At Baron Wars this past summer I had a great discussion with our rapier general, Peter, on what is the best way to deny a flank. This is a tactic that occurs during line fights. Below is a picture of two lines fighting, orange versus green. The black markings are their swords, dagger, shields, and bucklers.
Flanking is when one side curves around the outer edge of a line of fighters. It’s a great tactic because several people can flank one person on the edge of a line, turning it into a 2 or 3 on 1 fight. It becomes much easier to kill that end person, and then continue killing on down the line before the next person notices that their buddy is dead (sometimes called “zippering” or “zipping” a line).
Denying the flank is how you try to address (and hopefully, stop) the people who are flanking the end of your line.
Turn to Face Them
One of your natural instincts when people are starting to circle you is to directly turn and face your opponent(s).
What happens, though, when the flanking fencers start to press in, and you need to move backwards?
Often, when all you do is just pivot to face the flankers, you end up getting pushed backwards into your line. This causes lots of havoc at the end of your line, your people end up dead before you know it in the chaos, and then your side has lost the fight.
Move Forward to Confront Them
The next thing you can try to do is to move forward to confront your opponents. That way, they won’t be able to wrap far around the edge of your line, which breaks the flanking, right?
You can see the problem with this maneuver below: it leaves a gap between you and the end of your line. You’ve essentially just made your line one person shorter, without the next person realizing that they are the new effective end of the line. This makes your neighbor really vulnerable to zippering, and soon your line is dead and your side has lost the fight again.
Move Out and Back a Bit
The final move you can make is to move out and back a bit. Make sure when you’re doing this that you’re yelling “flankers on the left! Left flankers! Flankers!” really loudly so that your neighbor knows what you are doing.
This makes your line curve somewhat naturally into the flank.
It may seem like your giving into the pressure from your enemies, but it’s also the safest way to defend an end being flanked. As you can see below, if the outer fencers press you in, you fold back underneath your line. Not the most ideal situation (being flanked is never an ideal situation), but much better than backing up into your allies and making the flanking easier for your opponents by confusing your allies.
I hope this helps people learn some ways to respond to a flank. Again: don’t just pivot, as you can get backed up into your line, and don’t move forward, opening up a gap in your line. Move out and back. Always, always, yell that there are flankers when you notice them. If you’re further in the line and you hear “flankers” being yelled to your left, pass the message down the line – “flankers to the left!” Having active communication up and down your line is how you avoid being taken by surprise. Make sure you yell “DEAD!” as loud as you can if the flank overtakes you. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
~Birke die Jägerin
Order of the Cavendish Knot
Dragon Army Pentamere XO