My New Gaming Table

As you probably know, until now we’ve been gaming on the dining table. This meant that I couldn’t set up and prepare a scenario in advance and things had to be put away immediately after the game was finished. Apart from prolongating our precious gaming time, it also made it impossible to interrupt a game and finish it the next day.

Now K. has finally allowed me to get a second table for the living room to use as a gaming table. As it had to be a smallish one, so it wouldn’t take up too much space, I went for an extendable IKEA model named BJURSTA. Measuring 90cmx90cm, it can be extended to 168cm length, which will be enough for our demands.

Assemblage was, as always, a bit of a hassle – this time, I managed to screw on the legs on the inside instead of the outside! I’m much better a building 15mm scenery, I have to say, but at least I provided some entertainment for K.

In the end, everything turned out fine and now I’m the happy owner of a gaming table!

To celebrate, I set up a small game of DBA with my El Cid figures. K. was busy, so I tried to play solo, which – apart from having a dunderhead as an opponent – worked ok. It gave me an opportunity to learn the rules a bit better, although I’m not sure I did everything correctly. The game was surprisingly interesting and also felt historically correct. The flank attack by the Almoravid light horse was easily driven off by the crossbows (I was a bit surprised how easily), but the Almoravid spears held their ground against the Spanish knights and managed to drive them back step by step. However, as the Almoravid flank had broken, the Spanish only needed to destroy one more unit, which they managed – a clear Spanish victory with one one unit lost.

DBA really is more fun than it looks. Next time, I might be able to convince someone else to game with me. However, the first proper game scheduled on the new table is another scenario of Sharp Practice!

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The Messenger – Lion Rampant AAR

Don’t kill the messenger, that’s what I kept saying. Would K. listen? No.

But let’s start at the beginning. Last weekend we finally inaugurated the old table in the new flat and had a game of Lion Rampant. After having a go at the scenario ‘The Messenger’ with Mick, I decided to introduce it to K. This time, we stuck to the retinues from the rule book, me taking the Almoravids (using the ‘Berber’ list) and K. the Spanish.

The set up.
The set up.
The garrison watches.
The garrison watches.

The scenario stated that I had to get a messenger from my watch tower to the small village while K. had to intercept him. The messenger was attached to one unit of Foot Yeomen – as I didn’t have an appropriate figure, I just supposed he had gone undercover and donned the clothing of an Almoravid warrior…

The village, waiting for the message.
The village, waiting for the message.
Spanish Mounted Yeomen preparing an ambush.
Spanish Mounted Yeomen preparing an ambush.

While my main force advanced, K. moved her light cavalry into position to cover the road. I decided to shadow them with my own light cavalry. However, as soon as the rascals were out of sight of my commander, they wouldn’t budge and stood behind the woods for the rest of the game. Several times I tried to perform a ‘skirmish’ manoeuvre against K.’s horsemen, but to no avail!

Meanwhile, K. moved her main force in position for what looked like a head-on battle.

Follow that goat!
Follow that goat!
The view from the watch tower.
The view from the watch tower.

The battle started in earnest when a wild charge got her mounted Men-at-Arms to charge my Foot Yeomen. K. made the mistake of positioning her knights at her far left flank, where they were unsupported by infantry. However, fortunately for her, my tactical acumen wasn’t any better and the Foot Yeomen were similarly isolated. The clash severely damaged my infantry, which a couple of attacks later succumbed to the ferocity of the cavalry.

The line still holds...
The line still holds…

My center initially advanced in good order – I was lucky with activation rolls and for some time convinced myself that I might be able to punch through.

Marching right into K.'s trap.
Marching right into K.’s trap.

Especially my Fierce Foot were phenomenal and did heavy damage to the Spanish troops. However, I never got rid of the light Spanish cavalry lingering on the hill, and as soon as the unit with the messenger was in range, K. charged.

The Spanish cavalry springs into action.
The Spanish cavalry springs into action.

And that’s how she did kill the messenger.

Another great game! We are slowly getting the hang of Lion Rampant, although we both made tactical mistakes – me more than K., and that’s why I lost. I should have supported my right flank and most importantly I should have dealt with K.’s cavalry in some way. Sending my light horse on an errand on the left flank was a bad idea, as they were basically out of the game.

Still, we both like Lion Rampant very much and are keen to try other scenarios. Maybe next time, I’ll take the Spanish – or maybe I’ll think before I act and make a plan for a change.

First Game of Lion Rampant

Most of the wargaming stuff is already packed up in boxed for the big house move, but last weekend we nevertheless managed to have a first game of Lion Rampant. K. took El Cid and his retinue while I played the Almoravids. I put together two retinues based on what looked plausible to me and without following the army lists in the rulebooks. We ended up having two 25 points forces: The Spanish had two mounted Men-at-Arms, one of them being drilled, one unit of Mounted Serjeants, one of Foot Yeomen and one of Crossbowmen. The Almoravids had three units of Foot Serjeants, one of mounted Serjeants, one of Archers and two Bidowers.

The game was a simple straight-on battle (the ‘Bloodbath’ scenario from the rulebook) to familiarise ourselves with the rules. Each of us just plunked his or her units on the table and the fun could begin!

During the first couple of turns, I was extremely unlucky with activation rolls and my guys stood rooted to the ground. This wasn’t that bad as the Almoravids prefer defensive tactics anyway (the Foot Serjeants are better at being attacked than at attacking), but it meant I was hovering precariously close to the table edge with little space for retreating.

The set up.
The set up.
The Spanish retinue.
A still peaceful village.
Almoravid infantry prepares to receive the charge.
On the right flank, Almoravid infantry prepares to receive a charge…
…and repulses the attack.
…and repulses the attack.
The Cid advances.
The Cid advances in the center.
On the right flank, the mounted Serjeants keep up the pressure.
On the right flank, the mounted Serjeants keep up the pressure.
The Spanish knights charge the Archers.
The Cid and his knights charge the Archers.

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Another attack against my center.
Another attack against my center…
…which starts to crumble.
…which starts to crumble.
My leader being killed, the center breaks down completely.
My leader being killed, the center breaks down completely and the Spanish knights mop up the flank.
The last Almoravid infantry forms a Schiltron and makes a last stand.
The remaining Almoravid infantry forms a Schiltron and makes a last stand.

That was a fun game! K. won very clearly after breaking through my center with her heavy cavalry and killing my leader.

We got some things wrong at the beginning: we kept forgetting about the 3″ Zone of Control, especially concerning friendly units, and I forgot the Schiltron special ability until the very end of the game, when I finally used it to make a last stand.

Also, my tactics leave much room for improvement: I used my Archers and Bidowers quite stupidly and lost them without them making much of an impact. Mounted Men-at-Arms are very tough nuts to crack in this game, so I’ll have to think of something when I’m up against them again. I also felt my retinue lacked in offensive power, so I might take Mounted Men-at-Arms myself next time – some time ago, I’ve painted up Yusuf’s Hasham, his personal bodyguard, to use as heavy Almoravid cavalry.

Anyhow, we both greatly enjoyed Lion Rampant. It gives a very fast and fluid game and the mechanics are simple yet elegant – after a couple of turns, there was almost no need to consult the Quick Reference Sheet. We’ll certainly have a go at some of the scenarios soon.

Joining the Rampage

We are in the process of preparing a major house move, so don’t expect many battle reports in the next weeks. There may be one exception, however. After reading lots of great reviews, I finally caved in and ordered a copy of Lion Rampant from Annie at Bad Squiddo Games.

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I’ve read it and it looks very good. Being one of the Osprey Wargames series, it has the high production values usual for the publisher. However, the rules mechanics are also very clever. I particularly like the activation sequence: Troops are more or less likely to be activated according to their profile and what you want of them. Mounted men-at-arms, for example, are easy to activate for attacking but harder for moving around, while archers are of course more willing to shoot than to enter melee. I also like the ‘Wild Charge’ special rules for mounted men-at-arms. If they are near enough to reach an enemy unit, they have to test if they will charge it, even if this is unfavourable to them. This reminds me of a great scene in The Poem of El Cid:

“‘Stay where you are, my men’ (said the Cid), ‘and let none break ranks till I give the word of command.’ But Pedro Bermúdez could hold out no longer; he held the standard and spurred on his horse […] The Cid cried, ‘Stop, in Heaven’s name!'”

This quote gives you already a hint what figures we’ll use: namely the 15mm El Cid figures. Now those are based as elements for playing mass battles, however there is no reason why Lion Rampant won’t work with elements – we will just use markers to indicate hits.

Finally an outing for the archers!
Finally an outing for the archers!

While Lion Rampant is intended to model skirmishes, I think they will also work for small battles. Some of the rule mechanics already give the feeling that a unit is more than the 12 or fewer individuals it would represent on a 1:1 scale. For example, friendly units can’t move through each other, not even when they are retreating. Or rough terrain is handled as a zone where all units are on a similar footing and have equal values for attack and defence. On the Dux Rampant forum, the rules author Dan Mersey also published some optional rules for flank and rear attacks, which we will use as they feel more appropriate for the way my figures are based.

The only other change I will make is to reduce all distances by one third. Playing with 15mm figures on a smallish table, this is something I’m used to doing and it always works well.

Lion Rampant is all over the place at the moment – no wargaming magazine is without a scenario or rules amendments. I’m looking forward to seeing for myself what all the fuss is about and having a game. I’m also very much looking forward to breaking out the Almoravids and early medieval Spanish once again and giving them a good fight!