This is the first in a series of recent requests. I'm a little rusty, so this on isn't quite up to the typical standard. I'll try to do better next time, which will be soon-ish*. Part 2 of this topic is now posted.
In previous posts, I've discussed the various roles a fighter could take on the field and a little bit about how different roles can interact. Today I'd like to take a look at how different weapons and fighting styles fit in to the mix and the roles they serve on the battlefield. In a future post, I'll be looking at how these different weapons and fighting styles can be used in conjunction to maximum effect.
Arrows and Javelins
Missile weapons can rack up a large kill tally, but their primary role in a fight is to take down key targets. This often means targeting enemy support weapons, skilled archers, or even great shieldmen that are making an impact on the fight. A few well placed shots can have a dramatic effect on the line. All of a sudden, one side might have a significant advantage in polearms on one flank and be able to gain a major breakthrough. Even taking an arm or leg of a support weapon will generally sway the fight against them.
When missiles don't have a good line on hitting a target, they can still offer a significant threat from a distance to limit that fighter's options for position and strikes. By having an arrow nocked or a javelin pointed, it will usually cause the other team to cover up and slow their offense for a little bit. As with other support weapons, the goal is to have an impact on the fight, either through kills, wounds, or threat.
"Min Reds" are roughly the smallest possible size to be considered a red weapon (minimum 24 oz, 48" long in Belegarth). In an intense, packed line fight, we often see them sort of trumped by 8'+ polearms. However, they do still fit into a very useful niche as a very fast, anti-armor weapon. While they can break shields, their low weight and short range make it much harder to land a solid, shield-breaking hit. They are best used on a thick line as an arm sniping weapon. See an arm, hit the arm. This lets the user stay relatively safe near a shieldman, while still out ranging enemy shieldmen as they swing. When the lines are thinner, they are good when working in pairs with any other style. This reduced the danger of a rush and allows the user to utilize that bit of extra range to help their teammate.
Rather than fighting in a more fixed position on the front of the line, min red users are better suited to in/out, hit/run tactics. By only advancing into range when they have a solid opportunity to take a limb or get a kill, they can mitigate much of the risk against polearms and missile weapons. Important to note here, however, is that extremely dense lines make getting in and getting out of the fight much more difficult--there just isn't enough room to get between teammates.
Another useful way to deploy weapons of similar length and weight is as a one-handed weapon with a shield. Too slow and awkward for most one-on-one fights, the combination gives the user a great deal of reach over the typical shieldman. When the line is dense, this advantage is further improved by reducing the enemy's ability to advance into their range. This creates the ideal scenario in the range game, where you can strike at an opponent that can't reach you back (with the exception of support weapons).
All sorts of hate is always directed at flails, but they are an extremely effective tool--especially when combined with various support weapons. Many fighters haven't learned how to effectively defend against flails one-on-one, let alone when faced with other threats. On a heavily packed line, they excel at either exploiting or causing shields to be out of position. As fighters lower their guards against spears, the flail makes quick kills targeting the shield side shoulder. As people raise their guards to counter the flail, spears can more easily target the sword-side hip.
The other sort of key area for flails is in situations like flanks or gaps where the enemy isn't already prepared for fighting against them. The typical fighter, when flanked or rushed, will default to the normal guards and blocks. Flails require a slightly different approach to blocking and can catch fighters off guard, all while having their natural advantages. That's part of why we often see them used by flankers and shock troops. However, flails are shorter ranged than support weapons and max length one handed swords.
Florentine, flo, two stick, dual wielding, whatever you would like to call it, often gets left out of line fighting. The advantage in defense of a shield or range in a polearm makes two sword a less obvious choice of weapon. Two swords can deal out a lot of damage in a short span of time with proper practice, position, and timing. The key to using them in a line battle is to pick your moment to go in. Vision gaps, staggered gaps, breakthroughs, or anywhere light on support weapons are great places to go. The extra weapon allows you to apply significant pressure to a single target as well as a fair range of blocking (like a very tiny punch shield).
As a skirmisher, two stick can be very effective at winning a series of one-on-one fights. Generally, they are good at taking down stray enemy fighters that can be singled out. This includes shock troopers and flankers that have successfully broken through to the backfield.
Two stick really shines, though, when it can flank the enemy. The ability to strike many targets quickly and efficiently can wreck a line that is facing the other way. Even though they will have little defense against archers hanging out in the backfield, the two stick fighter can have a huge impact before they are shot.
Polearms are really the main offensive tool of the line (at the initial phases of battle) and the primary defense against enemy polearms. While ranged weapons get some kills, polearms have a much higher attack rate and often a better angle of attack. Add in the occasional glaive to break shields, and it is easy to see the damage they can inflict. Besides directly killing targets, they are one of the best tools for pushing an enemy line back. Most groups of fighters will back up to stay just outside of the range of a polearm, or advance to that point if the polearms back off.
The initial target of most polearms is other polearms. However, weakening the shieldman around those polearms is an equally important job. Taking a shieldman's leg reduces his ability to block missile weapons or to cut off the line of attack against polearms. This makes it easier to take out the enemy polearm. Event threatening those shieldmen will leave openings for friendly fighters to exploit, just like flails and missile weapons.
On defense, polearms play the role of disrupting the enemy. Pushing spears off target, blocking off lines of attack, or threatening legs to slow an advance. Their job here is to suppress the area and make their presence felt, even if they aren't getting kills or wounds. This is similar to missile weapons being a threat, but requires the polearm to attack very quickly against many targets, while trying to fend off enemy polearms.
As I've mentioned in a previous post, armor shouldn't be exclusively used as a "whoops, I didn't block that" crutch, but as a tool. You will get surprised, get back hacked, or miss a block, and the armor will sometimes catch it, cool. When armor really comes into play is when a fighter can intentionally go into a high-risk situation (like rushing a spear through a couple of shieldmen) and come out intact and swinging. While it is possible to do so without armor, those extra hits give a few extra options to someone like a shock trooper or flanker to exploit and gives them a much higher chance of success.
The other role of armor is helping manage range against polearms. Because armor mitigates single-handed stabs, polearms have to approach a bit closer to land a solid two-handed strike accurately. The advantage gained for your team is that your own support weapons can now more easily target the enemy polearms. This extra protection against one-handed stabs also can prove crucial when defending a friendly polearm because the enemy will be stabbing at or near your frequently.
Sword and board
I saved this for last because it is the most common style on the line. Shieldmen serve many roles. Their sort of primary role is forming a strong line for support weapons to support. This means maneuvering to cut off gaps, to block missile sight lines, and to keep a solid formation. A number of shieldmen must be dedicated to direct defense of support weapons.
While those defensive roles are paramount to a successful line, shields also allow offense that is more unique than other styles. The ability to rush and survive (just like armor) can have a huge impact on a fight. The shield cuts off many angles that a line fighter would use to counter a rusher, especially when in the hands of a skilled fighter. In essence, it allows the fighter to almost ignore counters from one side while using their sword to tie up fighters on the other. While a great fighter with two swords could accomplish this, it isn't particularly easy with a shield, let alone without one.
This passive defense is ideally suited for shock troopers and flankers as they maneuver through gaps or in close proximity to the enemy line without support. The typical flanker uses a decently sized, lightweight punch shield that allows them to block off a variety of angles as they engage the line and are surrounded by threats. In contrast, shock troopers tend to prefer a strap shield better geared for bashing and punching. This is because they will more often be pushing through a line, rather than being between the enemy line and their archers/reserves.