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sk3erkrou
12-06-2013, 04:24 PM
Hey everyone, in one of my WIPS, I have to cultures meeting, or rather, one being invaded by another. One culture has adopted the use of rapiers due to a shortage of materials making armor unfeasible, so they do not need heavy weapons. However, the other culture does have armor, so they still use broadswords, with maces and axes used very rarely.
My question is: how would a fight between a person wielding a broadsword and a person with a rapier work? Would the broadsword simply snap the rapier, or is the fight more evenly matched than I am thinking?
Please assume that the fighters are equally skilled in their respective weapons.
Thanks in advance for the help!

Torgo
12-06-2013, 04:31 PM
If you google 'broadsword vs rapier' there's a lot of info, and even video.

I've never sparred with swords - sticks and (rubber) knives only - but the common principle generally seems to be you try really hard not to get hit at all. I would pick the rapier over the broadsword every time, and try to evade rather than block. (I think you could probably block with a rapier - they weren't, as far as I know, absurdly flimsy.)

sk3erkrou
12-06-2013, 05:00 PM
But then what about the matter of the fighter with a rapier needing to get through very good and well fitting plate armor?

Torgo
12-06-2013, 05:10 PM
But then what about the matter of the fighter with a rapier needing to get through very good and well fitting plate armor?

Gotta have nooks and crannies for the rapier - your full plate isn't going to cover everything. But then full plate was, I think, mainly for heavy cavalry - it's not great for infantry, who might wear 3/4 plate at most, and at that point I'm stabbing them mainly in the feet.

I think your regular soldiers of the time would be more likely to wear some kind of cuirass - just torso protection, really.

I feel like in a one-on-one duel I would always go for faster/more mobile over heavy and armoured. It's really tiring even if you are swinging a bit of rattan and wearing a tracksuit.

thothguard51
12-06-2013, 05:13 PM
Answers depend on a number of factors.

Rapiers did not come into play because of a lack of material, or knowledge on how to make heavier weapons. Once heavy armour was made obsolete by the use of guns, lighter swords came into play until they too became obsolete.

As to an individual fight, the rapier combatant is not encumbered by the weight of armour. But the armoured combatant has more protection. A rapier is for thrusting. Broad Swords, axes, maces are for mangling an opponent, ie, breaking arms, legs, etc to disable an opponent.

For a armies meeting on a battlefield, I would not want to be the army with only rapiers going against a shield wall of broadswords, pikes, axes, spears and heavy calvary.

King Neptune
12-06-2013, 05:15 PM
I usually have a dagger in my left hand when I am fighting with my rapier, and it is effective in blocking attacks with a broadsword. Others use a buckler or something else as a shield.

Trebor1415
12-06-2013, 07:58 PM
Answers depend on a number of factors.

Rapiers did not come into play because of a lack of material, or knowledge on how to make heavier weapons. Once heavy armour was made obsolete by the use of guns, lighter swords came into play until they too became obsolete.

As to an individual fight, the rapier combatant is not encumbered by the weight of armour. But the armoured combatant has more protection. A rapier is for thrusting. Broad Swords, axes, maces are for mangling an opponent, ie, breaking arms, legs, etc to disable an opponent.

For a armies meeting on a battlefield, I would not want to be the army with only rapiers going against a shield wall of broadswords, pikes, axes, spears and heavy calvary.

Yeah, this ^.

I have some serious issues with the "One army only has Rapiers due to a lack of materials" idea.

Even if they have a serious lack of materials, if they have metal at all, they are going to come up with more than one weapon. If nothing else different factions within the society will want an advantage over other factions and will seek out better weapons over time.

A better question would be: "How would a battle between an army with a serious lack of metal and metal technology go against an army with significant metal technology, and armor."

The answer is: Not well. Look at how few Conquistadores were needed to conquer the Aztecs, etc.

Even with a lack of metal, if that society has any sort of internal wars or strife, they'd develop more than just one weapon. Not everyone would be running around with a Rapier. Over time they'd develop heavy fabric armor, wood armor, and other measures to counter a Rapier. That would lead to weapons to defeat that armor. It doesn't take much metal to make a spear or an axe head or other polearm. Even if they don't need a hammer to punch through plate armor the longer shaft of a pole arm creates a longer lever arm which provides more force on target to penetrate whatever armor they do have or just create a worst wound.

Don't forget that many weapons were developed from common implements. I have a hard time believing they have the metal tech to make Rapiers but never developed the axe for cutting wood or any other implement (such as the flail) for agriculture that they could later weaponize.

Telergic
12-06-2013, 08:28 PM
This question has been addressed at infinite length both by fencing enthusiasts and fantasy authors. You can find it in everything from L. Sprague de Camp to Steven Brust, and as mentioned, all over the Internet, from people in the SCA and other historical re-creation societies, etc. etc. etc.

My own take is that broadswords are not as slow as people tend to think, but even so in a one-on-one duel a rapier-wielder will likely win because of the superior reach and killing power of a long thrust versus a cut -- cuts tend to injure, and thrusts are more likely to kill. Skill and experience facing the other weapon type should make a big difference on both sides.

In terms of parrying, I doubt a broadsword will routinely break a rapier, at least if it's an active parry from the rapier knocking the broadsword out of the way, but a strong broadsword swing versus a square-on block or against the blade near the grip might do it, or might disarm as the case may be. Remember, of course, that a rapier is not the needle-like small-sword you tend to see in movies, but a blade quite a bit heavier than any modern fencing weapon. On the other hand, the kind of parry taught to a fencer to deflect a thrust might not be all that good vs. a broadsword, so the rapier-wielder might have to have training against broadswords to parry them effectively.

Also note, by the way, that historically "full plate" was rarely seen in battle. Most plate worn by actual soldiers (this would be after the middle ages, when plate was rare) would be breastplates and possibly back plates (though often not) along with some other armor here and there. Fully enclosing "suits" of armor were for kings and dukes to strut around in on tournament lists or in field headquarters during the Renaissance when the armor was already obsolete due to crossbows.

Another point is in war a sword is really an auxiliary weapon, especially the rapier during the rapier's heyday. At that time, the crossbow was extremely effective (and then would be replaced by the musket), and infantry with pikes would be deploying against cavalry with lances, with both of them using swords only if their formations broke down.

Shadow_Ferret
12-06-2013, 08:35 PM
Define "broadsword" because I think that term gets misused a lot.

But as has already been explained, if one side just has a rapier or even a rapier and a parrying dagger and the other side was fully armored, the rapier side doesn't stand a chance. The rapier is more if a gentleman's weapon, worn as an accessory more or less to show status and was used primarily for duels. And unlike the movies, its very hard to kill with one thrust. Whereas the broadsword (arming sword? Bastard sword? Long sword?) is for hacking and slashing.

An armored opponent would have little fear from a rapier and would be free to just hack at will at what would basically be a standing sack of meat. No way could a rapier or a knife stop a broadsword as it descended to cleave his skull.

Do a little research. Google is your friend. Start with the Sword Buyers Guide. Lots of info there. Research the history of the armor and all the ways villagers and peasants without the resources to get swords came up with creative farming implements to defend themselves from knights on horseback. If your rapier side has a metal shortage they'd probably invent pikes and poleaxes and other deadly weapons mounted on staffs.

Torgo
12-06-2013, 08:41 PM
An armored opponent would have little fear from a rapier and would be free to just hack at will at what would basically be a standing sack of meat. No way could a rapier or a knife stop a broadsword as it descended to cleave his skull.

Well, as the putative rapier and knife guy, I wouldn't be trying to stop a broadsword; I'd be getting out of the way. I certainly wouldn't be standing around like a sack of meat waiting to get carved up.

robjvargas
12-06-2013, 08:59 PM
The OP said invasion, and mentioned cultures.

As has already been mentioned, one-on-one fighting is one thing. Small unit tactics another, and grand battlefield maneuvers another as well.

The rapier might win on speed one-on-one. But pretty much any battle is going to go to the armor.

Torgo
12-06-2013, 09:02 PM
The OP said invasion, and mentioned cultures.

As has already been mentioned, one-on-one fighting is one thing. Small unit tactics another, and grand battlefield maneuvers another as well.

The rapier might win on speed one-on-one. But pretty much any battle is going to go to the armor.

Yes, the question I was trying to answer was


how would a fight between a person wielding a broadsword and a person with a rapier work?

I certainly wouldn't want to be on the same side if you scaled it up any.

Telergic
12-07-2013, 12:11 AM
But as has already been explained, if one side just has a rapier or even a rapier and a parrying dagger and the other side was fully armored, the rapier side doesn't stand a chance. The rapier is more if a gentleman's weapon, worn as an accessory more or less to show status and was used primarily for duels. And unlike the movies, its very hard to kill with one thrust. Whereas the broadsword (arming sword? Bastard sword? Long sword?) is for hacking and slashing.


I think you're confusing the rapier and the smallsword. The rapier was a soldier's secondary weapon for the era after armor was no longer all that useful -- when crossbows and then muskets ruled the battlefield, except for cavalry charges -- and those relied more on the weight of the horse than on any hand weapon anyhow.The smallsword was a gentleman's weapon, used in private disputes and for self-defense after all swords but sabers had been retired from the battlefield.

The rapier can penetrate many forms of armor on a thrust, and it's typically almost as heavy as a broadsword, if not on a par. A rapier might have problems with plate, but plate is rare, and doesn't cover the whole body anyway most of the time. Armor may be something of an equalizer for the broadsword-wielder, but it's silly to say the rapier man doesn't have a chance. Also, at the time broadswords were used, most armor was a combination of low-quality chain and padding of various kinds, and plate was a rarity.

Telergic
12-07-2013, 12:12 AM
The OP said invasion, and mentioned cultures.

As has already been mentioned, one-on-one fighting is one thing. Small unit tactics another, and grand battlefield maneuvers another as well.

The rapier might win on speed one-on-one. But pretty much any battle is going to go to the armor.

Well, if one side has rapiers, they also presumably have crossbows if not muskets, and so they will annihilate any infantry force composed of chainmail and broadsword users.

Edit: I do have to agree that a formation of soldiers who for some reason only have rapiers may be in trouble if they encounter any other historical armored infantry unit with shields and polearms or even broadswords. But so far as I know, there has never been a military unit that carried rapiers as primary weapons, only secondary ones.

Shadow_Ferret
12-07-2013, 12:43 AM
Well, I wasn't thinking small sword. We probably should get a definition for rapier, too. I was thinking of the long, thin bladed (less than an inch), with a somewhat ornate swept hilt that civilians carried. Still somewhat lighter than the military version but not as whippy as a short sword or epee.

StormChord
12-07-2013, 06:13 AM
You have to remember that swords are nowhere near as durable as movies make them look. In a serious fight between a broadsword and a rapier, the rapier will snap in half with the first good hit from the broadsword. I've had rapiers snap in half just from the impact with another rapier.

The only way the fight could go any differently would be to rely on the slowness of the armored fighters, and never allow the broadsword to hit the rapier.

Nivarion
12-07-2013, 01:34 PM
Okay, to kill some misconceptions.

Medieval swordsmiths knew what they were doing, as did armor smiths. For a short fight, a man in well made armor will not suffer much disadvantage to movement or speed. Armor becomes a disadvantage when you are in something like deep mud, or if you are having to run away.

Swords, by general are light. Most of our reproductions are on average 6oz heavier than the sword they are a copy of (http://www.thearma.org/essays/weights.htm), and much more of the weight is in the blade than a historical sword. This means that both sides, trained with their weapons would be very fast with them.

In terms of weapons, a 'broadsword' (someone else mentioned that his is a vague term. And it is since it's post Victorian) would provide great stabbing ability and good slashing abilities. They didn't disappear from battles or even duels when the rapier came in. Both are handy weapons in the event of a duel, but in a battle when pressed in close with other people, a weapon with a cutting edge would be very useful.

Swords could snap, either type as likely as the other, if they were struck against things they shouldn't be. As I said, sword smiths knew of what they were doing, and swords would be tough for their type of fighting. However, it's generally a bad idea to block a weapon with your weapon. That's how you get them broken, and when you have to kill someone before they kill you, that's bad.

On the subject of swords, they weren't a common first choice battlefield weapon. They would have come in second to maces, poleaxes, billhooks and spears.

Crossbows didn't kill the knight. They killed the professional archer. Firearms made good progress in killing the knight but they didn't do it either. It was the purse and his own armor that killed the knight. It cost the same to make 20 muskets and train men to use them as it did to outfit a knight. (Armor was still in use well into the colonial era)

Chain mail could be penetrated, though it was very difficult. It required a very dedicated strike with the right type of weapons. If your target is moving or twisting then it is likely that the strike would just be twisted away. It could also technically be cut open, but it would destroy any weapon you did that with.

Resources are important in war. A side with little resources would be destroyed by the appearance of an army with a technology and resource difference you described. In most cases.

The other side would have other weapons. Stakes, killing pits, clubs, and bows can all be made without using metal. In a society without armor tech, I don't see why they would use metal arrowheads, since stone is cheaper and kills just as nice.

The side without armor would want to use that lack of armor to their advantage. While armor doesn't impede your motion much, it is still an extra 60-70lbs on your body. If your enemy forces you to run some, especially when it's hot and humid you can get very tired of being in it very quick. If they can get you to look down a lot (think rain of arrows) then it can get hard to breath in too. While a person should be able to swim in armor, it creates extra drag and the padding creates extra weight. Rivers are not the armored army's friend.

Since helmets often restrict field of vision some, there are fun toys the unarmored side can use like caltrops hidden in grass.

The armored side would have the best advantage in pitched battle, where units are close to each other and pressed in together. They would chew through the unarmored guys. It is likely that most successful hits would do little to the armored man, while most would kill or main the unarmored.

And I feel I've rambled long enough for tonight. Maybe more tomorrow.

ECathers
12-08-2013, 10:08 AM
Okay, to kill some misconceptions.


This post is full of awesome.

As mentioned by Nivarion, the smiths of the day knew their stuff.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned on this thread yet is pattern-welded (sometimes called Damascus) steel. A truly good pattern-welded sword is flexible enough that it can be bent more than 90 degrees and still be easily returned to shape.

Pattern welding consists of forging 2 or more types of steel together, then folding them again and again. The resulting metal is very strong and highly flexible.

It's my understanding (my ex was a knifemaker, and admittedly my tech is a little out of date on the subject since we divorced over a decade ago and my memory may be spotty here and there) that this manner of crafting swords was developed to conserve higher quality steel by merging it with lower quality steel.

Some swords rather than being true pattern welded were made with a lower quality base and higher quality steel/iron edges.

The technique used in heat treating the blade is also imperative. Do it wrong and you can mis-align the crystalline structure in the metal and create a blade that is so hard that it lacks flexibility, thus making it easier to snap.

So it's not only a matter of who has more metal and who doesn't but also who has superior tech/skill in their metal working.

I'll take a well-made blade of nearly any sort over a badly made one.

The point about armor not being as heavy/restrictive as popular lore suggests is also important. Well-made armor is balanced so that weight is distributed.

Additionally, remember that these guys trained for HOURS every day, while wearing that armor. That builds muscle.

As a sideways example, I'm a biker. 20 years ago when we were fighting the NY helmet law I did massive amounts of study into the effects of helmets and accidents with/without them. Here's the deal - a 4 lb helmet, when you add in speed, inertia, etc, weighs about 20 + pounds at point of impact. Since most folks only wear a helmet a few hours a day, once in a while, they don't build up the neck muscles needed to have control over the helmet when impact occurs.

I've heard a lot of folks say, "he landed on his head - thank god for the helmet!" However when helmets aren't a factor most riders instinctively duck and roll and the helmet/head is not the first site of impact.

Which is again a long way around to say that folks who train in armor all day long won't be terribly hampered by armor.

Maces, which have been mentioned briefly in this thread have also not gotten enough attention her IMO.

Maces are bone-breakers and cause internal injury. Broken bones can equal crippling wounds. Internal bleeding can cause death pretty darn fast. One problem with metal armor is if it gets dented bad, you may have a problem.

Another point which was somewhat mentioned and bears repeating. The OP mentioned this as being a clash of 2 differing cultures. My thought is that whichever culture has more experience with both internal strife (warring factions within the society) and external strife (warring against other cities/states/kingdoms) has a large possibility of being the victor. The more challenges of different sorts they face, the more likely they will be to innovate their warfare in both tools and tactics. There's almost always a way to win if you have experience and passion.

Also, which culture has the most to lose? Ask Sun Tzu - if you take your warriors into a situation where they have nothing else to lose they'll give their best.

Whether or not you have the best equipment (and this goes for armies as well as one on one battles) the more motivated and more trained person is likely to win.

Nivarion
12-08-2013, 11:55 AM
Oh, just thought of something. For a look at how a culture that is unused to a new type of armor that just shows up on an enemy, you can study the Mongolian invasion of Japan. Some of the Japanese weapons like that periods' Katana fared very poorly, with many of them snapping. The soldiers of both sides struggled with where they should hit the enemy due to the radical armor differences. '

The Yari spear proved it's nasty brutality again in that war.

ECathers
12-08-2013, 09:22 PM
Also, the OP might want to check out Deadliest Warrior http://www.spike.com/shows/deadliest-warrior

WeaselFire
12-09-2013, 05:55 PM
My question is: how would a fight between a person wielding a broadsword and a person with a rapier work?
History lesson. Look up the Crusades.

Jeff

Once!
12-09-2013, 06:48 PM
History lesson #2. Look up the battle of Agincourt.

It's hard to generalise about heavy weapon vs light weapon (although a large chunk of the internet seems to want to try!). It depends on the situation, especially the environment.

The Romans took an interest in this, with different types of weaponry being matched against each other in the gladiatorial games.

So put yourself in the position of one side or another and try to work out what tactics you would use. If you have the lighter weapons/ armour you will want to attack from a distance and make the most of your advantages of speed and agility. Hit and run tactics are the order of the day.

If you are the one with the heavier weaponry and armour, then you will want to close into combat as quickly as possible.

The mismatch between firepower and agility is at the heart of just about every battle that has ever been fought between different nations or different styles. Assegai vs rifles and bayonets at Rourke's drift. Blitzkrieg in WW2. U boats versus destroyers. David and Goliath. Rocky Balboa versus Apollo Creed. Ali vs Frasier. Spartans vs the Persians. Mongoose vs snake. Heck, even Jurassic Park gave us T-Rex vs velociraptor.

I don't think that there is a definitive answer yet. And if there is, I don't want to know what it is. Pitch your little sword guys against your big sword guys and have fund deciding for yourself who will win.

Nivarion
12-09-2013, 07:35 PM
[QUOTE=Once!;8580141
I don't think that there is a definitive answer yet. And if there is, I don't want to know what it is. Pitch your little sword guys against your big sword guys and have fund deciding for yourself who will win.[/QUOTE]

Yes, definitely. I was trying to get at something along the end of my big post.

It's all about your tactics. One reason a lot of reenactors fail is that they don't take the tactics of the day into account.

Agincourt is a great example where the heavily armored french who outnumbered the (for the most part) lightly armored English 5 to 1 suffered a crushing defeat because the English tactics were better used.

The battle of Fallen Timbers is another one where training and tactics won the day, when the Natives' individual combat and tactics had won repeatedly up till then.

If you want the side with no armor and rapiers to win, they're going to have to out think the invaders at every turn.