SHOCK AND RANGE
Prior to gunpowder, there were two battlefield weapons classes. Shock weapons and range weapons. Range weapons allowed a fellow to stand back a long distance and hurl missiles at the enemy. The shooter was relatively safe, all things considered. Oh, he could be breathed on by a squad mate and get some nasty plague and later die, but back in the day most adults had survived varied and numerous childhood diseases and if he actually made it to breeding age he was usually a pretty hearty and stout lad, microbe wise. But as far as the battlefield went he was pretty much out of harms way unless the other side also launched missiles at him. Which was why the English longbow was a superior weapons class. The missilemen were out of harms way of the other shorter range bowmen and hence a very valuable highly trained corps had impunity. There being no free lunch however, nothing is ever easy and those guys did not come cheap. They needed a lifetime of training. The other class of weapons was shock weapons. These were your maces and swords and hammers and spears and what not. These were much more effective weapons but the disadvantage lie in the fact that you had to wade in there face to face and bludgeon the enemy, so close you could smell his putrid breath and so he either had you within range of his weapon, or you got the plague from him, or both.
A missile weapon did not kill you immediately. Most of the time you didn’t hit an artery and the only thing you could do was wait for him to bleed out, if he did, or take multiple hits to keep reintroducing enough shocks to his system to kill him. The most likely outcome, his wound getting infected enough to kill him, took way too long to be tactically effective. But missiles DID reduce the effectiveness of an enemy, even with minor wounds. And it did eliminate SOME threats entirely, if not a large number. That is why shock troops encumbered themselves with large and fatigue inducing shields and armor. If you could mostly reduce the threat of missiles, then if you furthermore had superior organization your shock formation would triumph. The armor certainly helped in close in combat, but it was mostly for missiles. Once missiles were no longer the threat, the shock weapons-weapons which induces massive trauma which instantly incapacitates, usually with a single blow- carried the day. If a force was fighting a guerrilla action, just using missiles could eventually produce some results. Otherwise, combined forces of infantry, artillery and cavalry were all required to win a battle. Range weapons were an attrition, horse troops opened formations and shock troop weapons were more immediately deadly.
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