The Empress’s Hounds – Episode 1 Game 1

If you want more information on what’s going on, as well as the story so far, don’t forget to read the introduction page.

Scene 1 – Forest Clearing. Alistair Von Ferrumgard, leader of this band of Swordmasters watches stoically as his pupils form up in two groups of two and prepare for a mock duel

Introducing a player to a new game is tricky. You usually have to find a good scenario that is interesting yet not overwhelming, showing the game off without deluging them in details. Luckily, Open Combat is simple yet interesting enough that you can easily play it on a flat barren plain but see the ins and out of the combat system, enjoying the movement back and forth that comes from rolling a lot of 3’s and 4’s.

The Sister took the pair of Jochman and O’Dicca (who secretly are the main characters but don’t tell anyone), while I took the less teamwork focused (and less heroic) pair of Wolfgang and Zorros. All of them, as well as their master, use the Swashbuckler profile from the Sword Masters expansion to Open Combat, giving a pretty reasonable statline with a few of the special tricks that expansion added such as Lunging and Riposting (as you’d expect from a sword fighting expert). To add some variation, I tweaked each of the statlines for the heroes to play into the rough character archetypes I had scrawled down for them. Alaistair is the Old Leader (slower movement and increased mind to improve his use of Inspire), O’Dicca the Brash Youngster (increased attack), Jochman the Stotic Ally (increased fortitude) and Zorros as the the Cocky Bastard (increased mind to make him better at taunting opponents as well as some items to better suit the model).

Wolfgang did not receive any such additions – he is a mere swashbuckler. Take from that what you will.

One part of playing to tell a cool story rather than playing just to win is trying to play how best to suit the characters. I started off by not using Wolfgang and Zorros as a team – Zorros is more likely to push his junior assistant forward and wait for the moment to strike. Instead, I attempted to drag Jochman out of position, using the Taunt skill (which pulls a target model towards the character. Jochman however has no time for such childish behaviour.

Remember what I mentioned above about playing narratively? Well my sister managed to use her pair of characters exceptionally well. Despite Wolfgang getting up in both of their faces, the back and forth of Push Backs and Impasses went in her the pair’s favour. Eventually, Jochman was able to hold Wolfgang long enough for O’Dicca to flank around an deliver a strike from the rear arc, taking advantage of the massive reduction in character defence included in the Open Combat rules.

However, despite outflanking Wolfgang, it did not stop Lacele in turn being attacked from the rear (a move befitting a slippery character such as Zorros). In fact, he was able to land two good attacks, definitely a danger when you only have a fortitude of 4. Open Combat actually lets you land multiple hits depending on how many dice match the target result, so having a character with high ATK means you might end up with a maximum of 6 damage per turn (assuming you roll perfectly).

O’Dicca was easily able to turn around and fight back against her attacker (you can already hear the witty dialogue between the pair of them) using a combination of knock backs followed by lunges. Lunge is an interesting move in Open Combat, letting you attack with your speed rather than your attack state as well as giving you the ability to attack from 1″ away. The downside, rolling a 1 means you end up stepping into the fray, a mistimed lunge leaving you vulnerable. Rolling a 1 also means that you lose the initiative, leaving other characters on you team without an activation and at the mercy of your opponent.

Inevitable, with the fall of Wolfgang letting the pair gang up on Zorros, he soon lost the last of his Fortitude and the mock battle was over. Not even the use of his fine hat or cloak as a distraction would save him.

A good intro to the rules, as well as a fine start to the story of this group. The ruleset was really easy to teach a new player, with only a few core fundamentals to learn so you can focus on the actual gameplay. We forgot a few of the minor abilities (only remembering them part way through) but overall a success.

In the next game, I’ll be taking control of the bad guys, letting The Sister take control of the entire party and taking the first steps into The Estate of Vorpass!

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