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Tag: fiore vs liechtenauer

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.

Our dashing Patron

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.

Sigmund Ringeck, brought to life!

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.

I returned yesterday from a visit to the Osnabrück branch of my School, where every day of training was followed by one or two small beers, and playing Audatia. These guys are good enough (at the game, at least 🙂 ) that I got at least one pommel strike in my face, and ate a sword point or two.


Which is all well and good; it never fails to give me a buzz to have a group of Italian-style swordsmen in the heart of Germany!

But German swordsmanship, especially Medieval German swordsmanship, is (and it kills me to say so) every bit as sophisticated and effective as the Italian.

Which is why I wanted to incorporate German swordsmanship into my card game. To this end, I met up first with our illustrious Patron, Teemu Kari, to go over what he wanted.

His is a Character Deck, like the other three (Galeazzo, Boucicault, Agnes), but instead of being trained in Fiore’s system, the Patron's Character is German, and uses German swordsmanship.

Then we needed a long session with our genius designer, Samuli Raninen. It was one of those days when you look up from your work, realise that you're hungry, and discover that it's 4pm and you forgot to stop for lunch.

My impression is that just as Fiore’s Armizare does not equate to “general Italian medieval combat”, Liechtenauer’s art does not equate to “what all Germans did for swordfighting in the 14th and 15th centuries”. So the Patron deck has German terminology, and some Liechtenauer techniques (such as Winden and Zucken), but if he wants to throw a Schielhau, he’s going to need some extra training in the form of the Liechtenauer Expansion Pack.
The Patron Deck works like the other Characters, in that he has guards (the Liechtenauer ones though, not Fiore’s), blows (named in German, but with the same characteristics as the Italian versions), and his own set of special skills (including some top-secret and very cool ones, such as Throw the Sword…). Where he is most different though is in the Stretto cards. He has all the counter-remedies, so he is not an easy mark for us Italians, but several of his Stretto Remedies have been replaced with German-style winding and binding actions.

The Expansion Pack is quite different. It contains only the four guards that Liechtenauer actually recommends:
Ochs, Pflug, Vom Tag and Alber, with Ochs and Pflug on both sides, so six cards in all. We have left out the rest of them (Schrankhut, Nebenhut, and so on, though they are in the Patron Deck).
Then there are twenty “Technique” cards, including one of each of the five Meisterhau, and fifteen other Liechtenauer concepts, such as Mutieren and Duplieren, Uberlauffen, and so on. You get five of these to play with in total, but instead of going into your hand to be “spent” when you play them, they are returned to your Expansion Pack hand and may be re-used. This is because they act to modify an existing Action card that you play; they cannot be played on their own. For example, Zwerchau allows you to use a Mezano as a counter-attack; Absetzen allows you to defend with a Thrust (Punta or Ort) from any Posta.
As always, these cards play nicely together, and any game you play can be replayed sword-in-hand. But they do not of course behave exactly like swords (which is why medieval knights did not usually fight with small cardboard oblongs).
Jussi, our graphic artist, has been working on the art for a while now. We have drafts of much of the decks already, we thought that Sigmund Ringeck would be a good model for our Expansion Pack character:

We are nearly there!

I recently posted this video as part of the ongoing Vadi interpretation work I am doing. As should be clear from the context, this is not syllabus-ready material, it is just my first proper take on the subject. In other words, the interpretations in the video are not the gospel according to Guy, but an indication of my current thoughts on the subject. Bear that in mind when putting it into practice!

This play is tricky to interpret as the image seems to show something that directly contradicts an earlier statement in the text. I don’t know of anyone who has a definitive interpretation with no such inconsistencies. So this may be a good place to look at the assumptions I am making, as they shed light on the process of interpretation that I tend to follow. And a deeper look into the text that may support my current view.

Here is the image in question:

Vadi first LS Play

And the text that goes with it:

E reverso fendente ho tratto sul pe stanco 

Senza scanbiar pe voltando el galone 

Traro el dritto senza moverme anco.

I have made a roverso fendente on the left foot,
Without changing the foot turning the hips

I strike a dritto without further movement.

(Translation mine, from Veni Vadi Vici, p 126)

The first question then is can we trust the image? It is possible to argue that given medieval artistic conventions and the like that the the play done in real life may not look much like the image. I reject these arguments out of hand on the grounds that there is no end then to what the image may represent- it becomes essentially useless. I make exceptions only for images that are anatomically impossible to replicate, such as this one from the Getty MS:

The famous Alien defence, where an extra arm explodes out of your chest at the critical moment.
The famous Alien defence, where an extra arm explodes out of your chest at the critical moment.

To claim that an interpretation looks nothing like the image because the image is wrong demands a hefty burden of proof. So we might ask, are the other images in this MS reliable? And with the exception of sudden hand changes (eg the 12th play, p 134), and the 14th play (p135) where it appears that they would both be injured, I think yes. There is no good reason to suppose that this play should not look just like the picture.

So what is the picture trying to show? There is no doubt, given the foot placement, and the blade relationship, that the figure on the left is doing the action in the text. So, is this image showing us the roverso (backhand), or the dritto (forehand) mentioned? As a general rule, derived from my experience, and to which I cannot offhand think of a single exception, treatise illustrations show the moment of the final action of the text. They may show the beginning, middle, or end of a technique, such as the 8th, 9th and 10th plays of the zogho stretto from the Getty MS, subject of this article and this video, but the text accompanying a given image will then state that the play is in an intermediate stage, and the image will show that stage. So this image is most probably showing the “dritto” stage of the action. Given that this blow ends up with the hands crossed on the right hand side, it appears that the scholar has struck a descending blow with the false edge, or is thrusting.

“But hold!” you say, and rightly too. Does Vadi not clearly state in Chapter Five, verse three (on p. 60) that descending blows use the true edge?

Let’s take a look. It’s a tiny chapter, so let’s have the whole thing:

La spada sia una ponta con doi taglie 

Pero bem nota et intende questo scripto 

Che la memoria tua non sabarbaglie 


Luno sie el false et laltro sie el dirito

E la ragione si comanda e vole
Che questo tenghe nel cervel tuo fitto


Deritto col deritto inseme tole 

El riverso col falso inseme sia

Salvo el fendente lo diritto vole.


Intende bene la scriptura mia 

Sepetti colpi son che la spada mena 

Sei taglii con la punta quel feria


Accio che du ritrovi questa vena
Doi de sopra et de sotto e dui mezane

La ponta por mezzo con ingagne et pena 

Che laer nostro sa spesso serena.


The sword has a point and two edges,

But note well and understand this text,

That memory will not fail you.


One is the false, and the other the true,

And reason commands and desires,

That this is fixed in your brain.


Forehand and true edge go together,

Backhand and false edge stay together,
Except the fendente which wants the true.


Understand my text well,
The sword goes with seven blows

Six cuts with the thrust that strikes.


So that you will find this seam,
Two from above and below and two in the middle,
The thrust up the middle with deceit and suffering,
That our Air is often calm.

Fine. So far, so clear. Fendenti take the true edge.

Later, on p 111, we see this image of those seven blows, and the text that reads:

Qvesti son colpi de spa da due mane. 

Non glie el mezo tempo: nel nodo rimane.

These are the blows of the two-handed sword,

Not those of the mezo tempo, they remain in a knot.

So it would appear that mezo tempo blows, whatever they may be, are named differently, or take different paths, or something. It seems clear though that the information on this page does not apply to them.

So what are they? We find them in Chapter 14, pp 95 to 97.

My commentary on this chapter runs like so:

“In this little chapter Vadi describes for us the way to strike safely from the meza spada crossing, using a “half time” or “half motion” of the sword. This may well be what Fiore refers to as a “meza volta of the sword”, and action he mentions but never defines. Fiore’s meza volta is a footwork action, defined thus: when with a pass forwards or backwards you can play on the other side. He goes on to say that there is a half- turn of the sword, but never refers to it in a way that would allow us to be sure what it is. Here, Vadi’s mezo tempo blow is the means by which you can, from the crossing, strike safely on the other side of the opponent’s sword. The key is to keep your hands in front of you, and turn the sword without losing your cover. As Vadi says, one who does not practice will parry badly, and thus get hit.

Up to now, the common interpretation of Vadi’s mezo tempo has been a half-blow which (as the text says) treats as one the cover and the strike. In effect, a counterattack, or counter-cut, much like the Liechtenauer technique zornhau ort. This may be so, but does not fit with the rest of the book, nor with the repeated description that these blows “remain in a knot” or are “a turn of the knot”. Executing these blows from the crossing though, we do simply keep our hands as a knot in front of us, and turn them from one side to the other.

We can cross-reference this to folio 15V, the blows of the sword in two hands, which are illustrated as full blows (as in Fiore), and are specifically not those of the mezo tempo, as Vadi writes:

Qvesti son colpi de spa da due mane. 

Non glie el mezo tempo: nel nodo rimane.

These are the blows of the two-handed sword,
Not those of the mezo tempo, they remain in a knot.

This may also exempt us from applying the injunctions about striking roverso volante and roverso rota with the false edge – these blows of the mezo tempo are mechanically different, and we will normally have to use the true edge even in these two cases to avoid losing the cover.

The key here is to keep your hands in front of you, and your sword between your face and your opponent’s blade.”

I can see that I should explain for those who have not read “the rest of the book” that chapter 11 begins with what to do when crossed at the half sword, and includes a strike to the head done with the false edge (p 85); chapter 12 discusses the feints of the sword done explicitly from the meza spada crossing, and chapter 13 discusses what to do when crossed at the half sword, and includes the following:

E e si pur tu volesti trar ferire 

Lassali andar el fendente riverso 

E filo falso con la punta al vixo.

(Voltandoli atraverso)

And if you want to throw blows,
Let a fendente roverso go,
And a false edge with the point in his face

(turning it across)

Which seems very like this first play of the sword too.

It would seem likely then that chapter 14 is continuing this theme of working from the crossing at the meza spada, and we have at least two specific instances in the text of false edge blows being done to the head.

Lastly then, can we source similar actions being done in contemporary systems for the same weapon? Indeed yes, this action has much in common, both mechanically and tactically, with the duplieren type winding at the half sword. Indeed, this is one of those plays that my students who have trained in the Liechtenaer system find much easier to learn than those who have not.

In the first interpretation shown in the video (time 0.25-0.42) Ilpo and Jarno are showing this play as I would do it if we had no image, just following the text and the general principles of this system. So, for anyone who believes that the image is wrong, this is how I suggest you do the play, though I would be inclined to do that action from the crossing of the swords shown later in the video (from about 1.27) as the basic, default interpretation.

In fine, then, I take the mezo tempo blows to be those done from the meza spada crossing, and specific, textually supported exceptions to the general admonition regarding the blows of the sword, namely that fendenti must be done with the true edge. And while my interpretation may well change as we go through all the other plays and start to incorporate Vadi’s material into our core syllabus, as it stands it follows the text, looks like the picture, fits with the general themes of the book, and has correlates in other systems using the same weapon. Enough to be going on with, I think.

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