Review: Osprey’s Dragon Rampant

Osprey Dragon Rampant Cover I own two ancient, half painted Games Workshop Warhammer Fantasy armies, and if you’re an older war gamer, you probably do to. As Games Workshop have killed Warhammer Fantasy (and replaced it with an abomination I shall not name here), I’ve been shopping around for a war gaming ruleset that would let me exercise the few figures I have painted.

Mantic’s Kings of War seemed like a reasonable choice until I discovered it would still require me finishing off a whole bunch Orcs, Goblins and Vampire Counts Undead to have a playable force. As I don’t particularly enjoy painting massed rank armies, that effectively killed my interest in Kings of War.

So my WHFB armies were abandoned again, until Robert Singers mentioned Osprey’s “Dragon Rampant”, which is a fantasy version of their Medieval “Lion Rampant” system. As Mighty Ape sell both of these rulebooks for a reasonable price, I snagged a copy of Dragon Rampant.

Dragon Rampant is similar to a lot of modern war games like Osprey’s Frostgrave, or the excellent independent This is Not a Test war game (who have a cool Kickstarter running), in that it’s both scale and figure manufacturer agnostic. The rulebook is aimed at 28mm scale war gaming, but contains tips for scaling down to 15mm. The core Dragon Rampant rules are apparently the same as those found in Lion Rampant, but there is a system of ‘Fantastical Abilities’ that has been added.

The core rules defined a broad group of unit types, like ‘Elite Cavalry’, ‘Light Cavalry’, ‘Medium Foot’, ‘Bellicose Foot’, ‘Greater Warbeast’ etc. which you can most likely use to build units from any collection of Fantasy figures you may possess. On top of those basic unit types, you can purchase the Fantastical Abilities, which allow you to make Flying units, Undead units, units that can cause Fear, be Invisible, cast Magical spells, or own Magical weapons and armor, etc! Pretty much any Fantasy unit can be crafted out of the combination of a basic unit type and these Fantastic buffs, providing you want to pay the cost of course. Elite Undead Cavalry that can cause Fear and turn Invisible are not going to be cheap to field!

Added to unit building flexibility, is a system of unit ‘Strength’ (which equates to our old friend ‘Wounds’). An Elite unit has a Strength of 6, while the larger, cheaper units have a Strength of 12. In Lion Rampant I believe this Strength is one to one for the figures you need, so a 12 Strength unit will require 12 figures. Dragon Rampant relaxes this restriction, so you can field say three large Troll figures as a 6 Strength unit of Warbeasts, or field 6 painted Graveguard miniatures as a 12 Strength unit of Heavy Foot. You can even field your mandatory Leader figure as a single Strength 6 figure if you like. The choice of 6 and 12 as unit Strength sizes is inspired, because of course both those number divide nicely into a number of factors, which lets you build units from as few or as many figures as you have to hand.

The slightly abstracted nature of the units in Dragon Rampant reminds me a little of games like De Bellis Antiquitatis, but the rules are not as fiddly as DBA. There’s no concern about unit facing or ranking up for example, although Foot units can gain a bonus if they do form a solid rank, with their ‘Wall of Spears’ rule.

Dragon Rampant is D6 based, and each unit type has a reasonably fixed block of stats that include Melee, Ranged, Armor, willingness to accept various types of order, and how easily they’re broken in combat when suffering loss of Strength points (aka Wounds). The stats system looks like it’ll be interesting to play, with the fog of war, and problems with chain of command being echoed by the ability, or inability of you to order individual units depending on how well you pass their relevant tests.

Dragon Rampant is unfortunately ‘I go, you go’ (which Games Workshop have taught me to hate), but that’s tempered by the fact that an army will generally have a fairly low unit count, and as soon as you fail to order a unit your turn ends. This gives you some interesting choices, should you try to order a flakier unit first to gain an immediate advantage? Or play it safe and activate your more solid units in a more predictable manner.

I haven’t played Dragon Rampant yet, but I have dusted off both my Vampire Counts and Orc and Goblin armies and managed to produce two, full Dragon Rampant 24 point armies that are almost entirely painted. I’ll have to paint one more Orc archer to finish them off.

Vampire Counts Dragon Rampant Army Here’s my Vampire Count force. It consists of:

  • Leader: Elite Foot, Fear causing, Undead Wight Lord with No Feelings.
  • Lesser Warbeasts: Six Dire Wolves.
  • Heavy Foot: Six Fear causing, Undead Graveguard with No Feelings.
  • Light Foot: Twelve Undead Skeletons with No Feelings.
  • Ravenous Hordes: Twelve Undead Zombies with No Feelings.

Orcs and Goblins Dragon Rampant Army And here’s my Orc and Goblin force. It consists of:

  • Heavy Foot: Twelve Offensive Orcs, with a Leader who’s a Wizardling.
  • Bellicose Foot: Twelve Orcs with Enchanted Weapons
  • Heavy Riders: Two War Chariots.
  • Light Riders: Six Short Range Gobbo Wolf Riders
  • Scouts: Six Orc Archers.

I plan to set up a 4′ x 4′ table in the garage and exercise the rules with my twelve year old son and these two forces in the very near future. It’ll be nice to finally use these figures! The Vampire Counts probably haven’t seen a dice roll in a decade, and the Orcs and Goblins have never been fielded as a force at all.

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