Belated update

Dragon Rampant: Men of the West vs Goblins!

Dragon Rampant?! What the-?!!!

I know, right? Dragon Rampant hasn’t even been mentioned on this blog since I started it… not a whiff even in my 2 annual Top 10 lists or honourable Mentions. And here I am suddenly posting a game play report. What gives?

Well, I've actually had the rules in my cloud drive since the last Osprey Black Friday Sale recently. Then I watched a couple of Dragon Rampant battle reports on the Oldhammer Youtube channel while I was watching some of their Pulp Alley videos and the game suddenly tickled my interest. I knew about the varying activation a la A Song of Blades and Heroes (roll to activate your unit and if you fail, initiative goes to the opposing side) but having the defender battle back at the attacker was a nice surprise and it’s a game feature that’s right up my (pulp) alley! I didn’t expect that in a mass battle game since I’m more used to the “one side stands there and takes it” and maybe all they can do is to roll some saves. This is much more like it!

Next, I realised my 15(?)mm Battlelore 1st Ed. minis would make perfect warbands for this game.

So I finally statted up some Men of the West vs the Goblins in A Gory Bloodbath on the Plains of Doom. Basically hitting each other until everyone is dead.

I also played the game solo to learn the rules and it’s surprisingly solo-able as the uncertain activation really puts a spanner in the works and wrecks any plans you might make for your warband. 

It was interesting to see both sides advance up in fits and starts thanks to failed activation rolls. 

But once they came into combat, things started getting interesting!

Lesson #1: don’t let your cavalry (even heavy) charge at trolls. Just… don’t. 😝 Go for easier prey... like the mounted goblin archers in the background.

Something else I discovered: unlike most other games, Dragon Rampant only gives you ONE action every time you activate. So you can Move… and that’s it. Or Shoot… and don’t move. So simple… yet illustrates command and control issues perfectly. The only benefit is Attack where you can move into contact with an enemy unit and then battle begins!

Aside from the aforementioned defender battles back against the attacker, the game also streamlines a lot of stuff. So you either roll 12d6's when you're at 50-100% health or 6d6's when you're under 50%. The number of successes is then compared to the defender's armour stat and a casualty is taken when the hits equal the armour stat. Example: if your armour is 2, then it takes 2 hits to cause a casualty and so on.

Another thing is that Morale plays a big part in the game and most units will rout off the table rather than be cut down to the last man (or goblin). If you take any casualties an an attack (melee or ranged) you need to take a Courage (Morale) test. Most tests are taken with 2d6s. And it’s surprising how quickly a side will melt away once it starts taking casualties.

If you pass your Courage test… nothing happens. But if you fail it, then it depends how badly you fail. If you roll and get a final score that’s less than your Courage stat but more than 0, then your unit is Battered. Some historical games would call it “disordered” where you retreat a ways away and need to be rallied to be back in firing fit condition again. Woe betide a Battered unit that’s attacked again!

And even the side that won the combat needs to take a Courage test if it takes any casualties. And funky dice rolls could mean BOTH defending and attacking units could end up battered or routing! I think I might house rule that to give the side that caused more casualties a +1 bonus to the Courage roll. That might help them pass it a bit more.

And all of the above is to say that the Men of the West lost the battle badly. Thanks (in part) to an Insipid leader that didn’t add any bonus to his side’s Courage tests (something most leaders are able to do). And then when a side starts losing units, the entire war band needs to take a Courage test when they reach 50% of points lost (not units) and so a bad situation can accelerate to something even worse. And woe betide the side that loses its leader. That triggers ANOTHER warband-wide Courage test. Something they are not likely to do if they leader had been killed/routed and they are down to less than half their starting points value.

Added to all that, my Leader was also vainglorious and stupid. I didn't spend the points to give him Level Headed, so he stupidly Wild Charged anything and everything that came within charging distance! I know that's super historical given the accounts of Elite Riders (aka "Knights") of the period... but that was sooooo annoying as I couldn't extricate him out of the range of 2 Goblin Light Foot units. He died fighting. Vaingloriously.

In the end, the goblins covered themselves in Glory (all 5 points of it) while the Men of the West had none.

TL;DR: Dragon Rampant ticks a lot of the boxes of what I’m looking for in a game nowadays. Many of the things I raved about in my previous post about Pulp Alley also hold true for Dragon Rampant.

If there’s a fly in the ointment, I'd say the warbands aren't as fantastical as they could be given that this is a fantasy game. I've seen some folks mention this and now I've played it, I tend to agree. There should be at least some racial bonus that's baked into a unit. For example a unit of dwarves could have the "Doughty" skill baked in to their stats so they are always +1 to the armour or Elves could have either +1 to shoot or extra movement for free instead of paying for it and increasing the cost of the unit.

However, the rules are robust enough that I suppose you could houserule some racial characteristics to give extra fantasy flavour to the game, and MOAR spells, please!

I like the game, and will try to introduce it to my gaming group now that we have a subsection called Minis Agnostic Gaming. 

If what I've outlined above interests you, it's pretty cheap to pick up a copy of the rules either printed or PDF (my personal preference) and give it a go with the minis you have on hand. The game is sandboxy enough to accommodate nearly any fantasy style army you'd wish to field.