Home > games > Atlatl – A New Weapon for Lustrian Slann

Atlatl – A New Weapon for Lustrian Slann


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The Slann are long gone from Warhammer: I think the last time they were seen was in 3rd edition, back in the 80s. Still, this may be of interest to any Oldhammer fans who have a Slann army.

I’ve known about the Central American atlatl, or spear-thrower, for some time. Basically it’s a stick that slots into the base of a spear-sized, feathered dart and gives the throwing action more force. Just recently, though, I found out a little more thanks to an SCA demonstration, and I was impressed by what this very simple weapon can do. As far as I’ve been able to find out, Citadel never released any Slann atlatl troops, and that’s a shame: from what I’ve learned, they could be quite effective on the battlefield, as well as adding to the Mesoamerican look and feel of a Slann force.

Here are the notes I took at the time, slightly tidied up. I haven’t attempted to derive game stats for Warhammer or WFRP, preferring to leave that to those who are better at such things. Still, I hope you Oldhammer gamers and modelers find this information inspiring, or at least interesting.

Picture borrowed from Richard Keatinge under the WikiMedia  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Picture borrowed from Richard Keatinge under the WikiMedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

In Aztec society, the atlatl was considered a “weapon of the gods.” The troops who used it, called Cuachicque or “shorn ones” (presumably from a distinctive haircut?) were elite warriors who had already captured at least six enemies on the battlefield.

Atlatl darts look like oversized arrows, 4-7 feet long and fletched. The atlatl gives these darts surprising range and hitting power. According to the World Atlatl Association forums, effective range is 10-15 yards/meters but a missile thrown in a high arc can reach as far as 50 yards. This may not sound like much considering that the current Olympic javelin record is almost 100 meters, but the atlatl only needs a one-step run-up and the Olympic javelin is thrown for distance without much regard for accuracy. Experiments have shown that an atlatl dart has significant range and hitting power. Though it cannot pierce a steel breastplate, it could wreak havoc on lightly-armored troops. Here’s a link to an actual test.

Has anyone converted or used Slann atlatl troops in a game? How did they work out? If you have rules for them, please add a link in the comments section. Or maybe we can crowdsource some workable rules right here.

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  1. August 19, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    I took a link at the video source you posted and it definitely implied that the weapon could not in fact pierce a breastplate. Unless I missed something?

    Still, it’s definitely something that I did not know about and I don’t believe I’ve seen any fantasy models for. I guess they’d just count as javelins in game?

    • August 19, 2015 at 7:47 pm

      You’re right. I guess I should have paid closer attention. I will correct this.

  2. August 20, 2015 at 2:54 am

    They have a far better range than a Javelin, and should have a higher penetrating power due to the far greater weight of the projectile. The Use of a lever to drive a projectile was not limited to the new world of course – a sling is just a form of lever in which the arms of the lever are flexible up to the point of loosing – but I have always suspected weapons like the Saunion MUST have been launched using a cord-assisted throw – look up french arrows – as otherwise they won’t go 10 feet. I experimented with a mild-steel ‘saunion’ – oh alright, it was a peice of steel rod – and when I etched a knot-notch in and threw it with a cord, it a) went about 50 feet and b)bent double under the force of the leverage. If I ever get a proper hard steel rod I will try again.

  3. October 28, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    This is very much like the hunting weapons used by the native peoples of the arctic. Throwing a spear from a seated position in a kayak (in frigid waters) must have been quite the challenge. Necessity being the mother of invention, they developed a throwing technique using a stick to extend the arm. I found some pics and details here:

    https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Eskimo_Life/Chapter_3

    Wonder if anyone ever made a tribe of Eskimo Slann? : )

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