Wistric’s Pennsic AAR


The warpoint plan was that rapier and heavy would fight the same scenarios (mostly) on the same day, which held promise of the back-to-back woods battles, one of the best endurance tests I’ve ever encountered.  Monday was the day for field battles!


The Queen’s Spears rallied up, 8-10 in number.  Duke Vlad was tasked with handling the left flank guard and the Spears fell in with him.  Atlantia would go forward and turn right, so the flank guard would form a skirmish line to cover the kingdom’s backside against inevitable counter-charges.

I took the Mean Stick (7.5’ laminated rattan) and trotted forward in formation.  In the first go I found myself off Vlad’s right shoulder.  There’s nothing like a tall knight to draw fire, so fighters repeatedly charged him, exposing their left sides to me and the Mean Stick.  I scored the bulk of my kills just by chopping kidneys and heads as they ran past.  I wasn’t completely successful at keeping Vlad alive, and he died eventually to a spear, I think.  After a while the enemy had nothing left to throw at us so we advanced through them, turned left, and pushed their flank.  Eventually I ate a spear myself, but Atlantia had torn such a brutally large hole in the enemy line that it collapsed and we took the first field battle.

The second battle I found myself on the opposite leg of a right angle from Sir Tash.  He was, as Vlad had, receiving charges so I just laid into the flank of the charges and drained their force.  I died a little while later, I think to a charge targeting my portion of the line.

By the third one I was starting to get gassed, but I do remember laying about myself with the Mean Stick to some effect.

The Mean Stick, it should be noted, tends to do all the work for you.  There’s not a lot of give, and she’s got no small amount of mass out at the end.  All you have to do is get it moving.  But getting it moving can be exhausting, and by the fourth I wasn’t good for anything except standing there looking scary.  The fifth I barely got to swing, since some twerp ran down our line smacking people in the face.  Still… cardio.


The effect of going from heavy armor, swinging the Mean Stick, to rapier armor, with the 45”, is what I imagine astronauts feel like when they get into orbit.  You’re weightless, and all your energy returns in a rush.  You go from thinking “I can’t move enough to undress myself” to “I CAN RUN FOREVER!”

Atlantia formed up on the right, then, at the two minute mark, was told they needed to go form up on the left.  So we did.  Turned out, we were going to be the anvil to the Mid’s hammer.  Apparently, there was not confidence in all of our noble allies that we could do this.

We did.

Letia released me to “go run and be wild”, because she knows me and is my friend.  I trotted out to the far left wing and stopped their flanking unit as Atlantia advanced to mid-field.  Atlantia then set its line and hunkered down.  After three or four minutes, I counted up their flanking unit (5 of them) and our flank guard (4 of us).  I did this pointing my dagger.  One of them cottoned on and said “We outnumber them, push!” And then a hold was called.  In the hold, I looked to my right and saw that the hammer had taken three quarters of the field and was marching toward us slowly but steadily.  All we had to do was keep them from getting a break through and evening things out.  So the goal went from “Prevent stuff from happening” to “Make stuff happen” (in this case, destroy the enemy opposite).  At “lay on” they gathered to push so I legged the guy with the big round shield in front of me, and landed a cross shot on the guy to his right.  4 on 4, with one of them legged.  Then it was back to waiting, until a big wall of red tape rolled over the remnants of the blue army in front of us.

The second battle followed the same plan, but they pulled resources to stop the hammer, so Atlantia just kept going forward, squeezed our opposition into a pocket, then turned and ran the entire length of the field to take the rest of the blue tape’s back field.

The third battle we ran across the field.  I was facing a bit of a gap.  Down the line, some Atlantians got into the back field, and I saw a pair of fighters (turns out one of them was Duke “Are You With Me Atlantia?” Konrad) turn to go jump them.  So I went through the gap, neck-shotting the guy to my right, but missed the parry on the guy to my left and ate a shot to the face.  Oh well.  We still won, though this was the closest run of them.  At one point things were pretty dead even, but there was a baronial unit of Scholars that mopped up our end of the line, crunched an OGRe or two, and then hit the rest of the blue tape in the flank.  Not bad work.

In camp afterward, a Mid Realmer said “Atlantia’s performance was really uncharacteristic.”  I asked him what he meant.  He said “You guys are usually the run-and-gun crowd, and you seem to be proud of it, but you held the line really well.”

If it needs clearing up: Atlantia most absolutely and definitely is the run-and-gun crowd.  We train mobility and we train impact.  And we absolutely take pride in this, because rapier is light cav, not heavy infantry.  It’s what makes us decisive.  If you don’t think rapier’s about running, you’re wrong.  That said, when you take an army which likes to run, which fights on its feet, which thinks fast, and which maintains unit cohesion across a hundred yards of field at a dead sprint, and you make it stand still, you haven’t weakened it.  You’ve freed up more of its mental powers for figuring out how it’s going to slaughter whatever comes its way.




Tuesday was supposed to be the woods battles, back to back.  Sadly, because of rain, the ambulances could not get into the woods.  So the planned-for-Thursday heavy bridge and rapier broken field battles were moved to Tuesday, and then the rapier broken field battles were rained out (with an assist from the East Kingdom dragging ass to get started, and Aethelmarc having court scheduled right on the heels of the rapier battle).


There were five battles over five bridges.  15 minutes, no rez.  Atlantia was on the far left, which was blocked from archery or siege, so we could stand with our thumbs up our butts for long periods of time unassailed until we got a chance to get into the fray.

In the first one, Atlantia pretty much went forward at a mosey and received a whooping.  As is our way, the whoopers had to work for it and send in most of their reinforcements against us, but, still, whooping.  Our noble allies were only able to hold two out of five bridges.

So the second one they decided to have a forlorn hope of shieldmen supported by top-end spears (lots of white belts).  Unfortunately, the forlorn hope was not substantial enough, and the top-end spears ended up resisting shield charges until we could get shit sorted out.  I think it was in this one where, once I got up to the line, I had a spearman on my right who was against the edge of the bridge (and therefore safe on half his front).  So I started blocking, and waiting for him to throw, and waiting, and waiting.  He never did, no matter how much blocking I did.  Then, when I was dealing with an attack from my other side, he over-extended a lunge, ate a spear, and by the time I turned back to check on him the enemy spear was headed for my neck.  I was happy, or at least consoled, to see our spearman switch to sword and shield thereafter.  And, yes, a spear is just a long rapier.  This sort of thing should not happen in rapier either.

The third run our forlorn hope was beefed up, and Alric dragged me up to the “top-end spear” rank with him.  Despite my protestations that I in no way meet that definition, he said “I need somebody who can keep me safe”.  So we did that, me blocking, him killing (we were on the far left, so he had the same half-safe front as the guy in the previous fight).  We chewed up the enemy for a while, then fell back, caught our breath, and went back in to do some more work.  The enemy spears attrited hard, so Atlantia launched a column charge, which put the enemy back pressed against itself so it couldn’t move.  I put my spear horizontal, charged, and pushed a couple/few off the bridge, then realized we were at the end of the bridge in a killing cup and tried to bail, but took a shot to the helmet.

Run four went about the same as three.  It may have been in this one that I was on the far right, received a three man column charge, and simply angled my spear so that they ran off the bridge to my right (one threw a shot well after he’d stepped off the bridge and hit me, but fuck that noise).

They all tend to blur together, and I can’t really remember how the fifth went (probably quickly for me, because I’m assuming I had no strength left in my arms after an hour of fighting).  My general impression is that, even with spear, I ended up with more kills by throwing people off the bridge than by actually stabbing them.  But I did finally reach that point (I noticed it on the heavy field battle, too) where the melee around me started to make sense.  In previous years it’s just been wild, unintelligible chaos.

And then they cancelled our rapier battle, and we would only get to have two rapier battles the entire war.  That was some BS.



I marshalled the 5-man, being tuckered out and needing a day off.  It was small (only 16 teams) due to the weather I think, but there was actually good weather the entire tourney.



The woods were still in bad shape, so they decided the heavy and the rapier fighters would fight the broken field scenario on Thursday.


The heavy field was laid out with a series of ruins that I really didn’t pay much attention to.  Scattered through these were six banners. placed in pairs across the field, one half of each pair closer to each rez line, the idea being that each side could secure three easily, and push to steal one of the other side’s three.

Atlantia was given the right hand pair of banners, and the Queen’s Spears were placed out on the right wing of Atlantia to skirmish and protect the flanks of the main battle in what was more or less an open field.  Some hay bales made locally interesting obstacles, but didn’t overall dictate the flow of combat in the area.  There were also some Ansteorran and Trimarian spearmen and a unit of Midrealm shields.  Against that were all the Tuchux.  The day promised to be interesting.

What occurred was a series of Tuchux pushes and charges that drove the skirmishers back, sometimes to the rez line, but never sufficiently penetrated to affect Atlantia’s back field and, once the charges were depleted, rezzing spearmen would push the Tuchux back to or beyond mid-field then stabilize and attrit for a while until the next Tuchux push.

Things started off pretty clean, but there were some ‘chux who clearly had higher calibration standards.  One guy had a ‘grotesque’ face plate whose eye holes I used for point control drills, only to hear “side” in response every time.  He later was clobbered by somebody else and lay on the ground for a minute until he was able to walk back to his rez line.  I can’t help but think these things are related.

Which brings me to the ‘chux reputation.  One of the Meridian fighters who was fighting alongside us told me they were clean.  They weren’t.  They earned their rep.  A ‘chux cracked my rib, with a spear, hitting me in the back, through my pickle barrel armor. No ‘chux took positive pressure spear thrusts to the face, but one bitched that my up-calibration spear to his face was too hard.  Another one shrugged whatever I threw at him, then whiffed on me and asked “Did you feel that?”  ‘Chux used the “3 points of contact doesn’t mean you’re dead, but you should probably take it as a kill” convention among the SCA to their advantage, knocking our fighters down rather than going for a kill.  However, they did not adhere to that convention themselves.  In that article going around on Facebook they claim to be really proud of their armor, but there were guys wearing a black t-shirt and black sweatpants pulled over hockey armor, not a stitch of leather or metal except the helm.  They raise calibration when convenient, expect touch-kill when it serves their purpose, abuse others’ honor to their advantage, and exploit armor loopholes.  Sounds familiar.

At one point, I’ll admit, I was frustrated by this bullshit.  I devised, and announced, a plan to get “as close to marshal’s court as I can with a Tuchux”.  Shortly thereafter, a ‘chux indulged.  We received a charge, he took a number of blows, and I drove him to the ground with my spear shaft.  We stepped back to let the dead out, and he popped back up and rejoined his line, saying he didn’t get hit (and, remember, no 3-point convention for them).  And he immediately charged us again.  I again put my spear across his shield to stand him up, let a few blows land on him, and then pushed him backward.  Since ‘chux like those trashcan lids so much, my spear slid up and, by the time we hit the ground, my spear was against his throat (or gorget, if he bothered with it, not sure).  I asked if he was going to call any of that good.  He started bashing my helm with his basket hilt in response.  The local fighters broke it up and sent him to rez, I trotted back to rez, too (I may have needed to calm down a bit).

I didn’t need him that time (I was totally legal), but other times (like, the time I put a ‘chux over a stack of hay bales when he charged me), I had a guardian marshal standing right behind me, always appearing whenever I was concerned I might have transgressed a rule.  “M’lord marshal, was that okay?” “Yep.”  Same thing happened with the ‘chux who bitched about my face thrust.  “Looked clean to me.”  I should write that dude a thank you note, and hire him to follow me around the battle.

Towards the end of the fight, everybody was worn out and calmed down a bit, and it all got better again.  Atlantia did its job, but the rest of the line was not as steady and we did not win.


You may have noticed a pattern among the heavy battles: Defeat, but by a narrow margin.  Luckily, rapier did not suffer this problem.

The rapier broken field was laid out in three sectors: far left was the open field, with a flag in it.  Center was a broken field (hay bales that mostly served as tripping hazards), with a flag.  And a 20X20 (maybe 30X30?) hay bale “house” on the right with a flag in it.  Beyond the house was a narrow open area to provide access to the house (it was originally supposed to be wider, but they decided to run the siege battle at the same time as the rapier battle, FFS).

Atlantia was tasked with the open field sector.  We formed up on the left and I again drifted out to the far left flank.  And against was arrayed… nothing.  The East left a hundred foot gap between its right flank and the edge of the battlefield, essentially ceding everything to the left of the banner in the open field.  And as Atlantia charged, nothing came out to meet us.  We had reached their rez line and turned right before I came into contact with the enemy.  Atlantia basically formed an L shape with the angle at, or just past, the banner.  I noticed a couple goobs who were dying were trying to rez in our back field, so I drifted back, stabbed them, let them rez, come back out, stabbed them again, and offered that “We could keep doing this all day, if they wanted”.  Unfortunately we couldn’t, because Caitilin decided she didn’t want Atlantia running all the way across the field to rez, and called us back (I think we could have done it.  Remember, we like to run, though that may or may not be a good thing).

Somewhere in there I noticed the new tip on my blade was at a bad angle so I went back to rez, removed the tape, found out it had a little split on the side, and re-taped.  By the time I got finished with that, Atlantia was in a stable (and basically unmovable, like, for the rest of the 90 minutes) line in front of our banner.  The center banner was the enemy’s, though, so I headed that way to help out, we pushed, and got the banner.  I think I died this time, and when I came back from rez we still had the left two banners (with, I noticed, a strong Atlantian contingent holding the center banner, meaning, yeah, half the field was Atlantia’s).  I joined up with Connor and another guy to go work on softening the defenses on the last banner, the one in the house, or tower, or whatever it was.

So let’s talk about this tower.  Like I said, it was maybe 20 by 20, with two entrances.  There were a good 40 people inside, which meant double and triple deep killing cups defending those two entrances.  In addition to that, the No Man’s land between the two lines was centered on those entrances, meaning any attack was charging not so much into a killing cup, as a killing ladle.  The side facing the other banners was bad, but apparently the opposite side was even worse due to the dense packing due to the narrowness of the access path.  There were a lot of blind shots, hard shots, uncontrolled charges, and people getting pushed over hay bales.  There were 5 medical holds, most of them from around the house.  I don’t think I’ve seen that many medical holds on the rapier field in all ten years of Pennsics (missed 2) that I’ve been to, combined.  The field layout was poorly designed.

Connor and I nibbled at the entrance to the doorway, weakened it a bit, I died, and when I came back our side had taken the house, and held it for most of the rest of the battle.

started drifting, looking for holes that needed plugging, or weak spots in the enemy line that could be exploited.  There were times even where I came back from rez and had nowhere that needed me, so I just hung out in the back field until something looked interesting or Caitilin ordered me somewhere.

Remember the thing about the Tuchux cracking my rib?  And the 90 minute heavy battle?  That was all an hour before the rapier battle.  Not only was I exhausted, I was in pretty constant pain.  Moving hurt.  So I didn’t.  At least, no more than absolutely necessary.  Every action had to kill, which meant a lot of one-shots.  Somebody actually complimented my fighting because of it.  Which leads to my best advice from the day: Break a rib, you’ll fight better.



I got my brakes fixed so I could drive home the next day, missing the heavy fort battle, but I didn’t really feel a desire to go into a meat grinder like that.

Despite losing the war (by, rumor has it, the amount of points that Rapier would have won if we’d had a third battle) it was a pretty good one.  I mean, I wasn’t the one who broke an ankle or got concussed in the Stupid House.  It probably sucked for those people.  But I got to fight as much as I wanted to, and the Monday after found myself extremely grumpy and twitchy, missing war more than I ever had previously.

How was your war?

4 comments to Wistric’s Pennsic AAR

  • Tibbie Croser

    My war was…mixed. Off the field, Jeff and I were inducted into the household of Clan Cambion. On Monday, I fought in the Thugs for Jugs, going 0 and 3. Next day, I asked Master Chris to sponsor me for the Cadet Tournament, which I’ve never fought in before. He very kindly lent me his Laurel medallion as a token to carry. I went 0 and 2, but the fights were close and I didn’t feel outclassed (I have to fight White Scarves and Gold Scarves every week at practice, and my opponents were not nearly at that level). Had the format been best of 3 passes instead of a single pass per bout, I probably would have done a little better. Wednesday, in the 5-Man Melee, Jeff and I, two other Storviki, and a guy from another kingdom fought as Valhalla or Bust. We lost all our bouts but put up decent fights against tough teams. I kept dying quickly, but I like to think it was because I was being aggressive and actually threatening my opponents. Thursday, I finally hit my fighting stride for the War, thanks to the Blood of Heroes 5-man rapier tourney run by the Black Tigers. I got kills and took limbs. For the Ruins rapier battle, I voluntarily spent much of my time on either the left or center flag. From behind the line, I could see the field much better and shout for reinforcements when needed. The center flag certainly became exciting; I died at least twice defending the flag, and I felt exhilarated when the final cannon went off while my hand was on the flag. That evening, to my immense surprise, I was the first person called up in Atlantian Court, to receive a pretty scroll with the words “Sea Dragon.”

  • Terasu

    There is a quote in the Seven Samurai that I tell people when we train in melee: “War is about running. When you can no longer run, it is time to die.”

    My war was pretty busy. Leading Stierbach’s forces as the Baronial Champion, trying to make every war point for rapier and Archery, and having time for family and friends.

    Sunday: Poker Card Tourney: This was a bear pit style tourney. Loser stayed while winner got a new card. After three losses, the pit was cleared and both fighters got a card. You can only hold seven cards before discarding. Bumi won this was a Fullhouse, queen high. I took third with a Fullhouse, 6 high. He got the price, his choice of beers from Michigan, which I would have given to him anyway since I don’t drink beer.
    I was chosen as an alternate for the melee team which was an honor. I didn’t get to fight, but it was great to be there to support those who did. And of course, we won. Worst part of that, sitting near some Royals who were not happy to have to watch the Rapier Champions, and listening to them vocalize this.

    Monday: Thugs for Jugs. This was a fun tourney. I did well, beat a black tiger, lost to a different black tiger. Made it to the second part of the tourney where they combined the four pods. I was then taken out by Brian DeMoray. I made a choice to use my war fan against him. He rushed, I had my blade on him for a draw cut, he stabbed me with his dagger first. Next time…don’t use the war fan against someone who is willing to charge, that or learn to stab them better…I’ll go for stab them better. Fan are cool.
    On the Field battles, things went pretty much the same as Wistric said. From my angle, Stierbach consisted of over 20% of Atlantia’s forces. We had over 50% of our forces remaining after every field battle, including the third battle when it came down to about 25 people or so. I didn’t realize it was that close until one of the last holds when I got a chance to look around. The most memorable thing I remember on that battle was the fighter who broke engagement to me by turning his back and running away. I suppose he noticed I had reinforcements coming to join me, but he bolted thinking he could outrun me. I ran him down while the Marshals were screaming, “Don’t stab him in the back!” Once he turned to face me I took his blade and stabbed him with my dagger while running past. This, of course, got me a warning from the marshals for a running attack while the recently deceased dead fighter died dramatically, which actually made it look like I jacked him too hard as I ran past. He was fine of course. All in all, I am glad I survived all three battles.

    Tuesday: Disappointing to lose the woods battle. This irritated me. In the evening though we had Lord Effingham’s memorial service at Stierbach’s camp. This was a nice event to remember someone who was very important to the Japanese culture within the SCA.

    Wednesday: Atlantian 5 man. Being on Celric’s team, we opened up really hard. 3-0 and things looked promising. This team of Celric, Connor(Celric’s son), Brian De Moray, Collin McNabb, and myself has promise. This was a quickly formed team with little experience working together. Our fourth match went horribly wrong. There was some issues with the other team that caused a demoralizing loss. I feel this affected our drive and we never recovered. We has a nice match against Caitilin’s Furies, but we lost the rest of our matches. Most of which, we should not have. Mental state is a thing.

    The Rose Tourney was fun as usualy. I get to meet really nice people on the best of their behavior because…everyone is watching. Being a fighters who likes to be dramatic and who tends to stick out, this tournament is one of my favorite so far. It is also Bedford Points, which is fun too. I got to fight for Duchess Carrie(forgive the spelling)who was not in attendance. My first fight was with the gentleman who wont the Thugs for Jugs Tournament. Where the fight was drawn out and I had him out of breath, he took both wins. I went on a killing spree after that defeating a case user, a two handed sword user, which ended up with Ilaria and I meeting up for a rematch of Ruby Joust except this time, she had my number. She took both passes as I decide to save those fights in my mental hard drive for the future. After that, another killing spree as I sweep my next two opponents until I came to a fighter named Cristophe. We had a heated, high velocity, match that resulted in two double kills. We died laughing because it was just…fun. I will say that it was nice to have Roses stop me just to give me tokens because they enjoyed my armor.
    I tried to make it to the Baronial Champion’s Tourney but I was too late. My Baron and Baroness understood and was shooting on the Champion’s team for Atlantia for archery and couldn’t attend.
    We had Stierbach’s court this evening where my wife received the Silver Compass for Art and Sciences for her painting of her archery shoots and I received the Saint Roche for service for my work marshalling rapier, archery, and my position as Knight Marshal for the Canton of Sudentorre.

    Thursday: Broken Field Battle. After helping set up the field and getting hay in my hakama, (hay in my hakama…fun to say), Caitilin and I knew the “House” was going to be ugly. Stierbach, having the most numbers, was tasked with holding the edge of the open field and the broken field line, in between the left and middle flag. Not confidant in the mid’e ability to cover our flank, I anticipated to be hit from the front and left flank, expecting high casualties. Caitilin gave us the additional forces of Windmaster’s Hill and Storvik, putting our numbers at around 20 or so. We hit the flag at Celric’s saunter pace and met…no resistance. We took the flags immediately, pushed our line forward to cover the Mid’s flank and started to form a L to cut off any attempts to establish a structured resistance. Once the line was stable, it became crowded as we reduced the line of engagement, people were freed up to go “play” as Atlantian’s are known for doing. They had a couple of pushes, most of which were shut down quickly or stopped completely. Couple of people broke into the back field, 20 yards past the flags and just being silly…or something. We dispatched them while wondering if they were lost. All of the Holds and EMS situations started to get annoying. People were pushing themselves, and others, way too hard and did not properly condition themselves for this physical environment. Constant heat exhaustion emergency situations at a crazy…78 degrees. 78 degrees? Seriously? These people would have died at an Atlantian event in July. The “house” forced confined bottlenecks and killing cups that left the maker’s of The Battle of La Rochelle envious. People making stupid decisions trying to force a win because the War Points were very close. This even lead onto the Heavy field the next day where I was told there were 8 Marshal Courts. Attitude adjustments all around.

    Friday: We went home. All in all, it was a decent War. Much better than last year to be certain, but honestly, Pennsic isn’t home to me. I prefer Atlantia where I am free to run, play with people who understand melee, understand that certain people are the problem, not the equipment they use. Pennsic just gives me a greater appreciation for Atlantia.

  • Tibbie Croser

    Regarding conditioning, part of the reason I voluntarily stayed with a flag in Thursday’s field battle was that it allowed me to regain breath while still doing something useful. While ideally every Atlantian fighter would be in top aerobic condition to run for an hour, in reality we have fighters with a range of ages and physical conditions, some of whom fight with the rapier army only at Pennsic or Gulf Wars. My desire is that commanders would assign people to roles that suit them: put slower fighters on a static line or a flag and assign the zippy people to run all over the place. I believe that every fighter can be useful to the army, but in different ways.

    On another note, Terasu, I understand what you say about fighting in Pennsic versus fighting in Atlantia. However, I myself have a different reaction. I enjoy being able to fight alongside all the tremendous Atlantians who are usually crushing me on the field back in Atlantia. The battles feel much more special when I’m part of the Atlantian rapier army.

  • Terasu

    You know your limitations on the field Tibby. You know when your body is telling you to take a break. Knowing the physical conditioning that is required to fight melee on any field, people should have taken precautions not to be a danger to oneself or someone else. You train melee 3x more than the majority of Pennsic fighters, you understand this. They do not which was why there were seven EMS situations. None of them were Atlantians or caused by an Atlantian. I understand with age comes limitations, I am pushing 40 soon myself and the mileage is catching up to me, but with this knowledge I work out more and train harder to not to hurt my friends. We cannot all be like Benjamin, but we are expected not to put ourselves or others in unnecessary danger through our own neglect.

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