Team Division and Rationale

A few years ago, when I was lamenting the repeatedly unbalanced state of the melees I was attending, I decided to develop a method for dividing sides so that they would be equal in practical terms, and not merely on paper. Merely alternating White Scarves can sometimes work out OK, but that can also create some very uneven skill distributions. If you want uneven teams, go to Pennsic; when I’m RMICing something, I want the teams to be balanced so people can fight without the frustrations of a lopsided drubbing.

The way this works is that everyone forms a line, and then takes one step forward each time something in the list applies to them. At the end of the list, the RMIC starts at the forward-most person and moves down the group, assigning people as necessary. Usually, the RMIC needs to pay attention to balancing the first six to eight people (1, 4, 6, and 7 versus 2, 3, 5, and 8, for example) and everyone after that can be divided randomly. Those first 20% are usually the impact players, and stacking the two highest “scores” on the same team can be significant.

Here’s the list:

Baronial Rapier Champion (per year)
Kingdom Rapier Champion (per reign)
Baronial Fighting Award
AoA Level Fighting Award
Free Scholar/Closed Order of l’Academie d’Espee
Shark’s Tooth (per)
Vexillium Atlantiae (per)
GoA Level Fighting Award
PoA Level Fighting Award
5+ years of SCA rapier experience
10+ years of SCA rapier experience
Won a tournament
Won 10+ tournaments
Won 50+ tournaments
Won the Atlantian 5-Man Melee (per)
Run a mile in 10 minutes
Run 5K in 30 minutes
Feel good enough to run another 5K afterward
5+ years of a mainstream sport that involves field awareness (soccer, field hockey, not cross country)

I’ve added in some commentary below as to how I came up with these. Obviously, several of the items are kingdom-specific, so make whatever changes will make it work for you.

Baronial Rapier Champion (per year)
Kingdom Rapier Champion (per reign)

I included these because, while they are not strictly based on skill, they do indicate a degree of investment in fencing that not everyone demonstrates. Not all champions are world-beaters, but all champions are reasonably prominent members of the community who have some renown.

Baronial Fighting Award
AoA Level Fighting Award
Free Scholar/Closed Order of l’Academie d’Espee
Shark’s Tooth (per)
Vexillium Atlantiae (per)
GoA Level Fighting Award
PoA Level Fighting Award

These are all more or less prowess awards, each representing either individual skill, team skill, or a propensity to do very noticeable, heroic things. They seemed like an obvious inclusion, but as I said before, these alone will not make balanced teams.

5+ years of SCA rapier experience
10+ years of SCA rapier experience

Experience counts for a lot. No one tracks the number of melees they’ve been in, but everyone knows their join date. Time with a sword in hand is irreplaceable.

Won a tournament
Won 10+ tournaments
Won 50+ tournaments
Won the Atlantian 5-Man Melee (per)

Tournament performance is an undeniable and objective metric of skill. If you win things, you’re at minimum good enough to win them, and everyone else wasn’t. Again, obvious, but a meaningful point nonetheless. I stopped at 50 because while I can name a few people in the 50+ realm, myself included, it would be all the same people taking any further steps forward at 75 or 100. If you’ve won 50, you’re consistent enough.

Run a mile in 10 minutes
Run 5K in 30 minutes
Feel good enough to run another 5K afterward

All else being equal, cardio is king. A lower skilled group of athletes will destroy a superior force of fat smokers if the battle lasts long enough.

5+ years of a mainstream sport that involves field awareness (soccer, field hockey, not cross country)

It’s safe to say that most of my field awareness came from 10 years of soccer, and not so much from practicing or participating in SCA melee.

Every time I have used this method of dividing teams, fights have been as close as numerically possible given whatever scoring system is in place, so if your objective is to make sure that people have a good, competitive fight, I strongly recommend it.

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