Gulf Wars 2014, Part 2: Wherein Ruairc Grouses About Melee

Wednesday

As it happened, all of the melee was on Wednesday.

Field Battle – your usual no-rez, no-cover brouhaha. Atlantia was deployed with the Trimarian Pony Lords (yes, seriously) on the right flank. We were stacked there, in numbers and skill; the idea was to smash through and roll them. At lay-on, we charged in and … didn’t do much smashy smashy. I suspect our Esteemed Competition loaded the same flank. Eventually we attritted them down, broke through, and finished off the rest. I spent most of the fight a couple feet behind the line waiting for a chance to step in. At one point some guy across the line threw his sword at me. Accidentally. I think. Our line allowed him to recover his blade. I would not have done the same.

For the second run, we switched terrain. Our team maintained the same strategy, which proved our undoing. Our foes adapted, redeployed, and broke through the middle of our line fairly quickly. A good chunk of Atlantia was pulled off to fill the gap, but it was too little and too late.

One interesting phenomenon emerged, however. When our middle broke, their middle broke as well, going for the flanks of our right and left. This left a bit of a “vacuum” in the middle of the field, with just a few scattered, disorganized bands of 2-4 fencers skirmishing about chaotically. The concept of “backfield” sort of lost its meaning there, and nobody was very well able to orient; I am beginning to suspect that most fencers don’t really look at tape, but instead determine which team you’re on by which direction you’re pointing. I called Ibrahim over to my shoulder and we went on “strafing runs”: We’d target a small band, get them to stop paying attention to us (usually by being more than 10 meters away, then leaving their line-of-sight – I swear, fencers forget you exist if you’re not in their faces) then swooping in on their flank, grabbing a kill or two, and running off to do it somewhere else. After a few such runs, Ibrahim was separated from me, and shortly after I was hunted down by a don. And shortly after that, I was hunted down by a marshal, for reasons I still don’t quite understand. Apparently you’re not allowed to kill people while moving or something. Eh?

The third battle was less interesting. We had a sprint-squad to take the middle, reinforced with a few Atlantian bruisers, and it was at least good enough to avoid a repeat of the previous. We attritted down on the right, but by the time we were sweeping them, our left flank had been taken out, and the enemy was moving through our backfield. Atlantia did a nice about-face and ate up the exposed flank.

Ravine – Imagine, if you will, a V-shaped valley: steep sides, low center. Imagine, too, a nice soft carpeting of leaves, just sufficient to reduce your traction while running. Now add to the pile a few hundred overweight, out-of-shape fencers and make them run for a half-hour. Is it any wonder that the two-handers didn’t work out so well?

There were at least three injuries, including one concussion, resulting from those things. Before the battle ended they were banned from the field. Anecdotes suggest the people using them were “throwing” their shots, doing that one-handed lunge bullshit and ruining everyone else’s fun. I am all for a greater diversity of weapons on the field, and I do think two-handers can be used safely, but the evidence continues to mount for requiring a second auth. (And if two-handers are bad, why the hell are we even considering spears??)

Otherwise the Ravine was not particularly interesting. Three flags across the middle, hold ’em as long as you can. Atlantia did what Atlantia usually does: attract all the best enemy fighters. Ansteorra and friends lined up their elites against us on the left, which meant we held “our” flag for about half the time and our allies had “their” flags for just about the whole battle. Were I commanding Ansteorra, I might have done the opposite: line up my elites against the weakest enemy, and let Atlantia stand ten feet in front of its flag for the entire battle.

The usual “form a line across the entire field” thing happened, with the predictable implications for strategy. There were occasional pushes and sweeps, rapidly countered by reinforcements. Nothing definitive or unusual. I broke through their lines a couple times, to absolutely no effect (had I been thinking, I might have tried to take command of their line, but instead I ineffectually interdicted rezzers). If these battles are to be interesting, the field needs to be wider or the rez lines need to be farther away. As it stands, our melees are bridge battles, fought on a single enormous bridge.

About twenty-five minutes in I was feeling a little winded, having run the whole time, and had the interesting experience of catching my breath while on the line. Makes sense – we actually expend a lot less energy while fighting, even against dons and such, than when we run. In other words: cardio should be your backup plan. Plan A is “don’t die”.

There were a couple moments of idiocy (including a duke or knight or something who insisted on “honorable single combat” with another fighter while both were legged), but that’s endemic to Wars, engendering as they do these moments of interkingdom anthropology and self-important windbags.

A note for the gentle reader: melee is rough. Try to be nice, but don’t spend time quibbling with your opponent over a shot. Call it, or don’t, and move on. If you’re not sure, ask briefly. If you’re asked, answer firmly in the positive or negative. Don’t have a drawn-out chat about it – that’s appropriate for the tourney field only, and chatting during a melee makes the fight awkward for everyone around you – do we stab the talking guy, or not? Do we wait for them to sort it out? Are we in a hold or what?

Such was the melee. One would expect something a little more interesting from a major war. One will have to deliver when one runs such a war this fall.

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