We know, unlike what Hollywood would have you believe, that plate armor was actually incredibly effective when it was being used. In order to combat this, some bright spark came up with the concept of the mace/warhammer, which would simply transmit its crushing force through the armor to break the poor tin-man's bones and smoosh his vital organs most vindictively.

In an attempt to better protect my little tin men, I would like to ask for suggestions as to how armor should be designed to better protect against crushing blows. Although I used the example of maces and warhammers here, what my tin-men are really facing up against are significantly worse (The huge fists of angry wargolems), so feel free to make the armor cumbersome, so long as it is protective.

Cost is no expense. However, the setting is pre-industrial, so try to avoid using things like non-newtonian liquids and other sci-fi-ish stuffs. Also, this armor is for the common soldier, and magic is difficult to get a hold of in such large quantities, so enchanted armor is out of the question. We're going to have to rely on pure smithing ingenuity here.

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    $\begingroup$ How to protect men in shiny armor against the fists of angry golems? I would try to invent some sort of fast and strong quadruped animal, put my tinmen on it, and make it move away from said golems at high speed. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Jan 23 '15 at 1:47
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    $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa Wow, thanks for the fast comment! Basically, I can't due to the setting being heavily forested. So they are going to need some good armor (unless I want to give them invulnerability-frames and make the roll everywhere.) $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz Jan 23 '15 at 1:50
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know how this would work, but have you thought about giving your armor crumple zones to absorb the impacts? $\endgroup$ – 2012rcampion Jan 23 '15 at 1:59
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    $\begingroup$ Note that historical plate armor was not worn over a T-shirt. There was plenty of soft material (usually wool) between the body and armor for exactly this purpose. $\endgroup$ – vsz Jan 23 '15 at 5:42
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    $\begingroup$ I have an iphone cover made out of this stuff. It is not unusual for my phone to collide with concrete with gravitationally enhanced velocity, and so far it has never experienced rapid unplanned disassembly. I imagine a few of inches of g-form would be pretty good armour in this situation, though it is probably too hi-tech. Lightweight too. $\endgroup$ – Digital Trauma Jan 23 '15 at 22:34

11 Answers 11


The joy of hammers is that they are so simple to model with physics! All they do is impart a large quantity of momentum in an ideally inelastic collision.

Hammers, like all weapons, are tools of disruption. Their entire goal is to disrupt the opponent until they can no longer fight. Hammers do this in many ways:

  • Impart enough momentum that the victim loses control of his own Cg, and falls.
  • Impart enough of an impulse to do internal damage (concussions)
  • Impart enough local momentum to disrupt a local part of the body (such as a dislocation or broken bone)
  • Impart enough local momentum to bend the victim and his/her armor into an undesirable state (such as bashing platemale in sufficiently hard to disable a sword-arm by immobilizing it).

A key requirement for all hammer attacks is that they are very dependent on the victim to remain stationary. Try popping a balloon by hitting it with a hammer mid air and you'll see what I mean. The first way to stop a hammer attack is to redirect it. Angled plates which cause the hammer to connect with a glancing blow are very effective in some situations. This is the logic behind both cattle-guards and modern blast-resistant vehicles. This also points out that light armor can be good against hammers because it provides the mobility required to get out of the way. However, if one is pinned down, a vertical hammer blow can be virtually unstoppable because you are pinned against the ground.

For most hammer attacks, the local effects are more important than the global ones. While it'd be great to simply knock everyone off their feet with one blow, realistically it tends to be easier to go for body damage first. The big difference between the local and global effects is that, for local effects, its meaningful for the victim to choose to stand their ground. They pick some part of their body (usually their abdomen, where the Cg is) and decide not to give up ground. This means they must redirect or dissipate the energy in their body. Padding is the simplest example of this. The more cushy padding one has the less they can be hurt with a strike. Jigglypuff would be the ultimate example of how to win at combat like this! Of course, padding is a balancing act: more padding also makes you less agile.

The most effective solution to hammer strikes is metamaterials. Metamaterials are materials that get their strength not from their material, but their structure. Modern metamaterials have been used to transmit forces around the cab of a car during a collision, rather than through it. This can be extra effective if you custom tailor the material for the expected kinds of collisions.

As an ultimate protection, I'm going to design an armor that is entirely designed for golem fighting and nothing else.

  • Golems may be able to use their strength to actually strike at the Cg of the tinmen. This is a major bugger because there is literally nothing you can do to stop it... physics wins. Anything which seeks to arrest this is in for a lot of trouble, because now you have elected to stop the fist yourself.
  • We're going to assume Golems can only strike the front. If you fail to properly surround your angry war-golem, you get what's coming to you.
  • I'm going to have the local Gnomish tinkerers put together a trigger system. The triggers are on the front. If you are struck hard enough, they cause wheeled supports to spring out from the back, catching you and helping you get into the game quicker.
  • The chestplate contains a large air bladder, to be used similar to the air bags that stuntmen fall on. Any strike to the chest will immediately be spread evenly around the entire chest, which is your best possible chance to not get hurt.
  • Vertical strikes are an issue. We're going to have to use metamaterials here. The armor should have thick rails along the sides. When facing a downward strike that cannot be avoided, the armor should be designed so that a tinman who raises his arms in the right way automatically lines up several of these thick rails which can transmit the force to the ground. For mobility, these rails should not line up when the tinman is in other combat poses. They may need to train in the right way to block a downward blow to get their arms into position to lock the rails in place before the blow hits.
  • My armor has explosives. Okay, it really doesn't. But my instincts say "a strong offense is the best defense." The more anti-golem artillery the better!
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    $\begingroup$ +1, very nice! I like the suggestions, though your golem-proof armor is a wee bit too modern for my setting. I had a laugh out of imagining it though! Sort of like a renaissance Iron Man. $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz Jan 23 '15 at 2:42
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe you could actually put explosives in the armor... The golems wouldn't dare punch a tinman if they knew they were going to lose a hand by doing so! $\endgroup$ – 2012rcampion Jan 23 '15 at 2:43
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    $\begingroup$ There is no such thing as too modern, only "not quite there yet," and "need more funding." $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jan 23 '15 at 2:46
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    $\begingroup$ "The joy of hammers is that they are so simple to model with physics" -- wrong! The joy of hammers is hitting things! $\endgroup$ – Henry Keiter Jan 23 '15 at 16:13
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    $\begingroup$ @HenryKeiter Okay, okay, give a modeler a little room to be proud of his profession ;-) At least we both agree the joy of hammers is NOT being hit by them! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jan 23 '15 at 16:16

Quick solution using existing armor

Anyone who's ever fought adamantium golems in melee with a low-level party can empathize, I'm sure. Well, actually no, because they'd be dead. Ideally, you'd have a contingent of Archmages tasked with disabling and re-purposing these unpleasant constructs, preferably with a future as teapots and storm-drains in mind. Absent archmages, melee charges against these things tend to be rather one-sided, and also remarkably 2-dimensional by the time the Golems are done with you.

No worries though. I have a fool-proof solution of using your knights' armor in a way that is sure to help you.

  1. Pick a few knights you don't like.
  2. Take their armor, and weapons.
  3. Melt their armor, using the abundant trees and a smith.
  4. Make lots of spades. Make armor-less knights and any nearby peasants dig very deep holes (about 2 golems deep). If they protest, point out to them that they have no armor, no weapons and that you do.
  5. Cover up the holes with planks (also made from the abundant trees), and dead leaves.
  6. Find a golem. Use the armorless knights and peasants as bait. Or pigeons. Golems hate pigeons.
  7. Have the bait flee over the planks (quickly). The heavy golems will give chase, break through the planks and end up in the hole. Repeat as needed (might need fresh bait).
  8. ???
  9. Profit!

Boring real answer

If you suffer from a general lack of imaginative generals, your knights (well, after a few very quickly succeeding generations with closed-casket funerals) will wise up and take matters into their own hands (as well as arms, chests, shin-guards and all).

Modern technology deals with blunt forces via dampening. Since your knights won't have explosively inflating airbags, a similar effect could be achieved by using very thick layers of cotton-like materials, or, cotton-absent, inflated animal skins or more simply by lumping hay-bales to the front and back of your knights. As you surely know, you can safely jump into a haystack from the top of various tall buildings, or if you're not called Ezio, at least from the top of barns, so the dampening effect is enough to stop a 100kg body falling at 60 km/h in under 20 cm. So while your knights might get thrown back, they probably won't die, unless the force of the punch breaks their neck.

The toughest bit is protecting the head from punches coming from above. Above their heads they'd have to wear a set of (3 or more) inflated balls that are in contact with each other and the front and rear dampening materials, but not in direct contact with the head.

As a plus, they will look extremely undignified. Furthermore, once they see their first golem, they'd probably give up their metal armor long before they give up the hay. (Perhaps make some shovels?)

hay armor
So you can beat adamantine golems with hay and inflated balls. How's that for ironic?


The point of armor of course is to reduce the impact of weapons used against them. But that also encourages larger impacts to be used. One of the items we use in cars to reduce impact in a collision is to have crumple zones in the frames.

Taking this idea I think one thing that could be 'relatively' cheap to implement (though only the rich knights in medieval Europe could afford metal armor) would be to put in springs inside the armor, especially the chest area, leaf springs to be more precise. they would attach at different places and wrap around the body. Just like metal ribs. You know the bones that protect your heart and lungs. The chest armor would have to be overlapping so that when it is struck the springs/ribs can give and bounce back, absorbing much larger impacts than the poor fool just standing there.

  • $\begingroup$ I like this. It even sounds like it would look cool. $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz Jan 23 '15 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ @FeaurieVladskovitz I think it could be pretty interesting looking armor. Heavy but I think much more effective than the old standby's. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Jan 23 '15 at 2:49
  • $\begingroup$ A system of springs if probably the most feasible solution. $\endgroup$ – algiogia Jan 23 '15 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ Somebody really thought this was worth a downvote? $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Jan 23 '15 at 13:47
  • $\begingroup$ armour is very heavy. It's wearable, and allows people to still move quickly in it because it's form fitting, and the weight distribution matches the wearer's body (down the spine and pelvis.) Adding an extra layer of metal ribs would seriously shift the user's Cg, and thus make the armour feel exponentially heavier than the extra weight would imply. $\endgroup$ – Racheet Jan 23 '15 at 16:09

I read an answer about using rails that, when used in unison with correct arm movements, would absorb the vertical blow of a golem's fist. I have taken this idea, along with a quick glance at my kitchen dish-rack, and have produced a viable option for golem-proof armour. It functions as a blow-absorption armor that is worn on top of other armour. A warrior would don his usual plate or mail armour, preferably plate, and then have the secondary armour fitted. Due to its appearance, it has been named...

The Wireframe

The yellow areas indicate a spot to shove a limb, where the side indicates arm hole and top indicates head hole. The blue lines are thick cotton/hay padding areas, which protect the neck and head from impact from whiplash. The functionality of The Wireframe is simple: when a golem punches The Wireframe, which is about 5 inches (pleasing you damn Americans, but I'm a metric man) from the normal armour (the gap in between is air), the solid steel (or metal of choice) pipes bend inwards. This completely absorbs the first and second hit, but the others might be problem, when the front pipes have been bent inwards. An aerial strike is a downmotion that targets the head; the golem's fists would be too big to fit between the aerial rails, meaning they simple bend downwards for the first few strikes. Among all this, the pipes have enough gap space between them for other ideas to be implemented, such as spikes. With The Wireframe and plate armour, any warrior should be able to survive the initial strikes, and with a whole unit of these warriors, any sort of golem will be in trouble, as the survivability means many weapons will find their mark. It is mobile, effective and looks downright awesome. It fits the criteria; I hope you can use it.

  • $\begingroup$ @FeaurieVladskovitz I'm intrigued by your whole concept. I have read another question of yours involving the same world, and was tempted to answer but didn't. What are you developing this world for? A novel, a game? $\endgroup$ – blaizor Jan 24 '15 at 9:32
  • $\begingroup$ a novel, mostly. Though I also plan on running a small RP in it with a bunch of my friends. $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz Jan 24 '15 at 14:03

Armour is going to be essentially useless in this situation, the Golems' fists will just punch it into you and then leave it as shrapnel in the wound. Instead you should focus on mobility, and reach.

Have unarmoured or lightly armoured soldiers trained for endurance and fast moving. They use Pikes, Bola, and Nets to keep the Golems at a distance, entangle them, and drag them down.

For defence if a golem should manage to close on the troops then a shield (probably held in two hands rather than strapped to your arm) would allow someone to deflect and absorb the blows without having to take the full strike. Golems would be taken down by teams where a couple of people with shields deflect the fist blows while the other members of the team use ropes, netting, pikes or spears to bring down the target.

  • $\begingroup$ This would be my answer as well. If you can't stop the irresistible force, get out of its way. $\endgroup$ – Robert Grant Jan 26 '15 at 8:31

If you rely on the shape of an exaggerated Reuleaux triangle, your troops could mitigate most blows. Designing the armour to have a curve would allow incoming blows to be tangential. An overall conical shape to direct blows around the shoulders would mitigate vertical blows.

The weak points would be the edge and point. A trained soldier would be able to position themselves to take a blow at a steep angle, making most blows glancing. This would have a benefit of leaving most momentum in the weapon, throwing the user off balance.

Poor paint picture attached. Obviously the shape could be tweaked to be less cumbersome, but the concept is sound. Conical helms were a common shape for ability to deflect blows in a similar manner.

Curved armour

Reuleaux Triangle


Spikes. Big ones, perhaps a foot long, and enough of them that you can't land a blow between them.

First, it's hard to hit a spike dead-on; you'll get glancing blows. Second, it can trap or even damage the device used against it.

Take advantage of the fact that your opponents are trying to harm you by colliding into you with their own body parts. Rather than minimize the damage you take, maximize the damage that you dish out in return. If they're going to expend all that energy, you may as well use it against them.

  • $\begingroup$ this was my first idea. $\endgroup$ – Rémi Feb 24 '15 at 19:11

OK, there actually two problems with this scenario:

  1. Protecting soldiers from the overpowering force of the golem that not just bashes but also shoves and stamps anything trying to stand up to it.
  2. Golems are easier to armor than living beings and as expensive hardware they'd be protected from any damage normal weapons.

So it is not enough to worry about armor, you also have to think up weapons and tactics that allow normal soldiers to stand up to golems or the armor is pointless waste of money.

For tactics the only methods a relatively low cost troops can stand up to something as obviously magical and elite as golems are either fortifications or swarm tactics, We can ignore fortifications here because the implies field of battle and golems would probably be fairly good at assaulting light field fortifications.

Swarm tactics means that the soldiers will surround the golems in a densely packed mass that repeatedly attacks the golems from every direction. Groups would probably try to focus on a one golem at a time and pull it down by breaking its legs before moving on to the next one. A golem reduced to crawling would then be left to specialists to deal with after the fight is over. Presumably the golems could be tangled up in nets and then either magically taken over and repaired for use against their former owners or simply hammered apart slow but certain. It might be possible for the assault groups to be followed by the entanglers during the combat so that they could be properly neutralized.

For protection (the actual question IIRC), I am thinking cages. The golems would presumably be rather large so it is not necessary to cover soldiers fully, bars spaced close enough that the golem can't strike between should be good enough. Material could be wood with metal reinforcement, which depending on available wood could be light and cheap enough. The cage armor would be rounded on top and hexagonal then seen from top so that in densely packed mass of soldiers the cages would support each other against shoving and pushing. Of course the cages would support being braced against the ground. A group like this would be rather difficult to shove out of the way and while the golems might be strong enough to lift the individual soldiers, they probably wouldn't be able to do so casually without opening themselves to attacks sides and behind. Which is why a swarm is needed.

The cage would be carried and kept off the body by leather straps attached to harness on the torso. The straps would be slightly elastic to resist snapping and together with the mass of densely packed soldiers this should give decent protection against bashing. The cages would go down slightly below knee level so that the soldiers under attack could draw their legs in to avoid leg injuries then bashed and shoved. This would additionally automatically brace the cages against the ground. It should be possible to attach some light shielding to the cage to give protection from missile weapons without compromising mobility or visibility too much.

Obviously a group like this would need to be very strong and very well trained to move together for this to work. But Swiss pikemen and other similar groups had roughly the correct level of discipline and training, so it should be possible. But it would be an elite unit.

And for weapon... I think that taking down an armored golem would be roughly similar to breaking a gate in difficulty. Normal weapons would be almost useless. You need something like a battering ram with a point to do it properly. But actual battering rams are rather clumsy and would be easy for golems to break. But with the cages being hexagonal, a dense mass of soldiers charging could with proper training apply the momentum of the entire group, including those heavy cages, to single weapon braced against the cage of the soldier in the point. The force should be enough to damage even a golem. The actual weapon would be something like a very strong spear with a hook in the shaft that goes well around the bars of the cage.

So the soldiers would surround the golem, for a number of wedges, charge in simultaneously (or at least in rapid succession) so the golem can only stop one of the attacks efficiently, withdraw slightly, and charge again. Repeat until the golem goes down and then move to the next golem.

This all presumes that the golems are "military grade": large, strong, and armored to defeat normal soldiers. If the golems are of a more generic variety, you should be able to take them down with bolas and nets, essentially reducing my two stage take down and disable method into one stage that can be done by a single group. In such case, the soldiers would be lightly armored and mobile. The golems simply would not be given an opportunity to hit them.


Imitate a porcupine. Mount long spikes in all directions from the armor covering the warrior's torso. Even if golems can't feel pain as their fists are macerated against the spines, they will still have a harder than normal time reaching the warrior's soft spots.

As a bonus, your porcupine warriors won't need to carry weapons. They can just throw themselves at their enemies.

Alternatively, you could wrap your warriors in TNT. This wouldn't stop the golems from punching the front-most charging warrior, but it would probably discourage them from doing it again. Tip... don't tell the warriors how the armor works. Let it be a surprise.


You could develop armor that would be thin metal over a lot of thick padding, and that might help.

However, I think your best bet is probably to go with little or no armor. With large shields possibly spiked, then use pikes or pole-arms, (which may help you hurt them first and make it less likely for them to hit you in the first place), or whatever can hurt the golems, and train your men to avoid getting hit.

(I've run into a similar problem before playing games in the Dominions series, when fighting things like giants. Using heavy armor tends to make it more likely the men will get hit more often, leading to more death when the attacks are very deadly - the armor becomes counter-productive overall. I tend to swap in light infantry and archers when fighting giants for that reason.)


Think motorcycle crash helmets. Same principle, except the head is striking something.

@Vincent: I'm sorry, but this does provide an answer to the OP's question. S/he wants to know how to design armour to protect against hammer blows. Motorcycle helmets effectively ARE armor designed to protect against hammer blows. Now I don't really know exactly how motorcycle helmets are designed (despite having owned/used a number of them), other than the obvious stiff shell enclosing a layer of shock-absorbing foam, but I am sure that it would be more effective for the OP to use Google or Wikipedia than it would be for me to post the same links.

(So enough words?)


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