Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Quick Note on Spears and Swords

Gil-galad is displeased.
After some discussions with various folk, I pulled together these quick notes on spears and swords:

Spears were the mainstay of most armies going back as far as, well, ever.  They’re easy to make (sharpen one end of a stick) and proved themselves right up until, and through, the start of gunpowder tactics.  They’re generally underrated by modern audience because swords are far sexier.  A sword represents an individual warrior’s strength, skill and power.  Spears are the same—just ask Gil-galad—but their greatest strength is when used in numbers. Spears, and their polearm variations, were easily the most common tool of a trained army.  They were favored by both infantry and cavalry making up the backbone of any fighting force. They're incredibly versatile, especially when in a tight formation providing both offensive and defensive advantages.  Because of this, almost all infantry were trained with shield and spear first and foremost.

Until modern times, the sword was always considered a backup weapon in pitched battle.  Yes, even by samurai.  The sword of an infantryman was usually a secondary weapon on a field of battle.  There are exceptions, like the doppelhander or zweihander a huge, double-handed sword that was used as a tool to defeat polearm formations.  However, the doppelhander functions similarly to a halberd which would essentially replace it for practical reasons.  Otherwise, the sword was a secondary weapon to the spear when it came to the clash of armies and kings.  With a strong defensive formation, it's a simple matter to thrust or drop your spear and draw your sword to continue the fight. This was part of the training of most infantry units, and why they are so effective.

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