Bicolline - The Great Battle!

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larp battle

I have always enjoyed Live Action Role Playing. At the age of 10, I was introduced to LARP when I was still living in Germany. There, I visited many great LARP “cons” held by great organizers (e.g. Drachenfest 2001 and 2002, Twilight-Team “cons” and many more). However, when I was 16 years old, I moved to the United States, and discontinued my LARP hobby, because there were no events in New England and the internet was not being used effectively to market any nearby. So I took a 7 year break before deciding to take another online to see if any events had reached New England.

To my surprise during those 7 years, LARP had expanded everywhere in North America. There were small LARP events almost every weekend of each month almost everywhere! I began visiting some local LARP events. I also visited SCA (Society of Creative Anachronism) events. Pretty much on each event, people asked me if I have ever been to Drachenfest or Conquest of Mythodea. Apparently, the largest LARP “cons” in Europe have a tremendous reputation around the world. Obviously, during my 7 year break of LARP, it evolved dramatically. After attending these events I never felt that I would relive the same kind of LARP experience from Germany in the United States. The styles of LARP differ from event to event, organizer to organizer and area to area in the United States. I decided to expand my search scope and to look at what our Canadian neighbors had to offer. Canada is just 4 hours north from my location and I remembered seeing a French documentary about Canadian LARP. So I searched on the web to see what I find.

The internet is full of those Canadian LARPs. Some of those YouTube videos and documentaries looked incredible, especially one specifically. There was one in particular that intrigued me the most. It talked about an event called Duché de Bicolline. What was this “Bicolline”? Some internet sources claimed it was the biggest and most amazing LARP in North America. The official page claimed to be large and consist of 150 fixed buildings! Fixed buildings- how intriguing.

Iconic sign of Duche de Bicolline
exhibit (10)
dragon noir shop

Fortunately, my knowledge in French aided me to navigate through the French Canadian websites, videos and articles. Also to note: LARP in Canada is actually called “Grandeur Nature Médiéval Fantastique”, and Canada has several LARP weapon manufacturers who appear to sell some of the most advanced Latex weapons in the world. To my surprise, there are “Latex” weapons not made out of latex. Of course, some LARPer who reads this might wish to slap me in the face and tell me that this information was nothing new, but as I stated in the beginning, I took a break from LARP for almost 7 years.

On August 3rd, I visited the official site of Bicolline – Bicolline.org. Very soon did I realize that the event (18th edition of the Great Battle of Bicolline) was taking place from August 11th to August 18th. It is a weeklong event! Also, I realized that if I wanted to go that I had only a week to prepare for this event. Within a week, I prepared my girlfriend and myself to spend at least five days at the event. In my mind I told myself: “No matter what, I have to visit this event at all costs!” In my head, I already saw myself role playing a rogue celebrating the victory of a great battle, backstabbing a noble for his gold and escaping reality completely.

Our trip began Wednesday at 4 pm from Manchester, New Hampshire, to Duché de Bicolline, which is located between Montreal and Québec City. The GPS calculated a trip of 6 hours. Once, we passed the Canadian border, my body became continuously excited to be heading to the event. I kept running endless situations whether or not I would like it, and if the trip was worth going for.  The GPS lead my car by various camping areas and to a national park. The further I drove away from the cities the more trees appeared along the road and more stars began to shine in the sky.

By 11:15, we finally arrived at a sign which said Duché de Bicolline. Yet, I saw no entrance and I saw no people. Next to the sign, there was a security guard standing outside his vehicle. I drove up slowly to the security guard standing outside his vehicle and asked him in my broken French where the entrance of the event would be, he gave me directions to the entrance in the typical friendly Canadian manner. When I arrived with my car at the check-in area, I saw a wooden wall and few cars. Once I parked my car, and stepped out, I suddenly began to hear loud music and people cheering to something. Bright colored lights covered the scene behind those walls. I tried to peek through the entrance to see what was going on the other side. Obviously, there was live music and a ton of people enjoying the show, but staff working at the entrance immediately intercepted me. The staff welcomed me and helped me to fill the documents required to enter the event. Quickly, did I notice that the staff was wearing matching colors in their medieval garments and wore headsets connected to radios which they carry to communicate with each other – very similar to how German game masters do. The staff appeared very well organized. A friendly lady helped with the rest, since my French is not perfect and often times I had to switch in English to continue our conversations. One staff in his yellow and blue colored nobility dress lead us to a small cabinet where my girlfriend and I were allowed to stay for the night, so we would not need to set up our tent in the dark. Even though, I arrived at the place I wanted to be, I knew it was best to discover this mystical place well rested the next day.

larp activities
larp town
larp jousting

My alarm sounded off at 8 am and the sunlight began to warm up the day. We set up our tent next to a location where other people apparently set their modern tents.  To my surprise, the same gentleman who helped us last night came back to check how we were doing. Obviously, the event organizers take great care of their players. We explained to him that everything was fine, and I thanked him for his generous help. Shortly after, I put my red gothic blouse, my black leather pants and my Austrian wool hat. We began leaving the tent area. Just 20 paces away from the tent area I could already see buildings unfold in front of my eyes. Some buildings were up to 3 stories tall. Some buildings and tents were converted into shops. In those shops all kinds of LARP equipment could be found. I found Ateliers-Nemesis, Calimacil, Epic Armoury and many more well-known LARP companies.

I continued to walk around to see what more I could find. To my surprise, I saw a horse cart going by me, and I decided to follow that cart. After few minutes, the small village disappeared behind me and in front of me I saw a sea of medieval tents. To the right I saw tents, and to the left I saw more tents. One can say, it appeared like a big SCA event, but with creative fantasy clothes, make up, and people living out their characters. Flashbacks of my German LARP experienced emerged right away… How much I missed being my Brownorc character.  Just along the road, I believed to see a pirate ship. Unfortunately, I did not have my glasses, so I was not sure if it was what I believed it was. When I came closer I realized people actually built a pirate ship in the middle of a field. It was amazing (See movie “The Wild Hunt”). A children’s dream came true right in front of me. How awesome must it be to be the captain of that ship, even if it is immobile! People continued to pass me towards a hilltop. Perhaps, there was more behind that hilltop, so I continued following the road where the horse cart kept going. Once I walked up that hilltop more buildings began to appear. When I believed to have seen it all, I found an entire town. It reminded me of a typical historic city located in some old European town. It was simply amazing.

On a small rectangular field, 2 teams of players played a game called “Trollball”. Apparently, the players equipped themselves with latex LARP weapons and have to run towards the center, where they fight the opposing team for a ball (A soft ball in the form of a troll head). Players try to put that head in the opposing team’s barrel. The game seemed to be simple but complex at the same time. Once a player is hit by an enemy sword, he goes down and cannot continue to play unless a player in his own team does something specific to save that player on the ground. It was really fun for me to watch people fight over a “troll head”. Players took this game very seriously. Some teams even had their own uniforms and chants.

larp food
Bicolline
exhibit (9)
larp family
troll ball team

It was amazing to see a small fantasy town in existence. How many times have I played fantasy online games, read fantasy books or seen movies where I wished to be in such a fantasy set up – countless times and now I was in such a setting.

One thing that astonished me the most in this LARP event was not only the fact that there were actual buildings, but children with their families. Everywhere I looked, there were children and parents holding their babies. Most children carried small miniature version of LARP weapons and were living out their childhood fantasies.  Many times, I saw groups of children with adults on adventure tours. It became more obvious to me that this LARP is not mainly aimed for adults but also for families with children of all ages. I have been on many LARPs where event organizers did not encourage people to take their children along, because the event was combat and/or adult oriented – that is in Europe and USA alike.

Finally, I see the horse cart turning around. I knew now, I reached the end of the road, but surely not the end of everything. At the end of the road several shops were selling drinks, fruits and other interesting dishes. For less than 10 Dollars, we were able to fill our bellies with great food.

At sun dawn, I decided to return to the tavern to discover what happens at night. I found people dancing and enjoying live music played on a stage. There was a live band every night playing medieval style music. At the tavern, I began to speak with a man with an in-game character name of “Sanchez”. He asked me to meet his pirate group the next day. After a few drinks, I returned to my tent to sleep.

The next day, I noticed that there were walls with dozens of posters which had lists of different events taking place throughout the week. Some events were overlapping each other. Very quickly I realized that it would be impossible for me to see every show or event. Therefore, I made a list of events to attend throughout the week. They had continuous jousting shows, which I and many other people enjoyed watching. Another competition I decided to watch was a strong-man competition where ambitious men lifted heavy objects to prove their manhood. One evening, an interactive show took place, where the audience was part of the show. I got to see Orcs, monsters and other fantasy characters roaming Bicolline throughout the week. The equipment used to create these fantastical creatures was au pair to what is used in European LARP’s. This kind of creativity is unusual in U.S., showing that Canadian LARP’s more closely resemble European LARP’s.

larp battle
larp battle
Bicolline at night.

Of course, as in any gigantic LARP event, battles exist in Bicolline as well. The battles in Bicolline were awesome, creative and a little different than those I remember back in Germany. In Bicolline, boffer weapons used the United States are not allowed. Only real looking and safe standard LARP weapons (latex weapons) were allowed. Before any battle, players are required to have their weapons checked and marked by a sticker to ensure safety. This is very similar process that is found in many LARP events in Germany.  The Canadians use the same fighting mechanics as in Germany. Players have to imagine their weapons had the real weight of 2 lb. to 6 lb. weapon, and therefore weapons have to be swung by 90° in order to show realism. The battles were set up in several stages, which allowed each army to have more than 1 chance to win the war.

During the battle, I decided to join the pirate group Senor Sanchez introduced me to, which was led by “Captain Valtramir”. He gave the group the objective to avoid the fighting and bury the group’s treasure. However, we weren’t the only group to take humorous actions within the battlefield. Another group pulled a carpet into the middle of the battlefield and attempted to auction that carpet to the combatants. Also, one monster turned around and hit his allies before fighting the enemy, just to show he could take them by himself. Of course, this confused combatants and caused some laughs between fighters. There were many other groups that made humorous pranks in the battlefield.

The battle was set up in different stages. Each side had more than one chance to win the battle. Specific key players gave objectives on either side that needed to be accomplished so that specific battle could be won. Therefore, it gives the plot a new twist, where the combating armies are not fighting necessarily until the last-man standing. Towards the end, the battle was moved to another side, where both armies clashed at a muddy choke point. Combat oriented left fully satisfied.

As each LARP event, they all find their end. In all honesty, Bicolline was so far my best LARP experience in North America and is undoubtedly au-pair to European LARP in most aspects. Bicolline is not only the largest event in North America, but is also the most complex fantasy world in North America. Seriously, how hardcore is it to be at an event that provides all sorts of resources to players to be part of the fantasy world “Bicoline”. I am already planning to return to Duché de Bicolline next year. Maybe, next time I stay for the entire week? Hopefully, this article gives each reader a greater insight of this fantastic piece of North American culture. The founder of Bicolline, Olivier Renard, definitely made one of the greatest and most iconic LARP conventions not only in North America, but in the whole wide world. It is so iconic, that movie makers continue to use the grounds of Bicolline for movies (The Wild Hunt and The Tale of Benjen Stark).

This article was written by Erik Trinkl and reflects his views and opinions of larp and Bicolline.

EXHIBIT DESCRIPTION:

  1. Iconic sign of Duché de Bicolline
  2. Angel. It is considered a large monster.
  3. Some shows consist of interactive insights to the plot and allow groups of players to take part of those shows.
  4. Jousting was a common show offered to the visitors. In 2013, Bicolline held daily jousting.
  5. Humans are not the only races played in Bicolline.
  6. A listing of some activities that took place in 2013.
  7. A monster character that needs to breathe through a gas tank.
  8. One part of Duché de Bicolline.
  9. A shop.
  10. One side of the grounds of Bicolline.
  11. Shop of Dragon Noir.
  12. Calimacil had its own booth.
  13. Some of the foods sold in Bicolline.
  14. A scene from one of the battles.
  15. Captain Valtramir, a notorious pirate that leads men to combat, adventures and chaos.
  16. Another non-human character.
  17. The horse cart was used to transport people and pick up trash throughout the event.
  18. Another example of creative monsters in Bicolline.
  19. A trollball team.
  20. Bicolline at night.
  21. Scene from a battle.
  22. Bicolline is made for families, too.
  23. Scene from a battle.
  24. Another creative monster.
  25. In Bicolline there were many booths were food and drinks were sold.
  26. One part of Duché de Bicolline.
  27. This cannon is connected to a gas tank, which allows it to shoot foam balls in high velocity.
  28. A pirate ship that is used for by a guild.
  29. Music and dancing are essential parts of Bicolline. There were daily music groups playing. Each night a different group played music.
  30.  An orc.
  31.  A monster on leg extensions.
  32.  Captain Valtramir’s fearless companions.
  33.  Buried treasure.

22 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Pierre-A Caron December 30, 2013 Subscriber

    This place look amazing, i’m from Quebec, Canada and i never knew we had that kind of event. i knew about some violent joust but didn’t know there was that kind of event with such a beautiful place where every aspect of medieval age is respected.

  2. David Williams January 10, 2014 Subscriber

    You mention that they don’t allow boffers, but it’s plain to see that most of the weaponry is foam and duct tape. What’s up with that?

  3. Maria January 31, 2014 Subscriber

    1) The foam and duct tape weapons are for thrusting so they need to be softer, thicker than latex weapons and are less durable (stabbing = high impact)
    2) Bicolline has guidelines for building weapons and they allow foam and duct tape “boffers” for “lances”.
    3) “Stab-proof” Latex weapons are expensive – the longer they are the more expensive…

  4. Hermen February 21, 2014 Subscriber

    So, the guy actually doesnt really know what hes talking about with the no boffers… all weapon types are accepted at Bicolline, they must all be checked for security purposes and get marked, but all weapons are allowed. I’ve been going since the very first year at Bicolline, still the best large battle system I’ve seen over the years (been larping for 22). No spells or other shenanigans during combats, althought they’re are ”healers”.

    • Thomas Miller February 21, 2014 Subscriber

      Hi Hermen!
      Thanks for the heads up. This year will be the first year any of our core team get a chance to visit Bicolline. Can’t wait to go!

  5. Sébastien Gamache March 5, 2014 Subscriber

    Augh! There are no sign of the “La Belle Vigneronne” tavern in your text! On the main street, you surely found a place where you could trade “Bico dollars” for 4 good wine types and 3 types of beer? Vignerons Guild? 😉

    • Jordan March 5, 2014 Administrator

      We will soon! We’ll be coming as a group this year! See: http://www.voyagenorth.larping.org! Are you the proprietor? 😉

      • Sébastien Gamache March 20, 2014 Subscriber

        I’m not the owner, but one of my brother is among those who owns it.

  6. Pingback: Weekly Round Up! - March 15 | LARPING.ORG

  7. Erik Trinkl March 17, 2014 Subscriber

    I guess I never addressed some of the comments. Buffer weapons in Bicolline are not permitted at Bicolline and not used. If the buffer weapon obviously does not look as realistic as the standard latex weapons nor meets the safety requirements then they are not allowed. What you might recognize as buffer weapons are Halberds and Spears. Most of them are self made with a lot of foam and duck tape. Those are the only weapons allowed and used with duck tape. If you have more questions do not hesitate to ask me.

    • Armand des Forges March 28, 2014 Subscriber

      Erik, your article is really well written and capture a lot of the essence of what Bicolline is.
      Sadly, those parts of the article are wrong : “In Bicolline, boffer weapons used the United States are not allowed.” and “Players have to imagine their weapons had the real weight of 2 lb. to 6 lb. weapon, and therefore weapons have to be swung by 90° in order to show realism.”

      That being said, anyone that plan going at Bicolline should at least have one latex sword. They are dirt cheap compared to the price of the trip. Then again, a sword is really not a good war weapon. Get yourself a spear, halberd or flail.

      Here are the building specs for the weapons, if you do not believe a 15 year veteran: http://bicolline.org/pdf/Standard%20Armes%20Bico%2002_04_2012.pdf

  8. Rich Croteau March 19, 2014 Subscriber

    You know, If any of the members of my local group read this , I am gonna get beat down, Having said that…rant mode on!!!

    Wow! When it comes to Larps we Americans are SO F*(King GHETTO!!!! We are the Trailerpark trash of the Larp World.

    The Canadian’s have nice things.
    We don’t have nice things.
    Who’s the reason that we can’t have nice things?

    Rant mode off

    😀

    • Jordan March 20, 2014 Administrator

      Rich! Come with us to Bicolline and you can take your great experiences back to the US and help make things better! http://www.voyagenorth.larping.org

      • Erik Trinkl April 1, 2014 Subscriber

        I had some bad feedback just even mentioning it.

  9. Sébastien Gamache March 20, 2014 Subscriber

    Bicolline is already a great place, but they will invest lost of money and receive some from the government to build something even bigger. See for yourself at this link (it’s PDF):

    http://bicolline.org/pdf/Bicolline-Fascicule_02-I.pdf

    This should happen partly this year and in the next 3 years.

    • Jordan March 20, 2014 Administrator

      This is great and really exciting! You don’t happen to know if there is an English version somewhere do you?

      • Sébastien Gamache March 21, 2014 Subscriber

        I don’t, unfortunately.

  10. Richard Sweet May 12, 2014 Subscriber

    I wish we had something like this here in the U.S, i know Nero Larp has a large event in Colorado but not to this size.

  11. Greg July 1, 2017 Subscriber

    Can anyone attend? If i can only come for a few days would weekend be best? What do i need to bring? And how much does it cost?

  12. Jeb June 21, 2018 Subscriber

    Necropost, I know, but…

    Holy cow, Canada has a lot of LARPs? I wouldn’t know. I’ve lived in BC (West coast of Canada, just North of Washington State) my whole life, and only know of one LARP. Only a few buildings (though a stone castle!), and around 300 regular players. No fancy GMing to my knowledge, nor staff (NPCs are volunteers).

    It works, but great. Yet another reason for me to move to Quebec.

  13. Squiggle_Monster August 10, 2018 Subscriber

    I’ve been searching for what all the guilds are and what they are about, I haven’t found anything about them so far.
    Thank you
    ~ Squiggle

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