Posted by: markfender | July 29, 2015

Bear Cavalry

In a certain segment of the population, one of the greatest ideas they’ve ever heard of is bear cavalry.

bear-cavalryIt’s common in miniature game circles as well as some RPG circles. The true height of Russian-equivalent-faction would be to ride bears into battle. It’s a visually interesting idea, but practically has a lot of issues.

Because bears don’t make good horses. Assuming you could train them (and I’m assuming we could because we’ve trained bears to ride bicycles and other demeaning things) to accept a rider and follow his directions, you’d find that bears don’t have the same speed that a horse offers. They also don’t have the endurance a horse does for long trips, so acting as efficient transport is right out. They also don’t have a great gait. If moving at speed, they tend to lope or bound – front legs move in unison, followed by the back legs. This makes for a really uncertain perch to ride on, as well as not being all that fast.

But, who cares? You’re not in the bear cavalry game because of the the long trips. You’re in it for the sheer intimidation factor of riding a bear into battle. Except bears almost universally fight by rearing up on their back legs and striking with their claws. They’re not dogs, whose only weapon is their mouths. And why would you stick your tender, rather important face into the midst of sharp points of metal when you could just use your big claws? But doing so would throw the rider right off. By forcing the bear to stay on all fours, you’ve actually weakened your bear cavalry.

Bear cavalry would offer some advantages – they’d eat the same things their riders are eating, eliminating the need to differentiate food stores. And, if things grew harsh, they’d be happy to sleep the winter months away, eliminating some costs. They’d also scare the shit out of the opposing cavalry, because what horse wants to charge a bear? But I think the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

I like bears. They’re my favorite animal we don’t invite to live in our homes. But, whenever I see the refrain of “you know what would make [game] The Best Thing Evar? Bear Cavalry!” I just tend to think “Um, not really.”

Now, armoring bears and letting them act as independent units? That’s totally feasible…

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