ADVANCED MELEE TUTORIAL
This is probably the last bit of melee advice I have left in me after about a year of play. I think the bulk of what I write would be targeted for players who are about average in melee looking to move to the next level. I am not too sure there are many people at this point looking to put the work in to go to the next level, but whatever
This will mostly be everything I've come to learn about the game in melee, though with the caveat if you run into me while playing I am nowhere near up to practice in everything I talk about.
Which leads me to the first section, practice and preparation. To be successful at anything requires repetition and muscle memory, even a video game. The plus side is the barrier to entry is much less than a traditional sport, but none the less you won't really get better if you don't play semi regularly against talented people and are able to keep an open mind to continue learning.
If you play people worse than yourself, it feels good, but you won't improve as easily, and this is true for anything in life. When you do find someone better than yourself make sure you are analyzing why you died, thinking about your opponent's play style and what in particular it is about them that is giving you a hard time. Try to see if certain techniques should be incorporated in your own style or their style will influence your own.
Another key point in your performance is actually how healthy you are feeling. Did you get enough sleep last night, did you just come from the gym working out, have you been up until 5 am seven nights in a row? Most "professional" gamers include some sort of physical training in their routine, the more awake and alert you are, the clearer your mind and the faster it can process events around you.
That said in most areas I don't think warband has this level of competition that you need to run 5 miles a day and live in some starcraft player farm, but it is something to be aware of. I've had moments where no matter how hard I try I just am playing like crap, I'm feeling tired, in a crappy mood, bored with the game, whatever. On those days, nothing works, but other days I'm relaxed and blocking everything thrown at me quite easily. Battle vs Duel
I am not a great battle player, but I've dueled plenty of great battle players. After just a short moment in a duel, you can usually tell where a player has learned their craft. Battle players tend to come at you aggressively with quick hits and few feints at a somewhat frantic pace. They are usually very clean with their timing, not venturing into the realm of 'weird'. This reflects the nature of where they learned to play, the fight has to happen fast and you need to break your opponent's defense down quickly before circumstances change, being sure to maintaining awareness of everything around you.
A duel is different in that you can focus solely on your opponent and have a slower pacing to wear down your opponent. In a duel the problem is right in front of you and the only person who can overcome it is yourself.
So a dueling will help you gain confidence in yourself and your abilities, but everything you learn while dueling may not apply to your chosen game method (if it is other than duel of coarse). There is much to be said for focused practice, but make sure that you have a healthy dose of 'real' game play as well, ultimately your time is best spent where you want to excel. Timing
One of the concepts that really changed the way I played Warband was understanding that melee fights at their core have everything to do with timing.
When learning the game, blocking is difficult, people might have trouble blocking overhead attacks for example, or later on when learning to chamber block people might think doing so against left/right attacks is too hard. At that level overcoming the basic mechanics of the game is the challenge and we tend to structure our play around that idea. I know in my case when I had trouble blocking overhead attacks, I used to perform overhead attacks thinking they were more difficult for people, while that may not have even been close to the truth.
A really strong attack to use against a person is to run to the right of someone with a left swing. This is hard to block (when NOT using inverted blocking direction at least) because to track the block you must turn left to face opponent while at some point you need to flick the mouse back to the right, set your block, then continue back to the left to keep tracking the attacker.
If you don't keep your target centered (as the blocker) the attacker will move past your shoulder and strike your back, so you MUST turn in addition to blocking the opposite way.
This style of attack works great against many beginners, average players if executed well enough, but good players will pick up the block and turn with no problem, and suddenly an attack like this isn't quite as viable. Good players can perform the movements needed to defend without thought.
So these sorts of tricks, things like spinning 360, face haggling, wrapping around people, they can only work so long, eventually you will run into someone who has seen it all before before and easily defend against them.
I'm not saying don't use these types of attacks ever, I'm just saying that attack patterns that aim to confuse via direction or control difficulty are not enough to overcome everyone you will run into. Honestly this stuff will work just fine for most anyone all the time, even catching good players unprepared. The more tools in your tool box the better, but we are in the ADVANCED melee tutorial, right?
The most important take away from this idea is that only using techniques that create difficult control situations has a limit, as soon as you find an opponent who can handle the controls nimbly enough, those techniques alone are not enough to win. Attack Options Revisited
You can read up in the primer how I originally thought of the swing directions, but now a days I think of them a bit differently. When choosing a swing direction it has a lot to do with their range, the location of my target, speed, and any stun/crush properties. Try to think of this as just a different way to think about your swings beyond the basics and the ideas behind it more so than anything.Thrust
- This attack has the most range, and most of the time I use it to hit at max range. With a spear I sometimes will use it for its pierce attack for increased damage vs heavy army. Most players think to attack with a thrust at first due to this range. You should know if the person has a longer weapon than your own, if you have a heavy bastard sword and they have a two handed sword and you both thrust at the same time, you lose. You need to know this.
If you try to thrust someone point blank it will whiff, you have to 'miss' with the thrust then swivel it back. Many players use this technique all the time to disguise their attack. Side swings
- I pick the swing that is closest to my opponent. Occasionally when trying to wrap around a person I pick the opposite side, though this hardly ever leads to a hit, but I like it for fun pace changing. But again if a person is to your left, use a left swing, if they are at your right, do a right swing.Overhead
- For its stun. The longer you hold down the attack (IE chamber it) the more stun inflicted. If you have a weight advantage with your weapon, a charged overhead followed by a horizontal swing in spam attack fashion will often score a hit. This is gimmicky though and better players will know to block the second hit.Jumping
- When you jump, you accelerate faster than when running on the grout, but there is a pause as you land. Overall you cover less ground when you jump than if you just run, but for the duration of the jump, you are moving faster.
You use a jump to suddenly accelerate in a certain direction. This is really the only way in the game to 'lunge' or dodge a horse or something. A use for this might be used to escape out a player's attack range so you have enough time to turn and face them if you had somehow lost track of them. When fighting multiple people and I accidentally let them surround me, you can use a quick jump to clear someones attack range while you block a closer player.
Above all, jump == SPEED, that is its primary purpose in a melee fight.DEFENSELESS!!
When is a player defenseless, and when is a good time to hit them?
- Right after you kick him. Kicks are harder to land than in the past, but when you do last one, a person is vulnerable for an IMMEDIATE follow up attack and can not block it.
- Thrusting a player as they kick. When a person kicks they may block all directions except down. So if you thrust a kick they can not block it and will be hit.
- Close range thrust chamber blocks. If you are close enough and chamber block a thrust attack with your own you will strike them. If they have a long weapon or are backing up they can step out of range of the attack sometimes, but this is a way to hit someone.
- The back half of a swing. When you attack, you can right click to cancel the attack until about half way through its swing arc (less time for unbalanced weapons). After you pass this point in your swing, you MUST finish the swing, you can not defend at all.
If two players have the same attack speed, if player B swings just a moment after player A, and player A misses his attack, player B's weapon will hit player A in this 'dead zone' No way to block at all.
The best way to intentionally hit someone like this is when you have a longer weapon and you time your swings correctly, basically swing just after they swing, sort of like chamber blocking.Priority - Who Goes First?
(Priority as a term stolen from Draygo, sounded much better than what I was calling it
Basically, who gets to attack? Who is in control of the attack, and consequently the duel?
There is a simple way of thinking about melee attacks that is quite obvious, but I think it still must be stated clearly, as when it comes to the forefront of your mind while fighting it can be very powerful.
There are basically two key parts to a weapon attack. The weapon starts in neutral. You click the attack and you bring the weapon back to a chambered position. When you hold the attack button you stay at this point. Release the attack button and you swing the weapon in its arc.
You could say that the speed of your attack, or time to hit, is chamber time + swing time = hit. IE the time it takes to go from neutral to chambered position + the time time the weapon takes to swing from chambered position to the point it strikes something.
Now, think about the implications to this...
If I get you in my strike range with a chambered swing ready to attack, and your weapon is at the neutral position, there is no possible way you can attack me without getting hit, you MUST block. I have priority and control of the fight.
Before I talk about this stalemate more, I want to briefly talk about your strike range. I define this as the ground you can cover with your next attack. If you looked at a player overhead and drew a circle to represent their threat range, it would look like a lopsided circle.
If my weapon is at neutral, and I left attack while running forward, the longest distance away from me I can strike is slightly off to my right. Basically it is whatever ground I can cover before the sweet spot takes effect at the end of the swing arc.
At neutral, my threat range is larger, because my weapon has to come up to chambered position first, then start its swing arc. If I have my weapon already chambered, I can't cover as much ground before the weapon swings past the target.
Now, most players will not let you run up to them with a chambered attack, in fact this really is something a lot of beginners do. Not only do you telegraph your attack, if you are showing overhead, left, or right chambers, your foe will most likely thrust since he has range on you, and you must block or be hit.
If the player that is getting attacked by the guy running up with his chambered attack decides to attack you with a left/right/overhead swing, he must make sure to get his weapon to a chambered state before you are in strike range, or he will be hit first. Most of the time you don't want to take this risk though, and most people will just thrust at you for the free attack.
But simple, as you are running up with this telegraphed hit, you have predicted the thrust, you block, and now you control the next move for a brief moment. If you now bring your weapon to a chambered position and HOLD, you now have effectively dictated the pace of this fight. You stopped it in its tracks, dead.
You hold a left swing, the opponent holds a right block, hes backing up, you are moving forward, with more speed so you are always in range, he can not really escape you unless you let him.
The only way for the defender to escape his role as defender is to somehow get HIS weapon to a chambered position. If this happens, the only thing determining who hits first is where you are standing in relation to the swings, but basically its pretty even.
So as an attacker doing this, run up to someone, hold your strike, and wait for their character model to twitch. As soon as it does release your swing and you will strike first, they must block or be hit.
Like any technique this can be messed up if you don't react in time. Plenty of times I get in this position as the attacker and someone just swings and hits me because I fell asleep at the wheel and didn't release my swing. The Warband Clock
So I have this theory about us Warband players and I've sort of named it the Warband Clock. It is basically the timing that the game naturally imposes on us while performing the standard block and attack rhythm we see so often in shield on shield combat.
I think of this as something we all have to learn first to start understanding the game and learning the basics, (weapon ranges, swing speeds etc), then as we get better, have to throw it away, but in the process it becomes a part of how we play the game.
This held strike stalemate mentioned in the last section fundamentally breaks this internal clock that tells us basically when we should be attacking or defending. Consequently it is also one of the few ways you can control the pace of a fight and can slow it down or speed it up as needed.
If we just exchanged a series of 3 or 4 attack sequences involving at most 1 feint before attack and suddenly I hold my last strike in this stalemate, it messes everything up.
The defender here must stop, stop and hold a single block, no click blocking, just hold down that block button. Personally, I mess up most of my hold strikes where I wait for the player to drop their guard because I don't have very fast reflexes. What I do instead is release the attack right at the time a person's warband clock tells them to counter attack.
Think of an exchange between player A and and B in a series of time blocks with the following actions by the player.
TIME BLOCK - PLAYER, ACTION
T0 - A, attack
T1 - B, block
T2 - B, attack
T3 - A, Block
T4 - A, attack
Now the hold strike, which works somewhere in the middle of an exchange looks like this:
T0 - A, attack
T1 - B, block
T2 - B, chambered attack held
T3 - B, hold attack (A block)
T4 - B, release attack (A attack)
In the () is what A would normally be doing, what the clock is urging us to do. If B holds his attack for the duration that A would normally be performing a block and instead releases at the time when A would be attacking, B will most likely score a hit.
The early rapid exchange of blows puts players in reactive states where muscle memory is driving actions, not what they are actually seeing on the screen. A will most likely release their block to counter attack right before B's weapon impacts them.
Not many people play like this, so not many people really defend well against this style of attack. I'm finally starting to see players somewhat understand how to defend against this more often as a lot more players are now up to speed on their dueling/melee abilities, but none the less in the middle of a frantic battle, slowing the pace down is incredibly powerful.
But above all, remember to not let your muscle memory rule you, and to instead re ct to what you see in front of you. CHAMBER BLOCKSHold Strike as a Counter
This discussion of hold strikes naturally leads into chamber blocks. The common mantra is that hold strikes are the natural counter to chamber blocks. I strongly agree with this as chamber blocking a held strike is very difficult simply due to the times you have to react.
To chamber you must swing just after an attack is released. If a person is feinting or using single attacks, there are wind up times to the attack, giving you time to prepare for a chamber block.
The amount of time you have to see a swing coming from highest to lowest are:1. Single strikes from neutral
- Weapon must travel from neutral to chambered, then swing to you. The 'slowest' attack and most time to prepare a chamber block.2. Feint
- Weapon has to travel from one chambered position to the next, or if it was a 'swing feint' (attack release, then block to cancel the attack) it must travel back to a chamber position, then on to the next chamber position. 3. Held strikes
- As soon as they release you must react. This is the most twitchy style of chamber blocking and takes really crazy good timing.
Now most people still call 1 impossible, and I can chamber feints (2) if it is a lead in attack (IE feinting a lot before moving into threat range) or if I'm really switched on. Most of the time though I can not chamber held strikes (3).
The only person I've seen initially chamber my held strike was my dueling partner who just did it out of familiarity with me since I tended to release my held strikes at the same time all the time. (Had to change up my release timing after that
Anyway, the point is, held strikes are hard to chamber because the window of time to recognize and react to the strike is so small. If the server is set to fastest swing speed the timing windows are even smaller.Why Chamber Block?
So why chamber block? Besides the thrust chamber that can grab an unblockable hit, they can do something else much more subtle, and that is to basically steal an opponents priority.
Lets examine some time tables when both players using bastard swords. When I first was learning to chamber, one thing I noticed was when a player attacked me with a right feint into left swing, and I attempted to chamber block the initial right swing, I would hit still hit them.
The timings worked out such that my weapon would strike them just a bit before their weapon would hit me, meaning the timings were really close, enough to make it hard to judge. In addition to this, when feinting around your fingers/brain are typically committed to continuing the motions, so unless it is really obvious you are going to get hit, you continue with the motions.
Since many people do not chamber block you on a day to day basis, many players are not trained to recognize that they must cancel and block the incoming attack.
Look at one of my dueling videos
, about 13 seconds in against NJ_Blak is a perfect example of this timing (which I put in slow motion hoping people watching would pick up on what went on there). Blak goes into a quick feint, and I swing to chamber block his first attack. I let the attack go and he continues his feint into swing. Blak is a good player and recognizes he is going to get hit by my weapon first so pulls out to block, but he still didn't get the correct block out in time to prevent getting hit.
This is really the power of chamber blocking against aggressive feints and something you have to be wary of when fighting someone who can utilize chamber blocking.
Note this timing only works with left/right swings. Remember that overhead attacks are slower. So, if a person attacks you with an overhead then feints to a left swing, and you in defense swing overhead to chamber block their first hit, HIS hit will hit you first! Your overhead chamber swing is slower than your left/right/thrust attack, you yourself must pull back and block in this situation.
Further, with the left/right swing, I started testing this early on when I found out about the timing, and I found that a 'fast' feint, IE, you basically show right swing, then cancel before the weapon has even made it all the way up to the fully chambered position, and change to the left attack, you hit the person trying to chamber you.
Really take away there is if you are fighting the Star Wars Kid, you shouldn't try to hit them on a chamber attempt this way..."Stealing Priority"
Against the masses, a chamber block will usually net you a hit since they were not prepared to defend at that moment in time.
The chamber block fundamentally breaks the above mentioned rules for priority. If my opponent's weapon is at some point in their swing motion ahead of me, where they have priority (IE will hit me first), I must block. But, if I chamber block their attack, suddenly this rule is broken.
My weapon was at neutral, theirs chambered, but I swing with timing to block their attack, and now mine is coming at them, right between those nice neat time blocks that the warband clock has set in our heads dictating when to look for blocks.
Really great players will still block you, either they are used to blocking chamber blocks because they play stronger players often, or they just are great at blocking everything coming at them. I still get hit by chambers all the time because I haven't run up against a heavy chamber blocker in a while. I know I fall into the trap of being on auto pilot, it takes a lot of work to break out of the clock's imposing pattern.
So at the end of the day, you can use a chamber block to save yourself when you've lost priority in the duel and gather back the offensive, and is a good way to keep players honest with their feints and punish predictable attack routines. Putting it all Together
Lets come back to a fight where both players understand all of these things. How do you attack this person? What is safe? If you lead with a single strike they can chamber you. If you feint, they will chamber you, forcing you to defend. If you hold strike you force a slow paced stalemate.
This is often the conundrum when trying to attack a great player. Think about those horrible spam attacks you see out there in servers, sometimes those swings come fast, faster than you are used to. Unfortunately for most of us, great players operate at that speed. They are not constantly swinging but their brain is deciding what to do a few steps ahead and their fingers are reacting flawlessly to what they want to do, chamber this, swing, oh no I will get hit, block, now attack, now feint, etc. As the situation changes they just react IMMEDIATELY.
So how do you deal with this? Well first rule of them, which sucks, is generally if you can't match their basics, IE they can just block and attack with 1 feint here or there more consistently than you for a longer period of time, you'll just lose, nothing fancy to it, all this stuff I just talked about means nothing.
But say you guys are both reasonably equal in ability, how do you approach this fight? This depends on your personal style at this point, for what works for you.
So I tend to flip around how I play depending on my mood and have different approaches. One way that I think will appeal to a lot of people is pure aggression.
I've tried to define at one point what aggression actually is. This is a video game, right? But, I've had plenty of times where people have asked me while dueling if I was angry and pissed off, when I really was IRL. It's kind of amazing that you can actually get your emotions across the internet like that without any words at all.
There was one time when some chick from dominos wouldn't deliver to my house even though I am 2 minutes away but in another town, she was such a jackass about it on the phone, it just sent me on a rager. Meanwhile I was in the middle of dueling at the time and when I got back on the PC right after, I was invulnerable. I was this whirling demon of terror, every action in game took too long to complete, every attack at me was slow motion, every free conceivable second I could take back control of the fight I took it and attacked. The person I was dueling basically told me I was making him afraid the way I was attacking and he could feel my anger pouring though.
Anyway that only lasted only a few minutes until I cam back to reality, but that is adrenaline for you. I guess the same way that when things get hectic in real life and they slow down can transfer over to the game.
So after that experience, I started being aware of the fact that some players made me afraid in game, and I was trying to figure out wt is it about a character model in a video game that could make me feel fear, what were they doing that caused that tension, and how do you duplicate it when you don't have a snotty 16 year old cblocking you from getting pizza?
After a bit I came to determine that control and fear came from your ability to do things faster than another person. Depending who you play against, the speed you are moving starts to reflect your opponent. Play a bunch of beginners and they do everything slow, you don't really have to think or react very quickly because they aren't offering up a lot of stimulus and it rubs off on you. When you stumble on a good player, suddenly they are forcing you to react to things in half the time you are used to, and this can catch you off guard and get you killed quickly.
The other part of it is pacing. In most duels/fights, players attack in a series of blows then retreat to re-asses. This is often a mutual respite, maybe you got in to an unfavorable position and want to 'reset', or you just needed a break.
If I try to clear out and my opponent won't let me, they keep attacking, keep the pace up, this can get really stressful, you already made a decision to clear out and take a break, and it is really hard to let go of decisions you make in the heat of the moment.
Ever play a fighting game where you decide you want to throw someone, and despite getting pummeled as you keep trying to close the distance you keep trying to get that stupid throw, and can just basically lose the whole fight because you couldn't decide to stop trying for that pointless throw? It's sort of like that.
Aggression can also lead to some funny situations. Have you ever found yourself so in charge of a fight that they let you feint up to 10 times before they even react? You can tell when a person is virtually 'on their heels', you can see it in hesitation in what their character is doing, at this point you can really just swing feint the crap out of them, eventually one of those swings will look good and you just let it go, bam.
So to generate that aggression, you have to feel it, be aggressive, give them no time to react, go faster than them, stay up in their face pressuring them every second you get. Example Aggressive style attack sequence
With everything mentioned so far, you can't just walk up to a person and start doing all this stuff. You need to develop the fight for a moment before you start trying trickery. You have to increase the pace to the point that they are moving on pure reaction time.
One of my bread and butter attack sequences was rapid up and down shifting of the pace of the fight. I would start out the fight getting right in my opponent's face (minding the kick of coarse
), using single swing attacks. That is about as fast as you can get in the block/swing game in someones face.
So a few single swings as fast as possible, too many and you risk getting chamber blocked, which can mess everything up. After this next comes a hold strike. A nice, long, slow, freaken hold strike. If you want you can twitch it every now and then like you are going to attack to get them to drop their guard. So either you hit them on a good release of the hold strike, or if not, you have forced them to slow down.
Dropping from feint/fast attacking/blocking mode into standing there and holding left block is maddening, especially when you want to be moving FAST.
So after a good slow pace is set, release the hold strike, then immediately spam attack, don't block, just attack again while you continue wrapping around them.
This will hit a lot of players because they came down from really aggressive attacks and had to slow their system down to hold that block, which means when you attack from the hold strike at an unexpected time, they aren't prepared to counter immediately, giving you time to get your spam attack in.
If they block the spam attack you need to judge now, did they just barely block it? If so chances are they are in defensive mode, on their heels, probably trying to clear out, this is when you press aggressively and try maybe 2 or 3 swing feints depending if you think they will hit.
That is a pretty strong sequence right there and it's basically one I use all the time.
It doesn't always go right, new players will ignore feints, good players will recover faster and not let their timing get shifted around as easily, or they might just play at a slower pace themselves eating up your aggression.
In general as people get better at melee you can manipulate them much more easily than beginners / average players, so again when it comes to them, sticking to the basics will usually yield the best results. ONE VS MANY
This is honestly my favorite way to play melee recently, and it's something I really want to explore, but it is also pretty damn hard to find situations where you are out numbered and either allies don't come to your rescue or someone doesn't hit you in the head with a javelin or arrow.
When you are up against multiple people you have to remember that you can only block one person at a time unless you luck out and they pick the same swing. You can rapidly block one person than another a split second after sometimes, but generally you want to reduce the amount of incoming weapons that hit you at one time.
Here are a few things I try to keep in mind as I'm engaged by a group.
- Let the group come to you. The more aggressive they are the better off you are going to be. If you press too deep into the group, then try to back off, you won't clear out in time and get surrounded easily.
- The groups generally end up with one lead guy who is always in striking range of you, and others rapidly trying to catch up to either hit you or to surround you. The longer you can keep just one person near you the better.
- Keep your focus outwards. When I play I hyper focus on the person in front of me, in a duel this is fine, and in most other game modes you can keep half attention on the surrounding area and react, but when you have a group coming at you, you really have to keep your attention on the outside of the screen.
I've noticed a huge difference when I am able to keep half attention the guy closest to me and pay attention to the pack behind me. In a sequence where I block the lead guy, then have to block an approaching player, it feels like a hectic and last minute block. If I am keeping my attention half on the close guy and half on the guy closing behind him, the feel of that hectic block changes entirely to a really easy and predictable block. It is a subtle thing, but I think it is the main mindset you need when getting swarmed.
- If a right and a left attack is coming in at you, hold down a block, then keep it held down but turn your character model to block the second attack, this can sometimes save you and be faster than selecting each individual block.
- If you mess up and find a guy on your left and right both in striking distance, I've gotten out of this jam by holding a side block, facing the weapon towards the area between them and then heading full speed into the gap. The abrupt cutback will catch them by surprise and they'll most likely both swing horizontally at you, and if your weapon is in place you can luck out and catch both weapons with one block.
- Force predictable attacks for position. There are times when getting chased down I will block an attack from the lead attacker, then immediately turn directly for someone else. I am safe at my back because I know I have a moment that the lead attacker can not strike me, and I know the person I charge at will most likely just swing, but I will be ready for the block, giving me more time to position near him. This is a good way to create space around the edges of a group and discourage flankers.
- Long one hit kill weapons excel here. Having the killing power in one or two hits and being able to reach out and hit more people as you are retreating can make all the difference in the world when thinning the herd.
- Offense becomes defense in this place. At times when two or more people can hit you at once by having your weapon out to strike you can paralyze one player long enough to come back to block the second player, then block the first player you 'froze' with either an attack or outstretched weapon. It is hard to explain but basically by staying an offensive threat you force people to slow down their wild charge and buy yourself time to block or get to a position where only one player can hit you.
- A 'bad' player up front can be the best thing for you. Slow and easy to predict attacks make it easier for you to concentrate on better players behind him, at the same time the bad player is in the way most of the time. Although you might see openings to kill him, it is sometimes better to keep this guy in the lead position and work through the people behind him as opportunity presents.
- There is just something about how all the timings of people's attacks work out that give you some key openings. Your 'body posture' is very important and you always want to give the appearance of solely dueling the lead attacker. Most players who are trailing in the pack want to attack you at the same time as the lead guy, or right after, unfortunately for them, since you are usually moving constantly, they won't be able to get close enough in time.
This means that if you block the lead attacker, then twist abruptly and thrust at the second guy in line, chances are he will be in the middle of trying to get up and strike you and won't be ready for you abruptly stepping in his space to attack.
-Cracking the walnut, as I like to call it. It is some weird phenomenon where if you hit one of the non lead people, you cant hit anybody else in the group by just swinging at them. It is weird and I haven't stopped to puzzle out what phenomenon of timing is going on, but seems to happen the same way every time.
I call it cracking the walnut cause I can be running away from 3 players with no time to hit anything for a while and suddenly I catch a guy in the back of the pack, I turn and swing at the lead guy again and then kill him as well, then I can still usually swing at the 3rd guy for a final 'spam' swing which they usually block at this point, but then there is a 1 on 1.
I've seen that play out a lot, it might not be the safest thing in the world but generally when you catch one person, you can catch a second before you have to get back defensive.
-Try to give yourself as much time between blocks as possible. Afterwards
All this dueling stuff I basically had time to talk about and practice by having an amazing dueling partner who has been better than me at every turn of my skill level. So instead of playing in a huge pub game I'd just start up a server on my PC and duel for an hour or two, try different approaches, refine and fix huge holes, and then try wacky things and refine them into usefulness.
I mean no matter what I write, to get really good at the game you just need to love playing it, and have people at your skill level or above you to keep pushing you farther.
Anyway, yeah that is about everything I know about warband melee fighting. There's a lot more to know for sure, and honestly I think I make a better teacher than practitioner for sure. I don't think at this point I have anything more to add the art of swinging swords at one another except this:
Defense, defense, defense. There is no guard break in warband. The only unblockable attacks are close range thrust chamber blocks, and a kick followed by a slash. After that any time you get hit it was because you failed to understand the timings of the swings coming at you and/or you failed to get the block set. (Well if your ping is bad that is an excuse too
But think on that, every technique that you can execute all starts with a solid blocking foundation. Understand threat ranges, know when you are out ranged, know when the other player's weapon is closer to hitting you than your own, and you are untouchable.
I write all this stuff about dueling and fancy tricks, but as a player I still fail many times in simple hit trading exchanges with other players with nothing fancy going on at all.
Solid execution is all that matters at the end of the day.