HEMA Game Archive


How the game is played/scored. This should be information about WHAT to do, but please save WHY for the "Design" field.

Additional rules could be added because:
- You've decided that the game is better in every way with the new rule.
- You found a *slight* tweak that makes a small difference in a meaningful way. (If it's a big enough change just make a new game and tag it as a variant of this one.)


Why the rules are designed the way they are. What are the core skills targeted, and possible weaknesses.
Descriptions of the design iterations, failed attempts, or changes in thoughts are also helpful to other coaches.


Notes on what coaches have noticed playing this game with their students.


Video or article links

Head-Leg-Parry, Direct Attack

Uploaded by Sean Franklin on 2023-06-17
Tags:   adaptability | approach | leg_shots | meta_game | strategy |


This is a variation on the Direct Attack game. The attacker and defender are both in vom tag, and the defender cannot move until the attacker instigates.

The "attacker" can chose one of three options:

  1. Direct attack to the head
  2. Direct attack to the leg
  3. Step forward with a parry

The "defender" can respond with one of the three options:

  1. Parry
  2. Counterattack to the head
  3. Back up and don't extend sword

Outcomes are decided as:

  • Priority #1: Should the defender swing into a parry of the attacker, the attacker wins
  • Priority #2: Should the attacker not hit, the defender wins
  • Priority #3: Should the defender hit while the attacker is going for the leg, the defender wins.
  • Priority #4: Should there be a double while the attacker is attacking the head, the attacker wins.

The game can be done as a standard direct attack with both stationary, but it is better to tell the attacker to start back from the starting line, and they much approach and attack without stopping. This creates pressure on their decision making and also adds information on how they approach the line into the game.

Design (added 2023-06-17 by Sean Franklin)

As is probably obvious, this is based on a Rock-Paper-Scissors premise.

  • 1.2) If they attack directly to the head, parry
  • 2.1) If they are parrying, attack the leg
  • 2.2) If they attack the leg, counterattack to the head
  • 3.1) If they counterattack to the head, engage with a parry
  • 3.2) If they engage with a parry, don't respond and move backwards
  • 1.1) If they don't engage, attack directly.

The idea is that it forces fencers to start thinking about alternating tactics, and using meta-gaming strategy. If someone is always using the same options without variety they will get destroyed by someone who can roll between them all as necessary.

The other way to do this is the Head-Leg-Parry – Ratchet version. The Direct Attack version focuses more on getting people used to the concept strategic switches, whereas the Ratchet version is more representative of how to use switches in approach during sparring.

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HEMA Game Archive
Developed by Sean Franklin
GD4H project