You don’t even need to read this, we’ll go over it all on our feet at the beginning of the day. Just check out 1) what you should bring and 2) the section on teams. The rest is just to give you an idea of how it all works so peruse at your leisure. The kids pick it up easily and so will you!
1. What to Bring to Game Day
The indoor lodge, near parking, will serve as our construction area in the morning and as a rest or break area for the rest of the day. It’s where we’ll meet each other at the top of the day and have a chance to tour the map, strategize and begin making props and costumes to help your team achieve victory!
Bring the following:
- extra snacks in case of hunger on the trail
- warm gear in case of cold
- wet gear in case of rain
- change of socks and shoes in case of puddles
- a water bottle in case of thirst
- anything else in case you need anything else for fun and comfort
2. Teams and Characters
You are welcome to join one of Adventures in Cardboard’s teams or create one of your own. After you register you will be given a link to our Googledocs Team Page. Either type your name into an existing team or create a new team and put your name into it. If you’re creating a new team designate a number of slots and declare whether you want it to be OPEN so that others can join or INVITE ONLY so that only your friends and associates can join. Your team can be as small or large as you like, but please give us a little background history and description as to who you’d like to be and how you might fit into the story. Examples: “The High Sorcerors of Schoen” might be a team of three powerful sorcerors that inhabit a tower in the furthest reaches of Delver Forest. “The Up-Slaughterers”, on the other hand, could be a maurading band of outlaw goblinoids that have currently situated themselves in a ruined fortress that used to guard the Queen’s Road. Now they toll everyone who crosses… or eat them.
Also, think of your character and how you fit into your team. You can have the simplest or most complicated of backstories, and though no one is required to play “in character”, it adds to the fun of the game to put a little history into it.
Regarding your props and costume, arms and armor, you can show up with nothing and make it all during the Game Day. We require that you bring absolutely nothing in the way of supplies, props and costumes. But if you’d like to create props and costumes at home, we will absolutely allow all home creations to be brought and used on Game Day. Just make sure your stuff is made of cardboard and fabric (though you can add a little panache and pizzaz with feathers, and other materials, etc..)
3. The Game
Welcome to the world of Adventures in Cardboard. This is primarily about having fun and enjoying being outside regardless of the weather. Our game structure is simple; it’s strategic-capture-the-flag, with some story elements added in for optional role-playing. Your goal will be to find and retrieve as many of your opposing team’s flags as possible. Along the way you may meet characters that can aid or hinder you, you may challenge enemies in hand-to-hand combat or with magic, you may find magical relics of power that will alter the rules of the game.
We like to keep the rules simple so that the game can move by itself without the endless presence of referees telling you what you can and can’t do. But the game also has components of improvisational theatre. Certain actions are managed by rules, the rest of the game is managed by how you interact. You do not have to be a great actor or even enter a character convincingly at all. You can be more or less yourself as you like! Unlike many LARP structures we are very informal, and you take on a character as much or as little as you like while the tactical goal of finding and stealing flags is an easy focus that moves the game forward.
Strategic Capture the Flag: The Bones of the Game
Each group will receive a map with only their territory marked in detail. During and right after morning construction your team will have a chance to scout out your territory, set defenses, hide your flags, set up your “resurrection area” and strategize your plan for victory.
When the game begins you can travel anywhere within the boundaries of the play area, several square miles of forests and fields. You may encounter friendly or hostile characters, other team members, lost relics of power and hidden treasures. If you are tagged out by cardboard weapons at any time you must trek back to the lodge and take a break for fifteen minutes before heading back to your “resurrection area” and rejoining the game. Relax, grab a snack or a beer, meet some other great dead people and then head back for more ridiculous fun.
If you locate an enemy flag you may attempt to capture it at any time and bring it back to your resurrection area. If you are tagged out running an enemy flag home, the one who tagged you may pick up your flag and run it back.
Each team has three flags, when they lose all three they lose their ability to resurrect back into their home team and must join another team if tagged out before being able to recapture at least one of their home flags.
As long as one person is left alive on a team that has lost all of its flags they can try to gain control of their home territory by stealing a flag back. But if all members of a team perish after all their flags are taken, the team is considered “dead”.
If a team has lost all of its flags and your team has at least two of them, then you have gained “control” of that team’s territory. The game is played for a certain duration but ends early if one team ‘controls’ all territories. Whichever team controls most territories (or all of them) wins a victory.
You may ally with other teams if you like but eventually all teams must find a dramatic reason to sunder their alliance. This may play as a formal disbanding and meeting of armies at an appointed field of battle or a sudden ambush or backstabbing. You do not have to break alliances until you are the last two teams left, but you may break alliances at any time.
That’s it! Along the way you may battle, organize secret truce-making meetings between teams, fight monsters, quest for relics, pay for the service of powerful wizards or mercenaries or do anything else you can dream up and act out. Beyond the basic rules, there ARE no rules!
4. Special Powers as Fundraiser Options
There will be magical scrolls, bows and relics hidden along the trails but since nothing is ever fair in war and the rich usually fight at an extreme advantage (and this being a fundraiser and all) you can stack the odds a little in your favor from the outset, grease the palms of fate, purchase a little extra luck, bribe the dieties of the realm. Though our basic fee to participate is $100, you can pay a greater fee and receive a license to create magical relics, receive a bow and set of arrows, use spells or carry fatecasts to change undesirable outcomes.
1) Bows and Arrows
These are short 24# pull bows and standard soft-tipped LARP arrows. They should not be shot at targets from less than 20′ away.
2) Spell Scrolls
You may find a scroll with a magical spell written on it. Spells are usable once per game. Here are a couple of examples:
Fear: All enemies must flee in terror in a direct route from the spellcaster for 20 seconds.
Command: An enemy must faithfully perform one act for the spellcaster, unless the curse is removed.
Charm: The affected subject finds it impossible to bring harm against the spellcaster and will actually defend them against attacks when near.
Earthbind: An enemy must pretend to be bound by vines that rise up from the earth and draw them down to it for 20 seconds.
Tornado: All creatures within a 50′ radius of the spellcaster must twirl and circle the spellcaster as if caught in the winds for 20 seconds, then perish.
Heal: A person tagged out may be healed and avoid resurrection if the spellcaster can lay their hands on the wounded subject for ten seconds.
Invulnerability: The spellcaster may choose a subject, including themself, to make impervious to any cardboard blows for 20 seconds while they chants.
Stones: All enemy weapons in an attacking band are turned to stone for twenty seconds. They must be dropped or can be held with the tip to the earth for the duration.
3) Magical Relics
Relics are ancient items of power that were lost in The Realm long ago. If you buy the rights you can make one of your own at home or when you get here! Relics are always one of a kind. Here are some examples of relics you may find on the trails. You can design your own, though you should limit the length of effects and number of uses per game. Most relics have a minor continual use and a major power usable once per game.
Mjolner–Useable once per game: If the player holds the hammer in the air and shouts “Thor Help Me!” Lightning strikes every opponent on the field of battle. They must fall to the ground stunned for 10 seconds. The hammer also strikes through armor and shields.
Grond–An evil device, once per game this gigantic spiked mace can be struck upon the ground slaying everyone in the field of battle, friends and enemies alike. Grond also strikes through armor and shields.
The Shield of Cadwallon–Once per game, the wearer can pass through any castle door. The shield cannot be penetrated by any magical weapon or device.
The Sword of Penda–Once per game you can point at an opponent and declare them slain if you can say their name aloud.
The Book of Truth–A willing subject must place his hand on the book and answer truthfully any questions asked.
Aegis–If you see the image of Medusa on this ancient shield while the user shouts “Be Stone!” you are frozen in place, un-taggable, for one minute.
Eye of Polyphemis– Gouged from the head of Polyphemus by Odysseus, this is the only part left of this ancient grasping Cyclops. It is useful in removing curses or binding magical beings to your will!
Lamp of the Living– It repulses zombies and keeps them at least 50′ away.
Helm of the Dead– The helm turns the user undead and can pass through zombies unharmed. The user can either give a group of zombies a simple command once per game or once per game can cause any group of living creature (friend or foe) within 50’ to freeze in fear until the wearer passes or 30 seconds pass, whichever comes first.
Blade of Raiko– This katana is a magical blade of sharpness, it can cut through any non-magical shield, weapon or armor and can be wielded with a single hand.
Helm of True Site- The wearer cannot be lied to.
Helm of Death Site–The wearer can see and talk to the dead, and once per game can command dead to answer truthfully
Ethereal Cloak– The wearer becomes non-corporeal and invisible and cannot be seen by enemies. The wearer cannot attack or be attacked while wearing of the cloak. The wearer must be allowed in and out of spaces but cannot pick up any items other than their own, unless they remove the cloak. Once removed the power is gone.
Helm of Teleportation- Once per game the wearer can disappear and reappear in another spot. The wearer calls out “Hold! Teleport!”, a Marshal blows the whistle, everyone must freeze and cover their eyes for 10 seconds while the teleporter moves anywhere they like. The teleporter cannot attack while moving, but may resume attacks after the Marshal blows a restart whistle after 10 seconds.
Fatecasts are game changers. They are coins that you can pay out to a referee to replay the immediate effect of a bout of combat or a spell. Once used a fatecast can never be recovered. For example, if you are struck down in an ambush you can throw your fatecast to back all participants back in time to just before your were attacked. Either replay the combat from a readied state or roleplay that a sudden weird bout of deja vous sends you in retreat before you are attacked.
5. Game History
Game history is like adding spice to the structure. You can use it or ignore it. Using at least some of the background history typically makes things a lot more fun though. So go with what you’re comfortable with and think about trying to step out of your comfort zone maybe once every game. The more we laugh the better it goes!
We play our games in The Realm, a vast and mist-shrouded geography of lands and seas linked to an earlier mythic age. It’s a land where the ancient bear and dire wolf occasionally cross-claw with basilisks and dragons. It’s a land where the Dwarvenfolk, the Elvenkind and the Ogrekin still dwell. It’s a land alive with magic, vastly uncharted and full of adventure.
The Current Situation
The time is 100 hundred years after the fall of Humankind. In their absence, the Dwarven Kingdom of Rhakmadz and the expanding High Elvish Empire of Caer Sidi have re-established their dominances over The Realm.
Whether constant warring decimated Humankind or whether they had dwindled and disappeared into wilder reaches, whether they boarded their ships and fled back across the seas or were ravaged by pestilence and perished here in The Realm, little is known. And little was left of Humanity but the ruins of their great buildings at the foot of the Mountains of Shehélemed… until recently. A small but spirited band of Humans has re-emerged from their mythic past. Remnants of the Paládanic Sanctuary of the House of A’Quila (AW’-kwi-la), the Aquiláden (aw-kwi-LA’-den) now lay claim to part of the riches of the Mountains of Shehélemed upon which the Dwarves (or Madzi) have since built their capitol stronghold at Rakhmadz. The Dwarves grumble and prepare defenses while the Aquiláden reclaim their cities of old.
However, The Empire of Caer Sidi has also long claimed that the Elves (or Sidi) deserve to inherit the riches of Shehélemed. Caer Sidi once proposed that Shehélemed be shared by both Elves and Dwarves as it had been long before Humans were welcomed into The Realm by the Madzi. The Sidi argue that this Dwarvish invitation to Humanity despoiled Shehélemed and lead to The First Elvish War. Six Aligned Houses of Humankind with help from Rakhmadz drove the Sidi from the slopes of Shehélemed. Now the Sidi maintain that the Madzi have spiritually forfeited all rights to the sacred mountains.
If matters weren’t complicated enough between Sidi, Madzi and Humanity, the very first inhabitants of The Realm, the Ogrekin, also lay claim to Shehélemed. The Goblins, Hobgoblins and Ogres known collectively as the Clans of the Sh’ne Sahn believed they first sprang into the world from the caverns of Shehélemed long before Madzi or Sidi were drawn to its airy heights and cast them into the swamps below. Now the Sh’ne Sahn have grown in strength and number and return to drive all others not only from their ancestral mountains but from the entire Realm.
Fell and vengeful Elves of Caer Sidi plot from their dark forests, stout and redoubtable Dwarves of Rakhmadz sharpen axes in their stone strongholds, fearless and spirited Goblins of the Sh’ne Sahn march in endless columns from the southern swamps, strong-willed and adaptable Humans of the Aquiláden rebuild themselves in the very ashes of their ruin. How will this play out? It’s up to you!
The Four Powers of the Realm
The High Empire of Caer Sidi
The vengeful indigenous inhabitants of the wooded and hilly northeastern regions, the Elves (or Sidi) keep ties with the faerie folk and the magical sylvan beasts that remain aloof from all other civilizations. Their magic is intimately tied to the earth, though they can be as grasping and as expansive as the worst of humanity. They are currently united under the will of an Emperor who dominates most lands surrounding the mountains of Shehélemed and even realms beyond the Eastern Sea. Elves are deeply distrustful of all outsiders and of non faerie folk. They show little sympathy for human, dwarf or goblin and can be quite fearsome and unforgiving when provoked. They are inclined to show cruelty when feeling wronged and are strongly motivated by vengeance.
The Ancient Kingdom of Rakhmadz
The Dwarves (or Madzi) came to The Realm centuries after the Elves from the frigid north. They issued into the the high mountain ranges and built stone-carved strongholds that they maintain to this day. At first many Madzi befriended the Sidi, but when Humans arrived Dwarves tore into the earth and grew rich satiating Humanity’s lust for precious metal; metal claimed by both Dwarf and Elf. Strife grew between Rakhmadz and Caer Sidi and exploded in The First Elvish War.
Though they share the greedy temperament of Human Beings, Dwarves can also be the most reasonable and cooperative of creatures. They are courageous and loyal to a fault and would often rather perish than dishonor themselves through betrayal or cowardice. They may mistake foolhardiness for courage.
Some Madzi begrudge Humankind for their changed society, other Dwarves begrudge the Sidi and maintain that Humans were always the best of allies in a hard age.
The Clans of the Sh’ne Sahn
The Ogrekin include the related kinships of Goblins, Hobgoblins and Ogres, none of which have eaten each other for many years. These beings currently inhabit the low and swampy southwestern regions of The Realm, though they are indigenous to Shehélemed. The Ogrekin have long been in competition with the Sidi and Madzi for resources, though in the beginning they were on friendlier terms with the Elves.
The Ogrekin maintain a deep grudge against all Dwarves, maintaining that it was the Madzi that first drove them out of their native tunnels in Shehélemed. Many of the Clans also harbor grudges against the Elves and Humanity maintaining that the Sidi conspired with Humanity to finish the colonization of Ogre lands in the foothills of Shehélemed before The First Elvish War. Deepening their resentment of Humans and Elves even further were new cultural attitudes brought into The Realm by Humankind who, seeing both Elves and Ogres as fairy folk, prized the gracile physical beauty of the Elvish “Seelie Court” while they disdained and laughed at the robustness and animalistic claws and fangs of the “Unseelie Court” of Goblin peoples.
As distrustful to outsiders as the Sidi, all Ogrekin are capable of displaying the same ferocity in the defense of their homelands. And they will gladly eat their opponents.
In days long gone, the last peoples to reach The Realm came from three great cultures of Humanity; the Wyddans, Iztani and Ghoddic peoples. Before their fall they had established themselves in Six Esteemed Houses of Humanity.
Perhaps the most warlike of all civilizations, humans were hungry for land and resources from their first arrival. Some of the earliest Wyddic Houses quickly formed trading relationships and kinship structures with Elves but the Iztani and later coming Ghoddic peoples formed long-lasting trade relationships with Dwarves. As quickly as Humans built relationships with Elves and Dwarves they set to fighting against the Ogrekin whom they found abhorrent. Many Elves and most Ogrekin despise Humanity for thrusting themselves so hungrily into The Realm. The Dwarves remain ambivalent on the matter of Humankind.
Humans are notorious oathbreakers when it comes to dealing with the peoples of Caer Sidi, Rakhmadz and Sh’ne Sahn. Humans find Dwarves useful and loyal, they are often frightened and awed by Elves and they tend to loath the Goblin peoples.
The current Aquiláden, though claiming ancestry from the mythic House of A’Quila, may also have members who are of “barbaric” Ghoddic background or of the “secret and mystical” Wyddic traditions it pleases them!
HUMAN CONFLICT: The Elder Wars of Empire & the Ghoddic Invasions
The history of The Elder Wars of Empire is only of incidental importance here and forms most of the backstory for our kids’ summer adventures: but briefly it can be noted that the Aquiláden descend from Iztani ancestors and from the original House of A’Quila. Officially known as the Paládanic Sanctuary of A’Quila, the House was formed from the mercenary remnants of an ancient Iztani Empire. The Iztani Empire was a sprawling and despotic structure that once controlled a vast region beyond the Southern Seas.
Agents of Empire first reached The Realm in low, squat, iron ships and fought with the Wyddic peoples of the Houses of Hart and Drake who had come centuries earlier and lived in kinship with the Elves. The battles between the Iztani and the Wyddic Houses of Hart and Drake lasted almost a century and are now legendary. The battles may have lasted two centuries but the Iztani Empire withdrew its support from The Realm so suddenly that its viceroys and mercenaries were left stranded and surrounded by enemies. Agents of the Empire have never been seen or heard from in The Realm since their disappearance.
The remaining Iztani, left to fend for themselves, formed the Paládanic Sanctuary of A’Quila and hired Ghoddic mercenaries from across the Eastern Seas to help them fight against the Wyddic Houses and their allies in Caer Sidi. But as Ghoddic mercenaries became emboldened and as their families faced envirnomental devastation in Ghodland across the Eastern Sea, The Realm and all its inhabitants were set upon by waves upon waves of Ghoddic invaders.
The Wyddic House of Hart remained resolute and locked in an existential struggle against these Ghoddic Newcomers, as did the Paládanic Sanctuary of A’Quila, but the Wyddic House of Drake and the Elves of Caer Sidi fled deeper into The Realm, avoiding annihilation. The invaders never reached Rakhmadz.
The invasions eventually ebbed and Humanity found a balance of power in Six Esteemed Houses. Two Houses were of the secretive Wyddans from the Far West, one House was of the Iztani Paladins who had been abandoned by the Empire that brought them and three Houses were of the related Ghoddic peoples fleeing their dying lands beyond the Eastern Seas.
All Houses of Humanity (Iztani, Wyddans and Ghoddi) were briefly united together and with the Kingdom of Rakhmadz in The First Elvish War. After their initial victory against the High Empire of Caer Sidi, Humanity plunged back into ceaseless infighting and disappeared from The Realm.
Other Characters of The Realm
There can and will be other characters and civilizations in The Realm. Trolls, sorcerers, assassins, roaming mercenaries, etc… Feel free, yourself, to add to the story in any way you like, the bones above are simply a place to start.
6. THE RULES: Sword Tag
Many of our live-action games involve pretend hand-to-hand combat that is like a game of tag. We call this safe-sword tag.
Think of Safe Sword Tag as a game that is theatrical. Sword tag is always more fun when everyone enjoys getting tagged as much as tagging others. So be dramatic and have fun when you’re tagged. Play it up and create a valiant or grisly “death” that makes everyone smile and enjoy the game more. Like any sport, your success depends largely on your cooperating with each other.
The Big Three Safety Rules
1) TAP DON’T HIT!
This is a tag game. Seek to lightly tap your opponent with your cardboard sword, not strike them. Keep your weapon under control and remember it is just a game. It’s not worth anyone getting hurt.
2) AVOID THE HEAD/NECK
Never swing at the level of someone’s head or neck. If you’re tall you must be extra careful not to swing at the level of people’s heads. Any time you feel that you hit someone too hard, or hit them where you shouldn’t have the noble thing to do is to tell them not to “take” the hit.
Target Note: Tags to hands or below the knees don’t count as hits.
3) CALL YOURSELF OUT
Always seek to call yourself out. Never tell anyone that they have been hit. Many times you may feel you hit someone, but you did not. You may ask if they were hit if you feel they may not have noticed, but you may not insist. Let it slide, it’s never worth an argument.
The best way to kill the spirit of the game is to get into endless squabbles on the battlefield. Instead, give each other the benefit of the doubt and just call yourself out when in doubt. Because we have a resurrection rule, you’ll be back in the game soon and you’ll gain integrity and respect.
Other Safety Rules:
4) NO GRAPPLING: The only contact allowed during battle is controlled tapping by cardboard weapon. Any other type of fighting contact such as grabbing someone, hitting or kicking is strictly forbidden.
5) NO CHARGING: Do not ever charge. Charging is when you either bump into someone with your body or otherwise move them by force, or force someone to move to avoid being hit by your body or shield. If you slip, that is YOUR fault, not the field’s. If the ground is wet or otherwise slippery, take it slow and keep yourself under control.
6) DO NOT USE YOUR SWORD TO PUSH: Do not ever force an opponent’s weapon with yours. If ever you find yourself pushing on another player’s weapon while they are pushing back – that is bad – one of you should realize this and call “Hold!” At this point, both parties and those nearby should take a step back and try again.
Signals & Procedures
During live-action games that involve safe sword tag some staff will act as marshals. Please listen for their whistles and their directions.
Whistles to Listen For
1) A long whistle followed by the command “Hold!” means all players in the field should stop moving and put one knee on the ground. This is used when someone or something is in danger or when certain rules of magic are used and the marshals must designate a magical effect on a section of the field of play.
If you hear someone yell “Hold!” immediately stop whatever you are doing, drop to one knee, throw your hands in the air and also yell “Hold!” until all players in the field of battle are down on one knee.
Wait for the referee who called the Hold to call “3… 2… 1… Lay-On!” Then continue where you left off. The players should join in on the countdown so everyone knows when to restart.
A “Hold” may be called for any number of reasons – assume it is about YOU – that YOU are about to make a mistake, step on someone’s glasses or hit someone with an unsafe weapon. Stop immediately until the situation has been resolved.
If you see something unsafe about to happen, something about to get broken, a disoriented player or any other “bad” thing feel free to call a Hold – anyone can do so. If you are unsure about whether a situation justifies a Hold, then bring the situation to the attention of a counselor near you.
2) Two short, sharp whistles means a marshal is calling someone out of the game. The marshal will point at that person and call their name. That person must take themselves out of play immediately and without argument. It usually means a marshal spotted an obvious tag-out that was grievously uncalled or spotted a player behaving dangerously.
3) Two long whistles and one very long whistle always indicates the start or end of a game. Marshals will have walkie-talkies to stay in contact with each other about the status of a game in play. When a game ends teams should meet up at the starting territory.
Benefits of Armor, Shields & Helmets
- No melee weapon or missile penetrates a shield.
- Most hand-held weapons do not pierce armor.
- Arrows will pierce armor, but bounce off shields.
- 6” daggers will pierce armor if held in the hand (not thrown).
- When a helmet is worn, arrows will not pierce armor.
Safety Note: Even if someone is wearing armor, a helmet or shield you still must tag them lightly! This is cardboard after all!
One tag and you’re out. But don’t fret or cheat! Being tagged out in any game means you take a break at the lodge and then walk to your designated resurrection zone after fifteen minutes have passed.
The “Ghosts Don’t Talk Rule”:
After being tagged out you are a ghost. Remove your headband and raise your weapon in the air. Ghosts cannot advise players or reveal secrets about where they’ve been or where enemies are hiding. This is patently unfair and is considered cheating. Avoid being a talking ghost, though some spells allow certain player to speak with the dead and can even compel answers from them!
Sometimes in the field of battle you will find yourself starting to panic. With the noise and chaos the game begins to transform into something that feels very real. You start to lose a sense of control and start swinging faster and harder. Soon you are in berserker-mode, blind with battle panic and you have become a danger to your cohorts. This is battle blindness and it is your biggest danger in any game of sword-tag.
Be aware of this tendency and look for it in others. When you see it or feel it shout “Battle Blindness!” This is an honorable and valiant thing to do! After calling battle blindness stick your weapon straight up in the air and walk to a safe cool spot to relax and get a sense of yourself again. You can jump back into battle as soon as you have your wits about you again.
Walking to Safety
If you have to leave for any reason, whether you were tagged out, need a break, feel battle-blindness, or are just plain bored, always follow this procedure. Shout “Battle Blindness!” or “I’m Out!” and raise you weapon straight up in the air and walk out of the field of battle.
Never tag or engage someone who is walking out of battle with weapon raised.
Never tag or engage someone when someone has called a Hold!
Picking Things Up in the Field of Battle
If someone drops or throws a prop you should never pick it up. It could lead to a tug-of-war, which is dangerous in the field of battle. It could also lead to someone feeling their props are being stolen.
Picking up arrows is the only exception to this rule. If you have a bow, (and you are not dead of course), you may pick up an arrow and fire it back!
You are allowed to pick up flags after the person holding them has been tagged out. If someone holding a flag is tagged out they MUST drop it on the field where they were slain. No one should pick it up. Instead follow this procedure:
- A marshal will call a Hold.
- The person who did the tagging will pick up the flag and start running away when the marshal counts “3-2-1” , not before.
- Everyone may join in on the chase when the marshal finishes saying “Lay On!”
Sometimes flags will go back and forth 3 or 4 times this way until a surviving player can make the get-away!
In general there are three fighting styles available to players that provide balance and variety. You should choose one style before you start making props.
Weapon and Shield Style
This is most common option and a strong combination, especially if you are not familiar with fencing or broadswords. Your weapon must be about 18” or under. Your shield can be any size or shape. Remember: bigger shields are often harder to use. Medium-sized shields work best.
Two-Handed Weapon Style
A two-handed weapon can be up to 36” long, but both hands should remain on the weapon while in combat. This is a more difficult fighting style but effective for those who have practiced with broadswords. No shields or other weapons may be used with a two-hander!
Dual Weapon Style
Both weapons must be about 18” or shorter. This is another difficult fighting style but very effective in the hands of a fencer or duelist. Sometimes for your second weapon you may make a throwing weapon. A thrown weapon, typically an ax or knife, can only be thrown once per battle and not recovered immediately. It must be left in the field until the melee is clearly over. See the rules for thrown weapons below.
Safety Note: You can never throw a weapon that is not purposefully and recognizably made to be a throwing weapon. This is considered cheating and can be dangerous if players are not prepared.
Poleaxes and Longspears
Weapons longer than 36” can only be used against opponents on castle ramparts, or from the ramparts to opponents on the ground.
Lances & Cavalry
Those who opt to create bicycle steeds can opt for a lance. Lances must be collapsible, can be up to 60” and can only be used from a bicycle at a speed of less than 5mph (a gentle jog).
Bows, Crossbows, Blowguns & Other Ranged Weapons
Ranged weapons cannot be used at a range of less than 20’. Ever. When your opponents come in close to you, sling your bow over your shoulder and draw your melee weapon.
Tactical Note on Ranged Weapons: Use bows from a distance to snipe on unsuspecting opponents or use them in a coordinated group for a tactical effect. Think of lining your archers along the ridge of a hill to lob arrows into a castle or at an approaching warband to thin out the ranks before attacking with infantry or cavalry bikes.
Remember: Arrows are shared by all. Once shot, the enemy may fire them back if they have bows. Never get into a tug-of-war over arrows.
Throwing Axes and Throwing Knives
Throw them lightly and never at the head, neck or groin. Thrown weapons may be used with the dual fighting style only. You may throw a weapon once per battle, then you’re left holding a single weapon. A thrown weapon must lay on the field (or someone can kick it aside) but neither side should pick it up until the melee is clearly over.
Throwing axes and throwing knives will have recognizable shapes so that players will clearly know when to expect something might be thrown in their direction. You cannot throw a weapon that is not recognizably, purposefully made to be a throwing weapon. This is dangerous.
Bombs and Boiling Oil
Water-balloons. We throw them in a mesh bag to keep from littering. Any splash on you gets you resurrected.
7. Battlefield Tactics
So you love to jump into the fray and test your fencing skills but… you can have even more fun by thinking tactically. Yes, it is fun to dive into melee in an individualistic chaotic fray from time to time, but your games will be more rewarding if you try some of these tactical formations. Or, come up with your own ideas to try in the field!
Stand side by side and raise your shields in an unbroken indomitable wall as you march forward. Use signals to coordinate suddenly raising your shields together and tagging out opponents. If you have axes, you can attempt to pull enemy shields up from the bottom so your teammates can tag your opponents out. Never pull them down or you’ll likely be tagging toward their face. And remember rules against charging and pushing.
This is where a group of combatants with ranged weapons that could include throwing knives, throwing axes, javelins, bows, water-bombs or blowguns coordinate an attack together to attempt to thin-out enemy ranks by lobbing missiles up and over enemy shield walls before running back behind their own shield wall. Often used with lots of hollering, fake charges and ballyhoo to surprise and intimidate a shield wall into dispersing.
Like a shield wall but with weapons only. Side by side, march slowly and typically in rhythm toward your opponents. Do not break rank and run. Think always of defending not yourself but your teammate to your right. If someone attacks the teammate to your right, tag them out. Phalanxes were practiced with spears, but we can use two-handed weapons.
Alexander the Great used this tactic with his cavalry. It is like a phalanx or shield wall but shaped like a triangle with the point forward. A wedge formation is effective for carving through enemy territory or for use against a chaotic and tactic-less group of opponents. Put your strongest warrior at the tip of a triangle with two wings stretching back. The point-person sets the pace with their feet and voice. Do not break rank and run, instead think about defending the person in front of you as you march forward. If you don’t break rank and defend your teammates you will most certainly cut the other team in half.
Crazy Horse, genius tactician and unwavering hero of the Lakota, and Subodai, first general under Ghengis Khan often used this tactic with devastating success.
Decide on two signals. Use the first signal to call a retreat before your forces actual close-in to engage opponents in melee. Use the second signal after drawing your faster pursuers away from their group to immediately turn around together and tag them out. It’s essentially pretending to be afraid to draw your fastest opponents away from the protection of their group. You’d be surprised at how many times in a row Houses will fall for this trick!
You can also leave a large portion of your house in hiding and use this tactic with a few individuals to draw an entire opposing warband into an ambush or a magical trap.
Flanking and Ambushes
Always seek to surprise your opponent, especially where they are vulnerable. When moving from one place to another every group of warriors has a front and sides (called flanks.) A warband is most vulnerable on its flanks because when attacked it takes a second or two to re-orient all fighters to be able to “turn their front” toward the attack. You can take advantage of this re-orientation to tag out as many players as you can.
A moving column is also particularly vulnerable, especially along a narrow path where you can hide your fighters higher on either side. If you hide to attack an opposing warband, wait until their column has passed you half way before you shoot arrows or leap from your hiding place. You will tag-out many players in surprise and cut their group in half. Startled opponents also tend to run which makes tagging them out from the back very easy.
Using Cul-de-Sacs and Pinch Points
Like the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae you can defend against a much larger force if you position your House in a place where you can only be attacked from the front and not the flanks. You will force your opponents to face you where you want them to and with a much smaller portion of their forces.
Retreating is always a mess, especially if you are in the middle of hand-to-hand combat. It helps to have a commander give a signal to prepare for a retreat and then a second signal to execute a retreat so you can all turn tail at the same time and run (with archers if any are still alive shooting over your head into enemy ranks), or band together and walk backwards while defending yourselves. In any case retreating is the most difficult maneuver and in most cases you’ll almost always tag out more opponents standing your ground to the bitter end!
Defending and Attacking the Castle
The castle offers many opportunities for role-playing and for safe-sword tag games. In general treat all cardboard walls as if they were stone. Don’t stand there and beat down or cut through a cardboard wall. It’s a stinky move and no fun at all. There are rules for getting through castle doors. If you build a battering ram, three people operating it may strike a door thirty times and then it must open for you. Sometimes the best rams are built covered to keep the operators from being tagged-out with cardboard weapons or water-balloons from above.
Observation & Outmaneuvering the Enemy
Think of the big picture. Can you win without even engaging in combat? This is entirely possible. Try to guess at your opposing House’s overall strategy and counter their strategy in unexpected ways. Having observed how your opposing House tends to play I bet you can figure out best how to draw them out, ambush, surprise or avoid them entirely in almost any game situation.
Sometimes we will play games over large areas where you cannot see your opponents right away. It is fun to think first before running to find and grab their flag, to send fake warbands to lure them out and away while your sneaky ninja-type campers steal the flag behind their back. Be creative. Be sneaky. Be smart. These are often the kinds of stories that are remembered most.
8. Terrain and Maps
When you arrive you will be provided with maps that show the boundaries of the game and your team’s territory in detail. Part of the game will be scouting out and marking enemy territory.