Review: Lion Rampant

Rating: 4 stars

Lion Rampant is the eighth in the series of Osprey Wargames rules.

This set allows you to fight battles from the medieval period, in either an historical or ‘Hollywood’ setting, from the Norman conquests until the Hundred Years War. Whilst there were many large set-piece battles during this period, there were many more clashes between small retinues of troops; border disputes, raids on supplies or petty squabbles between minor nobles and their forces. Whether your forces and clashes are based on historical research, or more influenced by film or television, these rules are designed to cater for smaller scale battles in a simple, elegant and fun way. As to scale, it’s designed for 28mm or 20mm figures, but can be played in any scale; simply make the relevant adjustment to distance and table size.

The game is based around a leader and his retinue of troops. It is points based, but the system is somewhat simplified. A standard retinue will be made up of 24 points worth of troops. Mounted units consist of six figures, and are worth either six or four points (men-at-arms being more expensive than serjeants and yeomanry). Foot troops consist of six or twelve figures, worth between six points for a unit of men-at-arms, down to a single point for gathering of serfs. Missile troops (Archers, Crossbowmen and Bidowers) are worth between two and four points, and again have units of either six or twelve figures. You can see that a typical retinue will consist of somewhere between 40 and 60 figures – a size of force that has become very fashionable in recent years with the popularity of games such as Saga and Dux Britaniarum.

It is noted that the rules are designed to scale both upwards and downwards in size.
The game is scenario based (there is a scenario generator at the back of the rules, giving a choice of twelve different scenarios to fight) and each battle will have an attacker or a defender. Dependent upon the scenario, the victory conditions of each could be very different. Whoever has the most Glory (victory) points at the end of the game is the winner. However, you can gain extra Glory by declaring a number of boasts at the start of the battle (such as killing the enemy leader, destroying more units than the enemy or making the first attack of the game) these are worth between one and three Glory points at the end of the game, but will lose you a point if you fail to fulfil them. You can quickly see that games can become tailored as each player decides how they want to try and achieve victory before the game begins. (By the way, Mr. Mersey suggests that any boasts made before the game is delivered in the style of the likes of Lawrence Oliver, Errol Flynn or Brian Blessed!)

The game turn is I-Go-U-Go, but with a slight twist. The attacker always goes first. He may issue a challenge (which means that, if within range, the retinue leaders fight a duel), rally, test for Wild Charges (some units, such as mounted knights, are an impetuous bunch!) or issue orders. Orders include Attack, Move or Shoot. Each unit has several characteristics, including a number against each of the above orders. This is the number that you need to roll equal to or higher on 2D6 in order to carry out the order. Should you fail an ordered action, your turn immediately ends and play passes to your opponent (much like Warmaster Ancients or Hail Caesar)

Movement is kept simple. Units are usually represented with individual figures, which need to keep a 3” cohesion between them (they are not normally formed base-to-base, as this represents a particular formation: a Schilton) but can pretty much move how they like, as long as individual figures don’t exceed the maximum movement distance.
When shooting, range is measured between the nearest models of each unit. As long as this is in range of the weapon (18” for bows and crossbows, for example) the entire unit can fire. This may well mean that the furthest figures in the shooting unit are actually out of range of the target.

Similarly, when charging an enemy (you cannot move within 3” of an enemy unit unless attacking them) you must move as many figures into base-to-base contact as possible, but the entirety of both units is deemed to be in combat, even if the figures themselves are not touching.

Combat is pretty simple. You roll 12D6 if over half strength, or 6D6 if half strength or under. Each unit has an Attack Value and a Defence Value. The attacker uses one, and the defender uses the other. Why? Because some units are better in attack than defence (and vice-versa) Each dice that equals or exceeds that value causes a hit. You then compare this to the Armour Value of the target. This is a numbe is effectively a divisor. E.g., an attacker who scores five hits on a unit with Armour of two will inflict two casualties, with the ‘extra’ hit being wasted.

Shooting uses a similar mechanic, but the target unit doesn’t get to fight back!
After combat is resolved, units take courage tests where appropriate, which may cause them to retreat or even flee the battle.

There are extra rules for terrain effects, but the basic rules of the game are covered in approx. 24 pages. The rest of the book covers how to muster your retinues (including rules for each type of troop), scenarios, and sample retinues. Whilst many of these cover historical forces, based on geography, such as the British Isles, Western & Eastern Europe, there are also some suggestion given bands of Merry Men, Knights of the Round Table and their opponents, and even a potential fantasy clash (potentially inspired by an upcoming film)

I’m a great fan of the Medieval period, and of the retinue sized game. As such, Lion Rampant is a great fit into the style of gaming that I enjoy. The rules are simple enough to be fast play, whilst avoiding issues around micro-management of figures which even games such as Saga can fall into when played in a certain way. The command mechanic works well, and the limited number of units on the table means that gameplay is pretty fast. You will need to ensure that you have all details of each unit noted, but after a couple of plays your army list should be the only thing you will need to reference. Even so, the book is pretty easy to navigate, and even includes a nice flow diagram to aid in playing the activation sequence!

In short, Lion Rampant is a great fun game.

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