Interested mainly in medieval era heavy armored combat, and the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two classes of weapon, both on horseback and on foot. Valid topics include application, quality/cost and maintenance, weight, learning curve, etc. Considerations vs other expected weapon types, wielded by mounted and unmounted opponents.

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    Since the point of contact will most likely be towards the tip of the weapon, I'd expect the mace to be superior, since it is designed to generate most force exactly there. They've both been used as mere slashing weapons, so learning makes not much of a difference. I lack the historical knowledge to give an expert answer, though. Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 20:30
  • @PhilipKlöcking I noticed in Knight Fight that although the European swords used in the melee seem to be used exclusively for hacking/bashing, maces and hammers are specifically disallowed. This is highly suggestive. Swords, however, would typically have more range, be more versatile in defense, and can be used to penetrate gaps in armor, or pierce the armor of a prone foe that has been unhorsed, without much leaning that could potentially expose the combatant (compared to leaning in to bashing a prone, armored opponent on the ground repeatedly.)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 20:39
  • @DukeZhou "swords used ... exclusively for hacking/bashing" It's almost as if those people are not trying to actually kill/maim each other. Or that a stab to the visor/join/back can do that.
    – Vorac
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 5:37

1 Answer 1


A sword was much more expensive than a mace. A simple mace is a lump of iron strapped to the end of a stick. A sword needs high quality steel tempered competently. That's why longswords emerged only at late Medieval period - steelworking needed to be sufficiently advanced so they don't snap.

A mace is designed to combat armor - chainmail without gambeson is useless and even a fine fullhelm can't protect from knocking the person out.

A sword is lighter thus can be made longer - awesome for slaughtering villagers and archers.

A mace is clumsy to fence with thus to block another horseman's blow.

As always in war, a spear would defeat both in a duel.

I have obviously never tried to kill people with a mace while on horseback. But have 2 years of Filipino stick fighting and half an year of German sword fencing.

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    Excellent answer. Could be accepted, but let's see if anyone else pitches in! (Peter Lorge's "Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century" notes that the archeological record suggests pole-axes were most common battlefield weapon—easy to train and highly effective in context!)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 22:15
  • @DukeZhou drawbacks of poleaxes: two handed and front-heavy(so can't be used by a horseman), require space to swing, I doubt they are any easier to learn than a sword(except "stay behind the first line of infantry and just swing up and down"). I don't think the answer is good(it quotes no sources): please leave it unaccepted.
    – Vorac
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 5:35
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    Well, I hear you on uncited, but we're all speculating about this stuff, so a strongly supportable argument should be acceptable. (In Red Cliff, there was some horseback halberd, but I hear you.) My feeling is maces are durable, cheap, and one-hit kill to the helmet. Easy to learn and bad for defense, but you are wearing armor...
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 23:31

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