A friend and I recently tried Osprey Wargames fantasy wargaming rules, Dragon Rampant .
We made a good choice. Dragon Rampant is quick to learn and easy to play, suitable for small games (30 or so figures to a side), though it is possible to scale up. I enjoyed the unit activation feature and the combat system that makes it hard to rout an enemy unit in one turn, even when heavily armored dwarves charge into a column of goblins (as I would soon find out). The rules are basic and may not please those that prefer detailed tactical play. The spell casting system is covered in a page or two but Dragon Rampant is intentionally designed as a framework that the gamer can modify to suite his tastes. Chapter 6, which provides examples of warbands lists 15 different armies but only provides around 5 to 9 ready-made units for one. Players are encouraged to create their own spells and unit types.
Every unit costs a certain amount of army points and count towards a warband’s total of 24 army points (APs). If quantify of available models is an issue the rules suggest warbands of 18 or even 12 APs. The game can scale up to 36 APs but one should remain mindful of available playing space. A 6’x4’ table is recommended when using 25 or 28mm figures. I doubt a 4×4’ table prevents an enjoyable game with 24 AP warbands, especially when playing with 15mm figures.
Using my goblin and dwarf 25mm scale figures we set up a basic scenario with opposing warbands of 24 APs. We counted each goblin figure as ½ of a strength point (SP) instead of 1 SP for aesthetic purposes and conformance with the “hordes of weak goblins” stereotype. APs are used to build warbands while SPs denote the strength of units (usually 12 or 6 SPs). They are not interchangeable.
I played the goblin side, commanded by an orc, and will plagiarize Return of the King by calling him Shagrat. He’s been tasked with leading a draft of goblin conscripts to join an army mustering for a punitive expedition into dwarven territory.
Shagrat commands the following 24 AP warband:
The goblin column is escorted by Shagrat and his 6 SP unit to the left. Beyond the scattered trees the wolf riding scouts are patrolling.
My opponent commanded a 24 AP dwarf warband consisting of the following:
The Dwarf Lord, Oin (another Tolkien derived name) is stationed in the center with the unit of Spear Thanes to his left and Quarrel Thralls (crossbowmen) to the right. The Housecarls are out of the picture to the right of the crossbowmen.
Lord Oin was tasked to patrol the frontier and verify rumors of a gathering threat. He has no mounted units available; what mounted individuals he has available are away scouting. He cannot stray too far from the safety of the foothills as his heavily armored troops are slow. He risked much to come to the edge of the plains but now can interfere with the enemy’s plans.
Dragon Rampant has an optional feature to roll for leader attributes. The table will be familiar to any D&D player as three (x3) six-sided dice (d6) are rolled. If one is unlucky enough to roll a 3 then the leader is rated as Unworthy and each turn every unit under his command has a 1 in 6 chance of deserting. In tribute to D&D if one is lucky enough to roll an 18 then the hero has 18/00 strength and in combat the leader’s unit may re-roll three dice that failed to score a hit. My opponent rolls a 12 so Oin’s trait is a Goader. Each turn one unit within 12’’ of Oin automatically passes a move activation check. I roll an 11 for Shagrat and his trait is Commanding. I get to re-roll any failed move, attack or shoot order for any unit within 12’’ of the leader. Both of these are very useful traits as unit activation is the heart and soul of the game. Before one can order a unit to move, attack or shoot it must pass an activation roll. Better units are easier to activate and the first time that a unit fails an activation roll the turn ends for that player. Best to try attempt activation of your more reliable units first.
I move first and order the wolf riders to return to the column, then order the goblin column to move towards the forest, parallel to the dwarf line. No need to close distance with the crossbows and I’m not about to attack heavy infantry positioned uphill as I have almost no missile support (I paid 1 SP extra for each goblin warrior unit for short-range missile ability. This ability went to waste as I never used it.) If things go bad, I plan to escape into the trees and gather goblin stragglers later.
The dwarves move off the foothill and close the distance between the two groups. The next turn my goblins see this and fail to activate. Shagrat uses his commanding trait (a trait that results in a dead goblin or two) to get them moving, but barely, as the re-roll was only 1 point away from failure). After that fiasco I decide to activate the more reliable wolf riders but seeing an extended line of Dwarf spearmen coming down the hill they fail their activation roll. Shagrat is furious and as he tries to sort things out initiative passes to the dwarves.
The dwarf crossbowmen are now in long- range of the first unit of goblins. Oin orders them to fire and they make their shooting activation roll.
The dwarfs are a 12 SP unit so they get to roll 12 dice (12d6). They score a hit for every die that rolls 4 or more. Since they are shooting at long-range (over 12’’ up to 18’’) each result is reduced by 1 so they need to roll a 5 or 6 to hit. It is a very good roll and the dwarves get 6 hits. The goblin warrior’s armor value is 2 so they suffer 1 SP loss for every two hits. Since we are counting each goblin figure as ½ SP, they lose 3 SPs and 6 figures. Now the goblin unit must take a courage test as they have taken losses. Their courage value is 4 or more when rolling 2d6. They must subtract 3 from the roll since they took 3 SP casualties. Shagrat is within 12’’ so they get to add 1. I roll a 4 and taking Shagrat and the casualties into account adjust the result to 2. That’s below their courage value and the unit now has to retreat 3’’ and is marked as battered. Next turn I can attempt to rally them but they won’t be able to do anything else. If the result is 0 or less, the unit routes and is removed from the table. As casualties build, the greater chance of a rout, and as units rout the greater chance other units lose heart.
The rest of the dwarf line moves forward so when it’s my turn I decide to take a risk and have my wolf riders race past the approaching spearmen and attack the dwarf commander.
The riders do well and I get an excellent roll, scoring 8 hits. Oin’s unit has an armor value of 4 so that’s only a 2 SP loss (each point of armor value soaks up a hit so a unit with an armor value of 2 would have taken a 4 SP loss) but he has lost a third of his men (6 SP unit). Recovering from the shock of the unexpected charge Oin’s group only inflicts 1 SP loss on the attackers.
There are charges and counter charges for the next couple of turns but eventually, the goblin warriors lose heart and one unit routs. The wolf riders keep their morale until the end but pay for it with annihilation.
In the image above the wolf riders are about done for. They have acquitted themselves well, charging into the crossbowmen two times and fending off a flank attack from the spearmen. My opponent wasn’t too happy that the rules didn’t allow bonuses for flank or rear attacks but by this time the writing was on the wall. The Housecarl unit is in the upper right of the picture, in pursuit of Shagrat and the routing goblins. Testor’s model glue remains on the field after an emergency base repair.
The result is a dwarf victory but we agree it is a minor one. Shagrat escaped into the woods along with many fleeing goblins that the dwarves did not have the mobility to pursue. Shagrat already plans to gather as many goblin stragglers as possible then exaggerate the dwarf losses without causing his superiors to become suspicious. Oin has proven the rumors true and was successful in his mission. Unfortunately, he wonders if the goblins caused more casualties than he can afford later in the campaign.
Next time we’ll play the Armies of Arcana rule set. My friend isn’t totally sold on Dragon Rampant but so far, I’m a fan and willing to try it again.
As a follow on to my last post in which base flocking was mentioned here is the aftermath of the game. I’m glad we played on a green tablecloth. Next time I won’t remove the units from the movement trays when there are casualties and use markers to track casualties. Had a couple of figures come loose from their bases when removing them from the movement trays and the flock that didn’t stick to the glue makes a mess.
This Olyde School post bought to you by Pacifico Clara. This 24 ounce can went down well after the game but I remember more taste when drinking Pacifico’s way back when. Guess there is something to many bloggers complaining about breweries skimping on ingredients to boost profits.