An army armed with nothing but shoulder shields, small hard plates wrapped around the right arm. The plates are in a sequence making it a flexible cover whilist being dense. The shield protects from the head down to the medial tricep end or when the tendon starts, and heavy armor.

Chain mail, covered in clay scale armor and then covered in sectioned plate armor. The gloves have one small spike, 3 centimeter long on the central knuckle. These warriors fight with their hands. Because only cowards use weapons, the armor is only there to protect against the cowardice of enemies who use arrows and spears. The spike is there to smash their armor.

These warriors are trained to punch sand as children, then trees as teenagers and in early adulthood they can split rocks in two with their punches, ofcourse their hands bleed but they are used to the pain. They are also trained on how to break teeth, noses or how to pick someones eye out of their eye socket.

A test of adulthood is chocking a goat to death, barehanded.

I know barehanded punches can murder people

But if the people who's being punched are covered in armor, then punches are not enough.

What method or strategy would make an army of unarmed men effective in combat, where's effective means to kill the enemy and not die and infective means to lose the battle and if you are unlucky survive to watch your children and wife being raped by the enemy.

This happens in a realistic pre firearm setting.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding! It would help us answer your question better if you edit it and add a few details about who this unarmed group is fighting at what technology level and how realistic you want your reasoning to be. It makes a big difference if we're talking a full fantasy setting where you can expect every foot soldier to be clad in full plate as opposed to a more realistic setting where these are an abnormally well outfitted fighting force. $\endgroup$ – SirTain Jan 19 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ "in early adulthood they can split rocks in two with their punches" - are they superhumans, or just on par with trained boxers and other martial arts athletes? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jan 19 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander just really well trained people $\endgroup$ – user82040 Jan 19 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ @SirTain more a realisting thing $\endgroup$ – user82040 Jan 19 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ Is there magic in this setting? $\endgroup$ – Karst Jan 19 at 19:59

They are the most expensive ineffective infantry troops ever

They may win brawls against unarmed peasants. They may win the occasional skirmish. But they will lose every single war against a serious opponent.

The basic truth is that those troops are expensive infantry, which is generally considered a no-no in pre-ultra-modern settings. Before the mighty American mechanized armored infantry took the field against goat herders at the end of the 20th century, every single military commander knew that infantry needs to be cheap and plentiful.

Heavily armored, unarmed infantry cannot fight effectively against an agile, mobile enemy armed with ranged weapons. They simply cannot. They cannot fight against an enemy holding a fortified position. They are easy prey to heavy cavalry.

  • In the Antiquity, they will lose any battle against:

    • Romans: The Romans had units of Balearic slingers, which threw lead bullets (50 to 100 grams) at distances up to 150 meters. (The Romans learned the value of those troops from the Carthaginians, who had used them extensively in the First Punic War.) The slingers were basically unarmored, with the effect that the metal-clad ruffians cannot catch them.

      The Romans also had various ingenious torsion artillery pieces, including high-precision high-power scorpions and other nasty equipment. The Romans also knew how to make fortified camps...

    • Eastern Roman cataphracts, or Persian lancers: Those were heavy cavalry troops, fully armored, armed with lances and powerful bows. I wouldn't want to be in the armor of one of those soldiers when a company of cataphracts came thundering down in a charge.

  • In the Middle Ages they will lose against any moderately well trained troop of mounted knights and gros valets. Those were very heavy cavalry troops, fully armored, riding fully armored very heavy horses ("destriers"), armed with heavy (and long) lances. The unarmed heavy infantry unit will be skewered.

Truth be told, they will lose even against an organized troop of villagers armed with nets, hooks and household utensils such as threshigh flails...

And, of couse, once steel cross-bows and cannon make their appearance, even the most credulous reader will have a hard time suspending their disbelief.

  • $\begingroup$ they can't win in melee either, they are heavy, slow and have no reach. $\endgroup$ – John Jan 20 at 5:16
  • $\begingroup$ Fully agreed. Unarmed troops are in a losing position in any armed conflict. The only thing I can see that can make these troops is if they use ambush and guerilla tactics. At which point the heavy armour is still a problem. Also, ambush can probably be just as effective if enacted by a bunch of peasants with crude weapons. So, I really can't find justification for the troop described in the question. Not as a war asset - perhaps more of a ceremonial thing to entertain and impress the masses. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 20 at 7:22

No weapons is an amazing advantage everywhere but the battlefield.

Your troops can not win a fair battle. As has been pointed out in other answers simple bows will slaughter them. Knights will slaughter them. Roman's with spears will slaughter them. So dont fight fair.

Your soldiers greatest advantage is no weapons are needed, that means they can be searched without consequences and can blend in with civilians. That is what you should be using. You can win with intelligence, stealth, and disguise.

Your troops dont march as a unit, they split up and travel undercover as merchants. While there they learn and then report back via the network of travelling merchants. Eventually when the order is given to attack, they already have people in position in the towns. In the dead of night they sneak into houses of notable people and then unleash their punch of death while the enemy is sleeping.

  • $\begingroup$ This is about the only way these guys will be useful. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Jan 21 at 17:25

Lets face it, that army doesn't stand a chance in an accurate battle scenario against the advancements of the time as explained by @AlexP but.... Imagination has no limits, you can add some fantasy and give your warriors some magical powers to overcome those difficulties... Or if you still want to maintain reality within your world you could change the story, were instead of using a big, slow and inefficient army to punch their self to victory, you train a selected few individuals to use stealth and intelligence to strategically win battles without ever touching a single weapon.


While the concept has many many flaws I think it could potentially be made workable-ish.

First of all your choice of armor is not exactly good for melee combat, as the ceramic scales would simply shatter and provide minimal protective value.

However that being said a chainmail hauberk is a good choice of armor, but not really maybe what you would want for your troops.

My suggestion for armor would be a jack of plate or a brigandine. As it would not only require less technical expertise to manufacture than maille, it would be much cheaper and more suited to mass production than plate. It also would be much easier to wear. And when worn in conjunction with padding such as a gambeson it would provide some of the best protection you can get short of full plate while still retaining a lot of your flexibility. It also doesn't rattle around like chain or plate and it's fabric backing would keep it from making noises so you could potentially be stealthy as well.

This armor also generally could be taken off and on on your own accord so your men wouldn't need squires or anything too crazy.

Pair this with some steel gauntlets and a nice helm and you'll be protected enough to shrug off most of what the medieval world can throw at you.

Now a little known fact about medieval warfare is that especially into the late medieval period and early renaissance knights were so heavily armored there were few ways to adequately kill them. However the most common was to grapple them and jam a knife between their armor joints or into the faceplate.

Your men could perhaps if their gauntlets had long enough spikes employ that tactic in close melee to subdue even the most formidable armored foe.

However, getting close enough to deal with your enemy in melee is the problem. And you would need to force your enemy to close with you in chaotic melee for this type of combat to work.

These hypothetical unarmed soldiers would have three major challenges to contend with.

The first is missile weapons. Archers, slingers, crossbowmen. Now if you changed your shields to become larger kite shields you could create a sort of "testudo" formation in which you pack your troops tightly behind locked shields to shrug off all but the fiercest arrow volleys till you reached melee range.

Of course this defense isn't foolproof and you might take some losses but it would allow your unit to close the distance without being slaughtered.

However, your men are also wearing armor with the equivalent protective value of plate, but just slightly less. So your men, like armored knights could shrug off all but the most withering arrow volleys. You would end up losing more men this way, but only an unlucky dozen that got an arrow through the eyepiece or a gap in the plate, and the rest of them would end up looking like porcupines from the arrows stuck in their armor but you could close the distance. Now keep in mind this only works if you are using steel plates in your brigandine, softer iron plates would be easily perforated by the arrows and they would drop like flies.

The next challenge they would need to contend with is cavalry, which honestly there isn't any good answer for. The kinetic energy of a charging knight on horseback is too much for all but the strongest armor to handle. The horses also have a huge mass advantage that would allow the horses to simply barrel through your formation and scatter your troops.

Even if you had bigger shields they would eventually break through as you have no way to neutralize the advantage of enemy horses.

The best I could offer you is train your men to grab the lances somehow and yank the knight off horseback mid-charge and then grapple them and stab them through their armor with gauntlet spikes. However unless your men are near-superhuman that would be next to impossible. Just because you don't have nearly enough leverage to do that and would most likely get dragged by the horse. A smart knight could simply just have his horse rear up and kick you over and over with its hooves knocking you on your ass and trampling you if you tried it. To even attempt this you'd need a lot of space to maneuver so it wouldn't go well for your formation. But if you made it somehow possible it's your only option.

However that assumes heavy cavalry, the kind that does charge into melee. Light cavalry would simply swoop in and pelt you with arrows and javelins and then retreat before you can catch them. They would also glad you into chasing them and tiring yourselves out, breaking up your formation and charging you. So your men would eventually start dying as they would slowly nibble away at your forces. However, due to your pretty protective armor they might run out if ammo before they attrit enough if your men to shatter your force. However the light cavalry would just play with you at their leisure and since you don't have pikes they can also attempt to trample your men with their horses. However, they are much less armored and equipped so you'd stand a far better chance than you would against heavy cavalry.

So against any form of cavalry your form of combat is nigh useless, which puts you in a dilemma.

Now your biggest and most important threat is the enemy shield wall. These are a forest of spears wielded by either professional mercenaries or peasant conscripts. Making your armor styled after fearsome creatures could work as a psychological factor to intimidate your enemy. However even then it is doubtful if you could simply wade your way through spear points no matter how good the armor, and even if you did they'd drop the spears and pull out their swords, axes, and maces to fight you.

So this makes this form of combat workable in only one scenario. You would have to fight them in the woodlands or other difficult terrain where the enemy us unable to assemble huge formations or maneuver huge spears, or even cavalry troops, allowing you to fight lighter armored and armed foes that are all dismounted. And provided you have the armor, you might be able to just barely beat them off.

However this only works if your city or whatever is surrounded by huge dense forest with few ways in or out except for some main roads which can be impassably blocked. Of course the invading army could just burn the forest but in their wake but they'd risk accidentally burning themselves if the wind goes wrong. They could try and cut through the forest with axes, but your forces could ambush them there.

However societally that doesn't make sense as your people are farmers and would need that land for grain. So, that's the only way outside of guerrilla warfare you could make em useful.


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