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.

Dipped Warhammer Giant Complete – Warhammer

Dipped Warhammer Giant I don’t have a lot to say here, that I haven’t covered in earlier posts regarding this giant, except to say the beast is finished!

Or rather, mostly finished. I haven’t painted and dipped all of the options that came out of the box, and would still like to have the giant millstone + collar option to play with. Various other giant bits and pieces got added to my Mordheim box for later use. The gibbet and cage for example as it seemed a shame to use them all these great parts on one figure. However I’ve certainly painted enough bits and pieces to have a variety of different looking giant figures on the table for Warhammer Fantasy, or Mordheim.

You may notice some changes since I started painting the figure. In particular I snapped off the plastic arrow I embedded in the left arm so many times I thought to heck with it and just left it off. I also never got around to trying to paint any tattoos or wode on the giant, as Dustan pointed out how difficult it is to get convincing looking tattoos while painting at 28mm scale. So in the end just opted for a dirty, leathery looking skin tone for his torso.

I do still think he needs a little something more detail on the top half. The figure’s torso is very bare and quite odd looking to me. That’s why I want to paint up the millstone + collar, to cover some of that vast square belly. All in all he was pretty quick to paint with brushed on dip and has come out reasonably well. The dip is a little dark though when the figure is on the table, and I probably should have thinned it a little before covering such a large figure with it.

Hopefully I’ll remember this post when it comes to mixing another batch of custom dip…

Dipped Giant Body WIP – Warhammer

I’d hoped to have the Warhammer Giant finished by now, but have got stalled on painting the shields and armor pieces attached to his arms as I was out of metallic paints until recently.

Here he is half painted and brush dipped up to his waist. It’s such a large figure there was no way I was going to dip the whole thing at once, mainly because of the short work time of the moisture cured varnish I based my dip on. So I’ve painted the figure’s base and main body and brushed on dip in two phases. The first was the base and his feet, the second was up to his waist. I was a little nervous about overlapping the dip like this, but of course since it’s varnish there’s no problem with applying multiple coats, or getting a bit of overlap at certain points.

You can see the finish on the varnish is quite shiny. That’s why you need a good matt varnish to use when dipping figures. Once the shine is gone, the dip seems to lighten a bit and the details will be more obvious. Although I am wondering if multiple coats of a less toned dip might be a better option in the future. Mind you a Fantasy Giant probably spends most of his time outdoors, so a particularly dark and leathery skin tone was what I was aiming for with this paint job.

Now to just finish off the shield arms and dip them and he’ll be done! Adding 245 points to my Warhammer Orcs and Goblins army, and possibly making an appearance in Mordheim.

Dipped Giant WIP – Warhammer

Dipped Warhammer Giant As my custom dip mix is still useful after sitting in the tin for over a year, I’ve started dip painting the various heads and hands of my magnetised Warhammer Giant. Here’s what I’ve completed so far: three heads – that’s all of them bar the horned Chaos head (which didn’t really appeal to me), and two sets of hands.

I’m happy with the results which are leathery looking which seems appropriate for a monsterous giant that would sleep rough outdoors. As usual there’s a few problems with small bubbles in the dip – see if you can spot them by clicking on the image to the left, and the dip itself is getting quite thick in the tin. However once again the speed at which I can prime, base and dip parts to a tabletop quality paint job makes it worth while. I should probably pick up a fresh tin and remix some dip if I need some more chestnut dip after finishing the giant.

Dipped Warhammer Giant I’ve started base painting the Giant’s main body too. Here he is with a set of painted bitz snapped on. The body itself is far too large to dip paint in one shot so I’m planning to brush the dip on in stages, working up from the ground base, to legs then torso and finally the arms.

The summer humidity is high here in Auckland at the moment, and my dip is based on a moisture cured polyurethane varnish so the work time is short. I get about five minutes after painting it on to address bubbles and drips before it starts curing. Hopefully this will work, and I’m aiming to paint in sections that have natural seams that will trap the dip, for example the edges of clothing etc.

I’m also considering painting some tattoo or wode details on the Giant’s body to break up the large expanse of naked flesh. That might require a bit of google searching for some suitable inspiration.

Dipped Orc Chariots – Warhammer

Dipped Orc Chariots After I dipped my first Orc Chariot way back in April 2009, I also completed most of the painting on the second one. Unfortunately since then it has been languishing at the back of my paint station in bits. Bits that I’ve been afraid of losing, particularly after I knocked one of the boar traces off the table and had to spend a good 20 minutes scrabbling around the garage floor to find it again.

So, this weekend I put down the Xbox controller long enough to finish the paint job and find my tin of custom chestnut varnish dip. Of course the varnish had completely skinned over in the tin, but some work with a screwdriver revealed plenty of perfectly useful dip still in there.

As usual dipping the figure was a snap and after leaving it to dry for a day or so I also had to dig up my matt varnish (man I really need to tidy up our garage). Unfortunately I made the mistake of varnishing the chariot while the tail end of a tropical cyclone was lashing Auckland city, so humidity was over 95% and of course the varnish started to mist where it was applied in multiple layers. Ah well, the misting isn’t too bad (see if you can spot it on the front chariot above), and actually ending up giving the chariot wood a sort of worn look where the Orcs would be holding on.

At any rate it’s nice to be back in the painting saddle after such a long break. Now I’m eyeballing my primed Warhammer Giant and thinking of how to dip paint him too.

Primer Madness – Orc Edition

Primer Madness - Orcs I haven’t posted for a while because pretty much all I’ve been doing is assembling Orcs and Goblins, basing them and priming them. So here they are:

– The Orc General on foot, assembled from the $40nz Orc Warboss plastic boxed set. To be honest I found this set to be a disappointment. The parts aren’t that interesting, nor that well sculpted. The giant boar in particular was very bland and lacked the surface detail I’d expect. Guess I should have gone with a metal figure for the General. His base is detailed with some spare Zombie heads.

– 24 multi-part Orc Warriors with spears and shields, assembled from a Regiment box mixed with spares I had from other sets. You can probably spot a few Chariot Orc heads in there and a chariot shield, and the Hero is armed with the spare great weapon I had from the Warboss – I’ll just call that a large spear. I’ve got six more to put together to finish the 30 Orc unit.

– 20 of the newer vanilla Night Goblins which are -tiny- compared to their older figures and are another disappointing new plastic set. They’re so small compared to the older Goblins they look like a regiment of Gobbo kids out for a playful afternoon of stabbing small woodland creatures with their sharp sticks.

– Behind the Gobbos there are 15 Zombies. These guys have been assembled for something like four years now, so I dusted them off and finally primed them.

– Finally at the back there’s half of the 10 Orc Archers I’ve assembled, the other five are being painted. I’ve got another 10 to assemble for two small units of Orc Arrer Boyz.

I probably shouldn’t have assembled and primed all this lot at once, because looking at them ranked up like this is kind of daunting to a part time gamer like myself. Even painting them using dipping techniques will be a reasonable amount of work.

I’ve also spent a fair amount of time patching my Games Workshop plastic Giant. It’s a nice figure, but it’s got a heck of a lot of large seams to patch because of it’s huge, hollow multi-part assembly. As I’ve also elected to put together all his weapon options I’ve got to patch them too, since many of them also have very prominent seams. Patching is tedious work, but it’s worth it in the end when you’ve got no obvious seams on the painted figure.

Plasticard Movement Trays – Warhammer

Plasticard Movement Trays I’m still assembling and painting Orcs, and have enough of them now that I’m sick of shuffling them around a game table manually. Instead of buying a set of GW movement trays and cutting them to size for the larger bases that Orcs use, I dusted off some old Evergreen plasticard sheet I’ve had laying around in the garage. I originally bought it for basing DBA units, which doesn’t take a heck of a lot of plasticard since they’re 15mm troops.

The base of the tray is 2mm white plasticard cut to hold a 6 x 5 ranking of Orcs. The tray edging is 1mm plasticard cut into a 1mm long strip and super-glued in place. Thin styrene cut into narrow strips like this tends to curl a reasonable amount so be prepared to carefully bend it back into a straight line. Look at the larger photo and you may notice some slight wavering along the edges because frankly I wasn’t that careful. A single sheet of styrene built two 6 x 5 Orc sized movement trays, with enough left over to make a small cavalry movement tray for 6 x Goblin Dire Wolf riders.

I’ll wash the trays in dish-washing detergent to clean them, then prime them with a cheap black spray can and matt varnish them lightly to get a nice flat black that will blend into the Orc bases. After all on the game table, nobody will be paying any attention to your movement trays.

The photo also shows I’m about 40% of the way through assembling the second unit of Orc spear + shield warriors. Multi-part regiment boxes take a lot longer to assemble than two part Battalion boxes – that’s for sure.

Magnetised Giant – Warhammer

Magnetised Games Workshop Giant Torso I’ve been assembling the Games Workshop plastic Giant I purchased recently and while admiring all the head and weapon options you have in the box I thought why should I have to pick just one? Fortunately I still have around 80 rare earth magnets left from my purchase from Aussie Magnets several years ago.

Magnetised Games Workshop Giant Hands So I busted out my 1mm, 2mm and 3mm drill bits and started to drill a bunch of holes in the giant. As the figure is well, giant in 28mm scale, there was ample room to sink 3mm diameter by 2mm deep magnets into the limbs and hand choices. The first shot shows how I’ve placed the magnets on the main figure, after that it was just a matter of drilling out each and every hand and weapon option I wanted to use – which turned out to be all of them of course.

To place the magnets appropriately I used my own Blu Tack pinning method. Also If you’re wondering why I’m using three drill bits when one would suffice, it’s because I find sinking a guide hole and then drilling that out slowly to the right size gives you much more control than just slapping the 3mm bit against the plastic and hoping for the best. Control is particularly important when you’re drilling narrow pieces, or potentially drilling close to the surface of the sculpted plastic.

Magnetised Games Workshop Giant Heads The hands turned out so well I magnetised the heads too. This required some careful drilling as the magnets were placed in the top of the skull as it’s the widest point of contact on the figure’s neck. The plastic does get thin up there though and I ended up leaving the magnets protruding about 0.5 mm out of the skull interior, rather than risk through drilling, resulting in tedious patching work. You can clearly see this in the photo. I drilled out all of the heads except the Chaos one, because frankly I think the horns look a little dopey – and I don’t play a Chaos force anyway.

Magnetised Games Workshop Giant Once the drilling and gluing was finished, I spent an amusing half an hour with my six year old son in the garage trying head and arm swaps. He liked the way you could pop the ‘enslaved giant’ collar on with the millstone, and then snap a number of different heads on over it, and also the way you could attach hands and then swivel them into different poses.

The rare earth magnets are easily strong enough to hold the head and smaller ‘free’ hands on during play. The weapon hands all stay in place fairly robustly except the large Orcish ‘dragon’s head’ club (see photo) which is really just too top heavy. It doesn’t detach from the figure, but will swivel downwards pretty easily. During play I suspect a little blu tack in the join will help stop that.

Now I just have to patch, prime and paint the beastie!

Heat Forming Plastic Night Goblins – Warhammer

Plastic Night Goblin Fanatics I haven’t posted for a while, because I’ve been slowly assembling the various bits and pieces from my Imperial Games Warhammer order, and while I enjoy making GW plastic figures, it doesn’t make for very interesting blogging. To date I’ve built most of a Warhammer Giant, a box of 20 Night Goblins, three Fanatics, an Orc Boss and around 20 Orc Arrer boyz (from my original battalion boxes). I’ve also cleaned up and reprimed a bunch of stuff too – 20 Zombies are ready for painting, which would take the me up to 40 in total. I’ve also got the final five Orc Boyz primed too which would take my first Orc unit to 30, and I’m half way through painting the second Boar Chariot.

Anyway, while assembling the plastic Goblin Fanatics I was disappointed by the bland look of the straight chains their balls of whirling death are on. It doesn’t really match the fluff, so I thought I’d try heat bending the thermoplastic GW figures are molded from. Searching on the internet it seems people use all sorts of methods to reshape GW plastics. I didn’t fancy hair driers, heat guns or open flames so resorted to boiling water. Bringing a pot to the boil on the stove I held the Fanatics in for a minute using cooking chopsticks. The plastic chains became easily bendable so I put gentle curves into all of them, although I wonder if I shouldn’t have gone more extreme and tried for a spiral or u-bend?

It was so easy I wonder why I haven’t tried this years ago with other GW plastics. I discovered something else too – GW black plastic bases are made of an awful cheap and crappy thermoplastic. I made the mistake of leaving the round bases on the Fanatics while I was boiling them and the bases shrunk and warped considerably in the process. Oh well, I’ve got plenty of square bases to spare so just replaced them, since basing makes no difference as they move randomly with scatter dice.

Dipped Zombie Unit – Warhammer

Dipped Zombie Unit I’ve dipped another ten Zombies since I mixed my own green dip and I’ve added in the five Zombies I painted slowly years ago to create this small unit. Can you spot the hand painted vs the dipped Zombies? It’s not that hard to do, but I’m happy to see they blend in nicely with the newer dipped figures, which really goes to show the strength of the dipping technique. Individually the figures aren’t that great, but overall the unit looks quite nicely foetid which is exactly the effect I was hoping green dip would have.

The custom movement tray is just a standard GW movement try that’s had some resin cast details from a Hirst Arts mold pinned to it and painted. It looks quite nice but frankly can be a bit of a hassle to place figures into as they tend to snag on the details. Looking at it again, I wonder if I shouldn’t brush a little dip on that bronze as well.

Dipped Zombies I’ve got a bunch more Zombies taking a stripping bath at the moment to remove some incomplete paint jobs, and I’ve got another handful to patch up and prime. In fact I’m considering salvaging my original Vampire Counts Border Patrol Force from 2004 and getting them finally finished using dip. To complete them wouldn’t take much effort once the Zombies are done. From memory I think I had a handful of metal Grave Guard to finish as well, and they can certainly go through the green dip. In fact I might try a little highlighting over the base coat prior to dipping, rather than the simple flat base colours I’ve been doing so far.

Dipped Zombies For reference here’s close-ups of the two extra ranks of five Zombies I’ve painted. You can see I’ve been experimenting with a variety of skin tones, from a lighter green to a lighter turqouise to a slightly over the top dark turqouise tone. Dip gives your figures quite a natural range of tones even if you base them with the same colour (thinned GW Camo Green in this case) but I thought I’d mix it up a little and see how it works. The blue skin tones came out fairly well, giving the figures a drowned or maybe frostbitten appearance. I wanted to experiment with some purple skin tones as well, but couldn’t find any purple paint in my collection – and frankly couldn’t be bothered mixing a custom tone for a couple of figures. Ah well, maybe a few in the next batch!