A couple weeks ago I joined The Voyage North at La Bataille de Bicolline, the largest LARP in North America. It was an amazing experience, filled with adventure, combat, great people, and hundreds of thousands of memories and stories.
There is an unwritten rule that all great stories from Bico start out with the phrase: “No , there I was…”, so lets get it started:
No , there I was driving into the Duchy of Bicolline, a magical wilderness consisting of several hundred acres, two towns of over 200 buildings, and thousands of people who come from around the world, when I look over to see Stag Alley for the first time, the home of Ordo Cervi. A glorious green and tan walkway tucked between two buildings with a bridge and banners overhead, the tavern and its deck filled with gear, and some amazing folk who greeted us into the herd!
Those first moments of stepping into the world of Bicolline was like diving into the deep end of a swimming pool. Yes, it feels like a festival and a never ending party, but there are plenty of opportunities to participate in some role-playing if you are willing to put some effort in as well. And lets not forget the battles!
No , there I was, standing shoulder to shoulder with my herd mates (Ordo Cervi is the Order of the Stag), proudly wearing the tabard of green and tan, facing off against a force that outnumbered us across the field. And then the horn sounded and the chaos of battle commenced in full. And suddenly, as we slowly marched forward, we turned and raced towards a different objective, the fort. I never made it. An arrow to the leg stopped me, and then an approaching wall of spears behind shields finished me off.
That first battle was chaos. We got slaughtered. But it was a lot of fun.
We had some training earlier in the day, but nothing can really prepare you to be on the field of battle with 2,500 or more other people. I chose to head out with a nine foot spear, commonly referred to as a win-stick. It’s a different style of combat than most LARPs.
Where most LARPs tend to gravitate towards a hero-style of combat, a lot of one-on-one, skirmisher style of fighting, Bicolline forces you to work together as a team. So a lot of the fighting tends to be the soldier style of fighting, working together in shield walls and formations.
No , there I was putting on a gnome hat and dancing through the street in a joyful gang of playfulness as we made our way from New Town to the stage at Old Town. Why, you ask? Why not!
We made our way through the streets, passing out gnome hats and adding to our number till we made it to the stage. And then the dancing began in full. Ridiculousness contained in the joy of having fun, laughing, and shouting until the band joined in. By the time I left with a small group of friends, we had run out of hats and people were still asking for hats!
We even saw some of those gnome hats the next couple days on the battle field.
No , there I was standing side by side with one of our ally gilds, Lys Noir and the rest of the pirates, privateers, and corsairs for the Vermin-tide Skirmish against the Skaven (rat-folk), when suddenly the giant monster, Urr (who was playing a large rat-folk) came rushing by and I got the perfect opportunity to tap him on the head and back with my sword and he gives me a beautiful death as he dives head-first into the ground.
No , there I was outside the fort during the second large battle, fighting around one of the open windows. I was on the side of the opening with one of those awesome, nine foot win-sticks, when out of nowhere a halberd slams into my face. Well, into the face plate of my helmet (one of the best investments that I’ve ever made for safety reasons).
Let me explain something real quick: while head-shots are allowed at Bicolline, the face is a no strike zone. And, blind shots around corners are off limits as well.
The horn sounds and we switch sides. So, now instead of trying to get into the fort, I’m trying to prevent the opposing side from getting in. Again, no , there I was on the side of one of the open windows once again, when around the wall, the same halberd comes crashing directly into my face plate (again). This time, I not only see stars when I get knocked off my feet, my vision goes black for several seconds.
No , there I was sitting on the side of the road with several things to trade and sell for solar (in game currency) when one of the gentlemen who stopped wanted to purchase a drawing and one of my tarot decks, and instead of giving me the agreed 20 solar, he hands me 40 and walks away before I notice.
No , there I was on the left flank during the final battle, after our side had pushed the pro-slavery forces back almost to their respawn point, when I notice a group of opponents to the right that didn’t realize that their flank had fallen. So, I turned and hit all six of them in the back with my trusty win-stick, killing them before they realized what happened. As I turned to find more opponents, I heard them arguing in French as they pointed at one another and waved their hands; The only words I could understand were “ing Ordo Cervi” and I laughed as I went after another couple of opponents.
No , there I was sitting in the Tavern in Stag Alley singing along with my herdmates and all the new friends that I realize that the chaos of this place is what makes it magical. I sat back with a smile as we laughed at raunchy lyrics and out of tune antics as we came to discover that it wasn’t the physical place that made the journey so beautiful was the family that had formed.
And as we departed that place, I couldn’t help but think of all the things that I want to do next year!