Dealiest Warrior jumps the shark

Can you actually jump the shark if you were never all that good? I will no doubt watch this season, shaking my head as I did the last two (there is always a little something worth watching in each episode though) but somehow 5000 years of military history has been exhausted in twenty six episodes.  I don’t get it.

So here’s the announced line up this season, which seems to be playing up the dumbest idea from the previous season: let’s compare famous generals and pretend they were all also personally formidable.

  1. George Washington vs. Napoleon Bonaparte.  Washington has about 12″ and 150 pounds on Boney.  Come on. 
  2. Joan of Arc vs. William the Conqueror. William was actually a warrior and something of a badass. Joan was a fanatical peasant girl.  300 years of improvements in armor and weapons will probably not make up the difference between a warrior and saint.  But I imagine the show will go for a ‘Messenger’ style depiction and on the basis of equipment, it will be Joan.
  3. U.S. Army Rangers vs. North Korean Special Operations Forces. I don’t care about the modern match-ups but this will go to the Rangers.
  4. Genghis Khan vs. Hannibal.  This is actually interesting.  Both guys really knew how to fight and how to command armies.  Genghis will lose if his pony has never smelled an elephant before.  Otherwise 1700 years of technology will carry the day.
  5. Saddam Hussein vs. Pol Pot.  This match-up is kind of insulting.
  6. Teddy Roosevelt vs. Lawrence of Arabia. WTF? I guess we know Teddy can take a bullet.  I’m not sure either one was really that much of a fighter though. Yawn.
  7. Ivan the Terrible vs. Hernan Cortes.  That’s actually interesting. Ivan though, due to his technological edge.
  8. Crazy Horse vs. Pancho Villa.  These are the only two moderns that I can say with any certainty were actually warriors. Crazy horse was an epic level badass.  Villa was not far behind.  But Crazy Horse was apparently bulletproof until he broke a taboo, so Crazy horse all the way.
  9. Gurkhas vs. French Foreign Legion. Easiest. match. ever. Gurkhas always win, except maybe against an equal number of tigers. 
  10. Vampires vs. Zombies.  This is the one that truly jumps the shark. What is the point of doing this except for cheap laughs?  But … this will all depend on our assumptions. Romero zombies? Voodoo zombies? Fast zombies? Smart zombies? Undead, witchcraft, radiation, or disease zombiism? Strigoi or Hammer or sparkly vampires?  I will need a chart.
  Strigoi/Folkloric Hammer Sparkly
Romero (cause unknown) V V Z
Voodoo (magical) V V V
Fast (diseased) Z V Z
Smart (radioactive) V Z Z


Romero zombies only attack humans.  Only Sparkly vampires can pass for humans.

Voodoo zombies, being magically animated, are susceptible to magical control by folkloric and Hammer vampires.

Fast zombies, in numbers, can be eluded only by bats, so that goes to Hammer.

Radioactive zombies (cf. Night of the comet) can use guns or other weapons, including stakes and holy water.

I realize this chart is incomplete and not the last word; feel free to expand it in the comments.

Published in: on July 16, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (5)  

Deadliest Warrior: Ming vs. Musketeer, and God vs. Godzilla, and Sabbath vs. Zeppelin

This was another unusual match-up, because for a change the combatants were actually pretty close chronologically. Unsorted comments:

  • The “Nest of Bees” was cool. Going twice as fast as normal arrows would make them harder to dodge or block, except that they leave those smoke trails which makes them so easy to see.
  • The three-barreled pole gun looks a lot like the an English weapon sometimes called a holy water sprinkler, which was also fitted with spikes to make it an excellent bludgeon. They have some in the tower of London (or had them, I think the collection of weapons is now in a museum in Leeds)*.

(The three gun barrels are in the head, arranged the same way as the Ming pole gun)

  • Again with the cutting over thrusting, although at least the Dao could thrust to some extent. I think they really need to consider how much more reach a thrust has over a cut.  I’d have loved to see some sparring with blunted, rattan, or otherwise safe swords between the fencer and the Wushu swordsman.  The dramatization at the end should have had more sword fighting.

*Regular morningstars** and flails are also sometimes called holy water sprinklers, which is confusing.

**Flails are sometimes called morningstars too, which is also confusing.***

***Flail can of course refer to a weapon made of one or more balls, with or without spikes, on chains and fastened to a haft, or to a small spiked club fastened by a few links of chain to a longer pole.****

****Medieval weapon nomenclature is is just confusing because there were no standards. Gary Gygax’s heroic effort to classify polearms demonstrates this. If I recall correctly he included morningstars among the polearms.  I might just be thinking of a later Dragon Magazine article though.

Since you made it through the footnotes, here are some bonus fights from the Scorpio Diamante letters. (This is all me, I answered these before he got a chance to reply. This dates back almost year before Dio was eaten by a dragon, so some of the analysis is out of date.)
>>Godzilla vs God?
Godzilla. God, if extant, would be too busy to show up for the match and forfeit.

>>Zeus vs Thor?
A little tougher. Z is king of the Greek pantheon, Thor is a major Norse god but not the boss. Both are gods of thunder. Z hurls lightning, T hurls a big hammer that never misses and can kill any giant or troll with a single blow. Thor has two goats pulling his chariot; Zeus has a huge harem of women and boys. But Thor spends much more of his time fighting than Zeus does, and besides being the strongest god also has a belt that doubles his strength making him frigging strong. On the other hand, Norse gods can be killed, while Greek gods are immortal. But we know Thor doesn’t die until Ragnarok. Thor by KO.

>>Led Zeppelin vs Black Sabbath?
Another tough call.
(1) Both bands are handicapped by loss of drummers. Bonham is dead, Bill Ward has heart problems that take him out of the contest.
(2) Sabbath sold their souls for rock & roll; Jimmy Page sold his soul but the terms have not been revealed and we can’t rule out martial powers.
(3) Page’s occult connections are pretty strong but Sabbath’s bassist Geezer Butler was also into black magic for a while, and the large metal crucifixes Sabbath wears may fend off Page’s sorcery, even if they are worn ironically. (4) Tony Iommi of Sabbath plays lead guitar despite missing several finger tips, and still looks pretty mean; Jimmy Page now looks almost exactly like my paternal grandmother.
It would come down to which lineup of Sabbath we are talking about. Ozzy obviously would fight with berserker strength and disregard for injury; Ronnie James Dio is puny (but most likely a wizard or warlock, putting him on even terms with Jimmy Page). So the Ozzy and Dio lineups of Sabbath seem to have a solid edge. I can’t speak fro the later lineups of Sabbath. But in most scenarios I think Sabbath has it.
Also Zeppelin ripped off a bunch of blues musicians, Sabbath ripped off the Devil himself with the “Devils’ interval” or tritone they used in so many songs. Props to Sabbath for that.

(I should disclose that I like Sabbath a lot more than Zeppelin so I’m probably biased but I think my analysis is mostly objective)

Published in: on July 9, 2010 at 12:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Last week’s Deadliest Warrior, Sun Tzu vs. Vlad Tepes

Obviously the producers are pretty much out of ideas, but as a comparison of medieval Central European technology vs. ancient Chinese technology, it had its moments.

  • The giant Chinese mace thing certainly looked pretty neat, although you could really hurt your back if you miss.
  • Wish they tested the halberd on an armored gel torso.  Legend has it Charles the Bold, in full plate armor, had his helmet and head cleaved in twain down to the teeth by a Swiss halberd.
  • Butted mail again, which even the Cho-ku-no (repeating crossbow) could penetrate.  Sheesh.
  • I was rather surprised that he leather armor stopped the crossbow bolt, especailly as the crossbow was heavy enough to need a windlass.
  • That kilij was pretty awesome.
  • The jiann is a very nice sword.  It is interesting that the show gave higher marks to a chopping sword than a thrusting sword.
  • It was a gruesome, but awesome turn of events in the “dramatized” fight at the end; probably the best one so far.
  • There is something odd about the fact that sometimes the show pairs of particular people (like this one) and sometimes just “typical” warriors of a type.
Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 1:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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Persian Immortal vs. random Celt

More than a week later, but I only watch this on weekends.

OK, Deadliest Warrior did it again. Awesome weapons tests, mostly, and decent history, and a stupid match-up.

Some thoughts:

  • At least these two guys are from within a few hundred years of each other. That’s something.
  • “Celtic Warrior” is so vague as to be almost meaningless. There were Celts all over Europe and their kits varied considerably, from naked woad-painted Picts up in Scotland to heavily armed and armored Celt-Iberians* in Spain, and really spanning the early iron age to however late you want to call the Irish and Scots, Celts…
  • The chariots thing was a neat twist but in the Aechamenid Persian army (which featured Immortals) scythed chariots were a gimmick weapon that only occasionally did well. Also, it was more of a tank, with heavily armored horses and riders (the problem being they just weren’t that fast).
  • Celtic legends like Cuchulain rode bladed (scythed?) chariots too.
  • Pretty much the entirety of the Roman armor was borrowed from Celts: helmet shape, mail armor, and the “scutum” shield. An elite Celt (wealthy or a mercenary in Carthage or Rome or Sicily, some Galatians**) would probably have mail. But of course Deadliest Warrior likes to use cheap butted mail rather than real riveted mail, so it wouldn’t have made a difference on the show. On the other hand the Roman sword (gladius) and javelin (pilum) are more clearly copied from Iberian weapons. The Iberians had an all-iron (!) javelin that the Romans modified (using a wooden haft to save money and make them more breakage-prone so they can’t be thrown back). The Roman sword is sometimes called a ‘Gladius Hispaniensis,’ or Spanish sword, and copies the Celt-Iberian sword.
  • Thermopylae demonstrated that Persian Immortals were no match for what were arguably the greatest baddasses of history, the Spartans. But I don’t thank anyone would last long against a Spartan. I put them about on equal footing with the knight and samurai. A Celt should just run from a Spartan too.
  • The scary thing about Persian Immortals is that they probably don’t care that much if they die in battle, if the alternative is losing.
  • The Immortals had nice sidearms. Their daggers were very long, really small gladii. (Shouldn’t the plural of gladius be gladii? Radius, radii? Wish I took Latin or Greek.) That would be a wicked weapon against their typical foes, who wore little armor. But the scythed chariot was an interesting test.
  • The Persian axe is more or less perfect for what a one-handed axe should be. It will essentially ignore armor with the pick end. That will pierce helmets.
  • Celts also used javelins. Much better than slings.
  • Not as good as Persian bows, though. And the Persians had aphorisms about “shooting straight and telling the truth” as the measure of one’s manhood. They were pretty deadly. You would want Spartan armor and shield to fight that.
  • Persian probably should have won. Those spears with the metal pommels are pretty nice. That would have an interesting balance. Greeks used bronze points on the butts of their spears for the same reasons. Herodotus, I think, said the Immortals had “golden pomegranates” on their spear butts. That sounds like a pretty neat weapon. I’d rather have a nice big two handed sword, though, if I’m going to use a two-handed weapon.

So, I’d say they got the likely outcome right (Persian Immortals being better armed and trained for the most part) even if the “representatives” were a little wacky.

*The Celt-Iberians being the descendants of Celts who settled in Spain and intermarried with the locals, producing a synchretized culture and one of Rome’s more difficult conquests despite their relatively small numbers and fragmented organization.

**The Galatians were Celtic (Gallic) warriors who had the best chance to actually face Persians in battle. They carved out a small kingdom in what is now Turkey, in 279BCE. They had an interesting military, with the usual Gallic infantry (including naked fanatics) and cavalry, but also chariots (possibly including Persian-style scythed chariots!) and even some drilled “imitation legionaries”***. So they are moderately popular among war gamers, having unusual, colorful, and effective troops.

***Just as everyone adopted Napoleonic uniforms when Napoleon was winning battles, and more recently everyone copied American and Soviet military uniforms and equipment, in ancient times everyone copied the Roman kit when Rome was on the rise, so you’d see Carthaginian, Lybian, Galatian, Pergamene, and other armies fielding some troops armed and drilled like Roman legionaries****.

****But like I said, the Roman kit is basically stolen from Celtic and Iberian stuff.

Published in: on June 24, 2010 at 5:43 pm  Comments (6)  
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Rajput vs. Centurion

Deadliest Warrior is really letting me down.  I actually watched TV while on vacation to see the Rajput vs. Roman Centurion show.  A few unsorted observations:

  • The Roman Centurion’s weapons were a pickaxe, gladuis, scorpion, and pilum.
  • WTF?  A Centurion is an officer, I seriously doubt he’d even carry the entrenching tool/pickaxe.  A legionary might resort to using this if he were attacked while digging the trench around the camp with it or otherwise unprepared, but who would pick up a tool over a weapon?
  • WTF? A Scorpion (ballista)? Again, shooting artillery is job for peon legionaries, not Centurions.
  • The Centurion SHOULD have been armed with weapons a Centurion actually carried, i.e.: a gladius, a pugio (dagger), a grapevine baton (more for discipline than combat), maybe a pilum or two, and a shield.
  • Shields were decisive “weapons” for the Spartan and Viking last season; why ignore the Roman and Rajput shields?
  • The “armor” used in the tests was that stupid butted mail again.  Cheap and decorative and not used anywhere since before Roman times.  Riveted mail would most likely give very good protection from the katar and gladius both.
  • The Rajput was not really limited to any particular period, and the weapons chosen were flashy but not necessarily the best they had access to.  They had really cool basket-hilted maces and picks, which would be a better choice against a heavily armored Roman, and why use a chackram as the missile when Rajputs also used composite bows and later muskets?  Odd.
  • There was something perverse about having the Rajput demonstrate the sword on sides of beef and pigs, while the Roman weapons were used on humanoid dummies.  And that is not even going into the issues of cows as sacred animals and the Sepoy Rebellion and all that.
  • I was really hoping to see the urumi (whip sword) do some damage but I guess it is not really as good as it sounds.
  • The Rajputs often fought from horseback, the Romans not so much until much later than the early Imperial period depicted.  So they take away the Rajput’s horse and bow and lance from the equation too.
  • A much better match up of weapons to test would have been: Katars vs. Pugio (Katar wins); khanda vs. gladius (khanda wins but it is very very close); pilum vs. chakram (pilum wins but you can carry a lot more chakrams so maybe tie); Rajput small metal shield vs Roman large wooden shield (Roman shield wins)
  • In single combat, the Rajput, with slightly heavier armor and more modern weapons wins overall.  The Roman military model is all about battlefield tactics and discipline, not one-on-one badassery.  There were certainly some badass Romans but engaging the enemy one-on-one was not really the plan.  Romans won glory leading campaigns, not getting covered in the enemy’s blood and viscera.  The Rajputs however did uphold a warrior ideal that included some room for personal glory through combat prowess.

Still, it was enjoyable to see the weapons tested, so there’s that.  And really, isn’t the opportunity to snicker at an uniformed TV show the real entertainment value of 90% of the Discovery Channel, History Channel, and all that?

Anyway, here’s a more even match-up from the Scorpio Diamante papers:

SD: The amount of time you and your brother devote to battle equations is both frightening and intriguing. By the way a friend from Italy, who is aware of our “vs” game wants to know who would win in a battle between a Hairy Greek man wearing only a speedo vs. Hairy Italian man wearing only a speedo. No weapons.    I told him I didn’t think either had a competitive advantage but I would ask you anyway. Modern day Greeks and Italians have essentially the same fighting skills, right?

MM: I agree there is no tactical advantage to either in terms of arms & armor, but their are certainly psychological factors.  The Greek is in his element, wrestling naked or nearly so.  If he thinks the Italian is a Turk, Greek wins hands down, probably covered in viscera.  The Italian may be very formidable too, though.  For one thing, he is not wearing an Italian army uniform which increases his fighting ability by several orders of magnitude.  Jackie Mason has an incisive analysis of this (and the corrollary, that an Israeli man is an unstoppable killing machine in uniform but a pushover out of it).  Anyway the Italian would (possibly correctly) assume the Greek man is attempting to sodomize him and this could provoke a serious beatdown.   I may be biased, of course, being part Italian.

I have a question for your Italian friend, though — is “Fanapola” (fa Napoli?) really a curse?  I was always told it meant figuratively, “Go to hell” and literally “Go to Naples.”  I probably did not spell it correctly.  Italian-Americans like myself generally know only a smattering of pidgin Italian, mainly words relating to food, sex, and swearing, & the vocabulary is usually very corrupt in terms of phonetics and spelling.

SD: My source says it probably means “Go fu*k your uncle.”

Published in: on June 7, 2010 at 10:14 am  Comments (6)  
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