The Book of Four Things

corby's picture

A practical guide to
SCA field tactics for fighters and commanders.

With apologies to Miamoto Musashi

In the long history of armed conflict, hundreds of generals and millions of troops have designed and executed amazing, complicated, clever plans to overcome their foes. With a powerful understanding of location, troop capabilities, weather, morale and many other variables, commanders have created plans that changed history. I am particularly amazed by Hannibal's victory at Cannae, where his outnumbered troops spent most of an afternoon slowly giving ground at the center, fighting a retreat that ultimately resulted in the Roman army being completely surrounded and destroyed. Perhaps the single most astonishing use of the classic "double envelopment" attack in all of history.

Within the context
of open field melee fighting in the SCA, such complex plans are most commonly referred to as a "Bad Idea."

Real world tactics and strategy take into account several things that mean almost nothing in an SCA context:

Starting morale--awareness that not all troops are as eager for the fight as others.

Survivor morale--how likely a unit is to break when it has begun taking casualties.

Intimidation--real world troops are often hesitant to attack because they are rightly afraid for their lives.

Now, I'll admit that this last difference does play a part in SCA combat, but not to the same degree as in the real world. I've seen many examples of hesitant melee units who were clearly afraid of losing their "lives" as they faced some other unit, or even an individual. However, the knowledge that real death or injury is very unlikely in SCA combat makes the most hesitant SCA fighter less nervous than a real world medieval or ancient infantryman.

With these major morale issues out of the way, and keeping in mind that even the largest SCA melees happen much faster than ancient or medieval battles did, I believe it is safe to say the following.

In open field SCA battles, there are just four things that make sense for troops to do.

I'll discuss these in order, from the easiest to the hardest.

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corby's picture

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