Thing Four: Engage Lightly

corby's picture

Remember how in the introduction I mentioned that I'd present the Four Things in ascending order of difficulty? Sure, running right is harder than charging, and running left is harder because of where most people's shields are. But Thing Four is really, really hard. It is much harder than engaging the enemy with your shield facing the wrong way. Think about that.
Thing Four could just as accurately be called "How to delay getting your whole unit killed." That's because when the situation requires that you engage lightly, it almost always means that you have no choice but to do so and the only measure of success is not how fast you kill all the opponents, but how slowly they kill you. One more time: This is very hard.
So why do it? Sometimes you come to the field with your polearm or spear, look around the buddies you're going to kill the opposing unit with, and realize that almost all of them also brought their polearms or spears. Or their greatswords. Or worse, their two sword. You get put in charge, and you realize that you have to attack 12 shieldmen and 4 spears with 8 spears, 3 polearms, four shieldmen and one two swordsman who didn't get the memo.
You can't charge a shield line with that weapons mix. You can't receive a charge. So, you have to do Thing Four: Engage Lightly.
Picadors and Matadors engage the bull lightly. They can't stand there waiting for the bull. They can't just run away. They get close, but not too close. They step to the side at the last minute. Sadly for you, your opponent has a tighter turning radius than a bull, so you can't stand still, wave your arms and hope to fool those twelve shieldmen who want to show you their new swords.

Your tactic must be to constantly stay just barely in your range, while preventing the opponent's greater number of shields from charging into your midst. You can't just back up. For one thing, there's probably a king or some such who has told you "Go kill those guys" and you won't convince him you've done your job if all you do is run away from them. Secondly, it is very difficult to kill an opposing unit while moving backward. Kill stepping forward, die stepping backward.

So, you have to run around the other unit. Constantly. Never stopping. Spin them like a top. Think of the front edge of your unit as the edge of the matador's cape, and the front edge of the enemy shields as the horns of the bull.

What you're doing here, of course, is a slightly modified version of Thing Two or Thing Three. As you rotate around your opponent, you have to go to their right or left. What you don't want to do is penetrate into their ranks. You want to pick off the stragglers with your spears, push back enemy charges with your poles, and look menacing with whatever shields you have. The presence of shields in your line lessens the chances of your being charged, just by their presence. What shieldmen you have must understand that their job is to stay with the long weapons, not to engage the enemy shields.

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Everyone in Caer Mear Should Read This

Corby, with your permission, I would like to print this entire essay out, bind it up, and give a copy to every single one of the unbelts who were at practice last night. Would you mind if I did that?

corby's picture

printing and such

First off, thanks for the kind words.

However, I wonder at the value of printing it over just saying "Hey! go read this on Corby's web site!" We have all these cool mechanisms for commentary right here, so if people have thoughts or questions, they can ask them here and get responses.

Also, as mentioned in the intro, this is still a work in progress. I want pictures for many sections that lack them now.

All that said, anyone is welcome to reproduce this material as they wish, as long as they credit me and mention a link to the main web site.

No Problem

I will send the link to Laz and some of the other guys at practice who should read this.

I must agree I think that thi

I must agree I think that this article is very useful. I read it a couple of times through to digest, but I would still like to see it applied at a practice. I am a auditory learner, so I am sure there is still much I can get out of this.

William Thomas

Different terminology than

Different terminology than what I use but pretty much identical concepts. Ferinstance "engage lightly" I call "Cowboys and Idiots."


What the world needs is a good ELE. - Jonathan Blackbow