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.

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!

New Year Plans for Second Thunder and Update on Open Combat Development

I know we’re two weeks into 2015 but a happy new (ish) year to you anyway. I hope you had a chance to recharge your batteries over the festive break and got some cool new hobby toys to play with.

Last year was a crazy time for me. I finally finished the production of Open Combat and got the game released. It’s been fantastic to see and hear the positive comments around the various blogs and podcasts and good to know that it’s been very well received (many thanks go to those of you that have been spreading the word about Open Combat).

So what happens next?

Those of you that follow me on twitter or visit the Second Thunder Forum may have heard me mention some of the expansions that I plan to release this year. Several people have asked for a bit of a roadmap to get an idea of the direction I see the releases going and before Christmas myself and Gav Thorpe got together and discussed the options in taking things forward.

Open Combat Digital (PDF) Expansions

The first three expansions for Open Combat are as follows, note the titles are simply ‘holding’ names for the moment:

End of Jan 2015 – Swordsmen
End of Feb 2015 – Scenarios
End of Mar 2015 – Trolls

Open Combat Wishlist for further into year (the order is still up in the air at the moment):
Magic (General)
Warband and Character Advancement System
Campaigns – Territory Control
Campaigns – Wealth Acquisition
Expanded Cavalry/Mounted Model Rules
Necromancy and the Undead
Elementalist (and Elementals)

So what can you expect in the digital (PDF) expansions?

The Swordsmen: This expansion adds new skills, optional rules and two new scenarios to Open Combat. It’s aim is to allow you to incorporate the swashbuckling type of hero and character/s into your warbands although it applies equally to any kind of specialist expert in sword fighting.

Scenarios: More ways to pit your warbands against each other.

Trolls: Expanded rules for Monsters, specifically Trolls, although they could equally be applied across any monsters you wish to use on the tabletop in the absence of other special rules. Including monster behaviours and special attacks (such as picking up and throwing things…).

…and there’s more

There’s also a number of aspects of Open Combat that I’d like to explore this year which may need more input from players. I’ll be releasing optional rules which players can ‘have a go’ with and offer feedback before it goes into a ‘finished’ state.

I’ll be releasing these as free downloads so that you can easily access them during the year.

The first of these will be gunpowder weapon rules. I’ve tinkered a bit with them already with a view to playing with pirates (plus also the horse and musket period). But I’ve not really given them extensive testing and rather than sit on them I’ve decided to let you have a play and see what you think. I’m likely to release these at the same time (or within a week or so) of the Swordsmen expansion as the two seem a good combination if you want to play piratical swashbuckler warband games. They’ll be a free download – the rules won’t be as polished as the rulebook or expansions but it’ll give you another dimension to explore within Open Combat and a chance to offer feedback during development.

Second Thunder Future Releases

Open Combat is the first release for Second Thunder but is in no way the only game we have in the pipeline. There’s two more projects that I know we’ll be bringing to life this year and I’ll add more details here another time.

Other things that will gradually happen are a reworking of this website, I plan to produce a mix of content to provide hobby articles, game support and development teasers/sneak peeks. I’m also going to get my own podcast off the ground.

I think 2015 is going to be a very busy but very exciting year – I hope you join me or the ride. 🙂

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