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Ultralight Weapons - An Experiment
[02/24/2004] [Malek Marlschev]

There was a recent thread here on E-Sam that resurrected the age-old argument of weapon weights. The concept was brought up that given two fighters of equal skill, weight, strength, reach and so forth, the one with the lighter weapon has the advantage. Even among identical twins in our game there are significant differences in skill and fighting style. This would make it impossible to have two identical fighters. So I thought about a way to set up an experiment that would eliminate the “skill / difference factor” and allow us to just analyze whether or not weapon tech makes a difference.

The idea I came up with is this: two round robin brackets. Each match is best two of three bouts. This will help determine the dominant fighter and keep the lucky stab and fluke shots from skewing the data. Round robin allows all contestants to fight each other and makes for more fighting overall. The overall winner is determined by total wins and not how many people were eliminated. The first bracket was single short sword. There was no restriction on weapon construction.

The second bracket was the experimental one. One contestant was handed a heavy weapon, the other an ultralight. They did a round of two of three, traded weapons and did another round of two of three. Wins per person and type were recorded, along with a chart that showed who won on each type and how many heavy vs. light wins each person has.

For the weapons of the tourney, I knew I did not want people bringing their own heavy weapons. I wanted the heavies to be legal and safe. So I made two heavies and provided two newly constructed ultralights. (Graphite core, noodle and packing tape.) The heavies were PVC core, a layer of pipe insulation and flooring foam wrapped around it to the thickness of noodle. Duct was the primary tape, of course.

And of course, I set up a spreadsheet to crunch my numbers for me and track these stats:

    Wins in control bracket (per fighter)

    Experimental tourney:
    Overall wins (per fighter)
    Wins with ultralight (per fighter)
    Wins with ultralight (per tech)
    Wins with heavy (per fighter)
    Wins with heavy (per tech)

Tournament Day

I only advertised for the tourney a week in advance, but was hopeful that more than the usual people would show up. It happened Sunday, Feb 8 at my Barony of Blackwood Grove. We had nine people sign up for the tourney. Even though the Northwest weather cooperated, tournament turnout was not what I hoped for.

So here are the numbers, and then I will discuss the results:

Control Rankings Wins
1st Sir Trenton 8
2nd MaA Yucohn Sing 7
3rd Squire Gigglez 6
4th Lord Malek 5
5th Tarriana 4
6th Stoney 3
7th Pimpin 2
8th Gwen 1
9th MaA Kryllin 0

Experimental Rankings Wins Heavy Light
1st Sir Trenton 13 6 7
2nd Squire Gigglez 12 6 6
3rd MaA Yucohn Sing 10 4 6
4th Lord Malek 7 3 4
4th Gwen 7 3 4
5th Stoney 4 1 3
6th Tarriana 2 0 2
7th MaA Kryllin 1 0 1

Total Heavy Wins 22
Total Light Wins 34

We started off the control bracket. Weapons of choice were mainly the more common ultralights of assorted styles of construction. To help out the numbers game a little more, I participated in my own tournament. Even though the tourney was advertised a week in advance, it was mainly the local barony members that made a showing. As such, there are more newbie fighters and young people than vets or up and comers. So when looking at the wins and who came out on top – there is a significant gap of skill and experience between the top four and the rest. Trenton is an old school fighter; Gigglez is Trenton’s squire and trains with heavy weapons. Yucohn and I have had martial arts training –Namely Kendo and kung fu. The rest are mainly teenagers who have started fighting in the last year or so. As such, I cannot fully state that I have a good cross-section of Amtgard fighters. Sir Derek Roth showed up, but decided to be a spectator rather than a participant.

The numbers reflect that dominant fighters remain so regardless of weapon tech used. The top four are those that are either experienced, have cross-trained athletically or train with old school methods. However on those that ranked lower, it does show that the ultralight weapons definitely give an advantage over the heavy weapons. Granted, most of the new fighters had never held an Amtgard weapon that weighed in as much as the heavies I provided. In fact, the PVC core alone weighed in at more than my ultralights.

One notable thing that showed up in the numbers crunching was this: When the fights were not completely dominated by one fighter (meaning a split of wins/losses) the lighter weapons showed the advantage in every match. This was true for the vets as well as the new people.

There was some discussion of the experiment idea on the VSR lists. The general prediction was that top fighter would win anyway. Other comments included: Yes ultralights provide an advantage which is why they are used, and that older school, heavier weapons use a different style that could still compete with the ultralights.

A sample of nine people is hardly a suitable cross section of fighters. I do plan to run this experiment again in the future. Hopefully at a kingdom level event so I can get a better set of numbers. However the numbers do show us the following things that most people who have been in the game for a while already know:

    1. Dominant fighters will come out on top, regardless of the weapon tech used.
    2. Among the fighters with more or less equal skill, the lighter weapons do have an advantage.
    3. Win or lose, tournaments are still fun.

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