Targeting the Enemy

Selecting Effective Targets in Rapier Melees

Compiled by Don Christian Doré

Date: January 17, 2001

Targeting is the art of making each of your shots as valuable as possible. A enemy who could absorb a lot of randomly placed damage can often be neutralized with a few properly placed shots. This is a guide to help you determine the best targets. Much of this information has been borrowed from Duke Kein McEwan's papers on armored melee fighting.


Targeting includes two parts. First, there is the selection of which enemy personnel to try to take out first. Second there is the selection of which body part to target on a particular individual. In either case these three overriding principals always apply:

In melee it is common for the excitement to cause opponents to fail to notice when we hit them. Keep your temper under control and realize your opponent probably just did not notice. Don't start hitting hard; instead plan to hit an opponent 2 or 3 times in a row to make sure they are dead. If you really feel the fighter has a problem noticing your shots or that he is intentionally ignoring them, you should speak with him after the battle. If it is not actually important enough to you to go talk to that fighter, it is certainly not important enough to bring before the marshals and you have no business badmouthing him.


Simply stated, eliminate command and control first, effective troops second and general troops third. This lets your kills have the greatest impact on the enemy's ability to function. A more detailed list in order or the most important target first looks like this:

  1. Effective commanders

  2. Effective gunners or archers

  3. Effective mobile troops (such as flanker or cavalry)

  4. Troops with special weaponry, such as long epees.

  5. Ineffective gunners or archers

  6. Defenders on the enemy's flanks

  7. Effective fighters

  8. General troops

  9. Ineffective mobile troops -- i.e. Those who are running a lot, but not fighting much.

  10. Ineffective commanders -- especially if they are bad enough to confuse their own troops.

  11. Armless fighters

  12. Legged fighters by themselves or in groups of legged fighters -- preferably with long weapons from outside their range.

  13. Anyone standing next to his legged buddy waiting for someone to come fight them.

To address one special situation: I will point out that if an enemy cavalry unit is busy running and circling, much of their mission is to distract you. So long as they stay out of range, ignore them and crush their fellows. If they approach, try to delay them with a small skirmishing unit. Only react when they become a real threat. Once the main body is gone, their cavalry has little chance.

Always remember, an ok kill you actually get is better than a great kill you miss.


In an ideal world we would take head shots every time, but the reality of combat makes our actual choices different. Here are the choices:


Obviously, the kill is generally the best choice if it is available. Of course, if your victim is unwounded and has support from his fellows, such deep shots will probably leave you exposed as well. .
If the sides are moving, a leg is essentially a mission kill. That guy on his butt will not make much difference to the outcome of the melee. Legs can be easy shots, especially if the enemy has a large shield. If you don't see a kill shot, go for the leg. Once you leg an opponent, get away. If you stay and fight him then taking his leg does little good.
Every time the enemy throws a shot, he exposes his hand and arm. What's more, he cannot strike at you because he is already engaged in throwing a shot. That makes it a very safe shot to take, so you can throw lots of these shots at little cost. On the down side, a hand shot does not take that fighter out of the action. Worse, in melee it is common for hand shots to go unnoticed as the battle rages. Still, a hand/arm shot is better than nothing, so take it if it is available.

Finally, remember that in melee the most sure shot is always the guy who is ignoring you to concentrate on someone else. Aviod making that mistake yourself, but always be on the lookout for such easy pickings on the enemy side.