In our neck of the woods (Washington state, Puget Sound region) many gamers are very interested in Lion Rampant. For some of us, Lion Rampant is competing with SAGA as a rules set of choice for medieval warfare.
Confession: I am not a fan of competitive, one-on-one rules sets with points-based army lists. I know many of my good friends really do enjoy that gaming environment. I’m not one of them. No slam on those who do, but that’s not what it’s about for me. SAGA is that kind of game. Lion Rampant could be, with its points-based retinues, but it doesn’t have to be, at least not from my perspective.
I’ve had the good fortune to walk through four games of LR over the past ten days. I believe the rules can be a very capable vehicle for scenario design. In each of the games we had multiple players in games-four players, three players, up to eight players. The games all proceeded fairly quickly through simple scenarios finished in less than two hours, and in some cases even faster.
For those of you just picking up these rules, or trying to decide if this is the rules set for you, there are some important things you should know.
- These are skirmish rules. Though author Daniel Mersey suggests they could be sort of semi-skirmish, they are intended to be 1:1 scale. Each unit of 6 or 12 figures represents 6 or 12 guys. They are a collection of dudes, not intending to represent a formation one would find on the battlefield at Agincourt or Tournai.
- Mersey uses an interesting device in the rules–a 3″ zone of control around each unit that may not be crossed by friendly or enemy units (unless you are being attacked.) This keeps the combat unit to unit, and fairly tidy, but it does create some interesting problems. This extra 3″ footprint takes up extra space on the table, likely requiring more room than one would think at this scale. Resist the temptation to toss this requirement. The 3″ rule is sacrosanct and gives the game real flavor and uniqueness, on the one hand, but it doesn’t complicate the simple, but clear game mechanics
- One would think that with such small units on the table it should be easy to throw loads of them out there. Careful. The 3″ footprint does rob lots of valuable space from the tabletop. I would suggest two 24 point retinues on a 5′ X 4′ table. Four 24 point retinues on an 8′ X 4′ table. Six 24 point retinues on a table at least 10′ – 12′ long. This is an important consideration in scenario design. Most foot units only move 6″ per turn and due to activation rolls may not move much at all in a turn. Mounted Men-at-Arms move 10″ per turn, but are fairly disdainful about moving. Missile fire extends 18″ from the shooter. So, if you’re counting on your units covering great expanses of the table, think again. And the 3″ zone of control makes it more difficult to throw lots of units into an extended skirmish.
- Missile fire can be deadly. Putting terrain on the table to break up line of sight is critical.
For my purposes, I feel like the rules work well. In the Hundred Years War there are endless small unit battles in Gascony and Brittany over strong points and market towns. English chevauchees left many small towns in ashes, while local French commanders scratched together troops to drive off the invaders. I have an idea for a raid on town guarded by a derelict castle, though I also fear it may involve too many troops. We’ll just have to see.
I confess the rules have really captured me. I like it that they are inexpensive. I like it that the mechanics are easy, though there is some subtlety. The activation roulette means that no unit alone is queen of the battlefield. Suggested retinues should be considered just that, suggestions subject to contact with history.