Chaos reigned on Queen’s Park’s north lawn on Saturday, as roughly 150 combatants gathered for Improv in Toronto’s inaugural Foam Sword Battle.
The event opened with a dog-eat-dog, every-combatant-for-him-or-herself-style melee before the participants were broken into teams for a series of games, including a sword-centric version of capture the flag; a rather on-trend game about zombies; and several other activities that, at their core, were just an excuse to hit your friend, or a stranger, with a foam sword.
The rules of combat: a shot to the arm or leg meant you lost the use of that limb. A shot to the head or chest eliminated you from the game.
According to Improv in Toronto founder Cole Banning, the Foam Sword Battle has one very simple idea at its heart. “It’s fun to have a sword fight with your friends, so we figured it would be even more fun to have one with strangers,” he said.
Banning’s colleague and co-organizer Jenna Warriner says that, originally, they wanted the event to be more structured, but they opted to keep things simple.
“They have events like this in other cities, with Nerf guns,” she said. “Originally, we wanted it to be more elaborate, with a course with barriers and boxes, but we decided to start off simple, with 150 people in a park.”
The duo says that they were thrilled with both the turnout and how engaged the participants were. Several came in costume, including Neo from The Matrix, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, two Links from the Zelda games, and a horse.
“We didn’t ask anyone to dress in costume,” says Warriner. “They just did.”
Combatants were similarly creative when it came to their choice of weaponry. The only rule was that all weapons had to be made of foam. While most people opted for the standard-issue Dollarama foam sword, others came with Nerf Tommy guns, foam katanas, and one with a homemade lance made out of a pool noodle.
Sixteen-year-old Ramin Emadi of Mississauga came to the fight after reading about some of Improv’s other activities.
“I started following them after I read about the subway dance party, and I was like ‘The next thing these guys do, I’m going to go for it,” Emadi told us. “I even made a shield out of a foam board, some kneepads, and duct tape.”
Banning says that, by almost all measures, the event was a raging success.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” he says. “We had more than 300 people say they were coming on Facebook, but that could mean none of them are going to show up, or it could mean they all come and bring friends.”
At the end of the afternoon, the crowd dispersed and went home, a little sweatier and more bruised than when they showed up, and also very much happier.
Photos by Sanjeev Acharya/Improv in Toronto.
CORRECTION: September 4, 2012, 3:42 PM Jenna Warriner’s surname was originally misspelled in this article. We regret the error.