06/09/2023 at 01:20 #190346
So, we played Xenos Rampant again last Sunday and thought I’d share a few thoughts about it, and perhaps some eye candy, although be forewarned my camera skills are dreadful.
We’ve played it in both 28mm and 15mm – despite the misgivings of one player who insists that when playing skirmish, the only allowable scale is 28mm. He’s quite wrong! I usually play Lion Rampant and Pikeman’s Lament in 28mm, but when gunpowder began dominating the battlefield I think the weapon ranges are such that 15mm looks far better. We still keep the suggested 4×4 table size and use all the measurements are written – no half scale, or metric conversions. Again, ranges seem to look better and there’s lots of rapid movement on the table.
Well, I admit when we play multiple players a side, we do use 6×4. In addition, as the rules are a bit vague on handling multiple players, we just assign each player a card, and then draw them randomly to determine player order each turn. Sometimes a player will get a double turn, but that’s life for you.
The scenarios as written really require the player to stay focused on the objective(s) and not faff about. Usually there’s little time to waste – the game can end very quickly. I rather like that. The pace of play is quite rapid. Especially as sometimes the scenarios, depending on a few variables, or the composition of your detachment, can be quite unfair to one player. But since they last at most an hour, you can play two or three games in a session very easily.
On a specific note, we have made one houserule. The Armour Piercing attribute costs 1 point, and modifies the enemy army by -1. Unfortunately, when the target is unarmoured, as for support troops or light infantry, this reduces their armour from 2 to 1, which effectively more than doubles the amount of hits. They absolutely slaughter such soldiers. So we simply only apply the -1 modifier to targets with armour 3 or above.
The flexibility of the system is incredible. If you can think of an SF universe, it can be designed. And not just SF…one player started musing about using it for historical Vietnam. The more I think about it, the more interesting it becomes. With a bit of luck (ie managing to synchronize schedules) I think we’ll try it next weekend.
It’s a very clean, fast, flexible and fun system that I highly recommend.
Finally, after this long, probably incoherent ramble, I shall end with the aforementioned bad photos. Figures are all Ground Zero Games from the Crustie and New Israel ranges. Bizarre round ball tank is from Alternative armies, as are the resin buildings. The MDF are from Pendraken. Vegetation from Amazon; cheap aquarium plants.
The photos really don’t do the figures justice; the GZG figures are absolutely tremendous! Jon at GZG is a pleasure to deal with, and his ranges are reasonably priced and just superb.22/09/2023 at 16:37 #190867Tim SnoddyParticipant
I have tried, I really have but I just can’t get the Rampant games in any flavour, historical, fantasy or sci fi. In fact it baffles me why they are so popular. To me the XR book would suggest you can make a 24 point army out of any old figures you have lying around and roll up a scenario to have a great game. My experience was one side vaporised the other in short order or completed the scenario victory objective without any meaningful threat from the opposing side. There is zero guidance on how much terrain to put down when it has a huge effect on the game. The 10 dice roll to hit mechanism seems very free form but is actually quite static. You will probably get one hit, might get two if you are lucky and haven’t a hope in hell of getting three. This means you probably won’t be able to get a unit down to half strength where morale tests become difficult so all the “get something off table” scenarios are piece of cake for whoever lifts the objective first. BUT as ever it is horses for courses and if you enjoy it that is all that matters although I would love to know why.23/09/2023 at 22:56 #190895
Well, I have to admit that when Lion Rampant first came out, I bought the rules, read them, and thought “they’re awful”. I quite enjoy reading rules, and have an appalling amount of them. You’d think after decades of reading various rulesets, that I’d have a good handle on what works for me, but I’ve had a few clangers over the years. From the read through, I remember not liking the complete lack of flanks or rear attacks making any difference, and the artificial silliness of either full dice or suddenly half dice – no incremental attritional losses seemed ridiculous. I was intrigued by the command system, and the variety of scenarios, but not enough to try it.
Later, Pikeman’s Lament came out, and my regular ECW opponent had the nerve to not only buy the rules, but suggest we try them. I told him “Never”…then bought the rules anyway and read them. They were even worse than LR – not only were the pike and shot units completely separate entities (and yes, I play DBR and it bothers me a bit there too) but there was no interaction or synergy rules between the pike and shot. Heresy!
So we played it next week. Short summation – I loved it! Halfway through the game, I dimly realized that at this low level, if the shot couldn’t be protected by the pikes, then that was my fault for not maneuvering them properly. As I suspected I loved the command system, and the scenarios. The lack of flanks or formations actually didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would, especially once I saw the rigid retreat rules. Blocking an enemy’s path is devastating.
Anyway, after making one if the biggest blunders of my wargaming career by ignoring the Rampant rules, I have turned 180°and become quite a fan.
– Command rules. You’re probably not going to get everyone to do everything you want. I detest rules that do not have any command friction. Depending on the period, sometimes it’s just a unit ignoring you, sometimes your whole force stands around while your enemy seizes the initiative, which seems to follow my reading of historical warfare. And most of the rules have some random elements of blunders or successes whenever a double one or six is thrown.
– No faffing about. Movement is free and easy. Ranges are free and easy. Casualties are free and easy. If one figure is in range, they all are. If one figure reaches another, everyone fights. Despite my earlier misgivings, the lack of counting figures didn’t turn out to be an issue once it was on the table. In other games, I’d be counting figures, then counting out the correct number of dice…the game plays much faster with that, and doesn’t seem to make a difference. (Possibly a bit like the change from WRG ancients to DBA – no more accounting, the element is there or it isnt. Simple, and really that’s all a general should know). You can easily hold all the rules in your head after a few games. No endless flicking through rulebooks.
– The subtle activation scores. The different success scores for varying troop types for different actions means you tend to use them as they tended to do so historically. (As an aside, I’m well aware the Rampant series are at best, Hollywood. It’s very much toy soldiers, but I still like a decent veneer of history atop my games).
– Decision points. I like a game with real decision points, that needs a bit of thinking to be successful. I like a decent bit of randomness (because, you know, warfare) that either forces me to suddenly rethink my cunning plan because something’s gone wrong, or because my opponent’s wheels have fallen off, and perhaps I can take advantage of that. Or not. Sometimes writing off a unit, or sticking to your plan can be better. Which units do I order first? To do what? I have to evaluate the situation and odds of everything being successful, with an eye towards the victory conditions.
– small number of figures. It’s a bit like when I stumbled across DBA. Suddenly I could raise all these armies that I was fascinated with, but without spending a fortune on figures, or devoting a year to paint them. Same with the Rampant series. Currently I’m painting up a Vendean force to face some Republican troops. After that, the Morean War between Venice and the Ottomans. Then perhaps the Chaco War, or Crimean War. Love the obscure wars.
– Fast games. Sometimes, as you’ve mentioned, the scenarios aren’t even close. Happens. But the nice things is that the games are fast, so usually we have enough time to play another.
– Flexible. As alluded to already, the system is very flexible. We played a little Lion Rampant campaign, set in the second Punic War, even though officially the rules only go back to the Dark Ages. The rules easily handled the troops, although we did drag in some “monster” rules from Dragon Rampant to handle elephants. We just played Vietnam using XR, or “Hanoi Rampant” as I called it.
As to your criticisms, there are no real rules for terrain, which I admit I don’t like. Sometimes the scenario requires something specific, like a central hill, or river or redoubt, but nothing is mentioned about anything else. We just pick two or three terrain pieces each, then pick our sides, then the defending player rolls randomly for position on the table. Sometimes we just set something up and choose sides after. (I like random terrain placement; all too often when setting up terrain mutually, it is far too even handed and artificial looking as a result).
I would quibble about your evaluation of the likelihood of getting hits odds. I think you’re referring to XR, but the scores needed range from 3+ to 6, so I think you’re talking mostly about those troops needing a six. I admit that I rarely field troops of five, but rather bump them to ten if I can. Sounds like you aren’t? As well, things like anti-tank weapons or armour piercing ammunition help against AFVs which do require five or more hits. But I might suggest that troops with small arms only might be somewhat discomfited against tanks. It is possible by the way to suppress a tank with merely small arms; unlikely but it’s there. That’s seems reasonable and “accurate” to me.
I’m not sure how it happened that your units rarely get to half strength. Mine do, with appalling regularity, but that’s probably a comment on your generalship versus mine! 😉
Some of the scenarios for XR do seem a bit more unbalanced, or potentially so, then the other Rampant titles. I suspect that might be a result of the protean nature of XR. There can be a lot of oddball combinations.
For everything but XR, we tend to assemble our forces, and then roll for the scenario. As a result, we tend towards balanced, flexible forces as opposed to optimizing them for a specific goal. For XR, might I suggest picking the scenario first, then select your force.. but leave the determination of attacker and defender until gameday. Might mitigate those lopsided games.
I’m sure you’re regretting asking me why I like the system Tim, assuming you waded through my verbiage to reach here! I totally understand your puzzlement; there are some very, very popular WW2 games I simply can’t stand. And like yourself, I really, really wanted to like one of them. (Even played a game, hated it…and tried again a few months later. And realized during the setup, yup – still hated it).
But as you say, horses for courses. There are a few players that love playing those games at the club, and I really have trouble wrapping my head around why.24/09/2023 at 09:26 #190896Tim SnoddyParticipant
Thank you so much for that detailed reply Tony. Absolutely fascinating to see someone else’s analysis of a game that does not appeal to me. Actually a lot of the ingredients you attribute to XR are things that make a good game for me too.
Command friction is a great thing to have in a game. Did you ever play Sword and Spear (historical or fantasy), it had an amazing command system. You drew dice from a bag like Bolt Action and units had a quality. To activate a unit you had to allocate a dice at least as high as the quality. But both sides units activated in order of all the dice placed. So better quality units should go first but you could allocate them worse dice to give dice with a higher running order to another unit. There was more skill in one round of dice allocation in that game than any other system I have played. Unfortunately the game does have some other major flaws.
No faffing. Also something I very much enjoy. Grim Dark Future is an excellent example of this for sci fi, although only playable in 15mm rather than entirely suitable for. Also enjoying Hail Caesar with it’s free form movement and simple combat mechanics. Looking forward to the fantasy version coming in December.
Decision points. Absolutely! No point in any game without them. In GDF the order you activate units is critical. I often find myself debating whether to activate one of 3 or 4 units.
I did say “to hit” but I meant casualties. If a target has armour 3 and you are hitting on a 5+ the odds of getting 1,2 or 3 casualties respectively are 70%, 8% and 0.03
Small figure count. Nah I love my big games with the table straining under the weight of figures.
How nice to be able to discuss games with in depth analysis rather than a shouting match of “my game is better than yours”.24/09/2023 at 19:51 #190899
Thanks Tim! Gaming is so subjective and a matter of personal taste, so not much point in shouting about it!
I’ve never played S&S, despite having owned it since its first edition. The command allocation did seem quite intriguing, but I never got a chance to play it. So many games, so little time. And my group is pretty much set in stone when it comes to ancients. DBA. End of story. Heck – they look at me funny when I insist on playing DBA but only with triple or quadruple size armies. I am the only one to be able to field such armies, which is alone is slightly suspect in their eyes.
So I understand the glorious spectacle of a table full of figures, but with a couple of caveats. Depends on the period (not a huge fan of the look of the infamous FoW tank parking lot) and I still like to have enough table room for maneuvers, rather than being forced into frontal charges because I have nowhere to go, which then devolve into dice rolling exercises.
And yet I also like to intersperse my “big projects” with little palate cleansers as it were. I am intrigued by the various innumerable obscure conflicts, so it’s nice to have a small, self contained project like the Vendean rebellion, or the Morean War with a decent (in my opinion of course!) set of rules that don’t require massive forces.
Can’t argue with your assessment of the casualty odds. (Although in a game this morning, my esteemed opponent managed to get 9 out of 10 dice as a 4+ hit. He never pays attention to the laws of probabilities). It can be a little attritional, although there’s always that crucial courage check, which can be catastrophic and unexpectedly abrupt.
But I think the most important part of any game are the people you game with. I’ve played some of my favourite rules against a player who simply loved to find every single loophole in a game, and exploit it to the hilt. I disliked it so much, that I actually didn’t play those rules for a few years as it left such a bad taste in my mouth.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.