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!

The Empress’s Hounds

An advantage of moving back to Leeds was bringing me closer to friends and family which brings with it the advantage that I have a much wider base of people to see and play games with. One of which is my Sister, who runs her own blog covering her hobbies. She is not really a wargamer, having only had the classic experience of being dragged through a game of Warhammer or two and collecting a few of the old Bretonnian figures. However, she is a keen board gamer and a fan of all things fantasy.

One day last year while we were hanging out (thanks to me being a single-person household I was able to bubble with family), she expressed an interest in giving my hobby a go. And as you might have seen, I have been lacking in wargames in the last 18 months. Because of this, the idea of running a game ever two weeks sounded pretty damn great.

However, the eternal question is what to play?

After a few weekends of thinking about it, as well as watching some classic swashbuckling films and trying out a ruleset, we finally decided we’d play some Fantasy skirmish (and not just due to the pile of models I’ve been collecting for it).

Part of this was also down to the rules – Open Combat is a system with plenty of potential for including a whole variety of troops (everything from hordes of rats up to large beasts), easy to expand with a collection of house rules and most importantly – it was simple. There isn’t 101 moving parts that need to be pulled together, there isn’t a host of cards that each player must learn. Instead, all you need is a few D6s, a few models, a small board and the 1 page quick reference guide.

The other part was down to the story telling element of wargaming. Neither my sister and I are rushing into games for the competitive side – it’s much more interesting to use them as ways of creating an exciting plot. For this reason, we both got especially excited about the idea of using our games as the starting point for content for both our websites – I’d be writing the game focused side (as well as detailing the scenarios) while The Sister on her blog (https://wolfishwritten.wordpress.com/) will provide the ongoing narrative written in universe.

However, we’d need a setting. And luckily I had one in mind…

The Setting

(map coming soon)

Midgard is a fantasy setting that I’ve been writing over the past few years as an excuse to let me use all the wonderful fantasy figures out there. It is a setting that contains elements of many other fantasy settings (such as the Old World from Warhammer, the Continent of the Witcher, Westeros, etc). At some point, I’ll write more about it but it’s a merging of low fantasy mud and grime while still containing elements of high fantasy and legends (such as encountering gods and there being other races without going too hard on the “humans are big racists”).

The main characters of the story so far are a group of the Swordmasters. These are the key agents of the main ruler in the world of Midgard, The Empress. At her command, they crisscross the realm to solve issues and protect her rule. It’s best to describe them as diplomats, spies and assassins all rolled into one, occupying the same slot as famous characters such as the Musketeers of the Guard in The Three Musketeers.

Going forward, we may encounter other groups working through the empire. There are a wide number of groups that go about their trade throughout the Imperial Lands and it’s kingdoms and into the unclaimed Marches, from the usual Mercenaries and Templars to Vampire Knights, Garou Scouts and Elven monks from secret temples hidden away where the average citizen would not expect to find them.

The Episodes

Of course, you can have all the setting you want but there must be a story within them. When writing the campaign, I’ve worked out that I want it to feel a bit like a premium TV show crossed with a little bit of the feel of the old Sharpe TV Movies. Each episode will contain a number of a scenarios (often using similar or the same terrain) while the actual plotlines may cross over between episodes, assuming the required dramatic cliffhanger is reached.

The Core cast will naturally move between Episodes and storylines (as well as having some bonuses to keep them around for longer), but you will see other characters join in for a few battles depending on how the fates go. Depending on how long we play, certain reoccurring characters might crop up, for good or for ill.

Prologue

In the Prologue, a group of the Empress’s Swordmasters went up against some death cultists that had captured a member of the Siccarian Nobility.


Episode 1: The Estate of Vorpass

In Episode 1, the group of Swordmasters headed out into the Marches (accompanied by another trainee) on a brand new quest:

Game 1 saw an intro game, explaining the basics of Open Combat in the form of a training fight.

– Game 2 took them to the ruins of the Estate of Vorpass, where they came upon a servant of the Emperess in distress. (Link coming soon)

– Game 3 followed up on the events of Game 2, the party being ambushed as they prepared for a trip into the vaults of the Vorpass Estate. (Link coming soon)

The account of this episode from the scribes of the Swordmasters can be found at Wolfish Written

Episode 2

Episode 2 continues the adventures at the Estate of Vorpass.

COMING SOON

– ???

– ???

– ???