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Ask me about Warfare

Discussion in 'Research' started by thecoldembrace, Mar 3, 2014.

  1. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    I don't exactly know what you are disagreeing with me on, Malik. Two handed swords do have their merits, that I do not deny. However, while I understand your position on their devastation I am very sure that a man in full armor, padding, chain and plate mail would after several minutes in the fury of battle, begin to struggle to be as effective wielding such a weapon against a foe or foes decked out the same with a lighter more agile weapon.

    However, yes I will state I am not a swordsman as you are, if I picked up the weapon I'd be more likely to hurt a friend or myself rather than an enemy. What I do have are accounts of battles that these weapons were used in. Were they used? Yes. Were they used very widely or commonly? No. Those that wielded two handed weapons often chose the hammer over the sword because of its punch against an armored foe. This does not mean that everyone chose the hammer and neglected the sword, as we still have accounts of its use, and it stands out because the sword remained the iconic weapon for a very long time. People remember the swords, the hammer is forgettable.

    But perhaps you can answer a question for me Malik, you actually have the knowledge, skill and tools available. How great is style of two weapon fighting hampered in the small confines and press of battle? Meaning, with very little swing room to achieve the desired lethal force of a swing is the two handed weapon at a disadvantage? I would honestly love to know this, as would one of my old professors who had a personal love of swords. I would very much enjoy the chance to drop some new knowledge upon him haha!

    Thank you Malik!

    If the above is seeming to be harsh or disrespectful, I did not mean for it to sound like that.
    -Cheers
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2014
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  2. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    Great question.

    The two-handed swords, especially the bigger Type XX, had a blunted section of blade ahead of the crossbar called a ricossa. You can grab this and "choke up" on the blade, reducing its length by a foot , or even more if you half-sword it, which can turn it into a shorter (and stiffer, i.e. stabbier) sword, or a pretty good spear depending on how you use it. In close, it can be used for tripping and disarming, you can punch with the counterweight at the pommel like brass knuckles (and ditto the crossbar, which could be a foot long or more), and there was a whole school of greatsword / longsword grappling, believe it or not, with principles that you'd swear were borrowed from Judo or Hap Ki Do.

    You can trap a weapon with the blade (or your adversary's neck, see below) and grab the end of the blade and hip- or shoulder-throw your opponent -- or, if I was doing this, I'd pull him forward and drive the crown of my helmet into his face hard enough to make him forget the third grade.

    [​IMG]

    And there's always swinging it by the blade and nailing someone with the heavy end . . .

    [​IMG]
    Seriously. Who saw that coming?

    . . . the possibilities are pretty much limitless.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    Something really nasty you can do with a big sword is clinch and bind, and with your hand on the tip, you can scissor your blade to pinch your opponent's thumb, and either cut the thumb off (if it's in a glove or you get the blade under a lap of the gauntlet) or crush it if it's in mail. It hurts like a sonofabitch even in gauntlets. You can thank Fiore.

    [​IMG]

    EDIT: Keep in mind, you didn't have to kill the guy. You just had to render him combat-ineffective and move on. Whether you're breaking his foot, denting his visor so he can't see, or cutting off his thumb, it all takes a man out of the fight just as handily as cutting off his head lightsaber-style. It doesn't make for the same caliber of heroic reading, though.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2014
  4. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    First, I love this stuff. I read all of your (both Malik and Coldembrace) posts on your respective areas of expertise. Thanks for adding such excellent value to this community.

    Malik, wouldn't the depicted fighting style be more for singular combat instead of mass combat?
     
  5. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    Not at all. In mass melee, you'd still take what you can get; probably moreso, as you'd want to take out as many people as you could with as little effort as possible. If I had a chance to neutralize a badguy's weapon, and then headbutt him and stove in his visor, or break his thumb, instead of engaging him and trading blows sword to sword? I'd take it in a heartbeat. That's a return on investment I can live with.

    I would imagine that nothing would earn you some space on the field like leaving a swath of weeping, screaming bodies around you. Nobody would stop to figure out that the guys you dropped weren't mortally wounded; they'd all be too busy getting the hell out of your way.

    I have enjoyed coldembrace's contributions and continue to do so. Your insights and research are valuable, my friend. Cheers.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2014
  6. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    I have been hoping for a question like this. Stuff like this gets me all giddy inside. So, thank you WeilderOfTheMonkeyBlade.

    So, you have many weapon systems trying to work in tandem, which is very good and very formidable on the battlefield. What I first need to address is the fact that has to be remembered, the musket is a line of sight weapon. If you are allied infantry in front of the path of the bullet you are in grave danger. So you must have your musketeers out in front until practically the point of impact, firing. The moment the enemy stops getting shot at, officers will do everything in their power to put men into the holes that you created, basically wiping out the disruption you caused in the battle line. Now, this isn't instantaneous, and most men are often reluctant to fill the spot previously vacated by a man who just got shot, but we are talking professional soldiers here, and most would move to fill the gap without being told.

    Fire and impact combat need to be achieved so that melee begins when the firing all but stops, and as I said before, muskets need clear line of sight to avoid the risk of shooting friends in the back. Crossbows can be arced and can still be of use.

    Also before I forget, to use your musketeers to best advantage make them three ranks deep, not two. Two ranks were notorious for periods of lull with nobody firing to keep a near constant barrage.

    This alone with three ranks of muskets firing would devastate an approaching core of pikemen. After this point it wouldn't be much of an issue for your infantry to move in to basically mop up.


    BUT, lets SAY that your musketeers are horrible shots, their muskets are wet and are prone to misfires and that the guns are not rifled and have absurdly horrible accuracy. In this scenario where maybe 3 in 10 hit their mark, then the battle comes down to a rather unmolested line of armored, professional pikemen and your own melee infantry we can get into a bit more to talk about eh? I'm sure you wanted more from me than yeah that'd work ;).

    Against this your infantry would find the going very, very costly. Pike squares were designed to be effective both to infantry and cavalry. Its basically a walking wall of impalement. Kept at a distance your infantry would be murdered. The first line of pikes would in effect hold your infantry at bay. The second line would jab at feet, weak spots and the head of foes. The third and fourth lines, provided their pikes are long enough would jab at those behind your first line of infantry, putting them off balance and defending themselves rather than doing their job which is pushing the first line forward and filling gaps.

    You would need a second type of infantry to lead the advance, probably your two handed infantry who would in effect act like zweihänder wielding infantry to hack down the heads of the pikes.

    After hacking your way to the enemy line, who would by now have drawn secondary weapons, you would be on a much more advantageous playing field, with your two handed infantry causing disruption in the enemy lines for your core infantry to do it's deadly meat grinder work.

    Now thats that without your enemy pikes supported by anything else. It might answer a few questions for you though.

    -Cold
     
  7. Cold, thanks very much for that, the feeling of giddiness is quite mutual, I do love a good discussion of tactics. I am using smoothbore muskets, and am fully aware of how terrible a weapon they are for accuracy (thank you Bernard Cornwell.)

    I forgot to mention, that after the musketeers unleash their third or fourth blast of musketry, there'll be canister poured into the pike square; more chaos!!!!

    To shorten the time from last round fired to impact of my swordsmen, then I might have the swordsmen lined up behind the gunners, who split ranks to allow wedges to charge the (hopefully) still disrupted square.

    And once they get past the pikes, its gona be chaos. 'Cause the swordsmen(and women) are going to be fighting proper roman style, punch shield forward, stab, punch, stab, punch, stab. And they're going up against men who aren't trained to fight close combat, armed with all sorts; Catgutters, cutlasses ect.

    This army is very professional, small, but extremely well equipped and trained.

    * also just realised that I spelt "their" wrong in my previous post. I am mortified.

    But thanks for the answer, lots of delicious brain food there, and you can rest assured that I'll be back to pester you with more half-baked ideas!!!
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2014
  8. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Thanks for all the help.

    So swords tended to get longer, at least for better-equipped warriors (not the courtiers who weren't facing armor, and not the levies or spear ranks). The way you make it sound, it doesn't seem like there was a true "two-handed sword" that pretty much had to be used that way, at least until the days of plate armor. So the acid test is, how often did people take those swords to two-handed mode, and how often did they keep their shields?

    And, were two-handed axes (or hammers) used much? We think of the Vikings as trying them, but were they really used, besides the proper halberd and other polearms?
     
  9. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    Two handed weapons date back a very long way, to ancient Egypt as a matter of fact with two handed bronze axes and equipped units of men with them and set them at the center of their armies as a shock unit. The two handed weapon was meant for shock, to punch a hole in enemy lines. The shield however was a staple of warfare since the earliest times. Often it was the most prized possession of a warrior because it kept him alive and had a tendency to be cheaper than everything else.

    During the Roman Empire two handed weapons were usually the product of less "civilized" or more barbarian oriented cultures. Individual prowess was often more important than acting as a single cohesive unit, and in these instances larger groups of men would wield two handed weapons, axes mainly, as two handed swords were owned by the elite or honored of the society.

    During the time of Charlemagne, the various kingdoms had a spread of mixed units, with men armed with a one handed weapon for the shield wall, while having specialized men set with axes to break shields and disrupt enemy formations.

    The Norse loved using two handed axes and hammers, but they always had a shield handy. The legendary Varangian Guard used two handed weapons, especially swords (being an elite unit of the powerful Byzantine Empire allowed men to wield expensive two handed swords) and helped maintain the empire's borders in several battles. Their ferocity is well documented by those they fought.

    Probably the most two handed sword oriented culture was the Scots and Irish after Nordic colonization. The clans developed a devastating shock-charge combat system that they kept well into the era of the gun, led by men wielding great axes and two handed swords. Check out the Gallowglass if you are interested.

    So basically what I am trying to get at is that the use of two handed weapons is situational and is heavily dependent on the wealth of an individual or the unit to which he belongs. The shield was THE item that every soldier and warrior needed because of its ability to keep him alive.

    As armor increased weapons changed to crack the steel shell, or just hammer it. Two handed hammers and axes could be afforded by many more people and were rather simplistic in their use, not requiring years upon years of practice to wield. To boot they could take down an armored knight... after he was overwhelmed by numbers usually...

    To basically sum up, two handed swords had to be afforded, and trained with to be effective. It is because of this that we don't see very many instances of these large swords used. Were they used, very much so, but by select individuals, and usually (from the records) they were situational. I have no doubt that a man wielding a great sword was very effective, and extremely imposing, but it wasn't as widespread as fantasy is. The shield remained the staple of melee combat until guns rendered them obsolete. Especially in an age were bows were as common as spears and could pierce armor at a distance, the shield was the logical, non second thought choice to keep your blood in your body.

    -Cold
     
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  10. Shadowfirelance

    Shadowfirelance Scribe

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    How badly would an army that used biological warfare, (covering their weapons in a highly contagious disease), affect the morale of the enemy army?
     
  11. Pemry Janes

    Pemry Janes Sage

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    I have a hard time imagining such an army surviving for long, unless they're immune to the disease?
     
  12. chrispenycate

    chrispenycate Sage

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    There is no disease — certainly no contagious disease — which can develop symptoms and spread in the one day that is all a single battle lasts. Basic reasoning; any mutation that operates that fast kills its host before spreading, and so dooms its species to rapid extinction. And any longer period, the victim would not associate the wound with the infection. After all, pestilence and war frequently team up, and all battlefield damage has a tendency to fester.

    So psychological effect would be much lower than envenomed darts or blades, or throwing scorpions (;)); something that even somebody who is attempting to avoid radical surgery is liable to notice.

    Throwing plague infested corpses from a ballista is for more sustained phases of warfare, such as siege.
     
  13. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    This is one of those questions that when asked, requires more questions to be asked.
    First of all the army employing this weapon better be immune as poison and disease work both ways. Second, for the army facing this they would have to know in advance that hey those guys over there are sick freaks that coat their weapons with whatever it is... for the moral effect to set in. Battle is battle, no one wants to go in and fight and possibly die unless they are missing some very important brain cells.

    If they know in advance that the enemy does this, it would be a 50.50 effect of either causing some panic (probably not much) to where people who had already had thoughts of desertion would take the chance to do so, or it would grant a moral boost. Human beings generally despise those that cheat, that throw sucker punches and are down right bastards. In this instance I would bet this would be the actual effect, instead of lowering moral it would boost it, as men would while fearful of their own health would very much enjoy putting this type of enemy six below.

    It is not during the battle that this disease is a worry, it is after the battle when it sets in and gets transferred around from host to host. I would also suspect that camp physicians would quickly quarantine those affected to avoid having the whole army overrun by this disease and limit the casualties as much as possible.

    My bet, and my honest opinion would be that by doing this type of biological warfare would hinder the army employing it to make it not worth the while or the risk. Typically the biological agent is used in advance of an attack to sow discord and fear into enemy ranks to sap their will to resist, and is better often used (though I hate saying it) upon those that soldiers protect, the innocents under their charge. When you see your family dying by a disease inflicted by your enemy, you want to stim the tide of that quickly, and if surrendering grants this, men will often take it.

    -Cold
     
  14. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    the question about the disease one made me wonder, what about if instead of disease they use some sort of magical acid type deal? The dead melt to flesh colored goo, even a non lethal attack could cause limbs to schloop off, and just a scratch causing horrific disfiguration as the acid burns their skin, etc and so on. (Naturally they'd be immune to their own weapon)
     
  15. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    There are easier ways to spread disease than coating weapons. One of the easiest would be to simply contaminate the food supply - if you can get to the wagons. My thought, simply get some chicken entrails and smear the goo over the supplies. Time frames will vary of course, but salmonella can strike within six hours. Some food poisoning organisms are faster again - staph aureus within an hour.

    As for morale, if the army's sick, poohing themselves constantly, wracked with fever, and a few even dying, they aren't marching. And if they realise they can't eat the food than they're starving as well. I don't see them as being filled with confidence at that stage.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  16. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    Most diseases wouldn't have been that big of a deal, and unless the onset was immediate, the soldiers likely wouldn't know that the enemy caused it. Throughout history, disease has killed many more soldiers and been a factor in many more wars than combat.

    Soldiers have always accepted disease as part of the job. In today's military, we walk around with fungal skin infections (tinea corporis) and low-key chronic diseases and no one blinks at it. I'm trying to think of any recently-deployed soldier I know personally who wasn't or currently isn't treated for tinea, psoriasis, dermatitis, or some other skin problem.

    Diarrhea is rampant downrange even today; MRE's specifically have low fiber content to combat this. (MRE = "Meal, Ready to Eat" which is three lies for the price of one. We also refer to them as "Meal Refusing to Exit" because of their tendency to constipate you when they're all you eat.)

    When I was in Africa last time all my toenails fell off. It's not unusual for the locker room of a high-speed (elite) unit to look like a leper colony. You go to weird places, you come back with weird things.

    It would have been a hundred times worse in the days before antibiotics; I'd think your military's wizards would have full-time jobs treating food poisoning, skin problems, blisters, fallen arches, broken toes, etc. (I shiver to think about marching any distance in medieval boots. I wear expensive boots by Danner and Nike with custom insoles, and my feet still look like Fred Flintstone's.) Just keeping an army moving and deployable would take teams of sorcerers and healers. Because of this, though, your wizards would be ready for any kind of bioweapon that showed up; again, they probably wouldn't even attribute it to the badguys.

    If the "evil" army had some kind of magical weapon that caused immediate disease, though -- if your skin started falling off immediately after getting hit with an axe, for instance -- there would be an intense psychological effect and massive panic. You'd probably see a rout of a good chunk of the affected military. For this reason, biological and chemical weapons are considered "area denial" weapons in our current military. People get the hell out of the area and stay out.

    What would be interesting would be the aftereffects of such a weapon on the afflicted army; the officers and the sergeants pacifying the troops and convincing them to stand up against the badguys the next time. That would be a fun set of speeches to write.
     
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  17. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    The worst of it might be if the disease was highly visible and contaigious, and had slow but unpredictable ways of spreading from soldier to soldier. Looking at your buddy next to you and wondering "Should I stay a step or two further back from him?" has to be its own kind of poison for unit cohesion.
     
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  18. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Actually up until the eighteenth or even nineteenth century disease probably killed more soldiers than fighting. The big ones were of course cholera from drinking faeces contaminated water and tetanus. You can shudder about the last one - it is a truly horrible way to die. The issue was that soldiers tended to get cut and any soil getting into the wounds could carry Clostridia tetani. Various contaminated foods could give you anything from staph (a short lived but quick acting and painful form of diarrhoea) to campylobacter (think five days on a toilet excreting green slime instead of pooh while suffering horrible stomach cramps - one of my fondest memories!) and all the salmonellas. (The salmonellas include typhoid and paratyphoid as well as the more common food poisoning which means diarrhoea, fever, dehydration and sometimes death.)

    Add to that some of the other bugs out there - and probably the worst would be the blood born malaria. This disease absolutely devastated soldiers during the earlier Asian wars and the various India campaigns, even when they did have basic treatment available. (Moral of the story - don't go to a foreign tropical country to wage war - it will literally bite you! And suck!)

    And last - but only because it isn't really a soldiers disease - is the Minister of Death - Smallpox. This probably wiped out more North American Indians than bullets.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  19. I'm going to change the topic here, :)

    My question is, how effective would war hounds; big mastiff like things with leather armour and spiked collars, be against pike phalanxes, halberd hedges or shield walls?

    I don't mean would the dogs be able to break the soldiers by themselves, but would they be able to open a big enough breach to allow infantry, and or cavalry to close.

    And would this work without all the dogs dying? My idea is that the dogs would be low enough to get under the halberds or pikes, as well as the physiological effect. I know that dogs were used in Celtic tribal warfare, but their undisciplined charges were different to the solid might of pike squares.

    Any ideas?
     
  20. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    I have a 130-lb. American Bulldog with eighteen months of professional protection training. I would absolutely hate to fight him, armor or no. The guy in the big padded suit used to complain to his boss about needing a raise when he'd see my dog coming for his lesson. He said it was like fighting off something with the jaws of an alligator and the body of a python. Tor (my dog) could knock him completely over at a run, even if he was braced for it. Tor used to knock him over, and THEN go for the hold. He loves knocking things over. Even at his size, he can clear our fence with a good run.

    [​IMG]

    On the battlefield, the dog would have been a distraction, something akin to a swarm of bees. In home security, the dog exists only to screw up the plans of an intruder long enough so that you can fall back, bolt the saferoom door, and hit the alarm button. The reality is, if an armed intruder broke into this house, the dog would go down fighting. That's his job. (Frankly, I don't think he'd mind. He LOVES fighting.)

    I imagine that, on the field, if the dog got inside the range of the halberd or pike, the guy would have a whole lot of problems and you'd have a weak spot in the wall right there. Again, think of a swarm of bees. Big dogs move really fast and the good war dogs are Hodor stupid and suicidally fearless. My dog ran into a house fire to find me and was nearly killed trying to fight a steamroller that was packing down our driveway. They're bred for this; they are not Labradoodles.

    The spearpoints wouldn't dissuade him the way they would a warhorse, and once he was inside, the guy would have to deal with him, which would make a temporary hole. Or, if the pikeman stabbed the dog, he would have to get the dog off the end of the pike before the horses came. The horses would be right behind the dogs, and wouldn't allow him the time.

    These dogs would die. A lot. Bulldogs that are used for hog catching are bred for pain tolerance and will let a total stranger suture them. The ones that didn't die would likely be covered in scars.
     
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