Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dragon Rampant

I’ve been doing lots of planning and organizing and imagining and dreaming about putting together a few forces for Dragon Rampant… but then this afternoon I got to thinking “why the heck don’t I just get on with playing it with whatever I can gather up from the hordes of fantasy miniatures I already have!?” And so I did…

I cobbled together a couple forces that were a mix of multi-figure-based elements from Hordes of the Things armies and individually based figures for skirmish gaming or role-playing.

I apologize in advance for the abysmal quality of the photos. The room we played in has the WORST lighting… I really need to clear off the tables in the basement and get back to playing games down there, were, unbelievably the lighting is better!?


The nasty smelly Orcs of Puljack’s Punks have been rampaging about the good lands of Twinklebottom. Deciding this must be stopped Galadria Thistlebottom set out to intercept them and put an end to their rampage!


We played the Death Chase scenario out of the Dragon Rampant book. The boy played the “defending” Ocs (defending against an ambush set by the elves), and the Girl played the “attacking” elves.

The Defenders set up on one short end of the table, the Attackers set up on either (or both) of the long ends but not within 18” of any of the Defenders troops. The Defender gets Glory points for getting troops off the opposite end of the table (3 points for a unit over half strength, 1 for a unit at or under half strength), the Attacker gets points (2) for each enemy unit destroyed or routed.


I came up with the forces from my own collection of figures, but the kids provided all the names.

(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)

Puljacks Punks

Puljacks Punks (Heavy Riders, Leader) 4 points
Brambley’s boys (Heavy Riders) 4 points
The Skullhelm Brothers (Heavy Riders) 4 points
Worlen the White’s Woeful Wargs (Lesser Warbeasts) 4 points
Gurjunk’s Grunts (Heavy Foot, Offensive) 6 points
Skimpy’s Scouts (Scouts) 2 points

Galadria Thistlebottom’s Warband

Galadria Thistlebottom (Scout, Spellcaster, Single Model Unit) 6 points
Bluehood Division 2 (Light Missiles, Sharpshooters) 6 points
Bluehood Division 3 (Light Missiles, Sharpshooters) 6 points
Purple Loincloth Division 54 (Light Missiles, Sharpshooters) 6 points


As per the scenario, The Boy set up his orcs in contact with one of the short ends and The Girl set up her elves on the long ends.

At some point the kids selected some Glory Quests. The Boy picked “I Shall Strike the First Blow”, and the Girl picked “My Arrows Are Deadlier Than My Spears!” and “Our Missiles shall rain down upon them!”.

We also rolled for Leader Traits. The Girl rolled “Brave” – her leader’s unit is not affected by Fear (which wasn’t really an issue as none of The Boy’s units caused fear). The Boy rolled “Sky Darkener” – each turn one unit within 12” automatically passes a shoot activation test… now THAT one the girl totally could have used. If she’d gotten that one this would have been a much, much shorter game!

Turn One

The Elves had the first go. The Girl decided to move Galadria Thistlebottom..

Galadria Thistlebottom didn’t want to move…

So the Orcs had their go. The Boy thought he’d start off with The Skullhelm Brothers…

They seemed a bit reluctant to get things moving as well!?

Seemed an inauspicious start to the game - I'm sure the kids were wondering what the heck kind of game I was making them play... 

Turn Two

The elves woke up and everyone moved. The Orcs did the same – except for the Wolves (which had been left off table as there wasn’t room for them to deploy, they were unable to move onto the table this turn)

Turn Three

Galadria Thistlebottom cast Power Bolt on Puljacks Punks and knocked out one of the wolf-riding orcs. It was decided amongst the kids that what she actually cast was a torrent of toads and one of the wolves stepped on one and squished it into go and slipped on the goo and the Orc rider fell off and got one of the toads in his mouth and choked on it and died. Kids.

On of the Archer units failed to activate ending the Elves turn…

The Skulhelm Brothers failed to move ending the Orcs turn…

Turn Four

Galadria Thistlebottom moved out into the middle of the battlefield to be in a more central location to both block the advance of the orc horde and offer support to the units under her command. Then her units didn’t move and all of the orc horde moved rapidly towards her!

Turn Five

Galadria Thistlebottom moved back into the swamp! For a third turn in a row none of the Elf Archers did a thing… I was starting to wonder about play balance and I think The Girl was starting to wonder if any of her elves would survive and what kind of stupid warband did dad come up with her to play…

Luckily the Orcs failed their first activation and went nowhere as well.

Turn Six

Aaaaand this turn NONE of the Elves did anything at all… at least during their OWN activations…

Brambley’s Boys charged over a hill and straight into a unit of Elf archers! The Elf archer were caught by surprise and two were run down as they fell back (in good order – despite their losses, they kept their sh!t together and did not fail their courage check)

+1 Glory for the Orcs for succeeding in their Glory Quest of  “I Shall Strike the First Blow” (being the first unit to make a successful Attack – Attack here referring to a melee attack, as opposed to Shooting or Defending) 

Then all the other Orcs units moved. Things not looking so good for the elves…. Yes, it was starting to look like these Orcs were just going to waltz across the table sweeping everything before them and the elves wouldn’t even get in a shot.

And then it was Turn Seven…

Turn Seven

Galadria Thistlebottom started things off by unleashing another Torrent of Toads (Power Bolt) at the Skulhelm Brothers – taking TWO of them out of action!

Then the Purple Loincloth Division 54 darkened the skies with their arrows and killed a third. Two Orcs getting killed when inundated with a Torrent of Toads… who could take that seriously!? It’s comical, right? But when they lost that one dude to bow fire, well that’s when the Orcs lost it and fled!

Unfortunately the archers on the other flank with the Orc Wolf Riders breathing down their neck didn’t quite get their stuff together enough to get off a volley before the wolves were upon them again (Elves failed to activate on a shoot order, Orcs passed another attack order… of course that was after the Skulhelm Brothers and the wolves failed their Wild Charge Check…). This time the Elves lost three more – but still managed to pass their courage check! Unfortunately they lost more than the single casualty their caused so they were obliged to retire once again. 

Puljacks Punks surged forward once again – almost leaving his entire warband behind!? Another move or two and they’d be off the table.

Turn Eight

Galadria Thistlebottom and the Purple Loincloth Division 54 standing around doing nuthin…

So the Wolves did another Wild Test charge and tore off after the retreating elves!

Three more elves were lost and this time they did fail their courage test (but luckily didn’t route!).

Brambley’s Boys failed the first Ordered Activation and were unable to follow up and chase down the fleeing Elves.

Turn Nine

The Girl failed to rally her battered elves and the remaining survivors fled off the table. The Bluehood Division 3 was made of sterner stuff and rained arrows down on the wolves that had mauled their comrades… killing one of them. But somehow that one dying wolf’s howls caused panic among the pack and set them to flight!

Yipe! Yipe! Yipe!

Galadria Thistlebottom and the Purple Loincloth Division 54 rained down toads and arrows on the Skulhelm Brothers knocking two more out of action – leaving a single the Skulhelm Brother on the field – he kept his cool though passing all courage tests!

Later in the turn the Wolves rallied and Brambley’s Boys charged up the hill at Bluehood Division 3 – both lost one in the melee, both passed their courage tests, so it was Brambley’s Boys that had to retreat back down the hill!

The Skulhelm Brother, Puljacks Punks, and Gurjunk’s Grunts all moved. Skimpy’s Scouts thought they might shoot at the magician, but then a toad croaked nearby and it scared the living daylights out of them and they hid a little deeper in the marsh.

Turn Ten

Bluehood Division 3 rained arrows down on Brambley’s Boys, killing another but failing to scatter them.

Puljacks Punks ran off the table edge scoring another +3 Glory. All the other orcs felt abandoned and were unable to activate this turn.

Turn Eleven

Bluehood Division 3 rained arrows down on Brambley’s Boys once again, killing another two and cased them to fail a courage check and retire. Galadria Thistlebottom and the Purple Loincloth Division 54 just stood and watched on with awe.

When it was the Orcs turn, Brambley’s Boys spectacularly failed their rally test and routed off the table. (+2 Glory for the Elves!)

The Wolves activated on a Wild Charge and went up the hill after Bluehood Division 3. The Bluehood Division 3 would just not give ground! Though they lost one of their archers, they killed two more wolves and the wolves fled back down the hill.

The Skulhelm Brother moved. Gurjunk’s Grunts moved. Skimpy’s Scouts shot at Galadria Thistlebottom and caused 1 Strength Point in damage – not a big deal, she’s pretty badass.

Turn Twelve

Bluehood Division 3 shot another wolf and the remainder routed. (+2 Glory for the Elves!)

Purple Loincloth Division 54 pincushioned the remaining Skulhelm Brother (+2 Glory for the Elves – putting them ahead and the remaining orcs in an unhappy place!)

Galadria Thistlebottom turned her attentions on the pesky scouts in the swamp and inundated them with a Torrent of Toads – which dragged three of them to their murky graves! They totally passed their courage test though…

Orcs failed to activate.

Turn Thirteen

Bluehood Division 3 shot down two of Gurjunk’s Grunts but the Orcs soldiered on. Well, not well enough to actually activate this turn… but well enough not to rout… just yet.

Turn Fourteen

Bluehood Division 3 killed three more of Gurjunk’s Grunts and the rest routed from the field of battle… (+2 Glory for the Elves!)

Purple Loincloth Division 54 turned their attention on Skimpy’s Scouts. One scout when down in the hail of arrows and the remaining two fled off the table (+2 Glory for the Elves!)

And so... 

Everyone seemed to have fun. I like the game. Sometimes I’m not so sure about the one fail means your entire side doesn’t get to move… but there was enough of that on both sides so it didn’t turn out so bad.  Also I'm not so hot on the no one can go within 3" of another unit thing - I'm all about making it clear which unit is which and keeping them separate - but 3" is a bit much and makes for some fiddly moving about that doesn't always make sense to me. But these are not deal-breakers by far. After our First Game of Lion Rampant I'd considered reducing the no go zone to one or two inches and allowing the leader to confer a +1 to activation rolls to units within 12"... I'm still considering it (but I do like to play a few games with rules as is before I start tinkering... 

While the girl clearly won, we weren’t sure about how to count her Glory Quests. One required that she rout or destroy more strength Points with Shooting than Attacks. Shooting refers to casualties caused by shooting, obviously, and Attacks refers to casualties caused by a unit making an attack on them, but what about casualties caused by magic or caused by a unit that causes casualties in while defending against an attack…? We couldn’t remember how each of them was destroyed immediately after the game. Looking back at my notes… I guess some were killed/routed due to shooting and none were killed by Attacks – because the elves made no Attack Activations the whole game.
Skimpy’s Scouted were routed from a shooting attack (though they’d lost more Strength Points initially from magical attack)
Gurjunk’s Grunts routed from damage caused by shooting.
The last Skullhelm Brother was killed by shooting. But half of the earlier casualties were caused by Spellcasting.
The wolves routed due to a loss caused by shooting, but half of their previous losses were due to casualties caused by elves defending themselves against the Wolves attack (I guess an argument could be made that those casualties were probably caused by pointblank bow fire…)
Brambley’s Boys routed due to a spectacularly failed rally test. Half of their casualties were caused by shooting, but half were caused by Elves defending against their Attack…
I’m probably over-thinking this… It’s pretty clear that some were destroyed/routed due to Shooting where none were destroyed routed due to Attacks (+2 Glory for the Elves!)

The other Glory quest required that she must reduce at least one of your opponents units with missile damage alone. This one is less clear. While a number of the opposing units were reduced to half strength or less – I think most of them were due to a combination of Shooting and wither magic or while defending against the opponents attacks (again, an argument could be made that those casualties were probably caused by pointblank bow fire…)? (+/-1 Glory for the Elves?)

I’m nickel and diming here… I should just stop. Fun was had. Elves won. Despite his loss The Boy pointed out that his leader did survive and is determined to cobble together a warband of his own miniatures and fight again…  Good game.

I think it took us a bit over two hours - but it was our first go at it and I had to look stuff up in the book a number of times and taking copious notes for the game report. I'm sure we could easily get games down to under two hours... 

Coming soon on Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog:

Well considering how much fun this was, maybe there’ll be some more game reports in the not too distant future…? I do have a few peasants I finished up this evening as well – they just need some static grass and then I’ll be posting them… 


  1. Replies
    1. Yeah, so much of the stuff the kids come up with just crack me up.

  2. In Lion Rampant, which I have played a few times now, we stopped using the one fail and you can't do anything rule as we found it wasn't working. Otherwise our group likes the rules and I am very tempted by the fantasy version.

    1. I don't mind some level of static in a game. In fact I prefer it - all of the games I like best have some level of it; DBA/HoTT, Song of Blades and Heroes, Cold War Commander, etc. But with most of those there is some way to ameliorate the consequences of bad dice rolls. With DBA you always get at least one PIP - so having a simple plan and well thought out deployment with as few groups as possible means you will be able to activate most (if not all) you troops even if you roll a one. With Song of Blades and Heroes your turn only ends when your fail on two dice for one figure's activation - to ensure most of your guys get to go you can simply elect to only activate them with one die - can't have two failures on one die (I do this all the time with low quality troops). But with Lion/Dragon Rampant one bad dice roll at the beginning of your turn and you get no turn at all. As the author says in the book: behind every failed activation there is a story. Truthfully I have always done this with other such games - though up reasons (sometimes ridiculous ones!) for why units failed to activate. As my kids have been raised on games where activation isn't always certain, they do the same and think this is the norm (when we played 40K for the first time a few months back they thought it was CrAzY that one side woule move ALL of its troops and then shoot ALL of its troop and All of them could assault into melee if they could!? ). But even they found it a little frustrating at times when three turns in a row NO ONE moved at all... and I get that most people that are used to other sorts of games (where everyone gets to move every turn) would lose their minds if that happened! So I just wonder if there was some way to make a tweak to make it a little less likely that stuff like that might happen. Maybe we just have the unluckiest dice in the world...? that's why I'll play a few more games before messing with anything.

    2. Yeah, this rule really makes no sense to me, and it seems like several of the games you've played have used it. I can understand having each unit / group make an activation roll, but not having one failure deprive all the other units of even getting to roll for activation. Why would this group over here failing to act cause this other unit way over there on the other side of the table to fail? No idea, especially when there is no tech to support instant communication between the groups. My recommendation is to just roll activation for each unit / group; those that fail don't act, and those that succeed act. Simple, and far less nonsensical.

    3. I don't mind it at all in games like Song of Blades and Heroes as there's a risk/choice element. You choose how many dice you're going to activate each figure with. If you only ever activate them with one die, you will always get a chance to activate all of your guys. It's only when you choose to activate with more dice that you run the risk of having your turn end before you get to try and activate all your guys.

      It's been a long time since I played the Warmaster/BKC/CWC/FWC type games, but I seem to recall an officer could keep giving orders until he failed and the more orders the officer gave the harder it got to pass the order test? So if you wanted more of your troops to activate you gave them all the same order. If you tried to execute elaborate plans with different troops doing different things you ran a higher risk of failure (which made "real world sense" to me - the K.I.S.S. principle). This encouraged players to keep their plans simple.

      I think there' supposed to be an element of that in Lion/Dragon Rampant. The idea of the turn ending due to failure is supposed to encourage you to activate your troops to do the things they do best and activate your troops with 5+ activations first, then troops with 6+, etc. rather than having your Scouts attack someone (7+), which they really have no business doing!

      For me the jury's still out as to whether it "works" or not. I'm leaning towards being okay with it - perhaps with a few tweaks. I get that unbelievable sh!t happens on the battlefield that commanders have no control over and simply cannot be understood but should be modelled into games. Maybe it's a question of perspective - instead of focusing on units that didn't do anything, we need to focus on the units that did and just think of them as being super motivated or inspired and got a lot more done than other units that weren't necessarily not doing anything, but just weren't doing anything that needs to be modelled on the table top or ultimately contributed to winning the battle.

      In addition to possibly allowing the leader's unit and all units within 12" getting +1 to activate (similar to the bonus to courage), another potential tweak I was considering this morning was some new options for troops:

      Motivated (+2 points) this unit gets +1 to all activation rolls.

      Highly Motivated (+4 points) this unit gets +2 to all activation rolls.

    4. I just read through the rules during break today, and this stripped down style is appealing. We can spend more time playing the game than fiddling with the rules.
      Those miniatures! They kind of showcased Dallimore's painting, didn't they?

    5. My real point:
      I'd like to make the first activation automatic, and have each successive one become more difficult. Should give a press your luck kind of feeling.

    6. All the new osprey wargames are filled with lovely photos of well painted minis...

      I'd thought of that (free first activation) but then thought that would kind of defeat the point of having different activation numbers for different actions - I could just pick the hardest thing I want to do (something that was a 7+ activation which would likely be the least plausible i.e. asking Scouts to charge into melee) and just go ahead and do it - because I'd know it would happen...?

    7. True, and I wouldn't want to fiddle with those numbers. The high risk activations shold add a good bit of tension.
      I just saw the Carl McCoy reference... nice.

    8. Apparently I didn't... Carl McCoy reference?

    9. "...ghouls are not actually undead, they just like the graveyard vibe (and the singing of Carl McCoy)."

    10. Ah! I had read that, but didn't understand the reference. thanks!

  3. An epic battle! The warbands (and the names) are just great!

    1. Thanks Gordon. I can't wait to see what they come up with for their own warbands. They'll likely be a mix of things as I don't think either have enough of one race to put together a whole warband... yet. The Boy is pretty close - he has a lot of orcs and goblins and gnolls and bugbears (mostly from the Reaper Bones Kickstarter set we got).

  4. Tim, Thanks for the write up! I enjoyed seeing you take DR for a test drive. I know that you are also gearing up for En Garde! from other posts. Have you played Freeblades?

    My primary game is LOTR minis, but I also have some Warhammer Fantasy figs floating around (mostly unpainted). I'm trying to decide on a second fantasy game to play and considering Dragon Rampant, En Garde!, Freeblades or some version of Oldhammer. Any recommendations? Thanks!

    1. Cheers!

      I have to admit I've never even heard of Freeblades...?

      I guess it depends on what scale of action you want to play at.

      I play a lot of Song of Blades and Heroes - I think it's about the size and scale of action as LOTR - everyone activates and moves independently with 6-12 guys per side? I find it plays very fast.

      Lion/Dragon Rampant deals with entire units of 6-12 guys (though some can be reduced in number) and plays with 3-10 units per side.

      En Garde - if it's anything like Ronin - would be about the similar to slightly smaller scale of action as Song of Blades and Heroes (6-8 guys per side?) but with a bit more detail in the combat system.

      I think they're all great. I use them for different things.

  5. I enjoyed your report (and the rain of toads!). I keep seeing stuff about the Dragon Rampant rules, so it's good to see it in action as it were. Seems like a nice step up from more skirmish level rules/games like Song of Blades. When I see these kinds of games I'm always tempted to base up some of my plethora of fantasy minis onto stands. I think it looks like a good way to go for fairly quick games with units.

    1. They don't need to be on stands to play Dragon Rampant. I only happened to be using multi-figure stands because I didn't have enough individually based figures to fill out the units and so used elements already based that way for Hordes of the Things. I guess that's one of the draws to the game - there isn't a hard and fast basing system - you can bring whatever you have based for whichever game and use it.

  6. I have two thoughts for activation alternatives.
    First activation always goes, but you still have to roll. Pass all good. Fail, you move that unit and turn is over. (maybe some disadvantage for failing like minus 1 to rolls or reroll successes)
    Two each player gets a d6 or d4 "luck/command" points. Which can be used to alter activation rolls each turn or through out the game. If I miss the roll by three and I have four cmd points, I can burn them to get the action off. Could add commander skills to help or alter the amount of cmd points. Or base how many commands points you get from the type of commander to get/buy.
    Just somethoughts
    I might try these next time I play.