Thursday, 9 February 2017

To Lament or not to Lament !

The other day I received in the post a copy of the latest Osprey Games booklet "The Pikeman's Lament"  from that very efficient outfit  The Wordery an ebay bookseller I've used previously. Costing me a mere £9.65 including postage  this looked like a bargain and it terms of the physical appearance of the book it was
 Then I looked inside and all my illusions were quite quickly shattered.
Now as you know I'm a bit of a 17th century nut- mainly ECW but not entirely ignoring other wars of that tempestuous century either. It follows that any set of rules purporting to depict conflict from that period is going to interest me. The active phrase here is "purporting to depict".
 The basic idea is actually pretty good- these are no rules, or perhaps I should say this is not a game, for refighting large battles. In theory it depicts the small war of outposts , minor actions and skirmishes that were a major part of much 17th century warfare. And so it does.... well sort of... maybe a bit anyway ..
There is some good stuff here most especially the almost role play of the officer selection process but each "Company" is only allowed 1 officer (and no NCOs) so an historical command structure is not allowed despite the fact that the officer character starts as an ensign- the lowest commissioned rank of the period-
  It is pretty obvious that the authors are very prepared to butcher the actuality to achieve their desired results- these being a "set of simple and fast moving miniature wargame rules" . An awful lot has been subordinated to these objectives.  Period organisation, period formations, period weapon handling, period drill   and period terminology have all been given a proper kicking to make them fall into line with the authors "game". Now in some cases this is necessary . I suspect that these rules will handle small scale cavalry actions rather well assuming you can live with tiny units and non period organisations but the points based organisation places  quite a bit of "negative freedom" on the system especially as the points system is also part of the morale mechanism.
 A couple of examples
 In these rules a "forlorn hope" is a troop type rather than a military decision. So I'm tempted to ask can you use a forlorn hope as a forlorn hope ?? Well yes actually  in the game the term actually means "small elite foot unit" rather than  the advanced party  ( of either foot or horse as the situation demanded)   the term was actually used to indicate.

Dragoons- now anyone with a basic grounding in the 17th century military art knows that dragons were mounted infantry who dismounted to fight. Here the term is used to indicate any type of  mounted firearm cavalry as well as traditional Dragoons -no distinction is made Dragoons do not have to dismount to fight. They do not have to act as their historical namesakes did.

This misuse of terms is at best misleading for the newcomer, which you would think that  this limited ,tightly organised and rather narrow focus game is aimed at. Let's face it if you are into 17th century warfare and know anything at all about how operations were conducted then this game will make you laugh- especially if you are not already a wargamer.

 Also for the type of warfare these rules are intended to depict 2 of the troop types available would have been a distinct rarity and possibly - for certain of the given scenarios absent altogether- Pikemen and Artillery. In accounts of the various types of outpost warfare of the period I have Pikemen are rarely if ever mentioned. Artillery more as an objective than a unit- besieged garrisons would sally out to destroy or disable the besiegers guns if they could as at Basing House and Lathom house to cite just 2 examples.
 Also this "game" is very dice heavy. Everything requires a dice roll  moving, firing, reaction, orders, casualties  and morale. Dice rolls are substituted for decision making. Great if you are 12. You might lose the will to live if you are an adult.
 However above all else what really really gives me the hump in these rules is the unit structure. There are only 2 unit sizes 12 figures for some foot and 6 figures for all Horse and Dragoons and the remaining foot and gun crews. Why this should be so is never explained so despite the fact that we are told 1 model represents 1 real soldier (so what the hell use are 12 pikemen - a mere 2 files for much of the period. Why would they be involved in "outpost warfare" ). You get the distinct impression that this is done because the authors favourite toys are sold in  factors of 3 or 4 or 6  or more likely that the system was lifted straight from the very un-medieval medieval "game" Lion Rampant without benefit of actually  looking at 17th century warfare.
 If you want a quick  simplistic "game" with a very little 17th century flavour and an awful lot of dice rolling.  A game that is quite heavily structured so you don't have to do anything as radical as thinking for yourself. A game that assumes you know nothing and doesn't bother to enlighten you then this is for you, straight from the booklet.
 If you want a game of 17th century outpost warfare then these- after a good butchering may do the job but straight from the book they are just another same old same old  skirmish- a- like.  Frankly I could go on about poor points such as no weapon differences- despite the fact that these were viewed as important at the time (don't for instance use matchlock muskets for either sentries or night operations if yo can help it) but this is the kind of stuff the interested player  or umpire can put in at need and IS nit-picking. Nevertheless the overall impression is that the authors have striven mightily to do as little as possible to produce a sequel to lion rampant- which wasn't that good anyway and in doing so have for me dropped the ball somewhere near the halfway line .... sort of a grudging 5/10


  1. Excellent review Andy and much as I expected. You've saved me a few quid so thanks ☺

  2. Thank you Andy,
    I am always prepared to alter rules in order to play them and even make up bits as one goes along (I am a lifelong Charge! player) but it doesn't sound like enough in the core to make it worthwhile.

    As you've save me a few quid; I noticed the other day your comment on amazon about the letter books of sir William Brereton. The opposite end of the scale to The Pikeman's Lament, and no, I am not your internet stalker.

    But- Lancashire Record Society are selling back volumes at 3 for £10. I bought vol 2 of the letterbooks hdbck brand new for £5 and £4 postage. Brilliant bargain if you haven't got it.

    follow link to download list:

    1. John Thanks for that I'll get it sorted- those I'm having even if I already have some- my edition is different.
      As an aside I wonder how hard it would be to make "Charge!" into and ECW small action set- I started to do it but never came close to finishig . I still think it should be possible and quite easy to make it more "period" than these.

    2. As I understand it the letter books are three volumes: vol 1)jan-june 45 and vol 2)june 45 -feb46, are both published by Lancashire records society. Vol 3 first half of 46 is published by Staffordshire record society.
      Confused? I am.

      They had just sold out vol one but I got vol 2. I then went out and bought vol one second hand but it cost me a good bit more than £5.

      What made me think of them was your talking about skirmishes. In the Autumn and winter after Naseby Cheshire had an increasingly bitter Guerrilla war till the Royalists collapsed. Plenty of scenarios in these letters.

  3. The "Rampant" system seems to be being rolled out across multiple periods ranging from early chariot warfare to the Napoleonic wars. It seems to be to do an equally good (bad) job at depicting warfare for all of them.

    But they do provide fun, though in my opinion rather lightweight, games.

    I play and enjoy the fantasy variant, Dragon Rampant, as I don't have to care about history when playing with skeletons.

    1. I can see the point of the fantasy variant- which was the first one I think? for exactly the reason you mention.
      However from an historical point of view the 2 I have are both cobblers for the periods they purport to depict. Guilty of the common "crime" these days "make the history fit my simplistic kiddies game".

    2. Lion Rampant, the medieval version, was first in the series. From a historical point of view they are all cobblers.

  4. Intrigued by the rules title .. but saved my pennies and the bother of lamenting over wasted money. I decided to continue using my own skirmish ruleset which works fine with a couple of tweaks for ECW/TYW.

  5. I have periods that I play that I am very committed to, so I understand your consternation regarding lack of detail. That being said, I'm more than happy to collect, paint up, and throw these small units on the table and play a game. The odds of me delving in-depth into this period is practically nil, outside of researching painting schemes.

    For all of it's supposed shortcomings, this rule set has gotten me to purchase and paint up ECW miniatures - an endeavor I would have NEVER even considered before these rules came along.

    1. Not a complete waste of time then!- and as I said they could be made into something useful with a bit of work but as it is they could be used with equal facility for anything from 1066 - 1783 which rather negates the point of several books other than to make a few quid for authors and publishers.
      I can honestly say that a mere rule set or game has NEVER been the introduction to a period for me sure, there are period I view with less seriousness- SCI-FI for one and Ancients perhaps for a second but in neither case was a rule set responsible for my getting into them in the first place- perhaps I simply don;t view the actual gaming as important enough.

  6. We play Lion Rampant at Durham and enjoy it for what it is - a bit of fun (sorry Andy, I know the f-word gets your hackles up). But we are, as you know, a shallow and flippant lot. To be fair the author does emphasise the Hollywood style of his "medieval-themed battle game" in the introduction. I can appreciate that a newcomer, or anyone else for that matter, would be disappointed if they had assumed (or been led to believe) that the game would be something that it is not.

    1. They don't even have "Hollywood style" in that they don't give results that look like what happens in films.

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    3. One mans fun is another mans tedium. The problem I have with these lightweight games is what the hell do you do after you've played 'em half a dozen times? I agree that Lion Rampant is touted by the author as lightweight- though not by the publisher.
      Lament is not touted as lightweight either by author or publisher, but of course is. Now there is nothing intrinsically WRONG with lightweight as long as the potential punter realises that is what he is buying and that "other methods are available" . Even within the Osprey games format you can do better- En Garde for a start and Honours of War are not bad- though again the organisations are overly simplistic.
      Now there are so-far 3 books for 3 supposedly different periods using the "Rampant" system , the differences between the 3 being fairly slightand I can't really see why anyone would play any of them more than half a dozen times. Or are we expected to believe that today's "gamers" want narrow repetitive simplistic games to the exclusion of all else.

    4. Narrow and simplistic has a place, but to exclude everything else, well, that's a personal choice. Like the Modern rule sets we use, I prefer Combined Arms but Team Yankee certainly has a place too. Ok, with amendments (tanks bouncing off hedgerows, indeed!), but that's where the thinking brain comes in. The basic tenets are sound, they just need some tinkering to suit the historical actuality. Surely that is what historical wargaming is all about???

    5. You;d certainly have thought so but these days apparently not.PL is probably not a bad "game" but that is all it is just like all the others.
      In the modern gaming age one appears to be expected to subordinate everything to the dice rolling urge of the 10 year old. If we accept that this set of games was written for children then intellectually speaking all is well but I really wonder what the target market was.
      Frankly I perceive that wargaming in the historical sense may actually be on its intellectual death bed but will continue on as a more and more lightweight section of an increasingly lightweight tabletop gaming industry.
      Fortunately wargaming does not completely depend upon the outporings of the games production industry for ints existence.