EB1: The island of Krete is renown for it's archers. These men hire themselves out as mercenaries for almost any Mediterranean power who can afford them. Apart from their bow, they also have short swords and they wear hardened linen armor and carry a small shield. Not only are the Kretes good archers, but they can fare well in melee against similarily equipped opponents.
EB2: The island of Crete is renown for it's archers, and Cretans renown for their reputation as liars and brigands. These men hire themselves out as mercenaries for almost any Mediterranean power who can afford them, as their skills are often unmatched by other archers. Apart from their bow, they also have short swords and they wear hardened linen armour and carry a small shield. Not only are the Cretans good archers, but they can also fare well in melee, although against similarly equipped opponents.
The island of Crete is renown for it's archers, and Cretans renown for their reputation as liars and brigands. These men hire themselves out as mercenaries for almost any Mediterranean power who can afford them, as their skills are often unmatched by other archers. Apart from their bow, they also have short swords and they wear hardened linen armor and carry a small shield. Not only are the Cretans good archers, but they can also fare well in melee, although against similarily equipped opponents.
Historically, Toxotai Kretikoi served in most Hellenic armies and other Mediterranean armies from early history, from Carthage in the west to the Seleukids in the east. One of their most famous exploits was in Xenophon's "Ten Thousand", where they gave a good account of themselves against the Persians. Crete during this time was rife with civil wars, and it was often those Cretans on the losing side or who get fed up with the unstable situation, who migrated overseas and hired themselves out as mercenary bowmen. The Diadochoi tried to gain control of the island, but were unsuccessful in their attempts. The constant civil wars attracted outlaws and other unwantables to Crete, that during the Hellenistic period bad behaviour was called "Cretan Way" and during the 1st century BC, the Cilician pirates established themselves on Crete and many Cretans joined them in piracy, which drew the ire of Rome. The first Roman expedition in 74 BC was soundly defeated, but the second expedition in 68 BC managed with great brutality to subjugate the island, which was afterwards made into a military colony, who for centuries to come supplied the Roman army with auxiliary archers, and their renown continued well into the Middle Ages. There is even distinct mention of Cretan archers defending Constantinople in 1453 AD!
Native and mercenary Cretan Archers are widely accepted as the best archers in the game, given their highest firepower and second highest range available. Adding to their high armor, these troops can be used effectively for many roles, the comparatively best of which is obliterating light to medium archers. Cretans would often be the first to fire given their range, and in a sustained skirmish, these troops will outlast archers of all types (excluding Sagittari Auxilia and Bosphoran Archers), due to their superior firepower and armor. Cretan Archers are also frighteningly effective against light to medium infantry. Levy and other lightly armored infantry will be cut down in front of these archers, who can even produce annoyingly high casualties against Thureophoroi and Peltastai. Light to medium cavalry are also valuable targets, as their demanding recruitment cost would be the general's demise in a war of attrition. Although they do not have the best armor for archers, Cretans have shortswords and can adequately engage in prolonged melee by attacking the flanks of an exhausted enemy.
However, Cretan Archers' high recruitment cost limits their implementation, as in a custom/multiplayer battle with a capped mnai limit, the recruitment of these archers would demand cheaper options for infantry and cavalry. Archers with lower defense but equal attack (Caucasian and Scythian foot archers) can defeat Cretans economically speaking, as a general can recruit more light archers per mnai who can overwhelm the Cretans' high armor with sheer numbers. Still, assuming a player can only recruit a limited number of 20 units per army, the extensive recruitment of light archers would also mean less of other troops. This makes the high recruitment cost of Cretan archers more acceptable.
As with a campaign, the rarity of these mercenaries (assuming one is not hiring them natively as the Hellenic states) also demands that they stay well away from combat to avoid high casualties, as their recovery rate from casualties are not significantly high (~50%). On the other hand, they should be used extensively to unleash hell upon opposing missile troops, as enemies in the campaign often hire light archers and skirmishers (Toxotai and Akontistai) with lower range.
All in all, Cretans are excellent in every role, but are not best in any. Lighter archers (Caucasian and Scythian foot archers) with the same missile attack are cheaper to recruit, and assuming a weaker opposing skirmish force, are better against light to medium infantry and cavalry. Heavier but less powerful archers (Sagittari Auxilia and Bosphoran Archers) are more effective against a heavy opposing skirmish force, but are less effective against infantry and cavalry. Ultimately, given the multi-purpose role of Cretan Archers, many players favor these expensive troops, especially against an enemy with an unknown army composition.