Playing the Game
"For playing a great game successfully a definite organization and clear rules are essential." Scouting for Boys, P. 307.
"The truth is that ' fair play' is an old idea of chivalry that has come down to us from the knights of old, and we must always keep up that idea." Scouting for Boys, P. 229.
In order that a Wide Game prove really good fun to those who play it, it is essential for some simple rules to be well known beforehand by all who are taking part. Specific information should be given in regard to area, time, and methods of identification and capture. Otherwise the spirit of fair play is all that is required. That spirit will greatly depend on the previous training given the Scouts with reference to the Scout Law, and on the discipline that prevails in the Troop. Much has been written on the question of Scout discipline and I do not propose to say anything more on that subject here. The Chief Scout gives a deal of valuable advice in Camp Fire Yarn No. 21, on which Scoutmasters would do well to act.
It is necessary to emphasize the fact that the actual rules and conditions of any game should be stated in clear and unambiguous language so that every Scout can understand them. Adventure and Romance can, and should, enter into the story round which the game revolves, but definite rules should emerge from that story or be summarized and separately stated. If the conditions are of a complicated nature, confusion is sure to result. Experience may show that the rules are not altogether suitable for the country or the Scouts concerned. No change should, however, be made while a game is actually in progress unless a complete halt is made and the game restarted under new conditions. It is best to profit by the experience and make the necessary changes when the same, or similar, game is played another time.
As will be mentioned again, all the conditions should be gone over beforehand with the Patrol Leaders, and they should be responsible for passing them on to their Patrols. It is advisable, especially when the Troop is young or unaccustomed to Wide Games, for the Scoutmaster himself to summarize the conditions for the benefit of the Troop as a whole shortly before the game actually commences.
Particular care should be taken to define the exact area over which the game is to be played. This is best done by reference to a map, of which each Patrol should have a copy, but use can also be made of prominent landmarks. A Scout going outside the area should not be regarded as a casualty and be withdrawn from the game, but he should certainly lose marks for his side as having failed in Scoutcraft.
It is frequently the case that it is necessary to place out-of-bounds certain confined areas within the general area of the game. These again should be defined as clearly as possible with reference to the map and otherwise. Any areas that are taboo can be closed by incorporating the taboo in the general story. For instance, a wood which may not be used can be described as being infested with poisonous snakes or dangerous wild animals, involving certain loss of life to any Scout who ventures within its shade. Taboos of this kind are usually more effective than a mere statement that the wood is out-of bounds.
In country where landmarks are very difficult to fix, it may be found advisable to mark boundaries by artificial means. This should seldom be necessary except on wide-spread moors or in jungle or bush country. Where the country is thickly wooded or covered with undergrowth the area of play should be restricted as compared with open country.
Time is an important factor in any game, and of increasing importance the wider the game. Distances will have to be calculated out beforehand so as to ensure an exact estimate of the time required for parties of Scouts to reach certain points before the game commences. The time at which the game itself starts, and when the sides are allowed to start from their bases or other starting-points must be given specifically. It may be necessary to synchronize watches beforehand, but this is not so essential in these days of wireless time signals. When trying out a game for the first time, especially in new country, it is very difficult to judge of the exact amount of time required for one side or other to attain its objective or carry out its purpose.
Experience will teach, but at first it is best to err on the generous side and over-estimate the amount of time required rather than under-estimate it. In the latter case the Scouts may feel cheated. In any case the time at which the game closes should be stated beforehand and arrangements made to indicate it by sound or other signal.
Once the closing time is fixed it should not be extended on any pretext, since, again, a sense of unfairness may be engendered in one side or the other.
This question of the length of a Wide Game is a very difficult one to determine. Games of the raid or cordon breaking type will normally take longer than those of the treasure-hunt or man-hunt type. Experience is the only teacher, the boy himself providing a good indicator; if his interest is still maintained at the end of a game, it has not been too long; if he gets slack and bored, it has not been short enough.
It has to be remembered always that the time taken to move through thick country is normally half as much again as the time it would take to cover the same distance in open country. Allowance has also to be made for the difference in time a boy takes to get up a hill to coming down the hill. In my young days we always calculated that we could come down any hill or mountain twice as fast as we went up, but these were the days in which we went in for record breaking, and each summer set out to break the fan-Lily's previous record for any particular climb from the starting-point back again.
Methods Of Identification
It is necessary for each side in a Wide Game to be identified in some manner, except in such games where disguises enter into the conditions. All games of the raid type require that those taking part should wear a distinguishing color or some distinguishing uniform.
If different Troops are taking part in a game against each other, Troop scarves may serve to distinguish them sufficiently. If different Patrols in the same Troop are playing, their Patrol shoulder knot may be sufficient mark, but normally it is best for them to have an additional tally as well.
Colored wool tied round the right arm, or both arms, visible between elbow and shoulder is the most common method adopted. Sometimes it is a case of "hats" versus "no hats." Sometimes shirts are worn outside the shorts--babu fashion. Sometimes different series-of numbers are worn, on hat, chest, or back.
The particular method adopted may be changed from game to game so as to bring variety into play. Whatever method is adopted should be properly known and implicitly carried out. Any attempt to cover up marks of identity while taking part in a game is contrary to the spirit of fair play and should be dealt with as such.
Methods of Capture
The ways in which members of the opposing side can be killed or captured offer the greatest difficulty. When considering methods of capture two important points have to be borne in mind:
(1) The game must not be allowed to degenerate into a vulgar brawl, and smaller Scouts should not be excessively handicapped on account of their size.
(2) Wide Games are specially useful in order to "bring into use the attributes of manliness."
These two contrasting points raise a problem which is not incapable of solution.
There are two main types of capture or killing-at-a distance, and by personal contact. It is possible for these two types to be combined together in one game.
Capture at a distance lays emphasis on good stalking and offers equal chances of success to younger Scouts. Various methods of distant killing have been adopted: ball throwing, dart throwing, number in hat or back and chest.
Any type of non-dangerous missile provides the material, for ball-throwing capture; balls of paper tied up with string and dipped in whitening so as to leave a mark have been frequently used. In my young days we used to use lumps of peat that had been floated down the river in a soap box and become soaked; it stung a bit without doing any injury to the person, but it was decidedly bad for the clothes, and once or twice that unfortunate fact involved us in personal injury afterwards!
Dart throwing is of the same type. The darts can be of the old school-room pattern, a six-inch length of half-inch green stick with a paper feather at one end. The striking end should be left quite blunt, and, if felt necessary, padded in some way. The blunt end can be chalked so as to leave a mark when it hits, different colored chalks indicating simple, serious, or fatal wounds. These darts will carry some twenty-five yards and are good weapons in a stalking game. When numbers are worn it is sufficient to call out the correct number--three figures are best worn by an opponent who has been spotted in order to secure his capture. This method needs real discipline and fair play.
Capture by personal contact should never involve the use of fisticuffs, but some kind of tackling or wrestling does not normally do much harm. I am sorry to bring my family into the picture again, but whenever we indulged in a game of hide and seek no one was caught unless he had been brought to ground by a Rugger tackle. We played these games on the moors, in the woods, across burns or rivers, amongst rocks from a very early age, and I do not remember anyone being damaged more seriously than a few bruises, scratches, and abrasions, except once when one of us sustained a sprained ankle, and that one was a she! My advice is to let a little rough and tumble enter into these games for the fun of the thing. It can all be governed by "fair play" rather than by "safety first." Do let us see that manliness enters into our Wide Games.
Fisticuffs, scratching, kicking, tripping, and biting should all be barred. I mention the last because there was once a mixed Scout Course at Gilwell Park, and a mere man was overheard telling his experiences to another of his Patrol on their way back to camp after a Wide Game in Epping Forest:
" Do you know what happened to me after you left me by the side of that wood -- A perfect hulk of a woman came round the corner, hurled herself on me, knocked me over, and bit me in the arm!" In such an unceremonious fashion was a member of the Church Militant treated.
Fighting with staffs and other similar weapons should also be barred as likely to cause unnecessary harm and lead to bad blood.
Methods that can be employed are scarf-tail, paper life, scalps, wool armlet, etc.
Scarf-tail is fairly obvious. Each Scout tucks his scarf loosely into his belt at the back. He loses his life if his tail is removed. The disadvantage of this method is that a bramble bush may remove a tail without the owner being aware of the loss he has suffered. Scarves are lost in this and other ways, and scarves cost money.
For scalps the scarf is tied round the head camp fashion, and the owner is scalped and killed when his scarf is snatched off.
The paper-life and wool-armlet methods are somewhat similar. A piece of paper like a shoulder knot is worn on the right shoulder, or a piece of wool on the right arm between elbow and shoulder. Their removal entails loss of life. In cases of contact sparring with the open hand should be the rule, but tackling may be allowed. By using different colored paper or wool the identification of the two sides is also secured. Four different colors will serve to identify all the sides in two concurrent games (see Totem Raid).
Of these two similar methods the wool armlet is the better, since the paper lives have to be pinned or sewn on, the former rendering an attacker liable to be scratched and the latter taking some time, especially in renewal.
It is worthwhile alluding to another method of capture that has been tried out with some success. This method was evolved from the Scout parlor game of "Challenge." Each side is given an identical set of numbers, one for each member of the side. When a Scout spots one of the other side he can challenge him or not as he pleases. If he challenges, the two must come together and compare the numbers issued to them, whichever holds the higher number removes a token from the other. It is best for each Scout to carry three or five tokens. This method entails a good deal of planning out on the part of Patrol Leaders so that lower numbers are covered by higher numbers, and a good deal of inter-communication between the members of one side so that an attack can be developed at certain weak spots.
This game is best played in a comparatively restricted area of close country, and should not go on too long. It is an excellent stalking game.
Whatever methods of capture are employed, every care should be taken to see that capture does not necessarily mean that the Scout captured takes no further part in the game. This result would ruin any Wide Game, for "in all games and competitions it should be arranged, as far as possible, that all the Scouts should take part" not only at the beginning but all the time.
Arrangements should be made for tokens to be handed over to a conqueror, for lives to be readily available for re-issue, for lives to be restored after repair to a First-Aid Station (see example). In all cases the Scouts should be required to count the number of times they have been captured and account for themselves faithfully to their Patrol Leaders at the end of the game.
The first method of handing over tokens should not involve the interference of any third party, the other two methods need some kind of umpires. If, say, wool armlets are being used, umpires who are moving about the area--without any prearranged plan--can carry spare pieces of wool, and Scouts who are killed may be required to find an umpire and secure a fresh life from him. Umpires can also be stationed at the First-Aid post to judge if the proper treatment has been applied and revive the patient if satisfied.
Otherwise there should be little need for the intervention of umpires as such, provided the spirit of fair play has been impressed on all taking part. Some Scouters moving about are necessary to act if appealed to and to watch how the game is being played. In order to prevent unfairness of attack by numbers it can be ruled, say, that two Scouts are not allowed to come into personal contact at the same time with only one. But naturally everything depends on the type of game being played as to the various rules adopted.
Scouters would be wise to remember what the Chief Scout writes in his Foreword to Scouting Games:
"In playing these games, it should be remembered that they improve very much on the second and third trial, as minor rules have often to be introduced to suit local circumstances."
We should also take to heart other wise advice:
" And don't forget, whenever you do lose a game, if you are a true Scout, you will at once cheer the winning team or shake hands with and congratulate the fellow who has beaten you.
"This rule will be carried out in all games and competitions among Boy Scouts " (Scouting for Boys, P. 229).
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Last modified: October 15, 2016.