The line fight is the team part of our sport. Instead of fighting one against one, as is often seen in martial arts, we fight two teams against one another. Basically we change from single combat to line fighting tactics, as soon as the fight consist of more than two combatants e.g. two against one. Usually the line fight is between to regular teams of about four to several hundred warriors. The rules of combat are the same in the line as in the in the one-on-one fighting.
Occasionally however there can be certain extra rules e.g. the number of times you need to get hit to be ‘dead’. These rules have been added because we usually fight our line battles during the summer, on Viking markets, dressed in authentic Viking gear. In order not to ‘punish’ those fighting in heavy and encumbering gear like chain mail, helmet and leather padding, extra ‘hit point’ can be awarded to those warriors with added protection.
The structure of the line
The line is literally ‘the army’ standing in a line, each man standing next to one another in order to protect the man next to you, or to be able to hit the same target on the enemy line from more than one position. There are numerous variations of the line e.g. the line can be split into several ranks, but the basic idea is still the same.
How the line is structured tactically, varies from group to group. The same applies to the weapon constellation in the line for an example, does the line consists of many spear- or Dane axe warriors, or does it mainly consist of axe- and sword warriors.
Many of the things we train to fight the one-on-one fights are still the basic skills in the line fight, however tactical understanding and teamwork are equally essential aspects when fighting in the line. You could say the line fight is a sport in its own right.
Prior to the larger battles with 50-150 warriors, several hours of preparation can take place. These preparations could be anything from tactical planning around a table, to training with the entire army in order to get it to move correctly and as one. In these large battles several groups will join up to form one team. Plans are drawn up for how to surprise the enemy line, how to strike at vital parts of it in order to take them out as quickly as possible, as well as plans as how to protect ones own line from the tactics employed by the enemy. There are numerous strategies and manoeuvres available in the line fighting and they all require discipline, patience and tactical understanding in order to succeed. This is especially true in the large battles where many of the warriors do not know each other and never have fought together before.
Each group has its own style of fighting, which is trained vigorously. In the group vs. group fighting, it is often the knowledge gained during training of your fellow team member’s abilities, and the knowledge of how they each react that will you the day. In the larger battles it is the various groups’ abilities to coordinate their strengths during the planning, as well as their ability to improvise when all plans fall apart that will make the outcome.
Ulfhednir on the line
Ulfhednir’s strength on the line varies from year to year. Our strength will be depending on how good our training sessions have been, whether we have had new and original ideas to work with and whether the cooperation between the warriors has been fruitful. These are very much the same conditions for success that exists in all team sport e.g. football.
We base our main strategy on the offensive. Quick and decisive attacks are the manoeuvre we try to apply most of the time. As a group on the battlefield, we are often out numbered; therefore a too defensive strategy would allow our enemy to control too many aspects of the fight.
Therefore we keep mobile, and take advantage of our smaller numbers, which often allows us to perform certain manoeuvres faster than a larger enemy. Swift running and quick charges will hopefully split the enemy line before their superiority in numbers will eventually overwhelm us. In the larger lines, where the line consists of many groups, we are often to be found on the flank on either side of the line. Here we attack the enemy flank in a fast, and hopefully decisive attack that will allows us break through and circle the enemy main line to attack their centre in the back.
Finding your place on the line
Everybody in the group has his/her favourite position in the line. This means where you position yourself physically in the line and what tasks this will leave you.
In the centre of the line you will often find the very stabile warrior who is skilled in defending himself and the man next to him, as well as the spearmen who works from behind the line. The job of the centre is to stay alive and keep the line together. This will grant the flanks breathing space in order to mount an attack against the enemy flanks. Occasionally however the centre will surprise by attacking themselves in a quick frontal attack in the attempt to break the enemy line in two.
The more mobile parts of the line are often positioned on the flanks. Here you will often find the warrior who is also a strong one-on-one fighter. On the flanks it is essential to be quick and able to get a hit in on your enemy in the first attempt. The main objective of the flank is to press the enemy flank back, or break through, so that the entire enemy line will not be able to operate effectively.
Behind the line you will find the warriors with long weapons, these are spear- and Dane axe warriors. From the relative safety from behind their own ranks, it is their job to ‘float’ from position to position in order to, one defend the line from the long weapons on the enemy line, two to attack the enemy line in quick surprising attacks, which will leave holes in the enemy line to be exploited by the mobile units.
Further more, behind the line it is often possible to find small groups of warriors, who either act as a reserve or as ‘runners’. The warrior here is often a fast running person, who must be able to move quickly anywhere on the line where help is needed. Or in coordination with the flanks to exploit any holes made in the enemy line, running through to either engage the enemy reserve or circle around and attacking the enemy centre in the back. It is also the runner’s job to stop the enemy runners who tries to circle ones own line.
In the large line there are often one or more line commanders. The individual warrior standing in his/her specialised little squad on the line (e.g. centre, flank or runners) rarely is able to get the full picture of what is happening on the entire length of the line when the fight begins. It is the job of the line commander to keep the overall perspective and guide the line so it will remain as one.
Never feel too safe
There are no rules on how the line should be constructed or how it should work. This is the main structure of the line as it can be seen on the battlefield right now. However each year new variations are introduced, new strategies are tried and modifications to already existing ones, based on last year’s experiences are applied.
This is the exciting world of the line, which each year makes hundreds of warriors take to the field to fight in epic battles to their own great enjoyment as well as that of the public.