Charge is a gameplay mechanic in Empire: Total War.
When land units are ordered to initiate a melee with an enemy at running speed, they issue a charge. Charges can cause significant casualties to their targets, giving an initial melee edge to attackers, while dampening the morale of defenders. In order to properly initiate a charge, units must start running from a fair distance away; if they are too close for charging, they engage in a standard melee instead. Conversely, charging over long distances quickly tires out even the most durable regiments, and can leave them at a stamina disadvantage when they reach the enemy.
Charging statistics can be observed for most units. Unlike some other values, charge values do not increase as the unit gains experience.
Certain units are better at charging than others. In addition to being hard to kill and deadly in a melee, elephants possess a devastating charge that can incapacitate dozens of infantry within moments. Most cavalry, particularly lancers, also have excellent charging characteristics. Next come infantry, whose charging capabilities can vary wildly from type to type. Finally, artillery crew can be ordered to charge in dire circumstances, but are unlikely to inflict much damage owing to their minimal numbers.
Several factors besides unit type factor into the effectiveness of a charge. Units charging downhill inflict significantly more damage than units charging uphill; generally speaking, the steeper the incline, the more dramatic the change. In this fashion, even light cavalry can inflict heavy casualties on their target. Units spread out in a wide line inflict more damage upon impact. A prepared infantry unit (particularly in Square Formation) suffers very minimally from charges and can inflict many reciprocal casualties on charging cavalry; on the other hand, charges in the flank or rear of a distracted unit is likely to result in quickly routing the target.
Infantry are the units most heavily affected by a charge, followed by cavalry. Elephant charge bonuses, on the other hand, often do not activate when engaging enemy cavalry.
Musket-armed infantry can have their charging characteristics improved via research of the New Model Bayonet Drill.