Thankar lit a torch and edged closer to the doorway. The cavern entrance was hewn from the rough rock of the mountain face, but the ancient artisans had etched inscrutable runes around the perimeter of the opening. Thankar and his fellow warriors could only guess at the message as they stepped cautiously past the threshold and into the gathering dark. If the words were cautionary, they went unheeded.
The corridor sloped down, the flagstone pavers underfoot soon giving way to irregular pebbles and rocky outcroppings. Within minutes the warriors were enveloped in darkness, their way lit only by guttering torches gripped in steady hands.
Ahead lay their quarry: the vile, chittering Skaven raiders that had absconded with the halfling wizard Argus Nul after the massacre at the Stoic Arms. Thankar and his fellow warriors had tracked the foul ratmen to this underground lair, which offered their best chance at recovering Argus … or what remained of him.
Vincent and I had a chance to grab an empty table at Enfilade last month to play out the second game in our occasional fantasy mini-campaign set the Old World. In the first game, a warband of Skaven raiders swept down from the Grey Mountains to kidnap Argus Nul from his well-defended roost at the Stoic Arms Inn.
For this game, Nul’s gallant cadre tracked the ratmen’s spoor to the trackless caverns beneath the Grey Mountains, where our game begins. We’re using Open Combat, a fast-playing generic skirmish game that is great for games with 5 to 10 figures per side. Vincent brought his Dwarven Forge dungeon terrain to represent the benighted caves, plus some hungry fauna to populate the dank tunnels.
We played at Enfilade, a regional gaming convention hosted annually in Olympia by the Northwest Historical Miniatures Gaming Society. It was a busy day at the convention, and we were lucky to find an empty table on the perimeter of the gaming hall. I’m pleased to report that we had a steady stream of foot traffic coming over to check out our nifty terrain and miniatures, which was nice! It seems there’s always room for a good old-fashioned dungeon crawl, even at a historical miniatures convention.
The game began with Vincent’s warband creeping into the dungeon to face my ratmen defenders, which had been deployed throughout the maze-like passageways and chambers. My rats outnumbered his guys, but his figures were more powerful on an individual basis. It would be an interesting game…
The battle was joined in the antechamber, as the elf warrior Carroth True-Shot spotted Vrictus of the Gnarled Root (my Skaven warlock leader) darting amongst the mushrooms. In truth this was a bit of a feint, as I had hoped to lure more of Vincent’s figures into the mushroom forest so I could flank them with fighters hidden in a side tunnel.
Actually, this is exactly what happened … except the combat didn’t go my way, and my flanking maneuver turned into a slaughter.
As the dwarves pushed past the corpses of the slain ratmen, they came into range of Vironq’s Hand-Cranked Doom Machine (my ratling gun). The artillery piece lit up the darkness of the dungeon as it blazed away at the invaders, bleeding them for every step they took deeper into the Skaven lair.
The predatory plants lurking in the dungeon also contributed to the dwarves’ woes, gnashing at them with toothy foliage and barbed tendrils. For the plants, we decided they would attack any figure that came within 3 inches of them. And since Open Combat is a very mobile game, with lots of push-backs and repositioning of figures, this meant that Skaven and hero alike had some uncomfortable encounters with the hungry plants in the dungeon.
Alas, it was too little, too late. Even as the Skaven began to stabilize the situation in the mushroom forest (with Vrictus using his Intimidate psychological attack to great effect against a dwarven champion named Sphen Coldwind), a handful of dwarves had slipped past and were approaching the door to the dungeon jail where Argus Nul was imprisoned. The lone Skaven guard was getting increasingly anxious as the sounds of combat drew nearer to the jail.
Finally, having lost his nerve, the Skaven guard butchered poor Argus through the bars of his cage, then fled into the darkness.
The few remaining ratmen beat a hasty retreat. For their part, the heroes recovered Argus’s spellbook — offering some small measure of victory even as they mourned the loss of the wee little halfling wizard.
Once again Open Combat gave us a great game, with lots of drama and seesaw action moments. Dungeons are exceedingly dangerous environments for Open Combat, because so much of the game involves pushing and bashing your enemies into stuff. When you hit a wall or a piece of terrain or another model, you typically take additional damage. On a wide-open battlefield, that’s dangerous enough — you can imagine how brutal it becomes in a claustrophobic dungeon!
We’ll see where this mini-campaign goes from here. Maybe the next game will be a town assault, where the ratmen are are storming the city gates to plunder the burgermeisters’ holdings? That would be a good excuse to get some of my town buildings on the table, too. Stay tuned!
Great batrep! Your miniatures and scenery look amazing. 🙂
Stumbling recently over Open Combat I was wondering how it compares to Dragon Rampant. Does it feel and play much different?
Dragon Rampant is much larger … Generally 20+ figures per side for a typical game. DR feels a lot like Warmaster, with a lot of command & control mechanics. Open Combat is more of a warband-sized hack & slash game. Very adaptable to any genre or setting, but it gets a bit clunky if your warbands are more than 10 figures. You track hit points individually in OC, so there’s quite a bit of bookkeeping during the game.
Interesting! Do you feel the bookkeeping of OC is more of a drag then when you would use up scaled DR models with multiple hitpoints? Do you you think OC is more of a simpler faster game with less tactical depth? Are the Swordmaster additions to OC important to make it feel different?
Sorry for asking weird questions but it’s not easy to find information about OC on the net.
The bookkeeping in OC is an order of magnitude more complex than DR, because OC has several different stats that can fluctuate throughout the game…you’re not just tracking wounds, like you do in DR. It’s not a drag in OC if the games are small…with 5-10 models per side, it feels a little bit like you’re managing an old school D&D adventuring party, which I quite like.
OC plays faster for sure, but it has a surprising amount of tactical depth for such a slim ruleset. The rules feel carefully balanced, like chess almost. The big thing about OC is that it is very generic. You have to really squint and futz with the rules to represent stuff like wizards flinging fireballs or elves wearing enchanted armor. Sword Masters adds some specific rules related to swashbuckling and swordplay…basically adding all of the cool moves from The Princess Bride. I’m not the target audience for that sort of gameplay, so Sword Masters was a bit of a miss for me in particular.
Open Combat has a rather abysmal product release schedule, which seems typical for one-man publishing shops. We’ve been waiting years for the black powder supplement, for example, which seens to exist only in the mind of the game’s author and is hinted at through opaque posts on the OC Facebook group. Same with the oft-hinted-at magic supplement. There are players ready to shell out cash for these products, if only they would be finished & released. In spite of that, the game is 100% playable on its own, just be prepared to build on the framework to make it work for your specific fantasy or medieval setting needs.
I think the generic part suits me well in this case as I mainly look for something to play with my son or building scenarios (that don’t even have to be fair) to play with my buddies.
The lack of play reports and reviews looked a bit weird especially because someone like Gav Thorpe was involved with the product and while I have not played any Warhammer for more then 20 years, even I remember his name…
Anyway I will get the rules now, you really made me curious. 🙂
And the author, Carl Brown, is a former GW guy, too!