"...there shall spears be shattered, and swords shall be blunted on the Polovétski helms, by the river Kayála, near the mighty Don."
By and large, the Russian vsadnik is the fastest-producing and fastest light cavalry unit in the game. Armed with a lance, and mimicking Mongol-style tactics, the vsadnik's ability to live off the land and its being recruited from the Turco-Russian denizens of the Russian steppe mean that it can be considered at best the Russian army's answer to the Asian penchant for suicide soldiers and mounted archery. Vsadniky, however, like the suicide soldier line specialised by the Asians, are fragile at best should they come in contact with armoured units - even normal European shield bearers - and are best used to raid soft targets and lightly armoured foes.
Another strength of the vsadnik however is its ability to play "catch up" with other units of the same line - compared to the Russian heavy cavalry which consumes plenty of metal, training hordes of vsadniky is a simple matter. Upon reaching the Imperial Era, you should upgrade them immediately to Pomestia cavalry. These units are like other cavalry units but still retain their penchant for movement speed and fast production, making them in sufficient numbers more than a match for other factions. In fact, the cheap cost of the Vsadnik compared to the high metal requirements of the boyar cavalry line often means that in the long run, Russia is better off recruiting these units and massing them against their foes. Support them with heavy infantry and archers along with siege weapons and you have a most potent strike force to deal with whatever the Europeans or Asians throw at you.
The steppes of southern Russia, consisting of vast plains, were ideal for pastoral lifestyles as well as horse breeding, and for this reason they were the haunt of many of invading nomads riding east from Asia. As the Russian nation slowly consolidated and matured over time, this was not lost on the Russians, who in the many years of the "Great Gathering" fought and traded with these nomadic peoples and the descendents of their victims, and eventually adopted their ways of war which were ideally suited for the environment, giving rise to the kozaky or Cossacks, who fought and lived more or less in the same manner as these horse-riding nomads. The Russians were not alone in understanding the value of these men: mercenary bands of Tatars using similar weapons and horses often found work for themselves in China, Byzantium, and Poland.
- Light cavalry unit, extremely fast, cheap, but with low armour.