Thursday, September 29, 2022

Let's do the Rampant again!

It's astounding
Time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll
But listen closely
Not for very much longer
I've got to keep control

Last month, without warning, I serendipitously learned that Osprey was set to release the second edition of Dan Mersey's Lion Rampant medieval rules (LR2). I *immediately* went to Amazon and pre-ordered them and found to my further serendipitous delight that the release date was just days away and my copy would be delivered on the release date, August 16th! Not to understate my reaction, but I was pleased. As the delivery day approached, I felt like a kid on the day before Christmas waiting for the hours to tick away.

I had that Ramones song in my head:
Twenty-twenty-twenty-four hours to go
I wanna be sedated
Nothing to do, nowhere to go home
I wanna be sedated
Upon receiving the wondrous tome of rampancy, I read through it eagerly—indeed, rampantly. The following are my observations.

The song remains (mostly) the same

As the Rampant rules system developed, it was always tempting to retrofit rules from variants onto the older LR rules. The new rules don't do that in any formal sense.

It's a bit of a disappointment, but actually, nearly all of of the rules in LR2 remain the same as in LR1. The 2014 rules haven't been removed or replaced. LR2 mostly clarifies a few rules that were murky heretofore and enhances some others. What the rules do offer, however, is alternatives or optional rules. It should be noted that most of these options have been floating around the interwebs for years. What LR2 does is to formalize them—as options.

I'd hoped for more substantive changes to courage tests into something more like what's in Rebels and Patriots, where only the immediate figure loss incurs minuses, rather than cumulative loss—but no.

The "one and done" aspect of ending an activation phase has been irksome to players from the get-go. I was never bothered by it, but in multiplayer games there's always someone who cannot—cannot—roll higher than a 2 for activation and never manages to activate a single unit. They wind up sulking like Achilles in his tent, disparaging the game, the rules, you, your mother, etc. Ya gotta pity 'em (I've been there myself), but it's a rare occurrence. (Note from experience: Telling those players "sucks to be you" does not ameliorate the situation.) The original rule that ended your activation on any failed test, even the first, made things pretty wild and wooly. As Dan explains in the LR2 rules, that wild and wooliness is what he intended. The alternate rule where every unit tests regardless of any failures isn't the feel he thinks the rules should have, but it's there for people who want it.

Unit proximity—the rule that units must remain 3" apart from other units unless fighting them—is still there, but there's an alternative (p. 25) that reduces the distance to 1", but that requires some mental retrofitting in places where the 3" proximity rule is assumed, such as retreats and line of sight. Although some people grouse ad nauseum about the 3" proximity rule, I've always liked it. Not tolerated it, mind you, but liked it. Even with the 3" rule in play, gamers tend to bunch up as if they're trying to fit their whole retinue in as small a space as possible for, I guess, reasons... I keep having to remind players when I run a game that minis are a 3D experience, not hex and counter; there's no stacking.

Even though the names of the troop types have changed, the stats haven't. Mounted Men-at-Arms are now Elite Cavalry, but the only change is the name. The name change allows more inclusion of types that might not otherwise be considered on par with the fully-armored knights of Agincourt etc.

The fact that there are no substantive changes to the rules indicates that LR1 works exactly the way Dan wanted it to work, what's there to change?

In the bits that outline optional or alternative rules, Dan explains some of his philosophy behind the rule and generally expresses his preference for it. In other words: Here's the alternative you've been clamouring for—but you really shouldn't use it. It feels a bit like that line from the Monty Python Bruces sketch: "As he's going to be teaching politics, I've told him he's welcome to teach any of the great socialist thinkers, provided he makes it clear that they were wrong."

Changes (OK, so there are some)

As mentioned, the names of the troop types have changed to allow for a more inclusive approach. They still remain medievaloid in flavor, but calling your Dark Age hearthguard "Elite Foot" rather than "Foot Men-at-Arms" feels more appropriate, even if the substance is the same.

"Retinue" is now "warband." I shall not comply. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but it's still properly called a rose, dammit! As Cicero wrote, "Here is your Stoic decision—'The wise man will call a spade a spade.'" Thus, a retinue is a retinue. So let it be written, so let it be done.

"Schiltron" is now "wall of spears," which reminds me too much of Wall of Voodoo

I think I would have preferred "spearwall," which nicely parallels "shieldwall" ("wall of shields"?). Although "wall of voodoo" would be a nice addition to Dragon Rampant.

More substantively, leaders now intrinsically have the Commanding skill, which provides a +1 to activations for units within 12". This is consistent with what The Pikeman's Lament and Rebels and Patriots do.

Also, a failed wild charge test (i.e., when you didn't go off on a wild charge) doesn't end the activation for the testing unit. The "failed" unit can subsequently test for a regular activation.


Dan has added handgonners as an optional troop type using three different models, no less! And yes, as my stalwart blog readers can attest, I do love me them fearsome boomsticks of war. These are the same optional rules that Dan provided years ago on a Boardgame Geek forum because I'm not the only handgonne-lover in town.

The rules also provide an option for slingers as a specific troop type, rather than just an alternate set of figures to use as archers. They don't shoot as far (max. 12"), but they cost less at 3 pts. You can use the extra point to buy a commander skill or upgrade another unit.

The rules have expanded backwards to the Dark Ages, so my existing and in-progress Saga armies can be made to do double duty.


There are several clarifications, which I won't detail here. Let it suffice to say that some of those murky "how do I work this?" rules are now made more explicit or at least their murkiness dispelled. There's an appendix (Appendix C) in the rules that list all the differences from 1st edition.


The new edition (or re-release) has inspired me to paint medieval minis. I bought into Footsore's initial kickstarter for their Baron's Wars range. They sat in the box they came in for quite a while. I've now pulled them out and started painting them. I also acquired more figures so I could make a full RETINUE.

I've only done eight bowmen so far. That's all I got in the kickstarter. I have four more now, so I can make a full unit of 12. I also got slingers to use as skirmishers (although I do like the old name "bidowers"). Even more than handgonnes, I love slingers.

I look forward to playing a lot more Lion Rampant, which includes finally getting some traction on the long-unfinished Medieval minis that have had no love from me for more than a decade (almost two!).

Don't dream it, be it

I recommend the new edition. It's got a nice hardback format, the extras and clarifications are worth the price, and—most importantly—all your friends have theirs. In short: Dammit, Janet, give the new Lion Rampant a try. It's just a jump to the left...

I remember doing the Rampant
Drinking those moments when
The blackness would hit me
And the void would be calling

Let's do the Rampant again!
Let's do the Rampant again!

1 comment:

  1. I do like the new hardbacked book and glad I didn't have to learn any new rules, taking them back to the Dark Ages is tempting !