This is something I initially put together for a friend of mine in the Company of the Rose and the Sword, but I thought I’d share it here. The following are a list of training exercises and games you can play as a unit to strengthen cohesion and tactical thinking.
Circle of Honour/Dishonour
There are two variations on this. Circle of Honour and Circle Dishonour (Also known as the Circle of Treachery). A Circle of Honour is very straight forward. Everyone on the field challenges the nearest opponent. They pair off and the winners move on to fight the next available opponent, each duelling until only one remains. No one can interrupt the duel; there is no backstabbing and no ganging up. A Circle of Dishonour is quite the opposite. Fighters can form alliances to prey on weaker opponents or to overcome a stronger opponent, flank one another and finally betray each other until there is only one fighter remaining.
We often make a rule to limit the maximum number of combatants who can gang up to five so that they all keep moving. This can become very interesting when archers are involved.
This is a good exercise because it heightens battlefield awareness.
Tree of Woe
This is probably my favourite game. Everyone on the field forms into units of three and fight each other as normal. When an individual is killed, they go to “The Tree of Woe” (A sort of Re-spawn point). When there are three people at the tree of woe, they come out to fight as a new unit.
In other words: if unit A and unit B engage and two members from unit A are “killed” and one member from unit B is “killed”, those three members return to the “Tree of Woe” and return to the battlefield as unit C.
This is an interesting game, because the fight never ends and the numbers get mixed up a lot. It also creates a kill box with the area closest to the Tree of Woe being the most dangerous place on the field.
Kings of the Hill
This one is pretty obvious. A unit must occupy an area for as long as possible. There are two versions you can play. One is that a unit must successfully defend the hill for a set amount of time. The other is that the “battle” lasts a set amount of time and the winners are whoever holds the hill the longest.
Two on One
While technically not a group exercise, pressure exercises which involve teaching people how to engage two opponents at once is a good way for people to learn not only how to use weight of numbers against their opponents, but also teaches the two fighter to communicate and work together.
It’s also good to show the unit leaders which fighters in their ranks are fast and would make good flankers and which are clever and would make good sergeants.
There are fun ways of making this exercise last longer such as “Piggy in the Middle”. This means that the first of the two fighters to land a blow on the single fighter becomes the new single fighter.
Kill the King
There are two versions to this game. The first has a unit protecting their king against other units. If the unit’s king “dies”, the unit fails and removes itself from the field. The King is allowed to defend himself if he is attacked and should be the one issuing orders to the unit.
In the second variation, the unit lives on if their King is killed, but cannot move. This is representative of a royal body guard, Housecarl or Hearth Troop defending the body of their fallen lord. I recommend changing the King each time and giving different people the opportunity to lead the unit. I have found that increases a fighter’s understanding of the dynamics of fighting as a unit rather than as an individual and is, again, an opportunity to identify which members may have a talent for leadership.
This is good for small numbers. A spear (or long plank of wood) is laid between two units. The unit with a member whose foot is touching the spear for thirty seconds wins. If both units have a member with a foot on the spear then the count doesn’t begin until one of the fighter’s is forced to remove his foot. If unit A has a member with a foot on the spear and is counting, but a member of unit B moves forward and successfully places a foot and the spear as well, then the count resets.
It’s a simple game but a lot can happen and it teaches units to keep moving forward and to think about the good of the unit over the good of the individual.
I think this one could be interesting for the Salle. However, it takes a little bit of management as tempers can flare and sometimes cheating must be policed.
Two forces face off against each other. Each force carries a banner which they must get to the other side of the training hall representing the enemy stronghold. Each member of each force is given a number from 20 – 60.
This number represents how many second they must count after they are “killed”. When they are killed, they return to their stronghold or side and count to the number they’ve been given, before returning to the fight.
This exercise can either last minutes or hours and represents more and more enemy reinforcements coming in to defend their stronghold.
The Valhalla Game
This again builds on the circles of honour or dishonour, but with one augmentation. If you are “killed”, you leave the field. Once the person who has killed you has been beaten, you come back onto the field/”come back from Valhalla.”
I once managed to beat twenty people at a training event (most due to luck), but then once I was beaten, those twenty came back onto the field and the Circle started all over again.
A fighter stands in the middle of the room while the other fighters stand in one line to the side. One of the fighters from the side comes out to fight the one in the middle. Ten seconds later, the next fighter comes out and joins the fight. Ten seconds later the next fighter comes out and so on.
This can be done so that the fighter in the middle must fight every one of the fighters to the side. He or she must try to beat the fighters who come out to face him quickly or he risks being overwhelmed as after every ten seconds he will be attacked by a more and more fighters. It’s a good test of endurance and it separates the knockout artists from the fighters who engage.
Many of these training exercises can be modified so that individual units can be work as part of larger force. In other words: units A, B and C may be working as part of a larger force against unit D, E and F. I really recommend including whenever possible archer and polearms as that really changes the dynamic.
What kind of training exercise do you and your group get up to?