Combat Archery Tactics

(Originally published in the August 2000 issue of The Pale)
Herr Ulrich von Landstuhl
Combat Archery Coordinator, Oaken Army


Combat archery is a fun and exciting activity. Although it looks easy, it is an advanced fighting style that requires a bit of skill and knowledge. Listed here are some basic tactics for combat archers and melee commanders.

Free-roaming archers are great skirmishers, but whenever possible, combat archers should be given a specific mission or target based on threat. For example:

Siege weapon crews - Depending on the engine type and the applied combat conventions, they can do massive amounts of damage. They will usually be well protected, so killing them won't be easy. At a minimum, shoot enough arrows at the siege engine crew to decrease the engine's rate of fire.

Opposing archers - Once they are eliminated, you can concentrate on the remaining troops unhindered.

Fighters with two-handed weapons (i.e., spears and polearms) - They present the greatest threat to your shieldwall, but they are easy targets.

Commanders, Royalty, and Chivalry - They will generally be wearing items that denote rank (special tabbard, coronet, white belt, etc). While not all members of Royalty or Chivalry will be part of the formal command structure, it's safe to assume they're giving commands from within the line.

Once a mission is in place, archers should apply these basic tactics:

Combat archery has its maximum effect in static battles, such as a bridge battles or a mountain pass.

If terrain allows, try not to shoot from a fixed position. Instead, strike at a target then move to a new location. Keep the enemy guessing where you are.

While a pavise provides cover, it also lets the opposing archers get a fix on your range. Try not to get pinned down.

Golftube arrows are easy to dodge, so long range arrow duels are generally a waste of time and arrows.

If possible, set up overlapping fields of fire so that targets have too many directions to watch for incoming arrows.

Do not become so focused on selecting targets that you lose track of the battle around you. You're a heavy combatant and can get hit.

If possible, pair up with another archer to provide an extra set of eyes. If the enemy charges you, separate in opposite directions. One of you will be presented with a clear shot.

Because crossbows require less space to operate than a long bow, they can be very useful in the second rank of the shieldwall. In effect, they can take the place of a spearman.

At all times, watch for targets of opportunity. This is usually someone who is not paying attention, especially fighters that lower shields to a rest position or commanders in conference.

After a resurrection battle at recent event, an opposing commander commented that he was ineffective as a leader because he was continually hit with arrows. When a force of archers is organized to accomplish a specific mission, combat archery becomes a weapon system that can influence the outcome of a battle.

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