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"Too many helmets and too much mail and armor?" Topic

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23 Mar 2020 10:40 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "To many helmets and to much mail and armor?" to "Too many helmets and too much mail and armor?"

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Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Mar 2020 9:22 a.m. PST

Is it just me or does anyone else think there is way to much mail, armor, and helmets in many of the ancient-dark age armies and collections I see these days?
I mean --- whole viking armies with mail and helmets is just to much for me ?

Russ Dunaway

advocate23 Mar 2020 9:33 a.m. PST


Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP23 Mar 2020 9:34 a.m. PST

I agree. Too many helmets.

I find that a lot of life is like that…

farnox23 Mar 2020 9:51 a.m. PST

Armor was expensive, the average soldier just did not have a lot of it.

coopman23 Mar 2020 10:04 a.m. PST

It's not just you.

jwebster23 Mar 2020 10:24 a.m. PST

You're quite right, but, hey, at least we don't have horned helmets any more …


Vintage Wargaming23 Mar 2020 10:24 a.m. PST

Also too few "o"s in too

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP23 Mar 2020 10:42 a.m. PST

I think it is situationally dependent. A general call-out of a village, tribe, or district would indeed include a large number of very poorly turned-out men, lucky to have a serviceable shield or a bow with a fistful of arrows. If depicting a common fyrd, surprised village defending itself against an invasion, or a displaced and wandering tribe then yes, perhaps only the "big men" should have helmets and shields.

OTOH, a chieftain going Viking is usually going to have his pick of men, and they are either going to be experienced men probably well-equipped through prior looting, or sons or relatives of the same who have been bequeathed or lent armor and helmets. If a lord has got to feed men and split the loot with them, he's going to insist that they can hold up their end. And without a helmet a man's not going to last long in melee, and some sort of armor – padded at minimum if not mail – is probably vital for all except archers, scouts, etc.

I agree that the "up-front" cost of a hauberk is comparable to, say, that of a warhorse – but a hauberk lasts for generations and doesn't need to be fed!

Personal logo javelin98 Supporting Member of TMP23 Mar 2020 12:23 p.m. PST

Even better is the perma-armor that everyone seems to wear in shows like GoT. Seriously, people, no one would just hang out in the drinking hall in half-plate!

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Mar 2020 2:54 p.m. PST

The Viking series on the history channel ( I admitt I love it) often looks more like a S and M convention ??
It's just way " to,to,to,to" much !!
My viking army in 25 mm is comprised primarily of unarmored warriors and yet I still think I have to much of it. My Gallic army in 25 mm has way "to" many helmets and I do not care cause I have a real Celtic helmet fetish !!

Russ Dunaway

Zephyr123 Mar 2020 8:38 p.m. PST

"Armor was expensive, the average soldier just did not have a lot of it."

But easy to get if you can kill the other guy that is wearing it…

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Mar 2020 8:58 p.m. PST

I have also wondered about the thought that the average Gallic warrior would not have armor or helmet?
The Gauls destroyed enough whole armies -- even several Roman ones that it seems "used armor" would be quite plentiful?
Also armor is not the kind of thing that if maintained would rot away or be discarded?

Russ Dunaway

Prince Rupert of the Rhine24 Mar 2020 2:48 a.m. PST

I would have thought it was down to what your army/game is representing a small skirmish between war leaders and their personal followers would probably see a high proportion of well armed, well armoured, professional warriors. On the other hand a large battle, like Ashdown, would have a much larger portion of men with nothing more than a spear, seax and shield.

advocate24 Mar 2020 3:20 a.m. PST

Anglo-Saxon England expected each 5 hides (a hide being supposedly the amount of land required to support a family) could provide one fully armed man, including a mail shirt. Men with 40 hides of land were expected to arm 8 soldiers, but this included only four sets of armour.

advocate24 Mar 2020 3:25 a.m. PST

Much simplification there, but it provides some ideas. 5 hides in some places became the equivalent of a knight's fee after 1066, so it gives some idea of the status earlier.

Patrick R24 Mar 2020 6:42 a.m. PST

Even if you are completely new to the business of raiding, pillaging, going berserk and all other things "Viking" one of the first things you learn is that armour is damn useful.

Forget the "well, if I'm not burdened by armour, I can dodge my enemies." You will not and end up dead.

So the first thing everyone did was to make sure they had at least a shield and something to protect your head with.

Another myth is that as long as you have something like 70% of a body part covered you're safe as many depictions of armour. People don't strike at you randomly in the hope of doing something. People aim for the weak spots. Heads and legs are often exposed when you use a shield, and while an enemy can attack the legs, low attacks are dangerous because you can be exposed to an attack yourself, so a helmet or even a thick cap is really something you want to invest in, even if it's expensive.

Ships were expensive, Vikings didn't swim all the way to England.

There is some evidence that Vikings understood the value of cloth armour like gambesons and aketons and they are excellent value for money, offering decent protection for a low, low cost.

Vikings would certainly have invested in armour and upgrade it as soon as possible and heavier armour like chain was quite prevalent in the later period.

So you would have a core of armoured warriors in most cases and increasing protection over time as raiding became more profitable and chieftains could definitely use well-equipped troops.

Vikings is terrible as a depiction of the Viking period, helmets would have been very present and armour would not have consisted of "design" biker-inspired gear. The series protagonists would probably end up chopped to pieces by real Vikings in proper gear.

Sgt Slag24 Mar 2020 6:50 a.m. PST

I suspect that gamers want their armies to last longer in the tabletop battle… I play fantasy, but the issue is still relevant, as armor costs money! I occasionally play with peasant Units, but they are Armor Class, 'Hit me!' They do not fare well against armored opponents, as they tend to take many more casualties, compared to their enemies, who are wearing armor…

It may not be accurate, but it makes the players feel as though the game is not quite so lop-sided against them.

If you field masses of unarmored troops on both sides, the players still feel as though it will be an absolute slaughter -- and, to a point, they are correct. The casualties will mount at a higher rate than they will if troops are armored. It is all about perception, and the fact that the players will feel as though their troops are out there, fighting naked! Which is fine, if your troops normally fought naked, and you expected it.

Game rules typically consider armored opponents more difficult to hit successfully, in combat. The game, therefore, penalizes troops for not wearing armor, thus vindicating the players' perceptions that their armies are punished for not wearing armor. "It's a conspiracy, I tell 'ya!" Cheers!

Don Perrin24 Mar 2020 8:54 a.m. PST

I think the word you're looking for is "too". I know, I know. I'll skulk away now. But I do agree that there's way too much armor on ancients and medievals and dark age warriors.

Just a painter24 Mar 2020 10:15 a.m. PST

My Gallic army has few warriors in helmets and even fewer in armor. If you are the biggest and toughest warriors in town, you don't need the armor of the defeated weaker warriors. Take the armor and helmets and offer them to their gods.

Personal logo Dan Cyr Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2020 3:32 p.m. PST

Did not a study of the dead found in the mass grave at Visby show most had leg and head injuries? Either no leg armor and helmets, or that "trained" warriors knew to strike at non-armored areas of the body.


Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Mar 2020 8:30 p.m. PST

Even a strike on armor, especially mail --with a heavy sword or axe will do series damage as it will drive the mail through the leather and into the skin?

Russ Dunaway

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