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.