Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lion Rampant - Review, First play and Glory to Boast of...

Myself and Paul broke our run of Saga games with our first try of Lion Rampant, a set of rules I bought a couple of months ago and, thanks to rave reviews, had been itching to try.

Now Paul has an English army of the Hundred Years War (based for Warhammer Ancients and its' successors), whilst I have a large collection of the same period - featured on he blog plenty of times before - so from that I selected my favourite Flemish troops and we set about learning the game.

To keep things simple we used the default scenario from the 12 available in the rules, Bloodbath.  A simple 'beat the other chap up without getting beaten up' battle.  Our two armies arrayed to the field with little idea of how things would work out, and slowly advanced on one another.

Forwards boys, they must be out there somewhere

Lion Rampant generates basic armies of 24 points, with most units having fairly similar points, All of mine were four point units and so I could field six of them, whilst Paul's more elite force came in at six points per unit.  We each had two misslry units, whilst the English had foot knights and heavy infantry to my lighter infantry and mounted sergeants.  The style of the rules is such that units are of either 6 or 12 men, again leaning to simplicity.

The core mechanics of the rules are pretty simple, and revolve around the activation stats for different units actions.  These include Attack, which Men at Arms are very good at, Movement, Shooting, suited to Bowmen and so on.  This is very like Hail Caesar, in that you roll two D6 to get equal to or over said value.  Fail a roll and your turn ends, so it is important to determine the order of your actions.

As our forces closed the first opportunity for any aggression fell to me, and my Flemish crossbowmen were able to open fire on Paul's Men at Arms - which included his leader.  Now shooting and combat work in roughly similar ways, you have a target to hit roll and a set number of dice to throw - 12 dice for units over half strength, 6 if under half; the number of dice equating to the units starting size.  One thing in the rules that seems odd is that the number of dice don't change much due to casualties, but this keeps both sides in the game and certainly suits the casual style of the rules.

So the Flemings let fly, and hit one of the English square in the side of the head; you total the hits you roll and divide by the armour of the target the result is the number of casualties rounded down - I had 7 hits and Paul had armour of 4, plus one for the intervening hedgerow, for a total of 5 thus generating 1 casualty.

As Paul had his leader in the unit there was a chance of him being the casualty - snakes eyes on 2D6 was the roll to avoid...

Don't worry, there aren't any crossbowmen around...URGH!

Alas he did not.  This led to a panicked leadership test for his whole army, and one of the English longbow units immediately fled.  Already things were coming undone for the English.  Morale is well handled, with casualties affecting the outcome and a fluid mechanic to allow for varying results.  Troops who fail a test but have a result above zero become Battered (much like shaken in HC), end up with a roll below zero and you're off.

Having set to his leader and cleared one flank more by good luck than anything I raced my cavalry to Paul's rear and tried to turn the other flank.  A solid mass of Sergeants in the centre awaited his Billmen, who floundered across the river.

Running rings around the English
 Concerned that if he got the drop on me I would come off worse I formed Schiltron with my men.  This is the only solid formation in the game and whilst static, increases ones armour.  But it turned out that his troops were not up to the task so I sent my men in.  Note that you can only ever sen one unit in at a time - much like Saga.

Bill, we're in trouble...

This did not end well for Paul.  But then elsewhere it was also going badly.  My mounted men, with my leader attached, ran down the last of the longbowmen, and then faced the Men at Arms, who had lost another man to my crossbows.  The fight was swift and bloody, and resulted in both units needing a morale test; both failed and my only significant loss of the game was my leader departing the field nursing a bloodied shoulder.

Lowlanders claim the field

I tested for my troops and although a couple decided to retire, none fled the field.  The last of Paul's troops quit the field and the game was at an end.

Victory or defeat is based on Glory Points, and barring the one-sided nature of this battle should not be a clear cut affair.  The scenario will have its' own victory conditions, but then each player may also choose boasts of value from one to three points - for example 'I shall destroy mine enemies' or 'I shall run rings around you'.  Achieve a boast and you score its' difficulty points, fail to and it's minus one my friend!  As it turned out with his lord killed, Paul could not complete any of his boasts, whilst I completed all my more modest claims.  So the end of the game saw me win 9 points to nothing.

So it was a glorious victory; but is Lion Rampant a good game.

Based on this one run through so far I must say, HELL YES!

Lion Rampant is a fantastic game, with a real old-school flavour balanced by modern mechanics that mean you can't have it your way all the time and winning the game is not dependent on tweaking your army list to the 'nth degree.

The rules cover both the historical - from around 1000-1450AD, the quasi-historical (Robin Hood, Arthurian myth and so on) and old-school fantasy (think pre Games Workshop styled armies).  They are pitched to fun and fast play, but with enough complexity to keep you thinking.  The typical armies are 40-60 figures strong and whilst it recommends singly based, so long as you have a few individuals to swap out casualties, multiply based figures are not a big issue; it plays an awful lot like a lightweight,miniaturised version of Hail Caesar - and this in my mind could not be a greater endorsement.  Add to that the clever morale system and victor mechanics and you really are onto a winner.

As to the production values; the rules are a visual feast, and clearly written too.  This is my first encounter with the Osprey Wargames series and I am very impressed.

I can't wait to play more of this, and am already planning new armies specifically with it in mind; a sure sign it has hit the mark.

Fantastic stuff, I just hope it doesn't get ruined by a tournament scene ;-)


  1. Glad you enjoyed the rules. Played a couple of games now and well recommended

  2. Think you might have got some of the rules wrong. Activation rolls are successful if higher, not lower than the score required. Dice rolled are 12 at full strength, 6 at half strength, not dependent on the initial size of the unit. And leader is killed on roll of double 1, not anything else. Whoops!

  3. Fogey, hi.

    We got the rules right on the night I think, but my recounting of them here was a bit wonky after a fornight has passed (insider knowledge - this blog lags on real life an awful lot at times). Anyhoo you are correct in all points, tho' I was implying the only thing Paul had not to roll was a 2 to be fine, and he then rolled just that. I've corrected my review appropriately.


  4. great review. I have played them once and am already looking forward to the next game!

  5. I purchased the rules yesterday (by mail). I then experienced some "buyer's remorse", but your review has given me a lot of reassurance that I did the right thing after all!

    Best regards,

    Chris Johnson