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How are Spears Holding Up?

HrafnHrafn Posts: 305Registered Users
How have spear units been working out for you guys?

Past games have relegated spears into a rock-paper-scissors role, which isn't in keeping with their historical status as the battlefield weapon of choice. In Attila, as in Shogun 2, swords were the Frontline troops of choice.

Now with at least the stats of the spear units hovering on comparable levels with those of the sword units; how have they been working out for you? Are they still getting owned by sword troops for you? Or are they winning engagements against them occasionally now?

Comments

  • DruidsbrookDruidsbrook Junior Member Posts: 45Registered Users
    Spears seem to hold their own in combat, less killing than swords as you would expect but it does feel less rock paper scissors than previous games, hopefully patches wont try to revert this.
  • Fear_The_WolfFear_The_Wolf Posts: 2,775Registered Users
    Depends on the faction.

    Some spears can throw down with the best of them. Welsh Royal Telelu stand out. Or just Valley Spears for Gwinid. Dyflin Spear Guard as well. But on average they are less effective then swords against low armor, less effective then axes against high armor, but more effective against cav then either.
  • arcadius2423arcadius2423 Posts: 7Registered Users
    lol, I didn't see this before I made my post just now. I've been playing Dyflin, and using spears for chockepoint defense and cav defense. They hold well, but I can put swords in that same chokepoint, hold just as well, and kill more enemies in less time. They should excel in this area, but it seems the only place they really seem to shine is cav defense.
  • TumbahTumbah Posts: 88Registered Users
    I think spears are about right where they should be . . . with a possible buff to be just a wee bit stronger. My spearmen seem to take quite a few more casualties than I expect they should against cavalry in an even 1v1. (20 or more losses with levy spearmen against levy scout cav.) They are designed to fight horsemen, after all.

    Spearmen are supposed to be weaker than most other melee infantry. A levy spear unit should lose to levy axes. The exceptions here would be the uber tough elite spears of the Welsh. (Have not played with the Valley Spears from Gwined, I don't think, so I can't say how tough they are.)

    Overall, right where they need to be.

    I do wish there were another formation to choose with all of the levy spears which I could brace against cavalry charges with. There is no notification anywhere that tells players if it's smarter to stand their ground, to counter-charge the enemy horsemen, or if the only formation available, (the one that says it blocks missiles better,) is more effective against a charge. I understand that bracing for an impact whilst in, say, a schiltron formation no only prevents losses, but causes more for the enemy. Which brings me to my main point - please give levy spearmen a 'shield-wall', 'schiltron', or 'square' formation please. One that counters cavalry charges more effectively. (Preferably shield wall, it seems to me that choice would make more sense with this time period.)
  • HrafnHrafn Posts: 305Registered Users
    Spears aren't designed to fight cavalry. That is the rock-paper-scissor conditioning people have received from the Total War series talking.

    It may be that the devs designed them to be that way, however. Which if so is quite disappointing. In Attila there was no reason to ever use spears. Sending Dane axes supported your cavalry better than spears ever did. In MP anyways, where you could always pick the units you wanted...
  • TumbahTumbah Posts: 88Registered Users
    Uh . . . if I were to fight a man on horseback charging me, I would rather have a spear than a short-sword. Call me conditioned.

    They may not be as effective as pikes, but they are the younger siblings to them, and should definitely be more effective against cavalry than shorter melee weapons because of their reach alone. If sword or axemen prove more effective against cavalry, missile, and other infantry here, why bother ever recruiting a single unit of spearmen? (Everything, actually.)
  • Fear_The_WolfFear_The_Wolf Posts: 2,775Registered Users
    As pointed out before it's still kinda there. But armor seems to be more determinate then before. If only slightly. And faction specialist troops can definitely skew the odds.

    But as a general rule of thumb:

    Spears beat cav,
    Swords beat low armor,
    Axes beat high armor,

    Retinue will generally beat levies regardless of their type.

    Elites will always beat levies, and generally Retinue regardless of their type.

    Faction Unique specialty units are Retinue most of the time.
  • TumbahTumbah Posts: 88Registered Users
  • The_ArchpaladinThe_Archpaladin Senior Member Posts: 169Registered Users
    In my admittedly limited experience as Mide, Wood Spears have been pretty solid. I use them as a fixing force to pin enemies down so my Fianna and Airig Swordsmen can do the REAL killing work, with Kern Axemen or Gallowglasses on the flanks. It's a setup that served me well in Atilla. It appears to work well for most of the factions.

    4 Spears to pin the enemy
    4 Swords to deal damage
    2 Axes for flanking
    3 Ranged units
    3 Cavalry
    3 Catapults

    Not just good for sieges, but also can be deployed defensively, using the catapults to deal massive damage to units like the enemy general or tough nuts to crack like berserkers.
  • AxelradAxelrad Senior Member Posts: 629Registered Users
    Tumbah said:

    Uh . . . if I were to fight a man on horseback charging me, I would rather have a spear than a short-sword. Call me conditioned.

    They may not be as effective as pikes, but they are the younger siblings to them, and should definitely be more effective against cavalry than shorter melee weapons because of their reach alone. If sword or axemen prove more effective against cavalry, missile, and other infantry here, why bother ever recruiting a single unit of spearmen? (Everything, actually.)

    What he means is that they weren't *just* for fighting cavalry - historically a line of spears was the unit of choice for fighting infantry as well as cavalry. The spear is just an all-around superior weapon for massed infantry combat, and swords were traditionally back-up weapons that you switched to in a melee after your spear or polearm was lost. There are some famous exceptions, but generally spears (and later pikes) were the go-to for infantry. Good way to think of it is spear=rifle, whereas sword=pistol.

    However, you do hit upon the point of why we have this rock-paper-scissors balance in games in the first place. If they displayed things too historically accurate, armies would be largely nothing but spearmen with a few odd outliers. So they come up with ways to give them more variety and we get our current systems. Though I have to say I *love* the fact that since Rome 2, spears are actually capable of holding up against sword units - in older Total War games, swords would just chew right through any spear unit like it was nothing.
  • TumbahTumbah Posts: 88Registered Users
    Agreed, yes, I believe that is exactly the case. I believe that is mostly because spears were cheaper to produce than swords, (less steel and time spent making them.) Plus they offered more versatility in group context, i.e. the spear-holder in the second or third rank can still reach out and poke the enemy up front. There are many reasons, really.

    I actually read the encyclopedias in these games, and Rome 2 had really informative essays on how the use of the spear evolved until that time. I wonder why this game does not have an encyclopedia.

    Overall, I also like how the spearmen perform in this game.
  • Fear_The_WolfFear_The_Wolf Posts: 2,775Registered Users
    I think part of the prevalence of spears in ToB is not just their ability to be effective generally, but the rarity of swords overall. Trying to remember not at keyboard but not many sword units are levy, if any at all. Alban swords maybe? And while axes may excel at cutting through armor they do not massively outperform spears in any other regard. Hell some spearmen have pretty decent armor pen as well.

    Plainly put, spears are everywhere. Swords not so much.
  • MrJadeMrJade Senior Member Lansing, MIPosts: 7,137Registered Users
    The thing about spears vs swords is a multifaceted and not entirely simple issue that Total War likes to simplify.

    Spears were used for the majority of warfare up until rifles because they are:
    1. Useful for a peasant to have. Boar hunting, bear hunting, even used in deer hunting. Therefore they were more prevalent than might be otherwise expected.
    2. Easy to use and easy to be trained.
    3. Requires less valuable resources to make than a sword.
    4. Requires a less capable smith to make.
    5. Easy to store and maintain compared to a sword.
    6. Horses don't want to charge into spears.
    7. Able to press multiple lines of combat at once.

    For these reasons and more, spears were much used in combat. Swords on the other hand were better at killing folks, but required a lot more skill to use, a lot more money to buy, and weren't useful outside of killing other people.

    Its the same reasons that bows were used more than crossbows, because the levy masses had bows for various economic and social reasons and didn't have crossbows.

    That being said, spears' use in warfare wasn't a rock-paper-scissors issue, it was a natural evolution of roles and abilities than lead to this era of combat.
    Thrones of Britannia: 69/100
    Warhammer II: 73/100
    Warhammer: 79/100
    Attila: 70/100 [Age of Charlemagne: 72/100]
    Rome II: 49/100
    Shogun II: 93/100 [Fall of the Samurai: 95/100]
    Napoleon: 58/100
    Empire: 53/100
    Medieval II: 90/100 [Kingdoms: 90/100]
    Rome I: 88/100
    Medieval I: 92/100
    Shogun I: 84/100
  • TumbahTumbah Posts: 88Registered Users
    Way to sum it up, Mr. Jade. Nicely done.

    In answer to you Wolf, I think there are no Levy swords, only retinue or higher here.
  • tak22tak22 Senior Member Posts: 2,384Registered Users
    MrJade said:

    The thing about spears vs swords is a multifaceted and not entirely simple issue that Total War likes to simplify.

    Spears were used for the majority of warfare up until rifles because they are:
    1. Useful for a peasant to have. Boar hunting, bear hunting, even used in deer hunting. Therefore they were more prevalent than might be otherwise expected.
    2. Easy to use and easy to be trained.
    3. Requires less valuable resources to make than a sword.
    4. Requires a less capable smith to make.
    5. Easy to store and maintain compared to a sword.
    6. Horses don't want to charge into spears.
    7. Able to press multiple lines of combat at once.

    For these reasons and more, spears were much used in combat. Swords on the other hand were better at killing folks, but required a lot more skill to use, a lot more money to buy, and weren't useful outside of killing other people.

    Its the same reasons that bows were used more than crossbows, because the levy masses had bows for various economic and social reasons and didn't have crossbows.

    That being said, spears' use in warfare wasn't a rock-paper-scissors issue, it was a natural evolution of roles and abilities than lead to this era of combat.

    right on about spears. There were swords used for hunting, though; and part of the popularity of crossbows was the ease of training compared to bows (crank, load, point) although unlike with spears the cost would have offset the ease of use.
  • MrJadeMrJade Senior Member Lansing, MIPosts: 7,137Registered Users
    tak22 said:

    right on about spears. There were swords used for hunting, though; and part of the popularity of crossbows was the ease of training compared to bows (crank, load, point) although unlike with spears the cost would have offset the ease of use.

    Absolutely crossbows are easier and generally much more powerful, but as you said, the cost is generally much, much higher than a bow, and require a skilled craftsman to make. While your average peasant probably couldn't have made a war bow, it wouldn't be impossible for one to be made by a non-craftsman. Certainly hunting bows were made by the peasants.

    Keep in mind too that many of the reasons spears were common also apply to axes.
    Thrones of Britannia: 69/100
    Warhammer II: 73/100
    Warhammer: 79/100
    Attila: 70/100 [Age of Charlemagne: 72/100]
    Rome II: 49/100
    Shogun II: 93/100 [Fall of the Samurai: 95/100]
    Napoleon: 58/100
    Empire: 53/100
    Medieval II: 90/100 [Kingdoms: 90/100]
    Rome I: 88/100
    Medieval I: 92/100
    Shogun I: 84/100
  • HrafnHrafn Posts: 305Registered Users
    My ideal system would move away from the rock-paper-scissors relationship between spears-swords-cavalry, into something (roughly) like the following;

    A system that focused more on unit cohesion and teamwork. Bear in mind this is just some very rough spitballing.

    Spears when in good order would be exceptional melee units. Meanwhile, if the unit lost cohesion, their effectiveness would be reduced dramatically.

    Swords would be more capable of maintaining effectiveness as unit cohesion was reduced; and in the same vein, would excell in attacking units whose cohesion has already been reduced.

    Cavalry would excell at breaking unit cohesion, and be very effective, though not as effective as swords, at attacking units with reduced cohesion.

    Over top of this would be a mild layer of the rock-paper-scissors system we are already used to.
  • AxelradAxelrad Senior Member Posts: 629Registered Users
    edited May 2018
    MrJade said:

    The thing about spears vs swords is a multifaceted and not entirely simple issue that Total War likes to simplify.

    Spears were used for the majority of warfare up until rifles because they are:
    1. Useful for a peasant to have. Boar hunting, bear hunting, even used in deer hunting. Therefore they were more prevalent than might be otherwise expected.
    2. Easy to use and easy to be trained.
    3. Requires less valuable resources to make than a sword.
    4. Requires a less capable smith to make.
    5. Easy to store and maintain compared to a sword.
    6. Horses don't want to charge into spears.
    7. Able to press multiple lines of combat at once.

    For these reasons and more, spears were much used in combat. Swords on the other hand were better at killing folks, but required a lot more skill to use, a lot more money to buy, and weren't useful outside of killing other people.

    Its the same reasons that bows were used more than crossbows, because the levy masses had bows for various economic and social reasons and didn't have crossbows.

    That being said, spears' use in warfare wasn't a rock-paper-scissors issue, it was a natural evolution of roles and abilities than lead to this era of combat.

    This is a great post with a lot of great points, particularly about economical sense of spears.

    Though I'd point out that swords weren't necessarily "better at killing folks." A spear actually has an advantage in any given infantry combat (except a grapple) due to its reach - even 1v1. If you get practical experience with HEMA or some similar historical training, you quickly discover that anyone with a sword has one hell of a time closing within striking distance on someone with a spear. Reminds me of this quote from the 13th century Konungs Skuggsja: "You must also be specially careful, when in the battle line, never to throw your spear, unless you have two, for in battle array on land one spear is more effective than two swords."

    The biggest advantage a sword had was its portable size. This allowed them to be easily carried as a sidearm by soldiers, or as a self-defense weapon by nobles about town, yet still be more effective than a small dagger (which would be carried as an emergency weapon, or for self-defense when not allowed to carry a sword).

    Also in regards to the crossbow, @tak22 is right that the ease of use offset the cost. Crossbows actually outnumbered bows in the armies of Medieval Europe by the 1100s, as they were just so much easier & quicker to train soldiers to use, and armies of the time weren't large enough to require a huge amount produced. They became the standard missile weapon of peasant uprisings as well, because you didn't have to be a hunter to know how to shoot one. In China, even with its larger armies, the transition to primarily using crossbows happened even earlier, by at least 16 BC, when the Han Dynasty recorded 537,707 crossbows in its military armories versus 77,521 bows.
  • zmey_gorinichzmey_gorinich Senior Member Posts: 212Registered Users
    Against the AI, even militia spears work great (in shield wall formation). However, I tend to bring so many long range missiles that the AI always attacks (allowing me to form shield walls) even when defending.

  • KrunchKrunch Junior Member Posts: 3,595Registered Users
    If you like spears then the Welsh seem a pretty good choice, their spearmen are their best units.
  • TijuTiju TulifurdumPosts: 109Registered Users
    Axelrad said:

    MrJade said:

    The thing about spears vs swords is a multifaceted and not entirely simple issue that Total War likes to simplify.

    Spears were used for the majority of warfare up until rifles because they are:
    1. Useful for a peasant to have. Boar hunting, bear hunting, even used in deer hunting. Therefore they were more prevalent than might be otherwise expected.
    2. Easy to use and easy to be trained.
    3. Requires less valuable resources to make than a sword.
    4. Requires a less capable smith to make.
    5. Easy to store and maintain compared to a sword.
    6. Horses don't want to charge into spears.
    7. Able to press multiple lines of combat at once.

    For these reasons and more, spears were much used in combat. Swords on the other hand were better at killing folks, but required a lot more skill to use, a lot more money to buy, and weren't useful outside of killing other people.

    Its the same reasons that bows were used more than crossbows, because the levy masses had bows for various economic and social reasons and didn't have crossbows.

    That being said, spears' use in warfare wasn't a rock-paper-scissors issue, it was a natural evolution of roles and abilities than lead to this era of combat.

    This is a great post with a lot of great points, particularly about economical sense of spears.

    Though I'd point out that swords weren't necessarily "better at killing folks." A spear actually has an advantage in any given infantry combat (except a grapple) due to its reach - even 1v1. If you get practical experience with HEMA or some similar historical training, you quickly discover that anyone with a sword has one hell of a time closing within striking distance on someone with a spear. Reminds me of this quote from the 13th century Konungs Skuggsja: "You must also be specially careful, when in the battle line, never to throw your spear, unless you have two, for in battle array on land one spear is more effective than two swords."

    The biggest advantage a sword had was its portable size. This allowed them to be easily carried as a sidearm by soldiers, or as a self-defense weapon by nobles about town, yet still be more effective than a small dagger (which would be carried as an emergency weapon, or for self-defense when not allowed to carry a sword).

    Also in regards to the crossbow, @tak22 is right that the ease of use offset the cost. Crossbows actually outnumbered bows in the armies of Medieval Europe by the 1100s, as they were just so much easier & quicker to train soldiers to use, and armies of the time weren't large enough to require a huge amount produced. They became the standard missile weapon of peasant uprisings as well, because you didn't have to be a hunter to know how to shoot one. In China, even with its larger armies, the transition to primarily using crossbows happened even earlier, by at least 16 BC, when the Han Dynasty recorded 537,707 crossbows in its military armories versus 77,521 bows.
    Thank you for dealing with the "swords are better" nonsense. Reach in melee combat is rather important and therefore mostlypolearms were the working horse for combat.

    The unit balancing in TW games is artificial, for game reasons. Spears were more or less the weapons of choice for warfare, also for nobles. A sword was mainly a sidearm. Having such units in TW would be boring. So we have sword units and (much worse) short axe units as additions.

    A sword was nevertheless also a very effective weapon (but a very expensive one before the late medieval period). While a sword against a spear is a good way to loose, sword and shield against a spear is a bit more balanced. The bigger the shield, the better.

    So we come near the Romans, the only considerable power using the sword as main weapon for several centuries (until they mainly returned to spear based combat in late antiquity). This was only possible because of the big Roman scutum as partner for the sword. And the Romans also usually wore armor; armor changes a lot in combat.

  • TumbahTumbah Posts: 88Registered Users
    As I understand, the Romans improved upon the Hoplite formation of the past, (which was all spears,) and used varying ranks of gladius short swords and spears together. The improved ranking system of the Romans was one of the main reasons their armies dominated other civilization's armies during their height.
  • FranzSaxonFranzSaxon Posts: 2,357Registered Users
    ^right, and who they were fighting of course. Later antiquity saw better trained and equipped foes, even though by that time the old Roman way of war was long gone, their Germanic enemies were not unarmoured rabble anymore and could fight effectively. Not saying the Celts and Germans of old were a rabble technically, just compared to the Romans they were not nearly as effective. We know this. The Celts and thracian were feared enemies and a power in their own right for a huge time before the Romans rose to power. Its all relative to adversaries
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