Vikings were among the most brutal combatants of olden times. For them, raiding and pillaging wasn’t simply something they did during periods of war, it was a part of their lifestyle every year. Their training, their crafting and their religion revolved largely around warfare. For Vikings, a battle would be comprised of various elements, starting with forming a shield wall.
The shield wall
At the start of a fight, Vikings would often employ a common tactic seen throughout many warrior cultures: the shield wall. Vikings stood shoulder to shoulder, protecting themselves and each other from enemy fire with their shields until they had closed range. Once close enough, spears would be hurled into the enemy line along with fire from the short Viking bows.
Often, the youngest warriors were put on the front line of a shield wall to gain experience. Veteran warriors waited just behind them to support them and drive back the enemy if they broke the line.
As the fight moved from ranged weapons to melee, Vikings employed a variety of weapons to devastating effect. The most common weapon among their ranks was the spear. Those that weren’t thrown at the enemy were used to deadly results. The spears could reach nine feet in length, allowing Vikings in the second rank of a shield wall to reach past their allies and attack the enemy.
Less common weapons were swords and battle-axes. While not as efficient as spears often were, these weapons gave Vikings the ability to attack their enemies in various ways, overcoming tactics to guard against spears.
Viking berserkers were elite shock troops used to exploit weaknesses in the enemies lines. The word “berserk” came from the “bear shirts” or hides that berserkers often wore draped over their helmet into combat. They also sometimes used performance-enhancing substances to increase their effectiveness.
The skills and ferocity of Viking berserkers earned them reputations on the battlefield. Beyond just being regular warriors, they were said to be immune to pain and utterly without fear. No-one wanted to be facing a berserker on the battlefield.