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The Forsooth Saga: Warband Part 2

RPS needs: YOU! We have a new Mount & Blade: Warband dedicated server, and last night brave folk took to its fields to do bloody murder on their fellow man for the first time. Find out what happened, and how you too can get involved, below.

Firstly a huge thanks to the brave souls who showed up last night (around 25 of you at the peak). Despite the fairly predictable chaos of the first meeting we actually did manage to get some sort of organisation going after a few rounds. A small miracle considering that half an hour before kick off we didn't even have a server or a voice comms channel in place. Still, with technical hurdles successfully vaulted we got stuck in to some serious swordplay.

One of the first things that strikes a new player joining a public Warband server is that it doesn't look much like a battle. All the right bits are there, knights in shining are pinning yeoman to trees, the clash of steel rings out to a counterpoint of pain, arrows rain from the sky, fallen litter the field – all that good stuff, but it's all the wrong shape. It doesn't look like a battlefield. People are too spread out, breaking off into little one-on-one or two-on-three micro-battles. Even team modes like CTF and Battle can feel worryingly close to a Counterstrike match with the ammo removed: everyone scurrying about trying to stick each other in the back with something sharp. What I'm driving at is there's a distinct lack of formation in Warband, and surely that's the signature of pre-industrial fisticuffs? We've been fed a big block-shaped diet of Spartacus and Braveheart, and more importantly of Total War. We expect our roughhousing to be rectilinear. Now not actually having ever been in a real medieval battle, I'm in no position to say whether these martial manoeuvrings at all reflect the look and feel of pointed-stick warfare, but it's certainly what one expects.

So of course the first thing anyone with a hunger for that special kind of gaming thrill that only comes from multiplayer cooperation does is try and form a hedgehog. A big shield wall block of infantry bristling with spikey pikes. And so we did, or at least we tried to. Here's where we meet our first and possible greatest problem: I'm 100% sure our burgeoning band of bludgeoners can overcome issues of organisation in the weeks to come, but population deficit may be our Achilles Heel. After last night's first stab, I reckon that in order to form a decent hedgehog you need at least eight pikemen, any less and the block is too small to repel absorb the impact of a small cavalry charge. You get outflanked and the gaps in your sides and rear get exploited. Also, when dealing with enemy infantry, inevitably one or two eager fellows get drawn out of the line to engage a skirmishing foe, then get picked off. So, eight strong men and true it is for that then. That works, but it does leave you rather short in other departments if you've only got around twelve men to start with. You see Warband looks like it will demand balance if we're to pull this vision of militant order off. The hedgehog on it's own can handle cavalry charges, but soon gets wittled down by probing infantry and withering arrow fire, so you need some cavalry to go out and mop those archers up, and some archers of your own to harass the enemy infantry. It's that classic rock, paper, shotgun... sorry scissors... thing. This is actually brilliant if you think about it. This is what you wantwork. But as I say it demands a fairly high population of organised fellows.

Last night was only the first of many, and achieving that level of mass organisation is the aim of this experiment. In the forums we've created a little war room (no fighting) where we'll be attempting to get things a little more organised now the morning star is rolling. We had a good turnout last night, but now I want to grow that 25 and split you off into groups of Archers, Infantry and Cavalry. We already have a few people who've expressed and interest in one particular area but we need more. Why not head over to the forums now and sign up to this man's army? You'll also find the next Training Knight details, and details for the dedicated server itself, therein.

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Mount & Blade: Warband

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James Carey