There is a tribe in the ruins of old San Diego. There are about 300 of them in the village, they grow crops like maize, squash, and beans, and use metal tipped spears to hunt aquatic sea animals like fish. Everything is peaceful.

Then, out of nowhere, this strange metal flying bird (helicopter) lands right outside their village. Then, out of the metal bird come six men, all wearing strange suits (body armor), wielding fire sticks (guns), and small devices that shoot out lightning (tasers). They try to kidnap as many people in the village as they can.

How could the villagers fight back, given these circumstances?

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Tasers do not shoot light. Tasers shoot darts attached to wires. When the dart hits, it sends electricity through the wires. This might be a future replacement for tasers that does use light to ionize the air and carry a charge, but it's not how current tasers work. You might better call these things stunners or something to differentiate them from modern tasers. Or go through a long explanation of how they are similar to tasers despite the differences. $\endgroup$
    – Brythan
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Brythan From the question I don't think that's what the OP was implying. It sounds more like they are Tasers that work just like our Tasers, but the flash of Light is just that of the electricity coursing through the wires. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ @SydneySleeper "but the flash of Light is just that of the electricity coursing through the wires." As great as that looks on film, I don't think tasers work like that. It's too wasteful of energy. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 4:47
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn, wasteful of energy? Eeeek.... Let's hope the OP is talking about the blinking LED that indicates the Taser is being discharged because if there's enough electricity on the wires or between the electrodes to actually see the electricity it would (a) burn the victim's skin and (b) kill him. That's a whomping lot of electricity. Have you seen all those big power lines running into cities? The wires are uninsulated and carry billions ("B") of times more electricity than any taser... and you can't see light running along the wires. Never trust Hollywood, that's what I say. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 8:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure I've seen this asked before. I'll check in like 3-5 hours, when I'll turn on my pc. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 9:19

12 Answers 12


Scuttle their boat.

tail rotor

This relies on there being a super cool headed person who is watching what is going down.

Primitive people practice bride raiding. You show up, grab as many young women as you can handle, and leave quickly. These tribespeople might be familiar with the practice. In San Diego, brideraiders would probably approach by sea. If you know what they are and what they intend, a saboteur can attach and scuttle their boats while they are rounding up the women. When they return with their captives they find the boats cannot be used. They are backed up against the sea with no exit. They become very willing to negotiate.

Your perceptive person sees that these strange beings are taking people alive. Both men and women, true, but your person is aware that for brides, some people prefer men and some prefer women and so she does not miss a beat. She sees that the bird is metal like the spear points and she is aware that once, boats were made of metal because there is a rusted hulk off Tijuana. She understand that the bird is an air boat. That is how they arrived and that is how they will leave.

To save the captives these bride raiders must be prevented from leaving. For a boat, a hole in the bottom can be quickly patched. A tether can be cut. But if the oars are gone and the sail is gone you cannot move the boat. The big oars on top of the air boat are too big to handle but the little one in back is not. She removes two of them with her hacksaw and hides. When they are getting ready to leave she shows them the air oars from a distance. They become willing to negotiate.

"Hack" would be a good name for this character. She is quick with that saw.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I was thinking about Hack's homemade hacksaw. It has a clockspring at the base she can wind up. On triggering it moves the blade back and forth a couple of mm, very fast. You need to take care of spring steel in SD because the ocean promotes rust. Lots of grease. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 14:35

If you're playing Sid Meir's Civilization III you will regularly encounter the infintely powerful spearman who can hold off tanks.

But spearmen vs. modern combat soldiers with body armor and automatic weapons1 in real life? No, this isn't even remotely possible. While the more primitive tribe might get lucky and drop a man or two over time, the reality is that automatic weapon fire can throw a killing bullet 10X-20X2 the distance a spear can even be thrown. The spearmen might have a chance with the element of surprise, but that only works until the surprise wears off — then it's a bloodbath.

Perhaps the spearmen could win this encounter with surprise and substantially superior numbers. Say 5:1. Still... automatic weapons... it would be like shooting fish in a barrel.


If your story requires the spearmen to be captured (not just the women and children), then the soldiers are disincentivized toward killing. Non-lethal defense (e.g., rubber bullets or slower, non-penetrating rounds) would dramatically tip the scales in favor of the spearmen because when you shift from throwing a spear to using it as a hand weapon a spear is remarkably deadly. Check out the wonderfully choreographed spear fight from the movie Troy and think to yourself, "could I get a taser past that spear?"

1I'm jumping to the conclusion that your soldiers have MP5s or something like that rather than just pistols. However, I'm not at all convinced that my answer is invalidated by using pistols. The firepower difference is still outrageously in favor of the modern soldiers. 9-11 bullets vs one spear and the bullets can kill at 10X the distance the spear can be thrown....

2Ok, more like 1,000X, but I didn't want the answer to look too outrageous.

  • $\begingroup$ a videogames and a movie are not good sources, and melee wielding locals in urban areas are serous threats to modern forces, village means close combat $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 14:35

Old San Diego is presumably still on the coast. This means they know how to fish. Throwing a fishing net on someone or something severely hampers his/its movements: humans have to cut their way out of the net, the helicopter blades would end up badly.

I assume that once they hear the noise of the approaching metal birds they seek shelter and hide. Then, as they notice the hostile intention of the visitors, they attack them with throwing nets on the visitor and then assault them with spears and stones. Especially in a closed environment like a village this has some chances of success.

  • $\begingroup$ To throw a fishing net you need to be near (or at least, not too far) and hope that you get all the six man and no one of them can fire while you try to assault them. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 12:38

The main point is to close the distance from the assaillants. Automatic weapons are extremely powerful and charging them, for example, is guaranteed death. However a spear in very close combat can be as deadly as a machine gun, especially if outnumbered. But how to do this ?

1. Let them in

Let them go inside the village first. Houses can then be used as a cover, for making ambush and such. The 6 modern soldiers won't see the spearmen until way too late for them to use their biggest advantages.

2. Heavy use of smoke

Using fire and special combustibles, I imagine that you can completely smoke the village. Again here, your modern men won't see the ennemy until he's right in front of them.

3. Don't panic

The primitives villagers should be somewhat immunised to fear : a heavy modern weapon will be terrifying for them and the natural reaction is to scatter or flee at the first shot. They need to know their adversaries. Or to take meth, you decide.

4. Use dogs

Military Dogs are incredibly fast and deadly if trained to do so. They'll can be a serious threat for everyone, even a modern soldier. In the conditions of visibility set precedently, they'll be a very serious answer.


In these conditions, I don't think the 6 poor guys stand a chance against maybe 60-100 armed men. They'll kill some for sure, but in close quarter AND outnumbered like this, their weapons won't give them a tremendous advantage, and their battle suits won't protect them from blunt hit, strangulation or gappling.

Note that this plan can be applied ONLY if the 6 attackers ARE attackers. They have to go in to kidnap people, and this is their main if only weakness. This allow you to ambush them. You can't perform as well against them if they defend, for example.

  • $\begingroup$ Spears in a very close combat are useless, a blade is way more effective (but the tribe have not these). Moreover, your point 2 is flawed, is I cannot see you in the smoke, you cannot see me. (but I can have some sort of infrared vision). Point 1 also flawed: you assume that the 6 men walk in like on a tour and that the tribe houses are somewhat resistant to bullets. And, if they are attackers, they can simply walk in and kill on sight everyone the don't plan to kidnap. If done with military tactic is extremely efficient in such scenario. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 12:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't think spears are really useless since they were used for quite some time now in close quarter combat. Whatever, they can just use big stick if they need to. The point of smoke is that if nobody sees nobody, it still totally neutralise the point of long range weapon, the attacker's main advantage. And guns makes sounds. We don't know the layout of the village, but it's not absurd to imagine that it's impossible to defend against 100 determined men in a thick fog in a favelas-like place. Which formation will help your pros if they can't even see 1 meters ahead. $\endgroup$
    – GlorfSf
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ Note kevlar is not great protection against spears or knives either. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 14:34

Remember the Fuzzy-Wuzzy Fallacy aka Lanchester's law.

The guy with the gun may be much more deadly than the guy with the spear, but one good hit will still kill him. It takes 300 good hits to neutralize the villagers. It takes 6 good hits to neutralize the invaders. The villagers will win as long as the exchange rate is better than 50:1.

  • Modern body armor provides full coverage for the torso only, not arms, legs, or the head. The head gets partial coverage from modern helmets, but the face remains vulnerable.
  • Your raiders are tasering the villagers. A taser does not work as a science-fiction stun gun. It will probably disable the victim while the taser is firing, and some short time afterwards. There is a decent chance that it will do either less or more harm.
  • After using the taser, the raiders will come close to their victims. With enough chaos, what is the likelihood that a tasered victim is lying on top of an untasered victim, or that one victim recovers fast enough to slash a knife across the leg of a raider? Then there are five walking raiders trying to extract a wounded one. Mayhem ensues.

The tribesmen have a huge disadvantage in technology, and they don't even know how bad their chances are. Further, they aren't familiar with fighting styles of the soldiers. However, they also have several thing going for them:

  • Numbers - it's reasonable to assume some of the 300 are kids and elderly, or sick. but in a hunter-gatherer society (like the OP describes), typically many people will be fit to hunt (and thus fit to fight). Let's assume that 100 of the tribe can fight.
  • Knowledge of region - They've lived there all their lives. They hunt there regularly. They know the area well. Yes, the soldiers probably studied maps of the area before a team was actually sent, but that can't match the life-long knowledge of natives to the region.
  • The tribe is desperate - It is important not to overlook this. People get very creative and produce great results when pushed to corners.
  • The soldiers seem to want them alive - This one won't be a game changer, but it definitely doesn't hurt.

Weaving it together

So let's look at how the tribe can react to possibly have a chance. Two things to remember:

  • I don't think there is any plausible way the tribe won't suffer quite some casualties. They might repeal the attack but at a cost.
  • The solution I propose requires coordination, and likely some planing. This is mostly possible because they are used to hunting together, and could 'translate' strategies.

Goals for the tribe wants to achieve: They want to split up the soldiers as much as possible. They want to scare them.
Two strategies possible:

"guerrilla" warfare

Guerrilla warfare is usually used when you are the smaller group, but I think due to the massive technological disadvantage, the tribe should use similar concepts.
In practice, spread them out. Split up to groups of 2-3, and spread across the village or nearby area (if it provides cover for the tribe's warriors). It would be a good idea to devote some resources to protect those that can't fight, and you'd best evacuate them.
Now, attack the soldiers constantly. If you have bows, use that. If not, throw rocks. The point is to not allow the soldiers a moment to breathe. Ideally, you'd manage to have them split up. Either way every some time, have a small group from the tribe jump from a house/tree/[any other hiding place] at the soldiers. Focus entirely on one of them. Repeat this six times, and the threat is dealt with.
As I said, casualties will be high, but they just might have a chance to survive.

All out battle

Basically, have all the tribe's warriors run at the soldiers. This uses the advantage of numbers. However, I'd advise against it, as the rifles the soldiers have will take out a hefty number of tribesmen, and there's a good chance it won't be enough.

  • $\begingroup$ They said spears, atlatls are spears or spear throwing devices, and those would give you a huge adavntage. $\endgroup$
    – Efialtes
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ I think you are underestimating the advantage of the attackers having to keep some or all of the villagers alive. Instead of a spray of deadly bullets, they have to get in close quarters to use the taser, and it won't keep the villagers out long. That could be a deciding factor in the fight. $\endgroup$
    – John Locke
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 21:00
  1. Charge.

If they are close range and have many of the spears close by, just charge the attackers. There would be a massive loss of life sure, but the attackers have to reload sometime. However the a lot of the men would probably die and the tribe would be severely crippled without them.

  1. Evacuate.

If the helicopter lands a couple hundred feet away, evacuation is the best option. Grab as many weapons as you can, supplies to last you a day or two, and wait for either the men to leave or for an opportune moment to strike. Unfortunately the attackers would probably set fire to any fields and houses as soon as the tribe fled.

  1. Feint

When the attackers get close, charge, but with only about half your men. As soon as the attackers start firing, have some of the men with spears drop like they are dead. The attackers will slowly move forward over them and voila, problem solved. The trick is to make sure that only six or seven drop down at set intervals. The other half of the men is to ensure the tribe's future, or even another attempt if the first one goes awry.


This answer assumes your village has no walls and no immediate surrounding cover. If you village does have walls or ample places to hide, ambushes should work very well. A description of the surrounding terrain might improve the quality of answers that you receive and reveal more reliable tactics.

Also, only type IV body armor (with ceramic/composite plates and extra titanium plates) will stop a spear or bladed weapon (in theory). Anything under that without plates is completely pierce-able.


  • $\begingroup$ It also assume that the tribe can elaborate such a plan in such short time, which is not too sure, especially if it is the first time. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ A good point. However in a likely scenario the soldiers wouldn't even give them the chance to attack. They could just wait outside the village till most of the men came out to investigate and then gun them down. $\endgroup$
    – Abel
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 12:48
  • $\begingroup$ Another thing, I really doubt that this tribe can produce a metal blade for the spears AND a joint to the spears that is hard enough to penetrate a body armor: you can have a good head, but with a weak joint the spears break without causing damages. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ Its not actually that difficult to penetrate the kevlar portion of body armor with a spear, a hafted spear is easy to make and should penetrate reliably, ballistic armor does really poorly against sharp points and a pear can generate tremendous forces. note this assumes they are not hitting the strike plate. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Abel Charge isnt a good option. First a charge attack needs to be quick-> when the Hunters are blocking themselves or cant accelerate fast enough, they will get shot down pretty quickly: 6 guns , in this case rather machine guns with a wide magazine, will have a noticeable output on enemy forces. I bet the fight could end in 10 seconds for the soldiers. $\endgroup$
    – user55267
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 16:45

This is so one-sided it isn't funny. Any time one of these scenarios come up, the only way it even comes close is if (a) the side with advanced weapons are complete morons and (b) the side with the primitive weapons are uber-competent and don't suffer any demoralizing effects from seeing their buddies get their heads blown apart by some force that can't even be seen and they have never experienced before.

First, the scenario: the attackers are not going to simply land within sight of the village. That's just stupid. For a kidnapping mission, the chopper is going to land some distance away, out of sight and sound, and the team is going to approaching on foot, at night. With night vision and IR gear, they have a total advantage over anyone who happens to be on guard in the darkness. Throw in a couple of small drones with similar sensor systems on overwatch, and they'll know if anyone is hanging around. This gives them the opportunity to go where they want to with very minimal chance of discovery.

What happens next depends on the mission goals: are they wanting to catch as many people as possible and not worried about causing as many fatalities as necessary? Well, that depends on the tribe, which some observations will tell you. If it's your standard tribal society, the leaders in a threat situation are either going to be the eldest, and minimal physical threat, or they are going to be the strongest/best fighters and thus tending to lead from the front.

So you prep a killing ground. Three snipers in elevated, concealed positions. One handling drone surveillance, and possibly remote detonation of mines they've placed in advance just in case a retreat is necessary. The remaining two then lure the tribal fighters into the killing ground by doing something that looks threatening, but not too threatening. What you want to do it make the leaders of the tribe become apparent, and they will be. And then long before they get within spear range, the snipers start taking them out. Hell, at under 100 meters or so, which is well beyond spear range but short range for a rifle, they don't even need sniper rifles. Trained shooters, firing single shots, at a distance of 100 to 150 meters, should each be able to hit at least ten targets per minute.

Now, the immediate counter-argument is that, sure, but the tribespeople will be looking for cover, they're not just going to stand there in the open. I wouldn't. You wouldn't. But the difference is, we know about firearms, even if you've never touched one in your life. When a primitive tribe starts seeing people going down with no idea what the hell just happened, the majority are going to freeze. And you take out the leaders. They'll be the ones in front who were looking all threatening before their skulls started exploding.

With the leadership gone, people will be cowed. The attackers might be required to shoot one or two to make the point about resisting, but most of the tribe will simply be too frightened to do anything. Then you march them to a someplace you've previously secured (more remote-detonated mines for protection) out of spear range from any concealment in case some idiot who managed to get away got brave and tries to come back) and then you call in the helicopter.

That's an attack by people with advanced weapons who aren't morons.

Now, if you want minimal casualties and are content with low numbers of captives, initially the same. Infiltrate, surveillance, and then you do snatch missions. Again, the attackers have the advantage in knowing where people are and being able to see where and when the tribe can't. Watch to see where individuals go alone, and grab them, and take them back to your secure location. Keep doing it until the tribe notices people are missing, and quietly slip away calling for the chopper. No fuss, no muss.

Advanced weapons, sensors, communications, and training. This is no contest.

Now, on the other hand, if the attackers do operate like morons and the tribal defenders are stone-age ninjas completely unphased by the utterly Out of Context Problem they've suddenly found themselves in, then sure, go Stormtrooper vs Ewok all you want.

  • $\begingroup$ I didnt want to have to be the person who said this but “Get to the Choppa!” $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 2:49
  • $\begingroup$ Keith, I don’t really think Stormtroopers vs. Ewoks counts. Did anyone in the Star Wars galaxy make reasonable, logical plans for battle? $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 2:57
  • $\begingroup$ I’m gonna give my point of view. It would be possible for the tribe to have arrows, and bows, so they may be able to kill the two guys who came to scare them. From what I know, bulletproof vests don’t stop arrows $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 3:04
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertPaul, someone drawing a bow is kind of obvious. So you shoot them. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 14:48

Basically all the other answer assume that the modern man are a group of a disorganized guys trying to kidnap someone, but from the question this don't seems to be true, an while it is true that they are 6 against 300, the tribe are not spartan warrior and there is 2000 year or more of tactical advancement (not to consider the weapons).

So in a situation like this, the tribe cannot fight back and stand a chance to not be massacred. Also the tribe's people will be scared at the first shots fired and the first tribe people killed. All they can do is try to escape, hoping to not be the one taken.

Some reasons:

  • The six men are (or seems) military personnel, so they have training (I suppose) or at least a plan of action
  • There is no match in weapons: the six men will not allow them to come too near, they know their advantage
  • If it is a one-shot operation, than the tribe probably will be frightened enough to not fight back

I want to mention first, that the soldiers dont have such a huge advantage.
The factors that decide the battle:
-> The Information about the Enemy, for either side
-> The Soldiers training, equipment(helicopter included) and overall teamwork
-> as well as the strategy of the soldiers
-> The Hunters count and hierarchic structure
-> the plan of the group leader
-> the amount of people that should get stolen, based on the fact how many the heli can carry

It all narrows down to:
=>The weakness of the soldiers to surprisng spear attacks

I'm going to showcase it in a mindgame:

The Soldiers are doing the first move: moving to the center of the village and gather the people for a huge grab and snatch action
or they grab people sneaky

In the first case the soldiers might shoot someone 1 to show their power and will, and every tribal citizen tries to run -> means they have to go in close combat for hunting down people:
in that case the counter strategy is luring/kiting and assault atttacks from the hunters
1 Instead of shooting they could try something else that i just can't think of right now

If they go sneaky they are more likely to get spotted later by the hunters. In that case the soldiers have to split up, 2 to 1 to save hostages, 2 for transport to heli and 3 hunt down. In the case of hunting down the soldiers have way less hostage they need to deal at the time, which is the reason they can be carefullier. The hunters here have a harder time. They need to assault either silently the hostage-watcher or might trap the transporter with their kowlegde of the surrounding.
In each case its important that the leader of the hunter has a hierarchy of commands for spreading the exact plan (might be aquired by raids on very big animals) and the ability to assess the situation and learn form battles.

Special considering is the helicopter worth: when its on the ground its basicly wothless for the soldiers, but in the air it can provide reconnaissance and extra firepower, maybe a net shooter and explosives.

This is quite material for writing 50 pages of a book. Or making a a counterstrike game out of it

I hope this text helps :)
For demands write in the comments
Have a nice day


Shine a blindingly bright light into the pilot's eyes as the helicopter is leaving.

This is San Diego. It is sunny. Perhaps the tribe worships a sun god. Their temple has ancient devices that gather sunlight and aim it at a target. (Either mirrors or lenses.)

The tribe also has bonfire ceremonies. They use the sun gathering devices to start fires at a safe distance. So they have practice aiming their dangerously bright light. Suppose the raid happens at a time of day and year when the tribe holds its bonfires. Further suppose that the same geographic feature that makes a lovely bonfire site also makes a great helicopter landing site. Then the tribe will have practiced the exact shot needed to take out the helicopter pilot.

Afterwards, the tribe should abandon the village. There is a considerable chance that the raiders will want revenge.

  • $\begingroup$ What ancient device are you talking about? $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 2:46

It is possible, if you're prepared

If you look here you will see a video of a 'primitive' tribe capturing a small but technologically superior foe.

If you can't view the video, it's a clip of

Luke, Han, and Chewbacca being captured by Ewoks

Okay, I'm kidding. Kinda.

But while body armor is good at protecting from physical damage, it's pretty useless against traps that are meant to impede movement. A pitfall trap can't be killed by a gun, and it's hard to aim when you're suspended 10 feet off the ground in a net.

If you suppose that this tribe is sharing post-apocalyptic San Diego with a variety of dangerous wildlife (I would mostly expect feral dogs, mountain lions, and coyotes, but there is a real, if improbable, chance that some of the animals from the zoo and safari park survived to leave descendants) or other aggressive tribes, then they likely already have a number of traps and obstacles set up for protecting themselves. Traps that are designed for animals won't always work on humans, but between the traps and the advantages they get from numbers and knowing the terrain and I think that your tribe has a fighting chance.

What would you do?

Primative does not mean stupid. What would you (assuming that you were a soldier or a hunter) do if an alien appeared with body armor that reflected bullets and guns that could vaporize people?

You tackle them and steal their guns. They're not that hard to figure out. Aim the part that was pointed at you at someone else and press the trigger. At point blank range, any untrained fool can be dangerous.


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