Lion Rampant

Interestingly, the guy who wrote the Dux Bellorum also wrote these rules. It will be interesting to see if there are some parts that carried over, or that this designer tends to like. Manchu wrote a nice overview of these rules earlier, and it inspired me to give them a closer look.

You can find his opinion here:

This one starts with the Designer Notes and the intent of the rules. They are also scattered through out the rules in clearly designated side bars. These rules are intended to be skirmish rules between retinues. The author cleanly points out that most decisive battles in the Middle Ages were sieges, but raiding and small scale warfare was a way of life. These rules are intended to capture that feel, be rules lite, and capture the Hollywood fun of the period. Indeed, the author mentions several movie stars as reference points in the text.

What I Liked
This game uses an interesting turn sequence. Each player goes until they fail an activation test for a unit. That means turns are variable length and you have to prioritize what absolutely needs to happen, and do that first! This reminds me of Blood Bowl turn mechanics, which are fluid and tense. However, this is a mechanic that not everyone is a fan of, as your little models soldiers may not follow orders all the time, and carefully laid plans can come unraveled quickly.

I also like the simple, flavorful, and distinctive retinue building mechanisms. You can have a wide variety of forces and historical flavors from a few pages of text. Plus, you can knock together a retinue in no time.

The mechanic for removing casualties and armor is very fluid and integrated. Each unit has an armor score. That is the number of hits that need to be inflicted to remove a single model. Pretty easy and straightforward way to model heavily armored troops vs. less well-armored troops.

Finally, I like the Boasts and Glory mechanics. Boasts let you choose some of your victory conditions for the scenario. The harder the Boast the more Glory you earn. You also win Glory for completing scenario objectives. This allows you to string together a basic campaign trying to earn Glory to find the winner in a campaign. I like campaign games.

What I Do Not Like
Well, I am not a fan of the fact that your retinue models are always 6 to 12 units strong. It seems a bit... arbitrary. I see why they did it to make sure balance existed in such a short and simple retinue creation process. However, it just doesn't feel right in some cases.

Each unit also has a control radius of 3 inches in which units can not move through. This is way bigger than a lot of other games I have played and seems like it will reduce the maneuver and tactical deployment of your models.

Meh and Other Curiosities
Two things this game carried over from Dux Bellorum are “Wild Charges” and Activation rules. Wild Charges are used by particularly impetuous troops, which in this case are your hardest models. Dux Bellorum uses similar rules. Again, if you aren't a fan of your troops disobeying orders you could find this mechanic troublesome. I have previously talked about the Activation rules.

Unlike Dux Bellorum, this game doesn't have any diagrams. It does have some photos with examples of play. However, it doesn't real need them as the rules are pretty clear cut.

Final Thoughts
Overall, this game has a lot of fun elements and are pretty easy and streamlined. It comes with a wide variety of scenarios, which add to the re-playability of these rules. It even has some basic rules for things like weather and your leader getting killed.

The emphasis is on getting models on the table and having a fun game. I can see why these rules are popular.

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Dragon Rampant- Osprey Publishing

I recently finished reading and reviewing the Lion Rampant rules. That game focused on medieval knights and their retinues in skirmish combat. Scenarios like cattle rustling, plundering, pillaging, and general raiding. Supposedly, such incidents were endemic during the time period and mostly ignored by history books. Instead, Siege was the decisive engagement of the day.

Anyway, the same author decided to take the Lion Rampant rules and port them over into a Fantasy setting. Therefore, many of the “What I Liked” and other such topics were covered in that Lion Rampant review. However, there are a few key differences that I want to talk a bit about.

Like all Osprey books, the game’s Intro spends some time laying out the design goals. These were mostly around allowing army building away from a single mini source, use Lion Rampant as a base, and allow flexible and fun 80’s style gaming. Did the game succeed?

What’s the Difference
There are three differences between this and Lion Rampant. The big one is the bolt-on fantasy elements. Next is leaders, and the third is the use of Strength Points.

Let’s start with the last point first. In Lion Rampant, all units are either 6 or 12 models large. There is no variation, and the number of dice rolled for attacking and defending depended on that unit size. In Dragon Rampant, there is no set Unit size. Instead, they have 6 or 12 Strength Points. That means you can have units with a differing amount of model in the unit. You can use the broad categories in the army builder to create a custom unit and add as many (or as few) models into as you have. However, the Unit strength is still either 6 or 12. As these points are reduced, so is the effectiveness of the unit. A single model of Spyro the Dragon can have 12 Strength Points, while a unit of 24 goblin archers could have 6 strength points. This system allows for maximum flexibility in list building, with few on table drawbacks that I could see.

Next, in Lion Rampant your leader was part of a unit and could be killed by a Lucky Blow. This does not seem to exist in Dragon Rampant. The Lucky Blows have been removed. The reason is the more “fantasy” nature of the game, the heroes always make it to the end. In addition, the Duel mechanic has been removed from Dragon Rampant. Other than that, Leaders work just like in Lion Rampant. They can have a unique skill and are part of a unit. However, with the use of Strength Points for units your leader could be a single model, a small retinue, or a regular size unit of troops that he happens to stand with. Heck, your leader could be a 12 Strength point pudding for all the rules care.

Finally, the big difference is the bolt-on fantasy elements. Each unit has a base points cost for the broad troop type it is. These are very similar to the ones in Lion Rampant with a few add-ons for warbeasts, magic-users, and more foot types. Again, they are pretty broad categories for maximum list flexibility. However, these base units all cost points, with the standard battle set at 24. The Bolt-on add-ons are also similarly broad and creative use of the rules to represent what you want on the table is encouraged by the author. Of course, where there are points people will quibble about the costing and what is and isn’t a good deal. Overall, it is pretty straight forward and covers most of the genre elements you would expect with a broad brush. This section will be what makes or breaks the game for most folks. I happen to think it works well based on the design goals.

One other unexpected delight is that almost all the scenarios are unique to Dragon rampant from Lion Rampant. Of course, you can easily port them over from one to the other, and again the author encourages it.

Final Thoughts
If this had been a $40 dollar rulebook, I would have been upset since the entire Battle rules section is a straight lift from Lion Rampant. However, since it was $15 dollars or so and it is a stand-alone game I am pretty pleased with it. Obviously, if you do not like the mechanics from Lion Rampant (Activation tests, Failed activation turn play over to your opponent, 3” Control Zones, Glory and Boasts etc.) than you will not like Dragon Rampant either.

I think the rules do a good job of matching up with the design goals laid out by the author. This is a pretty elegant, simple, and very flexible set of rules that is completely stand-alone from Lion Rampant. You do not need one to play the other. This looks like a great way to get a wide range of fantasy models on the table, and I can see a great time linking Frostgrave and Dragon Rampant for some epic campaigns! Now, Mr. Mersey needs to work on a fantasy game of Big battles possibly riffing off his Dux Bellorum rules? However, I know he is working on a Colonial game instead.