Buhurt & MOBA:
An unlikely synergy
In this article we will examine some of the most essential similarities between Buhurt and competitive 5v5 videogames in an Esport context.
Five fighters entering the list, sizing up their opponents, and taking their positions on the field.
When the clash occurs, pairs of fighters square off on the rails while the center observes and controls the open field between them.
Different fighters squaring off with various weapon sets and armor.
Once the melee ensues, teams are fighting as units, if you focus too much on the man in front of you their teammate will gank you from behind!
Size vs Speed! There are no weight classes in Buhurt, you must adapt to fighting larger and smaller opponents.
Flurries often occur in the open field, where the chaos of the fight reigns supreme! Rails are considered "safe zones" where you are protected on most sides from attacks. Only the boldest Buhurt fighters battle in the open list!
We will briefly go over a few of the most common slang terms or jargon used within Esports, and Buhurt. These terms will be used frequently across this piece and should be in the lexicon of all Buhurt fighters or parties interested in the sport or its analysis.
Buhurt: Buhurt is a full contact sport based on medieval combat events, it is a modern blend of historical weapons techniques, high level martial arts, and team strategy. Generally the most common format in Buhurt is 5v5 team combat.
Mass Battle: Buhurt categories comprising teams any larger than 5v5. This is not a strict definition, but it is necessary to distinguish between 5v5 tactics and tactics for larger groups. So by technicality all fights over 10 total combatants are considered mass battles. (AllvAll, 12v12, 21v21 etc.)
Snowball: To steadily increase advantages over the course of a fight/match. Snowballing is typically an exponential process; the more advantageous a situation is, the faster more advantages will tend to accumulate.
Cascade: When a team gains a numerical advantage in active fighters they begin/start a cascade effect, cascades can stop and start at any time. Cascades rapidly change the flow of the fight in favor of one team. Many tactics are designed to create an initial cascade.
Strong/Weak Side: Sides of the playing field where teams have split advantages. Ex: split 3v2 fighters across the list, each team theoretically has an advantageous and disadvantageous side of the field to play on.
Rotation: Moving resources IE people to different places on the playing field.
Tempo: Timing and flow of the current active battle, Tempo is constantly moving, dictated by the players on the field. Often the team controlling the tempo has a major advantage in the match.
Agency: Ability for any particular person to choose their actions or make and act on their own decisions. Taking away an opponent's agency is a surefire path to victory.
MOBA: Multiplayer Online Battle Arena : a category of video games in which two teams of players compete against each other on a predefined battlefield.
Carry: A strong player, one who often performs well and is a key element in most victories.
Simo: Slang for ‘simultaneous” used to describe when a Buhurt fighter takes an opponent down but goes to the ground with them.
The Nature of Buhurt
What is Buhurt? There are a couple of ways to define the activity which has captured the hearts of so many people across the globe. A recreation of history; calling back to simpler times, with more elegant combat from the past. It's clearly a sport, based loosely on the same beloved sport played by our knightly predecessors during the medieval ages.
Just about any practitioner will tell you that this is an incredibly physically demanding activity. Most Buhurt players would surely describe the sport as mentally taxing, with an insane amount of variables to track. It can be a palpable emotional experience as well, with many wonderful experiences. Buhurt is a unique sport in a unique position; in a constant state of growth, expansion, and absorbing useful knowledge from other realms of enterprise. In a Jeet Kune Do-esque manner, we in the armored combat world adapt whatever we can with a proven record of success, and apply it to our own unique sport. Over time this has given a wonderful variety to the landscape of the sport, as new skills are introduced with new players, and the new insights encourage growth in others.
So again we circle back to the question. What is Buhurt? What defines it, what gives Buhurt its unique shape and place in the world of combat sports? Nothing exists in a vacuum, you cannot appraise something properly without taking the environment into account, and Buhurt is no different. In order to have a proper launch pad into this discussion, we must examine, contrast, and compare Buhurt to its contemporary arts. An excellent quote comes from Musashi, written in his masterpiece the Book of Five Rings: "If you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things."
Buhurt is fun, Buhurt is difficult, and most exciting of all: Buhurt is an unsolved problem. As of yet there is no single, solitary answer on how to play the game of Buhurt, just as there is not a single definition that fits all practitioners. What this sport is, and can be, will be defined by the current generation. To quote Shakespeare's Henry V: "WE are the makers of manners "
Value of Information Application
If something is true, it will maintain that essence across all studies, practices, and implementations, it is essentially always true. Truth can be quantified, proven to a nearly undeniable point, and applied in all facets of life. There are only so many ways to move a human body, what works is well established, similarly there are only so many ways to optimize tactics using a 5 man unit. Fighters often equate chess and combat, the cerebral nature of Buhurt is certainly akin to a chess match, but it has quite a few more variables that shift at a rapid pace. Yet there are elements of chess that still resonate with Buhurt; control of space, allocation of resources, and the ability to think ahead. Valuable truths from any medium, art, or sport can hold crossover value in martial arts. With that premise being set, let’s talk about how Buhurt is just like League of Legends.
Some of you out there may very well be diamond tier in many competitive MOBA’s, hitting record ELO’s with your gigafed top lane carry style. Some of you may dabble casually in DOTA or LOL, maybe your game of choice helps you blow off steam, or maybe it stresses you out to the point of rage. No doubt there are a large group of people reading this that are entirely unfamiliar with everything that was just said, or only have a tertiary knowledge of video games. Preconceived notions aside, let’s define what these video games are for the purposes of our discussion, without any filters swaying the measurement.
Video games are an exercise in decision making, making proper decisions is a critical skill in all walks of life, critical thinking itself is a desperately sought after trait in human beings. Games can be the greatest teachers of these two skills because they give us an arena in which to practice with relatively low stakes in the case of failure. Losing at the game of hunting once upon a time meant that you died and your tribe slowly starved afterwards, now losing at the game of hunting means you got to spend some time in nature on your day off. Low consequence scenarios are ideal for practicing high stakes maneuvers. As practice breeds familiarity, the body finds comfort in the known movements, allowing these complex and stressful maneuvers to be performed under stress in high stakes situations. Ultimately you want the body’s conditioning of those movements to be so natural that your muscles respond to stimuli that your brain isn’t consciously picking up on. When embroiled within the chaos, stability of your skills is entirely dependent on the level of your training and the practicality of your skillset.
When you’re fighting in a competitive Buhurt match, you’re most likely to secure a takedown with the move you’ve practiced the most in training. While there must necessarily be a first attempt with every takedown, it’s unlikely that the first successful effort will come while battling in a high stress environment. Either way, even in the case of a lucky or perfectly timed action, one should not assume they now have mastered the motion after one good iteration. Training is a prerequisite for prolonged success. Don’t think in terms of singular results; if you fail at a takedown don’t abandon the move forever, and just because you pull off a move once don’t think you’ve fully mastered it. There is always room to improve your skill and knowledge of the game. Comfort comes with practice, when you become comfortable with yourself and your own ability, no matter the situation you will be able to perform, even in turmoil. This is true in Buhurt, or in MOBA’s, really it applies in all walks of life.
MOBA and Buhurt
MOBA’s are a competitive strategy game subgenre that require skill, game knowledge, and team coordination in order to succeed. Many players find this frustrating, as most teams do not coordinate well at a low level of play. Almost any team of random players who don’t know each other is going to underperform, unless the players have common game knowledge, and the self assuredness to play the way they ought to. In those beautiful occasions, a team will work together seamlessly to achieve their joint goal, with growing confidence as you snowball over time and crush your opposition. These same principles apply to Buhurt; teams with no coordination will fail even against less technically skilled opponents. Great teams are great because they are much more than the sum of their parts. Great teams play the same game at the same time, players trust the other players to join in the right fights and look for the same advantages that they are trying to find. Ideally your whole squad understands how you want to win, and the best ways to reach that end. You craft a strategic goal, and then set out the tactical steps to achieve it.
Setting and controlling the tempo of a fight is crucial to implementing strong tactics, whether by acting you force a reaction, or with patience you encourage your opponent to act. On a Buhurt team, there are typically certain fighters you will expect to get the first takedown to start the cascade, often they will set the tempo in the best way for themselves to succeed personally. As their teammates it is usually optimal to play around your power player, they should have the most agency. Often an intelligent team will counteract this, since they know who the best players are, so a knock on effect is created where resources must be diverted to one individual and leave some other potentially weaker player an opportunity. Sometimes you’ll see teams rotate strong players to face one another and hopefully cancel the other out, other times the two teams handshake an agreement to swap strong sides of the field. In which case it comes down to who can start the cascade first normally, and who has a better tactical plan for shutting down the enemy carry. Taking away the agency of a strong fighter is a common tactic for winning; having a big strong new guy hold onto a really good Buhurt wrestler and just try to soak his energy for a round, or even Simo with the better player if possible. In League of Legends or DOTA if you can have a weaker role trade one for one with the enemy carry in a team fight you know that you’ve gained a massive statistical advantage. It is important to always remember your role in the team's tactics, but always keep in mind the overall strategic goal and be willing to amend your immediate tactics accordingly if necessary.
Roles and Positions
Positions or roles on the field greatly affect the agency of each player, for a time at least. In a MOBA there are defined positional roles, dictated typically by character move sets and type, in Buhurt we have positional roles defined by inherent skill and body type. Typical arenas on a MOBA look like this:
Without any additional context you can already see the similarity to the Buhurt list, simply adjust the axis of starting positions from the corner to the sides and you will have the typical starting lineup of any team. Standard lineups in Buhurt are usually two players at either rail, and a player in the center. In a MOBA you typically have two players together on the bottom lane, you have a player in mid lane and top lane who are alone in lane but often work together. Even though the mid lane is clearly in the middle of the map, mid and top are considered the “top half” of the map and often the two lanes require much synergy in terms of play style to succeed at the highest level. So we can equate these top two lanes with the top half of the map, and the duo in bot lane as the corresponding roles in the bottom half of the map. Just as we see the two versus two man rail split on the Buhurt field, teams must divide to cover the entire field in the early game, and they usually need support in places where engagements cannot be avoided. Places like the lane where resources are, or the list where you have limited options on which direction to move. This leaves one role unaccounted for, you may think that the mid lane obviously corresponds with the middle role in Buhurt, not so. As you can see on the map, one position covers almost the entire playing area. Jungle is the open ground between set lanes, the place with the most space, where the agency is highest. Middle position in Buhurt is like the Jungle in MOBA, there is high agency, and massive amounts of variety in ways to play the role out. You often see a mobile, dexterous runner in the middle, but you can succeed well with a reliable tank in the middle if your team plays around that. What is key for any jungler in a MOBA or a middle player in Buhurt is field awareness. In a MOBA the map is covered by fog of war apart from what your team can see, in Buhurt the fog of war is in your mind! Playing around the information available to you is essential to any role in Buhurt, especially the center!
Structure of a Match
League of Legends is a popular MOBA, and most League games play out in a similar structure with room for slight variance. In the early game players tend to their lanes, as the jungler roams for assistance and to secure objectives. In Buhurt this would be when the team is lined up man to man at the start, the objectives being any advantage they can gain with positioning. Here teams often have a defined strong and weak side of the field, positioned where they can have the greatest effect on the field. Strong side will usually dictate the start of any engagements, either to secure takedowns or give an opening to another role.
As League and Buhurt transition into the mid game, roles become less tied to their starting points, a few takedowns can occur and cause a team to rotate players from one side to increase or waylay an advantage. Teams look for the chance to start a cascade and snowball their position into a win. The mid game is characterized by action and movement on the field, this is typically where battle plans make or break, as each team’s tactics connect like boxers in a ring. Rotations around the field are happening fluidly at this stage, whenever an advantage presents itself. Field awareness becomes a crucial factor as players swap and move dynamically, you must constantly be updating your information on the battlefield.
The late game is where any decisive moves can end the game, in some instances the late game is highly competitive, the chance of victory can be 50/50 in the late game because time is often the great equalizer in skill. Chances of a highly skilled player making a mistake increase the later the match goes, this is exponentially true of a worse player, but if a lesser skilled fighter wants to defeat a more powerful opponent they have a much higher chance of success when their target is tired. Sometimes late game scenarios play out with very little stakes; a League team with a massive gold differential is so unlikely to lose that often the game becomes boring to watch, just like most four versus two scenarios in Buhurt are uninteresting. It’s clear to anyone with eyes who has the advantage in those instances, and the match is all but over. When a team gains such distinct advantages there is generally a skill gap, tactical superiority, or both on one team’s side.
Buhurt is one of the best sports developing in the world today, it still has so much room to grow that it is uncanny to think about how far it has already come. Sports must adapt and grow as time rolls on, or risk losing the interest of players and fans alike. League of Legends and other MOBA’s have updates literally built into the system, forcing players to change tactics and strategies if they want to optimize play at the highest level. As players in a new sport, it is up to us as humans to bring about new updates in the meta. It is up to you, as a creative individual to find new skills and see what translates into Buhurt. Without innovation any sport becomes stagnant. Old League tactics don’t work today even if the best players attempt them, the game has changed too much, people know too well how to beat those old plays. Buhurt is already evolving, and much of what worked in the past will not work at the highest level today. How can you evolve? How can you help the sport grow to another level? The answer could be to introduce new skills, it could be to adopt new tactical approaches, it could be to find new sources of inspiration, or it may simply be training your mind and body. Be mindful of your goals.
There are so many more aspects of this amazing sport we could go over and compare to MOBA games. We will save specific tactics comparisons for another time. Hopefully this inspires you to look around the sports and gaming world for other sources of information, tactics, or skills to translate into Buhurt. Do not ever disregard what you don’t understand; being critical and judgmental are two distinctly different things, be critical at all times and judgmental only when absolutely certain.
Many thanks for reading and I leave you with one more quote: “Strategy requires thought, tactics require observation.” - Max Euwe.
P.S. - If you have never watched a MOBA or don’t know where to begin try watching G2 vs SKT1 at the 2019 tournament called MSI (Mid Season Invitational). It is a showcase of high skill, drama, and shows what the sport of League can be at the top level.