Welcome back to my ramblings about my experiences with games and the occasionally steep learning curve that we all must navigate. Over the last two weeks I have assembled, based and started to paint my forces. That last struggle will be documented in the Sunday column from this point onwards whilst we concentrate on gaming on Wednesdays. This week we’ll take the next logical step and assemble a force. That’s quite a task in itself sometimes and nowhere that I’ve seen do you have the options you do in Open Combat.
Published by Second Thunder and developed by Carl Brown and Gav Thorpe (who are both really nice people and it was a pleasure chatting to them about the game – thanks) the game is a pre-gunpowder skirmish on a 2×2 foot board. Yes you can play it at home as long as you own a table! The rules allow for you to use any figures you own as your warband, historical or fantasy it doesn’t matter and it means that regardless of which figures you all own you’ll always be able to play (and buy all the cool shiny new figures you want).
Now that’s all great and I’d recommend getting a copy of the rules because they’re excellent. The game plays by making you choose carefully the order of activation because a catastrophic miss or stumble can end your turn with your forces in disarray. This makes ‘safe’ activations the first you’ll do most of the time and part of force design is to mitigate the risk of losing the initiative. For example rolling more dice by having a stronger attack characteristic or perhaps by making your warriors faster to take better advantage of the available cover.
How that works is by allowing you to design each individual from the ground up. Every characteristic point that you add costs one renown from your total. Also equipment, weapons and skills cost one renown. This seems really straight forward right? Well no; it leaves you with a bewildering array of possibilities that allow you to create anything between a three of four man adventuring party and eleven (really bad) zombies lead by an evil necromancer!
I think that the competitive gamer in me would probably plump for around eight guys, two of which would provide specific roles whilst the other six form a more generic core. The core would be armed with Bows and Swords with the Marksman skill to mitigate losing initiative. The other two specialists would perform the role of battering ram/counter attack and scout/flanker. The former armed with a shield to bolster his defence and some close combat orientated skills. The later will have movement based skills and a speed boost to allow him to get behind the enemy facing and force them to at least take note of his threat potential. He will hopefully perform the role of sniper and disruptive influence once in position.
I actually think though that this game really shines when you use the rules mentioned above to create really characterful forces. A merry band of adventuring misfits all with their own talents and weapon specialisations for example or a mysterious band of Ninja warriors all with throwing stars and evasive irritating movement abilities. The sheer scope of what you can achieve with this force creation allows you to use any fantasy or historical model you can buy as long as you have the renown limit high enough!
I’m pretty sure that one of my next buys is going to be some adventurers of different races to make myself a fellowship of sorts, or perhaps some ninjas or samurai or gladiators (oh dear, it’s happening again)! Once I’ve painted all the other stuff of course; see me on Sunday night for the details. Until then happy gaming! -Mark