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Exploring the Realm of Numenor

Medieval combat has been alive and well in Champaign-Urbana since 1989 thanks to the loyal subjects of the Realm of Numenor. Numenor Foam Fighting is a Registered Student Organization at the University of Illinois and just one of the many “realms” across the country that play Belegarth, a game of medieval combat reenactment.

Yeah, they’re kinda hard to miss, usually hosting battles on UIUC’s South Quad or at the Japan House when weather permits. Belegarth’s gameplay consists of everything from one-to-one tournaments to large battles with hundreds of fighters. Types of battles range from two sides fighting to eliminate the other, to objective-based battles such as Capture the Flag, to expansive campaigns made up of various scenarios. The variety of Belegarth’s gameplay and its close-knit community of players both on campus and beyond make it one of the most interesting and talked-about RSOs at U of I.

While popular, those unfamiliar with the game might be under the misconception that combat is limited to solely swordplay. Players are also allowed the options of daggers, two handed great swords, throwing javelins, bows and arrows, spears, crossbows, axes, flails, glaives, clubs, maces, and armor. While this all might sound intimidating, former RSO president Brendan Neunaber acknowledged that some precautions must be taken for the modern age.

“Our gear is all foam padded and much lighter than real medieval gear would have been.” Safety is a high priority when battling: “Fighters can use whatever they want however they think is best, as long as it’s within the rules and is reasonably safe.”
Neunaber emphasized that Numenor is always open to new members.

“The organization is open to everyone, and the basics of the game can be taught in less than five minutes.” While the weapons and armor used might imply that previous skill with swords or martial arts needs to be required, Neunaber assured that “we have people playing with us who have never played sports or taken a martial arts class in their lives.”

The laid back and inviting attitude of Numenor creates an atmosphere that is equally jovial and intense during both practice and actual battles. “Everyone is there to have fun,” said Neunaber, “and there’s no score being kept by the winners or the losers.” The camaraderie doesn’t inhibit heated competition from happening, though: “…it would be wrong to say that the battles themselves are not intense; each team is trying to do their best each time through.”

When asked if he has a favorite battle he has watched or participated in, Neunaber answered: “There are so many thousands of battles that I’ve been a part of over the years that it’s hard to pick just one.” While individual battles are important, the usual focus for the twice-a-week practices is to gear up for “events.” These huge gatherings host fighters from all different realms, having anywhere from 30 fighters to upwards of 900 fighters for the biggest events. “Some events take place over the course of a single day, while some events are week-long affairs that fighters from all over the country travel to,” explained Neunaber. His favorite event is called WAR.
“It’s a battle in a wooded park in Indiana, and it involves capturing bases and all sorts of battles along and through the forest paths. Whereas most events are vaguely similar to our normal practices, WAR adds an extra layer of strategy to the battles that makes it special.”

As far as combat moves are concerned, Neunaber decided the most interesting one he often sees in practice “is when people do a 360 spin to strike their opponents from a different side than they were expecting.” While neat to watch, it is not always the most effective. “Spinning involves turning your back on your opponent for a brief moment, and that’s a terrible idea in a fight, so it’s interesting to watch and always funny to see when it actually works out.”

These moves can be practiced all year round for anyone willing to serve the Realm. Numenor Foam Fighting meets Wednesdays on the South Quad of UIUC starting at 5 p.m. and Saturdays north of the Japan House across the pond starting at 10 a.m. If the University is in session and the weather is poor, Numenor meets inside of the stock pavilion on campus on the same days and times. More information on the RSO itself, Belegarth’s rules, and the Realm of Numenor can be found on the Facebook group.

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