Is our "halberd" actually a halberd? Or is it a poleaxe?

I can’t figure out how should i call the weapon properly (or as close to the truth as possible) and it bothers me.

What our “halberd” is closer to: a poleaxe, or a halberd?

I googled “difference between halberd and poleaxe”, and from these discussions:

My mind was left more confused than before.


But first, pictures time!

Verm 2 ‘halberd’





Then, the examples of historical halberds!


^halberds are on the left side


Here we go for poleaxe examples!


^first from the left.

https://myarmoury.com/images/features/pic_spot_poleaxe18.jpg

https://myarmoury.com/images/features/pic_spot_poleaxe14.jpg

https://myarmoury.com/images/features/pic_spot_poleaxe07.jpg

And more poleaxe examples here: https://myarmoury.com/feature_spot_poleaxe.html


Length:
From forum discussions i can gather that in general, poleaxes tend to be shorter than halberds, having length at human height or less. While Halberds are usually at human height or higher.
This point is moot here, as our ‘halberd’ is roughly the same length as Markus.

Weapon head construction:
Halberd heads seem to be predominantly mounted as a single, forged metal piece. While poleaxe heads are often (but not always) mounted from different parts. BTW poleaxe is considered a pretty variable weapon, and a hammer head you see in examples above can easily be a spike instead.
This point leans toward a poleaxe name for ingame weapon. Because ingame ‘halberd’ head doesn’t seem to be forged into 1 piece.

The axe head:
Halberd axe heads are very often a straight blade, a bit angled. Or a strange, concave shape. I’ve found very few examples of halberds with convex shape as seen ingame. Whereas with poleaxe, its much easier to find a convex shape that resembles ingame one.
This point leans toward a poleaxe name for ingame weapon.

Thrusting spike:
Halberds often have a long top spike (it is said that the spike became much longer in 16 century, than in 15 century). Sometimes they have a medium or short spike. This property really varies for both halberd and poleaxe. But poleaxes tend to be on shorter range, and ingame weapon has quite a moderate spike, so i’d say that it’s sliightly leans toward poleaxe name.

Back spike:
Halberds in most examples have really short spike angled down (sometimes straight). More of a hook perhaps? Nothing like the ingame back spike, which is straight and much more brutal. That kind of thing resembles more a poleaxe spike (if it has one).
This point leans toward a poleaxe name for ingame weapon.



As the last point, there was a post in myarmory forum, a historical comparison of “halberd” & “poleaxe” term usage in combat manuals (written at the same period, 15 and 16 century). And what i got from it, that terms poleaxe and halberd - were more tied to the time period and anti-armour requirements for that time, rather than about the weapon’s features.

For 15th century men at arms and knights, they needed a solid anti-armour punch, so the poleaxe (and polehammer) was used extensively as a term (with a lot of variaton of construction, ofc).

In 16th century the armor was waning, and so the focus shifted from anti-armour capability to other traits. Less wrestling, so the shafts (and spikes) could be longer. Much less hammer heads. More focus towards thrusting techniques than chopping. Printed manuals were available to more common audience. Halberds were used by mercs, commoners, against low-to-medium armored opponents.

And our ingame example looks like an effective anti-armour weapon in my opinion, that back-spike in particular, while top spike is short enough to not affect your chopping moves.


Thus, i think the ingame weapon is more of a poleaxe, than halberd. What do you think?

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Length-wise, Kruber’s weapon seems to be equipped with a longer haft than real life pollaxes (the exact term is its own topic), but shorter than many halberds. While construction is one thing to separate the two, it’s not the only one (and possibly the least important one) - and it changes somewhat according to the illusion.

The more important difference between the two was in who used them, and how. A pollaxe was very much a knightly weapon, to be used in full armour, against full armour, and one-on-one. As such, they were often pretty well decorated, but that shouldn’t be taken too strongly in this case, as in WHF everything is richly decorated. They did tend to be made with more complex construction than halberds, and apparently also tended to have a couple of more bits to hit people with, like spikes on the side. The two things are somewhat interrelated.

Halberds were a formation weapon, to be used by less well-armoured soldiers (still against armour, but maybe more likely to encounter lighter armour too). This necessitated the longer haft, and was very likely a reason for the generally simpler construction too. They still often had some decoration, though.

As Markus appears (and can use the weapon) as both a linesman (well, Mercenary) and a fully armoured Knight, that doesn’t really shed much light on it. Neither does what it’s used against - it cleaves hordes well enough, and still penetrates enemy armour too. So as a final arbiter, I’d go for how it feels like in combat. And to me, it works way better when Markus is together with someone else, preferably hitting enemies from slightly behind another character - and even without that, its reach is very useful to keep the enemies at bay, and is safer to use when the reach is taken advantage of. With that, I’d still classify the weapon as a halberd, if maybe a shorter-than-usual one.

To be honest, it seems that even historically, the line between the two weapons is a bit muddy, and apparently defined more by who used the weapon (and when) than its shape. To cap off, I’ll link two videos byt Matt Easton, talking with Dr. Tobias Capwell (the curator at the Wallace Collection, among other credentials). In both videos, the differences between pollaxes and halberds are mentioned. The first one is about pollaxes, the second one is about halberds.

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Poleaxe have a hammer on backside, halberd have a spike? I think thats all you need really

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I figure there isnt actually any clear distinction between the two.

Its just a spear with a mounted blade or even a hammer of some kind near the top on one side and a spike/hammer/blade on the opposite side of the first as well.’

Length? Depends on what the maker felt like or what the user commissioned.

Although image wise the closest thing IMO is found on the second picture beneath the " Here we go for poleaxe examples!" line.

Second option going from left to right.

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This quote for truth. A lot of weapon terminology was looser in the past than we consider now, because at any given time period they weren’t really thinking about proper names, but merely function. Especially with polearms, where it’s more of a broad spectrum and we use terms mostly to distinguish time periods as well as general purposes. Halberds seem more in line with the time - and notably they were often associated with sergeants as a badge of rank (going into later periods), a rank Kruber actually had in the army.

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I watched both videos, and in poleaxe video Matt says:

“essentially with a poleaxe (or does he say pollaxe?) we have a relatively complex construction of the head, unlike halberds in most part…
As Tobi said often you have a broader base to the shaft to help balance it, and very often some kind of pointy shoe, or spike on the bottom end. So you’ve got ability to thrust with the top and bottom, and hit with with the both sides of the staff.”

As you can see below, the ends of the weapon has something to hit with, recruit ‘halberd’ has twin spike, doom stick has a heavy mace-like object.


https://scontent-yyz1-1.cdninstagram.com/vp/6a6500c86c90536085f69449eabb68fa/5E186EAB/t51.2885-15/sh0.08/e35/s640x640/26072379_172010596900553_8962034602721935360_n.jpg?_nc_ht=scontent-yyz1-1.cdninstagram.com&_nc_cat=105

Its one more point that leans toward poleaxe name for ingame weapon (in my book).

I imagine that with formation fighting this thing on the base of shaft wont be really useful. With a poleaxe described usage as a more individual weapon or in loose fighting (with generally a shorter shaft than halberd, no longer than human height), the thingie on the base of shaft would really be useful as counterbalance and striking bit. Also the two talked that halberds tend to be lighter than poleaxes, so counterbalance is good thing here. And in some vids about manuals for poleaxes i glanced long ago, the base of shaft is used extensively for striking (and wrestling if fighting armor).

To sum the difference of poleaxe vs halberd from the video, Matt said about poleaxe:

  • "Shorter, high status, complex construction, its really suited to fighting in armor"

Decorations wise the ingame weapon is richly adorned, even the basic illusion. Not really halberd-y. But as you said its Warhammer so not really a point.

And also its usage:

  • "More personal, heroic weapon, than regimental and team oriented"

I’ll comment later.

In The first video that Yzneftamz posted the museum worker said that english poleaxes could have an axe head with a spike on the other side (a beak, pointed down).

This thing is sold as poleaxe, not a strong point i guess cus its not a historical example.

And look at doom stick illusion:


The thing on the back is not a single spike, but several, and it works more like a hammer i’d wager. The same thing can be seen on bec de corbins and lucerne hammers, but never on halberds.

Yes, this example is close to the ingame weapon.
Also, i view my last 2 examples of poleaxe as close to the ingame weapon too. Just swap the hammerhead to straight spike and its matching very close.
Whereas historical halberds visually are relatively much more different to ingame weapon.

If you were to describe the ingame weapon to a person who never seen it before (but has medieval weapon knowledge) with just 1 word, i think saying “poleaxe” is closer, than saying “halberd”.

If the historical distinction is so muddy, i think we should use a modern terminology. To me, its much simpler to charactirize a weapon not based on who used it (if a peasant looted a poleaxe - it turns into halberd?), and when. But based on its features and intended usage.

Because visually and functionally (gameplay), the ingame weapon is IMO much much closer to a poleaxe, than what i view as a halberd.

Yzneftamz’s evaluation of gameplay is an interesting way of looking at it:

When i picture ubersreik 5 (or 4) fight, there’s no place for the scale of formations that typical halberd is optimised for. Historical halberds tend to have: long shafts, long thrusting spikes (that i’d imagine do most of the work), chopping moves mostly up and down, short spikes (beaks, hooks) on the back side used to unbalance opponents so your numerous mates can capitalise on it.

Our ingame ‘halberd’ instead - you can strike with it at point blank range w/o issue. A lot more chopping going on, than thrusting (thrust is really a secondary attack). And chopping moves are really wide (light 1 and heavy 1). Its fairly fast as well.

On knight if you build for push strength, i think the feel is very much poleaxe-y: heroic, independent and wrestl-y.
Or, hell, on merc if you build for max attack speed, you’re pretty self-sufficient and not really lacking in control. A whirlwind of strikes facing a horde solo (like lmb block cancel spam) is not something i would attribute to usual usage of historical halberds :grinning:.



To finish i’d like to quote a poster from quora:

When thinking about polearms, it’s better to think “What is this?” than “What isn’t this?” It’s generally more productive to look at a given piece of steel on the end of a long stick and say, “This is a type of voulge, and also a type of halberd” than to say, “No, I’m going to classify this as a voulge, so it can’t be a halberd.”

Thats why i asked in OP, what the ingame weapon is closer to, rather than what it precisely is.

In the end, everyone is free to use the type of terminology he wants to. I have convinced myself to call the ingame weapon a type of poleaxe (with straight backspike), which happen to be in hands of renaissance era mercenary. Because if you start with the word “halberd”, to describe the weapon as good you’d have to put a lot more words into the sentence…

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Another point (and probably more relevant, but one I can’t really comment on) is the form of the weapons in question in other Warhammer media, in particular the table-top miniatures and WHFRPG. While a lot of the things in WHF lore are more or less based on real history, some parts go quite far from it. It’s also an old franchise, and not (originally) made by medieval experts (though still better than D&D). See our “Glaive” (basically a short two-handed axe with a huge head) and compare it to its real life namesake (a genuine polearm, closer to the Chinese podao or a naginata than to an axe or halberd). I could toss out a guess that a “poleaxe” (or heaven forbid, a “pollaxe”, the more accepted form nowadays with history enthusiasts) is very much less shown than a “halberd”, regardless of their actual form. In any case, a weapon of that form is much more likely to be called a “halberd” by a layperson, as poleaxe or pollaxe is a less well-known term in general (and probably brings to mind a more singularly axe-like weapon to many, rather than the collection of things to hit people with it really is).

So while the conversation and debate is kind of interesting as a geek, I’m not sure how much relevance it has. The weapon in-game is called a halberd, the term is well-known, and its form is way closer to the historical weapon than a couple of others (warhammers spring to mind in addition to the glaive, and the executioner’s sword was never a battlefield weapon).

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Knights actually used poleaxes in battles vs everyone. Not just knights, and not just in duels. It was a battle weapon of choice of many. I’m not saying you are wrong, just simply oversymplifying it a bit, and some people may get the wrong idea.:slight_smile:

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Oh, this topic i launched wasn’t advertised like it was an issue with the game, and in need of fixing. Just a topic for weapon-fans to drop by and discuss. If somebody sees no relevance in discussing - just move on.

In my mind, on early game stage i was a little confused with the way our halberd was portrayed, and so i wanted to know - am i the only one who thought, that it’s more of a poleaxe, than a halberd.

So my thoughts are: “what is this” (by real world standards).

Warhammers of course are ridiculous (as pretty much anywhere in fantasy media). But it’s clear that the name is wrong, and instead a more suited name would be a maul, or simply greathammer, a fictional term for fictional weapon.

I’m glad you mentioned glaive, as i didnt paid attention to it.

What is it?
First 3 illusions i think is a mix of mostly voulge with some bardiche inspiration, on a much shorter shaft.

Last one is bearded viking axe with over the top beard, and added hook on the backside. I dont see how this axehead is attached though.

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I’m inclined to agree with @Yzneftamz if only because of the function the weapon was intended for. I doubt that Kruber’s halberd, considering the commonality of the weapons present in Warhammer Fantasy (the great-maul in particular), was intended for Armor-to-Armor combat. I’d guess that there was a whole lot more striking going on than stabbing in the imperial lines, but a weapon intended for use in large regiments is certainly a halberd.

In Warhammer Fantasy, there’s a distinct lack of stabbing weapons (well, not really, but striking seems to be preferred and I’m guessing that it’s because the characters in the universe tend to be so obscenely strong). Perhaps the Empire decided that it’d be more operable to have the classic “axe” head atop their halberds so that their troops were more effective when fighting out of formation?

While technically correct (the best form of correct), I’d also argue that no foot-knight in their right mind would take a pollaxe into battle in formation with 39 of his lads as opposed to a longer handled halberd. Reach was key, and that axe-head provides a better area for striking downwards than most long-handled weapons. Pollaxes tended to require you to be quite a bit closer than you want to be to 100 angry Norscans.

I agree 100%. Lastly, I’d say that despite this, I don’t think Kruber took the best weapon for the job, I’d say he grabbed his standard issue halberd (assuming the Empire have him the base illusion) and hustled off to slay some rats with his mates. I doubt he realized what he was getting into until he was already swept into the Vermintide :stuck_out_tongue:

All good chat, though. I like the points you’ve presented, @doom_hamster, and I hope you know I’m not trying to discard them!

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I’d argue that knights would prefer poleaxes instead of longer halberds in formation vs formation scenario. The shorter the weapon, the more wieldy it is in a thick fight, the more variance in attacks available. Once the gap is close enough the longer halberds become useless and you’ve got to pull a back-up weapon. With a poleaxe you can shift the grip and still fight. Two hands on axe/hammer/spike is hell of a strong damage potential. In contrast to a weaker one-handed backup weapon.

The main advantages of longer reach halberds are the fact that they can be used from a 2nd rank, supporting the first rank of fighting men. So i think at least the first rank of knights shouldnt be using halberds in a pitched battle, 2nd rank - possible.

Main reason why i think poleaxes would work for a formation of knights is because they’re so heavily armoured that they can almost safely close the gap of enemy long pole reach (a pike or halberd).

And lastly, the poleaxe length is quite a variable thing as i see it. It can be to a waist, to a chest, to a shoulder, or even as high as one’s head. So it depends

Heh, on the contrary, i think Kruber’s ‘halberd’ is a great weapon for the job :grinning: And one of the most practical among other choices. Its very universal in damage potential (works vs armor and flesh) and fighting techniques. It has good reach which is crucial, especially against larger&stronger opponents, but also the reach isnt too long (IMO), so he still can fight up close and personal, by shifting the grip (when you inspect the weapon he easily reaches the axe head with this hand).

On the other hand, what’s your opinion on what weapons are realistically suited for the job?

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The idea of the halberd is to fight with multiple ranks at the same time; if you are up front whirling a pollaxe about, no one can help you fight. Also, if the enemy is so close you can’t swing a halberd at them, the fellow with a halberd 2 ranks behind you is going to impale that fellow. Also, I don’t think any soldier in their right mind (admittedly, most of Warhammer soldiers aren’t) are going to get themselves so close to your halberd line that you can’t smack them and, if they do, they’re probably as scared to fight as you are and are likely just trying to push you over, not kill you.

Ranks of pointy things are terrifying to run at.

The only 2 actions you could reasonably perform on the front line of a formation fight is a thrust or a downward slash (at least, the only two that won’t get in your allies way). Though I can’t say for sure, I’d guess that the halberd (as you posted above) was designed for those two precise actions.

I totally agree; then again, given their tools, I wouldn’t fight an armored regiment in melee at all. I’d set my own armored halberdiers directly in front of a rank of handgunners; blow them away without needing to deal with those pointy bits!

I 100% agree that his currently set ‘halberd’ is an excellent slashing and piercing weapon. If I am trying to look entirely realistically at what he should wield: a sword would, by an large, be the most useful tool he could wield (unless he was intending on smacking around a Chaos Warrior, then I’d take that bloody great Maul he owns).

Swords are the best slashing tools ever invented. Excellent against an unarmored or lightly armored foe but can still stab very effectively (though I wish there were more falchions in the Empire than just the simple one Saltzy carries; a good, heavy Messer would be lovely).

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One more thing: in a very loose-fit formation (like what a battlefield has the potential to devolve into) with more space, I think the pollaxe would be bounds more effective than most weapons… but it also means that you are, almost always, fighting 1-to-1 (of course the scale is larger than that but you, personally, wouldn’t be dealing with more than one fellow at a time).

If you are fighting two enemies alone you’re pretty much fooked. If you are in a military trained enough not to break-rank and skirmish your foe (which was a natural result when it wasn’t army-to-army, small fights would almost always become a skirmish… hence the term skirmish always indicating a small fight), any long polearm is likely the superior weapon. Polearms are easier to produce and easier to use while the regiment maintains rank and file.