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  1. - Top - End - #571
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    There's also a lot of scholarly doubt as to the whole "line up and push" theory of ancient through medieval combat that's been brought up in response here. It's a very Victorian "everyone before us was dumber than us, except maybe the Romans" notion.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Beer View Post
    I suspect that size and strength matters most in unarmed combat, reason being it's comparatively difficult to severely injure or incapacitate a much larger human being with your bare hands. Conversely a small man can still run a large man right through with a spear, fracture their skull with a mace or shiv their lungs with a dagger. Perhaps reach becomes more an issue than raw strength.
    Most modern unarmed contact sports rules also emphasise size and strength; as an example, here's the quick list of prohibited techniques in MMA:

    • No groin attacks.
    • No knees to the head on a grounded opponent.
    • No strikes to the back of the head or the spine.
    • No head butts.
    • No eye gouging.
    • No fish hooking.
    • No fingers in an opponent’s orifices.
    • No biting.
    • No hair pulling.
    • No strikes or grabbing of the throat.
    • No manipulation of the fingers or toes.


    In a street fight or one where their personal safety is at risk, you can bet any competent fighter would do any or all of the above to gain an advantage over their opponent.

    Armed and unarmoured combat is very different - speed and skill are emphasised. Jackie Chan has mentioned that he regards Western fencing as the best combat style for this and a major reason why he included it in his film Shanghai Knights.

    Armed and armoured combat shifts it more back the other way to unarmed, but skill is still significantly important (getting your weapon into a gap in your opponent's armour for example).

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    There's also a lot of scholarly doubt as to the whole "line up and push" theory of ancient through medieval combat that's been brought up in response here. It's a very Victorian "everyone before us was dumber than us, except maybe the Romans" notion.
    I wouldn't say there's a lot of doubt, it's been debunked where we have written sources, and only a few stubborn folks insist that it was done where we do not. I have a translation of three Eastern Roman military manuals from early medieval times, and they paint a very different picture.

    • Phalanxes are used to ward off enemy, not to attack
    • Archers are a part of a phalanx, used in a combined arms fashion
    • Cavalry reserves play a huge part, especially after defeat
    • Huge portions devoted to moving around in formation on battlefield
    • Western frontier (i.e. Balkans) is described in a very VIetnam-like tone, lots of ambushes
    • Enemy described as using the same tactics if disciplined


    Especially the archery as a part of a shield wall bit is very telling, because it tells us that archery wasn't as undeveloped as you might think, you just need to imagine every shield wall with potentially two ranks of archers at the back. Sure, less developed than high and late medieval massed missile troops, but they still used the mixed arms approach when appropriate.

    As for the Viking's supposed dominance, it's half myth, half a matter of perspective. They were no more or less successful than any nomadic raiding nation in early medieval times. They just happened to be aimed and England where the steppe nomads were definitely not, and most of history you see on the internet today is Anglocentric. Compare them with Magyars who managed to raid literally all of southern Europe in their prime, and they stop being so exceptional.

    As for why, while the collapse of Rome didn't set back technology that much, only slowed its progress, the societal organization did regress considerably. Aforementioned Magyars were stopped by Svatopluk I in Great Moravia (basically at Transylvanian mountains), but after he died and his sons fought over his lands in a civil war, they were no longer capable of resisting them effectively. If you could either organize a large raiding force, or move quick enough to not be caught, you were basically set.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dienekes
    So, I do swordsmanship. I’m not good. But the general rule of thumb in unarmored swordfighting, is skill is paramount. Skill trumps everything. But reach and strength are really useful. I am not an agile guy, but I am big and strong. I have completely blown through a fair few failed attempts to parry me. Now, if these attempts to parry me were performed slightly better this wouldn’t have happened. Which is part of the skill trumps everything statement. But given two swordsmen, both equal skill one stronger than the other, I’d bet on the stronger guy. One weapon master (I’m pretty sure Vadi but I need to check), just straight says stronger people have the advantage.
    Skill does not trump all. Lichtenauer tradition manuscripts repeat quite clearly that you should concentrate on physical conditioning, because it's better to be fit and unskilled than skilled and unfit.

    Before you gain basic proficiency in using a melee weapon, anyone with skill can get you, regardless of his fitness, but after you have your basics down, the game changes. Knowing a technique does you no good if your opponent can parry and bind well and is faster than you.

    Problem is, physical fitness has many forms - stamina in short bursts, lifting weight, quick hits with a stick, all use different kinds of strength. You don't need to hit tremendously hard with a sword, but you do need to have stamina for it, and the speed. In wrestling, you don't really need the speed that much, but lifting heavy weight comes in a lot more. Long term stamina does bugger all in a duel, but is tremendously important if you are in a battle after two hours of marching and it's sweltering hot.

    Let's say we have a total fighting prowess T, relevant physical conditioning P and skill at sword S, and all are measured on a scale from 1 to 10. Well, first of all, gaining one point is easier the lower you are - and it goes logarithmic. Going from 1 to 2 can take a month, from 5 to 6 a year, and from 9 to 10 a decade. What's worse, you need to invest time to keep yourself at your current level and not slip down, and this time increases the higher you are.

    And then, to get T, you don't just add P and S. Depending on where you are, one point of S early on can gain you 1 point of T, but if you move from 5 to 6, you only gain half a point. And it's not smooth and it is interdependent - 3P can give you half a point if you have 1S, but can get you two points if your S is, say, 4.

    In the end you end up with a mess of a general system. It's better to just say that you should first focus on getting basic proficiency, then train up physically to where you want to be and then keep yourself there and focus on techniques.
    That which does not kill you made a tactical error.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Greywolf View Post
    I wouldn't say there's a lot of doubt, it's been debunked where we have written sources, and only a few stubborn folks insist that it was done where we do not. I have a translation of three Eastern Roman military manuals from early medieval times, and they paint a very different picture.

    • Phalanxes are used to ward off enemy, not to attack
    • Archers are a part of a phalanx, used in a combined arms fashion
    • Cavalry reserves play a huge part, especially after defeat
    • Huge portions devoted to moving around in formation on battlefield
    • Western frontier (i.e. Balkans) is described in a very Vietnam-like tone, lots of ambushes
    • Enemy described as using the same tactics if disciplined


    Especially the archery as a part of a shield wall bit is very telling, because it tells us that archery wasn't as undeveloped as you might think, you just need to imagine every shield wall with potentially two ranks of archers at the back. Sure, less developed than high and late medieval massed missile troops, but they still used the mixed arms approach when appropriate.
    "A lot of doubt" was my way of trying to be polite about it -- "form up and shove" still gets repeated a lot online, but as far as I can tell it's just not supported either by the evidence or by actual common sense.

    I was watching a thing on female Norse warriors last week (on Smithsonian Channel, I think), and based on skeletal evidence and grave goods in one burial, they think the woman was a mounted archer. A "viking horse archer", if you will.
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Average size of population is just that- average. You won't see a huge variation in strength and size- unless you're dealing with elite units, or handpicked crews. The Vikings also enjoyed that advantage because they brought their best against whoever happened to be in the village when they showed up.


    There were also definitely units in history that selected specifically for size and fearsome nature in battle- the gallowglass, mercenaries of the 13th century, spring to mind-
    A description from 1600, speaks of the Gallowglass as "...pycked and scelected men of great and mightie bodies, crewell without compassion. The greatest force of the battell consisteth in them, chosing rather to dye than to yeelde, so that when yt cometh to handy blowes they are quickly slayne or win the fielde.
    Tracts relating to Ireland, Irish Archeological Society, vol. ii., Dublin, 1843

    Being mercenaries, they'd travel much further than the population that supplied them. Because that's the only part of their population you would see in your life, in your mind the Scots-Normans would be a race of giant, fearful fighters. I'm sure they did nothing to damage that theory. "Oh no, I'm the runt! That's why I was sent out here to battle weak people on the continent. My older brother, now he's a head taller than me! Has to pick up the cow to milk it!"
    So the size difference, while undoubtedly exaggerated, was probably present in elite troops of the time, kind of like how your impression would be if the only Americans you ever met were a professional football team.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Re: Shieldwalls and Other Arms

    It might not be "line up and shove" precisely, but the Viking era was mostly known for shieldwalls and wedges with close combat infantry, usually with other arms and tactics playing little part. For example, you never see significant cases of the following:

    Skirmishers: Velites, Peltasts, Spanish Caetrati...you can find accounts of skirmishers preceding the battle for lots of antiquity. They even have a few famous wins, as the Spartans found out to their discontent at Sphacteria. You see virtually no reference to Vikings using them in any numbers.

    Missile Troops: We're a long way from longbows and crossbows, to be sure, but there is also a conspicuous absence of other feared missile troops. After all, a look to antiquity would see slingers, Cretan and Illyrian archers, and other troops performing notable service on campaign and in various battles. Many middle eastern armies were bow centric. In contrast, the Vikings had some archers, but they never seem to get much mention. Towards the end of the Viking age, William the conqueror will neatly shoot arrows all day at Harold to little effect other than (possibly? probably? the debate rages) getting a one in a million shot that took Harold through the eye.

    Heavy Horse: Neither companion nor cataphract, and certainly not the continental European knight. This one is right out the window.

    Horse Archers: Yes, you can fire a bow from a horse, and presumably some smart Viking figured that out. But there are no accounts of it actually being used in a major battle. The Parthians, Eastern Roman Empire, and the Mongols will have to hold on to this one because it wasn't a common Viking - or for that matter, western European - tactic.

    Light cavalry: Existed, but again there are no indicators it was used at the tactical level. Even the classic role of light cavalry, harassment and pursuing a defeated enemy, is consciously absent from Viking battles. Raiding monasteries and such, yes. Battles, no.

    Which means, that when you got right down to it, you had blocks of infantry that had to fight other blocks of infantry. We should start with what we don't see - no indicators that formations were weighted on certain flanks or centers, a tactic which demonstrably is used in Greek warfare by Thucydides time and beyond. We don't see checkerboard deployments, or deliberate lines, ala the Roman republic. We don't see wings of an army working in conjunction with a center as you might at Cannae, or moving as deliberate tactical pieces. Though there are some cases where bands hared off after other foes, there is no indication that there was command and control like you might see in Alexander's divisions.

    So, what's left? Men crashing in to men. It may not have all been Bad War (ok, I'm stealing that phrase from Pike & Shot times, but you get the idea), but basically it was lines of men going straight at it. Let's look at some battles:

    Eddington: Alfred forms a shield wall and fights all day. Possibly by charging up and over a ditch.

    Stamford Bridge: English surprise the Vikings! Slaughter! But then the vikings form a shield wall on the other side of the bridge. The English get across the bridge (after some Axeman stuff, possibly) and...form a shield wall and charge.

    York: Alright, no shield wall here. Just guys going face to face in the street, murdering each other. Still, not exactly refined tactics.

    Dyle: The Vikings build a hasty berm and anchor it's flank against a swamp. The French dismount their mounted troops, and attack head on in a mass of infantry, eventually winning.

    There may have been space for ambush and deceit, cunning march and negotiated peace, but the actual fighting tactics are definitely in the vein of "the infantry gets up and at it." As for "people before us must be dumb", not so much as Viking England was a sideshow. At the same time, scholars happily note large scale campaigns being fought with combined arms and major operational maneuvers over in the Byzantine empire.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Dienekes View Post
    Well here’s the thing. It actually worked at its intended purpose quite a few times. Alfred paid the Danegeld, to get them to go away. And they did. It was relatively rare that the payment did absolutely nothing, the only time I can think of where the Vikings ignored the agreement completely was the Great Heathen Army. Probably because that was supposed to be a conquering army and not just raids (though I’m certain there are other examples elsewhere). But usually, pay a raider to go away and they’ll likely say “yeah this money should last me a couple years. See you in three!”

    The smart kings took that time to fortify and come up with tactics to defend against them. Alfred wasn’t the first to do that. He was just the most successful. Because most others thought in terms of “make this city better fortified” or “we need more elite fighters, quick, train them!”

    Alfred was the one who realized that this wouldn’t do anything if the Vikings just maneuvered around the forts and avoided the army. So he instead created a network of reinforcing forts and a signaling system to create faster response times and a better navy to take away their advantages. And that’s why he gets called the Great while kings who were less successful in their preparations got nicknamed “the Unready” or “the Martyr.”

    minor point, but Æthelred, the king that was nicknamed "the Unready" wasn't famously caught off guard or anything: it's just a bad pun that got fomalised.

    to quote Wikipedia:

    " His epithet does not derive from the modern word "unready", but rather from the Old English unræd meaning "poorly advised"; it is a pun on his name, which means "well advised". "



    sort of like calling giving a guy called "Swift" the nickname "the Slow".


    I believe the infanty heavy armies of the Saxons and the Norse were more about making do with what you had. neither culture had the ability to produce and train large numbers of high quality warhorses, or significant numbers of archers able to use high power bows, so it was infantry only more or less by necessity.
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    O it's " Thin red line of 'eroes, " when the drums begin to roll.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Brother Oni View Post
    Armed and unarmoured combat is very different - speed and skill are emphasised. Jackie Chan has mentioned that he regards Western fencing as the best combat style for this and a major reason why he included it in his film Shanghai Knights.

    Armed and armoured combat shifts it more back the other way to unarmed, but skill is still significantly important (getting your weapon into a gap in your opponent's armour for example).
    Unarmed and armored combat is, of course, American football.

    DrewID

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    I think each effectively multiplies the other. Physical prowess allows you to apply your skill and technique with greater force and speed. Skill and technique allow you to apply your physical prowess in ways that maximize effectiveness. A combination of the two will likely be a far more efficient use of training than focusing only on one, especially when you start running into diminishing returns on time invested. There eventually comes a point where you can't realistically get any stronger or more skilled with the time and resources available.
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Quote Originally Posted by KineticDiplomat View Post
    Re: Shieldwalls and Other Arms

    It might not be "line up and shove" precisely, but the Viking era was mostly known for shieldwalls and wedges with close combat infantry, usually with other arms and tactics playing little part.
    Not true. We will see in more detail further, but first and most important point is that there is no such thing as viking era for areas that are not England. Early medieval period was dominated mostly by them there, but this was not the case in other areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by KineticDiplomat View Post

    Skirmishers: Velites, Peltasts, Spanish Caetrati...you can find accounts of skirmishers preceding the battle for lots of antiquity. They even have a few famous wins, as the Spartans found out to their discontent at Sphacteria. You see virtually no reference to Vikings using them in any numbers.
    We have very few records of any kind, less so thorough ones. We do know, however, that infantry skirmishers were heavily used in this period by the Slavs at the least.

    Quote Originally Posted by KineticDiplomat View Post
    Missile Troops: We're a long way from longbows and crossbows, to be sure, but there is also a conspicuous absence of other feared missile troops. After all, a look to antiquity would see slingers, Cretan and Illyrian archers, and other troops performing notable service on campaign and in various battles. Many middle eastern armies were bow centric. In contrast, the Vikings had some archers, but they never seem to get much mention. Towards the end of the Viking age, William the conqueror will neatly shoot arrows all day at Harold to little effect other than (possibly? probably? the debate rages) getting a one in a million shot that took Harold through the eye.
    Slavs, Magyars, Avars and Huns all made heavy use of the bow, either as skirmish weapon or as integral part of their shield wall, so did the Byzantines. Great Moravian graves have almost as many bows as spears in warrior burials.

    Quote Originally Posted by KineticDiplomat View Post
    Heavy Horse: Neither companion nor cataphract, and certainly not the continental European knight. This one is right out the window.
    Again, no. Merovingian heavy cavalry was well known. We have woodcuts of them in mail and splint armor. Magyars and Avars did have heavy horsemen too, but the issue is their scarcity here, it seems to be limited to the chieftain levels of wealth.

    Quote Originally Posted by KineticDiplomat View Post
    Horse Archers: Yes, you can fire a bow from a horse, and presumably some smart Viking figured that out. But there are no accounts of it actually being used in a major battle. The Parthians, Eastern Roman Empire, and the Mongols will have to hold on to this one because it wasn't a common Viking - or for that matter, western European - tactic.
    It was used pretty damn often in France, Italy and Spain during the Magyar raids, as well as by Huns and coutless others. Noin-nomadic cultures did also use this on occassion, trouble is you need to be nomadic to be able to do the shoot at full gallop thing, so most non-nomadic factions sued horse archers as mounted infantry.

    Quote Originally Posted by KineticDiplomat View Post
    Light cavalry: Existed, but again there are no indicators it was used at the tactical level. Even the classic role of light cavalry, harassment and pursuing a defeated enemy, is consciously absent from Viking battles. Raiding monasteries and such, yes. Battles, no.
    Again, no. Light cavalry was used extensively by pretty much everyone, if only because it was often the only cavalry they were able to afford. Slavs, Byzantines, Magyars, Huns, all of them using it for harassing and scouting.

    Quote Originally Posted by KineticDiplomat View Post
    Which means, that when you got right down to it, you had blocks of infantry that had to fight other blocks of infantry. We should start with what we don't see - no indicators that formations were weighted on certain flanks or centers, a tactic which demonstrably is used in Greek warfare by Thucydides time and beyond. We don't see checkerboard deployments, or deliberate lines, ala the Roman republic. We don't see wings of an army working in conjunction with a center as you might at Cannae, or moving as deliberate tactical pieces. Though there are some cases where bands hared off after other foes, there is no indication that there was command and control like you might see in Alexander's divisions.
    Except we do, when we have sources. Byzantine manuals give a very rigid structure of command, denote flanks and center and even mention the checkerboard pattern, although not as something to be used. The same sources also mentions ambsuhes and withdrawals of small units prior to a major battle, and so on and so forth.

    Quote Originally Posted by KineticDiplomat View Post
    So, what's left? Men crashing in to men. It may not have all been Bad War (ok, I'm stealing that phrase from Pike & Shot times, but you get the idea), but basically it was lines of men going straight at it. Let's look at some battles:
    Yes, let's.

    Lechfeld 955

    German army has at least 9 contingents, with one being explicitly the center. Hungarian horse archers flank the army and are beaten back by counter attack. The main bodies clash, withdraw and a period of many smaller skirmishes follows, during which Hungarians attempt to retreat across a river, which is stopped by German leadership barring the fords.

    Amount of Byzantines involved: zero

    Western Franks vs. Great Moravia conflicts 8.-9. century

    Armies are tentatively placed at at most 20 000 men, heavy cavalry is present and used, as well as light, there are also nomadic troops operating in their own units. We have evidence for a segmentation of army and chain of command in place, going down to groups of 100, possibly groups of 10. Light cavalry is used as scouts and harassers, and we have a lawbook that explicitly mentions reserves and camp guards as part of a battle.

    Amount of Byzantines involved: some

    Montfaucon 888

    Vikings use cavalry.

    Dover strait crossing 892

    Vikings bring horses with them by ship to England, no mention if they were used as cavalry or mounted infantry.

    Sulcoit 968

    Not only do both Irish and Vikings fight as cavalry, Irish use skirmishers (javelins and darts, so both thrown and archers) as a prelude to main bodies clashing and make use of light cavalry. Viking army is explicitly lured away into a terrain that makes making a shield wall impossible, and Irish have to use two armies in tandem to make it happen.
    That which does not kill you made a tactical error.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Greywolf View Post
    We have very few records of any kind, less so thorough ones. We do know, however, that infantry skirmishers were heavily used in this period by the Slavs at the least.
    Showing your ignorance of antiquity here; skirmishers are mentioned countless times by many of the surviving sources for battles then. Not to mention pictographic evidence.
    Last edited by Kiero; 2019-11-13 at 05:50 AM.
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Kiero View Post
    Showing your ignorance of antiquity here; skirmishers are mentioned countless times by many of the surviving sources for battles then. Not to mention pictographic evidence.
    We're talking about early medieval period. There are no Slavs in antiquity in the first place.

    Just to reinforce the point of vikings using tactics more advanced than bash shield wall vs shield wall, here's an article on viking archery: https://www.judsonroberts.com/?page_id=1149
    That which does not kill you made a tactical error.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Martin, I think we’re at a fundamental misunderstanding of intent here. The original post wanted to know about Viking tactics, not broader early medieval Europe. We all know that there are plenty of more sophisticated armies and battles going on throughout civilization at the time.

    What the OP was asking about is what’s happening out in the primitive west, specifically what are the Vikings (more specifically, the Danish and Norse) are doing in the primitive west. And that is where we see the whole shield wall pre-eminence in battles that wouldn’t register as all that large down where the big boys are playing at the time. Which ends poorly when it meets the armies of civilization (what’s the one raid into Iberia that basically meets Moorish pre-knights and ends in a stiff defeat?)

    I read the article you posted, and it leaves some questions: we already knew the Vikings used archers behind or around the shield wall (not that different from the Greeks, actually), but they are mostly accounted to be a secondary or tertiary arm to the clash of men.

    If what he says is true, and the Vikings are all shooting proto-war bows, where are the early English Agincourts and Crecy’s? Why is it that bows that should be punching yard long shafts through chain mail - strong enough to pin a mans leg to his horse - only ever seem to kill someone when they hit the unarmored face or neck? I’m not convinced that finding sunken yew bows and some accounts that there were lots of projectiles being fired in any way changes the common vision of what’s going on.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Some medieval armies, such as the Japanese and the many Muslim armies, had a custom that the best duelists fought each other before the actual battle. This tradition was not always followed.

    Medieval Mongol armies almost never accepted duels before the actual combat. They simply did not see any point in having their best fighters fight single combats against enemy combatants.

    Correct?
    Last edited by Jon_Dahl; 2019-11-14 at 12:33 PM. Reason: Removed the double negative

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    I think that the reason for the success of the Vikings was, as other have noticed, that they came by surprise. It's similar to the Saracens (who appeared in a similar era, but continued their raids until the Barbary Wars). However, it was also pointed out to me that they could assemble large armies and strike a selected target, and could then carry on for longer campaigns, like they did at the time of the Siege of Paris. I do wonder, however, if their surprising mobility thanks to inland rivers was actually the reason of their boldness: if a larger army had come out, they would have been able to get away at great speed.

    My favourite anti-viking tactic probably are the fortified bridges that were built to force them to halt their ships. Once the treasury was in trouble, however, the bridges would be left unmanned, and the Vikings would go there and destroy them and go back to raiding.

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Greywolf View Post
    Not true. We will see in more detail further, but first and most important point is that there is no such thing as viking era for areas that are not England. Early medieval period was dominated mostly by them there, but this was not the case in other areas.
    This was probably left out because of how obvious it was, but the Viking age is also part of the chronology of Scandinavia (793–1066).

    Quote Originally Posted by KineticDiplomat View Post
    There may have been space for ambush and deceit, cunning march and negotiated peace, but the actual fighting tactics are definitely in the vein of "the infantry gets up and at it." As for "people before us must be dumb", not so much as Viking England was a sideshow. At the same time, scholars happily note large scale campaigns being fought with combined arms and major operational maneuvers over in the Byzantine empire.
    The Battle of Hastings also had combined arms (the Normans had archers, infantry and cavalry); but the English, as far as I can remember, simply had a shield wall.
    Quote Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1955
    I thought Tom Bombadil dreadful — but worse still was the announcer's preliminary remarks that Goldberry was his daughter (!), and that Willowman was an ally of Mordor (!!).

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Beer View Post
    I suspect that size and strength matters most in unarmed combat, reason being it's comparatively difficult to severely injure or incapacitate a much larger human being with your bare hands. Conversely a small man can still run a large man right through with a spear, fracture their skull with a mace or shiv their lungs with a dagger. Perhaps reach becomes more an issue than raw strength.
    I'd say reach is way more important in armed combat than unarmed (since most any wound will put you out of the fight). And ........... a larger man will still more easily wield a larger weapon, thus gaining an ever greater advantage over unarmed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon_Dahl View Post
    Some medieval armies, such as the Japanese and the many Muslim armies, had a custom that the best duelists fought each other before the actual battle. This tradition was not always followed.

    Medieval Mongol armies did not almost never accept duels before the actual combat. They simply did not see any point in having their best fighters fight single combats against enemy combatants.

    Correct?
    I can't speak for the Muslims, but the Japanese had a habit of boasting or proclaiming their exploits before a battle, so that their opponents would know who they were fighting and hopefully be intimidated. No actual dueling normally occurred at this stage (that happened later in the battle proper).

    They stopped the boasting after the first Mongol invasion, since the Mongols didn't speak Japanese and just shot the lone targets that helpfully rode into bow range and stood still.

    I'll have to look up whether the Mongols accepted duels - I'm fairly sure the early ones didn't, but I can't say about the later Mongol armies, after they had started going a bit native.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vinyadan View Post
    The Battle of Hastings also had combined arms (the Normans had archers, infantry and cavalry); but the English, as far as I can remember, simply had a shield wall.
    Mostly because they had just completed a forced march of 200 miles up to Stamford Bridge to fight the Vikings then another 270 miled force march back down to Hastings to fight the Normans. They were primarily a shield wall, as conscripted infantry was all they could muster in time along the marches.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    I'd say reach is way more important in armed combat than unarmed (since most any wound will put you out of the fight). And ........... a larger man will still more easily wield a larger weapon, thus gaining an ever greater advantage over unarmed.
    Individual soldiers' reach matters a lot less than you think it does, especially on a battlefield. Your whole unit has to work together, so one tall guy can't fight to his advantage without screwing up the formation. And armor and shields help a shorter guy close distance safely. And the difference between a short guy with a spear and a tall guy with a spear becomes negligible.

    The short Romans did OK. In WWII, the short Japanese and the short Ghurkhas were the troops who were most eager to come to close combat.

    It matters more in a duel. This is why Epee fencing (the least combat like combat sport ever) is dominated by tall skinny people. The more rules you have, the better a tall, strong guy has it, since using your reach will never be against the rules, but sneaky underhanded small person stuff will be.

    I am a tiny person at 5'3", and I was an infantry Marine, a nationally rated sabre fencer and now I'm competitive in SCA rapier and cut and thrust fencing. If you are short, you learn how to fight short. I KNOW my opponent will get the opportunity to take the first shot, all I have to do is stop the first attack and "grab him by the belt buckle" and win at infighting which most tall people are terrible at. I always have to fight short, they usually can rely on being tall. It's like how a lefty is always a lefty and learned how to use that. A righty can do all the same things to a lefty, but seldom practices against an opposite handed guy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike_G View Post
    If you are short, you learn how to fight short. I KNOW my opponent will get the opportunity to take the first shot, all I have to do is stop the first attack and "grab him by the belt buckle" and win at infighting which most tall people are terrible at. I always have to fight short, they usually can rely on being tall. It's like how a lefty is always a lefty and learned how to use that. A righty can do all the same things to a lefty, but seldom practices against an opposite handed guy.
    It sounds vaguely like playing black in chess.
    Quote Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1955
    I thought Tom Bombadil dreadful — but worse still was the announcer's preliminary remarks that Goldberry was his daughter (!), and that Willowman was an ally of Mordor (!!).

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike_G View Post
    Individual soldiers' reach matters a lot less than you think it does, especially on a battlefield. Your whole unit has to work together, so one tall guy can't fight to his advantage without screwing up the formation. And armor and shields help a shorter guy close distance safely. And the difference between a short guy with a spear and a tall guy with a spear becomes negligible.

    The short Romans did OK. In WWII, the short Japanese and the short Ghurkhas were the troops who were most eager to come to close combat.

    It matters more in a duel. This is why Epee fencing (the least combat like combat sport ever) is dominated by tall skinny people. The more rules you have, the better a tall, strong guy has it, since using your reach will never be against the rules, but sneaky underhanded small person stuff will be.

    I am a tiny person at 5'3", and I was an infantry Marine, a nationally rated sabre fencer and now I'm competitive in SCA rapier and cut and thrust fencing. If you are short, you learn how to fight short. I KNOW my opponent will get the opportunity to take the first shot, all I have to do is stop the first attack and "grab him by the belt buckle" and win at infighting which most tall people are terrible at. I always have to fight short, they usually can rely on being tall. It's like how a lefty is always a lefty and learned how to use that. A righty can do all the same things to a lefty, but seldom practices against an opposite handed guy.
    That .... that's nice.

    If you have a general height advantage - or for any other reason, a reach advantage, then that beats - basically everything else. Pikes beat lances .... because they're longer.

    I'm sure there's an equation - some sort of reach+power*skill sorta thing that let's you get pretty accurate odds for personal combat. Mike Tyson isn't tall, so power and skill must have have up the difference. But that doesn't mean dagger suddenly beats sword. Massed formations of men fielded longer and longer pikes - because killing the enemy before he kills you is how you win battles.

    In the dear old shield wall + push, pushing works because it will break up the opposing line, and let you trample all over them. And it's easier to push over a smaller guy. Think of american football: There's a reason the .. what, line backers? .. are big boys.

    But in the case of the romans, superior gear, tactics, discipline and training easily beat larger enemies (I have no idea if they were larger - all I've claimed was that, at one time, vikings were about as tall as people today - or so I read).

    So it's not just the one thing. But even with my extremely limited knowledge of historical battles, it's fairly clear reach is not to be underestimated.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    That .... that's nice.

    If you have a general height advantage - or for any other reason, a reach advantage, then that beats - basically everything else. Pikes beat lances .... because they're longer.

    I'm sure there's an equation - some sort of reach+power*skill sorta thing that let's you get pretty accurate odds for personal combat. Mike Tyson isn't tall, so power and skill must have have up the difference. But that doesn't mean dagger suddenly beats sword. Massed formations of men fielded longer and longer pikes - because killing the enemy before he kills you is how you win battles.

    In the dear old shield wall + push, pushing works because it will break up the opposing line, and let you trample all over them. And it's easier to push over a smaller guy. Think of american football: There's a reason the .. what, line backers? .. are big boys.

    But in the case of the romans, superior gear, tactics, discipline and training easily beat larger enemies (I have no idea if they were larger - all I've claimed was that, at one time, vikings were about as tall as people today - or so I read).

    So it's not just the one thing. But even with my extremely limited knowledge of historical battles, it's fairly clear reach is not to be underestimated.
    I'm 6'4" and I wouldn't last 10 seconds with the little leatherneck up thread, regardless of a 13" (assumed) reach advantage. At least with swords. Now give me a pike and him a spear and I'll take a shot. Reach matters when it is significant, not when its minimal, paired with training inequalities, made irrelevant with tactics, or otherwise negated.

    BTW re Am football: you mean linemen. Line backers are rarely my size.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    That .... that's nice.

    If you have a general height advantage - or for any other reason, a reach advantage, then that beats - basically everything else. Pikes beat lances .... because they're longer.

    I'm sure there's an equation - some sort of reach+power*skill sorta thing that let's you get pretty accurate odds for personal combat. Mike Tyson isn't tall, so power and skill must have have up the difference. But that doesn't mean dagger suddenly beats sword. Massed formations of men fielded longer and longer pikes - because killing the enemy before he kills you is how you win battles.

    In the dear old shield wall + push, pushing works because it will break up the opposing line, and let you trample all over them. And it's easier to push over a smaller guy. Think of american football: There's a reason the .. what, line backers? .. are big boys.

    But in the case of the romans, superior gear, tactics, discipline and training easily beat larger enemies (I have no idea if they were larger - all I've claimed was that, at one time, vikings were about as tall as people today - or so I read).

    So it's not just the one thing. But even with my extremely limited knowledge of historical battles, it's fairly clear reach is not to be underestimated.
    "Reach wins" with respect to taller soldiers is not "sword beats dagger."

    If the taller soldiers were three times as tall, then, yes, that would be a useful analogy. If the solider is 10-15% taller, I don't think it's a significant factor on a battlefield.

    Yes, a 12 foot pike will have an advantage over an 8 foot spear, but, again, that's a huge difference. I don't see any historical evidence of shorter soldiers fielding shorter weapons as a matter of doctrine, like Swedish pikes being longer than Spanish pikes because Swedes are taller or anything like that. The average French soldier in the Napoleonic era was shorter than the average British soldier, but French cavalry swords are longer. The Japanese carried the longest rifle and bayonet in WWII. Italians tended to be shorter than Germans, but Italian swords in the Renaissance are not markedly shorter than German ones.

    I've agreed that reach matters a lot more with duels and formalized combat. You keep bringing up boxing. Reach matters a lot in boxing because the rules expressly forbid slipping past the first blow and taking your enemy to the ground. Of course a guy with an additional foot of reach will have an advantage in a game of punching. If you allow the short stocky guy with a low center of gravity rush him, then the game changes a lot.

    I've done a lot of practical fighting, with different levels of seriousness, and while reach is never going to be a disadvantage per se, it's something I'd give up for more skill or more aggression or better gear. I've never had a reach advantage, and it's not something I've really missed.

    Formalized sparring favors reach to such an extent that people really give it much more credit than it deserves. Again, I'm talking about the human factor in reach, not the spear versus sword factor in reach, because anything maters when it's an order of magnitude different.
    Last edited by Mike_G; 2019-11-14 at 02:21 PM.
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    I think what it comes down to is... Different factors have different impacts on different situations and skills...

    And fighting in formation is very different from dueling. Put five amazing duelists together against 5 good-but-not-incredible skirmishers, and I'd still put my money on the skirmishers... Because they know what factors matter more for that situation and know how to better leverage them.

    Personal reach is really important in single unarmed combat, but matters less in armed combat where a large percentage of the warrior's reach come from their weapons (so a 20% reach advantage becomes a 10% advantage, for example --- BTW, I'm just throwing random numbers to illustrate my point). And it matters even less in skirmishes, where there many other factors to consider (and also individual anything will matter less the more people you add to the equation).

    I'm 6'4" in a region where the average male height is around 5'8". When I practiced Muay Thai, this gave a huge advantage, simply because I could get the first hit... And if I missed, it's not that much of a problem in unarmed combat, since rarely will a single small mistake cost life or limb. And of course, while I can't exactly keep the opponent out (since he can probably "tank" a hit or two to close the distance), it still made it harder for my opponents to use certain strikes. I actually had to specifically pick opponents of similar height so that I wouldn't become to reliant on my reach advantage.

    All of that would change completely if the fights involved daggers... Nevermind swords and spears.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kaptin Keen View Post
    I'm sure there's an equation - some sort of reach+power*skill sorta thing that let's you get pretty accurate odds for personal combat. Mike Tyson isn't tall, so power and skill must have have up the difference.

    [...]

    But in the case of the romans, superior gear, tactics, discipline and training easily beat larger enemies (I have no idea if they were larger - all I've claimed was that, at one time, vikings were about as tall as people today - or so I read).

    So it's not just the one thing. But even with my extremely limited knowledge of historical battles, it's fairly clear reach is not to be underestimated.
    You can watch the Tyson vs Buster Douglas fight to see a time when Tyson couldn't handle an opponent with longer reach. No one was expecting that, and there probably were strong psychological factors influencing the result (Buster's mother had died a couple of weeks earlier), as well as problems with Tyson's general preparation, since he had fired his trainer, who, watching him fight, thought that even his hydration levels were wrong.

    Concerning the Romans, there actually was a description of a fight that saw the Romans as advantaged against the Germans because they were smaller and had huge shields, so they were very well covered, while the Germans were huge and made for better targets. Here is something similar by Tacitus (he's talking about a battlefield enclosed by mountains and mires, so that there wasn't any room for retreat):

    In hardihood the Germans held their own; but they were handicapped by the nature of the struggle and the weapons. Their extraordinary numbers — unable in the restricted space to extend or recover their tremendous lances, or to make use of their rushing tactics and nimbleness of body — were compelled to a standing fight; while our own men, shields tight to the breast and hand on hilt, kept thrusting at the barbarians' great limbs and bare heads and opening a bloody passage through their antagonists
    It's worth saying, however, that the Romans had an advantage in nutrition that they acquired early on when they gained control of the the Campus Salinarum near the end of the Tiber, from which they could always have as much salt as they needed. While it may not have made them taller, it did give them more strength and resilience.
    Quote Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1955
    I thought Tom Bombadil dreadful — but worse still was the announcer's preliminary remarks that Goldberry was his daughter (!), and that Willowman was an ally of Mordor (!!).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vinyadan View Post
    You can watch the Tyson vs Buster Douglas fight to see a time when Tyson couldn't handle an opponent with longer reach. No one was expecting that, and there probably were strong psychological factors influencing the result (Buster's mother had died a couple of weeks earlier), as well as problems with Tyson's general preparation, since he had fired his trainer, who, watching him fight, thought that even his hydration levels were wrong.

    Concerning the Romans, there actually was a description of a fight that saw the Romans as advantaged against the Germans because they were smaller and had huge shields, so they were very well covered, while the Germans were huge and made for better targets. Here is something similar by Tacitus (he's talking about a battlefield enclosed by mountains and mires, so that there wasn't any room for retreat):

    It's worth saying, however, that the Romans had an advantage in nutrition that they acquired early on when they gained control of the the Campus Salinarum near the end of the Tiber, from which they could always have as much salt as they needed. While it may not have made them taller, it did give them more strength and resilience.
    What I've said is that it's a factor. Obviously, it's not the only one. I tried to make a little equation joke (power+reach*skill or some such) - but even if you had all the factors down, there's also sheer, blind luck, as well as numerous other factors: Reaction speed, physical readiness (including hydration, like you mention), and random stuff like how good is your eyesight, your balance, how high is your blood sugar ... everything counts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike_G View Post
    "Reach wins" with respect to taller soldiers is not "sword beats dagger."

    If the taller soldiers were three times as tall, then, yes, that would be a useful analogy. If the solider is 10-15% taller, I don't think it's a significant factor on a battlefield.

    Yes, a 12 foot pike will have an advantage over an 8 foot spear, but, again, that's a huge difference. I don't see any historical evidence of shorter soldiers fielding shorter weapons as a matter of doctrine, like Swedish pikes being longer than Spanish pikes because Swedes are taller or anything like that. The average French soldier in the Napoleonic era was shorter than the average British soldier, but French cavalry swords are longer. The Japanese carried the longest rifle and bayonet in WWII. Italians tended to be shorter than Germans, but Italian swords in the Renaissance are not markedly shorter than German ones.

    I've agreed that reach matters a lot more with duels and formalized combat. You keep bringing up boxing. Reach matters a lot in boxing because the rules expressly forbid slipping past the first blow and taking your enemy to the ground. Of course a guy with an additional foot of reach will have an advantage in a game of punching. If you allow the short stocky guy with a low center of gravity rush him, then the game changes a lot.

    I've done a lot of practical fighting, with different levels of seriousness, and while reach is never going to be a disadvantage per se, it's something I'd give up for more skill or more aggression or better gear. I've never had a reach advantage, and it's not something I've really missed.

    Formalized sparring favors reach to such an extent that people really give it much more credit than it deserves. Again, I'm talking about the human factor in reach, not the spear versus sword factor in reach, because anything maters when it's an order of magnitude different.
    I never said ... most of that. And I'm sorry, but I refuse to get into a discussion of things ... I did not say. I never said dagger beats sword, I never said height was the only - or even the most significant - factor. What I did was give a few reasonably simple examples, which you chose to ignore in favor of things I did not say.

    Sorry. Not playing that game.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KineticDiplomat View Post
    Re: Shieldwalls and Other Arms
    Dyle: The Vikings build a hasty berm and anchor it's flank against a swamp. The French dismount their mounted troops, and attack head on in a mass of infantry, eventually winning.
    Franks, not French. There's a difference (the Franks are Germanic, and gave rise to what would become the Dutch and Flemish, though they gave their name to France as the ruling elite there were originally Frankish).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Corneel View Post
    Franks, not French. There's a difference (the Franks are Germanic, and gave rise to what would become the Dutch and Flemish, though they gave their name to France as the ruling elite there were originally Frankish).
    It surely is an interesting theme. You are right calling them Franks, and they definitely weren't French, since they were from East Francia; I personally would have been tempted to call them Germans, because the battle took place in 891, so after the Oaths of Strasbourg. The Oaths of Strasbourg (842) were agreements between the Charles the Bald, king of West Francia, and Louis the German, king of East Francia. The men of Charles swore in a Romance language, while the men of Louis swore in a Germanic language, so I see it as something of a watershed, although the passage from W/E Francia to France and Germany was nowhere near that immediate.
    Quote Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1955
    I thought Tom Bombadil dreadful — but worse still was the announcer's preliminary remarks that Goldberry was his daughter (!), and that Willowman was an ally of Mordor (!!).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Greywolf View Post
    Not true. We will see in more detail further, but first and most important point is that there is no such thing as viking era for areas that are not England. Early medieval period was dominated mostly by them there, but this was not the case in other areas.
    Except we do, when we have sources. Byzantine manuals give a very rigid structure of command, denote flanks and center and even mention the checkerboard pattern, although not as something to be used. The same sources also mentions ambsuhes and withdrawals of small units prior to a major battle, and so on and so forth.
    And then the Byzatine's used Anglo Saxons to restock their Viking (Varangian) Guard.
    (The Russians were also significantly viking affected, and the med (t)ra(i)ded. So they must have had some virtues, even if it were use of boats.

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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    OK - I am a little late to the discussion (due to field work during weekdays), but wanted to give my opinion on several matters. I will not reference every point or post, but try to cover as much as possible

    Vikings and tactics

    I can see that some still argue for "shield and push"-tactics being dominant. I see for instance KineticDiplomat comparing to antiquity (for instance the use of skirmishers).

    One problem is the that many of early medieval/viking era battles have no real description, mostly something like "two armies met on this date and this place and X defeated Y". This does no give any information on the use of troops. Sometimes you have a few notes applied "they fought long and hard" or "the battle ended when King of X broke the line of Y". If you only had similar very short accounts from the Roman-period, then you would have reached similar conclusions. So one problem is that we don't get descriptions of the battles, this we just see the end result (one army beats the other one)-

    But let us examine the evidence. I separate between archaeological and historical sources
    Archaeology:
    We see stirrups in weapon graves from at least 800 AD (signs of cavalry or at least mounted infantry).

    (semi strong) Bows had been a common feature in the army since the 200-400 AD weapon sacrifices I and we see "war" arrows in warrior graves from the viking era. Thus bows were "normal", and part of the army.

    Javelins/throwing spears: again from around 200AD specialist "jevelins" appear in Scandinavian armies, along with larger "spear/lance" points. So we have both "skirmish" weapons and "line" spears.

    We see large manoeuvrable shields, that can, yes be used "shield walls", but also as a skirmishers defence or used in other situations.

    Thus from the archaeological sources there is nothing that point to a "one trick tactic" use.

    Historical sources
    As mentioned the contemporary sources are scant. But if we look at what we have of Frankish and English sources, and combine them with sligtly later fuller accounts (Dudos Norman chronicle, Icelandic sagas etc) we cant say that the period only had " line up and fight" tactics.

    The Frankish sources mentioned that the Vikings often built fortified camps (dikes and/or palisades). This showing that deciding when and how to fight was important. Dudo (writing what was still the Viking era around 1000 AD, though he is partial to Rollo and thus not a neutral sources) describes several tactics employed; such as a feint retreat into a dike encircled fortress, luring the Frankish army into the camp and then closing them of in a trap, also pinching manoeuvres are described.

    I fact many sources mentions "fake flight" tactics. The army fakes flight in order to get the enemy to follow (in effect trying to lure them of high grounds), and the when the pursuers have broken formation, turn around as attack them. This is of course a dangerous tactic, and requires that the soldiers troops trust their commanders, and that they are trained to fight and that there are various sub-commanders that can coordinate such a thing. But is very effective against less skilled armies.

    As others have mentioned they did manage to siege Paris (several times, both in 845 and in 885-85 it was very large scale organisation work, requiring some skill). So sieges was also something they did.

    Sagas descriptions of battle: while there is an emphasis on close combat fighting (seen in many cultures as we follow the "elite" fighting in close combat), we can see that there are many examples of skirmish tactics leading up to the final battle, such as ambushes etc. This is not much different from when you read Roman or Greeks sources: there is an emphasis on the "final battle", but this battle often first comes around after manoeuvring and many smaller skirmishes, and when one party is pressed to to do the battle (or is confident they will win).

    There are is an example where htere have been a long day battle, and one of the kings reorganises his troops with all the archers in one part. He then uses the archers as a way of covering an attack, breaking the enemy. Thus use of "concentrated fire" to cover a assault.

    Earlier sources
    Here I shortly want to address earlier (ancient) sources. This is not directly relevant, but must be considered when discussing "barbarian" tactics of the north. I think Vinyadan already mentioned some sources (Tacitus). While we have examples of Roman sources point to a a tactic consisting of just attacking straight up, we also have other examples.

    First up: attacking hard IS a tactics used, and definitely one used, by both Celtic and Germanic tribes and later Vikings. Some Roman authors also point to the fact that these are very hard to stand against, but some (like Tacitus and others) point to not only the Roman equipment bu also that it tires the attackers. So if that if you can survive the first encounter, highly drilled soldiers can brush it of. Think cavalry charges without horses. One reason why it might have worked very well against West-European armies of the early medieval is that large parts of the army wasn't professional like the Roman army was.

    But secondly think of Teutoburger forest battle. Varus lost three legions, partly because he believed the barbarians could do tactics. Also Teutoburger forest might also qualify if discussing multi day battles in pre modern warfare, the battle seem to have been a series of ambushes over three days. Setting up an army of thousands of men for several ambushes, strong enough to almost completely destroy three Roman legions does not seem a feat you can do if all your men only knows how to form a single line and fight it out.

    Conclusions
    Viking era combat is more complex than it seem if you read very short entries in historical annals. Vikings fought naval battles, they erected fortified camps when moving around, they did sieges, skirmishes, pinching manoeuvres, applied various fake retreats, manoeuvred around in battles, and used concentrated archery to op enemy formations.

    True, like the Romans, the core was foot troops, bot use of javelin throwers, archers and horsemen was also applied. And like the Romans did, using your infantry in multiple roles was also important (pilum attacks followed by close combat with sword and shield).

    Size of soldiers
    While 'big' isn't always better, many armies in history have have height requirements of their elite soldiers, thus we must assume it DID have an importance.
    -Strength is one of them. While strong being hit doesn't save your from wounds or give you more "hit points" it offer you more strength to hit the opponent, using big shields and big weapons. Maybe its only a 5% improvement, but everything counts
    -Reach is one of them. While I think Mike_G is right that it is more important in one-on-one. But in battles there might arise many situations where your are one-on-one or where extra react let you attack the guy to your right (or left). Again, mayne its just the little things
    -Fear. Seeing a group of enemies larger than yourself is scary! Even in LARPS (where people don't die for real) it has an effect. I would imagine that it also do en real battles! It is also a thing the Romans note. If your army is really disciplined (like Romans legions) it might matter less. But otherwise, yes a huge advantage.

    Now size have its costs as well. Large people consume more energy to move around, thus you need more food transported for each soldier. And then you need more transport animal, and then the draft animals need more food etc. But of course of you travel by ship the weight increase is unimportant, and anyway you can transport goods easier.

    It is also noticeable that both Romans and later franks etc in the medieval period made notice of the size of the "northmen". They definitely thought it mattered, and while they might not always be correct we must assume they knew more than us of how it was to fight them.

    A last little thing:
    It's worth saying, however, that the Romans had an advantage in nutrition that they acquired early on when they gained control of the the Campus Salinarum near the end of the Tiber, from which they could always have as much salt as they needed. While it may not have made them taller, it did give them more strength and resilience.
    I highly doubt this. There are plenty of central Eurpeopean slat sources for the celts, and in Scandinavia - if you eats plenty of seafood (oysters, fish etc) and meat, then salt is NOT a concerns in terms of nutrition (though it might be for conserving your food).
    One important note on nutrition I dont think have been brought up enough: Milk. It is a steady source of protein AND it gives lots of calcium (for bones), and fatty so you get lots of energy. Milk drinking populations tend to be taller than their neighbours (not universally, but generally).
    Last edited by Tobtor; 2019-11-16 at 08:47 AM.

  30. - Top - End - #600
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    Default Re: Got a Real-World Weapon, Armour or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobtor View Post
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    OK - I am a little late to the discussion (due to field work during weekdays), but wanted to give my opinion on several matters. I will not reference every point or post, but try to cover as much as possible

    Vikings and tactics

    I can see that some still argue for "shield and push"-tactics being dominant. I see for instance KineticDiplomat comparing to antiquity (for instance the use of skirmishers).

    One problem is the that many of early medieval/viking era battles have no real description, mostly something like "two armies met on this date and this place and X defeated Y". This does no give any information on the use of troops. Sometimes you have a few notes applied "they fought long and hard" or "the battle ended when King of X broke the line of Y". If you only had similar very short accounts from the Roman-period, then you would have reached similar conclusions. So one problem is that we don't get descriptions of the battles, this we just see the end result (one army beats the other one)-

    But let us examine the evidence. I separate between archaeological and historical sources
    Archaeology:
    We see stirrups in weapon graves from at least 800 AD (signs of cavalry or at least mounted infantry).

    (semi strong) Bows had been a common feature in the army since the 200-400 AD weapon sacrifices I and we see "war" arrows in warrior graves from the viking era. Thus bows were "normal", and part of the army.

    Javelins/throwing spears: again from around 200AD specialist "jevelins" appear in Scandinavian armies, along with larger "spear/lance" points. So we have both "skirmish" weapons and "line" spears.

    We see large manoeuvrable shields, that can, yes be used "shield walls", but also as a skirmishers defence or used in other situations.

    Thus from the archaeological sources there is nothing that point to a "one trick tactic" use.

    Historical sources
    As mentioned the contemporary sources are scant. But if we look at what we have of Frankish and English sources, and combine them with sligtly later fuller accounts (Dudos Norman chronicle, Icelandic sagas etc) we cant say that the period only had " line up and fight" tactics.

    The Frankish sources mentioned that the Vikings often built fortified camps (dikes and/or palisades). This showing that deciding when and how to fight was important. Dudo (writing what was still the Viking era around 1000 AD, though he is partial to Rollo and thus not a neutral sources) describes several tactics employed; such as a feint retreat into a dike encircled fortress, luring the Frankish army into the camp and then closing them of in a trap, also pinching manoeuvres are described.

    I fact many sources mentions "fake flight" tactics. The army fakes flight in order to get the enemy to follow (in effect trying to lure them of high grounds), and the when the pursuers have broken formation, turn around as attack them. This is of course a dangerous tactic, and requires that the soldiers troops trust their commanders, and that they are trained to fight and that there are various sub-commanders that can coordinate such a thing. But is very effective against less skilled armies.

    As others have mentioned they did manage to siege Paris (several times, both in 845 and in 885-85 it was very large scale organisation work, requiring some skill). So sieges was also something they did.

    Sagas descriptions of battle: while there is an emphasis on close combat fighting (seen in many cultures as we follow the "elite" fighting in close combat), we can see that there are many examples of skirmish tactics leading up to the final battle, such as ambushes etc. This is not much different from when you read Roman or Greeks sources: there is an emphasis on the "final battle", but this battle often first comes around after manoeuvring and many smaller skirmishes, and when one party is pressed to to do the battle (or is confident they will win).

    There are is an example where htere have been a long day battle, and one of the kings reorganises his troops with all the archers in one part. He then uses the archers as a way of covering an attack, breaking the enemy. Thus use of "concentrated fire" to cover a assault.

    Earlier sources
    Here I shortly want to address earlier (ancient) sources. This is not directly relevant, but must be considered when discussing "barbarian" tactics of the north. I think Vinyadan already mentioned some sources (Tacitus). While we have examples of Roman sources point to a a tactic consisting of just attacking straight up, we also have other examples.

    First up: attacking hard IS a tactics used, and definitely one used, by both Celtic and Germanic tribes and later Vikings. Some Roman authors also point to the fact that these are very hard to stand against, but some (like Tacitus and others) point to not only the Roman equipment bu also that it tires the attackers. So if that if you can survive the first encounter, highly drilled soldiers can brush it of. Think cavalry charges without horses. One reason why it might have worked very well against West-European armies of the early medieval is that large parts of the army wasn't professional like the Roman army was.

    But secondly think of Teutoburger forest battle. Varus lost three legions, partly because he believed the barbarians could do tactics. Also Teutoburger forest might also qualify if discussing multi day battles in pre modern warfare, the battle seem to have been a series of ambushes over three days. Setting up an army of thousands of men for several ambushes, strong enough to almost completely destroy three Roman legions does not seem a feat you can do if all your men only knows how to form a single line and fight it out.

    Conclusions
    Viking era combat is more complex than it seem if you read very short entries in historical annals. Vikings fought naval battles, they erected fortified camps when moving around, they did sieges, skirmishes, pinching manoeuvres, applied various fake retreats, manoeuvred around in battles, and used concentrated archery to op enemy formations.

    True, like the Romans, the core was foot troops, bot use of javelin throwers, archers and horsemen was also applied. And like the Romans did, using your infantry in multiple roles was also important (pilum attacks followed by close combat with sword and shield).

    Size of soldiers
    While 'big' isn't always better, many armies in history have have height requirements of their elite soldiers, thus we must assume it DID have an importance.
    -Strength is one of them. While strong being hit doesn't save your from wounds or give you more "hit points" it offer you more strength to hit the opponent, using big shields and big weapons. Maybe its only a 5% improvement, but everything counts
    -Reach is one of them. While I think Mike_G is right that it is more important in one-on-one. But in battles there might arise many situations where your are one-on-one or where extra react let you attack the guy to your right (or left). Again, mayne its just the little things
    -Fear. Seeing a group of enemies larger than yourself is scary! Even in LARPS (where people don't die for real) it has an effect. I would imagine that it also do en real battles! It is also a thing the Romans note. If your army is really disciplined (like Romans legions) it might matter less. But otherwise, yes a huge advantage.

    Now size have its costs as well. Large people consume more energy to move around, thus you need more food transported for each soldier. And then you need more transport animal, and then the draft animals need more food etc. But of course of you travel by ship the weight increase is unimportant, and anyway you can transport goods easier.

    It is also noticeable that both Romans and later franks etc in the medieval period made notice of the size of the "northmen". They definitely thought it mattered, and while they might not always be correct we must assume they knew more than us of how it was to fight them.

    A last little thing:


    I highly doubt this. There are plenty of central Eurpeopean slat sources for the celts, and in Scandinavia - if you eats plenty of seafood (oysters, fish etc) and meat, then salt is NOT a concerns in terms of nutrition (though it might be for conserving your food).
    One important note on nutrition I dont think have been brought up enough: Milk. It is a steady source of protein AND it gives lots of calcium (for bones), and fatty so you get lots of energy. Milk drinking populations tend to be taller than their neighbours (not universally, but generally).
    You bring up a lot of good points here.

    For the height thing, it might not matter much if you're one big guy alongside a bunch of smaller guys, but if you're forming a shield wall that's notably taller than average that might have more effect. Also a possibility is that tall people generally have a longer stride length. While other factors can kinda wash this out for running, a regular march is almost certainly going to be faster if the people involved are all tall (unless they have proportionally shorter legs). Not sure if it's enough to matter, but it's something.
    The stars are calling, but let's come up with a good opening line before we answer

    And here's a rat for the road ~(,,_`;;'>


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