GALLERY/VIDEO: Bendigo Battlefield: Medieval mayhem arrives

AS THE armour clad knights walk across the field to meet their enemy they know it is a fight to the death.

But in this world, luckily, death only lasts as long as the game.

Welcome to the world of Swordcraft.

A medieval Live Action Battle Game, frequently referred to as LARP-ing (Live Action Role Playing), full of medieval mayhem and battles where the weapons of choice are made of foam rubber with padded arrows.

According to the official website it is ‘paintball meets medieval/fantasy battle - carnage with a dash of medieval re-enactment, role-playing and cosplay.’

Certainly if you walked past Bendigo Shadforth Oval on Wednesday you might have got the urge to run for cover to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

Then again, you might have wanted to prepare for battle.

It looks like a lot of fun.

Simon Vincent, who has been playing for three years and is responsible for bringing the game to Bendigo, says it is just like a sport with complicated rules.

“It would suit anyone who takes an interest in being active and role play computer games, it is a brilliant way to do both at the same time,” he said.

“I got involved three years ago when I saw a Swordcraft flyer at an Anime manifest and thought re-enactment would be fun, so I jumped on the bandwagon.

“We had our first game in Bendigo three weeks ago and we have only had a maximum of eight people so we are pretty small but we hoping more will come.

“We have four members of the council that attend every game and then people come from Melbourne,” he added.

Watch the epic battle at Shadforth Oval. Video: Leigh Sharp

Swordcraft, which is inspired by historical and fictional narratives such as Lord of the Rings and computer games like World of Warcraft, originally started in Melbourne and was the brainchild of Jeff Krins, Phill Krins and Nelson Gallardo.

It has since gone from strength to strength and they now have as many as 250 people playing every week.

The numbers in Bendigo pale in comparison but they are supported by the Melbourne group with some members coming up to play here on Wednesday and the group donating swords to the cause.

A typical meeting starts at 6.30pm when the knights arrive at the oval and get changed before entering the field at 7.30pm to commence battle.

It all takes place in the fictional world of Althea, an ancient continent that has seen the rise and fall of civilisations across the millennia, invented by the members.

Currently Althea is dominated by the two great nations of Aris and Middlemark with the neutral island of Estra sitting in the middle and serving as a neutral meeting point.

Each of the provinces have their own warbands that choose to fight each other and every team has their own strategy and order of command.

“We recommend players to move about until they decide which team suits them best,” explains Simon who belongs to the Teutonic Order from the Empire of Middlemark.

“I joined another group for one game when I first started but I didn't like it so I joined the Order of the Teutonic Knights and have been with them ever since.

“Within the world people can invent characters at home and then come and play them on the night.

“It is generally a battle game which carries on until you reach the objective which might be the capture of a flag or total annihilation of the other side.

“Once every three months we have camping trips where we go and set up wooden castles and play for three days.

"You have to have guards as the game never finishes so there might be a 3am raid on the castle. There are also quests. The organisers buy wooden chests with painted gold bricks and the players follow clues to find it.

“At the moment in Bendigo we only have a few people so we don’t have the same scenarios.”

Swordcraft in Bendigo may not have strength in numbers, but they still fight for their lives.

It is a magic world so you can be healed but usually you fall where you die and stay there until the end of the game as long as it is safe to do so.

Anyone in Bendigo who feels like letting off some steam on the battlefield can just show up.

 “We would just ask players that are considering attending more than one night to get a costume that looks from the right time. But there are many ways to get a cheap costume, even just cutting up a t-shirt to give it a different collar” said Simon, who himself wears the more professional looking Landsknechte gear.

“It was a formal look in Medieval days for mercenaries with bright coloured puffy sleeves and pants. I have it in the colours of my tribe the Order of the Teutonic Knights.”

“But you don’t need anything to play. We have weapons here that you can hire.  And everyone is welcome.

“The age varies immensely and girls and boys are both welcome.

“In Melbourne around a third of the members are actually female.”

According to Celeste Child, the only girl on the council in Bendigo, Swordcraft is a great way to meet people.

“I got involved after my boyfriend Max met Simon through an online gaming group and they became involved in Melbourne and then my boyfriend got me interested and we decided to start a group in Bendigo.

“It has been  good so far.

“When Melbourne started off they only had about five people and now they have between 200 and 250 coming every week so we’re not too worried about numbers.

“It is good fun for everyone, everyone is really friendly and it is a good way to make friends, everyone is very inclusive. And even if you don’t feel like sword fighting you can have a bow and arrow or be a healer,” explained Celeste.

“It is a kind of mixture of role playing, messing around, fighting and not taking ourselves too seriously.”

If this sounds like something you would like, meetings are held every Wednesday from 6.30pm at Bendigo Shadforth Oval on Fenton Street.

It cost $2 for the first night which includes a training session and hiring a sword and $10 thereafter.

Let the games begin.

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