As we learned about ancient history, I knew for the battles to really make sense I need them to learn about small arms combat. So I set about to teach them about small arms combat.
The first step was to teach them about how to fight effectively with small arms combat.
Small Arms Combat with LEGOS
First we looked at why mob fighting isn’t effective.
- Your army is only as effective as your bravest soldier
- You do not get the benefit of having friends to fight with you
- You are only as effective as your most skilled warrior
- That skilled warrior can easily be cut down by a single lucky shot.
This is of course an over-simplification, but now let’s look at what ancient Greece discovered to be more effective.
Meet the phalanx. This tactic was created by the Greeks, and improved by the Romans. A phalanx is row upon row of men who are all fighting together as a unit. It becomes extremely effective because as one man tires out he can retreat back through the ranks to be replaced by a fresh soldier.
- Men are much less likely to break and run because they would have to turn around and run through their friends.
- It makes an orderly retreat possible.
- Traditionally your younger less-experienced troops would be in the front and would fight the most and would have the most energy.
- The older more experienced (but less energetic) troops would be in the back and would be able to take over as the youth and inexperience fades.
- Your exposed side is protected by your friend’s shield.
- The shields can be used together to protect more than you could on your own.
But here’s the problems with a phalanx:
- Your phalanx is only as strong as the width and depth of your phalanx. So if you only have enough men to make a narrow phalanx, then you’re in trouble.
- It does not maneuver easily. If your foe can get around the edge of your phalanx, you are dead. D-E-D dead (reference to obscure gaming movie).
Eventually the Romans created a variation on the phalanx called the mandible. It was more maneuverable, and eventually allowed them to defeat the Greeks.
The phalanx lasted as a fighting technique for quite a while. If you notice up through the Civil War you see very similar tactics to the phalanx. With the onset of World War 1 and heavy artillery and trench warfare we see major shifts in how fighting was done.
Teaching Small Arms combat with toy weapons
If you have young boys you have toy swords. In our case we have a lot of them. Especially after we got the duct tape warfare book and the boys were able to make their own weapons. We suddenly were swimming in toy weapons.
This fight is between a short sword (which Romans carried, and most near-Eastern civilizations) and a long sword.
You’ll notice the short sword cannot reach the long sword to fight yet, so the long sword is able to attack sooner. But the long sword is heavier and slower, so the long sword is able to swing more often and will not tire out as easily.
Long swords are effective for giving you reach and is what you most often see in movies. It makes for nice dramatic fights.
The mace is a wonderful weapon for smashing and for fighting someone in heavy armor. Your sword will usually not cut through a suit of platemail, but a mace or warhammer may well dent that plate enough you’re not getting out of it easily and may well have broken bones.
A mace is also effective at breaking other weapons as it applies blunt force.
Fighting with a small shield.
Unlike in the movies a small shield is to be used to intersperse it between yourself and the other man’s weapon. It’s not some decorative thing you throw to the side when you want to get serious about fighting.
Notice in this picture Superman is holding the shield and blocking Princess’ sword strike. He can then push her sword away or use it to try and over-balance her. A very useful feature on the battle field.
This is approximating a tower shield. In reality a tower shield is much bigger on you, but for now this gives you a good idea of what it is like.
A tower shield provides protection for most of your body, you can hide behind it when your are being shot at, and it makes an effective way to block your enemy’s weapon.
But, a tower shield is heavy. Thing about carrying that around all day long. If you are carrying a tower shield you are not very mobile. You are most likely carrying it and then placing yourself somewhere. It makes a great defense for an archer.
So, that’s our super official small arms combat lesson. It was a lot of fun to do with the kids last spring, and now I’ve got it all official looking so I can make them refer back to it from time to time.
I’m linking this up over at All Things Beautiful.