“The Challenge” – Game Mechanics

The vision

Because we want to offer a fun and challenging experience for all HEMA practitioners – both scholars and fighters – we have implemented an unconventional event format that includes activities such as a dueling game and a HEMA knowledge quiz, apart from the traditional workshops

We want everyone to get the chance to win something so points earned in the event activities will be exchanged for prizes offered by sponsors (various HEMA products, vouchers, and other gifts). The full list of prizes will be available during the event. The prizes will be claimed at the end of the event in an auction.

This game format was first tested at MOTUS Summer camp in 2019, implemented during the Optimus HEMA Challenge 2019 event in Bucharest, in 2023 at the Siebenbürgen Historischer Schwertkampf 2023 and now will be put into action at the 2024 Edition of the Siebenbürgen Historischer Schwertkampf.


Activities that offer points: winning matches in the dueling game, providing correct answers in the HEMA knowledge quiz, and participating in the workshops, also bonus points may be awarded by instructors during the workshops and duels.

Every player will receive a journal in which they will register event points earned from all activities as well as all duel outcomes (wins, losses, refused matches, forfeits, disqualifications, etc.) and match score points for rankings which will be centralized by the Game Masters according to the players’ journals, so please DON’T LOSE THEM. See more about rankings in the “Rankings” chapter.

Each player who enters the dueling game receives at the beginning of the event 30 game points.

Participants to SHS23 Counting their coins before the auction


1.5-hour time slots will be dedicated to workshops and 5 such time slots will be scheduled so workshops will run in parallel. We recommend no more than 20 participants per workshop; most of the workshops will be held twice, so you can plan your attendance.

Participating in each workshop (time slot) will award 10 game points. Instructors may also award bonus points, according to their professional judgment for good performance, interesting questions, etc. but no more than 3 points to each person (in a single time slot).

Game Mechanics

“The Challenge” is an open, mixed-weapon dueling game that allows the participants to develop their own strategy, plan matches at their own convenience, and judge other players’ matches. The game starts on Friday, after the event opening, and ends on Sunday afternoon. It relies mainly on fair play, honesty, cooperation, and the willingness to have a good time

Players will challenge each other to duels and rankings will be made for the weapons played, depending on the number of matches. If the minimum number of participants is met in each ranking, the top players (by considering won duels & match score points) will be selected in order to compete against each other in the final duels on Sunday, for fame and glory and a symbolic prize.

Detailed rules for conducting duels and scoring are published in the Dueling Ruleset

Recording results and points

It is the duty of each player to report their progress according to their game journal to the game masters at least twice per day in order to create the rankings

This is just an example, you can record your progress in any format you want, but this is the data you have to provide the info to GM:

  • Challenger Name
  • Challenged Name
  • Type of Duel (Classic or Sudden Death)
  • Winner Name (if there is a draw, write DRAW, or if there is a double loss, write double loss instead)
  • Number of Doubles
  • Witness Names

Score is irrelevant, the ranking will be made only based on the number of wins, draw, losses. Doubles will be taken into account for tie-breakers. See more details about registering duel outcomes in the Dueling Ruleset 

Bonus Quest

Each instructor and/or organizer at the vent will have a special Quest that will reward 10 game points. If you are challenging one of the instructors to duel, they will present you with the special conditions you need to fulfill in order to obtain the bonus points. Each of the instructors will have a limited number of points to award for the bonus quest. If the participant completes the conditions, they will receive the bonus points, regardless of the duel outcome. Each participant can take a quest only once from each instructor.

Knowledge Quiz

“The HEMA Quiz” will be held one evening mid-event. Expect HEMA general knowledge questions, some weird and funny stuff, and hopefully the opportunity to learn something new. Points will be awarded according to the number of correct questions. This is a team challenge.

The Quiz night during the 2019 event was held at the Snakes and Wizards game pub.

Type of Duels 

For this edition, we will provide players two duel formats to choose from: a low stakes, classic format and a higher risk, high reward sudden death format.

The classic tournament format will be played as a regular HEMA match, until one of the fencers gains 5 points. It will be played for 5 game coins. The challenger offers 3, the challenged 2 coins and the winner takes the pot. In case of a double elimination, the witnesses will receive 1 coin from each player.

The sudden death duel will simulate a judicial duel to the death. Therefore we have defined two types of hits: wounders (cuts, slices and thrusts to arms, legs or cuts and slices to torso) and fight enders (any type of hit to head and neck or thrust to torso). The duel ends when either a lethal hit is incurred by one or both fencers or two wounders have been cumulated by the same fencer. See full ruleset Teutonic Fecht 2023.
The sudden death will be played for 11 game coins. The challenger offers 6, the challenged 5 coins and the winner takes the pot. In case of a double elimination, the witnesses will receive 2 coins from each player.

In conclusion, fighters can choose the type of duel, classic or sudden death. Both will count towards the ranking only as the number of wins / draws / losses, without taking into account the score. The tie will be made by the number of doubles or in exceptional cases those with equal points will be called to duel in order to be included in the ranking in order.

Duel Planning

Actions: challenge, accept or refuse

A match = DUEL is held between any two players, the DUELISTS, the one who initiates the challenge is called “the CHALLENGER” and the other one is “the CHALLENGED”. Each duelist requires one WITNESS = second. Judging the matches will be the responsibility of the seconds; duels can not be held in the absence of witnesses or elsewhere than the designated duel areas

2 game-masters (GM) will receive periodic updates from the players regarding duel outcomes and centralize the results for the rankings. They will assist players if requested.

There are 3 main actions that a player can make during the dueling game that require points:

CHALLENGE = 3pts (classic) / 6pts (sudden death) , ACCEPT = 2pts (classic) / 5pts (sudden death) or REFUSE = 1 point

The challenger must have 3 or 6 available points in order to provoke someone to a duel, they will also issue the challenge and the duel format. The challenged may accept the duel only if they have the required available points, or refuse the duel by losing 1 point which will then be added to the challenger’s total points. The winner of a duel will gain the loser’s deducted points. If the challenged does not have enough points to accept a sudden death challenge, the duel will be reverted to classic. If they don’t have any points for that either, the challenge is null, it will not count as a refusal.

Challenger wins the duel: receive 2 / 5 points, Challenged loses 2 / 5 points

Challenged refused the duel: loses 1 point, Challenger gains 1 point

Challenged wins the duel: receive 3 / 6 points, Challenger loses 3 / 6 points

The challenger may refuse a duel after the challenged selected the weapons, however, they will have to pay the standard refusal cost, meaning 1 point, which will be added to the challenged player’s total points.

One may challenge the same player (regardless of duel outcome, win, loss, refusal, etc.) only after challenging 3 other players; after a duel, the challenged may immediately request a rematch, thus becoming a challenger so scheduling will be made the same way.

As long as one has points they may not refuse more than 2 duels in a row. Any refusal must as well be written down in the players’ journals. Points can not be negative, if you are at zero points, you may not challenge or accept any duels.


Rankings will be made, for all the played matches, that is why it is important to provide the match result to the game masters to be included in the ranking.

1. Longsword – for duels held with longsword / federschwert

2. Sword – for duels held with arming sword or side-sword, sword, and companion: buckler, shield etc., sidesword and companion: dagger, buckler, rotela etc.

3. Saber – for duels held with sabers, saber and companion etc.

4. Rapier – for duels held with single rapiers , rapier and companion: dagger, cape, buckler etc. double rapier, smallsword

5. Mixed weapons – duels with any combination of the above but respecting the appropriate weight and material (e.g. synthetic weapon vs. steel weapon is not OK etc.) more information about mixed weapons dueling will be published soon.

When calculating the rankings, we will consider the following factors:

  • Total number of matches, because we want to encourage players to fight each other as much as possible
  • Number of matches won because being a good fencer has to be rewarded
  • Warnings will count as negative, so play nice, and try not to do doubles because they will decrease your ranking

For each weapon ranking, only the result of the first match for each duel type against an opponent will be registered, any other matches between the same two players with the same weapons and the same duel format will not count towards the rankings. They may however duel for points.

Conducting duels

See the full dueling ruleset here: Dueling Ruleset

The guidelines ensure that the duels are held under safe and credible conditions, praising fair play and a fine display of the art.

The challenger may issue a duel challenge to any player in the game, provided they have enough points for the chosen duel format, 3 for classic tournament and 6 for sudden death format.

If the challenged player has accepted the duel, the players can schedule a time convenient for both on the same day, preferably no later than one hour after the challenge was issued. Players are required to be fair-play when scheduling matches and mindful of each other’s workshop schedules. If a player fails to show up at the scheduled time without a very reasonable excuse, the duel is considered forfeited and points shall be deducted as per loss. One may schedule a number of duels equal to one-third of their total points (rounded down).

The duel weapons will be chosen by the challenged player unless a different agreement is concluded between the duelists. Either way, we recommend duels only between identical main weapons and subcategories in order to be counted towards each ranking (see rankings below); if players wish to experiment with mixed weapons, only weapons of the same material and similar weight should be used to prevent damage to the weapons. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask one of the game masters.

The duels/matches must take place only in the designated duel areas, in an approx. 8 x 8 meters (64 sqm) surface marked visually by color. Other boundaries (such as rope) may be present. Some surfaces will allow falls and throws if both players agree to use this technique beforehand.

Determining the winner of a duel

This is an abridged version of the dueling ruleset:

  • The duel is judged by the two witnesses; They decide the outcome of each exchange by counting the valid hits. One will be the main referee and the other, the spotter. 
  • A classic duel will end when one of the fencers reaches 5 points. A sudden death duel will end when one or both of the duelists incur a lethal hit or two wounders.
  • Hits to all body parts are scored, but in order to be considered valid, a hit should represent a cut, thrust or slice to a part of the body that would normally injure, disable or kill the opponent in a real duel, therefore light taps and hits with the flat or scratches with the tip of the blade, or incidental hits should not be counted as valid.
  • The classic duel scores 1 point for any body part. Special targets are head & neck, chest and main weapon hand (only for one-handed sword). These special areas, when hit during a classic duel, invalidate the after-blow as follows: cut, slice, thrust to head and neck, thrust to the chest (shoulder is part of the arm), cut, slice or thrust to main weapon arm, applicable only for the one-handed swords. The aforementioned special areas are considered fight enders for the sudden death format duel.
  • Double hits are not awarded any points in the classic duel but the referees will separate the fencers and issue a warning to each player. A double hit is defined as when both fencers hit each other with a valid hit simultaneously or near simultaneously. It portrays bad fencing practice. 4 double hits in one duel will lead to the forfeit of the duel by both players, compensating the witnesses with two points each, that will be deducted from both players’ scores. In case of the sudden death format, the double hit will count according to the body part that was hit.
  • Despite the fact that protection is required, it is forbidden to attack the back of the head, the neck, the Achilles’s tendon, the groin and the spine. Throws may not be done while twisting the neck or against a lock joint. Hand to hand techniques are not to be done through forcing a joint against the normal anatomical function (ex. front kick to the knee, abrupt and excessive pressure on a locked elbow), 
  • If judges are unable to decide upon the result of an exchange or if it was an unclear exchange, they should cancel the exchange and not award the exchange based on guesses, nor count any of the 7 hits.
  • If players can not agree upon the result of an exchange or the result of the whole duel, they will forfeit the match and each will give one point to each witness, therefore two points will be added to the witness’ score, in compensation for wasting their time.
  • Other behavior leading to warnings / duel forfeit / elimination from the game: repeatedly contesting the judge’s decisions, excessive force or brutality, striking after the opponent has yielded or after the judge has called a halt, harassing other players etc. Transgressions must be immediately reported to a game master.

See the full dueling ruleset here: Dueling Ruleset.