Drums of War   1 comment

Saturday, Letia and I trekked out to Elchinburg Castle for Drums of War.  For a small event, it was pleasantly surprising, especially in the larger-than-expected turnout (predicted 14, got about 20).  A number of Windies made the drive over, including a couple from Attillium, Philippo and Adelric, and Gawin, Adam, and Percy, and a couple of former Windies, Miguel and Wilhelm, also turned out.

The Heat, the goddamn heat

By the time we got there, around 10:30, the heat was already excruciating, especially combined with evaporation-deadening humidity.  The heat this year has come on suddenly, jumping 10-15 degrees in less than a week, meaning that acclimatization has not happened as successfully as in years past.  It jumped 5 degrees from Friday to Saturday alone.

In prep for the two hour woods battle, there’s a current movement on to drag the fencing community into a state of Spartan-like fitness, kicking and screaming, so the day involved lots of grandiose plans for long rez battles (the initial plan was a 30 minute rez field battle).  My fitness level is not nearly up to that yet, and damn few other people there were as well along as me.  So plans changed.

What actually happened

We ended up running two 10 minute rez field battles.  Rez field battles are always interesting, at least to me, because the field is usually smaller than anything else we fight on, and the lack of terrain obstacles requires large numbers to hold a front.  Added to this were “co-ed” rez points at every corner of the field, so that any front that did get established still had to worry about opponents rezzing in front of them, behind them, and on either flank.  I wonder

Of course, there had to be stupid questions, which led to “No suicide” and “No friendly fire”.  What stupid rules.   I have this strange recollection that we’re out here trying to stab each other with sharps as best we can.  Weird little game rules like that move us to LARP.  I hate LARP.  If I wanted LARP I’d LARP.  War of the Wings’s convention set is going to be beautiful, clean, and efficient, and I shall have fun with the stupid questions.  Yes, yes I shall.  I also need to remember that you can bleed out from a wound; death is not always immediate.

The second half of the day was split between two gate battles practiced in the woods, and two capture-the-flag battles in the woods, one 10 minutes, the other 15 minutes.

The First Field Battle

The attendees were divided between those going to Pennsic, and those not going to Pennsic.  Those going to Pennsic included the three provosts fighting, as well as Caitlin, Letia, Miguel, Gawin, and a few others.  Those not going to Pennsic numbered two more than the Pennsic Team, and included 9 scholars and me.  I looked around for somebody to put in charge, and realized there just weren’t any options.  Half of the team were melee novices (some authorized that day).  So it fell to me.

Now, I will take 9 Atlantian scholars against any foreign unit, and leave the foreigners tasting their own testes.  But 9 Atlantian scholars, and me, against 8 Atlantians of extensive fighting skill and experience, well, I start to wonder what my own testes are going to taste like.

I started off by having everybody pair up, basically implementing the buddy system.  I had this grand vision of it helping to enforce Wistric’s first and second rules, but then I forgot to actually mention those rules to the scholars.  Shit.  They later said they had no idea why I made them pair up.  Oops.

We fought the ten minutes during which a few issues showed up.  The “rally” call and the “fall back” call were not universally obeyed, resulting in unnecessary deaths due to stranding.  I talked with some of these fighters later and they said they heard, but didn’t feel they could break engagement and return.  So we have a new skill to work on, breaking engagement.  That I hadn’t recognized its necessity as a skill before surprises me.  One of the great traps that gets fighters killed is focusing in on your fight at hand.

There was also a failure to press localized numerical advantage.  This especially hurt us when we’d end up with 4 on 1 (since scholars tend to be like a pack of dogs and swarm together rather than watching out for each other) and letting the opponent stall us.  I think I’ve got a set of good drills to work on what to do once you have numerical advantage, but the acquisition of numerical advantage without over-committing is a more nuanced skill that’s still absolutely necessary.  So we’re going to add No Swarming to the list of skills to develop.

On the other hand, when working in small (3-4 fighter) units, the Un-Pennsics did a great job of sticking together and supporting each other.  Also, over the course of the battle, their communication level increased noticeably, and throughout the rest of the day, too.

The Second Field Battle

For the second run through, Letia swapped over so she could get some practice commanding more than just Kappellenfechters.  She almost always has one of the sides during melee practice at Kberg, but that’s an easy job: She knows everybody on both teams, knows what they’re going to do, knows how they fight.  Commanding Kappellenfechters is really just as easy as saying “You know what to do”.  But at Pennsic, non-Kappellenfechters may show up to fight with Windmasters, or the plan of the day may not include massive violent confrontation, or other fighters/units may get combined with Windmasters.  Commanding a major chunk of southern Atlantia carries all sorts of extra problems with it, and Drums of War provided the chance to get Letia inured to them.

It did not start well.  She provided instructions to half of the army, of a vague and single-task variety, without encompassing the whole of the unit or of the battle.  At “lay on” we advanced and engaged.  Somewhere in here, I remembered what Roz did for me a few King’s Assessments ago when she was training me up to fight, standing behind me and providing advice.  So as I moved from one end of the line to the other to fend off flankers, I paused a few times to make suggestions to Letia.  There was only once where I pulled command back into my own hands, and that briefly, because we’d gotten pinned up against the edge of the world (our fighters were regularly retreating to their deaths), and I didn’t think I had time to actually explain the plan and why it was a good idea at the time (“charge like hell straight up the middle, rally on the far side of the field”).  Three legged enemy fighters were left stranded, our own fighters who died in the rush rezzed back to our unit, and we re-formed our lines with plenty of room to operate.

Overall through the day Letia improved greatly, communicating better and seeing more of the field.  She commented that the “Shadow Command” I’d done had helped her with seeing the field and what needed to be done, so it may be a good tool to implement in future command training (though, done right, so as not to be a crutch).  At the end of the day the only advice I had for Letia, who is of a polite and unassuming disposition naturally, was to shout more.  Maybe I should make her watch Full Metal Jacket, or at least the first half of it.

The Joys of Getting Somebody Else to do the Work

Between battles in the woods Dom and Percy were talking with Letia about commanding, and it was starting to draw a crowd.  Idle fencers are wasting their lives, so I had Miguel and Gawin (and Wilhelm, who cannot be prevented from helping) grab them all and run a quick training session.  Boy did it make me proud.  They did a quick walk through of the zipper drill to demonstrate line fighting, and a thirty second “how to fight two-on-one”.  It wanted a bit more “Does everybody understand?” but it was well run and kept everybody’s attention.  They’re both going to be good leaders in their own right sooner or later, which means I can retire back to a life of living in other people’s backfields.


There were more scholars than not during the pickups, which was heartening.  I got fights in with a couple.

We took a walk through the whole of the woods to be used for WoW.  It’s huge (triple the normal size), but needs a bit of cleanup (and may or may not smell like chicken crap in October).  The slope is a bit more steady throughout, so it removes an uphill disadvantage from one side.  I’m now trying to figure out a good ratio of fighters to distance from rez to central flag to duration of fighting.

Posted June 23, 2010 by wistric in Events

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