"The Sterntower Marksmen are a newly formed regiment out of Steingart. They are garrisoned as part of the line of sentry post and signal towers that guard the low foothills of the eastern Wissenland, under the shadow of the imposing Black Mountains. Always at the ready to launch their signal flares to signify invasions, the watchtowers are essential for border defence.
The Marksmen share the Sterntower with several other Imperial regiments - Halberdiers and Spearmen - with whom they have established a front-line camaraderie. Sergeant-at-Arms Hans Schwarzblut is the tower officer, in command of the Sterntower Marksmen and a unit each of Halberdier and Spearmen. He is a veteran of many battles against marauding Orcs and his tight discipline keeps all the troops at high alert. Unwilling to sit and wait, Schwartzblut often orders patrols up into the narrow mountain passes." - Uniforms and Heraldry of the Empire
Crossbowmen are one of the strongest units in the Free Peoples arsenal, providing robust mid-range shooting and a nasty surprise for enemies who recklessly charge them or the Great Company they are in.
On paper they don't look that fearsome. A 20" range, 4+ to hit and 4+ to wound isn't that great. 1 wound each, low bravery, low movement and a terrible save.
Where they shine is in the synergies with their in-built abilities and the rest of the army.
Pipers - Stand and Shoot 2.0! If an enemy ends it's charge within 3" of the Crossbowmen they can open up and shoot with their Crossbows at the charging unit. You lose the Reload Fire (below) ability when you stand and shoot (enemy will be within 3"). But what is truly amazing is that if another ranged Free Guild unit is charged you can support them without being in the same Great Company as the rule reads "Once per turn, if an enemy unit ends it's charge move within 3" of a unit that includes any Pipers, they can signal their unit to stand and shoot; each model can then shoot it's Crossbow at the charging unit".
Standard Bearer - Whilst their save and Bravery is bad, the Standard Bearer allows rolls of 1 to be an automatic pass for the unit in Bravery checks. This is important as it stacks with the Order Battle Trait Defiant Avengers (allowing you to re-roll battleshock tests) and the Freeguild General on Horses banner (roll two dice for Freeguild units with 24" of the Freeguild General). In brief, ALWAYS keep these guys within range of the Freeguild General with Banner.
Piercing Bolts - Each time a you roll a wound roll of 6 or more for a Crossbow, that attack is resolved with a Rnd of -1 instead of (-).
Why is it good? Give your Crossbowmen Hold the Line! (1+ to hit and wound) and that means -1 rend on 5's and 6's. With 60 shots from the Reload Fire ability (below), that can get scary.
Reload Fire - Freeguild Crossbowmen can shoot twice if their unit has 20 or more models and there are no enemy models with 3".
Why is this good? You can move and still punch out 60 shots (as long as no enemies are within 3"), this means you can support your Swordsmen on the move without any negative effects (unlike the Handgunners). You can also do 60 shots with the Great Company support (again no enemies within 3") in the enemy charge phase even if the enemy hasn't charged (because the enemy just has to be within 3" of the unit being supported).
- 6+ save
- Bravery 5
- 5" move
- Get picked off easily by long range units (looking at you SC Vanguard).
- Keep them 3.5" from the front line of your Freeguild Guard (so as to not jeopardise the Great Company support and your 60 shots).
- Keep them within range of the Freeguild General (for the banner and Idomitable (Command Trait)). Keep themwithin range of the Luminarks 10", 6+ ward save (if you have one).
- Use Hold the Line! (+1 to hit, +1 wound) from the Freeguild General to give them 3+, 3+ (though they can't move)
- Make them insane by getting two command points, giving them Hold the Line! and Rousing Battlecry command abilities (+1 hit) from the General on Horse and General on Griffon and then have an Azyros in range of their target (within 10" targetting unit get's re-roll 1's). Bathe in the sheer ****** of 2+ to hit (re-rolling 1's) and 3+ to wound on 60 shots.
- Use them to support your Freeguild Guard. These are your damage dealers, they are essentially ranged Greatswords.