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Two Weapons and Unit Formation


EDIT:post title should read: Two-HANDED Weapons and Unit Formation

I'm wondering how exactly soldiers with two handed weapons (e.g. an English long axe) would be integrated into units of their more common spear and shield wielding counterparts. For example, was it feasible that in an Anglo-Saxon or Viking shield wall, warriors with large axes would form up behind a shield bearer and then look for breaks in the the enemy's shield wall to exploit?

I vaguely remember reading about German and Swiss mercenaries using zweihanders rushing from their own pike lines into the enemy's pike lines where they would swing their swords and break up the enemy formation from within, so I'm thinking something similar could work with a shield-wall or Greek phalanx type formation within my own world.
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[first post - hi everyone]

Two handed weapons tended to be about individuals more than a formation working together (like you would in a phalanx or the like). You've got this big massive axe, to avoid the possibility hitting your own side and to get the momentum that made these weapons so effective, you need to have a lot of open space around you (and need to be pretty skilled and confident enough to get at the enemy in close quarters - no small requirement).

This was the issue at the battle of Hastings, where your Saxon huscarls, within the saxon shieldwall, who could do a helluva lot of damage to an enemy, mounted or not, were handicapped by being packed in with all the rest of the shieldwall.

An open formation isn't a bad thing however. If your open formation can get in close and start going at individuals in that tightly packed formation over there, the tightly packed formation can be at a distinct disadvantage. This was one of the advantages of the Roman maniples.

It's worth noting that our vision of a phalanx (the classical greek one anyway - not the phalangites of the Hellenistic period) is one of stolidly moving forward at walking speed. It appears with the classical greek phalanx it was more about this thing called the "othismos" which literally meaning pushing and shoving. How much this maybe taken literally is debated, but there is a possibility that your phalanx is coming together at speed and attempting to force each other bodily from the field.

Hopefully this is helpful. :)