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KyraDune
11-24-2014, 08:24 PM
In my WIP I have two groups of people involved in close combat. One side is armed with broad swords, the other with spears similar to the lances used by the Cherokee Indians. What I need to know is, how well would a spear hold up against a sword? Also, any tips on how one would fight with a spear in close combat would also be helpful. I know a bit about swords, but hardly anything about spears.

Hoplite
11-24-2014, 09:29 PM
*Based on my amateur knowledge*

The big advantage the spear has is reach. Your spearmen are going to want to keep their opponent at a good range, where they can stab at them but the swords can't reach. The downside though is that the spears (especially if Cherokee lances are as thin as I'm imagining) will be rather easy to snap, and won't be as effective in close range where the sword would dominate. Also, the swordsmen could attempt to just hack off the spear point, as was the case of two-handed swordsmen vs. pike men in the Renaissance period.

In very close combat the spear wielder is going to be throwing elbows at the enemy and using the spear more like a staff, since they'd have to back up rather far to be able to effectively use the blade point at the end of the spear.

I'm guessing your combatants are Native Americans vs. Europeans? Because if this is fantasy and your Natives have sturdy shields (even if made out of wood) they could use shield-wall/phalanx fighting formations, and that would give them better odds.

And another thing: you might want to look into Chinese or other Eastern ancient spear weapons. I recall China had a spear weapon that had more of a blade at the end of the pole rather than a simple point like European spears. Thus, it was more versatile but I don't know much else about it.

ClareGreen
11-25-2014, 01:13 AM
With dissimilar weapons like spears vs. swords, it's all about getting to where you can use your weapon but the other can't use theirs, and staying there. The sword-wielders need to be closer than the spear-fighters, and the spears can't afford to let that happen. Overall the spear is more of a defensive weapon in this situation, purely because of the need to preserve the extra reach.

De-heading the spear is a good way to get started, but a wise spear-user won't let that happen - and even then, you're left with a thin staff, which is devastating in experienced hands. With even numbers if the spears are in a narrow space, like an alley, it's going to suit them down to the ground (three or four incompetent spears can hold off ten times their number of competent swords in a narrow alley, I've seen it done), while in open terrain the swords will be able to spread more and gain the advantage. More swords will be able to spread even further, while more spears will be able to defend more territory.

Experienced spearmen usually carry something small as a last-resort backup. In that case, the swordsman closes in to optimum range for a sword, then gets a horrible surprise courtesy of a spearman stepping right up close - inside the sword's reach - with a knife or shortsword.

PeteMC
11-25-2014, 03:40 PM
How big are your groups and how close is close combat? Spearmen fight very effectively in formation but it's not an ideal weapon for single combat.

If you just search "spear vs sword" in youtube there are a few decent HEMA videos which might help

KyraDune
11-25-2014, 06:29 PM
Thanks for all your help. The groups are fairly small, a dozen armed swordsmen versus roughly double that number of spearman. They're fighting in an open field, but the spearman are hunters, not warriors, and they aren't used to fighting other people. The swordsmen on the other hand are trained, but young and have also never been in an actual combat situation. The spearmen ambushed the swordsmen and even though they're in an open area, they've crashed into each other in a sort of melee.

WeaselFire
11-26-2014, 06:13 AM
Thanks for all your help. The groups are fairly small, a dozen armed swordsmen versus roughly double that number of spearman. They're fighting in an open field, but the spearman are hunters, not warriors, and they aren't used to fighting other people. The swordsmen on the other hand are trained, but young and have also never been in an actual combat situation. The spearmen ambushed the swordsmen and even though they're in an open area, they've crashed into each other in a sort of melee.

Then the poor schmucks with spears are likely dead. It's the training that wins in this one.

Jeff

Bufty
11-26-2014, 02:10 PM
Hmmm. I'd have thought it was the other way around. From the outline given (a tad unclear as it is from the wording), spearmen ambushing (or encircling) half their number seems like a foregone conclusion to me. Ambush suggests planning. Not sure how one is ambushed in an open field, but a hunter isn't that far off a warrior in terms of using his weapon effectively. Even if only one in four aimed his spear accurately that's half the other guys gone already. How many spears does each man carry? Short or long? For long-distance use or not?

I see it's fantasy.

The variables in terms of weapons, location, ability and tactics are therefore endless and in the final analysis you can have whoever you want win and the credibility of the scenario will depend on how it's written.

Good luck

Osulagh
11-26-2014, 02:55 PM
Spears are one of the greatest weapons ever created. Their greatest strength is that a someone can be trained to use one quickly and defend against an army.

Though it depends on what kind of spear, the training involved, and the location. Throwing spears can be rather useless in some battles. If spearmen are broken up, their defense falls greatly. And if they aren't trained to perform in the area, or the area isn't fit for spears, then can be left for dead.

Swords are very versatile but require a lot of training to be good with. They are best used as a back up weapon to the spear or bow for short range or emergency. In a straight battle, a swordsman has a very slim chance against a spearman. A spearman can keep someone at bay while attacking and when the attacker passes their spear tip, they have the shaft to defend with (hard for the untrained) and they can fall back to having a sword or even defend with a shield before resetting the distance.

As for a battle between spearmen and swordsmen, I can't see it playing out without more info. It would be odd for people to just carry swords or just carry spears, so that's odd to me first off.

ClareGreen
11-27-2014, 12:41 PM
Trained-but-inexperienced swords encircled by ambushing half-trained spears? In my view, if the swordsmen can get out of the circle they'll probably win but leave some of their own dead behind. If the spears can press their advantage, it'll be a massacre. Either way there will be dead swords on the field.

To me this one will boil down to leadership of the swords - someone with a clue taking control and getting the rest to follow/help, or no-one doing so and the whole lot dying. It's the lack of experience on the part of the ambushed (who need to work together to get out of the situation, and fast) that will kill them.

Mark G
12-12-2014, 03:29 AM
If they have interlocking shields and Roman Army training, the swordsmen could form a testudo ...

From my old Roman history studies, I think that the Greek phalanx was an unbeatable force until they met the Romans. Between Romans throwing their pilum and then interlocking their shields to get under the spear tips and within sword range, the phalanx didn't stand a chance.

If the swordsmen couldn't form a shield wall or similar, and got caught by surprise, then I think thrown spears would cause enough damage that the group with spears would be victorious.

Once!
12-12-2014, 12:58 PM
I think we may be in danger of over generalising about the definition of a spear.

At its most basic, a spear is a wooden stick with a spike at the end. Spears generally predate swords because you don't need metal to make a spear, but it's hard to make a usable sword without metal.

But "stick with a pointy end" includes a multitude of different designs. Some spears are defensive and are meant to be used by large groups of men working as a formation. Other spears are meant to be thrown, either by hand or by a launcher. Most spears are used by infantry, but some - including some native American Spears - are used by men on horseback. Spears can be very long or quite short.

So before we can start talking about a spear vs sword battle, we need to decide what kind of spears we are talking about.

After that, Google is your friend...

http://www.native-languages.org/weapons.htm
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/558475/spear
http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manufacturing/text/viking_spear.htm

One way to research a fantasy battle is to look for an appropriate model from history. The Conquistadors versus the Aztecs might be a good fit.

A couple of other random thoughts...

If the spear is thrown, do your swordsmen have shields? Do your swordsmen have ranged weapons? Do your spearmen have backup weapons - clubs or knives.

Soldiers often had more than one weapon, depending on who they were fighting. Not to mention shields for defending themselves against attacks, especially from ranged weapons.