Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Replay: Sotahuuto 14

Ok, this is something new to me and the blog, so hopefully you find it useful.  If it seems helpful, I'll look into doing other posts in this type of fashion in the future.

A reader from Europe sent me a link to video from one of the large foam fighting events they've attended over there.  While it isn't Belegarth rules (tap fighting, head legal, and a few others), the video does illustrate a few concepts that are universal to the large scale fighting we see at events.  Please note, those are indeed 15' spears you see everywhere.

Here's the video, it's nearly 40 minutes of quadcopter footage of the event.  The noise from the copter might be a little annoying, fair warning. Those later castle battle are pretty insane and worth a watch, especially with destructible haybale walls. However, I really only want to look at the first battle for this post.  I chose this first fight to look at because it illustrates how important maneuvering can be.  If someone wants me to look at other fights or videos, I'd be more than happy to later.

For starters, our friend from Europe and his group are among the black/purple clad group at the center, we'll call their team the good guys.  The green group to their left appears to leave an intentional gap, I suppose as a trap or some variant of a kill pocket (the blue area marked below).  The right flank has pushed forward aggressively, just out of frame in this first picture.  We can see a gap, marked with yellow start to appear even this early in the fight.
Maneuver Phase of the battle.  Blue=intentional? gap.  Yellow=Gap to watch later

Other keys to this part in the battle are how the enemy forces are arrayed. Directly ahead of their middle, the good guys are up against a high (insanely high compared to Belegarth) concentration of spears.  They've already grouped up and have no signs of changing course.  The enemy line is already curving away, bowing out towards our friends.  This makes the entire field a scaled up version of a kill pocket.
Stalemate Phase of battle.  Even the spears are mostly at max range. 
The enemy has cut off the flanking group, but haven't fixed that gap yet.

Once the lines are close enough to engage, we reach the stalemate phase.  At this point one would expect that our little yellow gap here would have been closed up, but groups maneuvered away from it to engage our friendly flanking groups.  The enemy black/yellow group pushed out to engage, leaving only a few skirmishers to cover the area.  We can also see that the friendly lines haven't engaged the outside corner at all, leaving a large chunk of forces to the right flank of the black/purple group essentially in reserve.

The moment when decisive action could be taking place. 
Easily could have happened sooner than it did in the video.
Black lines are what I would have my line do at this point.
A closer look at the gap.  The group friendlies directly across from
it eventually push through.

This all sounds like a huge advantage for the friendlies, and it is.  However, there are few things that could have helped our purple/black friends survive the encounter a little better.  At the point pictured above, we see that gap still lingering around unopposed.  We also see our purple/black friends keep a solid line in the face of that giant mess of spears (highlighted in red).  The problem here is that holding their ground actually costs them a lot of casualties as we'll see when the copter makes another pass later.  The black lines here are what might have helped them get through this mess with a few more fighters intact.  Rather than standing strong against the concentrated spears, the line should have spread out (towards the right flank) while forming a kill pocket (the curve back marked here). 

By shifting forces to the right of the main enemy strength, it reinforces the group that should have already been pushing that gap.  By spreading out and backing away, it forces the enemy formation to spread their offense in different directions, preventing a whole group of fighters from being lost quickly.  Those directly opposed to the spears need to fight purely defensive and let the enemy advance.  Their whole goal is to buy time for flankers flooding through the gap to win the day.

When we see the camera come back to this section, we see that the group along the right flank that was engaged with the enemy black/yellow group joined with a few of the friendly corner group to push the gap (finally), but by time this happens our black/purple friends have been cut to shreds.  This makes the clean up much more difficult later.

The moral of the story: engaging a spear formation head on is rarely the best course of action. Making use of defensive maneuvering can both save lives and set up your enemy for being flanked.  Keeping an eye out for gaps early in the fight can give you some idea of where they will be later.  This particular case shows that they often form between two groups of fighters that are good at maintaining their own coherency. Because groups/units don't usually share leadership, you'll find groups can often lose track of their support unless their own anchors are doing a great job of keeping the whole line together. Creating/attacking/exploiting these gaps can be crucial to killing enemy formations and skilled groups.

In my next post, I'll take a look at some strategies for taking down spear formations.  It's a lot to cover, so I didn't want to include it all here. 


  1. Hey there Sir Torrence,
    If you have any questions about the event or want comments from participant (one of the members of that black+purple clan), feel free to mail me:

    1. It seems like a really awesome event.

      Your group looked like it did rather well overall. I picked you guys out in this post because a fighter that fought here happened to be among you guys that day.

      It is good to see so many people swinging foam swords, even if it is a different sport.

  2. Thanks for the write-up. Hopefully this summer we'll be our own team and more free to play to our strengths. Being absorbed into Imperiumii and it being the first time at that event meant we stuck fairly closely to our commands. Given our lack of spear-fighting experience, skirmishing will definitely be our gig.

    For event organizers: Get an aerial view of the fights! It's oodles of fun to re-watch from a point where you can actually see what's going on.

    Yes, those spears are crazy. They are actually in three pieces for easy transport. Another important bit is that their shields are indestructible, which means shield walls are even more powerful than in Belegarth.

    BTW, I'm not just any European reader, I'm an ex-Numenorean (retainer to Sir Kegg for a while) now running the largest (only active?) Belegarth group in Europe. Come fight us in Munich!

    1. I have a rough idea of who you are, though I think you were here before my time. Italy had an active Bele group for a while, but I think their leader is back in the states, so who knows.

      I did look over the rules and spear construction tutorial for Sotahuuto, and it is very interesting. It is kind of cool to see how weapons tech evolves differently with those few differences.

      The aerial view is awesome. I'm hoping we get more people over here behind the idea. One problem is we are less uniform in our garb, so it is less clear than some of the Sotahuuto video. A few fighters have access to the right equipment, we just need to get them involved.

      I plan to put together more posts related to anti-spear, I've just been a little distracted.

    2. I left in 2003, and have only been back one day since then, for obvious reasons.

      I have contact with the Italian group, but get the impression they're not very active, especially after Luca left for the US.

      It was quite notable how much they cared for their uniforms, and it certainly made it easier to figure out who to attack. Plus it looks good. It has inspired me to have a realm-wide uniform for use at events.