Students get medieval

Loud echoes of “thud” and “whap” reverberate across the lawn in the shadow of the oldest building on Missouri S&T’s campus. A dozen members of the Boffer Club don medieval costumes and swing foam-padded weapons at each other during meetings.

Passersby near the Rolla Building rubberneck to watch two teams of students wield cushioned swords, clubs and axes at opponents’ torsos and legs. Get plopped once in the torso or “lose” two limbs and players are “dead” and must walk off the field.

Among the combatants are S&T juniors Ian Smith and Cortney Chapman, who started the club about four years ago and were recently victorious in gaining full student-organization status for the Boffer Club. The term boffer is both a noun referring to a participant and a verb meaning to hit someone with foam weapons in mock historical combat.

Smith explains that Boffer Club members typically compete for two reasons — fantastical or historical. “Maybe they want to be an Orc from Tolkien’s Middle-earth,” Smith says referring to characters in the Lord of the Rings novels. “I want to be a lesser knight in 13th century Britain,” says Smith, a history major.

Smith’s fiancé, Chapman, is one of three women in the mostly male club.

“It’s the only time I can safely go head-to-head with a guy and not get totally obliterated,” maintains Chapman, a psychology major. “My favorite thing about being a girl in this club is that we do occasionally get guys who walk by and they mock us. And I walk up … and I’m like, ‘Did you guys want to fight?'” After the guys hem and haw pondering combat with a girl carrying a big stick, a few join the battle. “Some of our core members are guys who walked by and made fun of us,” says Chapman.

Tim Smith was one of those guys who happened to pass by the Boffer Club’s battles while in high school and later became a member. The junior mechanical engineering major brought a creative mindset to perfecting his foam weaponcraft.

“The first (foam weapons) I made were pretty flimsy. They were kind of rushed through,” he says. “But after a while I started to learn to pay more attention to detail and I draw out my plans and measure and count out how much foam I would need, so I knew how much it was costing me to make it.”

After lectures or exams, Tim Smith says the Boffer Club can be good place to release stress.

“When you are out on the field, you are not thinking about the math and the equations. All you can see is the guy in front of you and trying to win the battle,” he says.

Whether you are a bakery worker or corporate executive, there are no social classes on the battlefield, says co-founder Ian Smith. “People can just show up, be who they are, and enjoy the few hours that they have hitting their friends with foam weapons.”

By Terry Barner

Learn about other student organizations and clubs at S&T.


  1. I appear at time stamp 1:42. Let it be known that I enjoy watching the boffers as I walk by and most of the time stop for a few minutes to observe. I know several people involved in the club and fully support them!

  2. Justin Quade says

    How did this make the front page of our website?

  3. John P. Hogan says

    I love that we have such great and diverse opportunities for fun – it contributes to making Missouri S&T a great campus…and Blaine keep watching your back!

  4. Nathan Walck says

    Yes, I agree with you Justin Quade!!! I am embarrassed to say that I go to Missouri S&T.

  5. I challenge you to spend ten minutes at a fighter practice, then decide if you’re still embarrassed.