A New Way to get Maimed: The Huscarl Axe

Written by Ld Hrothgar the Smith. Previously appearing in the Online Bird of Prey, Vol 10, 2004

 

To make the Axe:

 

I used a piece of rattan about 4.5 feet long (remember, I started out using this as a bardiche and still use it as such, just with the axe head instead of a bardiche head) and put thrusting tips on both ends.

 

You CAN use this system without the top thruster, but I’m an advocate of having them, you never know when that thruster will save your butt. 😉

 

To make the axe head, *I* went to “play-it-again-sports” (a local used sports store) and picked up an old boogie board. I used this because it’s tough foam and will last a while. I cut the axe head shape out of that, making a sort of “U” shape in the BACK EDGE, this will be where the rattan sits and allows you to get a cleaner bond. A few pieces of foam on the back edge (That is, opposite the blade, where the axe head in real life would “wrap around” the shaft) and strapping tape to hold it all on… viola!

 

Now, if you don’t have access to some nice tough, stiff, foam… use camp pad foam (closed cell) and cut enough shapes out to make it the legal thickness (in other words, if it’s half inch foam, you need 5 pieces to make an inch and a quarter width) and spray glue them together, make the “U” channel in the backedge and strapping tape it up.

 


To Fight With the Axe

I recently (yesterday) rebuilt my bardiche. Before, I had the classic hole-through-the-blade-for-my-hand look. Now it’s more like an axe so my hand will rest under the blade. I wanted to rebuild it because the blade that was on it was far too soft to use it effectively as an axe (though the new blade is smaller so using it to block thrusts just got harder).  but it can really help keep those mutants off you if you use the butt spike effectively…

Most of my work with the axe in my off hand is to block, it makes a very nice long (but skinny) shield. When someone goes deep to throw a wrap around you, stick the axe out about a 45 degree angle from your body (into their forearm/elbow/upper arm) and you’ll effectively throw their shot off. Much like two-stick, you’ll have to be careful of thrusts… these are harder to block. 🙂

The most common attack I use (being right handed, I have the axe in my left hand) is to move it around their shield and buttspike to the belly/chest/swordside leg/swordarm. If you can get them to open up some you can just toss a straight on buttspike in there. BUT! Check this move out…

  1. Hold your arm out in front of you like you have an axe gripped under the head, with your elbow bent, make a fist with your thumb on top, straight out from the elbow.
  2. Now, leaving your elbow tucked in (mostly), rotate your left fist (and forearm) OUT 45 degreee, and turn your fist fingers up.
  3. Now, a fast thrust (towards your pinky) and imagine where that buttspike went. 😉 Into your opponent, AROUND their shield. 

(ok, I’m having trouble describing this… does anyone not get that?)

This is a nice surprise… but don’t do it so often that they expect it because they’ll blow your arm OFF if you aren’t careful.

 Also, about the time they forget that you’ve got your hand just below an axe head, a nice punch to the side of the face, or armpit is a fine wake up call…

Be CAREFUL when punching with a weapon like this… gauntlet’ing someone in the face is a bad deal and will get the marshals on your back most likely. That said, it’s really fun to watch the surprise on your opponents face when, in a clutch, you suddenly punch them with the axe bit. Face or body (with appropriate levels of force) are both good… whatever you can reach. (Heck, even the arm… deprive him of that sword;))

I also, occasionally, use the bit of the axe to sweep my opponents shield out of the way (down is good). Grab the corner of the shield with the bit, pull it down, and throw a shot with your sword at the same time, sailing it right over their shield (or, grab the shield, pull it down.. let them yank it back up, as your underhanded thrust to the ribs sails under the, now, way too high shield!)

Against center grip round, use the buttspike at it’s natural range, pin their shield to their chest, step in, throw the wrap. While they are thinking of moving the shield over to block the wrap, you’ve pinned it to them so they can’t.

Now, I get into bad habits sometimes… I’ll get to where I’m throwing the same opening shots (buttspike as you move into range, followed by close up swordwork while I block with the axe). Don’t fall prey to this… just because you’re in sword range doesn’t mean you can’t buttspike them, just get them high in the leg or low on the body instead of center-of-mass, it’s still a kill if you gig them in the belly from two feet away.  Throw combos, 1-2-3 sword blows, but don’t forget the axe, toss in a buttspike or a punch with the blade… throw a fake with the buttspike (out to the left with the “around their shield motion”) and while they are moving that shield over to block, hit em with the sword in your other hand.

Two years ago (roughly) [CN: Circa 1998] when I started, it was an ALMOST dead system. Few people fought it, now.. it’s popular again [CN: Circa 2000-2002].  Lots of them went to sword and spear… because they get range on ME that way. Oh yeah, if you’re fighting someone with a bardiche/spear/off-hand axe and they have a longer off-hand weapon… use your offhand weapon to sweep theirs outside (or past you inside is better even) and then charge in, don’t be afraid to get in close.. unless they have a bladed weapon they can’t punch you, and you can punch them.  If they have a bladed weapon, watch for that punch!

On Beyond Scuta

Written by Sir Duncan Bruce of Logan. Originally published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 6, 4th Quarter, 2002.

You may ask, “How does this tie in with the ‘Fyrd theme’ we got going?”

the answer is simple, Syr Logan wrote this waaaaaaaay back when he was a Fyrdman, you know back before dirt;)

I have noticed a trend among the ranks of newer fighter that I consider a bit disturbing. Many of them are taking up polearms as soon as they return from their first war. The stated reason is to “get out from under a scutum”” This disturbs me for two reasons, first, the scuta are what Calontir is known for and what makes or breaks our ability to use our tactics, secondly, wars should be fun, no matter what weapon system you use.

To address the first point, the whole “No Heroes” philosophy of the army depends on working as a unit, and the scuta are the base that our units are built on. There has even been discussion in there pages that scuta should be included in cavalry units. If we continue to act as if carrying a scutum is a job only for the new and/or unskilled fighters everyone will want to continue to want to get out from under it as soon as possible.

Many people with more knowledge than I have said that we need to practice with scutum toting units more, and I have to agree. Not just to get used to fighting around them, but also to learn how to fight with one strapped to your arm. This would not only increase our melee skills, but would get everyone more familiar with just how a scutum works best for them. 

If you are good with a weapon system you get more respect from your compatriots when you use it, which addresses the first point above, and it is more fun to use, which addresses the second point. Other things that would make a scutum more fun is better communication between the primaries and the artillery. Since it is Pavel’s job to harp on that, I won’t. Another thing is to adopt some of our tactics so that a scutum’s job is not always to “play anvil”” While we experimented with that a bit at Winter War Maneuvers, I think we stopped too soon. 

Granted the two battles we fought with the scuta purposefully worming their way through the enemy ended up with the attackers getting smeared, I don’t think the problem was with what the scuta were doing. Both times I was in the front rank, and when I was finally killed I was in the last rank of defenders. The same was true of the rank immediately behind me. The problem seemed to be that the secondaries and artillery stopped when they came in range and started dueling with the defenders, rather than following the scuta in. I think we should give this tactic more thought (and practice).

Another experiment that worked fairly well was conducted at Estrella this year. As you no doubt have heard by now, Calontir really shone in the last battle (broken field resurrection). While our basic job was the same as usual (take the banner and hold it against all comers), we were not alone in that task.

 As we died off and returned we were no longer a cohesive unit. Instead, we were spread out throughout the guardian unit, basically anchoring the fighters around us, and passing on an enforcing commands that came down the line. We didn’t have a static wall, but scuta ranged throughout the line providing the needed cover for artillery and dropping to hold a line when required. However, they were also involved in charges and flanking maneuvers that seemed to throw the attackers completely off guard. After all, a scutum never runs out of the line and attacks a spear, does it? I for one had a grand time at Estrella and carried a scutum the entire time.

So what do I think we should do? All I can suggest has been suggested before, communicate with the primaries and adapt new tactics to use them differently.

I don’t’ want people to think that I find scutum to be the greatest weapon system ever invented, and that anyone who abandons it is stupid. Nor do I think that knowing how to fight polearm is a bad thing. The more you know about the more weapons systems, the better.

I guess what I want to say is, if you haven’t ever fought with a scutum, or it has been a year or so, pick up one and use it for a while. Not only will you (re)gain respect for those people that have been providing all that cover, but you might, just enjoy yourself.

Having lots of people that can pick up a scutum and do more than just kneel behind it can do nothing but enhance our collective performance, and therefore our reputation.

===============================================================================================

Greetings to the Warriors of present-day Calontir. Many of my concerns addressed in the above article no longer apply, but I believe the basic premise still holds: humping a scutum is a vital, rewarding, and most of all FUN job in the Calontir army.

Scuta are even more important today than they were then. With the addition of a center-grip, they become a more flexible component of our overall arsenal.

If your local group has some, practice with them. If they don’t, why not investigate getting some? 

Scuta, they aren’t just for bridges anymore.

Sir Logan, Baron Bus-a-doon

An Early Article On Calon Shield Wall

From The Mews, February A.S. XVIII (1984), No. 51 by Master Pavel Yosefvich, republished in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 2 (Beta Issue) 2001

From the Princess’s Champion,

Hello again. This, my second letter as Champion, is the proverbial killing of two birds with one stone. This is also my letter as secretary of the War College.

As the War at Thousand Hills and Pennsic have shown, shield walls are very potent weapons. Here are a few ideas that I’ve cooked up concerning the composition and techniques of use for the wall.

Equipment

The need for a standard shield size and shape made itself known in both wars. Historically, armies that fought as units — not skirmishers such as the Vikings — have used standardized shields. Another case for standardization is the Ansteorrans; they have been making good walls with their huge, square barn doors for years now. The Greeks, Romans and Saxons all used a standard shield in their formations. We would do well to emulate them.

This is not to say that we should require all fighters to have the same equipment. We should be happy with every warm body we can get, no matter how armed. But we should encourage some standardization. The least painful way to do this is by forming special units.

The two standard shields I would like to see are: a 3′ by 4′ shield based on the V’tavia war-shield design (the V’tavia shield can be bought with everything but the edge padding for $30.00 from the V’tavia Armourers Guild); and a smaller square (testing will have to be done to see what size is best). With these two sizes of shields, we could set up a true shield wall.

Short mass weapons, medium broadswords, short stabbing swords and daggers should be the weapons of a shield wall. We could also accommodate special cases such as spear and shield in the smaller shield line, but the larger shields are more restricted.

Standardization will help in the planning of any campaign that the army of Calontir has to fight. The concept of special fighting units will help this standardization.

Techniques and Tactics

The first rank should be of large and, hopefully, standard shields; the second rank should contain the smaller shields and the artillery (pole arms, great swords and spears). The third and following ranks should be a mixture of reserves with shields near the outer edges so as to be able to meet a flanking movement. The last three ranks should be a shield wall in their own right. This is for an open field battle and could be modified for any given situation.

The first rank should have a left overlap with the shields to their sides. Most of our fighters are right-handed. A left overlap will keep all but a few spears and pole-arm thrusts from pushing through. Those that did would be coming at a steep angle and could then be grabbed and pulled by an alert fighter. They would also be coming to his front, not his undefended back. A left-handed fighter would be great on the left corner of the wall. The large shields should have a short stabbing sword or a lanyard mass-weapon-and-dagger combo. At Pennsic XII, some of the foes pushed their way into our line on their knees. Fire from above kept them busy defending themselves. Most of our front-rank fighters on their knees either didn’t have thrusting tips, or their weapons were too long. If they had been properly armed, they could just have stabbed the helpless foe. The large shields with mass weapons could have the weapons on lanyards with a dagger on the inside of their shields. A patch of Velcro on the inside of the shield and Velcro on the dagger could affix the dagger to the shield and allow the fighter to grab the dagger and put it back in a hurry. Mass weapons are aptly suited for knocking the hooked weapon off the top of a shield.

Second-rank shields should get as close as possible to the first rank, putting their weight against the back of the front shields and supporting them. They should also overlap the smaller shield over the top of the larger, forming a roof over the front rank. If the second shield is in a low crouch and leaning back a little, this makes pulling their shields almost impossible without getting zapped in return.

Artillery, with a 1′-1 1/2′ gap to work between second-rank shields, can work from a relatively safe place. As long as the wall is strong, they only have to worry about straight-in attacks, while still being able to fire angled shots at their opponents. When on the move, the artillery should keep their weapons out of sight so that the foe can’t get an idea of our numbers.

Special Units

As our cavalry has shown, a special unit with a purpose is effective. I propose a special shield unit called “THE WALL.” To be in this unit, a fighter must authorize in weapon and shield and dagger, must build or buy a standard shield, and must be willing to follow the orders of a loud-mouth SOB such as myself. As an incentive to join, I think a badge should be adopted, one for the small shield and one for the large shield. Also, the WALL fighters should be able to paint their shields in a special manner approved by the Prince/King himself. Special care should be taken to make the shields feel their true worth.

In service to Calontir

Pavel Y’sivch

NOTE: This article and many others are also available via Pav’s web page at http://comp.uark.edu/~pavel/