There are many different weapons and many different styles of fighting in amtgard. In this article I will attempt to do a brief survey of the most common weapons combos. Keep in mind, that though this is intended to be an informative article, it is based on my opinions and experiences. Like it or not, here it is. The main combos that I will cover are :
- Single sword
- Sword and shield
- Florentine (two swords)
- Sword and madu
Here's some advice for picking a weapons combo for battle:
- Keep both hands full. - This is really good advice. If you have an empty hand, it could be doing something to help you kill and not die. If you're just starting and not feeling very coordinated, get a shield: you don't have to move it and it blocks shots (thus helping you not die).
- Look around. Think about who's winning. - The good fighters are usually fighting with their hands full. If someone tells you double dagger is good, ask them why they don't fight with it. Actually ask them why nobody fights with it. It's because it is not effective. Its also easier to learn combos if you have some sort of example, and you're more likely to find a teacher in a common weapons combo. (There are a couple of exceptions to this... 1. sometimes people like to play around with weird combos.. 2. the best fighters in the game often get bored and fight single sword to challenge themselves.. look at what they consistently use, especially in tourneys.) Fantasy style weapons often can look good, but are ultimately less than useful for training and battlefield, these include staff, axes, tridents, etc.
- Get your own equipment. - This is important. Get your own safety equipment (kneepades, gloves, etc) so that you have it every week. Get your own fighting equipment (swords, shields, etc) so that it's yours. This way if you don't like it, you can customize it. Much of growing as a fighter is being comfortable with your equipment. It's much more difficult to learn if you use a different sword, shield, etc. every week.
This combo is really the simplest and of course the easiest to find equipment for. Every fighter who aspires to be good should practice becoming competent in single sword. There are more styles of single sword than can be surveyed, so I'm going to leave this entry short. This is a great practice style, but not a great battle style (unless of course you're Sir Lief). I do take this into battle occasionally, but more as a personal practice drill to really push my limits and I expect to die a lot.
- two handed long sword - This style is popular for the movie/drama factor, and popular with quite a few martial artists. In Amtgard this is generally less than practical.
- dagger - This is fun in tourneys. This is completely unpractical for battle. If you are playing a magic user and want to go single dagger, do not expect to be effective if you are called upon to fight, it's just not going to happen. You may save on magic points, but you will make it up in lost lives.
Sword and Shield
Ahhh... the classic - sword and board. This is a good, solid combo - especially for beginners. It's important to get a shield that you are comfortable with, as this will greatly affect your performance. I highly recommend that all fighters become competent sword and boarders.
- sword, shield and down-sword - This is a slight variation on sword and board where your shield arm has a down-sword that extends past the shield. The down-sword can be handy for blocking leg shots and is nice if your other sword is destroyed. Some people like it, some people don't; it can be awkward to get used to not tripping over the sword in front of you and can limit shield movement, but that's not to say I haven't seen it used effectively.
- shield and dagger - This is very popular with magic users. It's good for battlegaming, but not so hot for ditches. When you're worried about spell points it's a nice defensive to have a shield, but don't expect to do much damage with a dagger.
Florentine (Two Swords)
This can be so much fun! It's challenging to move beyond just flailing around with two swords, and even more challenging to be effective, but the time invested can really pay off. This combo requires more coordination and ambidexterity than most, and will probably require more practice. It is good for almost any battle scenario, just watch out for those stabs.
- double even swords - This is what people generally assume when you're talking about florentine.
- double uneven swords - This has a very different technique to it than general florentine, because of the difference in sword lengths. This is also good for all battlegame scenarios.
- sword and dagger - See double uneven swords. It's hard to do much damage with the dagger, it tends to be used for blocking only. If you put it in your offhand and just block with it, you're probably better off replacing it with a shield.
- double dagger - This is fun in tourneys, and no good for battlegames. I feel that there are no possible advatanges to this combination, and you are only sabatoging your progress by investing time in this (not to mention frustrating yourself). The argument that this is fast is negated by the fact that the new swords are so fast that the margin of advantage is negligible. ( I'm referring to the new ultra-light weapons generally made out of golf clubs, fun noodle and packing tape, these are much faster than the traditional "brick on a stick" or "pillow" weapons.)
Sword and Madu
This can be a very fun combination. It requires more coordination and ambidexterity than most others (but probably less than florentine, depending on style). Madus come in many variations, usually varying in spear length, shield size and shape, handle angle, top spike, and grip. I find that madus are one of the most personalized weapons, because people like to tweak them to a comfort level. This takes some time to learn, but the practice pays off - this can be very effective. Sword and madu are good for all battlegaming.
A lot has been said about polearms; you either love them or you hate them, but not much in between. I personally enjoy fighting polearm occasionally, but the time and place have to be right. They generally require a critical mass of 20 or so people on the field before they go with the flow. A good shield man/woman is your best friend when you're polearm. Many fighters also hold a short sword or dagger in their back hand or belt which can be really handy in emergencies. Size varies greatly - I prefer a polearm that is about 6" taller than me. I find that it is small enough to move and long enough to poke. Different sizes for different people and different scenarios (longer poles are better for castle battles).