Crossbowmen are light infantryunits that use crossbows in battle. They are counter infantry units that are useful for attacking heavy infantry such as Musketeers, but are easily defeated by melee cavalry and Artillery. They are similar in many ways to Skirmishers. Although the Crossbowmen might be out-ranged by their Skirmisher counterparts, they are cheaper and are trainable earlier in the game. The exceptions to this rule reside in the Dutch, who can train Skirmishers in the Colonial Age and the French through the use of TEAM Early Skirmishers (allowing them and allies to train skirmishers in the Colonial Age). Also the Portuguese can get Royal Guard level Crossbowmen with the unique church card, Besteiros(though they can't get Imperial Guard level).
Veteran Crossbowman is an upgrade to the ordinary crossbowman and is available for 200 wood and 200 coin at the Barracks once Fortress Age is reached. Veteran Crossbowman have higher attack and hit points but the overall function and the multipliers as well as the resists remains the same.
"Handheld crossbows began to appear in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Crossbowmen were attractive to military leaders because they took much less time to train than archers using bows. Firearms eclipsed Crossbows by the end of the sixteenth century.
Europeans, chiefly the Spanish, included crossbows amongst the muskets and cannon they brought to the New World. Cortes arrived with more than two dozen crossbows and less than ten muskets. Columbus' crew had crossbows when they landed in the West Indies. When the original stockpile of munitions ran out it was difficult or impossible to make or trade for more. Explorers had to be very careful with their limited supply."