Kings of War and Dragon Rampant
This weekend my friend Ian popped down to catch up and get in a wee bit of gaming. Ian and I go a long way back, we started wargaming together back in the late 70s as nine or ten year olds with Airfix and Matchbox plastic kits and soldiers. Ian has been a regular table top opponents ever since. These days we don’t get together anywhere near often enough as family commitments and living in different towns limits our chances to get together for some gaming. In fact, we’ve been meaning to get together for a while now and finally found a suitable weekend so Ian drove down to my place on Friday afternoon and then we headed down to my bach for the weekend.
We decided to have a couple of games using the same forces that I’d put together using Kings of War Historical and then Dragon Rampant. Each game pitching my Easterling and Gordor (Middle Earth themed) armies against each other. It was nice to get a couple of forces on the table and roll some dice.
We set up a table and Ian got the choice of force he wanted to use.
Game 1: Kings of War. 1250 points
The Easterlings (Ian)
2 Heavy Spear Regiments
1 Skirmishers Troop
1 Heavy Cavalry Regiment
2 Horse Archers Troop
1 Beast of War
1 General (Cav)
The forces of Gondor (Craig)
2 Heavy Spear Regiments
2 Crossbow Troops
2 Heavy Cavalry Regiments
2 Light Cavalry Troops
1 General (Cav)
We played Domination scenario which involved getting troops close to the centre of the table. It was a typical bloodbath but a close and entertaining game. In the end though Ian had a regiment of spears and his beast of war contesting the centre of the board vs my own unit of spears and light horse (most other things having since been slaughtered on both sides) so a victory to Ian.
As is often the way we made a few mistakes, the main one being allowing units to turn then charge rather than deciding from the leaders place in the front rank whether or not a charge was possible. This fact may have changed things on a couple of occasions but even so we both thoroughly enjoyed the free flowing nature of the rules. Getting flank and rear attacks are the key. Lots to do to master the game but we both feel the system has plenty of potential. Sure it is dice heavy but the game was entertaining and we both had our chances to win it.
The forces of Gondor deployed
The Easterlings advance
Gondor advances behind their crossbowmen
The Easterlings advance on their left flank.
Godorian spearmen move forward in the centre.
As do the Easterlings
The Easterling skirmishers add their weight to the attack on the light cavalry
The light cavalry didn't last long but now the Gondian knights have flanked the Easterling spears.
The battle was pretty brutal, units quickly being overwhelmed.
The crossbow unit got slightly to close to the Easterling spears who obliged by charging and destroying them.
By turn 5 the battlefield was looking pretty empty.
The Beast of war finally gets involved... and a rear charge by the spear ends the threat of my heavy cav. This was one of the charges we got wrong but no better for next time.
But the spear unit holds off the angry troll.
In the end not much survived.
Game 2: Dragon Rampant
The same armies and terrain. This time I seemed to get my forces to gel more and coordinated my crossbows and spear units fairly well- maybe I deployed slightly smarter this time round. Ian had plenty of bad dice rolls early on (consistently rolling badly for courage tests) and soon his heavy cavalry was retreating turn after turn for failing consecutive courage tests. I took out a few key units and felt things were going my way but then the troll (Beast of War) decided to get involved and started steam rolling his way through my troops. The optional flanking rules helped here but even so the beast really did a sterling job of getting Ian back into the game. Still it was too little too late and victory went to Gondor.
My deployment- screening my units with my crossbows.
Ian went for width with the Easterlings
Easterlings spearmen crest the hill.
The troll and friends on the Easterlings right flank
The troll captures a wood
The lines close, in the distance the Easterling heavy cavalry is routing off the board after failing successive courage tests
The Gondorian knights charge the spearmen...
The troll catches the other unit of knights in the flank.
The troll now eyes up the spearmen
But instead cahrges the crossbows and destorys them too- he is a lone troll wrecking machine
The Gondorian wizard isn't having any of it "None shall pass!"
The troll retreats, the bulk of the Easterlings have now been defeated so he slinks off back north tpwards Mordor
Victory ot Gondor- so 1-1 for the weekend.
Finally, after putting away the gaming stuff we had a game of my favourite two players board games GMT’s Twilight Struggle. I’d player a few times before but a long time since my last game. I’ve had my own copy of the game for a couple of years but never had a chance to play it. Ian had never played Twilight Struggle and enjoyed it. He (as the US) ended up wining thanks to securing Africa late in the game. It was another close and fun game which I really enjoyed it and I look forward to a rematch.
Overall thoughts on Dragon Rampant and Kings of War
I enjoyed both rule sets. Dragon Rampant I think is a good starting point while working on getting bigger forces on table (for games like Hail Caesar) DR felt more like a historical battle (or a historical version of Middle Earth) even though we were using the fantasy version of the Rampant rules but I think our misreading the who can charge rules in Kings of War may have coloured that game a wee bit. However, the units in DR felt more like they were based on their historical counterparts due to some of the special rules, like counter charge, evade etc.
I’ll happily lay either ruleset. I think Kings could do with a bit more historical flavour in troop types- warband types for instance (thought here are some options such as Berserkers and maybe we need to try this to represent warbands) but the area I think I am most still not sure about is the difference between warrior vs spear regiments. Spears are slightly dearer (120 vs 100 points for a standard regiment) but get slightly more attacks (15 vs 12) and the phalanx rule which prevents units charging them making use of the thunderous charge special rule. It is a minor thing but to my mind spears seem to be a more effective choice than warriors in most instances and if the two units line up then the spears have a slight edge based on more attacks. But then again the spear was a very common weapon throughout history so maybe it’s fair enough. I think the army lists though would be easy to add a few more historical type forces too.
Ian missed having an evade type rule in Kings of War and I too found this a wee bit strange, still it does as it aims and makes for an enjoyable tactical wargame with, in our case, a hint of historical flavour- I think it will be easy enough to update/modify units to better suit our needs but we really need a few more games to get a proper feel for the rules.
Even though they are the fantasy version of Lion Rampant the units in Dragon Rampant felt more based on historical units and more historically flavoured- maybe we will try to Evade rule from DR for skirmisher and light cavalry units into Kings and see how that works to give more flavour.
So overall both games made for fun and enjoyable games and gave similar results. Both games were close and easily picked up. Dragon Rampant deals with command and control via the orders mechanic- needing to beat a different number on 2d6 based on the troop type and whether you want to move, attack, or shoot whereas Kings of War lacks any command and control rules. I do like the friction of not knowing all your troops may get to act as is seen in games like Hail Caesar and Dragon Rampant but don’t mind the lack of such command rules in Kings of War, it seems a nice framework and the games I’ve played so far have all been enjoyable.
So all in all a very enjoyable weekends gaming and was nice to get a couple of my Middle Earth forces on the table.