Homemade arrows litter the field. Archers scramble, reaching for more ammunition while avoiding being hit.
A man in a gold sash watches from afar while another greets incoming players.
This is a typical scene during Tacoma Battle Games’ Battle of the Bows.
Tacoma Battle Games is a not-for-profit club that hosts medieval-style field battles, with weapons that have been rendered mostly safe.
The group celebrated its one-year anniversary July 1, all because of a stolen set of keys — at least, that’s how founder Daniel Rounds tells it.
He met a man named Jeff Stewart at All’s Faire, a medieval and fantasy festival in Lacey.
Rounds accidentally left his keys at the event, and Stewart tracked him down and returned them.
“He thinks he lost them but my story is I stole them as an opportunity because I saw a promise in this man,” Stewart told The News Tribune with a laugh.
After Stewart “stole” Rounds’ keys, the two talked about starting a medieval battle group in Tacoma. They ended up building upon a similar Battle of the Bows event Stewart started five years ago.
Rounds hosts the events and plans them while Stewart builds the weapons the club uses. The weapons are free to use on loan during the battles.
Stewart said he’s a former sabre fighter who has taken an interest in archery. He’s learned how to make his own inexpensive bows, to allow more people to join the battles.
He got involved with a medieval group that required archers to use 30-pound bows. That’s in between the weight of a child’s bow and adult bow, and was almost impossible to find, he said.
So he learned to make his own, and cheaply.
“If it’s a $100 bow, (people) kind of walk away and you feel bad financially and emotionally, but a $5 bow, there’s less incentive to steal and there’s less risk involved,” Stewart said. “That’s what we’re hoping to do, keep it a game that is fun and is cheap as possible to get into.”
Stewart and Rounds provide almost every bow and arrow used during Tacoma Battle Games’ Battle of the Bows, which is free and open to the everyone. The two want to make sure cost doesn’t exclude people who want to play.
Their Battle of the Bows events are strictly archers only and occur the first Sunday of the month, April through October, at the field at Stanley Elementary School, 1712 S. 17th St.
They also host and typically provide weapons for Battle Days there the third Sunday of every month — which include swords, spears, bows and other weapons. They’re all homemade from materials such as foam or fiberglass.
There are rules for all the weapons.
Players are assigned a team, where they focus on communication and strategy, while keeping the competition fun.
“One of our extended rules is it’s a game, not an Olympic sport,” Rounds said. “No one wins any prize.”
When people are hit with an arrow or other weapon, they have to raise their arm and say they’ve been hit.
Archers are required to use their weapons at half-force during battles, and must be 15 feet away from their target before they shoot an arrow. Players with throwing weapons must use half-force from at least 5 feet away.
Although a lot of the weapons used are made out of PVC, fiberglass and other materials, Stewart said participating in the battles is not 100-percent safe.
“We want them to be aware of that they’re in danger so that they actually play smart,” Stewart said. “As soon as you tell somebody there’s no risk at all, people get dumb really fast, so we say archery is inherently a dangerous sport and this is what we’re doing to make it safer.”
Stewart uses stress balls wrapped in fabric instead of arrow tips.
And he uses high-impact plaster with a penny inside for the arrows, which keeps them from breaking and diffuses the force of their impact.
Tacoma Battle Games also requires anyone under 18 to have a parent present and watching. Those younger than 13 can be on the field only if a parent is also playing the game.
“It’s not as nerdy as you might think, I bet you’re going to have a good time, and the only thing stopping you is you,” Rounds said.
Their next event is a Battle Day 1 p.m. July 21 at Stanley Elementary. More information is available at tacomabattlegames.com.