John and I got together earlier this month for a quick midweek game of Open Combat. It was to be John’s first game; I had played Open Combat a few times over the last few years and found it to be an excellent rules-lite skirmish game for small scraps featuring 6-12 figures per side.
The default playing area is two feet square, which is quite small compared to a game like Warhammer 40,000 or even Saga: Age of Magic. But it was perfect for my kitchen table on a busy weeknight, which is certainly part of the appeal of Open Combat — you can knock together a warband in no time flat and sneak in a game whenever you and your opponent can find a spare hour or two.
For our game, we both made chaos-inspired warbands of evil brutes equipped with gnarled armor and savage weaponry. We selected a scenario from the Open Combat rulebook called “The Arrest,” where one warband is trying to overpower and capture the chieftain of the opposing warband. We put a narrative twist on it and decreed that John’s warband was emerging from the green, glowing portal in the terrain piece above, having been on some nefarious errand in the realms of the outer dark, only to be met by my warriors who had been ordered to subdue and drag off the loathsome leader before she could exploit the dark secrets she had acquired. Yeah, that’s the stuff!
Per the scenario, John deployed a portion of his warband in the center of the table around the portal, then kept the rest in reserve (to arrive on turn 3). My warriors could enter from any table edge, giving me the opportunity to surround and engulf John’s dudes before their reinforcements arrived.
The first few turns were tense and tough. I was able to quickly make contact with John’s sorceror and began dragging her to my table edge, but the arrival of the reinforcements leveled the playing field and stymied my progress. John’s guys were just a little bit tougher than mine, and that paid off as the game entered its final turns and my guys started dying in droves.
Open Combat is tightly written ruleset with plenty of meat on the bone, but absolutely no fat. Every rule and special ability is carefully crafted to dovetail perfectly into the game as a whole. We’re still waiting on the magic supplement for Open Combat, but you can make a decent approximation of some common magical abilities using the existing rules from the main rulebook.
The best part of Open Combat, of course, is how it inspires you to grab a handful of miniatures that tickle your fancy — newly painted figures, leftovers from an abandoned project, whatever — and have a quick and satisfying battle. Doubtless we’ll play this one again soon!