I read about this new show, Deadliest Warrior, earlier today on Topless Robot and then watched it this evening. It’s on Spike TV, and it’s like Mythbusters meets the Military Channel. They take some historical warriors, do a bunch of tests on the weapons and moves they use, feed it into a computer, and run a simulation 1000 times to determine who would win.
This first episode was “Viking vs. Samurai.” They get both Viking combat experts and samurai guys to whack on sweet ballistics dummies (with skeletons and all, a step up from Mythbusters) with greataxes and katanas and all. Biggest revelation? The katana’s kind of a bitch weapon. I say this because it’s an RPG tradition to give katanas the biggest damage bonus because they’re so uber. But here, the longsword is the one that totally decapitated the dummy. They could cut through two pigs with the katana, but when pitted against a similar pig carcass in chainmail it did exactly jack crap.
There’s a lot of simulationist love to get out of their weapon trials [Obligatory 4e jab: unless you're playing 4e, which has deliberately rejected all that historical trivia like real world weapons and armor (no really, they say that in Worlds & Monsters p.15)]. And just watching them cleanly shear off a thin segment of hair flesh, skull, and brain gave me a lot of new combat-description fodder.
It’s not perfect, they set up a kinda artificial round-by-round thing where the combatants exercise their long range weapons, then medium, then short. The Viking doesn’t employ his shield against the samurai’s yumi (bow), instead just sucking up a couple shots and leaving his shield for the “special weapons round,” but eh, it’s good fun.
The samurai won by a slight margin (522/1000 trials) but I think the Vikings got ripped off! They have a complete episode, “Apache vs. Gladiator,” up on their Web site. Check it out!