Wistric’s Weekly Warfare 25: Town Battles

 As I’ve mentioned, there is no greater rush on the melee field than the first clash in the woods.  But given my druthers, I’d rather fight a town battle.  While a woods battle is chock full of visceral rushes, no setting is more rewarding to a practiced melee fighter than a town battle.  Here, your ability to fight in a line and hold ground means you end up holding the house and, presumably, the goal.  Here, to, your ability to keep track of multiple fighters swirling around you is the difference between holding your house and getting your small unit DFB’d to oblivion.  And here, also, your ability to see a field and see unprotected paths is rewarded by ending up in the enemy’s backfield, DFB’ing their lines into oblivion.  Also, the ability to run away very quickly becomes a real life saver.

And now, it’s another satisfying cup of STORY TIME WITH WISTRIC!

Pennsic ‘06

The largest town battle I’ve ever been in was, as one might guess, Pennsic.  And the field looked like this:

Pennsic 36 Town Battle Map

Pennsic 36 Town Battle Map

Don’t be fooled by all the right angles, they didn’t really exist.  Also I think they cut down the number of houses by a few, but only a few.  East, Atlantia, and Aethelmarc entered from the left, Mid entered from the bottom.  Atlantia was assigned the task of being the wall that the Mid had to go through.  We ended up in a line running from the left hand entry gate through that big cross-shaped building and all the way to the far end, pretty much right at the level of that 75’ line.  Some of the East had our right flank, so that portion of the line actually pushed down pretty much in line with that diagonal external wall (which wasn’t actually there).  The line across the field wasn’t really one line, then, it was actually 15-20 separate lines, each holding a doorway or an alley or half of a house.  And if one of those lines failed, suddenly there was a hole in the entire front that had to be plugged.  Here’s where field awareness came in.

After the first lay-on, everybody was rezzing through the Atlantian gate, not that one in the top left corner.  When they came pouring back through that gate, they almost invariably ran straight at the nearest enemy, who would be down in those houses numbered 23 and 21.  There was a line five deep waiting to get in there and fight.  Meanwhile, holes opened up on the far end of the field with nobody to reinforce them.  Gaston was standing at the gate yelling “Rez in 3s” and pointing people towards a target, and Alejandro standing halfway in the field, on a hay bale, directing traffic, and there was still the 5 deep line of people who couldn’t think past “Stab the enemy”.  Remember what I said about orders to fighters?  Yeah, they really are single-minded, if that.  Rez quickly, but don’t stop thinking on your way back from rez point.  Look around the field before jumping in to action.  And if you’re the traffic cop, you may have to grab people physically to get them pointed in a different direction.

Once you’re ambling across the field, away from the scrum, you start to see things.  Like, “Hey, there are three guys fighting three guys in House 5, and three guys fighting three guys in House 2, but the alley between them is ENTIRELY undefended.”  And the brain starts clickin.

One of my FAVORITE memories of that fight, though, other than looking at the back of about fifty enemy masks over the course of the battle, was actually a mistake on my part (and slightly on the allies’ part).  I was over between House 3 and House 14, and the line I was the right end of got pressed.  Somebody in the line was calling “Fall back”, so I did, right until I realized I was backed up against a hay bale.  I was trying to work my way off the hay bale while fighting about the time a hold was called.  “Hmmm,” thinks I, and looks around.  The wall I’m against ends about five feet away.  The enemy has three fighters focused on me.  The person who was yelling in my line shouts “Don’t you wish you listened to orders?”  Not particularly endearing, but hey, she’d stranded me against a wall, so whatevs.  Realizing that I had a Spike on my mask, and the enemy didn’t, I determined to take their charge nobly.  At the call of “Fencers to your guards”, I took a great big Provost Stomp towards them and raised my case of swords ready to deal death until they should squeeze my last breath from me.  And at “Lay On” I ran like a little girl.  Made it, too.  And I got to kill the snarky Easterner at another war, but that’s another story.

Night on the Town ‘08

Night on the Town is an excellent rapier-only melee event up in Maryland that tends to be either mainly woods scenarios or mainly town scenarios.  ’08 was a town year, fought around (but not in) the site’s sleeping cabins.  Without the use of the insides of the cabins, there were no take-and-hold the house type victor conditions.

Goals were instead around moving items from one end of the site to the other, and the day concluded with an 1+ hr long rez battle.   In this final scenario, the two enemy armies formed a line between the sleeping cabins and a steep drop off, and generally set about standing there killing each other.  But, the whole site was available, so some fighters ended up sparring on the other side of the sleeping cabins.  And when there weren’t enemy fighters over there, the entire enemy backfield was open.  Eventually, I’d head that way, come around a corner, and find another fighter hiding in wait for me.  There’d be a yell of “My lord!”  And “Huh?!” does count as engagement.  Hooray for fighting around actual walls!

House Battles

Usually “towns” are just a series of houses to grab and hold.  That’s really pretty easy:

To hold a house you get in the house, then you put two people in the doorway or a three person cup inside the doorway, and when anybody tries to squeeze through the doorway you stab them while their movement is still constrained

To take a house is slightly less easy.  First, you need a minion.  The minion should, as all good minions (and really all good fencers), understand that he may not be there for the celebratory afterparty, but that his memory will be toasted by the survivors.  The minion’s job is to fall on the enemy swords, sweeping them down towards the ground with his own blades and, if necessary, his body.  The minion-shaped hole in the enemy defense should be filled by your own attack IMMEDIATELY.

Then you have the house, and you form your cup, and wait for them to try the same attack on you.

Improvements to be made

The great flaw of all town battles is their construction.  Standing at the Atlantian Gate at the Pennsic Town Battle, you could see clear across the field, because it was made of hay bales with ribbon stretched between them.  No fighting over the walls, of course, but they weren’t exactly opaque.  And that’s generally how all town and house battles work.

I’d much rather see houses constructed of six-foot tall PVC frames with sheets hung from the beams, maybe propped up on hay bales to defeat tall SOBs.  Expensive, yes-ish (Say, 50 bucks a house?  Maybe less), but I would pay to fight on that field, and I bet most other fans of melee would, too.  Because that would be intense.  “I hear footsteps, oh look this guy just jumped out of a doorway at me!”

At Sapphire Joust ’08 we were running woods melees, with a sheet-walled house in the middle.  Two people could hold one doorway of the house, but they couldn’t know if they were being flanked, so a third person was needed to guard the rear entrance.  Of course, unbeknownst to anybody inside, that rear could be rushed and the entire house wiped out, until they rezzed and avenged their defeat through the same means.  Also, jumping into the house meant going into an unknown situation.  It could be empty, it could have six of the enemy in there, it could be the middle of a really confused scrum (as happened more than once).  My entire job that day was to command from the rear, and I’m usually good at staying out of the fight, but the fun of fighting in that house was just too much for me to stay out of it.  And a whole town just like that?  Ohhhhhhhh baby…

3 comments to Wistric’s Weekly Warfare 25: Town Battles

  • Girard

    The heavies “won” that town battle, for some value of “win”. At least we got the points. Atlantia entered from the bottom on for the heavies, and our job was to run to the port section and hold it. That we did, while the rest of the allies were supposed to sweep through the town – which they did poorly. However, nobody could bring their sacks (of gold) to the port except through us.

    That said, that was the battle that I took some heavy siege engine damage in, and an Atlantian Knight was browned out by one.

    • How well do armored fighters handle town battles, in general? Are towns conducive to armored tactics? As I recall the hay bales basically vanished for a lot of that town battle.

  • Dreya

    I’m going to argue with the idea of a $50 house being expensive (I know, I know – *I*, of all people, don’t think $50 is expensive?!). Here’s why:

    Say you use PVC. You’d have to test to see what size had the proper amount of stability, but I don’t think you’d have to go as wide as 4″ diameter. 3″ or maybe even 2″ could work. You’d want them at least 7′ long, to fuddle those stinkin’ tall people. 6′ of the pole would be above ground, with the remaining 12″ sunk into 12″ ‘sockets’ of a slightly wider pvc that could be pounded into the ground. Use a 3-way T hub at every corner and run pvc between the posts on top for even greater stability. Get some cheap flat sheets (or plain fabric, if it’s cheaper) and stitch a tube at the top to slide over the pvc, like a curtain rod. Blammo, you have a house.

    A quick search of homedepot.com showed 10′ lengths of 2″ pvc coming in at $4 each. T-hubs are <$0.50. Depending on how much the fabric for the walls cost, you should still be coming in well under $50. A well-constructed house should last quite a long time; the only thing you'd end up having to replace would be the sheet.

    If you wanted to be even cheaper, you might look into using some bamboo instead of pvc; I've heard you can cut it for free in some places. The advantage of pvc is that you won't have to worry about it splintering if it bends/breaks, plus it's totally weatherproof.

    Now it seems to me that a barony ought to be able to find enough in its pockets to make an investment that would last far longer than any haybale. But if purse strings are tight, why not ask a canton to 'sponsor' a building, or part of one? Then the sponsoring canton could have their blazon painted on the side of the house. This would look hella awesome.

    Of course, I don't know a thing about how funding projects works in the SCA, so I don't know how feasible actually doing this would be. But if I had a spare $50 kicking around, I'd probably think pretty hard about making a house just to see how well it would work.

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