Well it’s been quite a while – I started talking about Fantasy Skirmish way back in August 2018, with the purchase of Open Combat and the Frostgrave sprue. Fast forward almost 3 years and I FINALLY have put some fantasty figures on the table and played a game of them using Open Combat by Second Thunder
The idea behind this game was something a little simple, to get myself and my Dastardly Regular Opponent up to speed with the system and have fun over a couple of hours on a sunny day. Combine this with the Sword Masters expansion sitting on my desk and having been planning some Swashbuckling games with The Sister to introduce her to wargaming, well it was time to actually play something. And for the first time since September, actually rolling dice against someone else!
As you can see from the handy paper prepared by a friend of mine, The Swordmasters of the Empire (think a combination of diplomat, spy and assassin) have been sent off into the wilds to hunt down a group of cultists that have captured a nobleman from one of the Empire’s client states. These Cultists are from a group worshipping the undead, seeking to summon various undead creatures to go forward and attack the Empire itself.
The team of Swordmasters have managed to catch up with the Cultists just as they prepare their ritual to summon a Shadow Knight from behind the curtain of unlife. The ruined Chapel amongst the trees is a suitable place for such a ritual, and the cultists have gathered in numbers.
Here we have our group of Swordmaster, their horses left further up the road for purposes of sneaking up on their opponents. All of them were made using the Swashbucklers profile in the Sword Masters addon book, but I tweaked each to fit their characters better with a profile adjustment and a new ability.
From left to right
- Benfrey Jochman – The oldest of the three Initiates into the ways of being a Swordmaster. He’s the tankiest of the three, used to taking hits in a bar brawl.
- Alastair von Ferrumgard – One of the leaders of the Swordsmasters, an inspiring Tutor to the Juinior initiates. He has trained the other three and, although age has slowed him, he is still able to inspire his students.
- Lacelle O’Dicca – A rising star within the Swordmaster, Lacelle has proven herself to be deadly with the blade and quick on her feet.
- Zorros Colvieri – The son of another Swordmaster, Zorros is… an asshole. Delighting in taunting his rivals, he also wears a suitable extravagant hat and cloak (and yes, these are items in the rule set).
All of them also have sword fighting skills like Lunge, Parry and Riposte which lets them do all sorts of things you’d expect from a group of heroes ala The Musketeers.
Zorros start off the plan by doing what he does best – distracting the enemy by making a lot of noise and standing out in the open, Taunting his opponent to lure them out of positions. However, as good as his skills were, the cultists were still wary.
Of course, Zorros hadn’t expected one of the cultists to step forward and pull his hood back to reveal a grinning skull! Turns out the cultists already had two undead servants, able to Intimidate our heroes to reduce their courage. This reveal may have shocked Zorros for a moment but he quickly continued his part of the plan, calling out the cultists and luring the guardians towards him.
Meanwhile, the other Swordmasters crept into position nearby, ready to sneak into try and disturb the ritual.
Of course, the Swordmasters hadn’t expect the cultists to have brought bows with them. As Zorros continued to heckle the guardians closer, one of the archers pulled his bow string and let loose. The arrow struck home, wounding the flamboyant Swordmaster.
Who responded by leaping upon the nearest piece of cover, insulting the cultists and dragging them closer to him.
Eager for the fight, the cultists joined in.
On the other side, Lacelle crept forward, planning to outflank the archers. However, the other skeleton warrior spotted her, revealing his frightening facade to her and causing a sense of dread in her. No one had mentioned there would be skeletons!
Despite their personal difference, Jochman considers it unwise to leave Zorros alone, and so creeps into position.
Pushing past her fear, and leaving Alastair to deal with the Skeleton, Lacelle instead climbed the wall, preparing to sneak up on one of the archers too focused on their ally.
Speaking of which, Jochman decided to take a more direct approach to assist Zorros. While the fight stood atop the barrels lunging forward to land strikes on his opponents, Jochman came barrelling in, trapping the Cultist Guardian between his and Zorro’s assaults
(Rules note: Landing a solid hit pushes a figure backwards, but if they can’t actually move the full distance they take an extra wound)
Very quickly, the skill of the two fighters took out the first of the cultists.
With a shout, Lavelle also managed to land a solid hit. As well as stabbing the archer, the battle pushed him off the top of the ruins and, with a cry, he fell to the floor, sustain almost enough damage to kill him. Almost.
While his younger colleagues got into the main fight, Alastair squared up against the skeleton… and entered into a multi-turn duel that had them moving back and forth like it was a fencing match.
With a cry, Zorros lept down from his cover and quickly finished off the other skeleton with a fancy set of sword fighting moves that pulled the undead creature apart.
In contrast, Jochman simply took a single strike to bring down his foe, before turning to hunt down a new target.
One of the archers, having just recovered from a fall off the ruins and starting to dust himself off, was surprised to see a very angry Swordmaster in black sprinting across the field towards him.
Meanwhile, Lacelle, seeing that the ritual was reaching a high point, decided that enough was enough and now was the time for drastic action. Running to the edge of the ruins, she dived towards to the Cult Leader…
Failed. Terribly. Landing short, she managed to attract the attention of the cult leader who turned around and, as all swashbuckling films tell us villains do, began to monologue.
Alastair, after several turns of back and forth with his skeletal rival, finally managed to land a killing blow.
Meanwhile, filled with revenge for the arrow that pierced his cloak, Zorros proceeded to run towards the archer. Sadly, an attempt to throw his hat (to distract the archer) ended with it fluttering gently towards the ground.
At the same time, Jochman also finished off the downed archer, knocking him down with a shoulder charge before rushing past to….
Come to the aid of Lacelle! Jochman interrupted the crazed rambling of the cult leader, giving time for O’Dicca to quickly recover and leap to her feet.
Now outnumbered, and with Alastair joining the fight too, the Cult Leader did the only thing sensible. Turning around to the captive and finishing the ritual, he slayed the Siccarian noble.
With a terrifying hiss and a sudden fog, the crumpled corpse of the nobleman was replaced with a Shadow Knight, a terrifying creature of undead bones and metal. With more attack, defence and fortitude than any other figures on the board, this would be a challenge.
Now, what the cult leader hadn’t realised it that Shadow Knight obeys no masters. So, when he attempted to order it around, it instead went and knocked a chunk out of his fortitude.
Facing such a betrayal, and unwilling to hang around to see who won between the Swordmasters and the horrible creature, he instead managed to disengage and flee the battlefield. Perhaps we’ll see him again?
Back in the centre of the battlefield, the three Swordmasters now engaged the horror from beyond space and time. Despite losing some mind to the Intimation of a such a monster, and wounds from it’s sweeping sword strikes, the Swordmasters managed to get in a good few hits…
And eventually, with one final rasping hiss, the Shadow Knight was defeated!
With only one model left, Zorros decided to end the battle with a final taunt. Finally, after a game of partial successes, he managed to fully succeed drawing the evil archer forward. In his rage, he failed to see that the platform ended where he stepped, leaving him to fall down and lose his final point of fortitude.
Well that was a pretty awesome game! I think Open Combat is a really great little system – it’s a quite simple core setup, using only D6s with a very small number of modifiers. In terms of play, it’s light enough that you can pick it up quickly but not too light that it feels simply like an excuse to roll dice with a beer or two – there are still plenty of tactical challenges and actions to consider. There is also so much you can play around with in the system, making it perfect for setting up a wide variety of characters to play around with, with various abilities, skills and weapons to let you create anything, especially with the Sword Masters add-on to include that final few touches.
You will be seeing a lot more of Open Combat in the future. I still want to try out Warcry properly (as well as other games) but Open Combat has (after this first game) definitely fit the niche I was want of some rules sit behind the narrative I’m wanting to write with my games. Not sure when the next game I play will be, but you’ll know for sure when it goes up!