The Logistics and Considerations of Giants in War

we’re getting to speculation on a fantasy scenario, but what would be the logistics of a giant army? like what would be their main strength and weaknessses as a force? I’m making a campaign villain with giants as the main enemy faction but I don’t see much depictions of them as an organized forces with plate armor and such instead of dumb primitive brutes, let alone how they would fare in melee combat against enemy combatant that is about a third of their height on average

The first example that comes to mind is Warhammer’s Ogre Kingdoms. Technically, they’re, “only,” slightly under twice the size of a normal human, and they’re in a setting with other armies that incorporate massive units of their own.

The Ogre Kingdoms do illustrate what is, probably, the single largest consideration for an army of giants: Food. Getting enough food to feed a significant force of massive fighters is going to be a serious problem. Warhammer being Warhammer, that setting ramps this up to cartoonish caricature, but if you’re wondering about the weaknesses of an army like this, keeping everyone fed comes high on the list.

There’s a couple solutions, and they have different implications.

The first is taking what they need while raiding. If you have a trained squad of giants rolling into a village, the local farmers aren’t going to have many options to stop them from grabbing whatever livestock they want and wandering off. This is especially true if the giants have no qualms about eating the villagers. In which case, a relatively small, giant army could easily wipe out most of the outlying villages before marching on major cities.

This confers some major advantages for the giants. They don’t need a coherent logistical base to support them, so if they’ve gathered in sufficient numbers, they don’t need a war machine. They can travel (nearly) as far as they want without their logistical chain breaking down (because there isn’t one.)

The trade-off is, if they’re operating without any permanent bases, they’d be extremely vulnerable to sieges. Unless they have massive food stores in their cities and fortresses.

The second would be a sufficiently massive agricultural base, and logistical chain, backing them. The larger the army, the larger the nation that fielded them would need to be. This almost exactly flips the advantages and disadvantages of the previous solution. They’d need a strong logistics chain, and have a very limited ability to advance, (unless they’re supporting it raiding), and their fortifications would be incredibly resistant to sieges. It’s also possible that any army laying siege to a giant fortress would have to contend with patrols of giants wandering into and disrupting their camps. This could actually make these sieges particularly dangerous.

Their ability to produce arms and armor is related to two questions. Are they producing their own equipment? What is their overall level of technological development?

If they’re producing their own gear, then chances are they need production facilities. Smithies, access to iron (or fictional materials such as orichalcum.) If they’re fielding weapons and armor that are similar to scaled up human gear, chances are that it needs to be made from something other than steel, or they need to be exceptionally skilled smiths.

Something we’ve talked about in the past, but the use of the greatsword was delayed by centuries because smiths didn’t have access to steel that could structurally support the design. If you have a 20ft tall giant swinging around a 15ft sword, you’d basically need access to super alloys. modern steel, or mythical materials to make that weapon a reality. You could not do it with iron, and you’d be hard pressed to do it with steel from more than a few centuries ago.

The needed technical proficiency applies regardless of whether the giants are producing their own weapons or not. But, if they’re not, then you’re more likely to see more scavenged or improvised weapons. Such as a giant slapping people around with the beam of a trebuchet or a fallen tree trunk.

The biggest issue with armor would just be getting enough metal to outfit them in the first place. Obviously, if they have access to mines then they could collect the materials themselves, securing access to more metal would be something that could drive an organized nation to war.

As for the final question, turning them loose on conventional infantry would be a bloodbath. Polearms and artillery would be legitimately dangerous to an unarmored giant. Lighter weapons, like sword and shield infantry, archers, and gunpowder infantry would (likely) be completely outclassed, and easily dispatched. Mounted units armed with polearms could pose a threat, while other mounted units would likely fall behind. Even with polearms, engaging would probably result in devastating casualties. (There’s a potential edge case here with marksmen being able to target the eyes specifically. This isn’t, realistically, an option for pre-rifled handgunners, however for skilled bowmen or crossbowmen, it could drop a few giants.)

This is assuming that the giants have proportionately thick skin that resists casual abuse, which seems like a safe assumption.

If the giants are fielding full plate armored units, yeah, the poleams and artillery are your best options, but the casualties suffered would be even higher.

You do not want to get into a fight with a 20ft tall full plate fighter.

-Starke

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