The melée is the name given historically to the swirling confusion of bodies, limbs and weapons, and sometimes even battle-trained mounts (when knights and/or Beastmasters participate), when the characters come against their foes with hand-held weapons. The melée is itself divided between two modes – “close” and “common”.
When the characters come against their foes with weapons in hand, or even bare-handed, they are suddenly in a swiftly changing swirling confusion of bodies. The more bodies, the more confusion, as the status between the combatants can change from one action to the next and even from one exchange of attacks and defenses to the next.
Fields of Approach (FoA)
There are 8 directions from which a character can be approached on the tactical display, sometimes referred to as Fields of Approach. These are known as the Front (the direction the character is currently facing), Right Front Flank and Left Front Flank, Right Side and Left Side, the Right Rear Flank and Left Rear Flank, and the Rear.
A character can offer attacks or defenses to the Front and the Front Flanks (Rt. and Lt.) regardless of the hand in which his weapon(s) or any shield is held, BUT attacks or defenses offered to each Side are limited according to whether the character is wielding a weapon or shield in the hand on a given Side.
IF he is aware of his foe’s presence or location at one of the Rear Flanks, the weapon or shield, cape, dagger, or the like held in hand on the appropriate Flank may likewise be used to defend it.
Against those approaching the Rear (from directly behind), the character may offer no defense without a compatriot’s timely warning OR without making a successful Sentry-Perception or AWA check to “feel” the danger.
The use of these tactics is a major reason for carrying both a longer and a smaller blade to fight “Florentine” style, so the character is equipped to deal with both close and common melée modes of battle interchangeably, at need.
While a character is understood to be in motion in his Zone, as opposed to standing stock-still as indicated by a fixed marker or miniature on the Display, he is basically Facing the direction marked F for Front in on his marker/figure base. His ability to easily keep track of the two Front Flanks are why he can respond to them with the same facility and versatility as the Front FoA, but he is considered to be focusing his attention primarily on those fields. His ability to scan allows him to address the two Sides and even the Rear Flanks, but a Turn is required before any action if the player wants the character to retain the same flexibility and facility in attack and defense, to bring the foe approaching from those Fields into a Side or Front Fields.
Both the GM and players must pay close attention to the markers of the characters on the tactical display and faithfully move them to accurately reflect the proximity for the purposes of determining in what mode of combat they are operating currently.
Any foe bearing a weapon that is less than his (height ÷ 2) in Size may be attacked in the “close” mode of the melée, also referred to as “hand-to-hand” combat, freely engaged by means of Wrestling, Grappling, and Brawling (kicking, kneeing, elbowing, pummeling by fisticuffs, etc.).
The weapon he is keeping between them for his defense does not separate his body from his attacker(s) sufficiently to prevent it. The Size of the attacker’s weapon is irrelevant in this case, as larger weapons can be held to the side while another hand is used to Grapple or pummel, or the haft or hilt of the larger weapon used for an unconventional strike. A smaller weapon can be used alternately with Brawling, Grappling and Wrestling as desired.
On the tactical display, the bases on which the markers for the combatants are mounted should be adjusted so that they sit edge-to-edge.
The weapon of any foe that is greater than his (height ÷ 2) in Size limits how close his attackers can come, keeping the combatants in the “common” mode of the melée.
The amount by which the bearer’s weapon is greater than his (height ÷ 2) in Size dictates the distance reflexively maintained by attackers, between the bases on which their markers are mounted (x 5 and read in mm on the tactical display).
Any foe bearing a weapon that is 2 points or more in Size greater than the weapon used by his attacker cannot be attacked with any hope of making meaningful contact on his body, it must be maneuvered around, first.
In this mode, a special Dodge/Acrobat/AGL maneuver must be made vs. the foe’s weapon AV if the attacker wishes to successfully step past the defender’s weapon and get inside the opponent’s guard to enter close melée with him in order to use Wrestling, Grappling, and Brawling skills – or a smaller weapon (as above).
This maneuver may be coupled with an attack, but the Dodge check must be successful before the attack may be pursued.
Alternately, the opponent’s weapon hand might be attacked directly to make the foe drop the weapon, or the weapon itself attacked and Bound, allowing the character to step inside the foe’s guard so long as it is pinned down, without need of a Dodge check. In either case, the foe must resort to a smaller weapon that qualifies for use in the close melée, or retreat if he is able, or make a maneuver (Backstep, Sidestep, as applicable) of his own to restore the space between himself and his foe before he may avail himself of the larger weapon again.
While the melée is divided between close and common, that distinction can actually be fluid and swiftly changing, even from one Action to the next, from one CS to the next, and all involved must pay close attention.
The rules of engagement stated above apply only when a character with weapon ready in hand closes with a foe in such a way that at least one Field of Engagement, either Front, Right Front Flank, Left Front Flank or the Side on which the character is armed match up to one of the same Fields of the foe’s Zone. If the character approaches and engages any other Field of his foe’s Zone he may approach and engage the foe without restriction, the foe may not be able to engage him normally, but stands at a disadvantage, as the PC would were he engaged under the same circumstances.
The foe may already be beset by others who occupy all the other Fields to which he might fairly respond, or the attacker himself may just be a common dastard with no need of honor or other fine airs. The PC is just as likely to find himself similarly beset or taken advantage of by some dastardly NPC. These sorts of tactics are expected of Knaves and Rogues, Assassins and common folk. It is only forbidden to knights and then, in many cases, only when there are others about to bear testament to his behavior later and damage his reputation. While considered impolite to say so, or state the fact baldly before them (thus shaming them by reference to their lowly station), those beneath the knight in dignity aren’t actually considered to be entitled to being treated with Chivalric courtesy in battle in the eyes of most military (as opposed to holy) knights, and that applies to those of the rank of Squire or gentleman, as well.
There is certainly NO rule requiring the PC to always approach and engage a foe so he is aware and can respond. Participants in a battle can approach and close with a foe on any Field of their Zone with impunity, according to their own lights. How the foe is allowed to respond is determined by which Field is addressed and how they are equipped.
In the case of polearms, which generally keep foes at a greater distance, the border of the Front Field should be extended by use of a straight-edge of some kind under the view of the GM to see where it intersects with the Fields of the foe’s Zone to determine how the target may respond or defend.