For quite a while, a friend tried to convince me to start a rank and file type of game system. I stayed firm until he showed me some of his freshly painted Victrix Romans. Of course, I looked immediately through his sneaky move. While the sheer amount of miniatures to paint wasn’t very appealing to me, I had to admit that they looked very impressive on the table. Long story short, we talked about an ancient project and as you might suspect, a few days later I ordered the first miniatures for my Macedonian army for Lion Rampant. And so I started my journey into the ancient world.
Choosing a set of rules
Before we could start our adventure, we had to choose a set of rules. There are several viable options on the market. Arguably one of the most popular would be Hail Caesar from Warlord Games. Another option would be a German set of rules called Steinhagel. Of course, there are also games like DBA or Impetus. But we canceled them out of the equitation because they wouldn’t match our play style.
We agreed to give Hail Caesar a try, playing my mates Romans against his Carthaginians. While we had a great game, the rules couldn’t convince us fully. So my mate came up with the idea of using Lion Rampant. He gets some inspiration from an article in Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy. So after another playtest and some minor tweaks, we had our set of rules.
Choosing an army
While I am still constantly thinking about building a Germanic army, my first choice was clear: I would build a Macedonian army. But don’t ask me why I just like their appearance. Especially their Phalangites are an impressive sight with their lances.
For my army I build the following units:
- Macedonian Archers
- Macedonian Hypaspists
- Macedonian Phalangites
- Javelin Men
- Macedonian Light Cavalry
- Macedonian Heavy Cavalry
The Concept of our campaign
After some brainstorming, we were sure, that Sicily would make a good spot for our campaign. There are two major reasons for that. The first is obvious. The fact, that it is a small island makes Siciliy perfect for our campaign. It is big enough to offer some tactical options, but not too big for things to get out of hand. The perfect spot to give our rules the first try.
Besides that, Sicily offers a wide variety of army options. Besides Greeks, Carthaginians, Gallic and Spanish troops choices, Sicily offers also the opportunity to introduce Rome as a non-player faction one day. So plenty of options to tinker around with.
After we nailed down the framework, my mate made a small campaign map based on an ancient map of Sicily. On the map, Sicily is divided into several provinces. The basic campaign rules are rather simple. Every province gains one support point for the controlling player. These support points can be spend for new units.
Playing the campaign
After we had nailed down our concept, it was time to play and roll some dice. But how did we play our campaign? Well, again we kept things simple.
One black die on the map would represent an army. The red die marked the provinces controlled by my Macedonians, the purple ones are controlled by my mates Carthaginians. In one turn an army could move from one province to an adjacent one. If two armies met in a province, a battle will be the result.
Hence as a player you had to take your turns carefully, if you don’t want to be engaged in a fight. Basically you had to ask yourself, if it would be better to conquer another province or denying the other player to do the same.
As you might guess, due to the tight space on Sicily, we had not to wait long before the first battle had to be fought. If a battle occurred, we chose a scenario from the scenario table in the Lion Rampant rulebook. Preferably one, which would suit our needs and make sense in the grand scheme of things. In my opinion, the link between the narrative and the battles is much stronger that way.
And the rules? Well, Lion Rampant works like a charm for the setting. I really like the simplicity, but Lion Rampant also offers enough tactical fines to have a great time on the table.
Game #1: Hold on tight
In the first game both players tried to conquer and hold the fort in the middle of the table. The game was extremely tied, but at the end the Macedonians won.
Game #2: the Convoy
In the second game the Macedonians raided an enemy province. As they tried to return home, an Carthaginian army attacked them. Luckily my Macedonians were able to fight back the enemy and leave the table. Another win for Macedonia!
Game #3: Meeting the Neighbours
In the third game both armies had to leave the table via the opposing deployment zone. Sounds easy, but things escalated rather quickly into a field battle. The Carthaginians were favored by the dice gods and the Macedonian Strategos made some wrong decisions. Consequently, the Macedonians had to retreat. Win by the Carthaginians.
Until now we played three games and I am very pleased with the result so far. The gaming mechanics worked out very well and until now things are also well balanced. The great thing about campaigns is, that you have to take much tougher decisions. If you lose a battle in a campaign game, the losses carry over into the next game. As a result, you are much more inclined to retreat from a losing battle, to limit your losses. Fighting until the end with the risk of total annihilation is in most cases simply not the smartest move.
As a result, you are much more attached to your troops. Losing a unit of skirmishers (2 points) is bearable, but losing an elite phalanx (7 points) is a real defeat. Replacing such an elite unit would take a full turn with 7 provinces occupied! So defending your rear and flanks becomes a necessity.
In conclusion, I am very happy with our ancient campaign and my Macedonian army for Lion Rampant. We had a lot of fun and the armies look stunning.
Have you ever played a campaign? Tell me below in the comments and as always, happy wargaming!