Tag Archives: Historical

Sample Open Combat warband – Saxon Village Defence

I’ve talked about writing profiles for individuals on previous occasions so today I’ll look at a full warband.

You can see a pic of the warband below (click the pic for larger image).

Open Combat Warband
Saxons on the outskirts of their village prepare to defend their homes.
Open Combat warband, miniatures from collection of Carl Brown including models manufactured by Black Tree Design, Gripping Beast, and Wargames Factory.

Saxon Village Defence

The force represents a group of saxon villagers accompanied by a few professional fighting men sent by the local lord to help protect them from raids rumoured to be occurring in their locality. I can imagine the fighters have been sent to see what is behind the rumours. Is it a local rival trying his luck or some outside agency nibbling at the border?

I’ll look at each of the fighters in turn:

The professional fighters

CYNEWEARD (Leader)
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 6 4 7 3 28
Weapons/Abilities:Double-handed Axe, Sword, Shield, Taunt, (Leader)

Cyneweard, Saxon Open Combat warband leader
Cyneweard
Notes: Cyneweard is the Leader of the warband. He’s confident in his abilities and happily challenges others to fight him (Taunt), this is a reflection of his desire to protect those around him. He has learned that this is a good way to pull attention away from others less capable than himself.

EARDWULF
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 7 3 4 2 24
Weapons/Abilities: 2 x Hand Weapons, Shield, Ambidextrous

Eardwulf
Eardwulf
Notes: Eardwulf is young and full of fire. He likes nothing more than to be in the thick of the fighting. He has been told on more than one occasion by Ceolmund to pay more heed to defence but these words fall on deaf ears. Eardwulf prefers to practise his skills with two hand weapons by engaging multiple foes.

CEOLMUND
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 4 6 4 2 23
Weapons/Abilities: Spear, Shield, Shield Bash

Ceolmund
Ceolmund
Notes: Ceolmund has fought in several shield walls. he knows the strength of a good defensive position and has learned the value of the shield as a weapon. In combat in will attempt to keep his enemy at a distance, only engaging to Shield Bash if an advantageous moment presents itself.

The local villagers

HEARD
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 4 3 2 2 18
Weapons/Abilities: Bow, Dagger, Marksmen

Heard
Heard
Notes: Heard is the best hunter in the village, although he is getting old now.

AELFSTAN
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 3 2 3 1 16
Weapons/Abilities: Sling, Dagger, Marksmen

Aelfstan
Aelfstan
Notes: Aelfstan tries to learn as much as he can from Heard and is often to be found hunting birds with his sling.

EOFERWINE
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 2 2 3 3 16
Weapons/Abilities: Staff (counts as spear), Intimidate

Eoferwine
Eoferwine
Notes: Eoferwine is a very angry man (Intimidate) with a fearsome fury which will give anyone pause for thought before confronting him. He has farmed this region his entire life and he’s not about to let any thieves make away with his lifestock.

EALDGYD
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 1 2 2 5 16
Weapons/Abilities: Inspire, Enrage, (Fists)

Ealgyd
Ealgyd
Notes: Ealdgyd is Eoferwine’s elderly mother, she is no longer cares what others think when she speaks her mind. She knows exactly how to deliver a verbal lashing to those around her when she feels they are slacking or doing something wrong. Which, to be fair, is usually absolutely anyone she sets eyes on.

HRODULF
SPD ATK DEF FOR MIN Renown
4 1 1 2 1 9
Weapons/Abilities: none (Fists)

Hrodulf
Hrodulf
Notes: Hrodulf is Eoferwine’s son. He was supposed to go with his mother to a neighbouring village where she is helping an ailing relative. He hid in the nearby woods so that he could stay at home instead. When hostile forces arrive he helps out where he can – like many small boys he can make a real nuisance of himself when he wants to!

Profiles reflect the roles the models will play in an encounter

You’ll be able to see by looking over the above profiles that there is quite a mix of approaches within the warband. Different models have different jobs to do within the context of an encounter.

The professional fighters have profiles to suit their roles. If we think about the way combat works in Open Combat we can see that Cyneweard and Eardwulf are the aggressive fighters. Both are able to take the fight to the enemy, potentially engaging multiple opponents using their high ATK values combined with double-handed weapon or two hand weapons. Ceolmund is a very different kind of fighter, playing a more supporting role using his spear from range or attempting to knock enemy prone to make it easier for others to aid the fight. The FOR of these three models is also at a level where they would be unfortunate to be taken out of action without having the opportunity to respond. They should have reasonable staying power during a game.

The local villagers are very different with profiles to reflect their different lives. I see these models as being the handful of locals that have stuck around when a conflict begins, the vast majority of the inhabitants of a village would most probably have fled to the hills at the first sign of danger.

The FOR of the villagers is lower than the professional fighters which means they are less likely to survive a sustained or heavy attack. Heard and Aelfstan are certainly best used at range. The fact that missile fire can Force Back models in Open Combat can be put to good use with these two models. If the angle of attack is just right you could force the enemy into positions more suited to the needs of the rest of your warband. Driving models into engagement with your fighters or forcing them away so that they must expend Actions getting closer again. They could also score some points of FOR damage on enemy models from a safe distance.

Eoferwine and Ealgyd can help the warband in a conflict by using their psychological abilities. We can imagine them bellowing obscenities, shouting encouragement and/or whipping up a rage depending on the situation in front of them. These models are built as support roles – boosting or attacking profile characteristics on friend and/or foe.

Which leaves Hrodulf. At 9 Renown the profile for this model may make this model look a bit useless but used in the right way this young lad can still have an impact. In several games I’ve used him in this model has caused more than a few points of FOR damage on opponents by being worked around the back of models and blocking off Force Backs.

Blocking Force Backs is something worth considering if you’ve not discovered it in your own games of Open Combat. None of the villager models mentioned above are particularly suited to fighting but if two or three of them surround an enemy model then you may be surprised at the outcome.

How the warband plays

Open Combat is very situational so the best course of action will depend on the prevailing circumstances surrounding your models and the scenario that you’re playing. That being said, the above warband is built with flexibility in mind while reflecting the colour and flavour of the historical period it represents.

In straight up Open Combat fights I try to work Heard and Aelfstan around a flank so that they can use their missile weapons most effectively. I try to keep them out of reach of enemy models as much as possible though. Eoferwine and Ealgyd are used to mentally soften up the enemy (I see it as sowing a bit of doubt and confusion in the minds of opposing fighters with their heckling) before the professional fighters wade in to do their thing. Hrodulf nips about getting in the way as best he can.

In Search for the Prize and Capture the Prey the number of models in the warband and the split in the roles they have is very much a boon. The professional fighters have the job of causing problems for the enemy warband and are meant to stay on the tabletop while the villager models do the job of grabbing things and attempting to run off table with them. The low FOR and MIN of some of the villager models mean that they have less impact on your overall Break Point when they leave the tabletop carrying a prize or securing a prey.

In future articles I’ll look in a more abstract fashion at some of the potential approaches to warband builds you could consider when putting together your own.

If you have any questions or comments about this article please let me know.

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.

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