It's said that good things come to those who wait. I've gotten a little proof of that truism with the arrival of my copy of the Open Combat rules for miniature skirmish games.
This updated release of the previous version, authored by Carl Brown, originally funded through Kickstarter at the end of March, 2015,. The physical copies of the rulebook were planned to be released mid-summer in the same year. Unfortunately, a series of unfortunate events, including the bankruptcy of the printers that Second Thunder had originally chosen, meant that delay followed delay. Now, a year after the Kickstarter originally ended, the books have finally gone out to backers.
This was fine by me, as one of Open Combat's biggest strengths is its relative openness when it comes to miniature use. Games that I played in the meantime, like Saga and Frostgrave, all provide miniatures that can be used in Open Combat, as it's a set of rules for low-fantasy and pre-gunpowder historical games.
As for the physical product, it's a very high quality book, and would look fantastic out on the coffee table. A matte cover with varnished images catches the eyes, and the colored glossy pages throughout the book look fantastic. It's not a very long rulebook, but that's fine; the rules don't need to be excruciatingly detailed, and there's no background or world to build up.
The majority of the book is taken up by the rules, which are relatively straightforward. Open Combat is a skirmish game in which players will create small forces of 3-12 miniatures and play on a 24"x24" playing area. And when I say "create," I'm serious. Players fill out the profiles of their miniatures from the ground up, from their characteristics to their equipment and skills.
A profile is made up of the following characteristics:
Increasing these costs a point of Renown, and new warbands usually start with 150 Renown to work with. So a model with 4 Speed, 3 Attack, 4 Defense, 4 Fortitude, 2 Mind, and equipped with a Spear and a Shield will cost 19 Renown. These characteristics can be decreased over the course of a game, and will negatively affect a model accordingly. So a model with 0 Speed will be unable to move, while a model with 0 Mind will have its Attack and Defense values cut in half. And any model that hits 0 Fortitude is killed.
It should be noted that, while the rules can be used for fantasy games, there is no obvious magic system. The rules suggest that "magic" simply be skinned over certain skills and weapons. Future supplements will address this hole that may bother some potential players. But the rules should work for those players looking to play in worlds akin to those found in the Song of Ice and Fire books, or other series that deal with fantasy worlds with little to no magic.
Another large chunk of the rules are dedicated to the campaign system, which was added thanks to the success of the Kickstarter. These allow players to create and retain warbands over the course of a number of games, with rules that can help even the playing field between two warbands of greatly unequal Renown (the resource spent to create miniature's profiles). I'm looking forward to trying these out with my Dark Ages miniatures.
For those of you who might be worried that trying to build your own profiles might be difficult, Open Combat provides plenty of examples that players can work with. The campaign sections has mercenary profiles for hired hands, and an additional "Sample Profiles" gives even more examples, including such staples in Fantasy as dwarves, elves, orcs, goblins, and trolls. It even demonstrates how certain abilities can be treated like magic to create profiles for vampires and wizards.
Additionally, Carl has talked about additional supplements, both digital and print, that will expand on both certain historical periods and more fantasy elements.
As for now, I'm certainly excited to dive in and give these rules a try. Expect an after-action report on the blog soon.