Sunday, February 7, 2016

Lion Rampant?

Yup. And Dragon Rampant, too. Do I like em? Yup. Wanna know why? Because they remind me of DBA/HOTT. A lot. And you know coming from me that's high praise.

So how are they similar? Both games primary design goal was for a simple, fast game. DBA 3.0, in its introduction, says, "Our original intent was to provide the simplest possible set of wargames rules that retain the feel and generalship requirements of ancient or medieval battle." Similarly, Lion Rampant states,"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 one session." DBA 3.0 concurs: "A game usually lasts less than an hour, so that a 6 round convention competition can be completed in one day. . ."

Significantly for me, their key similarity is the way the combatants are defined. As DBA 3.0 describes: "Wargamers pay more attention to weaponry than did ancient commanders. Surviving ancient manuals lump all foot skirmishers as psiloi whether armed with javelins, sling or bow, defining them by function rather than armament. We have applied the same principle throughout with no apparent loss of overall realism. Morale and training distinctions have also been discarded as linked with function. Thus, most knights are rash, all warbands are fierce but brittle, all skirmishers are timid."

Lion Rampant takes a similar approach: "Embrace medieval caricatures: knights should be headstrong, spearmen resolute, tribesmen fierce, and light cavalry agile. Performance is abstracted: make sure units 'feel' right." Unlike DBARampant embraces unit training upgrades and downgrades, providing some differentiation between "green" and "veteran" units. Again unlike DBA, Rampant uses a point system to build equivalent opposing forces.

Here's a spreadsheet I built showing how the two game systems classify similar troop types in both "historical" and "fantastical" manner. . . I know.

Both games use about the same number of models to represent an "army;" about fifty figures, give or take a few, depending on the army. This permits one to collect a variety of different armies when one has budget or time constraints. Aesthetically, this works in Lion Rampant's favor, as it is designed to represent skirmishes, as opposed to DBA's focus on classic field battles. Another nod to the skirmish level of Rampant is the use of scenarios, which provides some variation from the classic "line 'em up and go at it" nature inherent to larger battles. Models are based individually in Rampant, instead of on "elements" of 2 or more representing larger units in DBA, and this also appeals to the "skirmish aesthetic" because terrain can be more complex and interesting when you don't have to accommodate large bases. I hope it's become apparent that building convincing terrain has become a big part of the hobby for me. 

HOTT (the fantasy companion of DBA) has been criticized (not by me) for an overly simplistic representation of magic, and if that is your assessment, you may like Dragon Rampant's simple but more detailed spell system.

Rampant uses an activation system that has become fairly common today; an activation roll on one or more dice, but gives it a nice nuance by rating each type of unit for movement, shooting, charging and morale, neatly giving each type (knights, spearmen, etc.) a personality and definite battlefield use.

What does all this mean? I am definitely not leaving DBA 3.0 for Ancients "army-scale" gaming, and may use 15mm to get more of that "massed army" feel, but for my Dark Age/Fantasy gaming I am seriously considering moving toward the Rampant family of rules and individual basing, and using some of my F&IW terrain in dual service. Individual bases also have the added advantage of permitting other skirmish rules to be played, too, should I get the opportunity.

And, because someone is bound to ask, "How does Dragon Rampant compare to Saga?" here is my take. I understand why the battleboard system, with special boards and dice for each Dark Age faction, is appealing to gamers of the period. In most wargames rules, one Dark Age warrior fights much like another, so the battleboards and faction-specific rules of Saga give each warband a unique personality. But for me, the system intrudes upon the game "experience;" I am too conscious of the game and its mechanics and less involved with the "narrative" unfolding. 

So we'll see if this goes anywhere. I am deep into the Great 54mm Basing Upgrade still. . .

See ya!