Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dragon Rampant game and first impressions

The only game of Lion Rampant I've played so far was with fantasy miniatures and now the game has its official fantasy "standalone" version, Dragon Rampant. It was only released just before Christmas and I got my copy last week, so it's quite recent stuff. We took our fantasy armies to the field to try it out.

My Goblin army for the day
The game sticks to the tried and true Lion Rampant rules without messing with any of its core mechanics. Armies of maybe 50 figures duke it out with simple "beer and pretzels" rules that promise fun, uncertainty and fast play. Players have a great degree of freedom to design their own force and interpret the prowess of the units they have.

Here's a rundown of the rules to anyone with Lion Rampant wondering what's changed:

- Virtually all game rules are the same
- Restrictions on army composition regarding unit types have been lifted
- Additional special rules for flying, magic and undeath
- New scenarios
- Some new unit types to fit the fantasy theme, such as lesser and greater warbeasts
- Suggested "army lists" for different fantasy races but something you are free to mix, match and reinterpret.
- Rules for "reduced model units" and "single model units" which enables players to use multi-wound monsters to represent that 12 model group (just like we did in our previous Lion Rampant game).

The opposing armies approach each other

Basically it's a repackaged minor modification of the Lion Rampant rules, but it is easy to justify the purchase as the rules are cheap. On top of the rules mods, there's plenty of beautiful fantasy artwork as you would expect from Osprey. They've really stepped up on the wargames market!

For the uninitiated, here's a summary on how the rules work:

- During a turn you roll to activate your units to either move, shoot or fight. Depending on the units, some actions are more difficult to pull off than others.
- When you fail an activation, or when you've activated everyone, the turn is passed to your opponent.
- When moving, no model may move faster than their limit, units must remain within 3" of their unit leader and no model may go closer than 3" of models belonging to other units unless attacking. There's speed reduction for terrain but no wheeling, formations etc.
- Shooting and combat is as simple as it gets. Check ranges, roll a bucket of dice and remove casualties. Morale tests for all units losing models. Those tests are easy to pass initially, but every lost model makes it harder to pass.
- As each unit activation is completed individually, there's no multi unit combat. Which is kind of a bummer because this means there are no real flank/rear attacks either. This is one of the few gripes I have with the rules. Another thing is that games tend to run for some turns after the winner is already clear. The game takes some two hours to play however so don't worry.
- Fighting in terrain makes troops of differing quality equal. Those heavy infantry troops can be fought off by peasants and so on. This is a novel idea which gives players good incentive to include some cannon fodder into their lists as they become more cost effective in terrain. There are unit types which ignore the terrain penalties however.
- The basic recipe gets shaken up by plenty of different scenarios and a "glory system" where players have additional objectives they try to accomplish.

After just two games with the "rampant" system it's still early to draw any conclusions but I'd give these rules three-and-a-half stars out of five at the moment. The rules are quite tactical but also really light and I'm sure there are a lot of games decided by lucky rolls of the dice instead of superior tactics. The main draw of the game is to enable players to put pretty much any models they have on the table again and have a light hearted game with their friends. If marketed properly, I don't see any reason why this set of rules wouldn't enjoy the same kind of success Frostgrave has.

Oh, here are some photos of the game. My orcs were soundly beaten by the Marauders of the North.

Marauder infantry, counts as heavy foot
A greater warbeast attacks the bellicose orcs in the woods.
The warbeast is on the rampage
The orcs find themselves enveloped on both flanks!
With the "no movement within 3" of other units" rule, squeezing you unit through your own line can be surprisingly hard.
The warbeast is brought low by the Goblin general and his bodyguard.
Scouts are quite good at shooting. Not so good at defending against Elite foot.
The giant (elite foot, single model unit) is charged by heavy cavalry and is killed after a bit of to-and-fro combat.
The goblin general is slain by his opposite number.
The last goblins (light infantry) form a spearwall and start throwing javelins at anyone coming too close. It's time to concede defeat.

Friday, December 25, 2015

SCS It Never Snows: Massacre at Osterbeek

I solo-played one of the small scenarios included in SCS It Never Snows, the Standard Combat Series treatment for operation market garden. The scenario lets me play through the defence of Osterbeek where airborne forces desperately try to maintain a foothold east of the Rhine. Instead of a bunch of photos I combined them into a single gif animation to see if the action is easier to make out that way. It would be nicer to have better image alignment but see if you like it:

To be honest, it was a pretty dull affair to play. A small scenario with very little manoeuver but lots of fighting which isn't that interesting in itself. The allies tried their best to maintain a link to the ferry landing (the black arrow) while the Germans attempted to cut them off. The allies came very close to losing that hex a couple of times, but in the end it was the only position they held. They got all their reinforcements across but the Germans destroyed the rest. In the end, the allies had just that one hex but won the scenario because the allies win if they have any units on the other side at scenario end. I'm sure Monty would have been pleased!

We are scheduled to play the full market garden campaign early next year, I'm excited to see how that works out!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Frostgrave: Lich lord scenario 2

The second game in the lich lord campaign put the warbands on a frozen, slippery river. A spellcaster working for the lich lord was looking for treasure at the center of the board and was unfortunate to get sandwiched between two rival warbands. The game worked out pretty much like a normal scenario. The addition of an enemy NPC spellcaster and slower movement/broken ankles due to slipperyness didn't impact the game terribly.

I doesn't quite look like it's being fought astride a frozen river ;)

My warband was on the receiving end of a sound beating. Even though I limped away with three treasures, half of my force was out of action at the end and my freshly recruited barbarian and one of my archers died. After hiring new men to replace the dead, I ended up losing money instead of gaining any. The three levels gained were a mild solace.

My henchmen are wondering when their paint job will be finished.

After three games under its belt, here's my warband composition:

Base: Inn (allows 11 warriors instead of the usual 10)
Summoner level 9

There's a sprinkling of magic items and potions in my inventory but I won't list them just to be able to surprise my opponents :)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Frostgrave: Thaw of the Lich Lord scenario 1

The new expansion for Frostgrave was released just in time for our second campaign game. The second campaign game ended up being the first game for the Lich lord campaign. To avoid confusion let's just say this was the first game of the campaign alright? :)

After the last game I invested on a knight to take my total warband size to ten, and to have someone to give the enchanted mail armor I found in the last game to. We played the scenario with four warbands. In the game, the warbands fight during a solar eclipse. LOS range drops steadily until the total eclipse, during which spells are much easier to cast and wizards who witness it gain extra XP. 

With four warbands on the table, fighting began on Turn 1. Everyone scrambled for the treasures in the ruins while fighting enemies on both their flanks. During the game I pretty much kept out of close contact, peppering my opponents with arrows while casting a lot of Leap to get my men to treasure tokens quickly. This paid off and I got out with four treasure tokens with minimal close combat. In the aftermath my thief got a miss next game result (I'll sack the lazy git and get a better warrior to replace him) but otherwise everyone was fine. My men picked up a bunch of gold, a couple of grimoires and a couple of potions. My wizard got four levels which I used to improve my spells. That's pretty much it for the first game. Didn't take too many pictures as my warband is still unfinished.

I skimmed the Liche lord expansion briefly and it looks like a solid expansion. The new henchmen, spells and such left me a bit cold, but the ten scenarios included look really interesting and different. They will probably shake up the "standard game" quite a bit and I look forward for more!