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Let's say your kingdom is plagued by a particularly nasty breed of demons. These hellspawn are similar to particularly ugly thick-skinned humans, except for one thing: they are roughly twice as fast as an average human.

There is currently a band of 100 of these creatures roaming the countryside. They possess natural armor comparable to chainmail, and are equipped with knives. Luckily, you've had time to prepare, and you plan to meet them in a field for battle with 100 of your own men. My question is, how would you pick/outfit these men in order to have the best chance of defeating these demons? What tactics would achieve the highest probability of success, provided you have access to whatever arms, armaments, and skill-sets would be available at around the 15th century?

The battlefield is essentially a flat plain with grass/weeds not exceeding knee height. The distance between armies when the battle begins is no greater than 100 meters.

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    $\begingroup$ twice as fast isn't much....an arrow, a bolt or just a bullet is fast enough to kill it. $\endgroup$ – Charon Aug 17 '16 at 21:15
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    $\begingroup$ My first choice would not be to meet 100 of them with 100 of us, even if they were just men. $\endgroup$ – Seeds Aug 17 '16 at 21:19
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    $\begingroup$ How good is their agility? Do they merely run twice as fast, or do they come with the musculature to survive quadruple the forces and brains that process data twice as fast? $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Aug 17 '16 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ A big armoured demon capable of moving twice as fast as a human is called a 'cavalryman'. There is no difference except the number of legs. And cavalry are better armed. Now if it was ten times as fast... $\endgroup$ – DJClayworth Aug 18 '16 at 2:52
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    $\begingroup$ Why not just use 100% horse archers? Twice as fast as human is still slower than a running horse. Bodkin arrows have no problems penetrating chainmail. Stay at an optimal distance and rain arrows at them. If they wish to battle, or if you ambush them in the middle of a big flat plain, they don't stand a chance. $\endgroup$ – Headcrab Aug 18 '16 at 7:46

15 Answers 15

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First, build traps. Traps are cheap, easy to install, and most importantly don't eat, sleep, or take breaks. Start with some of the following:

  • Tripwires
    • If the creatures are moving quickly, hidden wire or rope will trip them up. For added effect, line the area in front of the trip hazard with sharp stakes hammered into the ground, broken glass, or even just sharp rocks.
  • Caltrops
    • It doesn't matter how fast you can run if you have a metal barb stuck through your foot.
  • Pits
    • With or without spikes at the bottom, a pit will slow anyone down.
  • Rough terrain
    • Swamp, mud, or rough rocky ground is sure to slow anyone down, too.

That taken care of, equip your men with bows, and as soon as you see you enemies, start firing barrages. They may be able to dodge one arrow (likely not), but a hail of arrows will bring them down. Any creatures that fall into a trap will take some time getting back up; archers should single out fallen creatures for a few extra arrows.

If you ever end up in hand-to-hand combat, use big weapons. Twice as fast is quick, but a body moving twice as fast still moves a lot slower than a sword, especially a rapier or similar light weapon.

If you control the terrain and can pick them off with ranged fire, there won't be much left of the critters when you're done.

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    $\begingroup$ Caltrops seem like a specially good option. Given the tall grass (I assume less than knee height means it's near it) it would be easy to hide them. $\endgroup$ – Masclins Aug 18 '16 at 7:50
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for pits - they won't be able to dodge anything mid-leap $\endgroup$ – Punintended May 15 '18 at 20:16
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Short answer: Are you crazy?

The key in any planned military encounter is to do everything to tilt the odds in your favour. You want a preponderance of men, proper equipment and logistics, terrain which favours you, accurate and timely intelligence, etc.

Meeting these deamons 1:1 on an open plain violates almost any of these rules: you don't have the strength to overcome them, you have given them a battlefield which allows them to use their strengths against you, you have no hidden approaches to surprise them or cover your retreat. You may as well have the 100 knights form up and lead the parade welcoming the deamons into your kingdom.

First: their speed. You want to put them in a place where their speed is negated. Open plains are out, dense woods, broken terrain or even an urban environment will largely negate their ability to move fast.

Second: manpower. The traditional metric for victory in the offence is to have a 3:1 advantage as a minimum. Having 300 or more men allows you to have specialists like archers or cavalry (as noted in another answer), be able to guard your flanks and have a reserve to make up for casualties and pursue the enemy as he breaks and runs. Engineering troops to build obstacles and strongpoints or dig trenches are also a plus.

Third: Intelligence. Where are these creatures? When are they expected? What are their goals? Is there a way to distract them? A particular weakness? Maybe you can get them to invade that neighbouring country which is always threatening to invade you.

Fourth: Logistics. Putting all these troops in the field requires logistical support. Archers will need more than one quiver of arrows each (as a simple example), the engineers will need tools and materials and everyone needs to eat and drink (including the horses for the Cavalry and pack train).

Finally, command and control. Obviously using radios is out, but messengers to bring news of where the deamons are, signals troops to use flags, drums or musical instruments to direct troops in the battle and a Captain to lead them (if it is a really big force, a Captain-General with a Lieutenant General to assist, a Sergeant Major General to look after troop discipline and a Quartermaster General to supply the men and horses).

enter image description here

OK, now we're ready.

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    $\begingroup$ Unless their superior speed means just their running speed when fully accelerated, I'd say dense woods would give the demons an advantage rather than a disadvantage, as they could maneuver faster than humans between the trees. $\endgroup$ – Headcrab Aug 18 '16 at 7:58
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    $\begingroup$ A dense melee sounds like the absolute best place to fight faster enemies. Does not matter how fast they are when they cannot move at all. $\endgroup$ – kat0r Aug 18 '16 at 8:36
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    $\begingroup$ @kat0r: I assume they also move their limbs (and thus knifes) twice as fast, dodge your hits twice as fast... so it does matter at least somewhat ;) $\endgroup$ – Syndic Aug 18 '16 at 9:31
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    $\begingroup$ I'm also slightly disappointed that the "Intelligence" section doesn't point out how utterly the commander of the humans has failed if the combat really starts at no less than 100m distance. 100m is about 10 seconds for a sprinter, let's call it 20 for an armored fighter in knee-high grass, and back down to 10 for the demons. That's not a lot of time for missile weapons, and on an open plain you should REALLY see the enemy - and start firing at them - WAY earlier. $\endgroup$ – Syndic Aug 18 '16 at 9:33
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    $\begingroup$ @kat0r If there is no space to dodge, there is no space to swing. If there is no space to swing, there is no reason to dodge. You just have 200, armored, humping knights and demons. $\endgroup$ – SBoss Aug 18 '16 at 11:38
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If it is a straight battle use 30 archers with longbows, 40 pikemen with swords as well and 30 heavy cavalry.

Have the 30 archers fire together in a volley, not aiming for anyone. This could cut then down pretty fierce before your demons could make much headway, and a line of pikes would be pretty effective at cutting them down more. You will likely have a 10 to 1 or better advantage by now. Have the pikemen drop their pikes and draw their swords. By now they outnumber the demons and the demons morale is crushed. Once the pikemen are exhausted we just charge with the heavy cavalry and finish off the demons.

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    $\begingroup$ I would like to thank Nex Terran and James and Mike L. who helped create this answer in Factory Floor. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Aug 17 '16 at 21:32
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    $\begingroup$ Just a tiny nitpick; for a pursuit you want light cavalry rather than heavy, heavy cavalry is for charging formed bodies of troops:) $\endgroup$ – Mike L. Aug 17 '16 at 21:40
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    $\begingroup$ "a line of pikes ... draw their swords" -- one niggle: if "twice as fast" just means running speed then sure. If "twice as fast" means they're moving in 2:1 bullet time then I would suggest that any kind of hand-to-hand engagement, even with vastly superior reach, is fairly futile. Unless they're horribly untrained the demons can quite easily avoid weapons that from their POV are moving at half speed. So get more archers and hope for the best :-) $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Aug 18 '16 at 18:48
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    $\begingroup$ Oh yeah, and if your cavalry are just standing around waiting for the order to charge, might as well give them a crossbow each that they can fire once as the demons first approach, and then drop. Worst case they miss, best case they drop another 30 demons in the charge. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Aug 18 '16 at 19:00
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Step one: Ask yourself why you're only bringing 100 men rather than bringing 1,000 and simply crushing them through overwhelming numbers. You've had time to prepare, and you've got the home-field advantage, as it were. Why give yourself a handicap by forcing an equal fight?

Step two: Twice as fast as an average human isn't that fast. It basically means you're fighting Olympic runners. So right off the bat, it isn't as hard to win as it seems from the title. Soldiers, in general, would be faster than the average human simply due to their training. Therefore make sure that you're bringing professional soldiers, not recruited commoners.

Now, let's think about how the battle can play out. You said a hundred meters apart, so let's say (since they're at Olympic level) that it will take about ten seconds to cover that distance. You could probably get two volleys of arrows off in that time, so let's say have fifty archers shooting. They do two volleys, then draw their melee weapons, preferably blunt weapons like maces or hammers.

Meanwhile you have shields/pikes as a front line to deal with the initial charge. After the two armies meet, the maces from the back come in and finish cleaning up.

Alternatively, just have a hundred mounted knights do a cavalry charge.

Long story short, moving twice as fast as average humans doesn't give too much of an advantage in the scenario you have. It's not so fast to be outside the realm of possible for a human, so it basically just devolves into "How to battle top-condition humans armed with knives and chain mail" - and that's something that humanity has been answering for centuries.

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100 men, 100 meters - if the demons are even a little smart, this will be very one sided. Many of the solutions are to use typical combat tactics of the age with lots of arrows, pikemen, and cavalry. I also see lots of comments and answers that twice as fast is not that much. Both of thes are wrong...take a look.

Speed

The fastest man alive today runs the 100m at about 28 mph. Now double that - 56mph! Assume the demons don't train for the olympics and have only 60% of that speed and they are still travelling at over 33mph or 50fps. Think about that for a second - oops your dead because a demon 50 feet away just slit your throat. They will have covered 100 meters in 5-6 seconds.

Jumping Ability

The highest high jump is a bit over 8 ft and the longest running long jump is just shy of 30ft and neither athlete was travelling over 33mph! You could assume easily, that these figures would rise by a minimum of 50% at that speed and strength. This means that traditional pike men will be all but useless as the demons simply hurdle them.

Inertia

Let's further assume the demons are small in stature, maybe 5'4", and with their natural armor giving them a little bit of weight, you could estimate a creature in 120lb-130lb range; let's say 125lb on average. According to these calculations, the demon could generate more than 1500lbs of impact force after only 6 seconds (assuming 3ft of stopping distance)!

Reaction

So the demons have closed the 100m distance between 5 - 6 seconds, are hitting like a freight train and your arrows are doing nothing because the demons are naturally armored in chain mail. Now you are in close quarters battle and hoping the arc of your sword will be enough. The problem is, you've barely got half a second to react and move. At 33mp, the demon has moved another 16 feet in the half a second you decided to do something about it. But you are heavily armored and the reaction time has been doubled. You swing your sword, but too late, the demon has already passed you by more than 30 feet and killed 3 of your buddies who never saw him coming.

So how do we beat them?

We're going to need some preparation for this. The field needs to be prepared to defeat the demons before they get to us.

  • Prepare it with pitch in bands 5 meters apart, within 20 meters of the humans.
  • Create some punji pits for them to fall in and stay in.
  • Spike the field, pounding 100s of spikes to make running difficult

Once that's done, we need to even the odds a little with some big cats with big teeth, big claws and fast reflexes.

We need arrows, but they need to be pitched so they burn. The demon's mail will minimize punture wounds, but we may set a few on fire. These will also light the pitch bands we set in the field the night before.

We need different armor. It needs to be light, it needs to stop knives, it needs to be layered leather. The necks need to be high and vitals all need to be covered - torso, armpits, wrists, groin, thighs.

Everyone gets a bow; even if they only get one arrow in the air. Some will get 3-5 in the air. At worst this will be a distraction and the field preparation is that much more effective. At best we take out 10 - 20 % before they reach us.

Everyone gets a short sword and small shield. Swords are all sharp and poisoned. Hand to hand is going to suck, but hopefully lightening the armor and armaments will give us enough reaction time and speed to counter and overcome. The poison may not win us the day, but might kill after we're gone, giving others a chance.

Finally, everyone gets a buddy. Close quarters combat needs to be back to back, literally watching each others backs.

All this may still not be enough, but I think it gives us our best option with the limited resources and lack of geographical advantage.

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  • $\begingroup$ when we go to fight those speedy demons I want you in charge, Mang. $\endgroup$ – Willk Jan 4 '17 at 18:50
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I'd got with longbow and pike.

If you can muster any more men I'd advise it. I don't like 1:1 odds against a foe twice as fast as you. If you can do anything about the terrain or battlefield to negate their speed I'd advise it. (even high ground would help)

Equip your archers with longbows with bodkin points (please do some experimentation on demon skin before setting out to determine penetrability at 100m) Secondarily I'd equip 60 with pikes and hand out a short sword to everyone.

Assuming armies will face off (because you said so) I'd expect a hundred fast demons armed with knives to charge the moment battle is joined. If they're clever fast demons, we should talk because they should be able to take one look at you and realize they're better off using their speed to facilitate guerrilla tactics.

Assuming they'd like to face off like proper gentlemen though: I'd have my men in 3 rows firing in volleys.

Longbows are effective at 180m so they can attack as battle is joined. Given that longbow practice ranges go up to 300m I'd guess an expert archer would have quite a good hit rate at 100m getting better every second. Mail from the 15th century is marginally effective against armor piercing arrows (you tested this before you left home right?)

The fastest humans can cover 100m in 14 seconds. Fast demons can do it in 7-10 (lets assume 2x average human not 2x fastest human, and this isn't track day they didn't line up in a neat row). I'm assuming unencumbered demons because they have no need of armor, knives are light and they're not carrying provisions because you're lunch.

When you meet them they're probably in a bunch rather than a neat line. This slows them down a bit and spreads them out which is nice because the first two volleys should be able to draw and fire a second time (modern archers can shoot accurately every 6-10 seconds, I'd assume trained combat archers to have practiced quick draw basically their entire adult lives). This gives you 150 arrows fired before the demons reach your front lines. We need some calculus here because accuracy improves as they get closer, but since we're guessing at all these numbers anyway lets just wing it and say 50% of the arrows take a demon down. 25 demons left.

The last arrows should be falling just as 25 demons crash against the first row who leveled pikes after the first shot. 33 pikes 25 demons. The second row is going to need to quickly switch to pike to back up the first row. Crashing into a double row of pike at 20m/s is going to do a lot of damage. Now I'm going to assume a handful made it through.

Hopefully being outnumbered 10:1 and out of breath from a 100m sprint is enough to take them down without losing half your men.

It won't be that neat though so bring more men and do more work picking and preparing your battleground. And again, if they're clever you're humped.

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What tactics and equipment to use:

  • Your best bet, I believe, would be horse archers. For a historical reference read about Mongolian invasions: they attack on horses, shooting arrows as they approach; when counterattacked, they retreat, shooting arrows back at the chasing enemy. Sometimes their enemies were destroyed without even returning any damage. Other ranged weapons may work, too: light crossbows that can be reloaded on a horse back, pots of burning oil (unless your demons are impervious to fire).
  • If for whatever reason the above is not an option (you have to stand your ground, guard a camp, etc.), use something like a phalanx, or some other kind of well-organized, tightly packed formation armed with pikes. The faster your enemy can move, the faster it ends up on the pikes. The problem with this, however, is that your enemies have to be charging, and to charge a wall of pikes with their knives, they would have to be a bunch of idiots. Still, such things have also happened in human history, for example, Sekigahara battle, where elite cavalry of Takeda Shingen's not so bright son charged at muskets and field fortifications of their enemies, only to be utterly destroyed. Of course, if you expect the demons to charge at you (maybe they are just fans of charging), do some traps, fortifications, terrain preparation, etc. If they don't charge, maybe try surrounding them with a wall of pikes, or press them against a cliff, a swamp or a river (can they swim?). Although with such relatively small groups as 100 vs. 100 it won't be easy.
  • Your enemies probably wouldn't keep any tight formation, because with just knives it won't give them any advantage whatsoever. Still, if for whatever reason they do, charging knights with long lances would probably do miracles against them.

What to avoid:

  • One-on-one duels of any kind. Your enemy can dodge or parry your melee attacks easily. You can neither dodge nor parry their attacks reliably (well, maybe one out of ten, if you're lucky). Also, being twice as fast means they hit twice as hard, because what matters is impulse, which is mass times speed of the weapon.
  • Anything that becomes, effectively, a series of one-on-one duels, e. g. loosely organized melee. Either stay at a safe distance with your horses, or keep your formation at all cost.
  • Contrary to some other answers, I don't think that rough terrain, woods, etc. would do you any good. It could work against big, heavy creatures, such as your horses, not against relatively small, light, agile creatures, such as fast running demons. Also, holding a formation would be more difficult on a rough terrain, probably completely impossible in the woods.

UPD.: perhaps, the most probable reason not to use horse archers is that you may simply not have those in your culture. Nomads, such as Mongols, were practicing both riding and archering from childhood, if your people are mostly farmers, and your warriors aren't good horse archers already, you can't re-create Mongolian tactics in reasonable time.

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  • $\begingroup$ Horse archers really need room to maneuver (think: a battlefield sprawling over a few square miles). Starting the battle a hundred yards from the enemy negates most of their advantages. $\endgroup$ – Mark Aug 18 '16 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Mark Yes, they obviously need enough space. If they have enough space (TS never said they don't), starting distance doesn't matter much, because they can increase or decrease it as they like. $\endgroup$ – Headcrab Aug 19 '16 at 2:33
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If your characters have had time to prepare, maybe have them bring to the site of the battle something that could even out the speed difference. Say they bring along buckets of pitch or tar to through across the battlefield, which as a highly viscous liquid, would slow the demons down. It all depends on whether the site of the battle is somewhere that the characters can sacrifice, like an unused field, or a plain that is used for animal grazing.

Generally, your characters would probably use wide area warfare as if the targets are so fast, no bowman on his own is going to be able to pick them off one by one as they can't track the targets movements. However, if you had a squad of archers who could fire arrows blindly in waves, like they would on a wall of somewhere under siege, then bows could still be effective weapons. Also if the enemy just have these knives, then long reach weapons would definitely be more effective against them. I don't have the best knowledge of medieval tactics, but I hope this helps.

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You didn't say your men had no magic. If they did and it was powerful enough I would cast a spell like ice or grease right in front of the demons as they charged. They would slip all over the place and you could pick them off one by one. I would also set my pikes in a line so they would have to charge into them to get to my men.

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    $\begingroup$ It is generally not a safe to assume that someone has access to magic if it is not specified. Pretty much everything could be answered by "do it with magic" then. $\endgroup$ – Hohmannfan Aug 18 '16 at 6:06
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Unlike the horse, where legs are vulnerable, legs of demon are less vulnerable, but demon is also smaller. They have no archers, and have mistakenly remained on the field in the face of my vastly superior force, if they fight to the death, they will all die, if they are cowards, as hellspawn often are, perhaps their superior speed will allow more of them to quit the field during the rout.

The Swiss already solved this problem, my hundred men are Swiss mercenary pikemen arranged in a 10x10 square: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pike_square

CHARGE.

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Use Glue, or pour something on the ground that can restrict the demons movement speed, then shoot arrows and throw rocks to them. End of story.

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    $\begingroup$ This is more of a comment. $\endgroup$ – Hohmannfan Aug 18 '16 at 5:49
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If you know where the field of battle will be beforehand then I would prepare by constructing a net around the perimeter of the battlefield (using rope or, if that is not heavy enough, chain). It could initially be laid flat on the ground to hide its presence, but then raised at the appropriate moment to completely surround the battlefield and both armies.

By pulling the net more and more taut, the two armies would be forced closer and closer together, which is great news because speed isn't much use if you have nowhere to move and my guys are wearing full plate armour and are equipped with heavy weapons. Once the opponents' speed is taken out of the equation by restricting their ability to move, it will be the superior strength and armour that proves decisive.

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Twice the speed of a human is not that much, when playing soccer I'm always out-performed by people who weighs 20 kilograms less (I basically never touch the ball), but that does not prevent me from hitting them, I have to rely only on good timing and positioning in order to score a goal, no agility or swift tricks for me.

Superiority in equipment and strategy is enough to win, I can remember a Game of Thrones episode (spoiler alert)

where a warrior wearing a full armor suit fight against a Dotraki without armor. The Dotraki is like 3 times faster but the warrior defeats him anyway.

Well, if the speed starts to become insanely high (like Quicksilver) well your warriors are dead beefs then.

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Doing this fight in open plain field is a no-go according to military practice so we need to change this.

  1. Lurk them in a canyon
  2. Close the exits for example with iron doors
  3. Pour burning oil into the canyon from above
  4. Success
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I made two long comments; at this point I might as well make an answer.

Twice as fast as regular humans is a significant advantage. It wouldn't mean much if you could outnumber them by enough, but if you have the same number as they do, things might be difficult.

However, they have some severe disadvantages.

First, they are on foot. It's hard to stand against a charging horse on foot, and I imagine that is still pretty hard with some supernatural agility. And if your force is on horseback, they can't run you down anymore because in a straight line you can move faster than they can (which will also give you a safe retreat).

Second, they are carrying knives. This is a severe disadvantage in an open battle. They can strike quickly and probably get in close better than a normal human can, but even so... They are going to have a hard time reaching someone on top of a horse and piercing plate mail with a knife. They are also going to have a hard time getting close enough if the riders are carrying longer weapons like spears. Arrows might be even better, although it's pretty hard to shoot an arrow off a horse (although we have seen it work well a few times, ie Genghis Khan)

Third, your group might be better trained. Demons with knives don't strike me as a very disciplined group. If you have some kind of coordinated strategy and they do not have the capacity to react to it, they are at a disadvantage.

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protected by Community Aug 18 '16 at 17:18

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