Category Archives: Editorial

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 – 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.

Open Combat in Wargames Illustrated (Issue 329)

WI issue 329 cover

A little while ago Gav Thorpe and myself were invited over to the Wargames Illustrated offices to show Wayne and Dan Open Combat.

We spent a very enjoyable morning with the guys and played out a game using the demo forces we’d used at Derby Worlds last October. It was a 150 Renown game featuring three super-statted up Romans vs seven grubby Celts. It was a very close game which could have gone either way right up until the last moment when the Romans managed to squeak a win (we’ve seen victories go to both sides with these builds so we knew it would be close).

The issue featuring Open Combat is now released (issue 329) it’s a great read with plenty of ‘eye-candy’ as usual (I particularly like the terrain-making articles).

The article about Open Combat is a Rules Showcase article on pages 110-111 and includes Wayne’s impressions of the game.

WI issue 329 OC Spread

As part of producing these articles the team at Wargames Illustrated send the author of the game their article to check for factual errors and add a FAQ if they feel it would help. Unfortunately for us there was a bit of a mix up when Wayne had a holiday and our amends to a couple of errors were missed before it went to print.

So if you’ve found your way over here via the magazine article (welcome!) you’ll find below clarification of a couple of details that got missed in the article.

  • Page 110, second column, around lines 16-17, the article mentions spending Renown on weapons and armour. It should read that you spend Renown on weapons but armour is incorporated into the Defence (DEF) characteristic. You can choose how much Renown to put into DEF to represent your model’s armour or defensive ability.
  • Page 111, first column, around lines 6-12, the article discusses how to establish the Break Point of a warband. This is the point at which a warband has had enough of the fight and flees. The article is incorrect, it should read as follows, “…the total Fortitude and Mind for your force is added together and divided by two to find your Warband’s Break Point, the point at which, after losses of Fortitude and Mind, the Warband flees the battlefield.
  • Page 111, second column – the article mentions that the PDF is forty-six pages, it’s actually fifty pages.

I’ve included below some additional content which didn’t make it into the article but may be of interest if you are new to Open Combat:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How big is the area needed to play?
A. Open Combat can be played in any area but we recommend approximately 24″x24″.

Q. How long does a game take?
A. Once you’ve created a warband and got your terrain set up games can take between 30-40 minutes (depending on the Renown level you’re playing at).

Q. What dice does Open Combat use?
A. Regular six-sided dice. You only need three.

Q. How does turn activation work?
A. Players take turns but you might not get to use your entire warband during your turn. During your turn you activate the members of your warband individually. Each model in your warband may take two actions but if disaster strikes you might lose the initiative and play will pass to your opponent even if you haven’t activated all of your models. Prioritising your warband’s actions is central to the tactics of Open Combat.

Q. Are there really no limits to the Renown I can spend on any model?
A. Yes, there are no limits. You can build the profile in any way you choose.

Q. What stops models that have huge amounts of Renown spent on them destroying everything around them and being unkillable?
A. High Renown models can be, in one-versus-one situations very powerful although they are still limited to two actions an activation. It’s important to bear in mind that if you’ve spent lots of Renown on one model your opponent may have spent the same amount of Renown split across 2 or more models. The combat system works in such a way that weak models always have a chance of hurting powerful models and if a model is ever surrounded, with no space to be forced back into, they are likely to suffer a very swift demise. Creating a warband is a balancing act of building individual warriors that can stand on their own but also form part of a cohesive whole, forming potential synergies with the other models in the warband.

Q. Are there different scenarios?
A. Yes. Open Combat includes scenarios for playing: straight up fights (with different deployment options); finding and escaping with important information/treasure; and chasing down and capturing prey.

Q. Where can I get Open Combat?
A. From our online store at www.secondthunder.com/store

Q. Is there somewhere that I can ask more questions such as a forum?
A. Yes, you can find it at http://www.secondthunder.com/forum

Design Philosophy

I’ve been playing tabletop miniature games for over thirty years. I love the blend of the creative aspect of the hobby, collecting and painting miniatures, combined with bouts of historical research and the challenge of pitting my wits against my opponents during games. In many ways miniature wargaming provides a unique experience for each person taking part as there are so many aspects to the hobby.

Over the years I’ve played many game systems and enjoyed exploring a vast array of different approaches. I’ve played in lots of different settings and periods and seen many interpretations of what a fighter from any given background is capable of. I’ve also experienced the entertaining banter and back and forth chatter over the tabletop as we as players discuss the relative merits of one type of soldier or another. Cries of ‘I reckon heavy infantry would easily be capable of that!’ with the the inevitable counters of ‘No way! They’d clearly be at a disadvantage…’ are part and parcel of the fun.

In Open Combat I wanted to give you the opportunity to put your own interpretation of things into practice. If you think a particular warrior should be capable of something then you can give your model the characteristic profile to suit. Equally your opponent can put their stamp on things. If you and your opponent happen to be using models from the same faction and period, perhaps a conflict between rival Roman legions, the fact that you may have approached the profiles totally differently is completely fine. Open Combat views each man as an individual and in reality every soldier throughout history has had their own strengths and weaknesses.

Open Combat is a game about close encounters between small groups of individuals. Due to the ‘close-up’ nature of the game you can apply a much more personal approach, putting your own flavour to things which is not appropriate in the more broad brush strokes required for larger engagement games.

You can use whatever miniatures you like so it might be an opportunity to buy a handful of those models from that period you’ve not tried yet. Alternatively you many not have time these days for full scale battles and just need an opportunity to ‘scratch that itch’ to use some of those models sitting in the cabinet. However you choose to play I wish you the best of luck in Open Combat.

Finally if you’re new to Second Thunder and Open Combat you can get the PDF version now at the Second Thunder online store or if you prefer a hard copy we’re currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund printing the book.

You can see that here:

The Open Combat Kickstarter is live and already 45% to it’s target!

Well – I launched a little earlier than initially expected but crikey what a start?!

The Kickstarter to get Open Combat into a printed edition is now live and in the first 24 hours (or so) has reached 45% of it’s initial funding target.

You can find out more below (I’ve also installed a widget on the sidebar for the duration of the campaign).

If you’ve been considering Open Combat now is a great time to get involved.

If you’ve already bought the PDF please rest assured that you’ll be getting an updated edition (when one is available) even if new content is added following a successful Kickstarter project.

Please do pop over to the link above and join us as we expand the reach of Open Combat.

And don’t worry – while all this is going on I’m still pushing the first expansions along. Once the Kickstarter is complete I’ll have a much clearer picture of where things are.

Turning the Open Combat skirmish rules into a printed book

Okay, I start with a bit of an apology related to my last update. I’ve had to rethink my development plan so the release schedule for the expansions is getting a bit of a shake up.

Why all the hubbub bub?

Since releasing Open Combat in PDF format back in October 2014 I’ve had many people contact me asking when I’m planning on putting the book into print. Many of us (I include myself here) prefer having a physical rulebook for use in games, they’re great things to own aside from simply being a handy rules reference.

Tabletop miniature gaming is a very much a visual hobby, but also a physical one. We collect and paint cool characterful miniatures, there’s a wealth of fantastic terrain available (or we can build our own) and the rulebooks we use offer us wargaming ‘eye candy’ and inspiration in any number of ways.

I’ve mentioned in a couple interviews (Fools Daily and Meeples and Miniatures podcasts) that I’ve been planning on taking a very slow grow approach with Second Thunder. Growing the business gradually and seeing if I could get things to market only when the financial situation was right. I still believe in slow and steady growth but I am acutely aware of the risk of the growth being stifled if I don’t give it a bit of a boost every now and again.

The steadily increasing number of people asking me for a printed edition of the rules has led me to the conclusion that now might be the time for a bit of a boost.

So during January, while I’ve been moving the swordsmen Open Combat expansion along, I’ve been doing some serious number-crunching and weighing up of options for putting the rules into print.

I’ve looked at Print on Demand and I’ve looked at the many potential sources of investment for businesses to get a product to market. There’s lots of permutations and I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty here but none of the options have been totally discarded (lots options open depending on how things pan out).

I’ve worked in design for print since 1992 and during this time I’ve had the kind of product I’d want to produce tucked away in the back of my mind if ever the day came when I could do it. The hobby market has vast wealth of beautiful products available and if I’m going to enter the physical product market I want Open Combat to stand up with it’s peers.

Funding Open Combat rulebook

After weighing up all the options and possibilities I’ve decided to run a small Kickstarter project to attempt to raise the funds to get Open Combat into print.

I’m not going to go into all the details at present as there are several things we’re still firming up but February 28th (or thereabouts) is the start date. The project will run through to the end of March.

My ultimate aim is to be able to fund a hardback book but we’ll have to see how things develop over the course of the funding process.

It’d be cool if we managed this though!

Open Combat Hardback book visual

What does this mean to the expansions?

There’s a few factors I’m still weighing up at the moment with regards to the expansions. I could simply continue with the PDF release approach or I could hold fire, see how the Kickstarter goes and look at whether I can afford to release expansions in digital and physical format simultaneously. These wouldn’t be part of the Kickstarter, but I could potentially reinvest any surplus (cash left after pledges have been rewarded) from getting Open Combat into print.

I’m leaning towards the latter of those two options as I can then have three options for purchase at release: 1. Digital; 2. Physical; or 3. Digital & Physical Bundle option.

Which brings me onto something else – I will be ensuring that anyone that buys the digital (or already has the digital copy) doesn’t lose out on any potential bundle pledge during the Kickstarter. So if you’re considering picking up the rules you can still buy the digital version as you won’t be missing out on anything if you later choose to pledge for the physical book. I’ll explain how that will work another time.

But for now – start limbering up your noise making devices in readiness for spreading the word. We’ll be wanting as many people as possible to join us in Open Combat!