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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sun 15 Feb, 2015 7:24 pm    Post subject: Product Review: Osprey Lion Rampant Medieval Wargaming Rules         Reply with quote

While looking for other books on the Middle Ages, I happened to stumble across a new and unexpected book from Osprey Publishing: Lion Rampant: Medieval Wargaming Rules by Daniel Mersey. While I have lots of experience playing pencil and paper RPGs, I have not previously played any wargames at all. But something about the reviews the game had received, plus the game's “philosophy”, made me interested and I ordered a copy.



The book itself is a slender volume at 64 pages in length. Besides photographs of various painted miniatures used to illustrate different situations in the game, the Lion Rampant rules also include various paintings by Angus McBride and Graham Turner found in other Osprey medieval Campaign, Men-at-Arms, and Elite series. Lion Rampant is cleanly formatted, which makes it easy to refer to and use. Mersey writes in a casual style, meaning that the text isn't a dry slog through a glut of rules, but rather is reader-friendly and enjoyable.

In Lion Rampant, Daniel Mersey remembers something that a lot of gamers forget: more rules does not make a game more fun. At the end of the day, what you will remember about the game were the fun and dramatic moments, not the specific rule on Table 23b that you used. With that in mind, Mersey indicates in several places that if you feel that you want to modify part of the rules go ahead and do so. The flavour of the rule book is reminiscent of some of the First Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules which were meant to be modified or tailored as you like to best fit your own gaming style. I personally like it a lot, and as far as I know, it's not a philosophy that is especially common in other wargaming rules.

I'll let Daniel himself explain the philosophy behind Lion Rampant in more detail, since he'll probably do a better job of it than me:

Quote:
-Games about knights should be fun. The emphasis is upon a playable medieval-themed game rather than an over-detailed simulation of medieval warfare.

-Uses no unusual dice, cards or supplements... make it accessible to gamers new to the hobby

-Keep the rules simple, streamlined and abstracted where appropriate: don't make players continually thumb through the rulebook.

-Quick play and minimal record keeping to allow multiple games in a session.

-Gain period feel by differing profiles for troops; avoid complex core rules.

-Think small-scale combat: reflect skirmish warfare, not huge set-piece battles.

-Let scenarios drive the game and make the victory conditions interesting and feel like a narrative story. Give players extra goals in each scenario to allow different ways to win.

-Offer malleable army selection: no hard and fast army lists.


The Lion Rampant rules are designed to allow you to create historically accurate scenarios, yet the game also gives a nod to Hollywood for the purpose of making the game fun. The two main Hollywood influences I saw, one of which is based to some degree on historical fact, is that mounted men-at-arms tend to be impetuous and charge their opponents, and that your leader (or general) can enter into a one-on-one duel with the enemy general. Of course, if you don't like one-on-one duels, you can simply omit them, but I feel they make the game more fun which is the whole point.

Like many war games, Lion Rampant involves creating armies—termed “retinues” in the game—using a point system. Since the game is supposed to represent skirmishes or small battles, the standard army is only 24 points meaning that you'll probably have somewhere in the range of 5-7 different units in your retinue which translates to roughly 40-70 figures on the tabletop. In order to prevent players from simply playing a retinue of pure “Mounted Men-at-Arms”, the game includes rules limiting the number of points you can spend on a specific troop type.

Lion Rampant offers eleven different troop types. They are given fairly generic names because the intention is that they can represent whatever sort of similar, historical soldiers you want. So, for instance, you could use the “Foot Men-at-Arms” to say represent members of the Varangian Guard, or the Saxon huscarls with Harold II, or perhaps elite infantry guarding the carroccio at the Battle of Legnano, or dismounted 15th century knights: the choice is yours as to what the unit represents for the scenario you're playing.

These troop types include three mounted units, five foot units, and three missile units. The mounted units are the “Mounted Men-at-Arms”, “Mounted Serjeants”, “Mounted Yeoman”. The foot infantry units include “Foot Men-at-Arms”, “Foot Serjeants”, “Foot Yeoman”, “Fierce Foot”, and “Serfs”, while the foot missile units consist of “Archers/Slingers”, “Crossbowmen” and “Bidowers” (bidowers are meant to represent very lightly armed skirmishers from any era with limited ranged attacks: think of javelin throwers, for instance). Some of the units have “upgrades” that players can purchase using points to create their retinue. For example, crossbowmen can be upgraded to carry pavises at a cost of 2 points per unit of crossbowmen upgraded granting them better protection against missiles and melee attacks.

What gives Lion Rampant lasting replay value is that it includes no less than 12 different types of scenarios with different objectives for players to play. Want to simply have a battle until side is defeated? Play Scenario A: Bloodbath. Want to play a scenario where one player has to hold an important strong point? The “Hold on Tight” scenario has got that. Or, what about a scenario where one player tries to collect taxes, while the other tries to beat him to the money? Lion Rampant lets you do that, too. Depending on how well you do in a particular scenario you will win a certain number of Glory Points. One of the strong points of the scenarios is that building a power retinue filled with Mounted Men-at-Arms and Foot Men-at-Arms is not necessarily to your advantage; strategically used troops with faster movement rates or missiles just might win the day.

In addition, players can make various boasts before the game. Depending on the difficulty of the boast the player will receive a certain number of Glory Points for succeeding, or lose a point for failing. If, for instance, you declare “I shall strike the first blow”, and one of your units does indeed make the first successful attack, you win one Glory Point. For a more challenging boast like “My own sword shall not be drawn” —meaning the unit that has your leader in it cannot attack or be attacked— you earn more Glory Points. Players are invited to create their own boasts as well. The boast and Glory Point system means that it is possible for a player to win the most Glory Points—and therefore win overall—despite losing the particular scenario played. The boast and Glory Point system adds to the spirit of fun in the game, and makes play more interesting and rich.

What kind of gamers won't enjoy Lion Rampant? Theoretically, those players wanting to simulate large scale battles could be put off by the smaller skirmish-style of Lion Rampant, although there is actually no problem: nothing prevents you from creating much larger armies and playing a huge battle.

Lion Rampant is a bit weak for siege warfare: it does not offer any more specialized rules for sieges, so those wanting to play siege scenarios will either have to create their own rules or look elsewhere.

However, the main players who won't enjoy Lion Rampant are those players who want a highly realistic simulation of medieval warfare packed with detailed rules: tons of different troop types, very detailed rules for terrain types (such as distinguishing between troops in sand, light forest, dense forest, brooks, creeks, rivers, etc), rules for troop facing, complex line of fire rules, and so forth. If you love playing games with tons of reference tables, or games where you can rules-lawyer then this isn't for you.

Overall, the Lion Rampant Medieval Wargaming Rules are a great rule set. They provide an accessible introduction for new players to war gaming, and seasoned players will no doubt enjoy being able to have multiple matches in a single evening while playing a variety of scenarios. If it's a fun evening of table top medieval warfare you're looking for, Lion Rampant just might be the wargaming rules for you.


Last edited by Craig Peters on Wed 18 Feb, 2015 8:52 am; edited 1 time in total
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

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PostPosted: Tue 17 Feb, 2015 8:28 am    Post subject: Re: Product Review: Osprey Lion Rampant Medieval Wargaming R         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
While looking for other books on the Middle Ages, I happened to stumble across a new and unexpected book from Osprey Publishing: Lion Rampant: Medieval Wargaming Rules by Daniel Mersey. While I have lots of experience playing pencil and paper RPGs, I have not previously played any wargames at all. But something about the reviews the game had received, plus the game's “philosophy”, made me interested and I ordered a copy.



The book itself is a slender volume at 64 pages in length. Besides photographs of various painted miniatures used to illustrate different situations in the game, the Lion Rampant rules also include various paintings by Angus McBride and Graham Turner found in other Osprey medieval Campaign, Men-at-Arms, and Elite series. Lion Rampant is cleanly formatted, which makes it easy to refer to and use. Mersey writes in a casual style, meaning that the text isn't a dry slog through a glut of rules, but rather is reader-friendly and enjoyable.

In Lion Rampant, Daniel Mersey remembers something that a lot of gamers forget: more rules does not make a game more fun. At the end of the day, what you will remember about the game were the fun and dramatic moments, not the specific rule on Table 23b that you used. With that in mind, Mersey indicates in several places that if you feel that you want to modify part of the rules go ahead and do so. The flavour of the rule book is reminiscent of some of the First Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules which were meant to be modified or tailored as you like to best fit your own gaming style. I personally like it a lot, and as far as I know, it's not a philosophy that is especially common in other wargaming rules.

I'll let Daniel himself explain the philosophy behind Lion Rampant in more detail, since he'll probably do a better job of it than me:

Quote:
-Games about knights should be fun. The emphasis is upon a playable medieval-themed game rather than an over-detailed simulation of medieval warfare.

-Uses no unusual dice, cards or supplements... make it accessible to gamers new to the hobby

-Keep the rules simple, streamlined and abstracted where appropriate: don't make players continually thumb through the rulebook.

-Quick play and minimal record keeping to allow multiple games in a session.

-Gain period feel by differing profiles for troops; avoid complex core rules.

-Think small-scale combat: reflect skirmish warfare, not huge set-piece battles.

-Let scenarios drive the game and make the victory conditions interesting and feel like a narrative story. Give players extra goals in each scenario to allow different ways to win.

-Offer malleable army selection: no hard and fast army lists.


The Lion Rampant rules are designed to allow you to create historically accurate scenarios, yet the game also gives a nod to Hollywood for the purpose of making the game fun. The two main Hollywood influences I saw, one of which is based to some degree on historical fact, is that mounted men-at-arms tend to be impetuous and charge their opponents, and that your leader (or general) can enter into a one-on-one duel with the enemy general. Of course, if you don't like one-on-one duels, you can simply omit them, but I feel they make the game more fun which is the whole point.

Like many war games, Lion Rampant involves creating armies—termed “retinues” in the game—using a point system. Since the game is supposed to represent skirmishes or small battles, the standard army is only 24 points meaning that you'll probably have somewhere in the range of 5-7 different units in your retinue which translates to roughly 40-70 figures on the tabletop. In order to prevent players from simply playing a retinue of pure “Mounted Men-at-Arms”, the game includes rules limiting the number of points you can spend on a specific troop type.

Lion Rampant offers eleven different troop types. They are given fairly generic names because the intention is that they can represent whatever sort of similar, historical soldiers you want. So, for instance, you could use the “Foot Men-at-Arms” to say represent members of the Varangian Guard, or the Saxon huscarls with Harold II, or perhaps elite infantry guarding the carroccio at the Battle of Legnano, or dismounted 15th century knights: the choice is yours as to what the unit represents for the scenario you're playing.

These troop types include three mounted units, five foot units, and three missile units. The mounted units are the “Mounted Men-at-Arms”, “Mounted Serjeants”, “Mounted Yeoman”. The foot infantry units include “Foot Men-at-Arms”, “Foot Serjeants”, “Foot Yeoman”, “Fierce Foot”, and “Serfs”, while the foot missile units consist of “Archers/Slingers”, “Crossbowmen” and “Bidowers” (bidowers are meant to represent very lightly armed skirmishers from any era with limited ranged attacks: think of javelin throwers, for instance). Some of the units have “upgrades” that players can purchase using points to create their retinue. For example, crossbowmen can be upgraded to carry pavises at a cost of 2 points per unit of crossbowmen upgraded granting them better protection against missiles and melee attacks.

What gives Lion Rampant lasting replay value is that it includes no less than 12 different types of scenarios with different objectives for players to play. Want to simply have a battle until side is defeated? Play Scenario A: Bloodbath. Want to play a scenario where one player has to hold an important strong point? The “Hold on Tight” scenario is got that. Or, what about a scenario where one player tries to collect taxes, while the other tries to beat him to the money? Lion Rampant lets you do that, too. Depending on how well you do in a particular scenario you will win a certain number of Glory Points. One of the strong points of the scenarios is that building a power retinue filled with Mounted Men-at-Arms and Foot Men-at-Arms is not necessarily to your advantage; strategically used troops with faster movement rates or missiles just might win the day.

In addition, players can make various boasts before the game. Depending on the difficulty of the boast the player will receive a certain number of Glory Points for succeeding, or lose a point for failing. If, for instance, you declare “I shall strike the first blow”, and one of your units does indeed make the first successful attack, you win one Glory Point. For a more challenging boast like “My own sword shall not be drawn” —meaning the unit that has your leader in it cannot attack or be attacked— you earn more Glory Points. Players are invited to create their own boasts as well. The boast and Glory Point system means that it is possible for a player to win the most Glory Points—and therefore win overall—despite losing the particular scenario played. The boast and Glory Point system adds to the spirit of fun in the game, and makes play more interesting and rich.

What kind of gamers won't enjoy Lion Rampant? Theoretically, those players wanting to simulate large scale battles could be put off by the smaller skirmish-style of Lion Rampant, although there is actually no problem: nothing prevents you from creating much larger armies and playing a huge battle.

Lion Rampant is a bit weak for siege warfare: it does not offer any more specialized rules for sieges, so those wanting to play siege scenarios will either have to create their own rules or look elsewhere.

However, the main players who won't enjoy Lion Rampant are those players who want a highly realistic simulation of medieval warfare packed with detailed rules: tons of different troop types, very detailed rules for terrain types (such as distinguishing between troops in sand, light forest, dense forest, brooks, creeks, rivers, etc), rules for troop facing, complex line of fire rules, and so forth. If you love playing games with tons of reference tables, or games where you can rules-lawyer then this isn't for you.

Overall, the Lion Rampant Medieval Wargaming Rules are a great rule set. They provide an accessible introduction for new players to war gaming, and seasoned players will no doubt enjoy being able to have multiple matches in a single evening while playing a variety of scenarios. If it's a fun evening of table top medieval warfare you're looking for, Lion Rampant just might be the wargaming rules for you.


Thanks for a great and detailed review.
The problem with many historical wargames is the sheer volume of rules. You can almost only learn it, by playing with some, who already knows the rules. If you sit down and read the rules yourself, you are likely to be massively overwhelmed.
Never thought that Osprey would go this road, so very positively surprised. These “middle“ rule-hard games are the ones often lacking, so a good attempt to maybe lure someone slowly from “Eurogames“ to hardcore wargaming.
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Jimi Edmonds




Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
Joined: 25 May 2009
Likes: 8 pages

Posts: 144

PostPosted: Tue 17 Feb, 2015 6:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On the topic of Wargaming, also another very good game is 'Saga (Dark Age Skirmish)' and '(Saga) The Crescent and the Cross'.

This game uses any where from 26-75 figures on average within a 'warband' and has a truck of factions to play.
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