In my setting there is a race descended from Gigantopithecus blacki. These creatures retain much of their ancestors physical features, such as:

•An impressive height of 2.75 meters (9 feet in freedom units)

•Disproportionately long arms and plenty of strength to use them (as strong as five men)

•They retain an herbivorous diet that necessitates a lot of eating and a generally reserved energy expenditure until combat starts, at which point they are much more strong and agile than humans

•They have a gular sack like a siamang that lets them be extremely loud.

•Their wrists can rotate much further than a human, which could make for very interesting sword fighting tricks.

The giant tribes have all sworn fealty to human polities in some form or another due to the fact that humans outnumber them hideously and the giants are intelligent enough to understand that they need the assistance of humans to survive. Humans in this setting are at a 14th century European level.

While on its face giant warriors would be good, they have a few serious disadvantages compared to humans.

•As mentioned previously they need to eat a lot of food.

•They absolutely suck at endurance running compared to humans and won’t be able to march as long.

•They are a bigger target for archers and arbaqusiers.

What also needs to be taken into account is their cognition. They are equivalent to humans in their reasoning skills, but they are significantly less ambitious or creative. They learn how to use spears, bows, swords, and even guns with ease as long as they can actually wield them.

So taking into account these giants strengths and weaknesses, what would be the best application for them in a medieval military?

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    $\begingroup$ <pedantic hat="on">"Gigantopithecus blacki" you mean the discoverer's name was Black or did you want to say "Gigantopithecus niger"?</pedantic> $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2020 at 5:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Adrian Colomitchi I didn’t come up with the name, that’s actually what it is $\endgroup$
    – user71781
    Mar 3, 2020 at 5:28
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, I see now. Would worth linking in the question. Got an answer to me pedantic questch too "Gigantopithecus blacki (named in honour of the friend and colleague of von Koenigswald, Davidson Black[17])" $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2020 at 5:33
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    $\begingroup$ Gorilla warfare! $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Mar 3, 2020 at 5:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Thucydides what? None were used in the Peloponnesian War? :) $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2020 at 6:16

7 Answers 7


Their lack of endurance may not make them great for extended campaigns but they might be great for Defense!

Use them to Man the City Walls!

Imagine being the guy who has to storm the walls. You marched a long way, braved the rains of arrows, dodged the boiling oil, climbed over the bodies of your buddies, and then scaled the wall. You are on of the lucky few who made it to the top of the wall and you are confronted with a 9 foot tall Ape like thing with a shield and a Mace that looks like it was made from the trunk of a friggin' Tree! Your final thought is "well that sucks" as you are launched from the top of the wall with one swing from that mace in an arc that is going to make you land 200 yards away on top of your own baggage train.

IT plays to their strengths. Fighting on top of the wall does not need finesse, but a huge reach advantage coupled with massive strength means a crushing weapon like a mace or large war hammer is going to be hard to defend against. One of these big boys just has to swing it side to side at about human waist height and it won't matter if there is a shield in the way or not. You can't leap over it, you can't duck it, and the impact is going to launch you a pretty good distance. Also, an 80kg human makes an okay projectile against other massed humans and would be pretty darn demoralizing.

If they are at stationary fortifications, the endurance problem does not come into play as much. They will be close to the food supplies.

In addition, they will be really helpful in loading the heavy weapons. The wall mounted catapults, Ballistae, and whatever else that requires a heavy object being flung from the wall. They could even man some of them single handed. A weapon that needs some sort of mechanism for a human to cock could be done by hand. This should greatly increase the rate of fire of those weapons.


Shock troops

First rule of war - play to your strengths. Make the most of your assets. What you have here are a group of fighters that excel in close combat because of the disproportionate advantage of superior strength and reach. Using them at range will get you slightly better archers, but that's not great. Not to mention that there lack of stamina means that you want to put them in a job where they don't have to be there for a long time. It's at this point that I'll also say that if you could put them on horses that would be amazing, but horses cannot handle nine-feet-tall people in full armor, so that's not an option.

When two armies clash, especially in the dark ages or middle ages, basically there were would form a line of contact between the two armies at the center of the clash. If one side could manage to break their opponent's front lines, the other army's formation would be in disarray, and ripe to get overrun.

So here is what you would do. Take your giants and give them shields - good shields, as in kite shields long enough to protect them. (And, yes, kite shields can form shield walls so long as you know what you're doing.) Hold them back in reserve during the initial clash - no point in them getting targeted. Once the enemy force has clashed with your own, figure out where the enemy is weak, and then send in the giants to crush their front line, being protected by their own shields.

And I mean crush. Your giants will not be wielding swords, oh no. Swords are good for stabbing people. But when you have the strength to swing a giant warhammer like a pendulum and gleefully send the enemy soldiers scattering like bowling pins from the blunt-force trauma and watch their morale plummet as it starts raining soldiers on them, then you give your giants a warhammer and let them get cracking. Once they hit the enemy's frontlines and break them, and once morale is destroyed, the enemy's formation will crumble, giving your normal soldiers the means to destroy them

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    $\begingroup$ Many battles waged for hours, from dawn till dark. The limited stamina from the apes would be a valuable resource. Use them too early, and they are exhausted. Use them too late, and your own troops can be overrun. $\endgroup$
    – Gustavo
    Mar 3, 2020 at 13:43

Corps of Engineers.

castle fortifications source

These big dudes suck at battle. It sounds mean but they will tell you that themselves. They cant figure out what to do and they want to run away when they get hurt. Then when they come back from the forest to eat lunch the little guys are angry and don't want to give them any lunch.

But they are great at building stuff, especially if you have one or two really smart little guys that tell them where stuff should go. They love to dig, and stack up logs, and put rocks on top of each other. The work gets done in no-time. It turns out really cool once it is done!

Also, there is always a wagon full of food and beer next to the work site.


I would like to use my Ape-Men for:

Anti-Cavalry units During an enemy cavalry charge, my armored Ape-Men secures my frontline, and ravaging enemy's horses with their bare hands, swords or spears.

Ultra-heavy Cavalry units I put my Ape-Men on bulls (yeah bulls, with deadly sharp horns), and make them charge into the enemy forces.

Fort takedown units When my enemy closes their gates, and don't listen to my logic, My Ape-Men climb their walls and open the gates for me.

Artillery units Let's say a normal artillery unit can shoot 2 shells per minute, my Ape-Men unit can fire 4. Plus they can shift/re-align the cannons at astonishing speeds.

Special Black ops unit It seems a little odd to put a 9 feet tall soldier into a covert op in the 14th century, but they do provide extra muscle power.

And my favorite, they are really good at torture and information extraction, due to the game that they play called "tossing the human", which they play until all the limbs of the designated human shatter to pieces.

This being said, carrying extra rations for them is no issue, as if an individual Ape-Man can perform better than 4 humans combined, I am happy to give 4 times the food. 'cuz in my army we are all about quality over quantity.

  • $\begingroup$ "Artillery units... my Ape-Men unit can fire 4" well, higher fire rate may be a blessing or a curse. At extreme, not hitting any target with high fire rate is wasting the resource faster. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2020 at 11:38
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for “tossing the human” $\endgroup$
    – user71781
    Mar 3, 2020 at 23:53

Heavy chariots

I think you'd want to use them similarly to heavy cavalry. Due to their lack of endurance they're unlikely to be much good in extended infantry clashes, so you'll want to hold them in reserve until your main footsoldiers are engaged and then throw them at the flanks to try and cause a rout. The lack of endurance is actually relatively similar to real-world heavy cavalry which become exhausted quickly over multiple charges, and used to change horses to keep up their speed.

You're unlikely to be able to mount them on horses as they're so heavy, but to aid their mobility you could mount them on heavy chariots drawn by a team of horses. They could either fight from these chariots, or operate like dragoons and dismount for combat (leaving their chariots with a human driver). These would also facilitate their withdrawal as they become exhausted, and prevent them from being overwhelmed by the enemy.

Siege warfare

As mentioned previously, their skills in climbing would make them excellent during assaults on fortifications. Their size and ferocity would be useful in taking walls and keeps, and by climbing they could attack inner fortifications from novel directions (they wouldn't need to attack towers from the inside upwards as they could climb over the top). I'd expect the design of fortifications to change in response to these threats (smoother walls, more spikes atop fortifications and the like).

Archers and archery would be problematic

As you rightly say, you'd want to armour them pretty well against archers. They'd be pretty big targets and slow moving, and would likely fall quite quickly to massed fire. Big shields would be a good choice.

They'd also likely make pretty shoddy archers themselves. Humans have a number of specific evolutionary adaptations that make them good archers. Our disproportionate amount of slow-twitch muscles in our arms is thought to facilitate accurate projectile throwing and fine motor adjustments for things like aim. Also, our brains are really rather good at predicting parabolic arcs for thrown objects. These are all adaptations to suit our pursuit-hunting ranged-combat evolutionary history, and come at the expense of raw strength (this is one of the reasons that chimpanzees are stronger than humans weight-for-weight).

Considering the physical description and herbivorous diet of your mercenaries I would think that they would lack these adaptations, which would make them lousy shots. Due to their size I doubt they'd be swinging through the trees like gibbons, which might be the only way they'd acquire a knack for parabolic arcs and fine motor adjustment. However, this would mean that they would be even stronger relative to humans as they could have much more fast-twitch muscle.

Overall, they'd be pretty damn scary if you can deliver them into close combat.


If they retain the climbing abilities for their "apes" namesake, they would be formidable in breaching the defense of castles under siege; only smooth defending walls will be hard for them to climb, they have an explosive capacity of attack once on top, their massive stature will block the defense in narrow spaces (such as the walls top) even if they die there.


This is similar in design to some of the questions about Orcs.

From your description these beings don't use the human muscles designed for endurance and accuracy, but the high-strength muscles most other animals use. This has some consequences for their use.

Armor: On one hand their increased strength would allow them to wear more armor. And having what amounts to living tanks just rolling around the battlefield would be awesome right? Unfortunately the more armor you put on them the faster they tire out, and they already tire out faster than humans. This requires a balancing act between how long you want to use them per engagement and how much punishment you expect them to get. It's likely they'll get lighter armors like leather and gambesons rather than full plate.

Melee weapons: Their lowered accuracy due to their muscle type means that weapons like spears are only useful as long as they form a unit. They are better off with weapons like Halberds, clubs and large swords designed mostly for their bludgeoning capabilities rather than their edge. The prefered weapons would either incapacitate/kill a bunch of enemies in a singles swing or require little effort to attack with again and again. This limits the weapons to spears (with broad heads probably) and clubs. Clubs have the disadvantage that swinging them requires space and opens up large gaps between your creatures.

Ranged weapons: Accuracy might not be that good, but when firing large volleys in a single go these creatures would be devastating to heavily armored opponents. Their strength would allow them to pull back the string of a bow or crossbow with much more force and their ammunition could be a heap of stones or almost spear-like arrows. If they have the agility in their arms they could even use slings. area saturation would be key here to make up for their lack of accuracy. "fight in the shade" style.

So as far as I can tell these wouldn't really be frontline troops. If you do use them for this role they should have to push through immediately and route the enemy before they tire, because the moment they tire they are dead. They are too heavy for horses and could only be carried around by carts if you don't want to tire them. This makes them very inflexible on the battlefield, meaning any formation with these creatures would put them in a position where they don't have to move much and if they fall back their human friendlies will instantly be able to surge forwards and give them the time to catch a breather to either return to the frey or flee.

One of their best uses would be an intermediate artillery platform or as artillery manpower. One or two set the tension on the weapon while it's being loaded so it can be fired quickly. When tired another two take over so the others can rest. Should someone attack the artillery itself it has groups of giant murder-machines who can handle short but brutal engagements. Otherwise they are perfect for slinging overlarge arrows and rocks at much larger ranges than their human counterparts. This keeps them out of the frey and gives them time to rest inbetween the fights. Should someone still attack these archers... Well good luck!


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