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Flail: It Isn’t a Crutch
[02/06/2007] [Arminius]

Ever since I started playing Amtgard, I have heard other players demean the use of flails. Just because of its intended flexibility, it gets called everything from “a crutch” to “skill on a stick.” In truth, flails really have a bad rap in Amtgard.

Back under the 6th edition rules, flails were much more vicious then they are now, mainly because you could put a chain and head on anything from a dagger to a pole-arm. Yet, as cheesy as the infamous “flail-staff” was, that isn’t what made flail the black sheep of Amtgard weaponry. Power gaming bastards did that. Even under the 6th edition rules, only the head of the flail was considered the striking surface. But these power gamers, driven only by the desire to be considered great fighters, would not make a distinction between a valid shot and shots were only the chain or haft of the weapon struck. Moreover, many of them demanded that people take shots from these illegal areas and used construction techniques that made their flails almost impossible to tell whether the head or chain is what struck. With the new size restrictions on flails under the 7th edition of the rules, these power gamers have lost a considerable amount of their cheese-powers. But this does not solve the true unbalancing effect a flail has on combat skill: the honor of the person using it.

When in the hands of an honorable fighter, the flail is just as difficult to fight with as a short sword, if not more so. While the flail does have articulation, the striking area is usually only three to six inches, versus a short sword’s up to 24 inch strike area. In addition, flails must also contend with the world of physics. Because of the articulation of a flail, it is increasingly more likely for the striking head to not make connection on a rapidly thrown shot. When a shot is thrown with a flail, the head of the chain lags behind the haft of the weapon, and then must arc over and connect to the opponent. Unlike with a sword, it is possible to jerk the haft and chain back in an attempt to repost before the striking head has even come close to the target. The longer the chain portion of the flail, the more likely it is that the head won’t connect to its target on a quick shot. A short sword, being a rigid weapon, has a much better chance of the striking surface connecting on the draw back to repost than a flail ever will. This lag time from throwing the shot and connection forces an honorable flail fighter to become a better fighter by improving their timing and being more patient in choosing their shots. Of course, this does only apply to an honorable fighter wielding a flail.

In short, lack of honor is what makes the flail a “crutch.” The flail gives a dishonest fighter the ability to prey on the honor of others. Too often, people take chain and even haft strikes from a flail simply so they do not appear to be a sluffer. Anyone who fights with a flail and allows this to occur is cheating even worse than a sluffer. I fight with a flail regularly, and often end up telling my opponents, “No, you’re still up, that was just chain.” I encourage people to pick up a flail, and try to fight with it in an honorable fashion. Not only do you have to watch your opponent, you have to watch your own shots to ensure the head connects without allowing them to distract you. The experience will change your opinion on flails.

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