Some observations and questions about pike formation and thrusting weapons in general

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SirLosealot

Recruit
Hello everyone. I am new here. Used to play M&B back in the days. Played Bannerlord recently and jumped straight to custom battle to check out the combat. Still feels good playing as the cavalry. However, I notice melee infantry, especially pike/spear infantry do not work well as anti-calvary as they should be. In fact, they almost do not work at all.

I did some tests in custom battle. 2 armies with the same amount of troops (100 in my case). One army had full cavalry ( I tested the best cavalry of each faction). The other had infantry that can brace spears/pikes ( I tested oathsworn and pikemen). I noticed line formation was best in terms of kill because the pikemen could kill many horsemen at the first charge. However, it was all down hill for the pikemen from there. The remaining cavalry went straight through the formation, making the pikemen to lose the stance and start normal thrust attacks which, in my opinion, is one of the problems.

Thrust attacks are slow, regardless of weapons. You would think while pointing a pointy object (sword or spear) at someone, the quickest attack to make would be a thrust. But this is not the case. I can see that the character's animation was trying to do a strong thrust (elbows move back a lot). But quick thrust exists, I believe. So my suggestion: Meet in the middle ground of both types of thrust by increasing the speed of thrusting animation a little bit and maybe reduce the damage of it a little bit. A medium speed thrust, if you will.

As for the bracing stance, I think the stance should not be broken upon contact like the current implementation. The men should be able to move, albeit, slowly while bracing and they can thrust while doing so. I mean, the Macedonian phalanx could move and thrust, couldn't they? It is strange to see the pike formation turned into a mosh pit just right after the first charge. Which begs the question: How do you guys deal with cavalry with melee infantry if spear and pike are not effective?

The only solution I can think of and I have seen to be effective is... units with slashing pole arms like Falxmen for example. They had to take more lost in the first charge compared to pikemen. But after that, when the formation turned into a mosh pit, they killed cavalry much more effective than thrusting spears and pikes. And come to think about it, I myself do not use thrust attack that much compare to slash attack even with swords.

I think the problem is the thrust attack, it is not as effective as slash attack imo. Thrust is harder to aim, easier to block compared to slash. So slash attack rewards both the player and the AI more than thrust. Units with slashing pole arms do better than thrusting ones.

So am I doing something wrong with spear and pike formation here or does thrust attack (regardless of weapons) need a buff? Could anyone help me on how to use pikemen effectively?

P/S: Sorry for my English.
 

Redleg

Sergeant Knight at Arms
I like the idea of a short spear thrust. This would be helpful in Warband too.
 

kweassa

Sergeant at Arms
It's less of the spears being "slow," but more of the spear thrusts failing to deal damage due to the handling issue.

As with all thrusts, when the opponent is too close, the thrust fails to deliver enough damage to activate the threshold of where animation canceling happens -- or "stop hit" if you prefer hand-to-hand combat terminology. Once the opponent is within that threshold distance of the spear, the spearman basically becomes a punching bag.

Now, as observed in tournaments, in rare cases the spearman can move around and in rare cases, buy enough room to land a spear hit. But even this is rare -- empirically speaking, you need to have around 250+ Athletics + other movement related perks, to be able to back off fast enough to keep the distance between you and the opponent while wielding the spear. No troop type is that fast.

Then, add in the fact that in a combat formation, the soldiers don't move. Spear-type troops, are locked into combat formation, and therefore, they are not at a liberty to try to gain enough distance to be able to damage opponents -- which exacerbates the above mentioned problem. Basically, after the very first thrust, all your spearmen in the front row become punching bags, just standing there and taking a hit, or defending with the shield, and unable to damage the enemies in any way.

Now, to add insult to injury, there is the third and final problem. In real life, it is entirely possible that enemies may come inside the range of the front row's spears. But in real spear formations, the second and third rows also put there spears forward. Those that make it past the first row of spears, when closing in, meet the spears from the second and third row. In case of Macedonian phalanges, spears up to the fifth row are all pointed forward. Currently, the spearmen in the second and third rows, all have their spear attacks BLOCKED by the shields of the front row. The second and third rows of spears and pikes add nothing to the attack.

So, add all of the above problems and what you have is a "meat grinder" happening with spears in the game. The first row makes their first thrust. They may damage or kill some enemies. However, after that the front row does nothing but just stand there and take hits. The front row also prevents the second and third row's spears from doing anything. All of the front row dies, and there's a teeney-tiny opening for the second row to try thrust spears, and then that 2nd row becomes the first row, and then, the new first row also do nothing. Stand there. Die.

Now, some mods, attempt to fix this by making spears thrust faster + tweak physical collisions to allow the second row spears to also thrust forward. But what can be observed in those mods, is that the spearmen do become stronger, and win fights where they would normally lose -- but still with way too many casualties. If you observe the demonstration videos of such mods, you can see that the spearmen do win fights, but it still does NOTHING to prevent the enemies from just walking inside range. Basically, what the mods do is make it a bit easier for the spearmen to at least duke it out with better odds, but still most of them fail to remedy the issue that the spears cannot enforce their reach advantage. This is why spear troops at even tier 5~6 levels, are generally considered to be not worth the effort to train and maintain.
 

SirLosealot

Recruit
As with all thrusts, when the opponent is too close, the thrust fails to deliver enough damage to activate the threshold of where animation canceling happens -- or "stop hit" if you prefer hand-to-hand combat terminology. Once the opponent is within that threshold distance of the spear, the spearman basically becomes a punching bag.
Interesting. I think I saw and felt this, just didn't know how to describe it.
Then, add in the fact that in a combat formation, the soldiers don't move. Spear-type troops, are locked into combat formation, and therefore, they are not at a liberty to try to gain enough distance to be able to damage opponents -- which exacerbates the above mentioned problem. Basically, after the very first thrust, all your spearmen in the front row become punching bags, just standing there and taking a hit, or defending with the shield, and unable to damage the enemies in any way.
Not only that, but let's say... some enemy cavalries got stuck in the pike formation. The spear/pikemen would never get back to the bracing stance again and I mean the whole formation. They all try to both eliminate the enemies in the ranks and to get back in the old formation before doing anything else. They would try those so hard that they forget about another wave of cavalry charge coming. So a clean charge coming through all the way of the formation actually helps the spear formation than the cavalry. Because then the spearmen would re-organize and brace again.
Now, to add insult to injury, there is the third and final problem. In real life, it is entirely possible that enemies may come inside the range of the front row's spears. But in real spear formations, the second and third rows also put there spears forward. Those that make it past the first row of spears, when closing in, meet the spears from the second and third row. In case of Macedonian phalanges, spears up to the fifth row are all pointed forward. Currently, the spearmen in the second and third rows, all have their spear attacks BLOCKED by the shields of the front row. The second and third rows of spears and pikes add nothing to the attack.
Hm... Do you think it is possible to adjust the formation a bit like creating some gaps so that other ranks can thrust without being blocked? Or the dev could expand the brace formation of pikemen a bit. Creating a different animation than what is implemented currently. The animation and formation should look like Macedonian phalanges for example. With that custom formation, there would be no more blocking by the first row.
Now, some mods, attempt to fix this by making spears thrust faster + tweak physical collisions to allow the second row spears to also thrust forward. But what can be observed in those mods, is that the spearmen do become stronger, and win fights where they would normally lose -- but still with way too many casualties. If you observe the demonstration videos of such mods, you can see that the spearmen do win fights, but it still does NOTHING to prevent the enemies from just walking inside range. Basically, what the mods do is make it a bit easier for the spearmen to at least duke it out with better odds, but still most of them fail to remedy the issue that the spears cannot enforce their reach advantage. This is why spear troops at even tier 5~6 levels, are generally considered to be not worth the effort to train and maintain.
IRL, just by pointing spears ahead is enough to stop infantry from pushing themselves into pointy points. Again, maybe a new stance and proper phalanges formation can solve this? Let's say the stance is you pointing the spear in front of you. You can move but only slowly. You can thrust pretty quick but because it is quick, the damage is not really big (unless a horse charge right into your spear). Infantry can clip into your spear and move in between your thrust animations. But then again, there are other guys in the formation thrusting too so approaching the formation in the front would not be easy. Would this implementation create a somewhat solid front line for spear formation?
 

CallmeWayne

Recruit
I recommend Spear rework mod from nexus mods, as it fixes spears and makes them reasonable foe to stand against.
I wish it was implemented into game as its simple and yet effective. And cherry on the top.. its seems to be balanced. (even with increased damage version)
 

kweassa

Sergeant at Arms
To put it very simply, the spear problem is a two-fold problem:

1. Spears are inept because they can do nothing at close ranges.
2. The enemies just casually charges inside the spear's range.

In regards to 1, yes, a hit from too close may fail to penetrate the armor, but it's still a 1.5~2.5 meter, solid, elongated object that's pushing on someone's torso or shield. You press just a blunt-tipped hand baton a few dozen centimeters into someone's chest and that's enough to stop someone from lunging forward to hit you. But that's not how the spears work in this game. Once the attack happens the spear loses its physical property and the opponent can just walk through the shaft.

Also, even when it's a good hit and deals normal damage, the opponent is not pushed back. When a spear hits, the opponent just stands there, displays the hit animation. The opponent's advance is halted when the spear hits, but is not pushed back. And then, the opponent recovers from the hit fast enough to approach while the thrusted spear is in recovery -- so even if you get a good hit in, by the time you're ready to thrust again the enemy is already in your face.

The only exception to this is when the chance-activated "stagger" happens, (the effect which supposedly a polearm perk increases its chance by 30%), but the pushback on that stagger is like.. one or two steps back. Certainly not to the length of the spear.


In regards to 2, in case of Single Player, the AI already has no respect for weapon distances and has no fear of death. In case of MP, players know about 1, and therefore, has absolutely no fear of spears, and just charges in your face. Just one block, Even if you get hit, once you just walk in there's nothing the spear can do, because of what's mentioned in 1. In both SP and MP the end result is same -- no way to enforce the reach advantage.

Spear-rework mods, basically address a tiny part of the problems mentioned above. What they usually do is speed up spear thrusts and their damage, so even when the situation as mentioned in 1 happens, the spear still deals respectable damage. The problem I have with those rework mods, is that it's not a satisfying portrayal of the spear at all. It does nothing to address 2, and IMO that's the problem that should be directly solved. That's why I don't consider any of the spear reworks as being any kind of a solution at all.
 

kweassa

Sergeant at Arms

Case in point, the above "spear rework" video uploaded by Grovin Angroshim, on YouTube. That video basically encapsulates everything wrong with how spears are in the current game, and at the same time why "spear rework" mods aren't any kind of solution at all.


Individual Combat situation ("Before") [00:00 - 01:12]

Notice, that despite the player is holding a pike, just after the very first thrust at 00:17, for the entirety of the minute-long duel the player is NEVER in spear/pike combat range. In the entire duel, they are always within the axeman(axewoman)'s range, and it's not like the tip-range either. The distance never separates, because as anyone whose really tried in becoming a spearman knows, it's basically impossible to do so in both SP and MP.

It becomes possible in SP only when the relative Athletics difference is huge. In SP, if your Athletics goes around 250+ and wearing very light armor, you can back-pedal fast enough to offset the speed of the enemies advancing. But this isn't because the spear is working properly -- it's simply because you've gained a super-human level of physicality, relative to the normal levels of Athletics in the game.

Watch 00:22~00:23 segment. Even if the spearman lands a block-push, see how small the distance is. That small distance may be enough for gaining range for short weapons, but no way to do so for polearms.

Then look at 00:30~00;31. The player got a chance and rammed the pike tip to the axeman's face. It failed to deal proper damage, and it also failed to interrupt the axeman's attack animation. The axeman's vertical chop just ignored that hit to the face and landed a -4 hit on the player. (The damage is low, because it was pretty long for being a one-handed axe, indicating a handling problem)

It doesn't matter how close the distance is. Unless your attack totally missed, there's no way a rod that's shoved into your face doesn't interrupt your attack.

Look at 00:45. Another 1 damage. Barely flinches, just walks in.

And from 00:45 the player tries more actively to gain distance. Probably from fatigue, because just blocking stuff non-stop for 30 seconds becomes tiring and you can lose focus. But there's just no distance gained at all. And add insult to injury at 00:49 -- a torso stab while the axeman is swinging, but it does nothing, and the axeman's attack lands.

Another spear hit ignored at 00:59. the enemy attack just ignores it and lands, and finally, at 01:02, another hit to the face just ignored, and the axeman lands the final blow.

In the entire duration of the duel, the player landed at most 2 damage, and it wasn't even from a spear. It was from pushing.


Individual Combat situation ("After") [01:20 - 02:05]

Now, look at the rework. Is that actually "better?"

Notice, that what the mod did, was have even short-distance hits land normal damage, but notice how the rework does NOTHING to fix the problem of distance. In this 40-second duel, it goes exactly the same as "Before." The only saving grace is that the short-ranged hits dealt enough damage for the player to win, but the duel itself? That's not a spear fighting at the spear's distance.

I'm not criticizing the mod or the mod maker. I am making the point that the spear rework mods in existence are basically a work-around to a problem, because they can't fix the real problem itself, so just tweaks certain things to make it at least manageable.

As a rule of thumb, very generalized but mostly true in case, the HEMA swordsfolk point out that fighting against a spear without a shield is very difficult to win, and "just block/parry the spear to the side and close-in" is in most cases, a fantasy that just doesn't happen, much like how grabbing and/or deflecting punches and kicks like in kung-fu flicks, is a fantasy that just doesn't happen in a real ring.

Things are significantly better when the opponent gets a shield, but not to the point that it gives any kind of solid advantage.


Look at the above sparring vid from the Schola Gladiatoria organization. Doesn't matter if you have a shield or not -- your best defense against a spear, is still distance. A shield, is just another layer of protection that helps you survive against a spear, but that disadvantage in reach just cannot be ignored.

The problem with the spears is not the damage -- it's the reach.



Group Combat situation ("Before") [02:24 - 03:10]

Now let's look at group situations in the spear rework mod video.

It's a one-sided massacre, with the spear formation dealing a whoppin' grand total of 0 kills until they rout. This is basically all the issues as mentioned in individual combat, above, that's been expanded into a group scale.

And particularly this video gives us an EXCELLENT view from the side, of how there's 0 distance between the fighting infantry lines.



Group Combat situation ("After") [03:25 - 04:08]

Now let's look at the "after."

The results are significantly better, because the rework allows the rear line of the spear to attack without being blocked off by the front row's shields, as well as close-range spears dealing more damage.

But again, where's the distance? The fight itself, like in the case of individual combat, has no difference at all. There's no distance between the lines, and just shields clash into shields with zero distance.


This, is what happens when an infantry line with short weapons meet an enemy formation with spears.

Now, granted, the shield wall in the game, is not the phalanx. Also, when armed with short spears, a shield-crash-shield situation CAN happen, particularly when both infantry lines are armed with shields and short spears -- a classical example being fights between Greek-style hoplites, in which case two hoplite lines would crash into each other shield-vs-shield, with the first to third row soldiers using overhead thrusts, that go above the hoplon in attempt to attack.

Therefore, because the player's men are using a shield wall with relatively short spears, the opposing infantry line could close in in such a manner. But the problem is, when the spears get longer, as with longer spear-armed troops in the game, and particularly with pikemen. It's a common knowledge Vlandian Pikemen just, simply, suck except against cavalry charges.


If we're looking for a fundamental fix, the devs need to develop two additional AI behavior algorithms, one specifically for spear troops, to make use of their spears as the main weapon, and use it in a coordinated manner, and another one for AI units meeting spear troops, that makes them hesitate from just walking into spear range.

However, if a change to the AI is not an option that can be explored. then a fix needs to be applied not to how the spear deals damage, but how it can keep the opponent at bay -- which is why I've suggested the spears to get a much more powerful pushback effect.
 

Tidaar

Recruit
This is a medieval game so forget about phalanx. That is an ancient formation that required hundreds of men in a unit and it was pretty much used mainly for frontal attack and defense. Not very mobile and could easily be broken from the rear and sides. Pike formation is another story though. Pike formation required less men, could form a square and is much mobile. Indeed in this game proper pike formation is lacking and without it you are pretty much done if you fight on open field against a superior cav army. Usually no one in their right mind would do a cav charge on proper pike formation. You would need infantry/archers to break the formation first before charging. Unfortunately in my play that formation breaks instantly which makes pike and spear armies pretty much useless. I just put infantry in a tight shield wall formation and hope for the best when fighting against large numbers of cavs. We should have pike and spear troops hold tight until ordered otherwise and just do brace.
 

yangot

Veteran
Case in point, the above "spear rework" video uploaded by Grovin Angroshim, on YouTube. That video basically encapsulates everything wrong with how spears are in the current game, and at the same time why "spear rework" mods aren't any kind of solution at all.

But again, where's the distance? The fight itself, like in the case of individual combat, has no difference at all. There's no distance between the lines, and just shields clash into shields with zero distance.
You may consider combining Spear Rework and RBM AI module.

 

yangot

Veteran
It will never be fixed anyway since its not a problem in TW's perspective as they designed the BL spears as anti-cavalry only (tho, its not actually working), so yeah.
 

SirLosealot

Recruit
But again, where's the distance? The fight itself, like in the case of individual combat, has no difference at all. There's no distance between the lines, and just shields clash into shields with zero distance.
I see. So basically the mod turns spear into a thrusting sword in which it deals normal damage at any distance within its reach. The mod also removed some animation blocks in formation.
However, if a change to the AI is not an option that can be explored. then a fix needs to be applied not to how the spear deals damage, but how it can keep the opponent at bay -- which is why I've suggested the spears to get a much more powerful pushback effect.
Agreed with the pushback effect. That would create a difference between sword and spear. Right now, a spear is like a sword but worse.
 
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kweassa

Sergeant at Arms
I see. So basically the mod turns spear into a thrusting sword in which it deals normal damage at any distance within its reach. The mod also removed some animation blocks in formation. Yeah if you replace the model
Yessir. That's the gist of it.

Most mods that rework the spears, are handled in that way so that the "damage threshold" thing -- that makes spears incapable of dealing damage and halting/stopping enemy attack animations -- is effectively nonexistent. So even when the enemy line just crashes into your line, spear thrusts will still damage them. Aside from that, most of the mods also increase the speed of attack.
 

Tidaar

Recruit

Case in point, the above "spear rework" video uploaded by Grovin Angroshim, on YouTube. That video basically encapsulates everything wrong with how spears are in the current game, and at the same time why "spear rework" mods aren't any kind of solution at all.


Individual Combat situation ("Before") [00:00 - 01:12]

Notice, that despite the player is holding a pike, just after the very first thrust at 00:17, for the entirety of the minute-long duel the player is NEVER in spear/pike combat range. In the entire duel, they are always within the axeman(axewoman)'s range, and it's not like the tip-range either. The distance never separates, because as anyone whose really tried in becoming a spearman knows, it's basically impossible to do so in both SP and MP.

It becomes possible in SP only when the relative Athletics difference is huge. In SP, if your Athletics goes around 250+ and wearing very light armor, you can back-pedal fast enough to offset the speed of the enemies advancing. But this isn't because the spear is working properly -- it's simply because you've gained a super-human level of physicality, relative to the normal levels of Athletics in the game.

Watch 00:22~00:23 segment. Even if the spearman lands a block-push, see how small the distance is. That small distance may be enough for gaining range for short weapons, but no way to do so for polearms.

Then look at 00:30~00;31. The player got a chance and rammed the pike tip to the axeman's face. It failed to deal proper damage, and it also failed to interrupt the axeman's attack animation. The axeman's vertical chop just ignored that hit to the face and landed a -4 hit on the player. (The damage is low, because it was pretty long for being a one-handed axe, indicating a handling problem)

It doesn't matter how close the distance is. Unless your attack totally missed, there's no way a rod that's shoved into your face doesn't interrupt your attack.

Look at 00:45. Another 1 damage. Barely flinches, just walks in.

And from 00:45 the player tries more actively to gain distance. Probably from fatigue, because just blocking stuff non-stop for 30 seconds becomes tiring and you can lose focus. But there's just no distance gained at all. And add insult to injury at 00:49 -- a torso stab while the axeman is swinging, but it does nothing, and the axeman's attack lands.

Another spear hit ignored at 00:59. the enemy attack just ignores it and lands, and finally, at 01:02, another hit to the face just ignored, and the axeman lands the final blow.

In the entire duration of the duel, the player landed at most 2 damage, and it wasn't even from a spear. It was from pushing.


Individual Combat situation ("After") [01:20 - 02:05]

Now, look at the rework. Is that actually "better?"

Notice, that what the mod did, was have even short-distance hits land normal damage, but notice how the rework does NOTHING to fix the problem of distance. In this 40-second duel, it goes exactly the same as "Before." The only saving grace is that the short-ranged hits dealt enough damage for the player to win, but the duel itself? That's not a spear fighting at the spear's distance.

I'm not criticizing the mod or the mod maker. I am making the point that the spear rework mods in existence are basically a work-around to a problem, because they can't fix the real problem itself, so just tweaks certain things to make it at least manageable.

As a rule of thumb, very generalized but mostly true in case, the HEMA swordsfolk point out that fighting against a spear without a shield is very difficult to win, and "just block/parry the spear to the side and close-in" is in most cases, a fantasy that just doesn't happen, much like how grabbing and/or deflecting punches and kicks like in kung-fu flicks, is a fantasy that just doesn't happen in a real ring.

Things are significantly better when the opponent gets a shield, but not to the point that it gives any kind of solid advantage.


Look at the above sparring vid from the Schola Gladiatoria organization. Doesn't matter if you have a shield or not -- your best defense against a spear, is still distance. A shield, is just another layer of protection that helps you survive against a spear, but that disadvantage in reach just cannot be ignored.

The problem with the spears is not the damage -- it's the reach.



Group Combat situation ("Before") [02:24 - 03:10]

Now let's look at group situations in the spear rework mod video.

It's a one-sided massacre, with the spear formation dealing a whoppin' grand total of 0 kills until they rout. This is basically all the issues as mentioned in individual combat, above, that's been expanded into a group scale.

And particularly this video gives us an EXCELLENT view from the side, of how there's 0 distance between the fighting infantry lines.



Group Combat situation ("After") [03:25 - 04:08]

Now let's look at the "after."

The results are significantly better, because the rework allows the rear line of the spear to attack without being blocked off by the front row's shields, as well as close-range spears dealing more damage.

But again, where's the distance? The fight itself, like in the case of individual combat, has no difference at all. There's no distance between the lines, and just shields clash into shields with zero distance.


This, is what happens when an infantry line with short weapons meet an enemy formation with spears.

Now, granted, the shield wall in the game, is not the phalanx. Also, when armed with short spears, a shield-crash-shield situation CAN happen, particularly when both infantry lines are armed with shields and short spears -- a classical example being fights between Greek-style hoplites, in which case two hoplite lines would crash into each other shield-vs-shield, with the first to third row soldiers using overhead thrusts, that go above the hoplon in attempt to attack.

Therefore, because the player's men are using a shield wall with relatively short spears, the opposing infantry line could close in in such a manner. But the problem is, when the spears get longer, as with longer spear-armed troops in the game, and particularly with pikemen. It's a common knowledge Vlandian Pikemen just, simply, suck except against cavalry charges.


If we're looking for a fundamental fix, the devs need to develop two additional AI behavior algorithms, one specifically for spear troops, to make use of their spears as the main weapon, and use it in a coordinated manner, and another one for AI units meeting spear troops, that makes them hesitate from just walking into spear range.

However, if a change to the AI is not an option that can be explored. then a fix needs to be applied not to how the spear deals damage, but how it can keep the opponent at bay -- which is why I've suggested the spears to get a much more powerful pushback effect.
Yes indeed Romans charged against spears and impaled themselves that is real. If they were that smart I don't think that empire would last a day :smile:)
 
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