Sooo... While designing my fantasy/sci-fi world, I ran into a problem in fantasy:

Swords are iconic and can be seen everywhere.

The problem starts when in For Honor, you're brutally harassed to death by a nobushi who pokes you from a safe distance with his nice stick (the naginata). This hadn't happened in medieval times because guess what? (almost) Everybody used polearms (and samurais weren't even remotely close).

But I need to enable swords to exist because they're awesome, and not just for specific situations, but without kicking polearms out of the game.

The solution: Some sort of an equipment, that is better against polearms (only a skilled person can use it), but is lame against swords.

Is it possible to create such thing?

What polearms we're talking about:

  • Naginata
  • Yari
  • Pikes
  • You get the point...




closed as unclear what you're asking by Bellerophon, Aify, sphennings, Hohmannfan, Mołot Jun 5 '17 at 7:43

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    $\begingroup$ I'm confused. What is the problem with swords? $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Jun 3 '17 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon may this video enlighten you. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Jun 3 '17 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ You can't summarize it for us? You're the one asking a question. Also swords were a sidearm, always have been. They're used so widely because they're easy to carry unlike a polearm. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Jun 3 '17 at 21:52

You should look at Shadiversity and Skallagrim, both are well versed in all things Medieval weaponry.

But boiled down to basics? The arming sword is for personal defence (not a battlefield weapon).

Knightly sword, or arming sword

The pole-arm is hands down the better weapon to bring into battle when compared to an arming sword. But both YouTubers above have talked about this in quite some depth. Unless you plan on giving your 'swordsmen' two-handed swords, they are going to get brutally slaughtered almost without fail.

The reasons? Reach and armour.

Reach is is major factor here. If you cannot get to your opponent because they can lop off your head before you can reach them or inhibit them in some way? You're screwed.

The other is armour. Proper plate armour, with chainmail under it and a gambeson under that? Swords stand no chance at piercing it. Period.

So, as was historically the case, archers are always the first move. Can't do much if there's an arrow in your chest, now can you. Then is usually cavalry. Then pole-arms. And the last resort is a mace (if opponent is armoured). And if there's no option but hand to hand? Then the arming sword comes into play, and maybe not even then. I've seen more treatises with daggers than the arming sword as a battlefield weapon.


Unless you give them a proper shield. It's possible to fend off the attack and get in close where the pole-arm is ineffective. But that's about it.


Romans had an excellent tactic and they had short butchering swords and big shields.

They would throw pilum at the enemy to halt their charge and slaughter a bunch of them, and then advancing or standing behind their shields, close range and chop the enemy to pieces. The pilum was an extremely effective weapon against polearms or shields.

Link with info on pilum, a very nasty and effective weapon.

The NZ Maori had the 'mere' and 'patu', extremely short vicious weapons designed to kill with one blow, their martial arts allowed practioners to defeat opponents with longer weapons regularly. One was used in historical times by an old chief to beat a European Officer who had a sword. But they could beat spears or polearms. They were sometimes used with a small shield like thing, but mostly on their own.


Any weapon is better than polearms in 1-to-1 melee. Polearms were mostly used against cavalry/knight in the middle ages. The only others to make heavy use of it, were the Macedonians with their phalanx. But there's no efficient use of polearm when not in formation. In close melee, everyone used knives and swords and clubs.
In the mentioned wikipedia page

The purpose of using pole weapons is either to extend reach or to increase leverage (thanks to hands moving freely on a pole) and thus increase striking power. Because they contain relatively little metal, polearms are cheap to make. This has made them the favored weapon of peasant levies and peasants in rebellion the world over. Many are adapted from farm implements, or other tools. Polearms were common weapons on medieval European battlefields. Their range and impact force made them effective weapons against armored warriors on horseback, because they could penetrate armor.

I found this discussion which seems a bit inconclusive on the total advantage of polearms vs shorter weapons.
Checking wikipedia about Phalanx where it is very evident that the longest the weapon, the more necessary to wield in-formation.
More info can be found wikipedia about Pike where it is stated that

The pike, due to its unwieldy nature, was always intended to be used in a deliberate, defensive manner, often in conjunction with other missile and melee weapons. However, better-trained troops were capable of using the pike in an aggressive attack with each rank of pikemen being trained to hold their pikes so that they presented enemy infantry with four or five layers of spearheads bristling from the front of the formation. As long as it kept good order, such a formation could roll right over enemy infantry but it did have weaknesses. The men were all moving forward facing in a single direction and could not turn quickly or efficiently to protect the vulnerable flanks or rear of the formation. The huge block of men carrying such unwieldy spears could be difficult to maneuver in any way other than straightforward movement. As a result, such mobile pike formations sought to have supporting troops protect their flanks or would maneuver to smash the enemy before they could be outflanked themselves. There was also the risk that the formation would become disordered, leading to a confused melee in which pikemen had the vulnerabilities mentioned above.

Although, to be fair, there have existed proponents of its use for single-person melee.
A very educational cinematic of pikemen fighting is this combat scene out of a movie.

In the end, considering the battlefields that polearm units have fought in the last couple of thousands of years, it is evident that they have not eclipsed any other type of infantry, instead they have been used complementary to them. They had their specialized uses, they were cheap to make and train, but they also had their limitations. Historically men with large pointy sticks were unbeatable during frontal assaults. However, any flanking to the sides or rear would be devastating. Those large pointy sticks take a while to move, and reforming a formation under fire was difficult. Pikemen also could not carry shields, so they could be murdered by archers, javelin/spear throwers.

  • $\begingroup$ With a polearm, you can keep enemies at a distance and with certain ones, even penetrate their armor. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Jun 3 '17 at 21:37
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    $\begingroup$ @RedactedRedacted only if you are in formation, otherwise you're too cumbersome and slow; the faster weapon wielder will get inside your guard and slash you up good. $\endgroup$ – adonies Jun 3 '17 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ Can you cite a source to support that claim? $\endgroup$ – sphennings Jun 4 '17 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings added more material and sources. $\endgroup$ – adonies Jun 4 '17 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ @RedactedRedacted - polearms are long, but also unwieldy - they're slower to turn, harder to maneuver, and good in large formations but poorer at lone or small group fighting. A skilled sword fighter with a speed advantage (swords are lighter, so it is likely) can dodge a thrust, knock the head aside, and in a few run-steps they're inside the effective range. It takes a lot more effort to get back to thrusting range, and swords are quick. Skill makes a difference, and formations support each other - but that works both ways. Source: I've played in dagorhir as both, it can go either way. $\endgroup$ – Megha Jun 5 '17 at 1:29

I would say a mace and chain, as with a sword, you can get within its reach, but a polearm is useless as 1, its most effective range is the same as a mace's range, allowing for devastating attacks. 2, a polearm is a 2 handed weapon, so a shield could not be used with it. On the other hand, a sword can be used with a shield, and the shield can be used to deflect the blow, throwing the opponent off balance. This would allow for a quick stab into the opponent's stomach.


Bamboo forest

Or a similar forest with close spaced thin trees. Your pole arm would hang up between the trees. You could not track your target laterally as it approached. You need something you can bring in close: a sword.


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