Assessment 2013   10 comments

We had 16 fencers, of whom only two are regular readers of this blog. Some old, crotchety White Scarves insisted that we used to have much better turnout, and that Atlantian melee skills have eroded over the last few years. One is surprised he didn’t hear them yearning for the good old days of epee …

RBG’s Might Not Suck

Much has been made of the upcoming Pennsic Bridge Battle, wherein Rubber Band Guns will combine with limited-front and no-rez parameters. If nothing else, the fight will be very different from anything we’ve seen before. At least the shots are limited: two shots per fight, and fighters may be armed with a gun in only two of the three runs.

There has, naturally, been some grumbling. We’re fencers, we spend all year training with swords, and it’s understandable that we’re a little miffed when we get shot by some no-skill peasant 30 feet away. But them’s the breaks, so Celric had us run through a few limited-front engagements with RBG’s. It turned out to be more interesting than I had anticipated. Over the course of the day, gunners were presented with four different objectives:

1. Aim for their Provosts
2. Aim for their commanders
3. Aim for their flanks, then press
4. Aim for their center, then press

The first and second are self-explanatory. Firing at the flanks, and then immediately pressing your own flanks forward, allows you to form a shallow killing cup on your opponents. Firing at their center disorders their line, because the dead have difficulty removing themselves. This assumes that their dead are courteous enough not to remove themselves through your line, for which there is no guarantee at Pennsic.

Regardless, RBG fire should be coordinated. You want to shoot different people, and you want to be ready to charge as soon as you pull the trigger. Peppering them with sporadic fire is not going to result in significant casualties, particularly if they have shieldmen up front.

(Shields seem to provide an easy counter. In the past, a shot hitting a shield has disabled the arm, but this seems unenforceable for Pennsic and unlikely to be the convention in play. At Assessment we only had one shieldman, so it was difficult to get a sense of how shields and guns might interact. I wonder about dropping into a crouch and firing at the legs of the enemy … although I’m not sure a legged shieldman is considerably less useful than a standing one.)

Despite the complaints, I think there’s a place for RBG’s in melees. Not every melee, certainly; but a limited number of shots/guns/gunners does make for some non-trivial tactical options, decisions, and coordination. And it gives us a chance to play with some toys that rarely see the field–RBG’s and shields. I wouldn’t mind seeing more melees with guns.

The Rest of the Day

We ran several field battles, some with limited rez, some without rez. Initially we had a “battle buddy” system whereby the more experienced fencers would pair off with the less experienced fencers and give them direction, but I’m not sure how well that held up. Not much to say here; a lot of well-known lessons were reiterated for the newbies, but I heard nothing groundbreaking.

We broke into singles fighting and instruction after that. Celric challenged me for his Iron Spike; and despite his broken toe, I crossed with him in three passes. Came out with three losses. I allowed him to control the fight too much and he played to his strengths–speed and measure. A few times, I came a couple inches shy of him; I’m considering a 45″, but honestly I can probably get those inches out of lunge drills.

More interesting was the fight against Alessandro: he picked me apart relatively easily at Ruby Joust, but on Saturday I was definitively ahead. His fighting was sloppy, perhaps owing to fatigue, but at a minimum I showed that I was able to take advantage of his mistakes. Afterwards, Celric mentioned something about fighters who treat fencing as a science (such as Dante, Gawin, myself) vis-a-vis them who treat it as an art (he and Alessandro). I’m not sure what to make of that … the examples of “artistic” fencers strike me as people who find what works for them (or, possibly, adapt techniques from other disciplines) and tend towards improvisation rather than studying fencing as a combat system. I don’t know that I would call it “art”, but it’s effective. Of course, the Renaissance saw art and science as complementary (and, furthermore, defined art as any discipline that followed a set of rules for good performance); so I think the distinction is moot.

Oh, and Her Majesty gave awesome embroidered favors to all the fencers present. Seriously, you should have been there, these things are great. From a distance, they look like gold scarves. Perhaps the intimidation factor will make up for the 4-to-3 odds on the fields of Pennsic.


The ARA held up pretty well throughout the day, losing only a couple people by the end. However, it was about 10 degrees cooler than last year, and I think we did less fighting as well.

Gawin and I continue our thrice-weekly Hell Drills, rain or shine. I cannot speak to his motivation, but for my part, I mostly want to spite Wistric, who has expressed doubt in my ability to maintain this regimen throughout July. Three sets the day after Assessment proved to be tough, but on the whole it’s getting easier. Physical fitness, I think, needs to get more play in our discussions of how to improve. It can be done solo, without a sword or armor, outside of weekly practices, and improves more than just one’s ability to fence. Rarely do things work so well.

Posted July 8, 2013 by Ruairc in Events

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