Tourney of the Lily   1 comment

The heavies, led by Kevin of Thornbury, took last Saturday to hold a Pas d’Armes, after the 15th Century manner.  Her Excellency being a great fan of a Pas, she decided she wanted to go and make Girard fight for her.  Then she decided she didn’t want to go alone.  So she arranged for some friends to accompany her.  Approximately 15 such friends.  When she asked me, I thought “ErIdunno, iz not fencin’ or nothin’,” until she said “Oh, and it’s a wet site.”  At which point my liver took over for my brain and I began looking forward to an amiable day of sitting under a day shade, watching armored fighters break eachother, and slowly getting pickled.  Good times?  You betcher.

I’ve often mulled over how a Rapier Pas would work.  I think the closest we get is Dante’s “My Pretty Pony” tourney, though even that comes up fairly short compared to how good armored Pas’s do it.  There’s much less emphasis on looking the part, and reference to period competitions.  What I would LOVE to see done (and may do myself one day) is a prize fight after the period style.  Not a prize fight for advancement within the Academie, just a straight up prize fight for, well, a prize: dirty filthy lucre.  The sort of entertainment hosted at the Globe Theater when Shakespeare’s players weren’t tromping up and down the stage yelling “What ho!”  Get four “Ancient Masters” to sponsor it (Aedan, Alan, Geoffrey, and… hmmm… Rosalind); Setup on a stage instead of a list, arrange the crowd around so they can watch; Put the fighters through bouts of various formats, including longsword and quarterstaff (yes, quarterstaff, I can dream); and gather pennies to reward the players.  It’d be pretty spiff.

But for the Tourney of the Lily, I figured on showing up in my Norman garb and borrowing something appropriate to the retinue of Her Excellency Guenievre, and, as I’ve said, getting drunk.  Until Dominyk was granted space, far from prying eyes, for fencing.  His Majesty Vlad is a great fan of the One Army mentality, and desires that we all be ready to go kick ass at Gulf Wars.  To that end, the rapier fighters snuck off into the woods at the Pas to train.  After the procession of fighters for the tournament, I followed the fencers off into the woods, still in my Norman garb.  I made that garb so I could fence in it, especially with my spectra jacket on underneath, so I figured I’d do that and not stand out too much while around the list field.

And so we trained

I got down to the rapier fighting with a few minutes to warm up before the first scenario started.  I played with Mattheu a bit, and realized my 30” in my left hand was hanging like a dead fish.  So I switched to dagger, and was a bit better but not much.

The first scenario was a 3-on-2, rotating in fighters as they died.  It went pretty roughly at first, though communication started to help clear that up (“I need a 2” “Dead 3!”  “3 coming up on your left”).  Even with the vocal communication, though, there was a certain amount of a lack of attentiveness that I found surprising and a bit disheartening.  People standing at the front of the line to go in would not notice that a fighter had just died, or know which team he was part of, and would mill about in confusion.  It got aggravating.  it’s not like they were being surprised with the situation: they knew they were at the front of the line, knew they should be keeping track of who was on which team, and knew they should replace whichever of those people stepped out dead.  Field awareness, people!  It starts with you!

The other great pet peeve of mine that was in full view for the whole world was a simple failure to capitalize on numerical superiority.  It was 3 on 2.  One side always had the numerical advantage.  But rarely did they press it.  Even when one of the 2 would die, the 3 would be slow to jump the remaining fighter, usually giving sufficient time for the reinforcements to come up.  I think one of the major weaknesses we need to work on, as a kingdom, is programming in the ability for two fighters to roll over a single without hesitation.  That can be done at the smallest practice, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t.  Of course, I haven’t been keeping up on that with the Kberg lads.  Atlantian Badassery starts at home…

Another phenomenon of the scenario that was, I think, unexpected was the fate of legged fighters.  If the 2 legged a 3, they suddenly had numerical equality if they could move the fight away from the legged fighters.  This led to legged fighters sitting through a couple of rotations before the marshal’s would tap them to go rez.

Through all of this, my fighting was half-assed and somewhere below my B game, possibly in the C-minus game range.  I hadn’t eaten more than two nutrigrain bars that day, hadn’t had any caffeine, and my smooth-soled Norman ankle boots were useless for traction.  Of course, these could just be excuses, but I figured I’d eliminate them and see how much blame I had to take on my own shoulders.  I snuck off to the center of the Pas, nabbed coffee from the Autocrat, food from Her Excellency (who prepared a light sideboard repast, of some dozen or so plates, with help from Nikulai and Lukas, and a couple others who I can’t remember), and swapped my ankle boots for my Chuck Taylors.  Because if you’re going to violate the period appearance rule, violate it in style.

Three on Threes

When I got back, the scenario had switched to a 3-on-3 bearpit, with the 3s forming at random before they went in.  This simulated the usual situation: You come back from rez point with two random people, and have to act like a unit.

Here I noticed a couple of other things: Fighters tended to bunch too much, ending up with elbows or bodies or feet interfering.  Alternately, a quickly sliding unit was usually successful in stringing out the other team, leaving exploitable gaps between the fighters.

And I identified an opportunity for a Wistric rule, but only in the last fight: Wounds were retained, but dead fighters could rez back.  So at one point, Dom, Ilaria, and I were a three person team, and she lost an arm.  Dom died, and came back the next round, but Ilaria’s arm didn’t.  There was an incentive there for Ilaria to kill herself just as the last fighter from the other team was killed, or before the hold was called.

This wrapped quickly and we shifted to a larger field for larger team fighting.

7 on 7-ish

The MoL sign-in list for this event contained around 8 Provosts, 4 or 5 Free Scholars, and 4 or 5 scholars.  It was a spectacularly impressive list that I would have feared at a tournament.  Luckily, we were just training for melee.  Given the problems mentioned above, it may seem that we needed the training.  But in truth, it was a much more intense group of fighters than I believe I have ever encountered at any melee event, and we were able to force the sorts of errors that were occurring through the aggregate weight of skill available.

In the field melees, then, we were split as equally as possible into teams roughly of 7 (and, actually, what turned out were two really well balanced teams; one was a bit more leggy, the other a bit more stabby) and sent to do our fighting.

The fights broke pretty evenly, and again we were able to attempt strategies that could not be done with the more usual turnout.   When we noticed the flank opposite mine breaking off as a unit and leaving a gap, I jumped in front of them and died slowly while the next two fighters burst through the gap into the enemy backfield.  In a more common setting, the woods after a couple of resurrections, say, there just is not that confidence in the abilities of the fighters on either side of you to make such a maneuver a valid tactic.  Even when the scenario limited reaction time to just as the enemy started their charge (no communication, no movement until they crossed a certain point about fifteen feet from our line) the fighters just cooperated beautifully.

At one point, with this limited communication and reaction time, Dante gave a single order as the units engaged:  “Pick them up!”  Afterward, Master Alan asked about the order, and why Dante thought so vague an order would be effective.  “Well, I knew that Wistric and Mattheu would do the same thing they always do, and the fighters next to me would stay with me, and that the fighters on our left flank would understand it meant for them to pick up the enemy flankers.”   Master Alan asked the fighters if they’d understood it to mean that, and their reply was, “Well… yeah.  That’s why we did it.”  Again, nothing like being surrounded by fighters with a clue.

Of course, all this skill and equality resulted in total slaughter.  At one point, when the surviving team had three fighters left, Master Alan suggested we work at having a greater portion of fighters survive.  So, of course, just about everybody died the next two times.  I think both sides had the completely wrong reaction to the idea of staying alive.  Aggression was stepped up even more than its already high level.  I think that got everybody killed in riskier attacks, but I can’t say that I see a more defensive, less aggressive posture as being more  survivable.  My Atlantian Brain just can’t get out of “The way to stay alive is to kill them all faster!”  Any ideas?

Line Breaking the Jimmy and Alan Way

After all that, we worked on line breaking.  Specifically, having a strong fighter at the weakest point on the enemy’s line sweep blades and attack forward, supported by the fighters on either side.  Assuming that point man is going to die, but his victim will, too, he now leaves a gap (by dying down and away).  His wingmen push in on the edges of the gap, forcing it open wider, and stay there until the rest of the army can run into the backfield.  Maybe even push the line back on itself.

This is similar to the “How to break into a house” we practiced at Tournoi de Grande Amitie, with one fighter sweeping blades down so that the other two can attack over him and kill the defenders.  Of course, that sort of approach can also get you yelled at (sorry about that, Tony!).  Pulling the Jimmy and Alan thing can, too, but so long as it’s done truly safely, any perception of danger on anybody else’s part is their own damn problem.

And then it ended

Court was quick, feast was excellent, Corby got good and drunk, so did I, and then sleep happened.

Posted November 18, 2009 by wistric in Events

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