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In some games, there are horseback units. Given their speed, it can be a hassle or worse to deal with them. Thankfully, there are weapons to deal with them, both rider and steed. Not one for the horse lovers. Very much a part of Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors.

One of the things that makes these units so effective is the fact that compared to expensive cavalry units, they are usually dirt cheap. Taking down an expensive unit with one that cost pennies can be very valuable in a fight where every coin counts.

Historically accurate: Most such weapons are based either on polearms (spears, pikes, etc.) or camels. Horses are scared silly of anything resembling a pointy stick, and the longer the pointy stick the scarier it becomes. The fact that spears and pikes are really cheap and relatively easy to train with has historically made them excellent anti-cavalry weapons; indeed, the rediscovery of pike tactics by the Swiss and Dutch in the late Middle Ages is generally considered to be the real death knell for the age of knights (rather than gunpowder as generally assumed). Horses are also reputed to be scared or disoriented by the scent of camels; while this may not be true, reports of horse cavalry collapsing before camel cavalry are fairly consistent across time and place (from the time of Cyrus through to the Arab empires, and in Central Asia as well).

Sub-Trope of Weapon of X-Slaying.

Examples of Anti-Cavalry include:


  • In Braveheart, when the Scottish army encounters the English infantry, the Scots taunt them into attacking with heavy cavalry. As soon as the English are too close to pull back, the Scots drop their facade and pick up long pikes, which slaughter the horses. The depiction was graphic enough that the ASPCA investigated the footage to see if the horses had actually been hurt (good news, horse lovers; the horses were fine).
  • In Glory, a southern cavalry unit charges through light woods against a Union rifle unit. They may have been counting on the wood to give sufficient cover - if so, it doesn't work. The cavalry is mowed down by the Civil War era single shot riles.


  • Jerry Pournelle's King David's Spaceship: on the planet Makassar infantry square techniques introduced from offworld are used to protect against barbarian cavalry attacks.

Video Games

  • Fire Emblem: Long Swords, Zanbatos, Horse Slayers, and Halberds are effective against horseback units.
  • Many unit types in the Age of Empires series, most notably certain infantry such as the pikemen, can deal with cavalry. Age of Empires III gave ranged cavalry significant Anti-Cavalry damage as well.
    • Camels and Heavy Camels (which is a bit of a misnomer, since the camels weren't any heavier, it was the armor of the riders that was) in Age of Empires II were very good at dealing with horsemen as well, and cost slightly less.
  • Conquered Kingdoms, a game from the DOS era has Lancers and lance-weilding Trolls who can kill cavalry in one hit, without taking any damage in return.
  • Total War - Spearmen perform this function. The square formation in Empire is also used for this purpose.
  • Rise of Nations has three basic unit types: basic infantry, heavy infantry and ranged infantry (turns into basic (ranged, with rifles), heavy (ranged, with anti-tank rifles or rockets), or flamethrower in the modern age and afterwards). Heavy infantry, initially pikemen or similar, are Anti-Cavalry. Later, the same units upgrade to anti-tank infantry as the cavalry upgrades to armor.
  • Civilization started to get into this after the combat system was revamped in Civilization IV and again in Civilization V. In both of these, Spearmen and Pikemen have an advantage against mounted units (in Civ V, it's a 100% bonus). Oddly, the Camel Archer (the Arab unique unit in Civ V, replacing the Knight) doesn't have a counter-cavalry advantage.

Web Original

Real Life

  • The Zanbato's intended purpose was to kill both horse and its rider, as well as the Zhanmadao, which the former is based on.
  • The Japanese Nodachi
  • Infantry Squares. Their ancestors, the pike and various shield wall formations (the most famous being the Greek phalanx) were more anti everything up front. Though pikes are better optimized for stopping cavalry then the shield formation, which has its advantages against missile weapons. [2]
  • In the Battle of the Golden Spurs (1302), the Flemish forces managed to thoroughly trounce and demoralize the French cavalry thanks to several tactical advantages:
    • The Flemish were positioned just behind ditches that couldn't be easily cleared by the cavalry forces, causing the cavalry to lose the advantage of open terrain;
    • The Flemish forces used a combination of pikes to block the horses and a relatively new weapon, the goedendag, to kill horses and rider;
    • The Flemish didn't care for feudal code of chivalry and killed the cavalry forces (most of them were noblemen) instead of taking them hostage.
  • By the 18th century, it was considered nigh-suicidal for a Cavalry unit to attempt to attack an infantry formation in any frontal fashion. For one thing, a whole bunch of guys on horses is hard to be sneaky about unless they attack from cover, and well-drilled soldiers could fire their muskets as many as three times a minute, and assuming that the cavalrymen made it through that barrage intact, they would still have to deal with the bayonets.
    • A bayonet is a very long knife that you stick onto the end of a musket or a rifle to turn it into an improvised spear, and these could do considerable damage if you tried to force your way through a formation of them. Instead, cavalry units preferred to try and attack the flanks or the rears of formations when possible, or else pursue retreating enemies who had broken formation.
  • At the battles of Crecy and Agincourt during the Hundred Years War, the British forces, mostly commoners with longbows, defeated numerically superior French forces, mostly nobles on horses in armor, by the power of More Dakka and the French trying to charge through a swamp.
  • Swiss mercenaries, armed with pikes and halberds routinely defeated cavalry forces, and if they didn't, they tended to inflict such horrendous casualties that the enemy couldn't capitalize on their victory. Like the Flemings, they also didn't adhere to the guidelines of chivalry and took no prisoners.
  • The Pike and Shot formation was invented expressly to deal with armored knight charges. It was so successful that it killed armored cavalry forever.
  • Behold, the Caltrops, a passive anti-cavalry weapon designed so that no matter how it is dropped, it always lands with at least one sharp point pointing upwards. Unwary calvary and infantry risk severe injury if they step on one.
    • In later generations, these same weapons also proved to be useful against modern vehicles. Smaller ones could puncture tires. Larger ones could hinder the progress of tanks or other larger vehicles. They've even been dropped from airplanes.


  1. Normally "Uma"
  2. Infantry squares were not often broken, but if they were there was often a massive rout.
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