Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Review of Pikeman’s Lament

Review of Pikeman’s Lament by Daniel Mersey & Michael Leck (Osprey Publishing #19, 2017).

As to be expected from Osprey, these rules are both well written and beautifully presented. The core mechanic is the same as that which was successfully used in the popular Lion/Dragon Rampant rules (also by Daniel Mersey and published by Osprey). I reviewed Lion Rampant a couple of years ago (June 2015) and, essentially, all my comments there can be applied here. This is my major gripe with Pikeman’s Lament; the rules are basically just Lion Rampant with the text/pictures altered to fit the new historic period. Working from a Lion Rampant document file, I think the author could easily modify it into Pikeman’s Lament in a matter of days. Altering the photo images would again be simple, so much so, the layout of the final publication is a good match to the previous rule set. I imagine the most time consuming aspect for the publication would have been getting the cover art commissioned. There are some tweaks to the unit stat’s, and a few special rules, but these are minor alterations/additions around the edges, which I’m sure resulted from playtesting for the final version. So, although I like the rule mechanisms a lot, I feel the author has been a bit ‘lazy’. I would have liked to ‘feel’ that the author had thought more about unique aspects of the period to distinguish it from the Medieval setting covered in the previous rules. I would have liked more “Oh! That’s different!” moments when reading them; more period flavour maybe? The main ameliorating factor with Pikeman’s Lament is the low price. Paying only £10-12 for a set of rules that does the job of modifying Lion Rampant into a Pike/Shot setting is fine with me. If I had paid £20-30 for this ‘new’ rule set (considering I already have Lion Rampant), then I would have felt miffed and ripped-off!

So, in conclusion, I’m sure Pikeman’s Lament will generate practical, enjoyable games that work on the tabletop. The couple of solo games I have played so far bear this out. But, I’m disappointed because I don’t think a lot of thought has gone into these rules. It is possible that the core mechanics from Lion Rampant are so good they can be transferred across historical/military ages unaltered, but I’m not convinced this is the case. I can fully understand the author’s motivation; you have a ‘winning’ mechanism which you can easily apply to a widening range of periods – so, just do it! Many rule writers have followed this path (e.g. the DBX series, or the Black Powder series etc.), but this can be a cul-de-sac and is a ‘sterile’ approach to game design. When playing large scale skirmish games of the Pike/Shot period, I don’t want to feel that it is just the Medieval Lion Rampant with different figures! The rules might work well but I want to ‘feel’ that I’m playing a different game, a different period, with different mechanics; otherwise where will it all end?

Grump over! I am actually looking forward to trialling Pikeman’s Lament in opposed games and getting my ECW skirmish figures on the table after a long absence. After a few games I will probably write a comparison with other rule sets which aim to cover a similar period at this scale (e.g. Donnybrook, Once Upon a Time in the West Country etc.). I might even get my Highlanders and/or pirates on the table as well!


  1. Thanks for your honest review. Like many others, I'm a big fan of the Lion Rampant "engine" and happily also bought Dragon Rampant and Men who would be Kings.
    What was satisfying about MWWBK was it made some significant changes to Lion Rampant - larger mounted units, continued play after a failed activation, unit traits that didn't require dicing - and improved game play.
    Your review paints Pikeman's Lament as a project that didn't change the core game enough - and that's a great disappointment, especially given the lengthy time these rules have been in production.
    Thanks for your review.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Walter. I don't want to appear too 'down' on Pikeman's Lament. The core mechanic shared with Lion/Dragon Rampant is a good one! I just feel disappointed that there were few significant changes in the rules to reflect the Pike & Shot period. The game felt like playing Lion Rampant with differently clothed figures. I would have liked a bit more 'visible' thought from the author, rather than a simple re-hash. I've yet to play MWWBK but would be interested in the changes made there.