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Combat tactics in Westeros


Mark O'Kane
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I think it's pretty strange the different houses don't have signature attacks, considering they are all marital houses and many have valyrian steel swords. GRRM is usually pretty accurate about things historically but think he may have overlooked different moves and fighting styles.

The Starks generally use greatswords and would probably use honourable tactics and great sweeping motions with their blades, making clear their intentions in a fight and not misleading the opponent.

The Boltons would specialise in blazing speed, utilising razor sharp knives in battle wielded with both hands to slash at an alarming rate. They would trick opponents, exploit openings, inflict bleed damage in conjuction with acrobatics and light armour types like chain mail and leather. 

Heirs of House Lannister could use a battlecry that mimics the roar of the Lion - their sigil - to double attack power, speed and ferocity but at the cost of stamina (Hear me Roar)

Tyrells use horses in Battle and lances to make up for their slight builds and practice against three men in order to bring their skills up to the level of the other great houses. 

Greyjoys are thought to be great archers and also use impenetrable iron armor with helmets shaped like krakens to inflict fear against opponents. They never back down from a fight and have massive defense, endurance and are fast learners when it comes to improvising in a fight. Their massive plethora of weapons is axes, swords and spears but they prefer axes which most are very deadly with. 

House Martell use throwing spears but also regular spears that they coat in poison (Oberyn Martell - aCoK) which is thickened basilisk venom for a quick or slow death depending on the quantity used. They use a darting motion like the snakes of Dorne with spear jabs and they use metal shields that while heavier than oak sheilds can be used to reflect the sun at opponebts in a fight. They are also proficient swordsmen but are quite rash. Their blades include longswords and scimitars. 

Baratheons use massive weapons like Hammers with deadly effect in conjuction with exquisite green amd gold stag shaped armor. They have huge attack, strength, stamina and endurance and can increase these attributes in allys with a battle cry. Excellent leadership and lightning fast reflexes make a fully armoured baratheon truly a nightmare made real. 

Thoughts on other houses?

 

 

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The various kingdoms didn't have large standing professional armies, and war had mostly become obsolete under Targaryen rule (other than intra-Targ power struggles). What wars were fought were between ill-trained and ill-equipped peasant conscript armies.

Re-read the part where Tywin tells Tyrion that wars are won with parchment and ravens, not soldiers.

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Oh yes that's when he tells Tyrion that even though Robb Stark has more men he can still be defeated by a single arrow at dinner. Robb was a skillfull warrior but even the mightiest fighter can be slain by an arrow and Robb was pierced by many

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4 hours ago, Mark O'Kane said:

Oh yes that's when he tells Tyrion that even though Robb Stark has more men he can still be defeated by a single arrow at dinner. Robb was a skillfull warrior but even the mightiest fighter can be slain by an arrow and Robb was pierced by many

Fireball: "FUUUUUUU.... why why didn't anyone tell me this?"

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This all seems very... video-gamey. Particularly this, for instance:

<quote>Heirs of House Lannister could use a battlecry that mimics the roar of the Lion - their sigil - to double attack power, speed and ferocity but at the cost of stamina (Hear me Roar)</quote>

These sorts of things work in a game where some sort of visual and gameplay differentiation between characters is desirable for variety. But in "reality" people tend to fight not in a way that reflects their characters or interests or motifs but in the way they have been trained to so so most effectively. As a result, the majority of nobles and knights in Westeros will fight in very similar ways.

There will be variation to account for equipment, of course: if Ned habitually wields a greatsword, his technique will be different to a sword-and-shield fighter (although whether armour in Westeros has reached the stage that it's good enough for shields to be functionally redundant in a battlefield situation is debatable). But he's not going to telegraph his attacks to make himself easier to defeat. Honourable or not, that's just idiotic.

The OP also stumbles a bit on the assumption that all the members of each house should behave in the manner of their most prominent member, which is questionable. Stannis and Renly do not fight with a hammer; nor did any historic members of house Baratheon I can think of. Robb, Arya and Bran have no qualms about using surprise, even downright dishonourable, tactics at times, and there is no particular reason to suppose that Brandon the elder was any different. Likewise the Greyjoy "archery" speciality seems to be really a Theon speciality and even then Theon is really "merely" a capable hunting archer, not a specialist combat archer: in battle he would fight on the front lines hand-to-hand, not standing back with a bow. And so on.

 

In terms of actual battlefield tactics en masse, it is likely that (some of) the houses would use visibly different tactics, but these would almost certainly be driven by resources rather than by ideological preference: i.e. those kingdoms that can afford to field knights in large numbers (or other cavalry in the North's case) will do so, with infantry of varying quality being a support arm. For Dorne and the Iron Islands - and the Night's Watch and the hill clans of the North and the Vale - geography and population mean that they are likely to lack a substantial heavy cavalry component so they will be more infantry-heavy and rely more on hit-and-run tactics to neutralise the enemy advantages in a pitched battle.

Edited by Adelstein
Apparently I have forgotten how to use quotes
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  • 3 weeks later...

John was an American. He wore a red and white stripped doublet that reached down to his belt, carefully inscribed with a perfect copy of American constitution, with Arabian oil carefully trapped within perfectly made glass to create clear black scrollwork weaving trough the belt. At his right lay an iphone, blasting latest rap and hip hop lyrics elaborately connecting to each other making it clear he'll pop a bitch and shoot up some pigs to sell white, while at his left rested a Savage Stance FDE, the native american head clearly stamped on the grip. Underneath he wore blue pants with white stars, one each for state of the union. Clearly determined to win he pulled out an extended magazine, it's 46 bullets forged with fires unending of General Dynamics Corporation ammunition forges and slammed it into the Savage Stance FDE. Upon each bullet was writ small a name of a president of this great nation, giving inherent power and blessing to each round. Kneeling behind some cover he shouted: "WE THE PEOPLE!" and fired the first round. A bald eagle screamed 10 000 feet above and clashed with a flying brown bear in deathly grips while a blonde bombshell bit into a juicy burger leaking a mix of pork and beef fat all over her perfectly sculpted breasts. 

 

Long story short that's ridiculous 

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On 1/18/2022 at 9:35 PM, Mark O'Kane said:

I think it's pretty strange the different houses don't have signature attacks, considering they are all marital houses and many have valyrian steel swords. GRRM is usually pretty accurate about things historically but think he may have overlooked different moves and fighting styles.

The Starks generally use greatswords and would probably use honourable tactics and great sweeping motions with their blades, making clear their intentions in a fight and not misleading the opponent.

The Boltons would specialise in blazing speed, utilising razor sharp knives in battle wielded with both hands to slash at an alarming rate. They would trick opponents, exploit openings, inflict bleed damage in conjuction with acrobatics and light armour types like chain mail and leather. 

Heirs of House Lannister could use a battlecry that mimics the roar of the Lion - their sigil - to double attack power, speed and ferocity but at the cost of stamina (Hear me Roar)

Tyrells use horses in Battle and lances to make up for their slight builds and practice against three men in order to bring their skills up to the level of the other great houses. 

Greyjoys are thought to be great archers and also use impenetrable iron armor with helmets shaped like krakens to inflict fear against opponents. They never back down from a fight and have massive defense, endurance and are fast learners when it comes to improvising in a fight. Their massive plethora of weapons is axes, swords and spears but they prefer axes which most are very deadly with. 

House Martell use throwing spears but also regular spears that they coat in poison (Oberyn Martell - aCoK) which is thickened basilisk venom for a quick or slow death depending on the quantity used. They use a darting motion like the snakes of Dorne with spear jabs and they use metal shields that while heavier than oak sheilds can be used to reflect the sun at opponebts in a fight. They are also proficient swordsmen but are quite rash. Their blades include longswords and scimitars. 

Baratheons use massive weapons like Hammers with deadly effect in conjuction with exquisite green amd gold stag shaped armor. They have huge attack, strength, stamina and endurance and can increase these attributes in allys with a battle cry. Excellent leadership and lightning fast reflexes make a fully armoured baratheon truly a nightmare made real. 

Thoughts on other houses?

 

 

First, you are not talking about tactics here, you are talking about combat techniques.

Second, it does not work that way. Sure, it may work that way in an RPG... but in reality, everybody will use whatever works within their cultural context. And Westeros has less cultural variation than medieval Europe, so it makes sense that they will all fight in a similar way.

Third, related to the above, your suggestions simply would not work.

"The Starks generally use greatswords and would probably use honourable tactics and great sweeping motions with their blades, making clear their intentions in a fight and not misleading the opponent." Look at me! I'm a complete dumbass who will telegraph his attacks in advance and refuse to use weapons that actually work against armor worn by my opponents. Yes, Starks may be honorable, but they are not stupid. In a fight, they will use what works.

"The Boltons would specialise in blazing speed, utilising razor sharp knives in battle wielded with both hands to slash at an alarming rate. They would trick opponents, exploit openings, inflict bleed damage in conjuction with acrobatics and light armour types like chain mail and leather. " Yes, I'm a cunning, treacherous asshole... yet I will attack my opponents in a way that will allow them to gut me in one move. Knife against sword simply does not work. Swordsman will win 100% of the time unless both combatants are clad in full plate armor, and even in that case swordsman still has an advantage. But an opponent using knives and clad in light armor is called "chopping practice". Idiot like that wouldn't even warrant a worried frown. Also, chainmail is not light. It is much heavier than plate armor.

"Heirs of House Lannister could use a battlecry that mimics the roar of the Lion - their sigil - to double attack power, speed and ferocity but at the cost of stamina". So you are thinking RPG? Martin is writing a novel series, not an RPG... but yes, your ideas would work for a game. Again, not in a novel, not in reality, only in a roleplaying game.

"Tyrells use horses in Battle and lances to make up for their slight builds and practice against three men in order to bring their skills up to the level of the other great houses. " This is about the only thing that makes some sense...

"Greyjoys are thought to be great archers and also use impenetrable iron armor with helmets shaped like krakens to inflict fear against opponents. They never back down from a fight and have massive defense, endurance and are fast learners when it comes to improvising in a fight. Their massive plethora of weapons is axes, swords and spears but they prefer axes which most are very deadly with. " Impenetrable iron armor... impenetrable iron armor... yeah, that doesn't work. By 15th century, Europeans had spring steel, why would you use iron for armor? And unless Boltons are somehow descendant from Cthulhu, they will not have far more massive defense and endurance than other Westerosi. The only thing that makes sense is preference for axes, because, Vikings.

"House Martell use throwing spears but also regular spears that they coat in poison (Oberyn Martell - aCoK) which is thickened basilisk venom for a quick or slow death depending on the quantity used. They use a darting motion like the snakes of Dorne with spear jabs and they use metal shields that while heavier than oak sheilds can be used to reflect the sun at opponebts in a fight. They are also proficient swordsmen but are quite rash. Their blades include longswords and scimitars. " I am not aware of basilisks in Westeros, and also, reflecting sun at opponents is not a generally very useful technique.

"Baratheons use massive weapons like Hammers with deadly effect in conjuction with exquisite green amd gold stag shaped armor. They have huge attack, strength, stamina and endurance and can increase these attributes in allys with a battle cry. Excellent leadership and lightning fast reflexes make a fully armoured baratheon truly a nightmare made real. " Again, works for an RPG...

 

So I am confused here. Are you asking about combat techniques in Westeros, or are you writing down notes for a role-playing game?

On 1/22/2022 at 5:07 AM, Light a wight tonight said:

The various kingdoms didn't have large standing professional armies, and war had mostly become obsolete under Targaryen rule (other than intra-Targ power struggles). What wars were fought were between ill-trained and ill-equipped peasant conscript armies.

Re-read the part where Tywin tells Tyrion that wars are won with parchment and ravens, not soldiers.

Again this myth? That is not what we see at all.

As for parchment and ravens, that has nothing to do with how soldiers are recruited.

Edited by Aldarion
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On 2/12/2022 at 1:10 PM, Aldarion said:

First, you are not talking about tactics here, you are talking about combat techniques.

Second, it does not work that way. Sure, it may work that way in an RPG... but in reality, everybody will use whatever works within their cultural context. And Westeros has less cultural variation than medieval Europe, so it makes sense that they will all fight in a similar way.

Third, related to the above, your suggestions simply would not work.

"The Starks generally use greatswords and would probably use honourable tactics and great sweeping motions with their blades, making clear their intentions in a fight and not misleading the opponent." Look at me! I'm a complete dumbass who will telegraph his attacks in advance and refuse to use weapons that actually work against armor worn by my opponents. Yes, Starks may be honorable, but they are not stupid. In a fight, they will use what works.

"The Boltons would specialise in blazing speed, utilising razor sharp knives in battle wielded with both hands to slash at an alarming rate. They would trick opponents, exploit openings, inflict bleed damage in conjuction with acrobatics and light armour types like chain mail and leather. " Yes, I'm a cunning, treacherous asshole... yet I will attack my opponents in a way that will allow them to gut me in one move. Knife against sword simply does not work. Swordsman will win 100% of the time unless both combatants are clad in full plate armor, and even in that case swordsman still has an advantage. But an opponent using knives and clad in light armor is called "chopping practice". Idiot like that wouldn't even warrant a worried frown. Also, chainmail is not light. It is much heavier than plate armor.

"Heirs of House Lannister could use a battlecry that mimics the roar of the Lion - their sigil - to double attack power, speed and ferocity but at the cost of stamina". So you are thinking RPG? Martin is writing a novel series, not an RPG... but yes, your ideas would work for a game. Again, not in a novel, not in reality, only in a roleplaying game.

"Tyrells use horses in Battle and lances to make up for their slight builds and practice against three men in order to bring their skills up to the level of the other great houses. " This is about the only thing that makes some sense...

"Greyjoys are thought to be great archers and also use impenetrable iron armor with helmets shaped like krakens to inflict fear against opponents. They never back down from a fight and have massive defense, endurance and are fast learners when it comes to improvising in a fight. Their massive plethora of weapons is axes, swords and spears but they prefer axes which most are very deadly with. " Impenetrable iron armor... impenetrable iron armor... yeah, that doesn't work. By 15th century, Europeans had spring steel, why would you use iron for armor? And unless Boltons are somehow descendant from Cthulhu, they will not have far more massive defense and endurance than other Westerosi. The only thing that makes sense is preference for axes, because, Vikings.

"House Martell use throwing spears but also regular spears that they coat in poison (Oberyn Martell - aCoK) which is thickened basilisk venom for a quick or slow death depending on the quantity used. They use a darting motion like the snakes of Dorne with spear jabs and they use metal shields that while heavier than oak sheilds can be used to reflect the sun at opponebts in a fight. They are also proficient swordsmen but are quite rash. Their blades include longswords and scimitars. " I am not aware of basilisks in Westeros, and also, reflecting sun at opponents is not a generally very useful technique.

"Baratheons use massive weapons like Hammers with deadly effect in conjuction with exquisite green amd gold stag shaped armor. They have huge attack, strength, stamina and endurance and can increase these attributes in allys with a battle cry. Excellent leadership and lightning fast reflexes make a fully armoured baratheon truly a nightmare made real. " Again, works for an RPG...

 

So I am confused here. Are you asking about combat techniques in Westeros, or are you writing down notes for a role-playing game?

Again this myth? That is not what we see at all.

As for parchment and ravens, that has nothing to do with how soldiers are recruited.

Yes.  Medieval governments could not afford large standing armies, in the main.  But, their societies were highly militarised, with much of the population well-used to handling weapons, and fighting in formation.  Putting together an effective army was not difficult.

So, for example, the English in 1346 could send an expeditionary force to Normandy;  strike Westward from Gascony;  and still put together a reserve army in the North to defend against the Scots.

A professional standing army, (often not very large relative to the overall population) well-equipped and trained, is the most successful means of delivering violence effectively, but there are viable alternatives, as the medievals demonstrated.

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4 minutes ago, SeanF said:

Yes.  Medieval governments could not afford large standing armies, in the main.  But, their societies were highly militarised, with much of the population well-used to handling weapons, and fighting in formation.  Putting together an effective army was not difficult.

So, for example, the English in 1346 could send an expeditionary force to Normandy;  strike Westward from Gascony;  and still put together a reserve army in the North to defend against the Scots.

A professional standing army, (often not very large relative to the overall population) well-equipped and trained, is the most successful means of delivering violence effectively, but there are viable alternatives, as the medievals demonstrated.

And even that depends on the context. For purely defensive operations, some sort of semi-professional army (essentially a National Guard equivalent - look at Byzantine themata) was actually superior to a fully professional army, because you have people literally defending their homes, fighting in the terrain they know well.

Main disadvantage of feudal military system was not so much the lack of trained soldiers, but the lack of political capacity of the state to fully mobilize the available resources. Generally speaking, the only way to mobilize the entire military potential of the state was to have a large-scale civil war...

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1 hour ago, Aldarion said:

And even that depends on the context. For purely defensive operations, some sort of semi-professional army (essentially a National Guard equivalent - look at Byzantine themata) was actually superior to a fully professional army, because you have people literally defending their homes, fighting in the terrain they know well.

Main disadvantage of feudal military system was not so much the lack of trained soldiers, but the lack of political capacity of the state to fully mobilize the available resources. Generally speaking, the only way to mobilize the entire military potential of the state was to have a large-scale civil war...

What made Rome/the Eastern Empire/China formidable was not technology, but a bureaucracy that was capable of maintaining permanent armed forces.  Western Europe lost this capacity, after the Empire fell.

Brett Devereaux’ Unmitigated Pedantry website has interesting articles about all of  this.

He reckons that the best competitors to the professional standing army were coalitions of steppe horsemen, up till 1750 or so.

 

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20 hours ago, SeanF said:

What made Rome/the Eastern Empire/China formidable was not technology, but a bureaucracy that was capable of maintaining permanent armed forces.  Western Europe lost this capacity, after the Empire fell.

Brett Devereaux’ Unmitigated Pedantry website has interesting articles about all of  this.

He reckons that the best competitors to the professional standing army were coalitions of steppe horsemen, up till 1750 or so.

 

It was bureaucracy, yes. But look at how the Roman Empire adapted to Arab invasions: because the Empire had lost Egypt, Africa and Syria, it was unable to finance the army at just the time when it needed more troops than it had. So what the Emperor (there is a discussion whether it was Heraclius or, more likely, Constans II) did was that he reduced the soldiers' wages to a level well below the minimum living wage, and - to compensate for the loss of pay - assigned soldiers lots of land from the Imperial lands. The bureocracy made that possible, but the theme system provided the Empire with both a very large and professional army that could be raised relatively cheaply, as well as significant structural strength.

Professional army does not need to be a standing army, by the way. And when I discussed things with Brett, he himself said that he hadn't really studied the Byzantine Empire, though he is at least somewhat familiar with the theme system, as his discussion on organization of Gondor shows.

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