Saturday, December 10, 2016

Review: Dragon Rampant- Osprey Wargame Series



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 many 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 had been working on a Colonial game instead and maybe I will have a review for it next?

What crazy models and units did you come up with for Dragon Rampant?                   

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