Editor’s Note: “Never Have I Ever …” is a weekly column in which writers Nic Turiciano, Kate Bennis and photographer Nick Lyon explore and write about an activity that they’ve never done.
On May 2, Collegian journalist and co-columnist Nic Turiciano, photojournalist Nick Lyon and I, Kate Bennis, ventured into the unknown: A world where archers, jousters and warriors band together.
The mission? To defend or overtake the forces of evil, depending on which side one chose to stand by.
The location? Namaqua Park in Loveland.
Known as “battlegaming,” two armies of about 15 people each assembled in a secluded field lined with huge oak trees. Wielding swords and shields made of foam, they fight ‘til the “death.”
This particular group of Loveland battlegamers is called Dagorhir, meaning “battlelord” in J. R. R. Tolkien’s language.
Dave Graham, who has battlegamed for 33 years, is quick to differentiate battlegaming from what is commonly referred to as Live Action Role Playing, or LARP.
“LARP games tend to have ongoing plot lines, and people are expected to play fantasy roles. In battlegaming, it’s all about the combat,” he said.
Battlegaming attracts a wider variety of people than LARP because of its lack of magic system, Graham said.
None of the “Never Have I Ever …” trio had ever battlegamed before. Similarly, we were all a little skeptical.
“I can’t believe we’re actually doing this,” Lyon said, shaking his head as we hopped out of the car.
Men and women spanning ages seven to 48 were congregating under the park’s pavilion area, donning garb that appeared to be out of the medieval era.
Presence on the battlefield is important, Graham said. The dark cloaks, leather vests and face paint we saw was a means of the participants making themselves known on the line of combat.
“If you’re running around in a T-shirt and jeans, no one is going to respect you. Intimidation is the difference between winning and losing,” he said.
The three of us looked out of place in our Vans sneakers and bright-colored clothing. But as the kick-off column of “Never Have I Ever …,” where we explore an activity that we’ve never done before, it had been unanimous that nothing was more appropriate than battlegaming.
We were each handed a foam sword –– curiously, none of us got shields –– and the rules were explained: Based on the honor system, once a limb was struck it could no longer be used. A strike on the torso marked an immediate death for the player.
At the line of combat, I was slightly nervous. I turned to a player nicknamed Badger, a burly character brandishing an oversized shield. Badger had been battlegaming for two years.
“Just follow me,” he advised.
Onward I went.
And so we moved forth. With the help of my comrade, we moved past several terrifying opponents whose faces were covered by leather masks.
Swept up in the moment, I found that I had lost Badger and was faced to take on Bear, a man three times my size. The strike of his sword, also foam, hit me with such a gusto that I was knocked off-balance and fell to my knees.
Was I now a casualty?
“You can still fight, you just can’t use that leg,” Bear said, kindly. Subsequently, I was struck in the abdomen.
Several battles followed, each army destroying the other side a few times before stopping for a water break.
We said goodbye to our new friends an hour later, and, as we made our way back to the Fort, the inside of Turicano’s Jeep was filled with an odd nostalgia as we reminisced of our epic time in battle.
At the same time, shame of our preconceptions became apparent, and Lyon was the first to address this:
“Who knew that hitting each other with foam swords could be so much fun?”
Got an idea or suggestion for an activity we could try out? Want to go on an adventure with us? Contact us at email@example.com.