WR - War Question 6

B. Byers phantom at camalott.com
Tue Feb 9 07:53:26 PST 1999

>What is the difference in open and closed shield formations and when
>would they more than likely be used?

Hmmm, I think i might have an answer. :)

I believe open would mean, a spread out formation (greater space between the
soldiers). Where as the closed would mean a tight formation (aka's sheild to
sheild as in sheild walls and other such formations).
The rest of my descriptions will be based upon this assumption in

Famous armies that were well trained and disciplined  such as the Romans and
Greeks fought in closed, tight formations and each soldier relied upon each
other in a great way in this kind of formation all the soldiers in a unit
such as this must have training in this type of fighting. As in our SCA
melees sometimes the sheildmen generally may not be the teeth of the unit
which in many times was correct. That is what the spearmen were for. The
sheildmen protect the unit and the spearmen.  The biggest drawback to this
fighting, terrain can be one of the greatest weapons used against you if you
let it. In SCA fighting we are pretty safe in that we fight on nice
relatively flat and clear ground. However, in period armies were whiped from
the face of the planet because they were not flexible. One of the best
examples i can think of is what happened to quite a few of the Roman armies
that were ranging through western Europe and were tramples by "barbarians
who came streaming out of the woods that tended to break up such "closed"
unit tactics.

Open sheild formations would in later periods be called Skirmishers.
Skirmishers must depend upon individual prowess. This can be effective in
it's own right. Should a unit need to move through rough terrain the unit
can move pretty well in a skirmish formation without "disrupting the
coherancy" of the unit as greatly aas were it a body of troops walking
shoulder to shoulder through a wood attempting to maintain that formation.
Skirmishers would usually harrass the enemy. Being a very "fluid and
flexible" type of formation they can move generally quicker and with a
spread out formation they are generally harder to hit by missile fire or
some seige weapons. Where would i be firing missile weaons i would aim for
the tightly packed troops for they make a bigger easier to hit target. This
type of formation sometimes allowed commanders to help try to choose the
ground they whished to fight on. By trying to tie up the skirmishers of the
the other army where "hopefully" you chose trying to draw his main body into
that location, making him think that the rest of your army will trample his
skirmishers. This, no commander could afford. For Skirmishers were sometimes
really good troops they had to be able to think individually,much more so
than "block" troops (closed formation), they weren't cannon fodder.  In some
fights the skirmishers would be spread out in front and could be archers,
that would move back when the armies closed.

Well, I've rambled enough. I think that this is pretty correct. If anyone
has anything to add or correct, please feel free to do so. :)

"If honor is lost, nothing remains."

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