Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Review: Pikeman's Lament- Osprey Publishing

Osprey’s Blue Wargame Series continues to roll on with this release.  The focus in these rules is Pike and Shot battles of the 17th century.  However, unlike many games from this genre it is focused on skirmish between small units as opposed to full scale battles.  If you are familiar with the Rampant series of rules, then you know the scale and design philosophy behind these rules.  Before reading further, I recommend you take a look at my Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant reviews first.  Pikeman’s Lament uses the same core rules with some improvements.  With that in mind, this review will try to focus on the difference between this rules set and the previous two that were mentioned.

Things I Liked
There are two main differences that I thought were improvements on the system.  The first was an expansion of the campaign system that built off the old Glory/Boasts system.  However, this one was called Honor.  As your leader won battles or accomplished special orders your officer gains Honor.  As they go up in Honor they can acquire new skills and leadership traits.  You can also lose Honor from failing missions and special orders, and enough failure leads to your officer getting executed!  If your leader is removed from the table, there is also a campaign chart to see what happens to them.  These changes were a nice improvement from the previous campaign rules. 

The second big change is also with the Leadership traits.  In Lion Rampant the traits were from a smaller list that was not as balanced.  In Pikeman’s Lament, your officer gains an initial trait that is tied to their randomly rolled background.  From there they can earn additional traits as they progress with improved Honor.  The leadership traits are better thought out and more balanced than from Dragon and Lion Rampant.  However, the list is not as extensive as The Men Who Would Be Kings

I was excited that they managed to capture the caracole maneuver in the rules!  That particular way of fighting was interesting to me. 

Things I Do Not Like
I was disappointed by the sample armies presented in the booklet.  As I was reading it, I was interested in a Thirty Years War Catholic force aligned with Tilly.  However, when I got to the sample armies, they covered only a handful of very specific engagements.  Granted, it was cool that they were small engagements ripped right from the type of “Outpost Warfare” the game was focused on but it did not cover some key forces in the period.  Granted, that means I will have to do some basic research but since I am not an expert on the period it is just another thing I need to do before playing! 

The scenarios in the game look like they are similar to the ones found in the other booklets.  However, I believe the Rescue scenario is new.  If your Officer is removed from the table you roll to see what happens to them, and one of the results I captured.  You can use the rescue mission to try and save them!  However, the others looked like a rehash, which was disappointing since Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant had unique scenarios.  

Meh and Other Uncertainties
Pikeman’s Lament continues the tradition of a failed activation test leading to the end of your turn and activation moving to your opponent found in Lion Rampant.  This is unlike The Men Who Would Be Kings which also deals with more firepower forces.  However, I think the traditional DragonRampant approach fits better for this period as it will lead to a free flowing game with lots of back and forth.  However, some players have been disappointed by this activation method as some units will not get to act reliably.                  

The rules also still use the 12 or 6 models per unit method made famous in the original LionRampant rules.  That means your units will only have 6 or 12 models.  That does not appeal to some gamers, and it uses model removal for wound resolution.  You don’t have to use that method, but it is recommended in the rules.  I have come to prefer systems where there is no model removal because we all work too hard painting stuff to simply remove it from the board after a turn or two. 

The other rules systems that Pikeman’s Lament is related to also had a Morale mechanic where Wavering units that were forced into a Wavering condition again or could not retreat took wounds instead.  This mechanic is in these rules too.  However, I had forgotten about it until I read it again.  It is a good mechanic and I wanted to call it out here. 

Final Thoughts
After Lion Rampant came out there was a small cottage industry of game systems coming out using those rules.  One of my favorites was Quetzcoatl Rampant about Aztec and Conquistador warbands.  I also heard reference to using the system with Ancients, Vikings, Nappies, Chariot wars, and other settings.  I even tried my hand at a Sci-Fi version myself called Rampant StarsPikeman’s Lament was one of those versions floating about online.   I am curious to see how often Osprey will go to the Rampant well and take a drink? 

If you like the Rampant approach to games, then Pikeman’s Lament will not disappoint.  It only builds a more robust campaign element and adds period specific spin to the army lists.  Other than that the core engine works the same.  So if there were things in Lion Rampant or Dragon Rampant that you did not like, they will still be here.  I like the core mechanics as they emphasize small unit skirmish, quick resolution, and streamlined play.  I look forward to using them in a new setting. 


  1. Having just acquired these rules and now I have played 2 missions Iam impressed by them. They do what it says on the tin, they deliver a fairly fast paced skirmish game.
    Like you I am not fond of figure removal for casualties and indeed my figures are multi based but i found the rules flexible enough to overcome this.
    I also agree I would have liked a few more sample companies given.

    You have given a very good and balanced review of these rules. In fact I am tempted by the other rules in the series now!

  2. WELCOME! I have been a big fan of Daniel Mersey's work for Osprey. You can find more fun on his message board called Dux Rampant.