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.
|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.