A skirmisher is an infatryman or cavalryman tasked with scouting, guarding flanks or harassing the enemy in order to delay their advance or demoralize them. These units tend to be lightly armoured and highly mobile (at least by military standards), and typically carry short-ranged weapons (shortbows, light crossbows, javelins, slings) and lighter melee weapons (daggers, shortswords, short spears, smaller axes). Skirmishers tend to be composed of smaller groups to allow for stealthier approach towards the enemy as well as easier and less time-consuming co-ordination - while the main army of heavy troopers can afford to reach the enemy with a delay, skirmishers have to be fast at both reaching the enemy and escaping from the enemy.
Since skirmishers operate in smaller groups and sacrifice both protection and firepower alike for mobility, they are forced to adopt and operate by quasi-guerrilla hit-and-run tactics, often relying on stealth and the element of surprise.
During sieges and open-field battles, their role is usually limited to reconnaissance, raiding/harrassment and skirmishing (fighting light and indecisive battles against hostile skirmishers) - however, in forest battles and urban warfare, they become almost the most pivotal troops, often forcing non-skirmishers to adopt skirmisher tactics.
Skirmishers by country
- See also: Military of Etrand#Skirmishers
Skirmishers have played an important role in the Etrandish military since the Great War. Prior to that, Etrandish military was more oriented towards heavy infantry, with usually the heavy infantrymen carrying javelins or throwing axes in addition to their swords or axes. After the Great War, the humans of Etrand came up with the kind of skirmisher they continue employ even to this day, even sixteen centuries later: skirmishers with shortbows and shortswords or axes.
The Etrandish Skirmisher's main choice of weapin is the shortbow (short composite bow, to be specific), chosen for a maximized rate of fire, compromising range and penetrative ability. At several points during Etrand's history, they made attempts at adapting the crossbow for use by skirmishers, but even carrying lightweight crossbows that had a better rate of fire than their heavier counterparts, skirmisher crossbowmen yielded dissatisfactory performance, prompting the Etrandish to revert to the earlier model of skirmishers with regular shortbows. The most recent failure of crossbow-using skirmishers is the Battle of Ancestors Field, during which crossbowmen were overwhelmed by sling fire, something shortbowmen would have had a more satisfactory response to with their superior rate of fire.
Aside from the shortbow, Etrandish skirmishers also carry either a shortsword or a small axe.
- See also: Military of Froturn#Skirmishers
Since Froturn's army is segregated by race (or rather, height, which strongly correlates to race in the case of the short Halflings vs tall High Elves), it is important to distinguish between two types of skirmishers.
High Elven Skirmishers
High Elven Skirmishers are essentially lightly armoured variants of Legionaries, carrying javelins and shortswords, just like Legionaries. Aside from the armour, the main difference is the shield - Legionaries carry large curved shields that almost cover the body, while Skirmishers carry smaller round shields or bucklers- Another difference is selection - Legionaries are selected for hand strength and overall muscularity, while Skirmishers are selected for the ability run fast and persistently.
Halfling Skirmishers always carry slings and axes. Halfling Skirmishers are unusual in the way that they also tend to include spearmen - usually a small group spearmen defending the slingmen. Slings are difficult to master - an uninitiated may struggle to even shoot with a sling, while a talented slingman may even turn into a sniper with the sling. Slings also have a very fast rate of fire.
While skirmishers usually tend to be infantry - as being mounted is a serious detriment to stealth, making the quasi-guerrilla tactics associated with skirmishers nearly impossible - sometimes, cavalry may also function as skirmishers. Mounted Skirmishers very often - but not always - overlap with Mounted Archers, carrying short composite bows with the primary role of either reconnaissance or harrassing the enemy and slowly chipping away at their numbers while staying out of harm's way. One example of non-archer mounted skirmishers would be pony-riding spearmen and lancers (optionally carrying javelins) acting as skirmishers, often with the objective of carrying torches and setting enemy camps and supplies on fire.