Wistric’s Weekly Warfare 20: Limited Fronts and Killing Cups

For rapier fighting, there is exactly one approved method for defending a gate, door, fort, castle, or any other structure with an access point limited to 1-5 fighters wide: form a killing cup, stab anybody who tries to come through the door.

A properly formed killing cup is a semicircle, centered on the doorway, with the ends of the semicircle (the fighters closest to the wall) refused  enough to be protected from direct attack by the wall.

There is also one unapproved method, the Pike Line (one row kneeling/sitting, one row standing behind them).  Both have the advantage of bringing maximum point density against any attacker.  And that is the goal: if you have a doorway 3 fighters wide, and can bring 4 fighters’ worth of blades against them (with a 3 fighter doorway, it’s more like 8 fighters to form the cup) you have the advantage and should win.

To take a couple of examples:

WotW ’06 Fort Battle

Because of the innate advantage of 8 against 3, the attacking team usually has unlimited rez, the defending team limited, and the battle is timed, sides switched and timed again, to see who can capture the fort fastest.

At the first War of the Wings, the victory went to the attacking team that ran to rez point, ran back, and lunged onto the enemy’s blades, then repeated.  In this situation, playing for time, any hesitation is a waste, and you should assume you will die and just try to take your enemy with you.  It’s not going to be glorious, it’s not going to be subtle, just lunge, kill, and die.  There’ve been training sessions on killing cups where I’ve had fencers on the front line of the attacking column trying to back up and play at range.  That is stupid.  That is a great way to lose.

In this particular battle, then-Lady Rosalind was standing in the back drill sergeanting a crowd of provincial militia into a cup consisting of Triplett’s Piggeboyes and the Dragoons.  She yelled lunge and we lunged and we died.  It was great.  In that situation, I started prioritizing: Alric the Mad, with his two 42s, was a huge threat, so I lunged on him, he killed me, I killed him, and after three times he was out of rezzes.  He was the first one out.  Next I picked Walter Triplett.  Same thing, and he was the next one out.

Should I ever lead a column into a killing cup again, I shall give a beer to whoever has the most bruises on their upper body at the end of the day.  Somebody should remind me of this come WotW.

 

Defending the Gate ’07

The “limited rez for defense, unlimited rez for offense” is not always the case. Some gate battles are fought no-rez.  The first Defending the Gate I made it to was a no-rez gate battle. The gate was not just a gap in a wall, but had a corridor at the end of which was the defensive killing cup.  This meant going in in a colum, and it sucked.

It became a very protracted line fight, and the victor (the same team won when it was defending and attacking) was the team with the best line skill.  Who knew, that shit can actually come in handy.

La Rochelle ’08

The usual response to people standing in a line, not moving, is to shoot them.  At La Rochelle, and at WotW, you can!  Of course, nobody ever brings gunners in enough numbers and organization to do much good, so they don’t tend to matter.  The only time it gets sucky is when, like at WotW, only one side (usually the attackers) can get guns, because then there’s no counter fire, and with no counter fire, there’s no reason to charge the cup.  Let the guns kill the enemy as they stand in the doorway, and don’t even bother with the sword.

La Rochelle goes a step beyond and brings in bombs to blow open doors and blow up your enemy.  Yay fucking bombs. You plant them, yell “set”, and ten seconds later they go boom and anybody within ten paces is dead.

This can be taken to stupid extents: last year, it stopped being a sword fight and became “how often can we run the bomb into the enemy”.   At least, that was the plan when Atlantia was defending.  45 minutes later, when the attackers finally got through, we switched sides, and Atlantia got smart.  We had one bomb that we used to blow the door.  Then we placed another but never called ‘set’, so it never went boomy, and we just kept pouring through the door as the enemy backed away.  There was an obstacle a few feet inside the door, and they set up a good defensive line on the left of it, but to our right they had little to no coverage, to the point that I walked around the end of that line and into their backfield and proceeded to lay waste to the well-established line.  Until somebody tried to DFB me with a gun.  Lordy.  That was also the battle of “Master Aedan, I refuse to offer you engagement!”

By the time I got back in the defense was gone, and it was a rout, all done in  4 minutes.

Usually, the defenders and the attackers take about 45 minutes.  And I hope to hell they get rid of those stupid bombs next time.

King’s Assessment of His Armies ‘08

At Assessment last year we prepped for Pennsic, including a town battle and La Rochelle.  Eventually, the provosts took it upon themselves to demonstrate the Provost-Approved Anti-Killing Cup Device.

It basically is: Have two provosts with bucklers.  Have them lead a column of every provost and free scholar on the field at top-speed through a killing cup formed of scholars and rank newbs.  Have the column behind them fan out as it hits the killing cup, using them as shields.  Have them die forward.  And if you have 8 provosts and free scholars and other similarly-skilled fighters practicing together, and willing to die forward, and face an enemy of scholars and rank newbs (or, you know, The East), you, too, can do charge through a killing cup. *shrug*

This Provost Charge has a fairly easy counter, though: Take two stout warriors, have them stand in the doorway and die, on the ground, in the doorway, and let the charge try to make it over them at full speed.

But I’ll re-iterate: killing cups, and all scenarios involving the formation of and charging into single massive killing cups, suck balls.

7 comments to Wistric’s Weekly Warfare 20: Limited Fronts and Killing Cups

  • Dante di Pietro

    Re: Assessment ’08:

    Your recollection of that is not the same as my recollection of that. Were you on the same side as me?

  • Dante di Pietro

    Well, the actual tactic employed was a double column charge where the dead would go *inward*, between the columns, so as to not disrupt forward momentum and get back to the res point ASAP. We did not die forward and the tactic renders using the dead as shields impossible. It does, however, overwhelm fairly effectively by never disrupting the feed of bodies through the gate. The defenders never get any recovery time; SCAdians are used to pulses and waves, not a steady stream of opposition.

    Also, note that neither Celric, Dominyk, or I were provosts at the time, and that tactic came, AFAIK, from us and probably Aedan as well.

    • Celric did have us practicing that, yes. And that one seems practical (I should probably talk about it, by why interrupt a good diva rant? 😀 )
      But there was one point where a provost, I think it was Aedan, basically took every white scarf and gold scarf from my side and did a buckler-fronted charge that, as mentioned, I think is not really effective.

  • Matheu

    I was one of the buckler men and baron black diamond the other, he is a white belt but I have not even a sea dragon to cozy up to on cold nights ;p. The important thing to learn from that scenario IMHO is stop fencing start fighting. Newer fencers have a easily exploitable tendency to stop and start dueling when they get within range, more experienced types tend to overcome that. We stacked the front of our two columns with the baron and dragoons to be shock troops with the newer fencers on our side towards the back so they would see the idea in play before entering the breach.

    It was a good rant though 😉

    • Hey now, let’s not muddle the discussion with facts.

      Okay, did my heat addled brain entirely invent a point in time where Chris Cunning, Ilaria, and a few others were shifted off of Team Wistric and sent charging in, before we were practicing the two column, dead out the center fight?

      The important thing to learn from that scenario IMHO is stop fencing start fighting. Newer fencers have a easily exploitable tendency to stop and start dueling when they get within range, more experienced types tend to overcome that.

      Indeed, and wholeheartedly agreed. There was a scholar, who shall remain nameless, who kept backing up into the column behind him when we were practicing the charge in, and I wanted to kick him. Eventually I just started yelling the “Step” command to remind everybody to move forward. Any thoughts on how to drill that impulse out of newer fighters?

  • Dante di Pietro

    I have a vague recollection of that happening as a “This is how we used to do things, and it can work, but now here’s a better way” kind of thing.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>