Sunday, 20 September 2015

Lion Rampant Fantasy Gaming

The old dwarf army returns
So old it's black and white!
It's been a while, but in the past week I have rolled dice in a couple of games. Both times it was Lion Rampant being used with fantasy figures. In one game I used my Lord of the Rings figures to play a two-thirds game of Rohan vs Orcs (more detail on this here). In the second game it was the more standard full size game, pitching my obsession of the moment (dwarfs!) against some marauding beastmen.

In the first game I was teaching a complete newcomer the rules. As ever with Lion Rampant, they were very quickly picked up and the game rattled along at a fine pace. I gave each commander a single reroll per turn for a failed activation, to remove some of the randomness that can be frustrating and unbalancing. The game played well, swinging one way and then the other, until my opponent lost his general in a combat (he rolled the dreaded double 1). From this point it was much more one sided, as the Rohan forces under my command found it much easier to repel the leaderless orcs.

In the second game I fielded my ancient Warhammer dwarf army, it must be 3 or 4 years since they have seen any action. We played a convoy scenario, the dwarfs attempting to escort three crucial barrels of beer across beastmen territory. It played reasonably well. Centigors were very effective, galloping around and hurling spears to great effect, while dwarfs hunkered down into shield walls, thunderers blasting the depraved ones from afar. It seemed that the dwarfs were going to get two of the three barrels home safely, but after a lengthy trek overground, harried by centigor spears, they finally succumbed and dropped the barrels over a small outcrop, just yards from safety (failed activation roll in the dying moments of the game). No doubt the centigors were even more drunk than usual that night!

Using Lion Rampant to play with fantasy troops allows gamers to play with the minimum of fuss. It's quick and easy to map the troop types from the rulebook on to your fantasy forces, the game moves at a fast pace and there's little need to refer to the book. On the downside, the limited troop types can lead to forces feeling a bit samey, which is not necessarily a bad thing, it just seems to lack a certain something. It does not (by design) have the same level of detail that WHFB had, so when my dwarf slayers ran from the board after suffering a couple of spear wounds, it felt wrong. Similarly, when bestigors clashed with ironbreakers, and both sides were using the same profile, it felt a little flat. There are extra layers in the WHFB rules that are missing from Lion Rampant, which is not a good or a bad thing, it's just a thing that needs to be borne in mind.

There is an official fantasy version of the rulebook due for release around xmas time, the aptly named Dragon Rampant. From preview material on the author's blog, it sounds like Lion Rampant with extra rules for flyers, monsters, undead and a very basic magic system. From what I can gather it allows more troop upgrades (and downgrades), so I will certainly be giving it a whirl at some point. I don't expect it to provide rules and troop differentiation to the same degree that WHFB did - the game is not designed to be that way. I may well have a tinker at some point to produce something a little more akin to the old game, HammerRampant or some such. I have also discovered a fantasy mod for the Saga game, but that's a story that requires more investigation on my part. Fantasy gaming is alive and well, just different to days of old.

3 comments:

Gordon Richards said...

Great stuff! Very much enjoying Dark Ages Lion Rampant with my son!

John Lambshead said...

I think fantasy gaming is good for a revival.

Lee Brady said...

I like the idea of giving generals a single reroll per turn. I've seen folks play LR and be completely put off due to an unfortunate run of failed orders. I really enjoy playing Revenants in SAGA and hope the fan written SAGA fantasy stuff gets a bit of traction.

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