Last night, Rami and I got together and played our first games with the proper printed Patron Deck and Liechtenauer expansion pack. This was lots of fun, and very exciting for us to see the project coming to completion.
The Patron deck reflects the choices made by our Patron, of course. While we couldn’t put in absolutely everything he asked for, we did manage to include some pretty cool new tricks.
My favourite is the pouch of poison dust, the idea for which came from the pollax filled with poison dust in Il Fior di Battaglia. The way it works in the game is that when you get into a stretto bind, you throw the dust in your opponent’s face, which causes a break-off. But, you also get to take one of your opponent’s virtue cards, and the other one is invalid until the next break-off. This simulates the effect of blinding powder in their eyes.
The Patron deck doesn’t have all of the Liechtenauer material, of course; most obviously, it lacks the five meisterhau. Our idea was that the Liechtenauer Expansion Pack would work like an advanced course (which is pretty much how I see the medieval Liechtenauer material; it doesn’t cover any of the basics of normal swordplay). But he does have nasty tricks like Uberlauffen, which allows him to counterattack with an oberhau against a mittelhau or unterhau.
What, too much German? Don’t worry, there’s a glossary in the rules.
The Patron deck has the same suite of blows and stretto cards as the other three decks, though the balance of the blows is different, to reflect what I see in the sources. But he has some very cool Liechtenauer-specific actions up his sleeve, such as Mutieren and Duplieren. Their basic function is to allow the player to use a cut or thrust when they would normally be confined to stretto plays.
Liechtenauer wrote (I paraphrase from memory) “if he [the opponent] is strong in the bind, duplieren. If he is weak in the bind, mutieren). That’s the gist of it, anyway. So, in these cards, you can use Duplieren to play another cut, if your opponent has more Fortitudo (ie is stronger); if you have more Fortitudo, you can use Mutieren to play a thrust. It’s moments like this when apparently odd features of the game will resonate with those who know the sources as pretty much direct quotes, that to me makes this game such a worthwhile use of my time.
The Liechtenauer Expansion pack has only six guards. They are Vom Tag, Pflug (left and right), Ochs (left and right) and Alber. Why? Because Liechtenauer wrote that they are the most important. And as an expansion pack, which can be used with any character deck, these are in addition to the regular suite of 12 guards. Of course, the Patron already has these in his deck. For the Patron, the Expansion pack adds the five meisterhau, Indes, Fuhlen, and Absetzen. This makes it perhaps less useful to him than it is to a Fiore-based deck like Galeazzo, Boucicault, or Agnes, but that is what you would expect; a swordsman trained in Germany would likely see less new stuff in Liechtenauer’s system than someone with a different basic training.
We did come across a problem with the Krumphau. As you can see from the card, there is a lot of text. But not enough. As I see it, the krumphau is used in at least three ways:
1) to defend from your right against an oberhau
2) to defend from your left against an oberhau
3) to attack from your right against left ochs (Liechtenaur states that it “breaks left ochs”).
[Liechtenauer practitioners please note: this is a card game. Yes, you can strike at the hands with the first action of the krump, but that is a level of granularity that we just had to skip. Likewise Fiore specifies all sorts of targets (face, throat, chest, arms, cheeks of the arse) and, with a couple of exceptions, we have just left out the targeting. A blow lands or it doesn’t. It would have made the game orders of magnitude more complex to try to specify where it lands, or, as in this case, to include what I think of as the “single-tempo krump”].
In each case, the blow that actually hits the opponent is coming down from the other side to the one you started on: if you krump from the right, you’ll end up striking with a left oberhau. To attack left ochs from a right-side guard such as Vom Tag, beating it out of the way and striking; the blow that hits the head is effectively a false-edge backhand oberhau, so you’d play a left oberhau. But that violates the rules of Eligibility; you can’t strike a left oberhau from Vom Tag (please see my post on posta di donna for the explanation as to why we can’t allow you to do everything from a guard in the game that you can in real life).
So we are going to have to change the text on the card, and because it’s going to be so long it wouldn’t fit on the card in a legible font size, we will have to put the full rules regarding this card in the separate Rules sheet. That kills me, because we have always tried to make all the info fit on the card, but hey ho, accuracy above all. For those of you reading this who have already got the Expansion Pack, let me summarise the use of Krumphau here:
You can play a Krumphau with a left oberhau/roverso fendente card from any right-side guard that allows a right oberhau/mandritto fendente or right mittelhau/mandritto mezano. You can do this when your opponent is in left ochs/fenestra sinestra, treating that guard as Extended. Note, to play a left oberhau/roverso fendente against left ochs/fenestra sinestra would normally be not Eligible from a right-side guard; you’d have to change guard to do it.
You can also play a Krump with a left oberhau/roverso fendente from a situation where only mandritti/ blows from the right are normally eligible, as a counterattack against your opponent’s right oberhau/mandritto fendente strike; or with a right oberhau/mandritto fendente against their attack of left oberhau/roverso fendente.
In effect, it allows you to counterattack when normally you couldn’t, and to strike from the other side when normally that would not be Eligible.
I think you can see why this won’t fit on the card!
There are a few very minor corrections to make to some other cards, but we expect to get these decks released in print very soon.
These first imperfect decks will be sent to our Patron, of course. We finished the session by writing a letter to go with them.
Hand written with a dip pen using an antique nib (a Waverly; the same brand and model that Rudyard Kipling insisted on), and sealed with wax using a seal I was given by Chris Vanslambrouk, in Florence last year (thanks, Chris!).
There has to be some advantage to being the Patron, no?
Then, of course, away with the wine and out with the single malt. Alles ist gut, ja?
You can find all of the print and play pdfs, printed decks of Galeazzo and Boucicault, and all the rules sheets, here. And print-on-demand versions of all the decks so far except the Patron and the Liechtenauer Expansion, here.