Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Lion Rampant, Big Lion Rampant and gaming Sieges in Lion Rampant


     Recently, while on duty as Colonel Bills Go'fer at Skelp Wargames Show up in bonny Forfar, here in Scotland, I managed to slip away for a few moments from the backbreaking routine of working for the Colonel to have a look around the various games on show and came across a game of Lion Rampant being demo-ed by Dave Imrie of Saxon Dog painting fame. I spoke briefly with Dave who, before he managed to escape, told me he has playing an adaptation of Lion Rampant that allowed for formations rather than groups and for bigger battles. I asked him if he was using the adaptation that had figured in an issue of Wargames Illustrated a while back but it turns out he wasn't. Apparently there are a few different approaches to this style of play doing the rounds; one cropped up in a recent issue of Wargames, Soldier and Strategy.

Some rather poor quality photos of Dave Imrie's Lion Rampant
game at Skelp. 

Look at that castle!!

    It occurred to me that I haven't ever posted anything whatsoever about Lion Rampant; that simply spiffing game that sprouted unbidden from the head of Dan Mersey....I might have made that bit up about sprouting unbidden but Dan Mersey is the author of this neat little set of rules for medieval skirmishes and he's rightly praised for producing them.
     Now I am not going to review these rules as they have been reviewed umpteen times already and probably....probably? definitely far better than I could ever do so let's leave that there. However, I love these rules; they are very straightforward, simple and fun to play. 
     As, at the time I got into Lion Rampant, none of my other gaming chums played Lion Rampant I felt it incumbent on me to build two opposing forces to game with (any excuse for buying more figures, eh? 😀) which I did.
    These were, predominantly, the excellent Fireforge plastic medieval figures with a  smattering of Foundry, Crusader and Games Workshop(Bretonnians) that I had kicking about in the pile that I used to make two opposing Early Medieval-ish (I have a passing interest in the Barons Wars of the 13th century; Simon De Monfort, Edward I and all those chaps) retinues with a mix of mounted and foot troop types.
     My good gaming chum, Danny, eventually saw the light and bought into the Lion Rampant game too but he went for an earlier period with Norsemen forming the basis of his army. Now we are in no way sniffy about these things; the game's the thing and all that jazz however I do like to have some sort of historical (if not hysterical) basis for erm...historically based games! So it was a pleasant surprise to learn about the Baltic Crusades on the BBC Radio 4s In Our Time programme. Haha! thinks I, here is a historical basis for our games; the pint sized pedant in me can rest easy. So that was that, our games would be historically themed and built around the Baltic Crusades.
     I'd like to say we have organised and are working our way through a narrative campaign set during the Baltic Crusades with my purer than pure Crusaders smiting Danny's heretical heathens but we're not; sure, I would've been writing it up already if we had.
      No, we haven't done that, but what we have done, much to our mutual pleasure was employ the (unofficial) rules for big battles and siege warfare (these can be found in Wargames Illustrated issue number 358 August 2017).
     These adaptations start by using larger than normal retinues, dividing them into battles or divisions and then, instead of a players turn ending on a failed activation, each battle or division rolls an average die; 2,3,3,4,4,5 to get the total number of failed activations that battle can roll before it's activations are over. Each unit can activate more then once for movement but each time it adds +1 to the dice roll for a success; so for instance, if a unit needs to roll 5+ to move and wants to move again it must roll a 6+ this time.
     For sieges, the simple solution for using siege engines, battering rams, siege towers etc was to give them unit profiles to allow them to move, fight etc and it works marvelously well.
      So using Danny's collection of siege engines and his Games Workshop castle (I want a castle......😞) we spent a happy evening besieging the castle; a photographic record I present here; mostly because it's overdue (by my blog schedule anyway) and because it looks and was an epic evening's worth of gaming; so, ladies and gentlemen, let me recount...the siege of Castle Astrus, a none too accurate and fairly sweeping tale of derring do etc and stuff

The Siege of Castle Astrus
     In the year of Our Lord 1209, there came to the pagan ridden Duchy of Dannovia the very brave knight Sir Digby De Baquille and his entourage. The year before they had sworn an oath to clear the pagan ridden Duchy of Dannovia of pagans and heretics and to bring to those who realised the error of their ways and were ready for the change, the enlightening and uplifting word of the Lord.
     Under the direction of the Bishop of Bashir, Sir Digby and his men had been sent to seize the castle of Astrus from it's pagan chieftain, Harold Hardknakkas. However, Harold Hardknakkas had gotten wind of the advancing force and, after fighting a delaying action in the nearby town of Kludge, had withdrawn his men into the safety of the Castle Astrus there to weather the storm...
      Sir Digby, a seasoned campaigner, had planned ahead however and had brought his siege train with him and with the castle invested before long his men had erected their mighty siege engines and the assault on the castle was begun....     

The mighty siege engines begin their work as the crusading
Christian force advance. A siege tower, screens, a scaling
ladder and covered ram make their slow, steady way forward.

Sir Digby at the forefront of the assault with his men at arms
with his standard bearer, Bill.

Release arrows!! In the background a catapult launches it's deadly
load at the castle walls. In the rules for sieges, when the catapult
fires, you roll a D6 to see which direction the rock goes 1-2, to
the righ, 3-4 central, 5-6 the left and each time I managed to roll
a 5-6 result and was able to bring down one of the walls.

the siege tower trundles and lurches forward. Again the siege
rules have a pleasing simple set of rules for this and the other
siege engines
Harald Hardknakkas roars out a challenge at the besiegers

The defenders steel themselves for battle

Bloody pagans!

A BOLD STROKE!! In an effort to stymie the attackers, Harold
Hardknakkas sends out a group of mounted men-at-arms aiming
to destroy the battering ram. With this destroyed the threat to the
castle gate, it's main point of weakness, would be removed. 

..but, alas, to no avail. They are roughly handled and
the remaining horsemen retire to the safety of the castle
As the horsemen rush pell mell through the gate and it closes
behind them, the crusading force gets a siege ladder against
the wall. T

Up and at 'em, lads!!

the Crusader serjeants gain the battlements but are unable to
gain a foot hold and are sent tumbling back down the scaling
...and luckily for them as the trebuchet, more by chance than
design brings down the wall at the main gate, leaving a gaping
breach in the wall...Deux Vult!!

...and Sir Digby's men make a rush for the breach at the same
time that Harald Hardknakkas and his hearthguard reach it in
an attempt to hold it.
Scenting victory, Sir Digby and his men at arms also race
towards the breach

...where a bitter, bloody, hand to hand combat takes place as
two beliefs meet head on in a clash of steel...blimey, this is
exciting stuff

But whilst the defenders are drawn to the bloody conflict at
the breach, the siege tower still moves forward
Until the ramp is lowered and the men at arms therein surge
forward onto the battlements

with poor quality troops facing such tough, experienced
and very butch men at arms, the castle's fate is sealed and
the crusading Christians conquer in the name of God!!
Deux Vult!!

     And there it ended...well, actually it didn't as we swapped around and I took on the roll of the castle defenders and Danny's Nordic types assaulted the castle and, if memory serves they also won a hard fought victory.
     Typically it;'s been a long time since that game was played, our last game of Lion Rampant too. That is set to change as we have been adding units to our forces and with the new suggestions in the WSS magazine making bigger games even more palatable I don't think it will be long before Sir Digby and his bold men will be crusading once more up in the Baltic.

pip pip,


  1. Fantastic write up, I was enthralled unto the bitter end!

    1. Thanks James; it was terribly enthralling, wasn't it 😁

  2. Never tried Lion Rampant but it certainly sounds like a fun game. Superb battle report and lovely looking collection.

    1. It's very much a beer and pretzels game, Pat and perfect fodder for my narrative batreps. Dan Mersey has obviously had fun first and foremost in mind when he wrote them though he did do some research into the period too.

  3. Replies
    1. Cheers Paul. Glad you liked it. We hope to play out a mini campaign of three linked games in the best future and to flesh out Sir Digby and Harald Hardknakkas characters.


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