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!

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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.

The Second Thunder Podcast is live!

I’ve recorded a pilot episode for what I hope will become a regular podcast for Second Thunder. You can listen to it here:

I’m still in the process of working out how to get it onto iTunes so will let you know when it finally hits their download place.

Show Contents

General introduction – Plans for the podcast.
Hobby Time – What I’ve been up to.
Open Combat – Profiles for models, a few thoughts on the subject.
Wrap up.

Show Notes/Links

(Links correct at time of publication)

Podcasts:
Meeples and Miniatures Podcast episodes 136, 141 and 166.
Fools Daily Podcasts episodes 159, 160 and 161

Miniatures mentioned:
Reaper Miniatures Bone Skeletons
Heresy Miniatures Goblins
Oathsworn Miniatures Burrow and Badgers
Wargame Foundry Swashbucklers
Perry Miniatures Samurai

Podcast RSS Feed:
http://secondthunder.libsyn.com/rss

Open Combat – general update

It’s been a long time since I last posted here, this is due to being crazy busy with shipping books out, attending shows and generally keeping lots of things happening all at once.

So, this is a general catch-up update to say what’s been happening and what’s coming up. I’ll be covering most things in much more detail over the coming weeks.

If you follow me on twitter then you may well be aware of most of this information as I have managed to keep that feed updated on a regular basis over the last few months.

Open Combat Hardback book

Open Combat is now available in a hardback book edition to complement the PDF edition.

If you backed the Kickstarter you’ll either have your copy, it’ll be on it’s way or you still have to pay your shipping – check the updates on the kickstarter page for details.

Open Combat Dice

I’ll be making the Open Combat dice sets available on the website in the next few days (after I’ve updated the way the store handles shipping).

Open Combat can be played with regular six-sided dice but if you’re like me and enjoy playing games with custom dice, the Open Combat dice offer visual shorthand rule reminders with useful images on each of the faces.

Shows and Events

I’ve been to quite a few wargames shows and events over the last couple of months including Hammerhead in Newark (demoing), WMMS in Wolverhampton, Triples in Sheffield, Daffcon in Cardiff (running a campaign day), Salute in London, the RAGE Hundred Years War event at the Leeds Royal Armouries (demoing) and Campaign in Milton Keynes.

I’ll be writing up a few reports of some of the shows and events in the coming weeks but for now a big thank you to all of you that have taken the time to come over and talk to me, play a demo and/or buy Open Combat. I’m thoroughly enjoying meeting you and hearing what players are up to with Open Combat and how well it is being enjoyed.

You can find out what other shows I have lined up this year here.

I will be running more campaign days later on in the year too – I just need to get a few things organised before announcing the next one.

Retailers and Trade

Open Combat is gradually moving out into retail now and I’m currently working on some support material to help retailers. You can view a list of retailers currently carrying Open Combat here.

Supplements and Expansions

I’ve had a lot of people asking me about the supplements and expansions for Open Combat and it’s something I’m keen to get moving on again. I’ll be swinging back on to the Swordsmen supplement in the next few weeks and aim to release it in the summer.

I’m currently looking at several options for how I can release it. Ideally I’d like to release it in PDF and physical format at the same time but this does depend largely on being able to afford a reasonable print run.

I’ve also had quite a few players asking for the Magic supplement, Gunpowder and Monsters along with the steady calls for the Sci-fi version among other things. I’ll be covering this topic in more detail in a future post but things are starting to move again after the initial mayhem of getting the core rulebook printed. I also have several mini-campaign/scenario based supplements in the works for digital release over the coming months. Like many things, it just requires me organise my time to get the production completed on them.

Website Content

I’m going to be doing quite a lot of updates to the website in terms of content (plus a bit of design and layout tweaking) over the next few months. This will include hobby articles, discussion pieces about tactics/strategies for use in Open Combat and maybe even a few extracts from ongoing work on supplements.

Second Thunder Podcast

I will be recording the first episode of the Second Thunder podcast this month, it’ll be a bit of a test recording to get a feel for producing one. I enjoy listening to hobby related podcasts while painting and I know I’m not alone in this so it might be something that interests you too.

Youtube Channel

I’m hoping to get access to a reasonable video camera in the next few months with a view to producing some ‘how to’ gameplay videos and response to questions regarding gameplay. I’ll post more about this when I actually get this moving but felt it worth mentioning as I’ve had several people ask me for video examples of gameplay.

So there’s lots of things incoming. I thought I’d quickly provide a sum up/preview to catch-up after such a long absence from here.

Open Combat rulebook preorder page now live

Firstly I must apologise for the delay in adding any additional content to the website for the last few weeks. Due to working on preparing the Open Combat rulebook for print and the surprising amount of surrounding administration related to becoming a publisher my time has been filled.

I’ve got several Open Combat related articles in draft form awaiting the time I can return to finish them. So, once the book is published and everyone has their copy I should be able to swing into bringing new Open Combat articles and content online quite quickly.

Now, with all that said, the news.

I’ve setup a preorder page for the Open Combat hardback rulebook and it’s live on the webstore (link opens in new tab/window) so you can get a bit of a discount by ordering it now rather than waiting for release.

The main purpose of setting the preorder up is to help me to order a sensible quantity when the book goes to print. I know how many I need for the Kickstarter backers that have helped to get the book to this stage so I’m now trying to gauge how many I should sensibly order to provide a stock level for shows and so forth.

Another thing I’m very conscious of is the weight of the hardback edition so any future print runs may be softback (and perhaps even A5 rather than A4) to help with international sales. This print run might be the only time it’s available in hardback format, I simply don’t know what the future holds so it is a possibility I have to keep in mind. I have to recognise that I’m just a one-man studio at the moment so don’t have the financial weight or sales volume of the medium-sized hobby companies and publishers that can keep hardback editions in print for long periods (even if I’d like to).

Work in progress front cover - new photos are being shot.
Work in progress front cover – new photos are being shot.

The design and layout is coming along nicely, although i still have a lot of long hours to put in. I’m really pleased with how it’s all coming together and really looking forward to getting it out to everyone that has helped make this book a reality.

A sample double page spread from the book.
A sample double page spread from the book.

Once the book is off to print I’ll be organising the shipping paraphernalia to ensure I can get everything out to everyone as fast as possible. The order of shipping will be Kickstarter backers first, followed by any preorders followed by a general release.

I’m going to be at the Derby World Wargames show on the first weekend of October so I really want to be able to release the book to the general public then.

What’s happening with the PDF edition?

If you have the current PDF edition you may be wondering what’s happening with that.

Short answer is it will be getting an update.

The longer answer is that the Kickstarter campaign has seen me produce a substantial amount of new content for the book. The content is so substantial that it has increased the page size dramatically so the PDF update will take some time to produce due to the slightly different media considerations required for designing for e-readers rather than printed material.

A knock-on effect of this increase in content is that the price of the PDF edition will increase in October to coincide with the update. Everyone that has previously bought, or buys the pdf before the update will get the updated edition so if you’ve not got Open Combat in digital format yet now would be a good time.

Check out the online store here.

Right – I’ve got loads to do on this book so I better get back to it. In the meantime if you (or you know someone that might) want to get into Open Combat now would be a good time to hop onboard before the preorder phase ends and the prices go up.

Sample Open Combat warband – Saxon Village Defence

I’ve talked about writing profiles for individuals on previous occasions so today I’ll look at a full warband.

You can see a pic of the warband below (click the pic for larger image).

Open Combat Warband
Saxons on the outskirts of their village prepare to defend their homes.
Open Combat warband, miniatures from collection of Carl Brown including models manufactured by Black Tree Design, Gripping Beast, and Wargames Factory.

Saxon Village Defence

The force represents a group of saxon villagers accompanied by a few professional fighting men sent by the local lord to help protect them from raids rumoured to be occurring in their locality. I can imagine the fighters have been sent to see what is behind the rumours. Is it a local rival trying his luck or some outside agency nibbling at the border?

I’ll look at each of the fighters in turn:

The professional fighters

CYNEWEARD (Leader)
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 6 4 7 3 28
Weapons/Abilities:Double-handed Axe, Sword, Shield, Taunt, (Leader)

Cyneweard, Saxon Open Combat warband leader
Cyneweard
Notes: Cyneweard is the Leader of the warband. He’s confident in his abilities and happily challenges others to fight him (Taunt), this is a reflection of his desire to protect those around him. He has learned that this is a good way to pull attention away from others less capable than himself.

EARDWULF
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 7 3 4 2 24
Weapons/Abilities: 2 x Hand Weapons, Shield, Ambidextrous

Eardwulf
Eardwulf
Notes: Eardwulf is young and full of fire. He likes nothing more than to be in the thick of the fighting. He has been told on more than one occasion by Ceolmund to pay more heed to defence but these words fall on deaf ears. Eardwulf prefers to practise his skills with two hand weapons by engaging multiple foes.

CEOLMUND
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 4 6 4 2 23
Weapons/Abilities: Spear, Shield, Shield Bash

Ceolmund
Ceolmund
Notes: Ceolmund has fought in several shield walls. he knows the strength of a good defensive position and has learned the value of the shield as a weapon. In combat in will attempt to keep his enemy at a distance, only engaging to Shield Bash if an advantageous moment presents itself.

The local villagers

HEARD
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 4 3 2 2 18
Weapons/Abilities: Bow, Dagger, Marksmen

Heard
Heard
Notes: Heard is the best hunter in the village, although he is getting old now.

AELFSTAN
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 3 2 3 1 16
Weapons/Abilities: Sling, Dagger, Marksmen

Aelfstan
Aelfstan
Notes: Aelfstan tries to learn as much as he can from Heard and is often to be found hunting birds with his sling.

EOFERWINE
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 2 2 3 3 16
Weapons/Abilities: Staff (counts as spear), Intimidate

Eoferwine
Eoferwine
Notes: Eoferwine is a very angry man (Intimidate) with a fearsome fury which will give anyone pause for thought before confronting him. He has farmed this region his entire life and he’s not about to let any thieves make away with his lifestock.

EALDGYD
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 1 2 2 5 16
Weapons/Abilities: Inspire, Enrage, (Fists)

Ealgyd
Ealgyd
Notes: Ealdgyd is Eoferwine’s elderly mother, she is no longer cares what others think when she speaks her mind. She knows exactly how to deliver a verbal lashing to those around her when she feels they are slacking or doing something wrong. Which, to be fair, is usually absolutely anyone she sets eyes on.

HRODULF
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 1 1 2 1 9
Weapons/Abilities: none (Fists)

Hrodulf
Hrodulf
Notes: Hrodulf is Eoferwine’s son. He was supposed to go with his mother to a neighbouring village where she is helping an ailing relative. He hid in the nearby woods so that he could stay at home instead. When hostile forces arrive he helps out where he can – like many small boys he can make a real nuisance of himself when he wants to!

Profiles reflect the roles the models will play in an encounter

You’ll be able to see by looking over the above profiles that there is quite a mix of approaches within the warband. Different models have different jobs to do within the context of an encounter.

The professional fighters have profiles to suit their roles. If we think about the way combat works in Open Combat we can see that Cyneweard and Eardwulf are the aggressive fighters. Both are able to take the fight to the enemy, potentially engaging multiple opponents using their high ATK values combined with double-handed weapon or two hand weapons. Ceolmund is a very different kind of fighter, playing a more supporting role using his spear from range or attempting to knock enemy prone to make it easier for others to aid the fight. The FOR of these three models is also at a level where they would be unfortunate to be taken out of action without having the opportunity to respond. They should have reasonable staying power during a game.

The local villagers are very different with profiles to reflect their different lives. I see these models as being the handful of locals that have stuck around when a conflict begins, the vast majority of the inhabitants of a village would most probably have fled to the hills at the first sign of danger.

The FOR of the villagers is lower than the professional fighters which means they are less likely to survive a sustained or heavy attack. Heard and Aelfstan are certainly best used at range. The fact that missile fire can Force Back models in Open Combat can be put to good use with these two models. If the angle of attack is just right you could force the enemy into positions more suited to the needs of the rest of your warband. Driving models into engagement with your fighters or forcing them away so that they must expend Actions getting closer again. They could also score some points of FOR damage on enemy models from a safe distance.

Eoferwine and Ealgyd can help the warband in a conflict by using their psychological abilities. We can imagine them bellowing obscenities, shouting encouragement and/or whipping up a rage depending on the situation in front of them. These models are built as support roles – boosting or attacking profile characteristics on friend and/or foe.

Which leaves Hrodulf. At 9 Renown the profile for this model may make this model look a bit useless but used in the right way this young lad can still have an impact. In several games I’ve used him in this model has caused more than a few points of FOR damage on opponents by being worked around the back of models and blocking off Force Backs.

Blocking Force Backs is something worth considering if you’ve not discovered it in your own games of Open Combat. None of the villager models mentioned above are particularly suited to fighting but if two or three of them surround an enemy model then you may be surprised at the outcome.

How the warband plays

Open Combat is very situational so the best course of action will depend on the prevailing circumstances surrounding your models and the scenario that you’re playing. That being said, the above warband is built with flexibility in mind while reflecting the colour and flavour of the historical period it represents.

In straight up Open Combat fights I try to work Heard and Aelfstan around a flank so that they can use their missile weapons most effectively. I try to keep them out of reach of enemy models as much as possible though. Eoferwine and Ealgyd are used to mentally soften up the enemy (I see it as sowing a bit of doubt and confusion in the minds of opposing fighters with their heckling) before the professional fighters wade in to do their thing. Hrodulf nips about getting in the way as best he can.

In Search for the Prize and Capture the Prey the number of models in the warband and the split in the roles they have is very much a boon. The professional fighters have the job of causing problems for the enemy warband and are meant to stay on the tabletop while the villager models do the job of grabbing things and attempting to run off table with them. The low FOR and MIN of some of the villager models mean that they have less impact on your overall Break Point when they leave the tabletop carrying a prize or securing a prey.

In future articles I’ll look in a more abstract fashion at some of the potential approaches to warband builds you could consider when putting together your own.

If you have any questions or comments about this article please let me know.

Creating Open Combat profiles – what to do…?

Following the successful conclusion of the Open Combat Kickstarter campaign there are a lot of new players joining us in Open Combat via the Old Campaigner pledge and the digital rules. Welcome to you all!

During the Kickstarter campaign there was some discussion about providing sample profiles to give new players guidance.

I wrote about the subject in a previous post here this article concentrated on how I look at individual models (in the case of the article a spearman). It illustrated a selection of spearman models and discussed how they could all easily use the same profile but with a few little tweaks to the profiles you could create very different flavours for the tabletop.

I’m planning on writing a series of discursive articles looking at building profiles so this is the first of my (very probably) meandering pieces on the topic.

The profiles you create for your models relate to what you are wanting to achieve or illustrate on the tabletop. In a recent forum post started by lord mayhem I’ve briefly discussed that the same profile can represent many different things depending on the context you play your games within.

In the specific example in the forum post we discussed the following profile:

SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Weapons/Abilities Renown
4 1 1 3 0 Pitchfork (counts as Spear) 10

It could represent a peasant in a historical game, a zombie in a fantasy setting or even a hardened professional soldier caught in an ambush that is not in any fit shape to fight due to prolonged marching, lack of food and mentally fatigued.

The context of your game is what matters – mechanically the rules work regardless of the interpretation you associate with model profiles. The rules provide a consistent framework which allow you to play out the encounters you want to play.

The profiles of the models are your opportunity to express your interpretation of the character and role they play in your warband in an encounter.

But what would a generic /insert specific name here/ profile be like?

If you’re an experienced tabletop wargamer you may have found that in many games you have played you‘ve been presented with a profile or set of stats that tell you what a ‘standard’ human being is. You will most probably also have been presented with slightly better stats for elite or veteran soldiers and slightly poorer stats to represent untrained militia. This is certainly an approach suited to games which have lots of models on the tabletop.

In Open Combat I’ve zoomed in close to the action and the game is all about the up close and personal nature of small encounters and skirmishes. With this in mind we’re not playing out battles with multiple groups of fighters (fighting in units) we’re playing encounters and skirmishes between individuals.

In other games you may have played with 40+ miniatures a side, the capabilities of the fighters have probably been treated with broad brushstrokes to streamline gameplay so groups of models will have the same profile. The units would be made up of individuals who would in reality be different but as a whole are treated as being the same.

In Open Combat where the action takes place in most cases with 3-10 models a side we are (in one sense) taking that group of fighters from a unit and looking at them in more detail. For example, 8 men from a unit of Norman knights may be mechanically the same in another game but in Open Combat those 8 men each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Open Combat warbands can be viewed as lead characters in a movie or book. They’re not the faceless extras in the ranks of the warriors in the background, they’re each capable of their own moment of glory.

You can create fighters for your Open Combat warband to play particularly roles within the context of your games.

As an example let’s look at the following model from my collection of Normans, he’s mounted so follows the rules on page 20 of Open Combat.

28mm William
William by Gripping Beast from collection of Carl Brown.

Here’s a few profiles which could be applied to him:

Example One

SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Weapons/Abilities Renown
6 8 6 8 6 Focussed Blow, Exert, Hand Weapon, Shield, (Mounted) 38

Role: This model is a heavy hitter. It is built to get into the action and smash things up. We can imagine this fighter being an experienced warrior in his prime. At 38 Renown it’s a large investment in a single model but with a FOR of 8 the model has real staying power.

Example Two

SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Weapons/Abilities Renown
7 4 6 5 5 Intimidate, Evade, Shield Bash, Hand Weapon, Shield, (Mounted) 32

Role: This model offers versatility. It has the staying power to get into a fight and it can create opportunities (through Intimidate & Shield Bash) for it’s comrades to capitalise on. If things get a bit tricky it can use Evade to get out of harms way. We can imagine this fighter being a seasoned professional that has learned a few tricks to keep himself alive during his years of campaigning.

Example Three

SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Weapons/Abilities Renown
8 1 3 4 5 Distract, Intimidate, Nimble, Evade, Hand Weapon, Shield, (Mounted) 27

Role: This model is a support model. We can imagine a fresh-faced young fighter with orders to sow confusion amongst the enemy. He’s not intent on getting bogged down in protracted fighting although, used in the right way, can still do his fair share of damage. His job is to use his presence on the battlefield to frighten and distract the enemy.

That’s three different approaches for the same model, these are simply examples of possible routes I could take with the model. All are Norman knights but the profiles are created to reflect potential different roles they could play within a warband.

What if the knight was an exhausted fighter trying to remove itself from a battlefield and caught in a trap?

Example Four

SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Weapons/Abilities Renown
6 1 2 3 2 Hand Weapon, Shield, (Mounted) 16

Role: This model represents a bedraggled survivor. He may have had any of the roles above when at full fighting fitness (and the profiles to match) but in the context of this profile he’s at the end of his energy reserves.

Don’t discount how effective this model could be though. The benefit of being Mounted (with the extended Force Back) can really cause an enemy problems if caught in tight spaces. A Renown of 16 means you could have several models like this in a 150 Renown game. An infantry based warband facing these exhausted knights would need to be careful not to fall foul of a crush of hoofs as the exhausted knights used their mounts as battering rams (Force Back) smashing foes backwards and forwards amongst a stamping circle of horsemen.

But what if it feels ‘odd’?

Over on the Chicago Skirmish Wargames blog they played a three way game of Open Combat (go check it out – lots of cool pics). One of the comments they make is that there was an occasion when a Ratman took on a cavalry model and in single combat was far superior.

Here’s a quote:

“Since we were building our armies in a vacuum using a point system that didn’t really have baseline stats for a typical human soldier, I ended up building my ratmen to be slightly beefier than Mattias’s cavalry. We agreed that this felt weird since the stats we came up with didn’t match up with the way the miniatures looked, at least in comparison. Our lists were perfectly balanced at 200 points each, but in single combat, my ratmen were more deadly…”

I can understand this feeling happening every now and again. From my perspective I can see this being largely due to our collective conditioning from playing lots of games where cavalry are traditionally big heavy shock troops and infantry at a disadvantage. This view is often reinforced through movies.

If we take a moment to sink into a hypothetical narrative of the situation Mattias’s cavalry may well have been seen as the top fighters in their tribe. The chance encounter with Patrick’s ratmen soon gave them a new perspective of their abilities when facing an external enemy.

We never really know how good we are at something until we’re pitted against someone else. Then we discover our comparative worth, especially we we meet someone who does things differently.

If we look at history, the Hungarian knights were pretty much viewed as the top fighters of their day until the roving mongol horde turned up on their doorstep. The cream of european fighters were soon swept aside by a foe that didn’t fight the way they did.

In the context of Open Combat the potential of the occasional disparity between profiles is absolutely fine. Your Goblin warlord might think he’s tough, but he’s not met that overgrown halfling who is actually really good with a club yet.

Over on the Sea Kings and Horse Warriors blog again go check it out – lots of cool pics! Alan mentions the possibility of keeping the warband statistics secret from your opponent until the models actually engage and need to compare scores. Myself and Gav have often unconsciously done this and had some great moments in our games where we’ve encountered a nasty surprise. This is a fun approach and I can see how players can really play mind games with each other as they position their models attempting to bluff their opponent as to where the real fighters stand.

What about a sample warband?
In this article I’ve looked at profiles in isolation, next time I’m going to provide a sample warband and discuss the reasoning for the profiles and the roles they play.

Got any questions?
If you have any comments and/or things you’d like me to write about let me know.

What’s happening with the expansions?
I’ll be making a few announcements relating to the expansions next week. Running the Kickstarter put the breaks on production for a while but I’ll be back onto the Swordsman expansion next week. I’ll be providing a renewed release schedule then.