The following are the results of a game design challenge to design games which have the biggest discrepency between their apparent usefulness and their actual ability to teach sills.
We’ve decided to try to put together some curated selections of games (some from the archive, some new) which can work together as a training programme or curriculum for teaching students. I’ve assembled a series here designed to introduce some of the key movement patterns and ideas in Meyer’s fencing to a group of new students.
1. Meyer stance and movement
- Fencers hold both ends of a long staff and stand in a hollow square.
- Stepping back out of bounds, or into the centre of the square are forbidden
- On ‘go’, both fencers drop into a full deep squat stance and proceed to push/pull each other via the staff by moving around the square with footwork.
- If either fencer is moved out of the space, they lose and the other one gets a point
- Otherwise, the first fencer to raise up from their deep squat loses and the other one gets a point
Key teaching points: you’re learning to engage your whole body and stay in a deep Meyer-appropriate position, while trying to trap your opponent and set up your scoring conditions.
2. Ready Or Not
A game for teaching attack and defence. Work in groups of three
- Assign colours to the two fencers.
- Both fencers manoeuvre freely, holding their sword at the shoulder.
- The third participant watches and acts as a judge.
- Whenever the judge feels it’s appropriate, they may call “red” or “blue”
- Whichever fencer they call out must try to hit with a single direct attack.
- If they hit, they score
- If they get parried, the opponent scores
Key teaching points: Fencers need to be ready to attack or defend at a moment’s notice. This game builds that skill, since either fencer might need to act at any point.
3. Meyer Square Feints & Parries
Another game for teaching attack and defense, in this case how to recognise a feint and decide whether to commit to the parry.
- From medium range (step to hit)
- Fencers take turns to be the attacker.
- The attacker picks one of the four Meyer square sequences and delivers all four strikes
- Any of the four blows may be real or fake
- The defender has to try and find the blade while not being hit.
- Swap roles repeatedly
Key teaching points: you get to practice using clear Meyer sequences and working out how to do each action as either a real attack or as a feint
4. C-c-c-Combo Maker!
A game for building the ability to chain actions together fluidly
- Start from medium distance (step to hit)
- Fencer one steps in and begins a chain of strikes. It can be as long as they want, but must not involve any pause or hesitation – continuous fluid blows.
- Fencer two must try to parry as many strikes as they can.
- When fencer two gets hit, or if fencer one runs out of ideas, fencer one should step back with a final covering cut.
- Fencer 1 scores a point for every action before their final hit/retreat.
- Fencer two immediately takes over and continue.
Key teaching points: This game helps fencers build the habit of doing Meyer style extended sequences, instead of just going for quick snipes.
A simple sparring game to build the Meyer/fechtschule vibe of trying to fence continuously and work your way to high targets.
- Fencers fence continuously for 15 seconds
- Highest hit delivered by the end of the period wins
Key teaching points: This conditions people to fence, keep fencing despite being hit, and work their way up to the highest target to maximise their chance of winning in a fechtschule bout.
6. Sparring Rules
Fechtschule fencing rewarded cool moves unpredictably with coins thrown from the audience, instead of by scoring with judges to a consistent rule set. To emulate this, we’ll use a fencing convention where after each exchange, the ref will secretly throw a dice for each fencer – if it comes up with a 5 or 6, they score a point.
Key teaching points: It’s not just about winning – it’s about how you win. The crowd could be unpredictable and capricious, and this really teaches fencers to understand that historical context of the art.