Update on progress with supplements

I know there’s quite a few players eagerly awaiting the various supplements that I’ve mentioned over the past 12 months so I thought it way past time to provide an update on where they are in the process. Those of you that have been watching/listening to podcasts over the last few years will have noticed I’ve not been releasing them as quickly as I’d hoped.

There are a number of reasons for this. I’d like to say it’s lack of ‘time’ to get everything done, having only one pair of hands (being a one-man-band business) but that wouldn’t be strictly accurate. It’s more a case of writing and games development both taking up a surprising amount of energy. This isn’t the run-around-a-field-or-lift-weights kind of energy but rather mental and creative energy. Something I hadn’t expected when planning out the supplements was running my own energy reserves so low that I ceased to be able to operate effectively. (There are all the other aspects of life that influence one-man-bands being able to operate such as health, family commitments etc. too but the crux of my slow release schedule has been my own poor management of my energy levels).

The last couple of years, following the release of Open Combat, have been a financial and emotional rollercoaster. I’ve switched from being a self-employed service business providing design & marketing support to other businesses to being a product-driven business. The miniature wargaming and board games hobby is a fantastic hobby to be involved in and to transition my work life into it has been a privilege many hobbyists dream of. I love it but, like anyone moving into a new business arena, I’ve had to learn a lot of new stuff in the process and take the ups and downs associated with becoming accustomed to a new business environment.

Attending shows, running demoes, promoting Open Combat in as many channels as possible, managing product stock levels & cashflow and all the other essential nitty-gritty bits of running a business have plenty of demands on time and energy before you even get to settling down to do any creative games development and writing. Getting to grips with the various business systems while trying to push the various supplements along has taken a lot longer than it should have done. I can only apologise if you’re hanging on, awaiting a particular supplement, they’re all moving along. It’s just been at a seemingly glacial pace up to this point due to me running on empty for a while.

With all that being said, I have been making progress. I’ve been refining various mechanical aspects of the supplements and checking that they work together to try to ensure there’s no crazy cross-supplement combo that throws a game too out of whack. I know this can never be 100% but part of the testing and development process is to try to catch any glaring things early. This has been an ongoing process before I settle down to actually write the ‘real thing’ in proper publishable format.

Musket and bayonet armed fighters in the Peninsula war by Jim Ibbotson.

The next supplement to be released will be the long-awaited gunpowder supplement which I am aiming to get to print in mid-February. The writing of this started a very long way back so it’s been a victim of my juggling multiple projects that has caused it to be so delayed in the production phase. I’m not putting any pre-orders up until I know it’s at the printers (I learned that lesson from Sword Masters).

I have a set of cards for the Retrieve the Prize scenario (and variations) that I also wish to get out in physical form which I’ll run a pre-order system for before release. I’m going to get a single set made by the printers so that I can show you what you get before putting anything online for preorder.

The multi-player supplement (and initiative cards) which includes rules for playing gladiatorial games will be following in April. After that the Magic supplement will get my full attention again to bring it to completion. I can’t say for sure when that’ll be out as I’m aware I have a pretty intensive period between now and April so the month of May might involve a bit of a pause for breath.

In amongst all of this there are also rules for solo play which I’m going to release as a work in progress as anyone can give that a go and provide feedback without needing a playgroup to test it with. I’ve got some of the AI aspect of this built already but I haven’t swung my focus onto it to work out how best to present it in a coherent way yet.

There’s a few other projects on the go to and any supplements that I’ve mentioned elsewhere previously are still on the go (don’t worry), they’re just in the background while I tackle the immediate projects mentioned here.

So with all that being said, things are happening to support Open Combat with new supplements. It is slower than I intended but they are happening.

Tactics In Open Combat: The Force Back

Once you’ve played a game or two of Open Combat you will soon get a feel for how the game flows. You might even get a glimpse of situations where the position of models and/or use of a weapon or skill is particularly effective. One of the core influences in the way a game might flow or events unfold is the Force Back. In this article I look at potential ways you can put the combat result to good use in your games of Open Combat.

The Importance Of Force Backs

Fighting in Open Combat is more than just whacking your opponent about with whatever weapon you have to hand. It’s a dynamic, ever-changing dance where the position you take when you’re on the offensive has a bearing on both the potential damage you might inflict on your opponent and on what could happen to you when the enemy fights back.

A Force Back doesn’t naturally do any damage (although it can) but it can have a huge influence on the choices both you and your opponent make during an encounter. Some of the uses of Force Back are as follows:

  1. Repositioning enemy models.
  2. Increasing the chance of causing damage.
  3. Denying enemy optimal use of activations/actions.
  4. Area control.

Repositioning Enemy Models

At it simplest a Force Back allows you to reposition an enemy model. If you Engage the enemy model, or shoot at it with a missile weapon, from the right angle you can direct an enemy model 1” in a specific direction.

This can be used to pop the model out from behind cover or obstructions or force the model into base-to-base contact with another of your models that has yet to activate. It can force the enemy from an elevated position potentially knocking them Prone or push the enemy model into a Hazard or difficult Area Terrain. If the enemy model is too close to the edge of the board it can even see them pushed from the field and fleeing the encounter. If the scenario involves capturing objectives a Force Back can be used to keep enemy away from the objectives or create a gap for your own models to approach the objective first. Repositioning enemy models through the use of a Force Back can be a game changer at a crucial part of the game.

There are several options that can increase the effectiveness of the Force Back. In hand-to-hand combat the double-handed weapon has the potential to drive an enemy model back a very long way for a single Action. But there is the potential for scoring a Terrible Miss too and losing the Initiative. A Monster or Mounted model can Force Back a smaller model 2” for a single attack. Coupling a Monster with a double-handed weapon can make this a very long way indeed but that’s both the Behaviour Table and the weapon that could lose the Initiative. Slings, when used within 8” of the target, can be a very good way to reposition an enemy model from a safer distance away.

Increasing The Chance Of Causing Damage

When a Force Back is blocked for any reason and the target cannot move the full distance of the Force Back the target will take 1 point of FOR damage. So as you look to Engage enemy models it is a good idea to bear in mind the potential routes you can use to back enemy models up against terrain. (This is one of the reasons a good density of terrain is important in Open Combat).

If there isn’t any useful terrain near to the target model you can engineer your own blocker of Force Back routes by using multiple models in your attack. Use a model to attack from one direction but ensure you position another model behind the enemy model to block the route of any potential Force Back.

The use of a Force Back to cause damage is particularly important when running models that will only ever get one Attack Dice in an attack. Normally these models will be needing a Minor or Solid Hit (5 and 6 on a D6) to score damage but if you can engineer your approach angles correctly you can score damage on your Force Back results (3 or more on a D6). As you can imagine, being surrounded in Open Combat is not a very safe place to be.

Denying Enemy Models Optimal Use of Activations/Actions

Many things in Open Combat are situational and the use of Force Backs to deny your enemy the optimal use of their models is very much in this camp.

In a scenario with objectives the act of forcing your enemy away from the objectives is a very simple way to dictate what actions they take with their models. Your opponent will have to use up actions to get back into the thick of things.

Good positional play to create threats if they are ignored is another way to force your enemy to react to your actions. Putting models armed with missile weapons in a position where they can force an enemy into a Hazard or off the battlefield when they next activate ensures that your opponent has to spend actions to respond or leave their models in a dangerous place.

Positioning your models so that they can only be Engaged from a particular angle and if the enemy chooses to do this they have something behind them such as blocking terrain, a Hazard or other threat can give your opponent a danger to consider before committing to the Engagement. This is something you have to be aware of when making your own attacks, if the enemy model is still alive after you have attacked what position have you left yourself in?

When a model armed for base-to-base combat actions starts Engaged with a similarly armed enemy model if you score a Force Back on your first action you will most likely wish to Follow Up to make a second attack action. If you score a Force Back on the second action the choice is not so clear cut. Do you choose not to Follow Up so that your opponent has to use a Move action to Engage your model or do you Follow Up to deny the enemy the option of repositioning? It depends on the situation but in some circumstances you can deny your enemy the opportunity to use both their actions attacking you with their hand-to-hand fighters. Learning when to Follow Up and when to stay back is one of the many small but important decisions you have to make when playing Open Combat, it can be especially tricky when both warbands are close to their Break Point.

Area Control

This is partly covered by the previous section discussing denying enemy optimal use of activations. If the tabletop has Hazards strewn around, Difficult Ground or Low Obstacles (see Sword Masters supplement) the use of missile weapon armed models can control areas of the tabletop by threat alone. If an opponent knows that a Force Back could put one of their models in an unfortunate position they may take a more circuitous route across the tabletop. A wily player will always try to use this control to their advantage.

How To Minimise The Impact Of Force Backs

When you know that Force Backs can be so effective what can you do to minimise the chances of your opponent using them against you?

There are a couple of things which can be built into your warband to cut down on the impact of Force Backs. Resolute is one ability which can go some way to help and Shields help to stop damage from blocked Force Backs but both of these are no use if the enemy attacks from behind. Using the terrain can help too, when you are defending a barrier such as a fence or wall you can only be Forced Back as part of Solid Hits. Moving from suitable terrain to suitable terrain in this way can cut down on lost momentum if an enemy is trying to keep your models away from certain positions or objectives.

But the simplest answer is good positional play, it’s also perhaps the most difficult thing to master. The best approach in one game may not be suitable in the next as the situation will be different. Learning the nuances in situations based on the prevailing circumstances of the terrain, the scenario and the warbands involved is something which comes with experience. The more you play and experience the more your learn and remember for use another time… and the more you play the more fun you have too!

When you’re next faced with the option to score a Minor Hit or a Force Back it might not be such a straight forward decision. Hopefully this article will give you something to think about next time you play Open Combat.

Wargames Shows 2017

We’re very lucky in the UK to have a thriving wargames show circuit and I try to attend one a month (ish). If you’re a big enough trader, or the main focus of your business is trade shows, you can attend a show nearly every weekend of most months of the year. If you add into the mix the wargames shows overseas, both in Europe and beyond, you could have a very busy schedule indeed (and I know some UK traders do attend several overseas shows).

I’m far too small, being a one-man-band, to attend every event so I have to pick and choose based on a loose criteria of distance, cost and juggling the weekends on the calendar with family commitments. But I do try to take Open Combat to as many wargames shows and events as I can, which as I said above, equates to approximately a dozen shows over the course of a year. During the past six months I’ve attended seven shows.

January 2017

I didn’t get to any shows in January this year, I’ve heard a lot of good noises about Crusade in Wales but never actually managed to get to it yet. It’s one I’m bearing in mind for the future, it’s a fair old trek to get to from where I’m based and probably has a waiting list too but one of these years I’ll try to make it.

February 2017 – ROBIN

In February I attended the inaugural ROBIN wargames show in Nottingham, early indicators give it a lot of promise with a good turn out for it’s first appearance. Next year I will be running an Open Combat campaign day there (more on this at another time) as well as running a trade stand so I might need to muster a helper for that.

March 2017 – Hammerhead, WMMS

In March I was running Open Combat participation games at Hammerhead in Newark aided by Gav Thorpe, where I think we both got beaten multiple times as well as presiding over many battles between visitors. Also in March I attended the West Midland Military Show (WMMS) in Wolverhampton. Aside from chatting about Open Combat I had a great discussion with visitors that along with playing wargames for a hobby, also fight with medieval weapons on weekends. I’m planning on visiting their wargames club to play Open Combat in the near future (alas, I don’t have the time to join their fighting club).

April 2017 – Salute

In April Gav Thorpe again helped me out by running the participation game table of Open Combat while I ran the trade stand at Salute in London. The participation game used one of the work in progress multi-player battlepit scenarios from the forthcoming Open Combat Arenas and Battlepits multi-player supplement. It sounded like everyone enjoyed themselves and also provided useful feedback which is always good. Salute is an incredibly busy show and next year Gav is looking to run games of his own Big Stompy Robots game so I will be needing to pull in some new helpers – especially as I’d like to run a Open Combat games table using the Magic supplement with battling wizards. If you fancy helping out, let me know.

May 2017 – Partizan, ChillCon

In May I was running games of Open Combat on the Ainsty Castings / Northstar mega stand at Partizan in Newark. It was great fun and incredibly busy. One young visitor came back to the table three times, beating me with both sides of the Sword Masters based warbands I had on the table. It highlighted something I’ve witnessed over several years of attending wargames shows. In all the games I’ve played with youngsters the one thing that sticks with me is that there should be some way to bottle their dice rolling skills. You could make millions selling the kind of positive-energy-infused sorcery I’ve seen at play. In May I also attended the new show that started in Sheffield called ChillCon. Again for a new show this one shows a lot of promise and I’ll certainly be attending again.

June 2017 – UK Games Expo

In June I was at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham and I have to say in many ways it’s my favourite show. This is possibly because I’m very much a tabletop gamer that plays all kinds of games and the UK Games Expo has card games, board games, roleplaying games and wargames all under one roof. I’ll admit that I don’t actually get any chance to browse when the show is open (having to scurry around before and after hours) but simply being surrounded by everything for several consecutive days is great sustenance for the soul. Plus, it’s a very good show for Second Thunder too.

Carl Brown demonstrates the freedom of creating your own profiles when putting together a warband roster for Open Combat at UK Games Expo 2017.

Rest of 2017 – Barrage, The Other Partizan, Hereward, Derby Worlds, SELWG, FIASCO

I’m now moving into the second half of the year and I’ll be attending another six shows. These are:

  • Barrage in Stafford, 9th July.
  • I’ll be helping out and running Open Combat on the Ainsty Castings / Northstar stand at The Other Partizan on 20th August.
  • 3rd September will see me over in Peterborough at Hereward 2017.
  • October sees me with a very busy month to end my year of wargame show attendances. On the 7th and 8th I’ll be in the new venue at Derby Worlds then on the 22nd I’ll be at SELWG in London. On 29th I’ll be in Leeds at FIASCO which is held in the Royal Armouries complex.

Open Combat Campaign Days or Events

The preceding blurb is part mini diary of events I’ve been to and part a ‘heads up’ for my show attendances for this year. But I do intend to run a couple of campaign days or events for simply playing Open Combat too this year if I can manage it. Daffcon has been cancelled this year so I’ll not be running an event in in Cardiff in August.

I’ve got to work out some dates and venues but I’ll be talking to Spirit Games in Burton on Trent next week about running a campaign day at their shop again this year.

I’d also like to run a Open Combat open gaming day somewhere in the East Midlands, where I have several tables setup with terrain. Players can come along in a freeform fashion and just play games on different setups against different opponents and maybe try out different warband builds. I could run demos for people that just fancy giving it a try. For existing Open Combat players I could potentially take the opportunity to throw some playtest material into the mix too if they fancied having a go at something still in progress. I’m not sure how viable this kind of thing is yet so if you have an opinion please let me know if it’s something you’ve be interested in.

Salute Interview about Open Combat

While I was at the Salute show this year Pete from the War Gamer youtube channel played in the multiplayer Open Combat game we had on a games table. Gav Thorpe did a sterling job running the game for me while I manned the trade stand (we were both moaning about our knees at the end of the day like a couple of old geezers).

I’ve yet to put together a proper updated introduction video for Open Combat but in the meantime you can see me babble for a few minutes about the game and the hardback book here:

Incidentally it’s worth taking a look at Pete’s youtube channel, there’s some good reviews on there about all kinds of wargames and products.

Open Combat Sword Masters

Open Combat Sword Masters is the first supplement for Open Combat, Introducing a new selection of skills, abilities, weapons/equipment, terrain rules and scenarios to expand your games of Open Combat.

Open Combat Sword Masters Front Cover

Inside you’ll find rules for:

  • New skills and abilities specifically for sword fighter models to capture the sense of drama and/or flamboyance often associated with them
  • Extra skills for general use
  • New items of equipment
  • New terrain rules including: swinging from chandeliers/rigging, low obstacles (trip hazards), improvised projectiles (such as kicking/throwing things from tables) and more
  • New scenarios to play including the Duel, For Honour and Brawl
  • Plus sample profiles, two new actions, guidance for setting up terrain using the new rules for maximum mayhem and guidance for linking games together into a micro campaign.

So whether you want your knights clashing in the sword section of a tourney (if you’ve not seen the A Knight’s Tale movie it’s well worth a look), samurai duelling (these guys ooze Intimidation in most movies), barbarians battling (I can hear the dramatic drum beat of a theme tune already) or swashbucklers … swashing (“You seem a decent fellow. I’d hate to kill you…”), you will be able to add the extra detail to your games of Open Combat to make it so.

Terrain and Perry Miniatures from the private collection of Jim Ibbotson. Image © Jim Ibbotson. Used with permission.

Open Combat Sword Masters releases on the 22nd April 2017 CORRECTION DUE TO PRINT DELAY 26th April and you can pre-order it now on the web store. If you want to pick it up at Salute 2017 in London choose store pickup as your delivery option. The PDF edition will be released on the website on 22nd April CORRECTION 26th April 2017.

If you’ve not already got Open Combat but have been considering it take a look at the Open Combat Handbook which includes all the rules to play the game. The main difference (aside from the physical production methods used) between the 60 page Handbook and the 100 page hardback is that the hardback includes the campaign rules.

Open Combat Campaign Day 12th November 2016

Earlier this year at the inaugural DAFFCON games event in Firestorm Games, Cardiff I ran an Open Combat campaign day.

It was a bit of a risk deciding to do it back then as the hardback rules had only been printed a month or so prior to the event. We had four players playing five games over the course of the day and great fun was had by all.

The winner of the event was John Paul Stubbings with a respectable final Reputation of 159, even after spending Reputation on upgrades and hiring new members during the day. (He also brought along some fantastic terrain boards, thanks for that JP!).

Daffcon Open Combat Campaign Day 2016 winner

The day was a bit of a test event to get a feel for running an Open Combat event over the course of one day. During development we’ve played a lot of games and know that the game runs quickly enough to play several games in a few hours. But actually doing this with ‘real gamers’, as opposed to testers/writers who know the game from day one, is always a bit nerve-wracking.

I had planned on running a second event shortly after this first one but with one thing or another I never got it organised until now.

The next Open Combat Campaign Day is on 12th November 2016 and is being held at Spirit Games in Burton on Trent.

You can download the event rules pack here (which is essentially a more refined version of the pack I used at Daffcon earlier this year).

You can use fantasy or historical models in this one as it’s an all comers event. There is a little story running behind the event:

As your warband patrols the border of their homeland a mysterious fog surrounds them and spirits them away to a foreign place. You swiftly make contact with the locals and soon become embroiled in a conflict between bitter political rivals.

Tickets are available on the web store now and all participants get an exclusive Open Combat Event Dice (only available at Open Combat events or if you took part in the Kickstarter).

Open Combat Event Dice

I hope to run several campaign days next year using different rules packs to explore the different ways Open Combat can be used in events. Historical days for specific periods – I’ve got a couple of things in mind for this already including one where all players run Viking crews on a day of raiding (I think there’s a few players in Leeds that might like to have a go at that one, thinking back to a conversation I had with a chap at Britcon this year). Full on fantasy events with crazy hazards and boards in use, we could even look at playing a very narrow fantasy event – imagine everyone playing greenskins in an orc and goblin tribal war day… I also like the idea of running a pit fighting day where everyone brings along their school of fighters (warband) for use in fighting pits.

The beauty of Open Combat is that you can use it for whatever you wish to play on the tabletop, the events I run will hopefully provide great fun for participants and inspire others to run days of their own devising.

If you can make it to Spirit Games on the 12th November I look forward to seeing you there!

Open Combat Dice Sets now available

The Open Combat dice sets are now available. You can choose between a set of black dice with white details or white dice with black details.

Open Combat Dice
Open Combat Dice – opaque black with white fill
open combat dice set white
Open Combat Dice – opaque white with black fill

Along with numerics the custom moulded dice feature graphical faces representing the different results possible in combat. Plus a direction arrow and D3 result for random movement.

You can get them in the store now in black or white.