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Michael R. Black





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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 10:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm no expert in either field, but I keep thinking about lines of supply and communication. Were supply requirements and methods of communicating orders identical between japanese and european armies of the listed times, or were there appreciable differences? Just curious.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 1:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Are we talking about the [i[tactical[/i] scene or the strategic scene? Strategically, I'd bet on the Europeans because they had more advanced fortification and siegecraft techniques, although if the Japanese were given time to learn then I have no doubts that they would have assimilated it.

Tactically, I'd bet on the Europeans too, for the reason that the Japanese military structures in the second half of the 14th century seem to have been in a sharp and sad state of decline before the revival occasioned by the Onin War and the Sengoku Jidai. The relative peace and laissez-faire rule of the Ashikaga shoguns created a condition where warafre was rather sporadic and often half-hearted, and the armies were poorly financed at best due to rampant corruption in the government hierarchies. (Except in the households of the most belligerent and troublesome local magnates--the same houses that sparked the Sengoku Jidai!) This is unlike the condition in contemporary Europe where military technology and doctrine was undergoing a fairly rapid development. Not all Europe was like this, though. The Germans might have had trouble facing the Japanese, seeing as this period is one where their magnates were at their most fractious, and therefore most likely to desert or disobey orders in battle; and the Byzantines of the Palaiologos dynasty in particular was sorely lacking in the resources they would have needed to fight any sort of major war. Against most other European armies, it would have been a case of some of the worst armies in Japanese history pitted against at least adequate European opponents.

So the Japanese would probably have been at a very great disadvantage, not because of any inherent weakness in the Japanese warmaking system but because their armies of that time were simply far from being their best. Especially if they were forced to field ten thousand men at once. An army of the Sengoku period would have had a vastly better chance of holding their own or even winning against their European counterparts. I guess it's also mentioning an army from earlier in the 14th century, during the period when the Minamoto were brought down and the Ashikaga asserted their dominance, would have had a decent chance of beating their European opponents as well.

BTW, about samurai tactics at this time: they were (still) horse archers, though it is also correct that they were not light skirmishing horse archers. They were heavy horse archers like the Turkish ghilman, whose arrows were largely meant to weaken an enemy prior to the decisive charge, though in the Japanese case the most important factor was probably the fact that each mounted bushi would have been closely supported by a mass of retainers fighting on foot with a mixture of spears, naginata, and bows. A good Japanese army at this time would also have had large formations of bow-armed retainers protected by a line of pavises. It's easy to see that if such a Japanese army could get into a strong defensive position, then it would have stood a decent chance of making an impression on the Europeans with the sheer mass of their arrows. However, this presumes that the retainers were able to coordinate their fighting with the bushi and vice-versa--which, like in European armies, was not something that the commanders could be sure of every time. Least of all in the late 14th century, when the Japanese armies were not quite up to the standards of more vigorous eras.
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Bruce Wilson




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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 4:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad makes (or at least implies!) something very important - the choice of the battle site (in so far as commanders are free to make that choice) is a HUGE factor and a key part of the outcome of most engagements!

On the late 14th Century issue, I would agree that a generic "European" force is actually a very difficult thing to define; which elements of English, French, German and other European arms, personnel and tactics would you include?! The fighting style of these nations has a significant history of exposure to the arms and tactics of other cultures relative to those of their Japanese contemporaries but there were, nevertheless, differences and you'd need to decide how your European army would be composed.

Now, if you'll bear with me, I'm actually thinking that the hypothetical engagement described in the original question could effectively be over long before the knights and samurai ever met on the field, which is perhaps not that uncommon in such a battle. This is a fight between armies of a heterogenous nature, right? So there would be a proportionate mix of knights/samurai, men-at-arms/footsoldiers and peasant levies on both sides?

Based on some of the detailed comments given above, I'd suspect that this may actually come down to skill at archery and the nature and range of the bows employed by the archers on either side. Just out of curiosity, can someone confirm the range of the Japanese mounted archers? If the European army fielded a good-sized force of English archers with longbows, would the Japanese army really be in any fit state to conduct a vigorous engagement and would the mounted archers be able to get close enough without being decimated themselves? How well would the samurai armour withstand a well-loosed cloth-yard shaft? (As long as they weren't warned about this in advance by the French, obviously...! Wink ) On the other hand, would a European army be able to withstand repeated attacks by Japanese heavy mounted archers?

Obviously, I accept that this doesn't account for tactical genius on either side but taking into account the "usual" way that each force would deploy and engage (in a FIRST encounter, without, perhaps, having the benefit of previous experience of the enemy), it would seem that the oft discussed "Knight vs. Samurai" part may actually be irrelevant in deciding such an encounter between armies...?!

Just a thought...
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 5:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, you have see how bitterly two european armies and the japanese army clashed recently in WW2.

Japanese are and were strenous fighters, so they would have given a lot of problems to forces not armed with nuclear weapons ...

Back to track I would say that ligtweight, fast fighters as the japanese would have made a very bad encouner for our heavy cavalry: in man to man combat japanese could be pretty faster than our knigths jus because their lack of serious armor.


Despite its lack of penetration on mail and plate japanese swords of that period might have injured knights in less protected parts.

I do not subscribe to movie lore, which is made throgh fast forward tricks and actors suspended to wires, however east asian athletic cohordination is still today extremely high as it i demonstated in varius athletic disciplines.

Without resorting to flying warriors, a japanese army might have counted on fastly moving men.

Other questions could be rased at a tactical and strategical level by real experts in such disciplines, so other factors are missing from the equation.
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Mikael Ranelius




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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 5:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Are we talking about a purely hypothetical battle between 10 000 European men-at-arms with the best European armour and weapons available, against an equal number of samurais with the best Japanese weapons and armour of the time?
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 7:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Are we talking about a purely hypothetical battle between 10 000 European men-at-arms with the best European armour and weapons available, against an equal number of samurais with the best Japanese weapons and armour of the time?


I suppose this would have been an interesting proposition, but also a thoroughly impossible one because most (if not actually all!) armies in Japan and Europe at this time were composed of several mutually supporting parts, with the degree of mutual support depending on the training, experience, and the generals' leadership capabilities. European men-at-arms might have fought as a formation segregated from their retinues, but I don't think the Japanese samurai ever fought without the immediate support of their retainers before the Sengoku Jidai. And even in segregated blocks the European men-at-arms still relied heavily on the support of other segregated blocks composed of such troops as English longbowmen, Genoese crossbowmen, or Catalan almogavares. Or Szekely light horse or Low Countries spearmen or Italian urban militiamen or name what you will.

All right. Seen this way, the late 14th-century (mind that I'm sticking closely to Boris's timeframe) Japanese samurai would have been at a greater disadvantage than European men-at-arms when fighting without their retainers because they were simply not accustomed to do so. But the Europeans would also have suffered from the lack of, say, missile support or expendable arrow fodder.

Still, it does not make the idea any less ridiculous. How are we supposed to separate the late 14th-century samurai from their retainers if they are supposed to fight in an intermingled, mutually supporting manner? Tell me if anybody has found a way to do so.


Getting back to the subject, let me clarify my statement in the previous post. The earliest part of Boris's "second half of the 14th century" included the tail end of the civil ware between the Northern and Southern courts in Japan, where the armies still retained some vigor in both command and fighting quality. I suppose at this point they would have had a fair chance of winning a fight against, say, their French of English contemporaries. By the end of the century, though, the situation had indeed deteriorated to the abysmal picture I painted there. Regardless of what tactics the Japanese might use, most of their armies were simply no good at this time, even by Japanese standards. (Or rather especially by Japanese standards.)

I wouldn't say the Japanese were "lighter" either. At the end of the century, perhaps, the heaviest European men-at-arms had significantly heavier armor than teh Japanese samurai, but we all know that not all men-at-arms could afford such armor, let alone the remaining soldiers. The 14th-century Japanese samurai, too, while they were technically horse archers, probably did not enjoy the same mobility as Mongols or Central Asian horse-archers for the simple reason that they always fought intermingled with their retainers in massed battlefield maneuvers. This meant they had to keep their pace down to something that their foot retainers could follow at a jog. In return for this loss of mobility, they gained somewhat greater resilience since the presence of retainers close by made sure that they would have people ready to help them when they got into trouble.

Somehow I can't help imagining that, if the Japanese bushi were facing a longbow-rich English army, they might have decided to dismount and engage in an archery exchange. Afterwards, it would probably have ended like many battles in the Wars of the Roses--both lines of archers would get sick of the heavy attrition they were receiving from each other's archery and charge into hand-to-hand combat.
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Mikael Ranelius




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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 8:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm wondering how the Japanese are supposed to hurt the knights, provided that the latter are armoured in plate armour. If English archers had a hard time bringing down a man in plate-armour, then what chance does a Japanese bowman have using a somewhat weaker bow, with lighter arrows with weaker, tanged heads? Which weapons did they have that could deal with plate armour?
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Kerim Mamedov




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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 10:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jack Yang wrote:
now, how come everyone keeps asking questions about knights vs samurais? if you asked something like knights vs NINJAS, that would be more interesting =D
(NINJAS will pwn)


or ninja vs ismailits (hashishin) Big Grin
my point is to ismailits in fild batle, and ninja in "skirmish city fight" Happy
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Jack Yang




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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 12:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mr Smith, I think you are the one who really is ridiculous. I'm actually surprised you would say somthing like "If they existed at all", do you not know that there are plenty of historical texts, weapons, and even employment contracts that still exist today and are carefully perserved in museums? "
It's true that ninja's are not actual warriors and would seldom go out in groups but...
Quote:
If a ninja had to fight toe to toe, he had ALREADY lost. ... The idea of the super martial artist ninja who could out fight a samurai in a toe to toe fight is very much a hollywood invention. The only way a ninja could out fight a samurai would be through dirty tricks like poisoning before the fight or glass and sand in the eye....

you think so? The ninjas were not mere psychological warfare, they actually did things. they were more spies than anything else, and some were employed as body guards of warlords. there are very few records of ninja assassinations. As for ninjitsu, many of the forms and weapon techniques are still being taught. A ninja could easily defeat a samurai in open combat because their martial arts is like... anti kendo. The samurai way of fighting existed in japan for a long long time, and were all figured out, and the ninjas' way of defeating it is through a variety of new weapons and techniques, not just poison and glass shards. the climbing claws, sickle and chain, ninjaken, throwing projectiles, were all invented to be used against what was then the standard ways of fighting.
Ninjas were not trained as o-the-field warriors, of course, and they would lose if pitted against knights on a field. but what makes you think that Ninjas were 'maids and servants that never touched a blade'?
a board admin just told me to watch what I say, but I have to say this, "your reply shows no research in the topic whatsoever" Mad

Kerim, at least somebody apprieciates a little humor... and I totally agree with you. the next question would be... Ninja vs Batman? (I'm serious too!)

lol, back on topic, I think Bruno brings up an interesting point. the japanese had indeed proved to be ferious warriors, and are open minded enough to adopt to new methods and technologies quickly. but here, we are talking about a battle, not a war, right? If this is like a first-encounter situation, my money is on the knights...
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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 1:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mr. Yang-
The tone expressed in your posts is not conducive to the pursuits of this topic nor done in the manner I expect posts on this site to be conducted. I will contact you via PM now.

Everybody else-
Act professionally and respect the culture of this site.

Thank you.

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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 3:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jack Yang wrote:
Mr Smith, I think you are the one who really is ridiculous. I'm actually surprised you would say somthing like "If they existed at all", do you not know that there are plenty of historical texts, weapons, and even employment contracts that still exist today and are carefully perserved in museums? "
It's true that ninja's are not actual warriors and would seldom go out in groups but...
Quote:
If a ninja had to fight toe to toe, he had ALREADY lost. ... The idea of the super martial artist ninja who could out fight a samurai in a toe to toe fight is very much a hollywood invention. The only way a ninja could out fight a samurai would be through dirty tricks like poisoning before the fight or glass and sand in the eye....

you think so? The ninjas were not mere psychological warfare, they actually did things. they were more spies than anything else, and some were employed as body guards of warlords. there are very few records of ninja assassinations. As for ninjitsu, many of the forms and weapon techniques are still being taught. A ninja could easily defeat a samurai in open combat because their martial arts is like... anti kendo. The samurai way of fighting existed in japan for a long long time, and were all figured out, and the ninjas' way of defeating it is through a variety of new weapons and techniques, not just poison and glass shards. the climbing claws, sickle and chain, ninjaken, throwing projectiles, were all invented to be used against what was then the standard ways of fighting.
Ninjas were not trained as o-the-field warriors, of course, and they would lose if pitted against knights on a field. but what makes you think that Ninjas were 'maids and servants that never touched a blade'?
a board admin just told me to watch what I say, but I have to say this, "your reply shows no research in the topic whatsoever" Mad

Kerim, at least somebody apprieciates a little humor... and I totally agree with you. the next question would be... Ninja vs Batman? (I'm serious too!)

lol, back on topic, I think Bruno brings up an interesting point. the japanese had indeed proved to be ferious warriors, and are open minded enough to adopt to new methods and technologies quickly. but here, we are talking about a battle, not a war, right? If this is like a first-encounter situation, my money is on the knights...

Please don't make any assumptions about my knowledge of the subject. I have extensive reading in Japanese history, especially the Sengoku and Tokugawa periods. It is due to my reading that I conclude that the ninja is primarily a mythical figure. As I said in the other post, I am not saying that men like "devil hanzo" didn't exist, however they certainly weren't the "invisible warriors" of popular culture.
I will suggest if you would like to learn about the real ninja you research Yagyuu Jubei and Hattori Hanzo. It is men like them that the popular myths were formed around. However their real life was far more like secret police (planting rumors, controling through fear, etc...) than like an invisible one man army.
The west has been eager to consume the idea of an invisible warrior, and modern mythmakers like Stephen K Hayes have been more than happy to oblige.

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Bruce Wilson




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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2007 5:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:

Somehow I can't help imagining that, if the Japanese bushi were facing a longbow-rich English army, they might have decided to dismount and engage in an archery exchange. Afterwards, it would probably have ended like many battles in the Wars of the Roses--both lines of archers would get sick of the heavy attrition they were receiving from each other's archery and charge into hand-to-hand combat.


Yup, that's more or less what was going through my mind too - if you want to be realistic about a Japanese vs. European encounter of the late C14 then it would probably come down to a conflict of attrition between the sides based predominantly upon missile exchange until both sides finally got fed up with that and decided to take their chances on the field...!

As you say, the most likely targets for each side's archers would primarily be their opponents' archers and only after that the armoured knights and samurai - because that's where the source of the most significant immediate threat lies!

I would still be slightly controversial and say that the combined elements of the skill and technology underlying the respective missile attacks would probably be the deciding factor in as much as they would determine the level of attrition that each side suffered before the hand-to-hand began. I guess the question then is who would come out on top AFTER the merciless exchange of arrows had abated and the rough stuff had started?! Where does the advantage lie in terms of quality and construction (and hence effectiveness) of armour and also in terms of range and penetration power of arrows?

I ask because my knowledge of Japanese archery and armour of the time-period in question just isn't sufficient to make an informed guess as to which side would come off best in this situation. Any comments, guys?
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 06 May, 2007 4:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mikael Ranelius wrote:
I'm wondering how the Japanese are supposed to hurt the knights, provided that the latter are armoured in plate armour. If English archers had a hard time bringing down a man in plate-armour, then what chance does a Japanese bowman have using a somewhat weaker bow, with lighter arrows with weaker, tanged heads? Which weapons did they have that could deal with plate armour?


The answer?

We're dealing with the second half of the 14th century, and even at its very end--1400, that is--the development of plate aror was stil lfar from complete. Not to mention that most men-at-arms who wore plate armor would have not been wearing its most complete version. So there would have been plenty of gaps and exposed areas that arrows could still attack, and remember that the Japanese daikyu (the very long bow used in foot archery) was not remarkably weaker than the average English longbow.

As for dealing with the European armor in close combat, I suppose it would have been more a matter of technique than of weapons. Many jujitsu movements were originally developed for the purpose of defeating opponents in armor. Some of them wouldn't have been very applicable to European armors, but many others would especially if we remember that mail is only a little less grappable than a dirty, greasy piece of ordinary cloth.


Now, the real question: who would have won once the hand-to-hand fighting began? In this respect, I'm going to repeat my earlier point--the Japanese would probably lose, not because any inherent weaknesses in their tactical system but because the armies of the late 14th century were quite poor in quality compared to armies from other periods. Even Kusunoki Masashige or Ashikaga Takauji--the two most renowned generals of the period--were not particularly known for tactical brilliance, and the battle plans for both sides in the (very) few battles that occured at this time tended to be quite simplistic because the low-quality armies did not allow much creative maneuvering. They definitely would have had little chance against a competent and ruthless European commander like the Black Prince, John Hawkwood, or Bertrand du Guesclin. A match between them and a Timurid army would have been a very one-sided affair!

This stands in stark contrast to certain other periods, where Minamoto no Yoshitsune and his army would have stood a fair chance against Richard the Lionheart or Frederick Barbarossa, or Oda Nobunaga might have had a fair pass against a contemporary 16th-century French or Imperial army and would have beaten an English or Italian one to pulp. His subordinate Ieyasu Tokugawa had a much better-trained and better-disciplined army than he, but was more methodical than brilliant in his tactical approach. What else could we say about a warlord who won his most decisive battle (i.e. Sekigahara) by a political deal made before the first arrow was loosed?

Too bad he was not a contemporary of the always-late Lord Stanley. They would have made quite a nice match. ;P
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Mikael Ranelius




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PostPosted: Sun 06 May, 2007 5:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:


The answer?

We're dealing with the second half of the 14th century, and even at its very end--1400, that is--the development of plate aror was stil lfar from complete. Not to mention that most men-at-arms who wore plate armor would have not been wearing its most complete version. So there would have been plenty of gaps and exposed areas that arrows could still attack, and remember that the Japanese daikyu (the very long bow used in foot archery) was not remarkably weaker than the average English longbow.



Still the Franco-Burgundian crusaders at Nicopolis proved to be more than a match against the Ottomans, although they were defeated in the end due to poor tactics and inferior numbers. I guess a fight between a European army like the French-Burgundian-German contingent of heavily armoured men-at-arms at Nicopolis would have smashed a Japanese army of similar size and composition. I admit that I'm not sure how disciplined the Japanese armies of the time were, but I guess they were far from as well-organized as the Ottomans who took a severe beating at Nicopolis, but whose discipline and remarcable tactical ability saved the day
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Bram Verbeek





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PostPosted: Sun 06 May, 2007 2:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

again (as always) one should pit equals against equals. This means a general of equal skill, and a timeframe in which the amount of effort laid into warfare was about equal, and then both complete battlegroups. I think, though interesting, it is too hard a point to make. I would however jump at the opportunity if -for instance- creative assembly would let it be simulated in a game environment.
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Edward Hitchens




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PostPosted: Sun 06 May, 2007 2:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sam Barris wrote:
This is a good article. It doesn't really address your question, but does a great job of addressing the difficulties inherent in answering your question. Big Grin

http://www.thearma.org/essays/knightvs.htm


That was an excellent article. Thanks for sharing that, Sam. The list of variables can be endless; everything from the specific types of weapons used to whether or not the samurai has been briefed on the knight's style and vice versa -- even things like climate and terrain.

I think the whole knight v. samurai is just too broad. The two warriors never met in combat (not to my knowledge anyway). It's almost like pitting Jaws against King Kong.

The advantage to bringing up a topic like this is that it allows brainstorming and learning from those who practice either style of swordsmanship (Japanese or European or whatever). Even if you're biased towards one or the other, one may find enjoyment and fascination in studying the methods of either warrior. Wink

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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sun 06 May, 2007 3:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Were the samurai still predominantly horse archers in the 14th century?

If so, the European heavy cavalry would have a hard time dealing with them.


I'm not entirely sure that this would be the case. I seem to recall that the Muslim armies during the crusades made significant usage of horse archers against the crusaders with relatively little effect at times. And it's not like Europeans in the 14th century weren't used to dealing with large numbers of archers and crossbowmen.

Also, the usage of early firearms might have had a small, but perhaps not insignificant, psychological advantage for the Europeans.
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Kerim Mamedov




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PostPosted: Mon 07 May, 2007 8:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Edward Hitchens wrote:
... like pitting Jaws against King Kong...


Bah! Kong 'ill bash dat fish, no question!

I think terain is a key. Samurai line will not hold a ground if charged by heavy knights, but only on a dry and reasonably flat field, then again, in the hills, or after 1-2 day long rain...
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Edelizo O. De Lara




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PostPosted: Mon 07 May, 2007 8:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is a good mental exercise. And most points are applicable. Here are some of mine:

-Wouldn't the Japanese use halberds (niigata, I think they are called). I mean assuming they weather thru the longbow volley?

-They also had long horse-cutter swords (nodachi....?)

To Mr. Karem Mamedov

- yes, the gorrilla would win.....if he could swim......Wink

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 07 May, 2007 11:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mikael Ranelius wrote:
I admit that I'm not sure how disciplined the Japanese armies of the time were, but I guess they were far from as well-organized as the Ottomans who took a severe beating at Nicopolis, but whose discipline and remarcable tactical ability saved the day


That's the point. There were several eras in history where some Japanese armies could stand on some sort of equal footing with the best European armies, but Boris's timeframe--the late 14th century--was definitely not one of them. It would have been the case of some of the worst Japanese armies pitted against fairly good European armies. Late 11th-century or late 16th-century Japanese armies would have been far more capable of facing their European counterparts.


Bram Verbeek wrote:
again (as always) one should pit equals against equals. This means a general of equal skill, and a timeframe in which the amount of effort laid into warfare was about equal, and then both complete battlegroups. I think, though interesting, it is too hard a point to make. I would however jump at the opportunity if -for instance- creative assembly would let it be simulated in a game environment.


That's an interesting proposition. In that case, though, we should probably look at the late 12th century or the late 16th century instead of the late 14th century like what we're doing now.


Craig Peters wrote:
Quote:
Were the samurai still predominantly horse archers in the 14th century?

If so, the European heavy cavalry would have a hard time dealing with them.


I'm not entirely sure that this would be the case. I seem to recall that the Muslim armies during the crusades made significant usage of horse archers against the crusaders with relatively little effect at times.


Certainly agreed--though we should also remember that the Crusaders dealt with the Muslim horse archers mostly by employing massed crossbow formations to hold them back beyond the effective range of their arrows. But this is off-topic so I'd better stop before I start rambling...

(And I will never tire to preach that not all horse archers were light cavalry.)
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