The shining beacon of this unit is that it can earn Gold from kills, which is the theme of Mali as a civilization. The problem here is that it replaces the Knight, so it will not come into play until late Medieval Era. By this time, Mali's economy must be already solidified and earning at least a few hundred Gold per turn, that a few Gold from kills most likely does not matter too much. Second, Mali does not like to actively waging wars, since they suffer from low Production when producing units, so if they wanted a large army, they would have to buy it. At a 20% discount from the Suguba, a Mandekalu Cavalry costs 704 Gold, meaning it has to kill an army equivalent to the Combat Strength of 15 enemy Knights to recoup its cost, and you definitely are not going to war with only 1 Mandekalu Cavalry with the hope of taking down 15 of its equivalent. Considering this unit has no combat edge over a normal Knight (a bonus of 1 Combat Strength should surely not qualify as an "edge"), you will not do a timing push with your unique unit, as you will lose more than you can ever get back from your enemies. Of course, you can still gain Gold from killing Barbarians, but in Medieval Era, Barbarians are not as rampant, and with the low Combat Strength of Warriors and Archers, killing them to earn Gold is like adding an extra drop into the ocean. If the Gold earned by the Mandekalu Cavalry actually contributes a significant portion to your treasury, you are probably losing the game very hard. The ability to protect Traders is clunky and impractical at best, because you will never be able to move your unit around to follow Trade Routes, especially with the number of Trade Routes that Mali has.
Overall, this is a mediocre unit that does nothing more than the basic Knight. Train one (two, if you are really generous) for the Era Score and protect your territory from Barbarians. If you get invaded, you can always buy more, but during peace time, this unit serves no purpose.
Civilopedia entry Edit
Mandekalu cavalrymen were the elite of Malinese society, as horses were a rare and expensive commodity south of the Sahara. The Mandekalu cavalryman was armed with lance and sword, and was equipped with mail and an iron helmet. This need for armor and weapons created a cultural alliance between skilled Malian blacksmiths (working iron was a rare art, kept secret) and the nobility who used the weapons and armor in battle.
Mansa Sundiata is generally credited with organizing the cavalry into their own branch of the army. In the Sahel—the arid grasslands south of the Sahara—the mobility and shock power of the cavalry made them a fearful enemy, and they were key to the Malian military expansion. As the weather got warmer and wetter during the 15th and 16th century, the tsetse fly ranged farther, spreading diseases among horses and riders, and generally reducing the effectiveness of the Mandekalu. At the same time, declining woodlands reduced the supplies of wood for charcoal, making the traditional iron weapons more expensive to manufacture.