which I've come across units that do both functions well is Three Kingdoms.
There are some points to keep in mind when using missile units.
- Firing to the front of shielded units is many times a waste of ammo (not for guns).
- Shots from the rear do more damage than frontal ones. Surrounding the enemy with missile infantry and shooting from behind is as dangerous a maneuver as effective.
- If you fire at shielded units from the side they don't carry the shield, it's as if they didn't have it. Obvious, isn't it?
- There's friendly fire. That is, if you shoot at enemy units that are fighting against yours, your soldiers will die too.
- How to make good use of ammunition is something you learn over time. At the end of the battle usually appear very good opportunities, always reserve some ammunition.
Bows are the most flexible from ranged weapons. Their weakest point is their low penetration power. Therefore, they are more useful against light or medium units. On the other hand, they are cheap and excellent for wiping out enemy units from distance. If you don't know what to choose, choose them.
In addition, this and crossbows are the only weapons that can be fired indirectly, into the sky. It is useful at certain times, but less effective. Ammunition is often wasted when used in this way.
Similar to bows; slings do less basic damage but more by penetration. Most important, they have more ammunition. Its optimal use is to stone the most powerful enemies from angles from which they cannot protect themselves with shields.
More penetration power than bows, but slower reload. Take advantage of it and use them against the most armored units. Another point is that they can't use flaming shots, so if you intend to attack settlements be sure to take a couple of artillery pieces or archer units with you.
In addition, crossbows are the easiest way to finish off heavy cavalry and enemy generals thanks to their penetration power and, thanks to the fall of bolts and the size of cavalry, they can shoot safely from behind a spearmen unit.
Javelins and other throwing weapons
Javelins are excellent ranged weapons. Despite their short range and low ammunition, their high damage means that a unit of javelinmen can beat almost any other combat unit at range. Keep this in mind, whether you are using them or facing them.
On the other hand, due to their low ammunition, it's very important to use them wisely. If you don't see the hole clearly, or there are friendly units between you and your foe, don't use them. Wait for the battle to advance and some breaches may appear. Another option is to surround the enemy and throw the javelins against his back. Javelinmen are the best on this role.
The best shots are the direct ones, but in order to make them you need to be able to draw a line between your unit and the target. That's why enemy soldiers who sneak into your lines are the perfect target. If your strategy is based on ranged dominance, leave gaps between your units, so that your raged units can use them to shoot at the enemy. Playing as Partia there's a strategy that consists in having a line of hoplites in front of the archers, and when the enemy is ready to charge, activating the phalanx formation. As the soldiers tighten to enter in phalanx formation, gaps are opened between your ranks, by which enemy soldiers sneak in and are shoot down.
If our aim are big units, like cavalry, elephants, giants... There's no need to leave gaps. Due to their big size your missile units are able to shoot at them safely behind your spears. Although there are some units so massive that can cross your lines to crunch your missile infantry, beware of them.
Using the terrain
Another way of generating direct shoot lines consists on taking advantage of the terrain. There was a guide that explained very well how to use imperial gunners, if I eventually find it I'll put a link. The esence was quite simple, put your units in a way that allows them to have a clean sight of the enemy. Here you have some examples of how to take advantage of the terrain with missile units.
The example above is thought for gunners, which are the most restrictive weapon. With another kind of weapon shots can be done with a smaller angle, due to the fall of the missile.
Or even better.
Observe the terrain before the battle, and if you have any ideas that you think can work, try them! This is the essence, and my favorite part, of these games.