The crew got together earlier this month for another game of Dragon Rampant, which has quickly become our go-to game for fast-playing medium-sized fantasy games. The scope of the game is generally a bit bigger than a typical skirmish game, but smaller than Warhammer Fantasy (back when it existed). The flexible nature of Dragon Rampant really accommodates armies of all sizes, as we saw in this game.
This was to be Lawrence’s first game of Dragon Rampant, so we set up a scenario in our Üthdyn campaign setting that followed up on the outcome of a raid on a frontier village in the hinterlands of Glostmurk. The ratmen raiders, emboldened after pillaging the hamlet of Glodd, embarked on an orgy of looting and burning all along the borderlands of Glostmurk.
Desperate to halt their advance and bring the rats to battle in proper fashion, the Wealth of Begovic organized an alliance with a nearby brood of trolls and orcs, promising the savages first dibs on any tasty rat carcasses after the battle. That was good enough for the orcs and trolls, and they hefted their crude weapons and marched to war alongside the Begovic militia.
John was fielding his human warriors as the Begovic house guard, headed up by Lady Almira Begovic herself. His army included several newly painted units, including a somber squad of Oathmark infantry, and a crazed fighter wielding two maces, from RuneWars. It’s been awesome to see his army take shape as we’ve explored Dragon Rampant!
For his first game, Lawrence dropped a truly gorgeous collection of trolls and orcs onto the table. They were drawn from several different factions from Warhammer and/or Age of Sigmar, but they looked superb and totally cohesive on the table together.
Opposite them was an army comprised of basically every painted Skaven figure I owned. Ha! With both John and Lawrence teaming up to field 24 points each, it was up to me to scrape together 48 points of rats to oppose them. If you’ve been following the progress on my all-metal Skaven army, you know that it’s been my goal for a year or so to get a big army-sized pile of rats ready for battle. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for!
The battlefield represented any of the dozens of pitiful frontier locales that had born the brunt of the Skaven’s menacing attacks on Glostmurk. A flaming hut dominated the battlefield, surrounded by patches of forest in the otherwise trackless wilderness. The three opposing armies drew up their forces, shouted oaths and threats to enemies and allies alike, and then the battle got underway.
In the first couple of turns, both Lawrence and I got well acquainted with Dragon Rampant’s most angst-inducing mechanic — the botched activation roll. If at any time you attempt to issue an order and fail, your turn ends, right there on the spot. It’s an unforgiving mechanic, and it’s also tough to explain to people who are more used to playing Other Fantasy Wargames from a Particularly Large Publisher. In those games, your guys almost always behave as you expect, and you can move all your toys in a given turn. Dragon Rampant doesn’t care — if you fail, your turn is over.
Well, that happened. A few times, actually. Luckily, the hammer seemed to fall on both sides of the battlefield, and we soldiered on.
John had the most success in mobilizing his team, and as a result the Wealth of Begovic advanced mostly in good order toward a timber fence, where his archers took up position, guarded by a solid flank of spearmen.
The ratmen advanced in a much more haphazard fashion, with lots of starts and stops as my dice refused to cooperate. Ultimately I managed to get a decent sized force, consisting of a unit of heavy missiles (assorted rat-guns), a unit of greater warbeasts (rat ogres) and a unit of heavy foot (Stormvermin) to oppose the Begovic House Guard. You can see our maneuvering in the photo below.
Unseen in this photo, I had a unit of Skaven slaves (light foot) racing up the left flank. Light foot moves much faster than most other units in Dragon Rampant, so these guys were able to mobilize and get in position even when the rest of my army was draggin’ their tails.
Here they are in combat with a unit of Begovic spearmen (also light foot, actually). They did OK but I didn’t expect them to hold the entire flank on their own.
While John’s phalanxes closed ranks and prepared to weather the charge from the Rat Ogres, Lawrence’s orcs and trolls smashed into the rodent lines on the other flank. This action was led by his fearsome giant, who strode through the smoke and flame of the burning hut to utterly wreck the poor sad little rats who stood in his way. Check out this photo:
Wow! Truly, this was a beautiful game with breathtaking models and terrain. Only the best for you, dear reader!
Anyway, Lawrence proceeded to trounce me on the right flank of the battlefield. A few factors went into this drubbing. First, I had inadvertently neutered the effectiveness of my Doomwheel by “upgrading” it to add a ranged attack and remove its wild charge special ability. In truth, wild charge was exactly what I needed in this game, because it would have allowed my Doomwheel to attempt a counter-charge when it was charged by that fearsome giant late in the game.
By trading off the wild charge for a cute-but-inadequate ranged combat attack, I had reduced the effectiveness of what should have been a hard-hitting shock unit (the Doomwheel). So it was carved up piecemeal, and I learned a good lesson about list-building.
I had higher expectations for my Plague Monks (bellicose foot, in the parlance of Dragon Rampant). After all, they had the counter-charge ability, as well as beefy combat stats. Alas, they failed their counter-charge roll on the turn when it would have mattered the most, and they were cut down like dogs (rats?) as they fled.
Overall, my rats did not perform well versus Lawrence’s trolls. But maybe that was for the best — after all, what better way to learn about a new game than by giving your opponent a thorough, merciless drubbing?!
I will claim credit for finally bringing down the giant, though, amid a flurry of blows by my elite foot (leader + bodyguard retinue). So there’s that!
At this point, the writing was on the wall for my ratmen. They had mustered for battle but failed to execute their battle plan (in true Skaven fashion). I learned a few things about list-building and the effectiveness of various units in this game.
I addition, I must doff my cap to John’s very careful maneuvering and unit placement as he squared off with his Begovic House Guard. He was able to exploit the wild charge ability on units like my greater warbeasts. I tried to return the favor by goading Lady Almira into charging my Stormvermin (see below) but he was too smart for that. Arrgh! She escaped unscathed, which is an affront that must be rectified in future games.
So this mini-campaign rolls on, with the ratmen slinking away in defeat. It was great to see Lawrence’s army on the table, at long last!
So where will we go from here? I’m painting up some new units for future games, so maybe we’ll try a town raid, with lots of buildings and back alleys to spice things up. I’ve got a big collection of fantasy city terrain that I would dearly like to get onto the table for a big game. Stay tuned for more!