Combat and Tactics

Combat and Tactics

Infantry Tactics

There are essentially three sorts of soldiers: the individual freeborn who is obliged to do service when summoned (in a levy called a leding ), the wealthier hersir who owes allegiance to a jarl or king and brings with him soldiers from his lands, and a leader’s retinue of retainers who have sword allegiance to him (his hird ). To these might be added the independent, mercenary type. The main target in battle is the opposing side’s leader, since when he is killed, the common warrior is considered free of his duty to his leader and may flee the field (though may be quickly cut down if they do not) . . . sworn retainers are bound by honor to keep fighting around their leader until they fall in battle as well, however.

  • Berserkers – Berserkers (meaning “bear-shirts,” sometimes also called ulfhedhnar “wolf-shirts,” or called “boar-warriors” – see Berserker Animal Cults) usually occupy a space in front of the “front” lines of combat, since a berserk rage generally makes them unsuitable to tactical combat. The main tactic associated with berserkers is to put them in front and point them at the enemy!
  • Shield-wall ( skjaldborg ) – Formation with warriors standing together with shields together, rim-to-rim or even overlapping (when spears are used, as overlapping shields don’t allow for much swinging of swords and axes), though polearms might be used from behind the front rank.
  • Wedge Formation ( svynfylking or “swine array”) – Formation used to attack weak spots in the enemy line – Two warriors form the point, three in the second row, five in the third row, and so on; warriors on the outside of the wedge carry shields overlapped, and the warriors inside the wedge carry spears thrust over them as they push forward. This formation is said to have been the teaching of the god Odhinn.
  • Missile Weapons – Missile weapons are rarely decisive in the North, but can consist of arrows and thrown spears (called flyn ).

Cavalry Tactics

Northerners make little to no use of cavalry in combat, except as transportation to increase the range of their operations.

Naval Tactics

Most naval battles of the North have a similar character to infantry battles on land: ships pull alongside, rope together, and form a platform for marines to form a shield-wall. Real tactical maneuvering of ships in attempts to ram and such are virtually unknown, since naval combat normally occurs in narrow rivers and waterways not permitting of such movement.

In general, every rower on a ship is considered a combatant, so a longship with 60 oars carried 60 marines.

Naval comnbat is rarely and end in and of itself, but rather a precursor to coastal raiding ( strandhoggur ).


Fortifications in the North normally consist of earthworks and timber, supplemented with some stone structures. In much of the southern parts of Midhgardhur, stone fortifications prevail, however. Regardless, the peoples of the North are much practiced at siege warfare and with storming even the most heavily fortified positions with overwhelming force.

Combat and Tactics

Heroes of Midhgardhur Valerianus Valerianus