el_loco_avs wrote: IcedT wrote: bigglesworth wrote:
SexyTalon wrote:The Crossbow is pretty much the gold standard there - in an afternoon or less, you can learn to kill a armored warrior with 20 years of experience.
Well, if you have a decent group of people with them. One crossbow has a chance, but not a great one, of killing a guy in harness before he kills you. And he can kill/disable crossbowman after crossbowman until he gets tired. Crossbows are useless without support from people with pointy sticks and armour. However, the reverse is not true, the armoured guy is his own fighting system and with sufficient numbers will put a dent in any formation until they run away. AFAIK IANAHistorian I just read a lot of books
"Until he gets tired" is the operative phrase here. What do you wanna bet the guy with the crossbow can outrun him?
I hadn't even thought of that. Given equal fitness a light/unarmed opponent could run circles around someone in plate.
Which is why warriors that were wearing plate armor were always mounted. On foot they're at a tremendous disadvantage - the helm restricts visibility, fatigue is a major concern (and not just due to the weight of the armor but also due to the fact that it doesn't have squat for ventilation - even in moderate temperatures overheating is a serious problem), and obviously mobility is another major issue. While you can still move around in plate armor, it's not like you're gonna be winning footraces in it. Granted, I've never worn plate armor, but that's what every factual account of it seems to imply.
Hell, even massed cavalry charges weren't the be-all/end-all back in the day. Your archers and artillerymen (using light engines like ballistae before the advent of gunpower and cannons afterwards) did an awful lot of the killing. Archers would be vulnerable to a massed heavy cavalry charge, of course, but that's what you had pikemen for. Pikemen didn't even need a lot of training, and were inexpensive to outfit - stand in a rectangle, stay moving as a group, and plant the base of the pike in the ground and put the pointy end towards the enemy. Charging a company of pikemen would be suicide for cavalry, and that's before trickses like stringing wires in the grass or digging ditches to protect your flanks. Also, cavalry isn't worth diddlysquat on any ground that isn't flat and level - you can't charge up a hill and you're just gonna break bones if you try to charge on rocky or uneven terrain, or even on ground that's too soft to accomodate the passing of several hundred thousand tons of man and horse. Cavalry was almost always used in flanking manuevers and the like - the cavalry finished the job and tried to cause a rout, they weren't the stars of the show (those would probably be the archers and infantry, despite all the accolades we tend to heap on the knights these days.)
As far as equipping your armies, you have to remember that the vast majority of armies were just conscripted serfs. The local lord grabbed a bunch of his dudes, threw some simple weapons and armor at them (if they were lucky!), and then threw them at the other guy's collection of random dudes. Swords, metal armor, high quality weapons... fucking forget about it. At most, if they had the time to train them and the money to equip them, the peasants might be given a form of padded cloth armor, and maybe a spear with an actual metal head - or maybe a nice axe or warhammer, but even that's pushing the cost problem. Spears are pretty much man's most simple weapon (it's a pointy stick, pointy end goes in the enemy) and extremely easy to mass produce. With an iron or steel tip, they were also durable. Even more to the point, the spear was a damned useful tool as well as a weapon, and it was light.
Need something to hold up your tent? Your spear can do that. Out of food and there's a stream nearby? Hell, go see if you can do some spearfishing.
Weight is/was a huge concern for armies. In addition to food, clothing, and whatever the hell else each man needs, he also needs to carry his weapons and armor, if he has any. 200 miles might not seem like a long distance to us now, but 200 miles might take ten days or more to travel back in the day - 20 miles a day, ten days in the row. If you really needed to get there in a hurry, you could maybe push 40 miles a day (that's ten hours
of walking at four miles per hour every day
while carrying your equipment and supplies) and get there with all your dudes too worn out to put up a good fight. And don't forget, once you get there you need to setup a (preferably fortified) camp. And god fucking help you if some dude gets a touch of dysentery or cholera along the way. More people died to sickness and diseases than they did to enemy action. Wounded frequently turned into dead due to a lack of even decent medical care.
If you weren't lucky, you got sent into the field with minimal training, no armor, and only what tools you can take with you to use as weapons - pitchforks, scythes, lumber axes, a simple hammer, maybe a simple flail, things like that. Tools that aren't designed for combat in the first place, let alone defeating the chainmail that the other guy's better-equipped dudes (probably household guards or fighters, or maybe mercenaries) might be wearing. If you were a peasant, the most likely use for you is to make the other guy waste arrows on you and waste the energy of his good fighters on killing you. Small surprise peasants tended to not like their lords very much.
In regards to use of shields: if you were using a small shield (like a buckler or a targe), you weren't going to be deflecting a blow from a two-handed weapon of any kind, and trying to do so would probably result in you breaking your arm (and possibly the weapon busting through the shield, especially if it was an axe or blunt weapon.) A light shield would be used to deflect
incoming attacks, not absorb them. Even a heavier shield would be better used to deflect an incoming swordstroke (or whatever) instead of absorbing it - that kinetic energy has to go somewhere
, and it's better for it to go to the air than to you. Absorbing a good hit from someone using a heavy mace or axe ("heavy" in this case being like... four or five pounds, not the fifty or sixty games and movies like to make us think) could break your arm - granted, having a broken arm is a lot better than having a broken head, but you're still out of the fight either way. This is also why a blunt weapon like a mace or axe (well, axes were sharpened, but had a similar amount of impact) was effective even against plate armor - even if you don't penetrate the armor (a flanged mace certainly could), you're still transmitting an immense amount of force to that armor, which is then being transmitted to the dude inside the armor. Whacking a dude in head with a good hit from a blunt weapon could bang his forehead or back of his head against the inside of his helmet and knock him out. Getting whopped with a good hit from a decent weapon could easily unhorse a dude riding around on a horse, which then puts him at a significant disadvantage against dudes wearing light armor on foot (let alone the kinda damage falling off your horse while wearing eighty pounds of steel plates can cause.)
Incidentally, this is why getting shot while wearing a bulletproof vest hurts like a motherfucker.
The vest stops the bullet, but that force has to go somewhere. It's like being hit with a damn hammer.
Heavier shields were typically used in a shield wall formation (you see it in action in movies like Gladiator, when the Praetorian Guard dudes hustle out to surround Maximus so he can make his badass speech to Comedus), wherein your shield partially overlapped the dude to your left, covering his right side. His shield then covered HIS dude's right side, and so on and so forth. Infantry arranged like this were able to fight effectively while being very safe, and without wearing eighty pounds of plate armor (and instead humping around a giant shield that probably weighed twenty pounds.) The shield itself was realistically too heavy to actually move around much with, but it was terrific for defending yourself - it was basically a portable wall. Attacking a formation of shields like this was a great way to get carved up (this is why a few thousand Roman legionnaires could kick the shit out of a hundred thousand untrained barbarians), but once the shield wall loses cohesion, they're in deep trouble. Taking one man out of the formation, they can probably handle. Losing twenty? You're in deep, deep shit. The entire formation revolves around the concept of the guy to your right protecting your right-hand side (sucks to be a lefty, I guess.) If the guy on your right gets killed and there's no one to replace him, suddenly your entire formation has a glaring opening - they'll kill you by attacking your vulnerable right-hand side and eventually kill enough dudes so that the shield wall loses cohesion, at which point they're at a disadvantage due to the weight of their shields limiting their personal mobility. It's kinda the same concept as heavy cavalry, just without the horses.