I mentioned in my new year post that one of my aims was to learn a new wargame this year, and this week I decided to treat myself to a copy of Dragon Rampant. I'd heard good things about its historical counterpart, Lion Rampant, and for less than a tenner I couldn't resist. Below are some first impressions.
The first thing that struck me as I opened the package when it arrived was how small the book is. At 25cm x 18cm and only having 64 pages, it's definitely one of the smallest wargaming rulebooks I own.
I found the cover itself a little bit uninspiring, with a fairly generic piece of fantasy art, above the traditional Osprey style 'blue box' with the title and author's name.
Behind the Cover
The overall tone of the book is set very early, with what is described as a 'secret spell' at the bottom of the page containing all the copyright and legal text. The target of the spell is an opposing player, and if it is successfully cast they have to go and get you a drink and snacks of your choice! In a world of grown men pushing toy soldiers around, it's great to know that the author doesn't take himself or his work too seriously.
|The secret spell in all its glory|
The internal pages are all full colour, and having been unimpressed with the cover art, I was surprised to find some great illustrations inside. My particular favourite contains a group of halflings fighting (unsuccessfully it seems) against 2 ogres. The photographs depict a great selection of both old school and more modern figures, and my only slight criticism would be that some of them are too small to show the models off in all their glory.
The rules are designed to allow players to use any models from their collection, and although there are some sample army lists at the back of the book, the author is keen to for players to be creative in the way they create forces. All that is required is to decide what type of unit your troops represent (there are 13 different unit types to choose from), add any of the optional rules (both mundane and fantastical) that you think represent the abilities of the unit, and you're good to go. It's a very simple system, but I love the fact that it allows players to create any kind of force they want to rather than forcing them down any set paths.
The game mechanics themselves are based around activation tests. You roll to activate each of your units, but a failed activation test ends your turn, so you need to prioritise which units to activate first. The system isn't complicated, but seems like it will work well on the gaming table for small to medium scale games. I'll be making a more detailed post about how the game plays once I've had a chance to try it out during a game or two.
The final part of the rules is a range of scenarios. In line with the tone of the rest of the book, these are tinged with humour, and include a scenario to capture a sacred mole in a chest which I particularly like the idea of. There are 6 scenarios to choose from, but players are encouraged to create scenarios of their own to supplement these.
The Unexpected Benefit
This was something I never expected to write; my girlfriend wants to play Dragon Rampant! I've tried to introduce her to a few wargames in the past, but she normally takes one look at the huge rulebook and flees in terror. This time tough, she read the rulebook cover to cover in a couple of hours, and spent last night searching the internet for suitable models to build an army*.
After some slight misgivings about the size of the book and the uninspiring cover, I'm pretty impressed with Dragon Rampant. The real test will come when I play some games, but even if I don't play it long term, the fact that I've managed to get my better half interested in gaming with me makes it money well spent in my book.
* Current favourites are Northumbrian Tin Soldier Nightfolk Teddies or Casting Room Miniatures Goblins.