I can never stress the importance of communication enough. The support user should be directing you to move up or shift as needed to cover where they plan to strike or if they are switching sides. You need to call out threats and targets so they can react to the broader situation, rather than focusing too much on one area. Because the support weapon will be doing most of the offense, it is your job to watch for dangers like fighting into a kill pocket or staggered gap and communicating the danger to your support.
The first targets to watch out for are archers and javelins. Your support should be trying to keep you between them and most of the missiles, but you still need to watch them and block any that come into range of your shield. Even if you aren't sure the arrow would hit your support, still try to get the block to be safe. During most of the fight, try to keep your eyes on the archers and use your peripheral vision to keep watch the line. Many archers look at their target before even putting nock to string. Use this fact to your advantage as you scan back and forth across the line.
|Notice I'm watching for arrows as my support is looking for targets in front of me. The bulk of the fighting is to the right of frame, leaving the glaive well protected from archers.|
Original Photo by: Steve Lies.
Polearms, if not already engaged at the start of the fight, will often be attacking from the sides. You may well be their first target if they catch you off guard. That is why it is essential to keep watch of your surroundings. Either of you should call out incoming polearms as soon as you spot them. Use your sword to deflect stabs or put your shield in the way. You support will also be trying to keep the enemy off line to reduce the chances of either of you getting hit. If you have armor, keep it angled as best you can to cut off easy kills. This will draw the enemy closer to use a two handed stab or strike, opening them up to your support.
Once the enemy support weapons are dealt with, the enemy will be forced to either withdraw or act. The most common response is to back up to form a kill pocket, but often times a single person will rush in to try disabling the support weapon. Their rush is directed at the support, not you. If you can, side step into the rush to cut off the approach and shield check them, which buys your support time to back up. If they manage to get past you, swing as they pass. If you can take out their weapon arm or kill them, your support should be safe. The person next to you in line should also have a free swing or two in order to ensure the rusher dies.
|The one in the middle is doing what he should do, keeping himself in the way of the rusher.|
Original Photo By: Ellie Apland
Although much of what I have listed above is purely defensive, you do gain a few offensive options. Spears, in particular, often cause the enemy to lower their guard to protect against low stabs. This leaves shots towards shield side shoulders wide open, especially if you have a longer sword. Don't be afraid to take these opportunities if you can do so safely. Even if they raise their guard to block, you are reopening the low side for your support. When you aren't the one directly guarding the support, you can try to swing in such a way as to pull the enemy defenses your way and open for the support.
As long as you and your support communicate and work off of each other, you will find far more success. It doesn't matter which person is getting the kills, as long as the enemy is being cut down. I'll probably write about how to be a good support in a future post, but the core principles of communication and teamwork are the same as I've discussed here.