Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Weapon Roles, Part 2

Last time I talked about weapon roles and different ways to get the most out of different fighting styles on their own.  Today's post is all about how those different styles interact and build off of one another. Rather than going through every style combination one by one, I've decided to focus on the basics of what makes individual styles work together, with a few examples in the form of some likely pairs.

Range Control

One of the primary reasons to work together with different styles is range. Every style has a weakness in this category.  Archers and polearms can't do much at close range, shieldmen and two stick fighters lack range to deal with polearms, and min reds have a mix of both problems.  By combining different styles, with different weaknesses in range, a pair can overcome this problem.  Possibly the most common pairing that demonstrates this is a polearm and a shield man.  The polearm is weak at close range, but the shieldman can fight perfectly fine at that range.  Meanwhile, the polearm can help against targets that out-range the shieldman.

This crudely photoshopped image demonstrates the overlapping range presented by a shieldman/polearm team. Note the danger to any target that would stand in the glaive's two handed range. 
The overall effect of this combination of ranges means the an enemy shieldman doesn't have an obvious range to prefer.  Staying at the outer bounds of the shieldman's range means the enemy can't easily attack.  They also can't close on the polearm without being in range of the shieldman's attack.  Better yet, the team also creates a range that is extremely advantageous for them.  In the zone where their ranges overlap, they can both work against the same target.  In the sample above, that means the glaive can be dishing out two-handed strikes while his shieldman is able to swing effectively at the target.

While shieldmen and dual wielders might seem to be the only styles to fit into this close range defense, other styles can also accomplish this task.  Take, for example, a pair of polearms.  Both polearms may suffer at short/close range, but by maneuvering themselves in such a way that their more preferred ranges overlap with each other's weaknesses, they can effectively negate much of this weakness.  One example might be in a formation similar to a phalanx.  The front spear has the longest range and engages targets first.  Behind him, a second spear engages anyone that is able to close on the first spear. Anyone lingering too long in medium range would be fully engaged by both.  This same pair might also exist on a line, spaced out so they can engage against anyone rushing the other while still both engaged against the enemy line.

Risk Management

Combining two shorter ranged fighters poses a different challenge.  Neither of them can reach long range, so the combination doesn't mitigate the weakness.  However, a short ranged pairing can have other benefits.  Lets take a shieldman and dual wielding fighter as an example.  The shieldman has superior defense against missiles and spears, but doesn't have as wide of a shot selection.  This combination allows the shieldman to help reduce the risk of his partner being taken out at long range, while giving the pair exceptional offense once they are able to close to their optimum range.

Risk also comes into play when considering shot selection.  What might be a risky shot in a duel, can now be covered by your partner to make it relatively safe.  One example might be a min red fighter swinging one-handed towards the opponent's sword side, forcing them to block.  This takes the risk away from his partner's attacks, allowing them to choose from a wider variety of shots.  By the same token, the min red might be safe to attack the opponent's shield with a few two-handed swings while his partner cuts off the angle their opponent might have been able to attack from.

Combined Threat

While risk management is about keeping safe on offense, combining the threat of different equipment is all about increasing the opponent's risk.  Choosing the pair equipment that threatens different target areas or angles forces the opponent to make difficult decisions.  Lower their shield to help block off spear stabs or take an arrow to the face, for example.

Spears are often a natural pairing when discussing threat.  Their long range allows them to attack from a variety of angles, even from behind the front line.  Lower angles of attack force shields to come down a bit, while moving more towards sword side to cover the hip.  Other weapons can take great advantage of this shield position, such as flails, glaives, and min reds.  All of these weapons excel at placing shots on the shield side shoulder, which will kill the target or force their guard up and away from the spear.

Threat also has great influence on the enemy's ability to attack.  Archers are a prime example.  Other than shieldmen, no one has great defense against arrows other than perhaps mobility or a helmet.  Even without shooting, the archer can apply threat by holding an arrow at the ready.  Those without shields are forced to either gamble on dodging or to duck for cover behind a shieldman.  Most choose the latter.  Because they are forced to the second rank, they have a harder time applying offense to the front.  Even though spears and glaives can reach targets from the second rank, their own shieldman cuts off a significant angle of their attack, limiting their options for targets. As you might have noticed, this is nearly a case of risk management achieved through the application of threat.

Total Offense

Combined total offense of a pair of styles may give the combination an advantage.  While threat is about opening the target up and increasing their risk, total offense is about overwhelming a target's ability to block. A pair using glaives or other two handers, might be a good example.  Regardless of the threat applied by either glaive, the pair can simply place enough two handed strikes on one target to negate the defense of a shield.  Four solid, shield breaking hits to a shield outright kills anyone, assuming they haven't dropped it before then.  The first two take the shield, the third the arm, and the forth takes the body.  This means that each glaive only needs to successfully land a single hit on the shield for the pair to be able to remove it from the equation.  They may only need two swings each to kill a target, even less if they get a limb or two.

The major drawback of a pairing like this is that it relies on killing targets before they can return strikes to the pair.  A combined charge from multiple targets or a threat that has greater range than the pair greatly reduces their effectiveness. However, while working together with a team on the line, this type of pair may be able to overwhelm a few targets quickly.


Working together with different styles and gear boils down to playing off of your team's strengths and covering each other's weaknesses.  Even though I have written this from the perspective of a pair fighting some target, pairs are a natural building block towards full line fighting.  Take a moment next time you are on the sidelines to watch how the line includes many of these pairings of equipment.  Even in larger groups that seem to be all working together, much of their teamwork will be done within pairs of fighters occasionally supporting other pairs.  This is especially true when looking at how support weapons are deployed.

When combining equipment and styles, the four categories I've mentioned above are all worth considering.  However, regardless of what combination, they all benefit greatly from teamwork and communication. Find a friend, work together, kill lots of people with foam covered sticks.

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