Category Archives: Fantasy

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.

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.

Creating your first Open Combat profile

Open Combat is a skirmish tabletop wargame which pits rival warbands against each other in battles and encounters in whatever pre-gunpowder period or setting you wish to play within.

You construct your warband by spending points of Renown to create the profiles for each fighter. You could have several fighters that all have the same profile (and Renown value) or each fighter could be an individual, the approach you take to build your warband is entirely up to you.

This article is going to guide you through the process I use to build the profiles for my models which will hopefully help you in your own warband creation.

For the purpose of this article I’m going to put together the profile for a spearman. It doesn’t matter what historical period or fantasy setting you play within – you’ll always find a spearman somewhere.

Manufacturers (left-right) Warlord Games. Hasslefree Miniatures, Mantic Games, Black Tree Design, Wargames Factory
Miniatures from the collection of the author. Manufacturers (left-right) Warlord Games. Hasslefree Miniatures, Mantic Games, Black Tree Design, Wargames Factory

In Open Combat we measure a model’s effectiveness using a series of characteristics. These characteristics are:

Speed (SPD) A fighter’s Speed value represents their pace, agility and dexterity.

Attack (ATK) A fighter’s Attack value represents their skill at arms, aggression or natural prowess when taking the fight to the enemy.

Defence (DEF) A fighter’s Defence value represents toughness, armour and their ability to defend themselves when beset by enemies.

Fortitude (FOR) A fighter’s Fortitude value represents their stamina, health and physical ability to continue to fight.

Mind (MIN) A fighter’s Mind value represents their mental aptitude, discipline, strength of will and general desire to fight on.

A fighter also needs arming and can have a few skills and abilities too which set him apart from his comrades. We’ll get onto those later.

How do we start to give the spearman we’re putting together his characteristics? A good jumping off point can be found on page 9 of the rules.

The characteristics profile provided there is as follows:

SPD 4
In game terms this gives you a model which can move up to 8 inches in an activation, if it took two Move actions.

ATK 3
The model isn’t a complete push over in combat, if it can get some kind of positional advantage it might be able to get multiple attack dice when it attacks.

DEF 3
Conversely an opponent would need to have a high Attack value to get three attack dice against this model (assuming no modifiers were involved).

FOR 3
A Fortitude of 3 means the model would have to be unfortunate to be taken out of the battle by a single assailant without getting an opportunity to strike back.

MIN 2
Finally the Mind of 2 suggests the model is no great thinker, but not completely without sense. It may be susceptible to Intimidation or some other form of Psychological Attack should it encounter that sort of threat.

If we arm the model with a Spear and Shield we have a serviceable fighter ready for action. The value of the model in game terms would be 17 Renown.

SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Weapons/Abilities Renown
4 3 3 3 2 Spear, Shield 17

It’s worth pointing out that this profile and armament could be used by several models in a warband, this can be a good way of quickly putting together a warband.

If you’re playing a game where the majority of the combatants are of similar ability, representing retainers or followers, you could have a group of similar models with the above profile accompanying a handful of heroic individuals with superior profiles befitting their quality.

Open Combat gives you free reign with profile building

I often like to go a little further with my profile building and give each model a little more character.

Let’s take each model from the image above and look at them individually. Remember they’re all ‘spearman’ and the above profile would be perfectly serviceable for them – we’re now going to look at what you can do if you like to tinker a bit.

CELT SPEARMAN

28mm-Celtic-Spearmen

Looking at this model I see him as a young warrior keen to prove his worth on the battlefield but not necessarily having the experience to back up his bravado. A SPD of 4 seems fine, ATK of 3 again seems fine. When it comes to defence I’m not convinced this young lad would really know what he was doing so we’ll give him a DEF of 2. He’s likely to be in his physical prime, full of youthful vitality so we’ll give him a FOR of 4. Mentally the model is most likely very naive so I’ll give him a MIN of 1.

Being a young warrior he probably thinks he’s the most powerful being on the planet so I’m also going to give him the Taunt ability to represent him shooting his mouth off. With a MIN of 1 he’s unlikely to successfully influence anyone but it might create an entertaining moment on the tabletop if he does.

So the final profile for the Celt Spearman looks like this:

SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Weapons/Abilities Renown
4 3 2 4 1 Spear, Shield, Taunt 17

As you can see, the above profile costs the same Renown as the previous sample spearman but has a very different tone to it (simply by tweaking a few values).

GOBLIN SPEARMAN
28mm-Goblin-SpearmenThis model of a Goblin Spearman is painted as a member of the City Watch for a fantasy setting I’ve been pushing around for a few years. He’s a pasty looking little stinker, unhealthy and not exactly the epitome of martial prowess within the city. However he does wear armour and a nice uniform so citizens best behave if they know what’s good for them. A SPD of 4 again seems fine, he’d probably be a bit quicker if he wasn’t wearing armour. An ATK of 2 seems right for this little chap as he’s not exactly the top fighter in the barracks. His armour does give him some protection though so a DEF of 4 feels right. Not being the healthiest of individuals a FOR of 2 means he doesn’t have much staying power. A MIN of 2 seems fine for a fighter that is usually following orders.

To represent the role I envisage for the model within my fantasy setting I give the model the Distract ability, “Will ya looksee over there! It’s the brute squad comin!” The model may not be the toughest in the warband but he can set things up for his bigger comrades or otherwise give himself a chance of escape.

So the final profile for the Goblin Spearman looks like this:

SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Weapons/Abilities Renown
4 2 4 2 2 Spear, Shield, Distract 17

Again we have the same Renown cost as the previous two profiles but a different character emerges from the characteristics we’ve put in place.

ELF SPEARMAN
28mm-Elf-SpearmenThis elf model is part of a much larger army that I’ve been working on for a few years. He’s a member of a unit of spearman. When I use him as part of an Open Combat warband he usually works alongside a couple of his kinsmen armed in a similar fashion. A SPD of 5 seems about right, I’d have gone to 6 for a model with a less ‘front line’ role. An ATK of 4 and DEF of 4 provide him with good potential in combat especially if I can get him into a favourable position. I give the model a FOR of 3 as I don’t see him as being particularly robust. A MIN of 3 seems about right for a ‘regular’ elven trooper too in the context of the games I play.

I’m also going to give him the Evade ability which works quite nicely with a spear. Plus, bearing in mind this model usually works in conjunction with a couple of comrades, I’m going to give this model Feint ability too.

The profile for the Elf Spearman is as follows:

SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Weapons/Abilities Renown
5 4 4 3 3 Spear, Shield, Evade, Feint. 23

More expensive than the previous profiles but likely to be a little more versatile on the tabletop too.

ANGLO-SAXON SPEARMAN
28mm-Saxon-SpearmenThis model is from my Anglo-Saxon/Anglo-Dane collection and sees battle in all kinds of roles in other games systems. In Open Combat he’s a regular Anglo-Saxon, probably usually tending fields, called up by his local lord to add another body to a fighting force. A SPD of 4 is fine. I reckon this chap has seen combat a few times so ATK 3 seems okay, he fights when needed but isn’t overly aggressive. A DEF of 4 represents him knowing how to defend himself even though he doesn’t have a much in the way of armour. A FOR of 4 is appropriate for this model – he works in the fields most of the time, he’s a strong bloke. A MIN of 2 feels okay for his social position.

I envisage the Anglo-Saxons in my games are fighting on land and areas they know pretty well so I also give this model the Surefooted ability.

The profile for the Anglo-Saxon Spearman is as follows:

SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Weapons/Abilities Renown
4 3 4 4 2 Spear, Shield, Surefooted 20

This model is marginally different to the first profile above, a little more expensive due to the tweaks for my own perception of his role in my games set in the Dark Ages.

HUSCARL SPEARMAN
28mm-Huscarl-SpearmenFollowing on from the ‘regular’ Anglo-Saxon lets take a look at a professional soldier from the period. This model comes from the ranks of the Huscarls in my Dark Ages armies, in Open Combat this model can take the fight to the enemy. SPD of 4 seems okay, he’s armoured but he’s used to wearing it. An ATK of 6 shows that this chap knows what he’s doing when he’s going for an enemy. A DEF of 5 represents him knowing how to defend himself and his armour. A FOR of 5 gives this model some serious staying power. A MIN of 3 represents his grit and determination.

With this model being a professional soldier I think he’s learned a trick or two so I’m going to add the Shield Bash ability. I also think he’s unlikely to give ground easily so I’m also giving him Resolute.

The final profile for the Huscarl Spearman is as follows:

SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Weapons/Abilities Renown
4 6 5 5 3 Spear, Shield, Shield Bash, Resolute 27

This model has a much higher cost and could easily be a leader in some of my Open Combat warband builds.

It’s in your hands

I hope you can see in the article above that all of the profiles can be used for a ‘spearman’. They are all different in tone and feel and play differently too. The versatility of Open Combat gives you the freedom to do this.

One thing to bear in mind with the examples I’ve provided in this article is that they are all based on the context of the games I play. All of the profiles I’ve provided ‘feel’ right to me and perform fine on the tabletop in games against my regular opponents. We have a similar mindset with regards to our builds.

You may find that as you play more games and experiment with builds you and your play group gravitate to a different sort of profile as the ‘norm’. I’ve played with warbands where the model with the lowest Renown value within the warband was 27. It was a small band of experienced fighters, individually a very powerful but few in number. I happily play with all kinds of builds and enjoy the experience of playing with each equally.

The beauty of Open Combat is that you can do whatever you feel works for you. There is no right or wrong profile for a particular model – there’s just the way you want to play it.

It’s your hobby you can play it the way you enjoy it. So what are you waiting for? Get those models out and see what you think they should be capable of.

If you’ve not got it yet you can buy Open Combat here.

Found this article useful? Got a comment or want to discuss the topic? Visit our forum and let me know your thoughts.

It’s a kind of magic…

Open Combat has been available online for a couple of weeks now and judging by the emails I’ve been receiving, and the comments scattered about online, it’s well received by those of you that have downloaded and played.

In amongst the comments and emails there’s been several mentions of ‘magic’ from gamers using Open Combat for playing fantasy skirmish games.

A few days ago I had an email exchange with one gamer, Steve G, about the issue. Here’s what Steve G had to say:

I’ve just purchased ‘Open Combat’ & want to congratulate you on producing such a professional, elegant, straightforward & fun set of rules – brilliant! I’m really looking forward to trying them out but was a little disappointed to find no basic magic rules for fantasy games included. From what I can gather, these will follow at a later date, but it’s a shame something wasn’t included already.

That minor gripe aside, good luck with your new release & I look forward to seeing what else follows.

…and here’s part of my reply:

Magic in the core rules is something that is partially handled by the Psychological Attacks (see page 27). We haven’t expressly used the term ‘magic’ but the intent is that those attacks could be magical abilities by sorcerous individuals or regular verbal assaults from fighting men (which is more appropriate in an historical context)…

…In playtesting ‘Intimidate’ was used by a Celt Fanatic in some of our historical games and by a warlock in our fantasy games. The same rule but with different models and environments.

My reply to Steve went on in a little more detail which I’ll get to in a moment.

One of the key intentions when writing Open Combat was to produce a system which allowed you to use whatever miniatures you owned to play whatever kind of games you wanted to play. With this in mind, I made the conscious decision to use terminology suitable for historical games as much as fantasy settings. This resulted in less fantasy language appearing within the text. I did originally have a sentence in the Psychological Attacks section which mentioned that these attacks could be sorcerous or verbal in origin depending on setting but it got removed at some point along the way.

So, where does that leave us?

If you’re playing games in a pre-gunpowder historical period you’re good to go with the core rules ‘as is’. That scruffy looking Viking model you have gesticulating wildly at the enemy could well be using ‘Taunt’ to get them to move closer ready for a good kicking. In a fantasy setting that same ability could easily be viewed as representing some magical mind control.

But that isn’t the end of it for those fantasy gamers amongst us (including me!) wanting to fling fire and lightning about the place. In my response to Steve I went on to suggest he look to the weapons section and view them as spells rather than weapons. The Renown system is intentionally flat so you pay a single point and you get single ‘something’ in return.

Looking for a fireball? Pay a point and give your wizard the crossbow rule. Looking for a lightning bolt? Pay another point and give the model the bow rule. What about some kind of mini magical shards attack? Try paying another point, giving him the sling rule too!

This model isn’t lugging around a crossbow, bow and sling along with ammunition for each. It is using some mystical, magical means to blast it’s enemies from afar in a similar fashion to these weapons instead.

Your imagination and the model collection you put onto the table bring the mechanics of the rules to life. You decide whether it’s the solid thunk of a Norman crossbow bolt putting the enemy down or a blazing inferno of magical flame blasting the enemy from the tabletop. It’s all good if you’re getting those models in your collection into action.

It’s all in the Mind

The above suggestions are perfectly fine going forward and give you plenty of possibilities to tinker with but it isn’t the end of it as far as magic in Open Combat is concerned.

Both myself and Gav have a number of expansions in various states of progress which will expand and explore the magical or mystical aspects of fantasy gaming in Open Combat. In most cases these focus on using ‘Mind’ stat as a resource for your magic using models.

I can’t go into much detail at this stage but the intention is that use of magic does drain the individual using it but that’s the price they pay for meddling with powers they may not fully understand. (Mechanically speaking it keeps things clean and simple too!) They can always take a rest action to get their head back together.

To give you an idea of how it may work here’s a little preview (Please bear in mind this may stay as is, change or otherwise disappear entirely depending on how development goes):

New Ability: Magical Assault
The blaze of magical flames, an eruption of strangling tendrils or the sudden attack of ethereal beasts upon the hapless target, this magical assault can take many forms as it rains agony upon your enemy.
Range: 12″
Model may make a Shooting Attack, reducing it’s MIN by 1 to gain 1 Attack dice for the attack (instead of comparing ATK and DEF as a normal Shooting Attack). A model may reduce its MIN by a maximum 3 for 3 Attack dice in any one Action. May score Additional Hits.

You’ll see that this ability while costing a single point of Renown to gain does cost MIN (and contribute to your Break Point) as you use it.

We’d love to hear what you think and how you get on if you give it a go.

As I’ve mentioned, both myself and Gav have a number of expansions in progress and exploring various magical abilities is in amongst the mix. We may drip the odd preview out along the way but bear with us as we’re in this for the long haul so we’ll be taking our time with product releases.

The Open Combat core system provides a huge amount of flexibility and this is something I will be illustrating over the coming weeks and months on the blog.

Thanks for your support!