The special launch price of £7.50 for the Open Combat Rules ends on 31st October so get it now!
It’s a great set of skirmish rules giving you the freedom to ‘stat’ your models in any way that you wish, plays fast (30-40mins) and only needs a 24″x24″ area to play in. Your can find out more in the Open Combat Q & A article.
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.
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:
In game terms this gives you a model which can move up to 8 inches in an activation, if it took two Move actions.
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.
Conversely an opponent would need to have a high Attack value to get three attack dice against this model (assuming no modifiers were involved).
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.
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.
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.
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:
Spear, Shield, Taunt
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).
This 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:
Spear, Shield, Distract
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.
This 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:
Spear, Shield, Evade, Feint.
More expensive than the previous profiles but likely to be a little more versatile on the tabletop too.
This 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:
Spear, Shield, Surefooted
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.
Following 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:
Spear, Shield, Shield Bash, Resolute
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.
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.
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.
I’ll start this post by saying a hearty thank you to those of you that have already bought Open Combat. I’d also like to thank those of you that have expressed an interest, fired questions at me or otherwise shown you want to know more. It really is incredibly encouraging. Like many creative endeavours in our hobby it’s good to get confirmation that you’ve produced something that resonates with other gamers when you produce a set of rules.
So what has been happening?
To put things into a bit of context Second Thunder is a new, independent publisher of hobby games and rules. The Open Combat skirmish game is the first release and it’s produced by myself with the support of Gav Thorpe in a consultative role. At the time of writing I’m the only ‘doer’ at Second Thunder, so the webstore, blog and (soon to be) forum all come down to me organising and ‘doing’ them. This is along with the marketing, responding to contacts, making the tea and so on… Oh and producing additional product (writing, painting, photography…). Although Gav is involved there too but I’ll cover that another time.
Yup, just like many other very small businesses – lots of juggling going on.
Over the last couple of weeks I made Open Combat available to purchase online (after having a weekend demoing the game at Derby Worlds wargame show in the UK). It was initially promoted very quietly on twitter and since then I’ve been gradually adding to the places it’s mentioned on online.
I didn’t quite expect the rapid escalation of interest and the hunger for more information.
I do have a list of support material to publish to help explain and promote Open Combat and I’m going to be working through that as fast I can to get the information out to you. Please bear with me as I get this all organised.
I’ve got lots of other exciting things to discuss along with several topics to cover such as Magic for fantasy settings and the eventual addition of a campaign system.
Plus for those of you wanting more information before committing to buying I’ve got video to produce and a few other bits and pieces to write up.
It’ll be here when I catch my breath – I’m working away behind the scenes even if you can’t see it.
First up is sorting a forum… Hopefully I’ll have that ‘live’ today.
Open Combat is a tabletop miniature wargame suitable for any pre-gunpowder historical period or fantasy setting. A fast-paced skirmish-level game that lets you create the heroes, battles and adventures of your imagination.
You can guide the ragtag remains of a Roman expeditionary force through barbarian territory, become a Saxon lord with his retinue as they face off against a local rival, or chart the story of a group of adventurers fighting for fortune and glory in a goblin-infested wilderness.
It could be anything you wish to play out on the tabletop.
Open Combat has a Renown system which you use to build your warband. You literally create the characteristics for the members of your warband, adding weapons, skills and abilities to make the fighters your vision of what they represent.
What is the period/setting?
Open Combat is a game which allows you to play the encounters that you want to play. You could play games within your favourite pre-gunpowder historical period or you could engage in fantasy battles with your favourite races and factions from that genre.
What kind of miniatures does it need?
We use single based 28mm miniatures in our games. The miniatures you use can be from your favourite manufacturers or existing collection, the choice is yours. (If you’re anything like me you’ll like buying all kinds of cool miniatures when you see them. Open Combat provides you with a game in which to use them).
How many miniatures will I need?
The number of miniatures you need to play depends entirely on the way you create your warband. Literally how you ‘stat’ up the individual members of the warband and spend your Renown. As an example in a 150 Renown game you could have a force with only three powerful individuals facing off against a 7-10 lesser beings. How they fair in battle is up to you.
How big is the area needed to play?
Open Combat can be played in any area but we recommend approximately 24″x24″.
How long does a game take?
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).
What dice does Open Combat use?
Regular six-sided dice. You only need three.
How does turn activation work?
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.