'Who wants to play waaarrrrrrr?' This battle cry can be heard ringing out from most schools, and in particular British Forces primary school playgrounds, since time immemorial. The game is started by a small group of boys linking arms and marching round the playground chanting the call to battle. Other children, almost always boys, link on to the end of the line and take up the chant.
The chain grows, until it contains a huge number of children, arms linked around shoulders, crossing the playground from one side to the other, chanting. Once the chain stretches the whole width of the yard, it has reached critical mass. Critical mass is the number of children needed for a really good game of war. However, due to the perverse laws of the universe and school timetables, critical mass is almost always achieved at the exact instant that the school bell rings, ending play time and stopping the game before it even starts. This is so predictable that to a school loner, it may seem that the gathering of the troops is the game, and not merely the opening. The full game is usually only played after school, therefore, and even then, critical mass is seldom reached before the restraining forces of homework, dinner and bedtime come into force.
The actual game of war involves two teams of children, who pretend to be the opposing sides in whichever war is currently most popular. These 'armies' run around and pretend to shoot each other, using whatever cover is available. The rules as to when you are shot are very much free-form. You get shot when you feel that you get shot which normally happens when circumstances favour a good dramatic death scene. Continuous 'immortality' would soon have you ostracized from the game and your friends. The weapons are many and varied and, due to their insubstantiality, truly heroic amounts of arms can be carried: flame-throwers, bazookas, and grenades supplement the ever present machine gun... not to mention the other fantastic weapons of unbelievable destructive force that evolve from moment to moment in perfect accord with the demands of the game.
Dead Man's Fall
Dead Man's Fall is like a game of war stripped to its bare essentials, rather like a game of football reduced to dazzling shots and heroic saves... without the pointless and time-consuming running about. One child is chosen, by whichever method is currently in favour1, to be the executioner. The rest of the players line up, and the game begins. The executioner starts by asking one of the players how they would like to die. The player responds with something like,
I would like a crossbow bolt to the stomach, please Bob.
A hand grenade, please Bob.
The player then acts out that particular method of execution.
After a complete round, when everybody has been killed, the executioner decides whose performance was the best. The winner becomes the executioner, and the game continues. Each round demands more complex and protracted 'deaths'. Daring and a shrewd judgement of the height of walls are needed to push the limits of safe 'dying'; and, when trees and playground equipment are employed, a sense of drama combined with the flexibility and balance of yoga are essential.