Snowball Fortress Assault

by berv

This weekend was unseasonably warm in Saskatoon, calling for another attempt to integrate snowballs into our usual game of Capture the Flag. The idea was to introduce snowballs as an additional tagging mechanism, allowing defenders to more easily close distances between their positions and the onrushing hordes. Though this would certainly have been an interesting experiment, we unfortunately had only six people show up. What better things people have to do on a Saturday afternoon I cannot imagine.

But there we were! In a park full of snow with a group of people eager to play in it! So, drawing on my many good experiences making up playground games on the fly with the Trifecta, I proposed a 3v3 king-of-the-hill style game incorporating the snowballs we were all so eager to throw at each other.

The main playground structure in Grosvenor park is fairly linear: there are multiple platforms laid out in an escalating pattern with a few steps in between each, the run flanked by hip-height barred railings running down to the floor. At two points along each side of the structure, there are ports opening up to a fireman’s pole or some sort of ladder variant.  And at the very top of the structure is a little minaret, containing a tunnel leading to a long spiral slide.

We loaded up the two middle platforms with caches of snowballs and stationed a team of three as defenders of the fortress. Their objective was to keep the attacking team out, as they would lose if a member of the attacking team were able to ascend to the minaret and go down the slide. If an attacker were struck by a defensive snowball, they had to return to their rallying point (just outside throwing range) before they could return to the game. However, their push was not without teeth of its own. If the attackers could strike a member of the defensive team with a snowball, that defender would need to dismount the structure, touch the ground, and return to the structure before they were back in play. Given that the attackers had a park full of snow to draw upon, the essential game timer was the stock of prepared snowballs the defenders had in their fortress.

The various side ladders provided a fast track to the higher points of the playground, but were balanced out by the added difficulty of climbing in slippery conditions and their relative exposure to barrage from multiple angles.  Making combined use of the good defensive cover provided by the barred railings of the play structure and an unrelenting stream of snowballs sent in the direction of the main access, the defensive team had a clear  positional advantage. But as soon as the attackers started playing the angles and splitting defensive focus, the game really began.  Very quickly, the game became a fast-paced back-and-forth: when the defenders lost a person, the attackers would rush to seize the opportunity, often to be driven back again once the downed individual returned. This tug of war would persist until that critical turning point when the one final defender got knocked out just as his teammates were returning and a fast-moving attacker was able to dodge the last chance half-court throws and make it to the goal. Then, of course, we’d switch sides and begin the assault anew.

It was a simple game, but by taking our specific desire to throw snowballs and embracing the asymmetry of the playground features, we were able to create a game that was well-suited to the number of players and uniquely rewarding for each team. Again I am inspired by the good spirit of adult game-players. Once the rules were established, everyone jumped headlong into the game, the disappointment of low attendance quickly replaced by enjoyment of this new game none of us had expected to play.

How is it that the majority of people don’t do this sort of thing?