Monday, December 12, 2022

2022: A Space Rampancy

Kind of like the Lion Rampant v2 release, the Xenos Rampant release took me by surprise. That's a good thing. I recall lamenting for a year that The Pikeman's Lament wasn't released yet. I hate waiting. I think I might have had some inkling about the XR rules being forthcoming a while back, but I didn't pay much attention. Then just last week I saw a post on FB by a friend of mine saying he'd received his copy of the rules. I immediately reached out to a well-known, somewhat large-ish online retailer of books (and many, many other things) and in two days, I had my copy too.

So the Rampant world has spaced out and gone to infinity and beyond! That's one  small step for rules, one giant leap for rampancy. When we last went rampant, black powder was still all the rage (itself a move up from javelins, arrows, and slingstones). Now we're looking at sci-fi high-tech weaponry and all that. The monolith has appeared, a new evolution is triggered.

Xenos Rampant is a nice hardback book coming in at 192 pages, most of which is intro, unit profiles, scenarios, and appendices (which are actually more of a QRS). The core rules run from page 44 to page 72. 

Rules overview

As expected from any Rampant product, the base mechanics are quickly grasped due to their similarity to other Rampant rules. However, there are exceptions that stand out with Xenos Rampant that makes it come into its own.

Unit sizes

The basic unit size is 5 strength points for all but Militia Rabble, which is 10. Strength points (SPs) essentially equate to number of figures, but single- and reduced-model units are possible. A vehicle, for example, is a single model with 5 SPs. Elite Infantry are 5 SPs, but the  unit can be two or three figures because it represents some pretty serious power-armored troopers. This is a big departure from previous rampancy where most units are 12 figures and some 6. Rebels and Patriots introduced the ability to increase a unit's size from 6 to 12 or 12 to 18 figures, or decrease it from 12 to 6. 

XR units can only increase, although some unit types can't be more than 5 SPs. At +2 points, the Increased Squad Size option not only gives you more figures/targets, but also increases your unit's performance. For example, the Light Infantry unit type with 5 SPs has an Attack Value of 6, Defence Value of 5+, and a Shooting Value of 6/18". If you pay the points to increase it to 10 SPs, the values become 5+, 4+, and 5+/18". The points cost isn't too dear when you consider that a base Light Infantry unit cost only 1 point, the options (and xeno rules) that start driving up the cost.

Options galore

In earlier Rampant rules, the base cost of a unit was typically 6, 4, or 2 points. Any options for the unit added to that, but there were usually only a few options. Units in XR can be more customized, which is in fact what you're doing with any unit you build. For example, Heavy Infantry has a base cost of only 2 points, but has a wide variety of options to alter the base profile.

Xeno rules (pages 74-93) provide even more customizations that can apply to any unit type. They're similar to the fantastical rules in Dragon Rampant. In fact, they're very similar; mostly the names have changed and instead of magic, the effects are made by technology (or alien wizardry).

Free actions

Taking a note from The Men Who Would Be Kings, Xenos Rampant allows some units to take certain actions for free, i.e., no activation roll required. In most cases, these actions are either move or shoot; however, Elite Infantry have both free attack and shoot actions. Kevin Smyth and I have discussed adding free actions to Rebels and Patriots, so it's encouraging to see it here. There are other nuances to XR that can be retrofitted to earlier Rampant rules.


The Firefight special rule (intrinsic to most units, so no cost to add) allows certain unit types to attempt simultaneous shooting at the first opposing unit to target them (i.e., once per turn at most). The rule means that you don't just have to grimace and take it when being shot at—unless you're being shot at by a lot of units. This rule, too, is something that could be retrofitted to Rebels and Patriots or even The Pikeman's Lament.

To maximum effective range and beyond!

In keeping with the big techno-shift in XR, most unit types can fire to infinity (or to the edge of the table, whichever is encountered first). A unit's Shooting Value is for a given range, typically 12", 18", or 24". Any unit types with a given range greater than 12" can target units beyond their range, but with a penalty of +1 to the target unit's armor value. This is similar to the long range effect in other Rampant rules. However, in the earlier rules you could never target a unit beyond your max range. In XR, there's effectively no max range. It's just effective range and beyond.

Environment agnosticism

I can't say that I'm an expert on sci-fi game rules, but all of them that I know of are written for a fictional environment and all unit types conform to that world. It often felt to me that the environment got in the way of the rules. I'd rather create my own fictional narrative rather than conform to another. I want rules that just let my sci-fi dudes shoot each other and the game is won or lost by tactics, guile, or dumb luck. Also, the environments often gave particular skills or technology to one faction/race/species to the chagrin or detriment of others. Playing in some games, I was often reminded of the chase in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where they couldn't believe the Pinkerton's ability to keep on their track.

It does begin to get on your nerves when someone you seem to shoot to bits just shakes it all (or most of it) off because, well, technology—technology that your faction lacks (dammit).

The unit capabilities, special rules, options, and xeno rules in Xenos Rampant rules apply to everyone. That doesn't mean every game is a fair fight—or the forces well matched—but you get to select the abilities you want as long as you pay for them. There's no scenario where some uber-tech faction can take more hits than you, or shoot farther, or unleash more truly hellish hell on you because they're just better than you according to the game environment.

You saw me standing alone

Xenos Rampant is my return to a gaming genre I've only ever dipped my feet into, but have always had a fascination for. I played Silent Death in the 90s and after selling off all my stuff, returned to it again (with a much smaller footprint) in 2013, but haven't played in nearly a decade since—though I still have all my round 2 toys. In 2015 I started playing Beyond the Gates of Antares and buying the hideously expensive minis for it. I enjoyed that for a while, but later sold it all at our regional gaming convention for I'm pretty sure less than I paid for it.

Ever since I first saw them, I've been crushing on the Blue Moon 28mm Aliens and Spacemen figures that are available through Old Glory Miniatures, despite never knowing what I would do with the minis if I bought them. They're not cheap, running $44.00 for a pack of 10 figures—though still much less expensive than BTGOA minis. However, because I'm a member in good standing of the Old Glory Army, I can buy the packs for $26.40. I must note, however, that historical minis from Old Glory come 30 figures in a bag for the same price. Why are sci-fi minis more expensive? I guess, because they can be and gamers will still buy them. 

Anyway, I ordered enough Blue Moon minis to make 2 x 5 SP Elite Infantry units, 2 x 10 SP Heavy Infantry units, and 2 x 5 SP Recon Infantry units. I'm pretty sure that after building out the units with options and xeno rules, I will have too many minis.

Final thoughts

I'm pretty excited by Xenos Rampant. Richard Cowen has done a great job adapting a game engine intended for Medieval warfare to a futuristic, hi-tech warfare scene. I finally have reason to buy the Blue Moon spacemen I've been wanting. I think they're a great evolution of the Rampant system. They can also be used for WW2 or really any 20th c. gaming. It's yet another project on my overfilled plate, but I think they'll paint quickly. It's kind of the attitude I had that launched me into 1914.

No comments:

Post a Comment