Review of Lion Rampant by Daniel Mersey (Osprey Publishing #8, 2014)
The rules are well written and beautifully presented, with scenarios and basic lists for a range of ‘starter’ armies. Units are a ‘standard’ size; 6 figures for mounted units, foot men-at-arms and skirmishers; other units have 12 figures.
The basic rules are simple and can be picked up very quickly, so that after a few turns the rulebook does not need to be referred to. The rules use an alternate move system. The central mechanic revolves around activation of units to perform one of three basic actions: move, shoot and assault. Each unit has an activation number for each different action and this needs to be exceeded using the score of 2D6 for success. Failure ends that players turn, so prioritisation is a vital decision step. Units vary in these activation parameters and this reflects their historic performance qualities. Shooting and Combat involves rolling 12xD6 (if the unit is above half strength, otherwise dropping to 6x D6) and hits are scored if the rolls equal or exceed the value listed for the unit type. Hits convert into ‘Kills’ depending on the armour rating of the target unit (e.g. 2 hits required to kill a poorly armoured unit, whereas 4 hits are required to kill a fully armoured knight). A unit that suffers a kill takes a Courage test by rolling
1x D6 (correction: 2D6), modified by
loses, which succeeds if equal or greater than the units Courage rating.
Failure results in a unit becoming ‘Battered’ or ‘Routing’ from the table!
Battered units can be rallied at the start of each players turn by taking
another Courage test, failure resulting in another figure from the unit skid-addling.
The basic rules are modified by special characteristics assigned to units e.g. ‘Wild Charge’ is assigned to most mounted knights who have to test to Assault if within move distance; ‘Fleet Footed’ units move through difficult terrain at full speed; ‘Ferocious Foot’ fight in difficult terrain at full effect; ‘Skirmish’ units can move and fire in a single turn etc. etc. The special characteristics force units to behave as their historic counter-parts would, and this is an area where the rules really work. Another piece of chrome is the random assignment (rolling 2D6) of a character to Leaders which can range from ‘Forgettable’ to ‘Great Leader’.
The 12 scenarios listed in the rules are another positive aspect of the publication, allowing players to vary games and not just play simple head-to-head clashes. Victory Points are awarded to the side which achieves different objectives dependent on the scenario. The Victory Point score is also modified by achieving various ‘Boasts’ made before the battle by the army commander. There are a total of 15 different boasts listed and they award between 1 and 3 Glory Points. I like to randomly assign Boasts and they remain secret from the other player. During the game Leaders may wish to challenge their opposite number to a ‘Duel’ if they are close enough. This essentially is a luck based process, and I personally only use challenges if I am losing a game and wish to throw my fate into the hands of the dice gods!
I have played a few solo games using Lion Rampart plus some opposed games both at my local wargames club and with visiting friends. All the games have used my recently painted Teutonic and Baltic Pagan forces (see recent “Off the Painting Table” posts). These opposing forces seem well matched with victory evenly distributed (so far). Both forces are rather dominated by the ‘Wild Charge’ characteristic, which results in a game where both players have little control of the situation. Essentially the Pagans try to remain in difficult terrain (woods, swamp etc) and induce the Teutonic knights to charge them. They have a combat advantage by being ‘Ferocious Foot’ and the knights are greatly disadvantaged, especially because their armour drops from 4 to 2. Conversely the Teutonic knights hope to induce the Pagan foot to rashly charge out of the difficult terrain and thereby get massacred, particularly if the knights successfully counter-charge. The game is basically ‘cat and mouse’ until one side is forced to make a rash move. The other units in both forces tend to play a supporting role, shooting the enemy when able, and when I’m the Teutonic player I use the spearmen as the ‘rock’ around which the force operates.
So finally, what do I think of Lion Rampart as a set of games rules? Overall the rules are beautifully produced, fast, fun and easy to play. They are suitable for solo games because of their unpredictable activation system. I do have a few criticisms to make:
- When units test for ‘Wild Charge’ and fail to assault, they are then not able to activate in the main phase of the turn. They just sit there, locked down and unable to adjust. As a house rule, I would allow the unit to be activated normally.
The ‘Courage’ test is too random and results in too many units routing off table after only taking 1 or 2 kills, rather than becoming ‘Battered’. The flaw lies in rolling a single D6; rolling a ‘1’ (which I seem to do a lot!) generally causes the unit to rout irrespective of the basic unit quality. It is galling to see your knight units running as easily as serfs! The knights do have a better chance of passing a test, but the chance of dramatic failure is equal for both units. I don’t understand why the author did not use a 2D6 roll like that used in activation. This would have been a easy decision, compatible with the general rule structure, and give a better distribution of results. I am therefore devising a house rule using 2D6 and will adjust the Courage ratings to fit.(correction: Courage tests do actually use 2D6). Due to the problem discussed above, in games I have found no units falling to half strength or below, and thereby using reduced numbers of dice. Units taking kills either rout off or become so ‘Battered’ that they can never be rallied, and never be activated to do anything!(correction: my error in reading the rules). It may be useful to reflect each casualty by reducing the Combat dice rolled by a unit; i.e. 1 dice less/casualty for 12 figure units, and 2 dice less/casualty for 6 man units. I have not yet tried this option, and it remains simply an idea.
- Full strength, 12 figure, dedicated missile units throw 12xD6 when shooting, which is fine. But 6 figure missile units (Bidowers and mounted bows) also throw 12xD6, which seems excessive. As a house rule, I allow shooting units to throw only as many dice as figures in the unit. This corrects this anomaly, at least the one I perceive to exist, and is easy to implement.
Anyway to conclude, I really like Lion Rampant and can see them becoming a favourite, especially as a pick-up club game.