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Scott Hrouda




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Dec, 2009 8:05 pm    Post subject: Practical Battlefield Unit Tactics         Reply with quote

I'm interested in hearing from the Forum regarding your practical experience with battlefield unit tactics. Personally, there's no greater high than fighting in an unscripted open field battle. As I get older (wiser?) my passion has changed from simply killing the opponent to killing the opponent in a manner that is overall easier while exposing me (and my buds) to less risk.

Drawing from your practical experience, observations and plain old informed speculation:

- What small unit (10+-) tactics and formations have been successful for you? Why were they successful?
- If your organization allows archery (blunted, I hope Wink ), how did it affect your planning and results?
- How have you dealt with communication and the “fog of war” aspect of battle?
- Do these strategies translate well into large formation (100+) tactics?
- Were these formations and tactics derived from historical sources?

...and that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana shaped. - Sir Bedevere
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Sam Gordon Campbell




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Dec, 2009 9:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well;,
-1. What small unit (10+-) tactics and formations have been successful for you? Why were they successful?
- 2. If your organization allows archery (blunted, I hope ), how did it affect your planning and results?
-3. How have you dealt with communication and the “fog of war” aspect of battle?
-4. Do these strategies translate well into large formation (100+) tactics?
-5. Were these formations and tactics derived from historical sources?


1. I'd imagine amushes are almost the best option; as against supier forces it would possibly allow victory or at least damage them sufficently so that later on you could wipe them out with more ease.
This is assuming the ambuse isn't detected, as the moment it is I'd imagine one would be "up shit creek" as it were.
2. Well in my experience, unless you have sufficent numbers of archers to allow an 'arrow storm' to be used, they're basicaly relegated to a harrasing force. Though it always nice to plug some guy with his 'sword and board' when he thinks he's immune to our mighty dor-stopper tipped arrows/bolts Razz
3. Plan really well before hand, and if one can, get people to learn singnals from some sort of instrament like a horn of bagpipes. That and hold back some reserves to deal with situations as they arise.
4. Well, you'd need signals to control ones army (ergo dealing with the 'fog of war'), an arrow storm would be devasting (so archers are full of goodness in this case), but one would forgoe amushes in favour of out flanking and 'boars snout' and such.
5. Hey, if it worked back then and they wrote down the pro's and con's, and how to dot it, why wouldn't one use them. Though inginuity is key for a good leader.

Then again, I could just be talking out my arse Laughing Out Loud
Hope that helps.

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Bjorn Hagstrom




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Dec, 2009 11:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Disclaimer: My experience is limited to archery-free viking-style pitched battles using blunted steel and rules similar to those developed by Regia Anglorum.

-1. What small unit (10+-) tactics and formations have been successful for you? Why were they successful?
- 2. If your organization allows archery (blunted, I hope ), how did it affect your planning and results?
-3. How have you dealt with communication and the “fog of war” aspect of battle?
-4. Do these strategies translate well into large formation (100+) tactics?
-5. Were these formations and tactics derived from historical sources?

1. We usually use a system where you pair up with a buddy, 5-6 buddy teams under a "chief" of some sort, and then again one overall commander that communicates to the chiefs. (The principle of the buddy system is that in the line, you work together with your buddy with cross-striking and shield coverage. When the line breaks you still have someone to team up with to cover eachothers backs or ganging up on lone opponents)

2. No experience with archery in these situations

3. This is the hard part. The commander relays orders to the chiefs (usually commands like "Push forward", "hold" or "fall back" nothing more fancy) The chiefs usually a step behind the line with long spears can shout the order to the line. and in case adrenaline and stress causes the ears to malfunciton they can physically tap the soldiers on the shoulder/top of head for attention. It is fantastic how a mock-up game can get you so focused you do not notice a large bearded guy shouting stuff right into your ears Happy

4. The scalability of this system is quite OK. It is limited to the field of vision and attentionspan of the overall commander, and somehow breaks down if the chiefs are to slow to react or unable to follow instructions. Manouvers must be kept absolutley simple and it probably only works well with formed batttle lines with some free teams and resereves.

5. Not really. Just trial and error.

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 04 Dec, 2009 7:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The best answer is to be found in history. Look at who won and how after the reintroduction of classical military theory during the Renaissance. Look, especially, at the Landsknecht and their Swiss counterparts. Everything modern is theater.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Dec, 2009 8:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't have ANY practical experience here but one idea if you have sufficient numbers to have a system to rotate who is in front and always have a fresh line of troops facing a hopefully tiring enemy force: This takes a lot of discipline to avoid having the fighters moving back be perceived as running away and lead to a rout or getting in the way ( confusion ) of those pressing forward.

Do it gradually as each man, or team of two if paired as teams, decide to take a rest break when they need it or have the entire forward line replaced at once by a fresh line if far enough out of contact with the enemy force to be able to do it quickly and without the enemy being able to take advantage of the few seconds when both lines could be getting in each other's way ?

Oh, and I would also generally suggest using mixed arms where at least a few missile troops can harass or snipe the enemy event if one doesn't have the numbers of missile troops for a true missile storm.

Heavy infantry backed up by some skirmishers with javelins, throwing axes, slings the skirmishers also being armed for light close combat. Small groups of archers and crossbows could be a free to manoeuvre behind the lines to exploit terrain advantages, concentrate on trouble spots or enemy breakthroughs in the line ( A harassing force and reserve ).

Light and heavy cavalry for scouting, flank protections, charges at enemy weak points, all the things that good cavalry can do. Wink

Mix of weapons and weapon types depending on period simulated. ( Good for SCA small group tactics needing some serious training or keep it simpler. Also good for a Time travelling freelance general. Wink Big Grin Cool ).

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Audun Refsahl




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Dec, 2009 9:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

hey Sean, do you have examples of good sources for that?
just bacon...
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 04 Dec, 2009 10:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Audun Refsahl wrote:
hey Sean, do you have examples of good sources for that?


Here's a great introduction to the Swiss complete with information about unit organization and specific field tactics. Big Grin

http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_armies_swiss.html

There's a decent, inexpensive Osprey book about the Landsknecht that's probably a must-have for folks interested in this sort of thing. It might be somewhat dated by now, but most everyone will learn something new from it.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Audun Refsahl




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Dec, 2009 1:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

thank you! I have read those though. here I was hoping you had a playbook:) well, rather, books, diaries, memoirs by contemporary commanders or officers discussing battles or something would be really nice. something along the lines of what the romans wrote perhaps? I have to admit I haven't researched this myself yet.. Happy

ok, I'll write something to contribute to the thread as well. I do reenactment fighting in norway and scandinavia, and I have started to get some understanding of whats going on. You could try and search youtube for videos from battle of trelleborg 09 and battle of moesgaard 09. If you are lucky you find one where you can see an overall view of the battles. these were some really great battles to fight in!
In the battles of trelleborg this summer some of the guys from Ask (a danish viking group) got to try out some really interesting strategies, each a little to complicated to explain. not all worked, but the ones that did really showed that discarding a lot of the truisms of line combat and employing more complicated manouvers work also in a plain battleground.
in the 4 battles of moesgaard this summer the kings side used the same tactics every time, but altering it some between every battle. again, there are so many elements that influenced the course of the battles, some errors was obvious, others came as a suprise.
some of the things I took from there are organize your troops in groups, if you put them in lines don't be afraid to let there be holes in the lines, as long as someone is watching the holes. strategies where groups run from one place to attack somewhere else may very well work, you'd be suprised how easy it is to confuse the enemy, and how hard it is for them to reorganize. however, it is important that everybody knows exactly what to do. to practice the important elements of the plan, to do some of the manouvres. a simple missunderstanding like "we didn't know exactly how far to move to the left" will cost you the battle:)

just bacon...
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Scott Hrouda




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PostPosted: Fri 04 Dec, 2009 2:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for the references Sean.

Audun's and Bjorn's practical experience is very interesting and similar to what I've found over the years.

I belong to a small group that concentrates on unit tactics within the larger melee. Audun's comment couldn't be more correct. Any time you are involved in a team activity, practice makes perfect. Our basic group formation is not based on a specific historical example, but looks very much like an American football formation. The larger shields are up front (lineman), the captain is slightly to the rear barking orders (quarterback), the lighter/faster flankers are to the right and left (receivers), and the polearms are directly behind the line fighting over and between the shieldsman (fullbacks). This scenario seems to work well for us.

Archery is allowed in the SCA and must be accounted for. Our general marching orders don't really change if archers are among the enemy, but you MUST keep your head on a swivel and be aware. Sam is correct in that the minute you forget an archer is present you will end up with an arrow in your grill Sad.

I have found that communication is very difficult once things are set in motion. If everyone is clear on their instructions prior to the battle, things generally go well. I believe that keeping maneuvers simple is the best option. The orders: forward, shift (R/L), wheel (R/L), back and CHARGE make up 99% of what we do. Unfortunately, you have to be careful when a "wheel" command is very successful as you run the risk of striking allies!

The largest battles I've personally been involved with consist of approximately 100 combatants per side. If each 10-20 man group takes orders from only 1 individual and those captains/knights take orders from only one individual, things generally go well. You do need to be flexible when one of those sneaky archers take out your captain!

...and that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana shaped. - Sir Bedevere
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 09 Dec, 2009 5:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Do it gradually as each man, or team of two if paired as teams, decide to take a rest break when they need it or have the entire forward line replaced at once by a fresh line if far enough out of contact with the enemy force to be able to do it quickly and without the enemy being able to take advantage of the few seconds when both lines could be getting in each other's way ?


This isn't very hard to do--not at all. People can't fight hand-to-hand nonstop for hours on end. Inevitably, after several minutes, either one side will have broken or both would get out of breath and start edging away from each other. Then they'd stay apart for a little while, throwing insults and maybe things at each other, until one side (or both) recovers it breath and elan and charges back into the fray. Even without a formal rotation scheme, it's not difficult to tap the tired-out front-ranker in the shoulder and step into his place as he takes yours in the second rank, and so on until the tired guy manages to worm his way to the rear of the formation. Except if he's the "just a flesh wound" type, of course....


As for combined-arms action within a single formation, I remember an Italian writer stating that the English mercenaries in Italy in his time (apparently John Hawkwood's band) had the dismounted men-at-arms fighting two to a lance in the manner of men hunting boars, which has been interpreted as a lance-armed man in the rear holding the opponents at bay while the man in front (with a poleaxe or sword) did the real damage to the enemy. If true, it would be really interesting since the system represents a reversal of the SCA paradigm that the shield-man defends and the spearman kills (though it makes me wonder--is there really such a paradigm in the SCA in the first place?).
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 09 Dec, 2009 9:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
[
As for combined-arms action within a single formation, I remember an Italian writer stating that the English mercenaries in Italy in his time (apparently John s band) had the dismounted men-at-arms fighting two to a lance in the manner of men hunting boars, which has been interpreted as a lance-armed man in the rear holding the opponents at bay while the man in front (with a poleaxe or sword) did the real damage to the enemy. If true, it would be really interesting since the system represents a reversal of the SCA paradigm that the shield-man defends and the spearman kills (though it makes me wonder--is there really such a paradigm in the SCA in the first place?).


This could alternate depending on timing/distance where the spear might take the lead even if just defensively and the poleaxe might move forward when the enemy is too occupied/engaged to deal with both at the same time ?

One or more skirmishers behind the line with javelins or bows to snipe or at least add a distraction giving the enemy line a lot to deal with at once ? ( Ideas, but also just questions ).

Oh, another aspect of these simulated fights is the choices related to terrain advantage and if the fight is at a designated site or if the area is large enough both sides could start at each end of a large area with various types of terrain that could go from flat easy to move on terrain, to hills, swamp that would have to be avoided or could protect a flank, small hills on which to forma shield wall or just position some supporting missile troops ? In such a case the actual engagement is the final " act " of a game of manoeuvre, ambushes or strategic retreats ?

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Scott Hrouda




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PostPosted: Sat 12 Dec, 2009 10:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have noticed that, in the region I fight, the shieldsman are treated as cannon fodder. My experience has shown me that advancing inside a spearman's range gives him one shot at you. After that, a swordsman will chew him up for breakfast.

One particular battle in Kansas City brought the terrain aspect to home. I recall a combat in the woods that prevented any organized line of battle. Our unit stayed close and defended a small area separate from the main body. As small units (5-10 men) strayed into our area, we were able to dispatch them with relative ease by simply using the trees for cover and enveloping them.

...and that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana shaped. - Sir Bedevere
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Sam Gordon Campbell




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PostPosted: Sat 12 Dec, 2009 10:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
If true, it would be really interesting since the system represents a reversal of the SCA paradigm that the shield-man defends and the spearman kills (though it makes me wonder--is there really such a paradigm in the SCA in the first place?).

Well that's the question. I've found that trying to apply any "historical" tactic within the SCA (the simpler ones work, but I mean the sweet manouvers ala Hannibal) is rather hard as the stress and fear of actually dying isn't there, so one gets alot of 'heros' or 'ironmen' who just wont take a hit, rather than if you actualy feared for your life (or even getting hurt badly [love that plate armour]) you'd be more inclined to work as a team and trust in your commanders abilities.
But yeah, archers are full of win Laughing Out Loud

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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Sun 13 Dec, 2009 12:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Man I could talk small unit tactics for weeks. I have to give context before I comment; otherwise "practical" has little to anchor it.

I lead a unit of 10-25 fighters in SCA combat in Washington State. Unlike The eastern US with Pennsic, and the southwest US with Estrella, SCA battles in the US northwest are relatively small affairs, with a couple hundred warriors on foot, a few scattered archers.

I can only relate this to 6th or 7th century Britain, where a man with a few hundred men might call himself a king. Battles are closer to land disputes between dark age nobles than anything in the medieval era, so Renaissance military theory is more or less irrelevant. No cavalry, no war machines. Men line up and try to break the other line, or roll a flank. The line is inevitably (or at least habitually) divided into a Left, Center, and Right. The Left side almost always skirmishes. The Center is where the highest ranking lord and his retinue sit, usually as a fixing force. The Right is almost always "the hammer" who tries to break and roll the enemy Left. This is so ingrained by culture and tradition that few people seem to question it.

Sub-units are usually centered around a baron, or a knight, who functions much like a gesith or thegn. Each thegn brings a few household troops, and these groups are supplemented by random "levy" type troops who join on an ad hoc basis.
These households often have an archer or two, with standing orders to take out high ranking or obviously skilled fighters.

To answer your questions from my experience:

In our environment, tactics are limited because numbers are limited. My group is usually asked to be the right side hammer unit, and we have a few tricks to that end. One thing that works very well is to create an interior flank. The shieldmen in front press hard into the enemy, but spend more energy defending than attacking. They push enemy skirmishers out of the way so that a unit of fast spears can slip through the gap and get around to attack the rear of the enemy center.

Even in small numbers archers can be devastating. The best archers actually work up just behind the shieldwall; they pop up between shields, shoot someone in the face, and then vanish. This has a definite effect on the opposition; a lot of battlefield chatter involves keeping track of this type of archer.

Communication is a huge challenge. A lot of very good opportunities are missed simply because nobody can hear the command. Most voices are hard to understand from just 20 feet away when there's fighting going on. My group gets around this by fluke of nature; I have a voice like a bull elephant, which is probably the only reason that I am in charge of a unit.

Large units tend to be more "fire and forget" affairs. As one leader put it, "my job is to get mass to the right place at the right moment; after the fighting starts there's no point trying to steer things". That doesn't mean that a drilled unit or a good leader can't seize opportunities after that initial clash, but people can't usually listen to you micromanaging and fight well.

I will also say that a unit of good fighters that can beat another unit, reform quickly, and get stuck in somewhere else, is a rare and precious thing. A lot of people get tunnel vision; they knock someone down and then stand there pondering the moment instead of using the victory to gain more victories.

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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Sun 13 Dec, 2009 9:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have done plenty of unit fighting in the SCA. I have done both loose formation and also fought in very well defined units with specific orders. At Pennsic we often have about 1,000 people on each side. There is a very defined command structure. The units are naturally organized by camps. We only fight as a whole army once a year, but the individual units practice back home on a regular basis throughout the year as units. Everyone knows their place withing the unit and who their commander is. You only need about half the unit to be highly experienced (knights). The knights execute the commanders orders. The rest look to the knights for direction. The commanders get their orders form the King before the battle. The structure usually is middle army, left flank and right flank. Occasionally skirmishers will be used too for harassment. Reserves are sometimes used too because once the lines clash it is impossible to redirect them. Best to have reserves ready to direct were needed. Its is very hard to issue new orders to the guys on the front lines in a field battle. In battles with limited fighting areas like gates and bridges the battle tends to turn into a spear duel since flanking maneuvers are not possible and charges are easier to repel.

We try to keep tactics as simple as possible because it is really hard to do complicated things with large armies. Even on an open field the fog of war is a reality once the battle starts. There is often some friendly fire, especially during flanking maneuvers. People will generally attack any man who is facing them. The various units do use colors, but each unit has its own colors and there could be 30 units each side. The units follow the orders of their commanders, who they know. The commanders follow the orders of the king. The men of one unit may not recognize other commanders of units on their own side. This similar to how it was in the middle ages. You are loyal to men, not nations.

If you want to see a real fog of war try the Pennsic Woods battle. Even before the battle begins you can not see all your people. You can use the terrain to aid in offense or defense. You must be mindful of where you step since there are fallen tree branches all over the place. You must also be mindful of enemy sneaking through the bushes.

What we don't is is transitioning maneuvers from line of march to battle formation. Such maneuvers would have been critical to any army. We generally line up on each side of the field and don't begin the battle until each side is in formation. In reality it is ideal to attack an army while it is out of formation. We use bows, cross-bows and ballistas in many battles. There are usually not enough to provide suppression fire. The serve more as snipers in limited front battles like gate and river. In such battles the lines are more static and the bows can pick of key spearmen and commanders. Sniper tactics are less useful in field battles. Mass arrow volleys would work better, but that would mean converting shieldmen and spearmen to bowmen and erecting fortifications to protect them. Of course we also don't have cavalry on the field. That would change the experience dramatically.

One of the biggest obstacles is dead bodies. Regardless if they are from your own side or the enemies, they making advancing hard. Hearing is very difficult near the front. Both because of the helmets and the noise of shields clashing and banging... plus yelling. Visual is limited to 120 degree vision in front of you because of your helmet and all the people around you. Some time the range of you vision can be just one foot in front of you in a charge.

Scott, let me know if you want me to expand on anything I said.

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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Mon 14 Dec, 2009 12:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting stuff Tsafa, a lot of which jumps out at me.

Quote:
You are loyal to men, not nations.


This is true and has been noted many, many times. The king at the back of the battle isn't going to save you, but that grizzled old veteran just might.

Quote:
Its is very hard to issue new orders to the guys on the front lines in a field battle.


For this reason my unit designates a rear commander and a veteran who sits right in the front line, or just behind in the second rank. The line "sergeant" keeps the shield wall in order, and generally polices the actual fighting. He's got to be a survivor who doesn't stick his neck out but knows how to fight.

The rear commander watches (as best as is possible) overall changes in the battlefield, controls reserves and special units (like berserkers), and relays orders from the king/prince/baron.

Quote:
People will generally attack any man who is facing them.


This is so true. I have even attacked a man in my own colors in the heat of the moment. Eek! I cannot figure out how armies ever operated without heraldry. It's really baffling. I know that the shields from the Gokstad ship were all black and yellow, so perhaps there was some embryonic form of heraldry going on, but fyrdmen I can't imagine having such designations; in which case the chance of getting killed by your own men seems uncomfortably high.

Quote:
The commanders follow the orders of the king.

Yes and no; this year one of the worst defeats we've ever suffered came because I followed to the letter the orders of a prince who didn't know his business. Next year I'll take his orders as advice. Plans change on contact, and the lag in a general's OODA loop plus the time to relay orders can be deadly, so sub-commanders must be take charge individuals, even if history labels them as brash or arrogant.

Quote:
Hearing is very difficult near the front.

Not only is hearing difficult, but so many people are shouting that it can be hard to tell who is in charge. Two years ago we had a very clever fellow who got behind our enemy and started shouting ridiculous orders. Their own leader was dead from an arrow, and they were just frozen there, practically milling about. When he started barking they followed , and they were utterly beaten. Laughing Out Loud

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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Mon 14 Dec, 2009 1:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In my experience (as a reenactment fighter for about 8 years now) there are several important factors to tactics.

The first, and most obvious is numbers. At our own trainings we usually have somewhere between 10-20 people, which is naturally a lot different than the national trainig weekends with about 100 participants, or the large summer events that gather 300+ fighters.

In up to about 40 fighters, open flank battles are fast and chaotic. The average 20 person clash at training takes about 30 seconds form the lines are closed until the mop-up is over. (This also depends a lot on mindset. Scandinavian reenactment fighters are much more fond of loose and mobile fighting, while for instance the Germans favour tight shieldwall-style lines.)
Killing is largely a question of hitting people that isn’t paying attention to you; by speed, cooperation, manoeuvring, or a bit of everyting.

The most fundamental group tactic is what we call “Trianglation” In it’s pure form, this is a concept for fighting two against one, but the principles apply to all melee combat.
All fighters have a front, flanks, and a back. For practical purposes, the front is the area where you have full awareness and are covered by your guard. Hovever, this front only covers a certain angle; Lets say 90 degrees for simplicity. Practically, this can be more or less, depending on equipment and tunnel vision.
Thus, if you imagine two fighters forming the baseline of a perfect triangle, any enemy within that triangle will consequently be outflanked on one or both sides.
Thus, he should theoretically be dead, if the triangle is small enough for both attackers to reach him.
(he can of course counteract this by moving out of the triangle, in which case the attackers rotate the baseline and so on and so forth.)

The same mechanic applies to group figting; Achieving or exploiting triangles on the opponents results in a easy kill, and two fighters free to continue their rampage.
By turning a flank, for instance, you force the defenders to turn around, and become easy targets for your friends.

For this reason, small scale fights focus a lot about flanking in some form, and line width is paramount. In a tight, static formation at this scale, attackers can single out weak spots, place a triangle on him, and nibble the formation to bits.
On a larger scale, a three rank deep lump of people can fight to all sides, and drive of individual attackers without breaking up its front, making the suicidal flank runs of small scale combat rather pointless.

These larger battles become more of a slow grind, where the angles are those between formations. The same principles apply, but the playing pieces are tens and hundreds of men rather than individuals.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Scott Hrouda




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PostPosted: Mon 14 Dec, 2009 6:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Friendly Fire
Bill Tsafa wrote:
There is often some friendly fire, especially during flanking maneuvers. People will generally attack any man who is facing them. The various units do use colors, but each unit has its own colors and there could be 30 units each side.

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
This is so true. I have even attacked a man in my own colors in the heat of the moment. I cannot figure out how armies ever operated without heraldry. It's really baffling.

I have also struck a mate wearing my own unit heraldry, my captain! Blush Is there anyway of knowing true historical "friendly fire" casualty statistics? I would have to believe that this would be a significant factor in battle planning. What kind of source material is available for study?

Another "terrain" factor I had neglected was dead bodies!
Bill Tsafa wrote:
One of the biggest obstacles is dead bodies. Regardless if they are from your own side or the enemies, they making advancing hard.

Battles, especially those with limited fronts, can be severely impacted by growing piles of dead bodies. In the SCA there are occasional breaks in the action where the "dead" are removed (for their own safety Happy). In reality there were no breaks. Does anyone have a good historical reference of a commander using huge piles of dead to his tactical advantage? (Not including flinging body parts and rotten carcases into a walled cities, there are a ton of those references).

Elling Polden wrote:
Killing is largely a question of hitting people that isn’t paying attention to you; by speed, cooperation, manoeuvring, or a bit of everyting.

This is very true. In static line battles, the shieldsman can be much more effective if: they trust the warriors to their right and left to provide some blocking, know that a gap in the line will be immediately filled by another shield or a polearm, and if that shieldsman concentrates on striking the opponent to his right or left whom may not be paying close enough attention.

...and that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana shaped. - Sir Bedevere
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 14 Dec, 2009 9:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Battlefield identification in period:

1) When the two adversaries are from very different cultures and their equipment is distinctly of a different style i.e. European Knights versus Mongol horse archers or even when their respective infantries faced off the look of the enemy would be hard to confuse unless some of your own guys where using looted from the other side arms and armour.

2) At some point " livery " or " proto-uniforms " would have helped identify the sides but early on it would mostly be that the fighters would know each other well and facing in the same direction maybe as suggested that facing your own guys could cause unfortunate misidentification of who is with whom. Wink

3) Flags/banners as rallying points as well as musical instruments ? ( Horns or drums also useful in giving orders to rally, retreat, charge over the din of battle ? ).

4) Battle cries unique to one's side or the motto of a specific noble shouted by him and his men. ( Not mentioned so far I believe ).

I guess some creative lying about one's side might be used at times as a ruse or just to stay alive: Imagine getting separated from one's side and ending up surrounded by the enemy who are not noticing you at the time as being " a red ant " among the " black ants ", it might be wise to start shouting their battle cry for a while. Wink Laughing Out Loud Might be a little tricky getting back to one's side and one might not want to brag about it after the fight !

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 15 Dec, 2009 12:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One thing that we do not experience in reenactment figthing, which greatly affect tactics on a small scale, is fear.

In a "real figth, a whole lot of psycological factors come into play, obscuring the pure tactics.
First of all, people do not want to be alone. They will, naturally, stick to their formation like glue. Neither do they want to engage a superior foe. Most notably an individual will seldom attack a formation unless he is part of a formation too.
This means everybody is less agressive, and less prone to exploit holes, flanking opportunities, and so on.

In reenactment, you will gladly sacrefice your "life" for a couple of kills, and creating chaos in the enemy ranks. In real life, the suecidal flank runs that are very common "in game" will be a lot less lucurative.

Another point is that in the real world, people run away after suffering relatively light casualties. The greeks figured the losing side of a battle would lose about 10-15% of their force. Many medevial battles saw even lower casualty rates, especially if you look at the numbers before the rout.
Reenactment battles, however, are always fougth to the last man.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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