by Keith "Saegan" Cronyn
I was sort of skeptical going into Queen of Hearts this year. You might not know it, but I'm sort of a competitive asshole, and the whole idea of changing the mission statement from “the Olympics of the Realms” to “let's have fun” gave me concern.
I mean seriously, fun? What's that about. I work tirelessly to refine my fighting to be a skilled competitor. And fun just sounds like silliness to me.
Now in my opinion Queen of Hearts is an important event for the game. In its time as the Olympics of the Realms it has managed to garner a level of competition that is unseen in any other event in the year. I mean that in all seriousness.
Order of the List Invitational may bring out some of the best single fights, and same with Tournaments of Creathorne. And North-South War may have some really competitive war tournies, but Queen of Hearts has both of those, and bardics, and arts, and armorsmithing, and it takes the time to highlight them all.
These are important things, and I don't mean to take away from any of those other events by highlighting Queen of Hearts, because those events are important too. And others that I left unnamed. But you need to understand that Queen of Hearts is for everyone. Not just our Olympians.
So I was skeptical going in because I'm a competitive ass, and I don't know how to have fun. That's my mistake. Reading things about water balloon tournies, and target ball, and other things and me having to remind myself to trust the people who I know have every intention of creating a good time for their player base.
What you missed? You missed Queen of Hearts.
You missed four teams crashing into each other over and over in competitive fights.
You missed high caliber singles tournaments with some amazing shots, and pristine shot calling.
You missed new tournaments, that focused on team work.
You missed unparalleled artisanship from true paragons of their respective crafts.
You missed an event.
And I don't mean that in the layman noun that we use to denote a weekend of our preferred activity. I mean that you missed something important that happened. A change in the game.
We started off with Kill the Queen and Antonine Wall, current and future classic staples of the event. Having four teams meant we got to do more of them and it was a blast.
We moved on to Targetball and Live Chess. Live Chess is a classic as well and it was the first time I played on a team that didn't have enough people to fill the board, which created cool new (to me) strategies from both sides.
Targetball--- a lot like dodge ball from back in the day, this was one of the non-com tournaments that they tried. But it incorporated skills from the game, like losing limbs and blocking. The team work was essential, and there was absolutely a lot of strategy involved. The biggest thing for me in unique war tournaments is controlling a variable to make it unique and different from the others. Bridge and castle battles control the environment you move through, squad battles limit the number of people. And so on. This may not have had the combat, but it still had a lot of the other skills of our game and it was an absolute blast. And I for one know my team wanted so much more of it throughout the weekend that they wouldn't let me forget. And I hope they don't let the QoH staff forget either.
We moved onto Castle Sieges and a team puzzle challenge.
The castle siege is a classic, and evokes a true medieval feeling as you're storming the castle. If for some reason you're a player that hasn't experienced one, whether you're just too new or haven't had the chance by circumstance, you need to. You just do.
The team puzzle challenge was just that, a challenge to get your team to work together and solve a puzzle. I really appreciated this because as a competitive fighter that enjoys questing and also I know how hard sometimes it can be to get a large group all working on a puzzle activity at once. And it appealed to my competitive spirit. It got me. I hope that it becomes a staple too, personally, and it draws out all those questers that think tournies aren't for them, because if this doesn't appeal, I'd be surprised.
Somewhere in here during the day was the massive water balloon fight. You might think that just sounds like silly fun. For you, it may have been. For some people that's absolutely what this was. For me, this was a war tourney without weapons. Water balloons may as well have been lighting bolts. The field was littered with obstacles for cover, and if you could pitch the length of the field you could hit anyone. Water balloons were flying every which way requiring situational awareness and agility, people were moving and at different ranges requiring hand-eye coordination. And I absolutely had fun. Dammit. You got me QoH staff. You got me.
There were a lot of single and paired tournaments going on throughout the day - RAT, Marksman, knight and squire, Mage and Champion, and so many more, and I only got to participate in a few, because spread the wealth, but the ones I did participate in were fun. If you ever want to challenge yourself to be the best at any single skill in our game, I recommend them.
Bridge battles, and Luck of the Draw happened at the same time as the singles, and Spirit and Steel.
Bridge battles are another staple. And you should give them a shot if you haven't had the chance. Pikes rarely see more action than a bridge.
Luck of the Draw is a fun time because it lets a lot of the team participate but gives the smaller teams a bit of a edge because only five people go in at a time. People are given colorful bead necklaces, and they determine the order people enter the tournament. If blue gets drawn the people with the blue necklaces go in and they can go in more than once if they get more than one necklace. It's s fun twist on war maneuvers, and definitely one of my favorites, as a fighter that likes to be able to live around.
That rounded out our day of tournies into dinner break, during which they ran the Cleaved tournament, which is a lot like Chopped from my understanding, if you know the show.
We came back from dinner break into court and the non-coms.
Rhiassa held court, wherein Asharn was made a full member of Rhiassa, and Hildegard was squired to the Knights of Rhiassa.
Elouan put forth a new initiative to develop new methods of crafting within the game, which is something that you should look into if you have creative ideas for gear that needs development. I know I will.
That moved us into the non-coms. I can't express the level of competition here. I would pass, but I feel obligated to at least try.
The mages started us off with rituals to empower us for the next day. Calling on gods, and tapping pools of energy. The effects were marvelous, and I applaud their efforts.
The foamsmith category was 5 ft axe. And three individuals brought forth axes that were crafted in a new form, called plastidip. It allowed them a new level of art without compromising the weight too much. They were beautiful and I hope you get to see them someday.
As an armourer, I'm thankful I didn't compete this year. The armor pieces, pauldrons, would have put me to shame. I know the amount of work that goes into the complex weaves of chainmaile that was there, I know the challenge of putting in the minute detail of leather work that was in the leather. The pieces were absolutely immaculate. I don't know how the judges came to a decision. Honestly both sets of armorers should be working for Hollywood, without question.
The takes on armored cloaks were interesting and innovative. They were adaptable, and in some cases reversible. I'm really proud to know some of the competitors of these pieces.
The heraldry and banner competition is something of a blur to me. I was on stage, shaking my kilt at the time, and just proud to be there, and proud of my team.
This year the varied tournament was art. I myself entered this competition, and I knew the challenge I had to overcome going into it. But I couldn't have expected the reality. I won't spoil the winner for you here, but be jealous you didn't get to see it in person.
The bards rounded out the night, they sang songs and poems and told jokes, and if you were not entertained, you were not paying attention. You need to come see it sometime, no balls.
People went off into the night, gambling and questing, and I found a place to sleep. But people had stories for me the next day. Tales of undead, and lost bets.
The morning came too fast for me though, and while I got to mill about, the champions, young champions and athletes had to run. Thank everything is wasn't me. My champion was the second to cross the finish line, and the first among the champions, and I know he had been training for months, and I know he was exhausted.
They were afforded a short break and we moved into the five man competitions. I enjoyed both the five man traditional and the five man generations. I love squad battles though, so I guess that makes sense. I think the generations is a good twist because it forces a somewhat reasonable variation of skill between teammates, which is cool to see.
The final non com team tournament happened next. The challenge race. It was a series of team physical challenges, generally manageable for any one person, but complicated by the inclusion of the team. In a good way. It emphasized team work and communication.
We moved on to team grand melees, another favorite of mine, and I have to say I don't remember the last time I competed in one with four teams, and I forgot how much more fun that was. The stress and concern of one team killing another and turning on you as you're in the middle of fighting a different team, the free movement, it was exhilarating. I like skirmishing.
We rounded out the day with the Queen's War. And it seemed quick to me, with Grimloch and Neden, Team Jack, being the clear winners.
Like I said, you missed an event. I can't begin to tell you everything that happened. I can't begin to tell you all the stories. You missed an event. You missed Queen of Hearts.