Speculative Futuristic Warfare: Combat-Melee Weapons


Given the choice, a soldier, warrior, predator, prey, a casualty of war, etc will reach for a ranged weapon over a melee weapon. But there may arise circumstances that make melee weapons the default or preferred choice, if not the only. This is for the situations that a character might find themselves in and what their options might entail. Ever wondered just how plausible those far-future weapons can be? Let’s take a look at the types of C.M.Ws that can possibly exist.

Combat-melee weapons (C.M.Ws) are often the centre-stage in fantasy and historical fiction but are nevertheless prominent in futuristic speculative fiction. Before the Chinese used the first combustive weapons, the fire lance, melee weapons were the standard of all warfare. Even with our ever-increasing technological progress, some 1000 years after the fire lance, we still employ and actively develop combat-melee weapons for war. As such, it is not difficult to imagine a futuristic scenario utilising these close-combat technologies.

When establishing a futuristic world, readers and critics have an expectation of the stereotypical futuristic tropes that provide the setting for the story, these are generally D.E.Ws and M.D.Ws. But say you want to make your battle scenes more intense and realistic, you’re going to need a few C.M.Ws to complete the picture. Here are some examples of futuristic combat-melee weapons:

Slice And Dice

These are weapons with long thin blades, the more common types are swords and daggers, perhaps the symbol of melee weapons. They are still relevant today, seeing use in culture and sports more than war1, but might become more used in a speculative future. Primarily bladed weapons are ideal for stabbing and slicing, so their enhancements need to accentuate those traits.

Chop And Change

Axes are meant for bludgeoning and dismembering, causing serious damage to a body. These weapons have short to long thick blades, some with beards and others without. They don’t have much use in combat anymore but remain relevant to other aspects of civilisations such as foraging, forestry, construction, etc2. When altering axes with future technology, their strength and purpose must be remembered.

Space Invaders

Pikes, spears, halberds, lances, and so forth are pole-arm weapons, excellent for keeping enemies at a distance while simultaneously invading personal space. Their use as weapons has also fizzled out as technology progressed, keeping a stubborn existence within culture and sports3. Their purpose is to stab and pierce, designed for defence lines and against cavalry. With this in mind, a pole-arm’s potential with enhancements for futuristic melee combat is great.

Bam Bam

As simple as a club or as difficult to master as a flail, maces come in various forms, designed to deliver blunt-force trauma using gravity and sometimes sharp points. Maces have little to no use in today’s society aside from in ceremony4, either in war, sports, or daily life, but that does not mean a possible futuristic civilisation won’t bring them back into the spotlight. A mace’s purpose lies in its weights, often as a solid ball of solid mass, with various enhancement choices to convert this weapon into a futuristic bludgeoner.

Use Protection, Kids

While often depicted as use for defence, shields are as much a combat-melee weapon as they are a wall of protection. Used for bludgeoning and dismembering, the shield can be fashioned in any shape or size to cater for its intended purpose. These weapons still enjoy great use in modern warfare and stand a highly probable chance of being kept well into the future5. Enhancements on shields can serve to strengthen protection as well as strengthen its weapon capabilities, making it the most versatile of the C.M.Ws.

It’s A Trap

Whips and nets, while improvised weapons and now not actively used in war, remain prominent in sports, culture, and everyday life6, 7. These weapons were intended to capture and immobilise enemies, sometimes delivering damage at the same time. They create distance between the wielder and the target, its purpose to shift an advantage to the wielder over their enemy. The enhancement possibilities for these weapons are wide, able to adapt to any of the featured futuristic enhancement options below.


And what are these enhancements? Well, anything, really. Here are just a few suggestions for plausible and practical adaptations to C.M.Ws.

First, we have static electricity enhancements. Using devices like the Van Der Graaf generator, obviously adapted to install into a weapon or build a weapon around, this enhancement delivers shocks to the target, immobilising or stunning them, depending on their body’s limitations. This enhancement is perfect for a futuristic setting, capable of damaging or destroying electronics and cybernetic foes. Any weapon can carry the static electricity enhancement, though there may be restraints from its power supply.

Which leads us to the next option: electronic enhancements. Fitted with an incomplete circuit, weapons for this enhancement are best served for stabbing or bludgeoning to make contact and complete the circuit, delivering potentially fatal currents to biological and cybernetic targets. Similarly, a button to complete the current is sufficient. As above, the power supply may potentially pose a limitation on the weapon with this enhancement. (See: Taser Sword).

Of course, one could always just alter the weapon to use electricity instead of delivering it. I’m talking chainsaw enhanced C.M.Ws, adding a tearing and dismembering attribute. Any weapon with a blade can be fitted with this enhancement, provided the blade is strong enough; think axes and broadswords. Yet again, the power supply can be a weight that may hinder the wielder. (See: Chain Weapons in Warhammer 40k)

While still on powered C.M.Ws, take a look at the vibroblade enhancement. Using a power supply, with the same possible limitations as above, the electricity (or whatever power used instead) vibrates the blade of a weapon, delivering an intense blow to the target in the form of a more powerful bludgeoning and dismembering attribute and, in some weapons, a tearing attribute. (See: Vibroweapons in Star Wars Extended Universe)

Those are all good and well enhancements, but what if the setting calls for something more ‘futuristic’, so to speak? The answer: heat. Weapons can be enhanced to produce intense heat, either through a chemical reaction, electricity, or friction reaction. This enhancement burns and melts into or through the target, damaging or destroying it. It delivers a slicing and immobilising attribute to the enhanced weapon.

Lest we forsake combustion enhancements. As mentioned last month, combustion weapons probably won’t fizzle out of use for a very long time, so why not take advantage of it? Combustion enhancements can be installed on far-reaching weapons like pole-arms or close combat weapons like swords, using single-direction explosions. This enhancement, however, is a one-time use alternative, opening the door toward disposable weaponry. Combustion provides a weapon with attributes a C.M.W would otherwise not possess, such as explosion and incineration, along with immobilising and dismembering attributes.

Superheated options are another, more stereotypical possibility for futuristic C.M.Ws. I’m talking plasma weapons. Not quite in the form of lightsabres, but more along the line of a weaponised flossing comb. In weapons with this enhancement, a beam of plasma streams from a solid point at either end of the weapon’s damaging part/s to contain and maintain the beam. Plasma enhancement adds slicing, dismembering, and immobilising attributes to a weapon and can be used in field emergencies as an improvised medical tool.

As with anything speculative, the options can be endless, limited only by one’s imagination. I do hope you enjoyed this series of futuristic speculative warfare and found some use for these captivating and awe-inspiring takes on the weapons that may shape the structure of war in an imagined future.

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