Lion Rampant: Second Edition-A quick review

I bought Lion Rampant when it was first released back in 2014. I was a quick convert. I had a real interest in the Hundred Years War and was thrashing about looking for an acceptable set of rules. Lion Rampant really seemed fun, an easy set of rules to teach and offered some fast game play that would kick the rules lawyers right in the nuts. It was perfect.

It was perfect except for the parts that weren’t perfect, of course. My chief complaints were twofold. Lion Rampant, like all Daniel Mersey games, are played by unit activation. Units roll 2D6 to activate a unit and if they miss their mark, unit doesn’t activate. In LR if a unit doesn’t activation, the turn passes to the bad guys. If you’re having a bad die rolling day you can sit there a long time staring at your units that aren’t moving or shooting. That was the first house rule I made, no more one and done. Each turn, every unit would get an activation role. And in fact this is a rule that appeared later in Daniel Mersey’s Rebels and Patriots rules.

Another rule that went the way of one and done was the requirement that there be a space of 3″ between friendly units in the game. I could never figure out a good reason for this and it really required more space on the tabletop, so gone. Smyth rules say 1″ between units.

I will confess that I haven’t played a Lion Rampant game in a while. My HYW masses sit quietly on the shelf hoping to get a nice walk around the block, or maybe even a game. David Sullivan and I did cobble together rules based on Lion Rampant for our Aztec armies but even they have been carefully squirreled away for the past five years or so. Such is the lot for someone with far more projects than I have time to play games. Sigh.

But when the word came out there was a date certain for a second edition of Lion Rampant about to be released, I did the unthinkable. I advance-ordered a copy from Amazon. I never do that. When it arrived a week ago I wasn’t disappointed.

Osprey games are great because they are relatively inexpensive, and though the new edition of LR is hardcover, its thirty-dollar price tag is still reasonable. Daniel Mersey’s fingerprints are all over the book, but it’s a deeper, revised dive into Lion Rampant.

Hey, it’s a rule book, so the rules are carefully explained as they were in the original rule set. No changes that I see, but the book does use its increased space more effectively, fewer words crammed into small spaces.

Then, it moves on to optional rules-the activation (one and done) quirk is addressed, as is proximity. Mersey addresses his motivation for the rules, and that’s why he has made them optional. Other options include playing multi-player games, shieldwalls, group moves, and including flanks in the game (boo, hiss.) There are also some optional troop types including handgunners and pikemen. Terrain and weather options are addressed. For those at a loss for how to do a great Lion Rampant game, the rules provide 15 well-written scenarios that should provide anyone with an idea for a game. Even me.

Lion Rampant 2d. ed, really adds to the possibilities to folks who have existing troops by broadening the scope of the rules from just the high middle ages to include the Dark Ages (including various Goths and Vandals,) to the Late Middle Ages including, Middle Eastern, Eastern European armies, Western European armies as late as the Swiss, Burgundians and Ottomans. The rules include a variety of suggestions for warbands (no longer referred to as retinues) for 64 different armies.

The books is profusely illustrated with lots of Osprey art. I love the way it’s laid out. Nothing seems crowded and hard to find. I would think Mersey should consider the final product a success.

I highly recommend this book. Even if you have the old book (I have two,) this isn’t a simple repackaging. I love the updated production values, but it isn’t just about that. The new optional rules and optional units are a nice add. But the broadening of the rules to include earlier and later armies really does open the doors for those who also play SAGA to use some armies that have had only one purpose. SAGA is really fun too, don’t get me wrong, but now it is either/or instead of one or the other.

I could blather endlessly about the value of the Mersey family of rules. Others may fuss and call them “beer and pretzel,” but I find them quite fun and demanding at least a little bit of forethought and knowing the units on the table. I see them as kind of an evolutionary set of rules, much as Eurogames are an evolution of the hex and token games I grew up with. They welcome younger and less period-obsessed gamers because they’re simply fun and there is something to be said for that.

One comment on “Lion Rampant: Second Edition-A quick review

  1. Jonathan Freitag says:

    Nothing wrong with beer and pretzels. Thanks for the review.

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