One of the new rules sets which has come out recently and is getting good press is Lion Rampant by Daniel Mersey. The rules are for a medium scale skirmish game, with 30 to 60 or so figures on the table as standard. They are also in theory designed for 28mm figures.
Now, I like 28mm figures and love to see a nice table all painted up well. However, these days I’m finding the work to get to that point and have a complete painted force for the numbers needed for this game in that scale hard to do. This is especially the case for a game such as this which will have limited play for me – it won’t be a prime game system for me. I know that some of the local guys really like 28mm scale but they, like me, find it takes a lot of work and time to get forces complete. Now as you may also tell from this blog I hate playing with unpainted figs, but we are just starting to see some of the more SAGA forces completed now. So the time to paint plus their cost and the storage space taken for 28mm make them a bit of a love/hate scale for me. Added to this I can paint 15 mm figs faster and tend to enjoy painting/completing projects in that scale.
So in looking to play this game I also wanted to check out two things. First see if they played ok. Reading rules and checking the web indicated they’ll be a decent set, but there is nothing like trying them yourself. Sometimes what some people like just does not work for others. The second and the equally important aspect of a test was to see how these rules would work with 15mm figures that are based for DBA. That’s what I have and would want to pay with. Although I’d love to paint up loads of 28mm figs for this, I doubt I’ll have the time or money to do any special figs for this system in the short term.
So Þorsteinn, one of the local guys in the group volunteered to try the rules out with me and see how they would play. He’s very knowledgeable in the period as well as a good gamer, so he was a great person to try these out with and gather a second opinion from. He had not read the rules so we went through a quick summary of the rules before the game. We used the quick reference sheets and force summary sheets I created. That seemed to work really well and is an indication of how easy the rules are to pick up.
We both created a force using my 15mm late 13th cent figure collection. I went with a Teutonic Knights list, which was the same as the sample one in the rule book. Þorsteinn created a warrior bishop force from scratch.
We decided to use the simple battle scenario in the rules – so a slug fest style game which would go until sufficient damage was done on both sides. Basically in this scenario the game ends when there are less than 6 units left and at the start of a turn a die is rolled higher than the number of units remaining. My force was deployed as below, with 2 units of knights (one with the leader in it), a unit of spear men, a unit of crossbowmen and a unit of mounted crossbowmen.
We rolled for leader skills and mine turned out to be a great solo fighter, which would help in challenges, while his opponent on this day had a great mustache – i.e. no noticeable impact to the game.
Þorsteinn’s force, commanded by the mustache holder was quite similar to mine. The big difference with this force was that rather than taking mounted crossbowmen he had a unit of lighter skirmishing mounted bowmen. They could evade charges if they were lucky.
The Bishop’s forces were deployed with the knights opposite my crossbowmen, the skirmishing bow on the far flank against my mounted crossbows and his foot opposite my knights.
The first thing which cane up was how quick game turns come and go. To do an action with a unit in the game you state what you want them to do – move, attack or shoot and then you have to roll over the troop types target number for that action. A failure means your turn is ended and your opponent gets to try to move a unit etc. A unit can only do one action per turn so turns go pretty quick. There are a couple to extra items at the start of a turn in that the first thing you have to try to do rally troops who have lost their nerve. Then you test for ‘wild charging’ units. This is to check whether certain units charge or not – a player does not control that. Mounted Knight’s are the obvious candidates for this and although powerful it soon became clear that controlling knights can be a challenge.
The cleverness of the game is in the activity target numbers. Knights for example are easy to charge but much harder to move when outside of combat. Crossbows are harder to get to shoot but more powerful than bows when they do etc.
So for the first few turns our troops slowly moved towards each other. The high order number for knights moving allowed a quick swap of turns. We also did move some of the other troops though to get them closer to where it was clear the fight would take place. The order mechanic means that every turn you have to decide what to do first and the priority of actions etc. Very similar to the ‘Song of…’ games from Ganesha Games.
As soon as my leader was within range of the Bishop I challenged him to 1 to 1 combat. My leaders ability helped here in what otherwise is an even roll off between the players and thus a real risk ‘roll of the die’. In our game my guy killed the bishop, so all Thorstein’s units had to take a moral check – only the crossbowmen failed.
Then as the knights closed we found an interesting aspect of the game. Once within range the knights charge into combat as machines due to the wild charges so we had a whole series of combats, with counter charges, whether we wanted them or or not. This makes for some interesting tactics in the future I suspect. As a commander knights may be powerful but they are not controllable units.
Combat is 12 die per unit against a target number and the number of successes is divided by the armour level of the target for the number of figures killed. If the units is down to half strength or less then it rolls 6 die not 12. Taking looses etc. causes morale checks, which are negatively affected by the number of figs lost in a unit. You can see above the example of the 2 knight units down to 3 figs each as the top one down to 4 figures. We used a marking system of a red token for each casualty until a full base could be removed. This seemed to work quite well with DBA basing, and really the figs in stands did not seem to make a difference to the rules at all. When all the figs in a base were killed it was removed.
In the game after my leader killed the bishop his unit was too close to both of the Bishop’s force knight units and so even though they charged and counter-charged in the following turns the first units of Teutonic knights slowly were whittled away. The final occurrence in this was when the last fig standing in my unit, (the leader) failed his morale test and so left the field. His leaving the battle triggered a morale check on the Teutonic troops which most pasted. But that ended a hectic sequence of fights in the center of the table.
On the other side, the Bishops bow skirmishers pulled off skirmishing orders and fired and fled in front of my slowly advancing Teutonic mounted crossbowmen. The mounted crossbowmen could either shoot or move and so you can see the difference in the troops types here.This continued but the skirmishing mounted bow found it hard to do enough hits to kill any of the Teutons mounted crossbowmen – which was just as well for me.
One interesting aspect of the rules is all units have to stay more than 3 inches from all other units, including your own. So as you can see here the skirmishers did not have a lot of choice of movement because of the knights in the center were blocking them. This and the fact that individual figs have to be withing 3 inches of a central fig (and not formed up in ranks) made the DBA bases ok to use. It’s not perfect but does work.
In the above case the skirmishers used their extra movement to go though the marsh – terrain like everything else is fairly simple in these rules and you basically half movement in it. So they could get through to in front of the knights. They did this as my foot crossbowmen had been hitting the Þorsteinn‘s knights fairly well taking the unit down to 2 figures. You can see the figure death markers on the units. You’ll also notice below that a couple of turns later my troops shooting had destroyed bishops Knight unit by this time and some foot had moved up towards my mounted crossbowmen.
After this we got far I forgot to take any more pictures…<sigh> However, a spectacular failure in morale meant the Teutonic mounted crossbowmen left the field very soon. That left us with a limited number of units. The game continued and my foot crossbows and second units of knights killed the skirmishing bows soon after that. After that the knights were well under half strength and destroyed themselves by Þorsteinn‘s crossbows.
At this point we were testing to see if the game would end as there were only 4 units left – 2 per side. That’s pretty much when the game ended. We summed up the cost of units destroyed and the game was a draw! Overall a fun game for a couple of hours and not heavy on rules etc.
Opinion on the rules
So are the rules any good and can you use non single based 15mm figures?
Well the second question first. With a couple of markers types, one for a failed morale test (which you need anyway) and one for dead figures, multiple figure bases work very well for the game. Also, we played with the normal movement and ranges with 15mm mini’s and it did not seem to be an issue at all. The bases were not lined up for the foot troops other than if they were in a Schiltron formation. The simple movement and measuring rules actually make this easy. We even discussed using 1 impetus base per unit and that would work, but even more stylized and need more counters for casualties. The DBA bases are a nice compromise in my opinion. So all is good here and in fact I think separate figures may just slow things down and not add anything to the game other than giving a slightly cleaner table.
As for the rules, they do as they say on the box, providing a simple large scale skirmish game. They are not that flash and in fact are pretty simple. By the end of the game we were rarely referring to the rules at all. The standard reference sheet has most of the rules and I created a troop reference sheet which had all the stats needed. Our game lasted just under 2 hours and so the timing works for a evening game. Separate figures would make the game slower than the DBA based ones we used. Every decision feels important in the game and that’s a key factor for me as well.
There are plenty of scenario’s which means there will be a decent level of game replay possible and although lumped into standard style of troops I believe there are enough to cover the periods troops well.
Overall, I believe Þorsteinn summarized the rules well with the phrase ‘they are Bolt Action rules for medieval skirmish’. By that I believe he meant that they are more of a game than a simulation, in fact they are a long way from a simulation. That said, they give a decent fun but tactical game and are simpler to play (and more historical) than say SAGA. They give a good game with toy soldiers on the table but don’t get sucked into thinking they reflect anything that close to real history. They give a good feel though and are fun with a decent amount of tactics in them.
I can see this being played again and me even creating extra 15mm bases to ensure I have 12 figs for use in this when making DBA armies (which I’m going to be starting painting again soon). So they get my thumbs up for a basic, fun medieval game, but if your looking for precise stat filled historical game with loads of detailed rules then this is not the game for you.