And this year's Allied Champions battle was very different than in recent years in that the fight only allowed for a total of 5 substitutes. That meant that 70 of the 80 fighters on a given side had to be prepared to fight for the full hour in the late morning of a very hot and humid August day.
With exception of the substitution policy, this year's battle followed the traditional format. We fought in a rectangular field, each army starting at opposite ends, with the goal of capturing the other team's flag which is situated near their starting point. Upon death, a fighter goes to the resurrection corral where they must wait for the corral to be released (once every 3 minutes). If a flag is captured and brought back to that team's own flag, then a point is scored, the fight is stopped, and both sides are reset.
Last year's battle had ~30 substitutes per side, with unlimited subbing in and out. This, combined with near perfect weather, caused the battle to be much faster paced and higher energy. Knowing that I only needed to fight for 6 minutes at a time before resting for 3, I was able to push myself very hard.
This year's battle was fought much more like a marathon. His Majesty Dietrich of Atlantia and I had a short conversation prior to the fight about how our plans were to play mostly defense in for the first half hour and only taking shots that were sure kills, hoping that we'd still be in the fight once the other side started dropping out.
Additionally I'd like to note that Anglesey picked one of its newer up and coming fighters instead of a more seasoned veteran because this fighter was young with low body fat, and we thought he'd fare better in an hour long resurrection when compared to our middle aged big bubba's. The main point being that heat was a major factor to strategize around (note my bare arms, below, for heat dissipation).
In general, both sides meet in the middle. Though the ultimate goal is to reach the banner, that's rarely done with an aggressive push from the middle. A numbers advantage must be gained, which typically snow balls. In other words, a small advantage allows for more kills, which leads to a bigger advantage which allows for even more kills, which leads to an even bigger advantage. If the side are relatively balanced, it is not uncommon for both sides to push toward the banner from the right. This is generally done with the spears, but sometimes a weakness can be exploited with shields (see below).
Tactical Mistake from Red
We (blue) were able to push hard on the right and grab two banners early on due to a mistake by Red. Their far left flank was one rank deep with only spears on it. Twice, a loan sheildman from our side was able to rush the spears which gained us lots of kills and a lot of ground. On the third fight Duke Timothy and another knight with a shield moved onto the far left and did a great job of securing the flank, but that was only after being down 2-0.
Atlantia's Secret Weapon
I'm a stinker and give away all the best secrets. His name is Hugo, and he's a beast of an unbelted fighter. He's probably the fastest running fighter at Pennsic. Two years ago he grabbed the first banner, but the point was taken away because one must wear a gauntlet in order to grab the flag. This year he sacrificed hitting power and precision for the ability to grab the flag by wearing a gauntlet instead of fighting with the much preferred basket hilt. As a result, he was able to run in and get the first two points.
Lord Bannon McLordy Pants
Bannon Macdugal of the Concusare (loooong time friend and ally of Anglesey, fighting together as kindred celts of the bog) also managed to grab two flags. Being almost twice the age of Hugo, I asked how he was able to do it. He said that as he got close to the banner, he waited until each of the 5 fighters defending the banner were engaged with other people, and then he used that opportunity to spring into action.
Oh....and that earned him a Lordship, which we tease him mercilessly about.
Spear Movement Around the Flanks
As a spearman, the biggest thing you should be looking for in battles like this are opportunities to create kill pockets. If you are at the point of the fight and driving the other team back, then you are in a good position, but those positions are so few relative to the number of fighters on the field. Everyone else needs to figure out how to create a tactical advantage.
Normally what happens once a line starts to thin out is that a gap and/or bulge will form between the center and the collapsing flank. Placing oneself in the gap can allow for opportunities on either the flank or the center.
Note on How to Handle Corral Releases
As I said earlier, though this is a game of field position, in my opinion, the numbers advantage is key. There were times when we'd get about 3/4's the way across the field, and the corral would release near the flank that we were pushing. We were told from the sideline to "stay the line" and to not "give up ground."
Like with any topic, I'm open to hearing different strategies. This is one, however, that I disagree with, at least on the surface. Lets say, for example, that we are down to our last 30 fighters, and they are down to 15, and then the corral opens up. Before our guys can get up the field, we'd be at a 30 to 75 disadvantage, which is nearly impossible to defend. Its always been my belief that, regardless of what ground you've gained, you have little choice but to walk back to mid field, reset, and press again.