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Can front rank Spearmen using a hand weapon and a sheild, to gain a 4+ Save while the Spearmen in the further back rows use their spears to attack? I play High Elves, but I don't think that would make much of a difference.
No, unless a unit has specific rules to allow it to use two different weapons (DE city guard are the only unit that jumps to mind but I'm sure there are others) then the UNIT may only choose one weapon combination to use. That means you can't split it up by ranks. I think you have to choose at the beginning of the combat, too, and can't change until the combat is over, rather than turn by turn. Hope that helps.
No more NG spearmen, thanks! Now I need some pump-wagons!
Thats right, a unit has to decide what combination of weapons it will be using at the start of a fresh combat and can't change until the end of that fight (ie someone breaks, gets slaughtered down to a man). Unless there are rules dictating that you can do this, I think beastherds carry to different types of weapons and can use both but they are an exception.
Helper monkey, bring me beer and donuts
You are both spot on with the rules.
Beastherds are an exception, but that's mainly because they are a unit of mixed models who use different weapons rather than identical models with mixed weapons (if you see what I mean!). Other exceptions include units of Ogre Maneaters who can be equipped individually, and Pirazzo's Lost Legion (a Regiment of Renown) who are pikemen but with a front rank of crossbowmen.
"Peace, through superior firepower."
Also Wood Elf Eternal Guard who count as having 2 hand weapons in the front rank and spears in the back rank with (heavy armor) equivalent.
Thanks for helping me with that. That's too bad though, I was hoping I could do that to my brothers little Men-At-Arms... Oh well.