Tournaments are two different kinds of contests which can be found in any town. "Melee fights" are a free-for-all cluster of warriors of different ranks that is always available during the day. The main tournament is a high-risk, high-reward bout with progressions, but is not always available except when accompanying a feast.
Arenas close at night, so if you arrive at a town hosting a tournament at the wrong time, you will need to wait until morning to participate.
Every town holds melee fights all day long, every day. If you talk to the Tournament Master, he can tell you the rules, as well as put you into a fight. There aren't really any rules though, and there are no teams; it is essentially just a brawl. All contestants start with no armor and a randomly generated practice weapon which may include a sword and shield, two-handed sword, staff, or a bow and arrows. The only aim is to survive and knock out as many opponents as possible. At the end of the fight, you will receive a certain amount of money, depending on how many opponents you knocked out.
Other than the fighters that spawn initially, combatants only spawn one at a time, giving the player a good chance. When around 10 contestants are left from your kill count in the top left corner, they all spawn in quick succession. You can hang back and let them fight each other for an easier win, but the AI will band together against the player if they wait too long.
The amount of money and experience you get when you're knocked out depends on the amount of enemies you defeated during the fight. You get the best rewards if you manage to be the champion, the last one standing.
Larger tournaments are sponsored by a town, and are one of the best ways to make money in the game. To find the locations of these tournaments, you can ask the Tournament Master in any Arena.
Tournaments are often held in a town which also has an ongoing feast in the castle, but you cannot enter the castle due to the feast, unless you have high renown, are a lord of a faction that isn't at war with the faction owning the town, or if you win the tournament (you will be invited to the feast if you win the tournament).
Tournaments will run for 12-14 days. The game will try to have up to three active tournaments at a time. If there are less than three, every 24 hours, it will pick a random town to receive a 30% chance of hosting a tournament. If the randomly selected town already has a running tournament, its remaining days will be reset.
There will be 2-4 teams total in the arena and you will be on one of those teams. Note: you can still give your teammates orders (F1, F2, F3, etc.) as you would your regular troops. Each team can have anywhere from 1-8 contestants during each round causing fights to range from a 1 on 1 to a 32-man brawl. Your weapons will be decided for you and you won't have access to your inventory, but you can pick up weapons from fallen opponents who are knocked unconscious during the battle.
Unlike melee fights, losing will not automatically end the tournament, if you have proven yourself worthy enough, you may continue on to the next round anyway. You only need to defeat one person to advance past the first tier, the second and third require you to knock out two people each time, and you will lose if you get knocked out from then on. Oddly, knocking out your own teammates may count toward your requirement to advance.
- In Swadian tournaments you will always get a lance and a horse
- In Rhodok tournaments you will often get a one-handed sword and a crossbow
- In Khergit tournaments you will often get a horse and a bow/javelins
- In Vaegir tournaments you will often get an axe and shield
- In Nord tournaments you will not get a horse or helmet
- In player's faction tournaments you will often get a random melee weapon
You can win up to 4180 denars after winning a tournament, as long as you make cleverly-placed maximum bets on yourself each round. You must win 1st place to make any money and to be able to dedicate the win to a lady.
In each of the six tiers, you may bet 5, 10, 20, 50, or 100 denars on yourself, earning you extra cash if you win the entire tournament. If you place a 100 denar bet on yourself every round, you can win up to 3980 extra from the tournament. Without betting, the standard winnings are normally just 200 denars making a total of 4180 possible. When you place the bet, it will tell you the odds of victory, the worse the odds, the greater the reward. The odds will automatically start out with you having an equal chance of winning with all the other contestants. If you lose the tournament it will not change, but if you win, your odds will increase causing future bets at the tournament to be worth less money. The increased odds will decrease over time so as long as you don't go to another tournament at that town for awhile, with enough time, you can earn the full 4180 again.
The amount of renown you gain for winning a tournament is
20 - (Current Renown / 200 [rounded down]). Your relation with the town in which the tournament was held will also increase by 1. This is still a decent way to get renown in the mid to late game, as the renown reward will not be reduced to 0 until you have at least 4000 renown.
There is an exploitation that makes it possible to fight in the same tournament multiple times. Whether or not you win the tournament, leave the town and move away from it. Move until the garrison of the town no longer shows and then move back to it. When you re-enter the town, you can join the tournament again. If you won previously, however, you won't win as much for winning again. This can be a pretty good way of making money. It is especially effective if you find the tournament when it starts to maximize the number of times you fight in it. If you belong to a faction (other than your own), you will be invited to a feast every once in awhile. If the feast is in a town, it will always have a tournament to go along with it. This way you can always know when a tournament starts and you can proceed winning it repeatedly. Each time you win, you can dedicate the win to a lady, so this can be a good way to court them as well.
The following practices might help you win a tournament:
- If you get a weapon you're not comfortable with (especially during the early stages), drag behind your teammates and grab a weapon when someone else falls in combat, but if you prioritize this too much, your enemies may disturb you from picking up the weapons.
- If you start out on foot in a match against mounted participants, you can steal a horse if anyone is dismounted. Particularly if you start out with only a bow and knife, you can be very vulnerable in a melee without the capacity to block. However, knives are still able to be used for chamber blocking.
- Remember that you can use team strategies (F1, F2, etc.). If you don't control the battle, you can often find your teammates splitting up and running against a larger opposition. This is mostly useful when 3-4 teams are present - in this case holding position and waiting for the other teams to engage each other might be a good idea.
- Try to get rid of the mounted enemies first. If you remain the only mounted unit, you have a huge advantage!
- If you have no horse and a lancer hunts you, try to make him run into a wall. This also applies in 1v1 mounted melee situation. If you are caught in the open, you can also block with your shield or parry to avoid a couched lance strike, and hitting a lancer with a ranged weapon just before he can strike you temporarily interrupts his couched lance status.
- During the early stages when you get a free pass for 1-2 knockouts, try to grab easy kills - drag behind a teammate and finish their weakened targets.
- Think before you attack. Attack the team with the most contenders alive. Let the enemies distract each other, and stab an enemy focusing on another target in the back when you have a free shot.
- Look around often! Lancers can take you down in a single hit if you're not observant. Also consider making lancers, or at least their horses, a priority target.
- Most ranged weapons have unusually large amounts of ammunition, and even though most enemies will have excellent shield skills, their shields will still break fairly easily. If you have or can steal a horse, then even if you are unskilled in the weapon you have, you can generally eliminate the enemy's horse first, break through their shield second, then finally finish them off with unskilled and wild ranged attacks while your horse keeps circling away from the enemy at a steady trot. Victory is all that matters, nobody cares how unsporting it is for you to spend five minutes running away and throwing things at opponents with no horses and no ranged weapons.
- Dismounted lancers may easily be ignored in favor of more serious targets, but be aware that they can still jab you for a lot of damage if you get into the right range. Alternatively, you may hold down the block button to block down.
- The following tips could be considered exploits as they take advantage of the AI and/or game mechanic in ways that go beyond general strategy:
- If you are fighting with a lance on horseback against enemies with lances on horseback, avoid charging straight at them. Even though it might seem normal since it would be like jousting, you are endangering your victory. Instead, circle around to your right and continually poke sideways until their horse dies. The computer AI is incapable of hitting you if you do it correctly and once their horse is dead, you can run them down with a couched lance. And if there is a lancer charging on you and you can't avoid him just hit him with an ordinary strike. It has larger range than couched lance strike so you would interrupt him.
- Enemies with lances do not seem to understand how ineffective lances are at very close range, and will repeatedly try to poke you for 0 damage while you are standing right in front of them. Enemy horse and lance units can also be run into a wall and will stand still to fight as long as you stay very close to them.
- In early rounds, or rounds with at least 4 horses, you can make a horse fort. Park up your horse, get another one, park it up there, and then rinse and repeat until you have at least 4 horses forming an enclosed area. Since tournament horses are invulnerable when no rider is on them, your fort is easily indestructible and you can shoot away from the safely of your horse fort.
There are three named NPCs that frequently participate in the tournaments, but do not show up elsewhere. They were originally supposed to be found in Zendar, but when that town was removed from the game, their existence was also reduced to nothing more than the tournaments.
Note: These characters are extremely good at fighting. If you see that they are against you, you should fight them with extreme caution or, if possible, not at all. Even when you have extremely favorable weaponry, you may get hit and take unexpectedly high damage from their power strike. Furthermore, their high proficiencies mean that they swing very fast, or shoot accurately.
Another strategy can be used when they are on your team in the tournament. Any fighter in the round you are in abides by the same rules as you for making it to the next round (though they might need only one knockout to make it to the next round instead of two), so if you have a ranged weapon and see that Dranton, for instance, is on your team, you can take him out before he gets any knockouts and you won't have to fight him in a later round. Don't be too greedy with this, since knocking out your teammates may make the current round very difficult.
Other common participants are:
- Mercenary Swordsmen
- Hired Blades
- Sword Sisters
- Regular Fighters
- Veteran Fighters
- Champion Fighters
- Vassals (if present where the tournament is being held)
- Monarchs (if present where the tournament is being held)
- Heroes that are in your party
- If you disguise and sneak into an enemy town where a tournament is being held, you can still take part. If you win, you will get honor and your relationship with the town will increase, but you won't be captured even though your cover should have been blown.
- In the Khergit tournaments, the AI is supposed to use the javelins' melee ability when they run out, but instead, after they run out, they start punching you because they can't pick up weapons, and the game gives them nothing else other than the javelins.
- If you participate in a tournament then talk to a lady in that same town, she will say that she saw you in the tournament, and will skip introducing yourself. If you win, you can then tell her that you dedicate your victory to her, giving a small relationship boost.
- Tournament horses may be hurt as normal when mounted, but are invulnerable when dismounted.