Scrummers try Dragon Rampant via Zoom


The Second Saturday Scrum club hasn’t been meeting in person since the COVID Pandemic shut almost everything down. Instead, we’ve been doing a lot of remote gaming. Steve was scheduled to put on a Tekumel miniatures game in August but that got bumped to next month because he had some martial arts thing to do. So Joe picked up the challenge.

“A STORM BREWED BELOW”Saturday July 11, 6:00-10:00 pmType: Small-unit wargame
Rules: Dragon Rampant (modified)
GM: Joe Procopio
Players: 4

Description: Some foolhardy adventurers in search of loot and fame have stirred up quite a mess with their recent exploits. The architect of the tomb the adventurers plundered is unhappy that these surface dwellers have trespassed on her domain, and so the Lich Queen has dispatched her minions to destroy the nearby village of Holmesdale, which had earlier provided them a safe haven en route to the tomb. Meanwhile, the battered-but-victorious adventurers are attempting to return to the village with their newfound treasure, and had the foresight to hire a group of dwarven freebooters ahead of time to escort them safely back across the mountains. It’s too bad those dwarves didn’t notice the orc brigands who started trailing them at the last pass, looking for the chance to ambush them and their obviously loot-laden companions. The winds of fate have blown up quite a storm in this quiet valley, a tempest that started abrewing a dozen leagues back in that dark dungeon tomb below.

This scenario is a sequel of sorts to two events played on the recent Scrum Club spring invitational. Essentially the scenario “hook” was to return a magic artifact of sorts from the Humans to the Elves. Not that we knew that, of course. Steve Braun and I played the obligatory bad guys. I played the war band of Gronk the Gruesome or something like that (leader of the Orcs) and Steve played a priest who could raise the undead. Rich played the Humans under the local Sherriff, John Sears played the Wood Elves.

Joe sent us some files to print out and a QRC chart to help us play. We weren’t playing straight up Dragon Rampant, it was slightly modded to play for a small group over a streaming connection. Joe made several small mods to move gameplay along.”

Trigger warning: these are screenshots of a PC video stream taking from a phone. It will not be pretty. you have been warned.

Even though a medium like Roll20 has its own problems, it will demonstrate a dice roll to all concerned. I felt like I should have set up a special “dice roll camera” for everyone else’s benefit at one pont.

I’ve played Dragon Rampant one time before in a scenario called “Sharke’s Bridge” as run by Mark Fastoso on NOVAG Game Day Winter 17. I remember the game as being pretty fun. Mark ran it using Alternative Armies Flintloque miniatures, giving it a lot of visual character:

Dragon Rampant is designed for smaller unit skirmishes, has a low unit density and isn’t that complex. It does have some elements that contributed to confusion, and that resurfaced again when we played it over Zoom.

Here’s Joe giving the pre-game narrative schpiel..

The game was set up roughly like a short rectangle:

I apologize for the screenshots not being particularly well lit. It’s the medium.

So, to set the scene. We all had a sheet with figures statted out on it. I had Grunsh, Orc Raiders, Goblin Archers, and a Hill Giant. Opposing forces also had a similar mix. Steve had Skellies, Cultists, his Priest, and a giant Skeleton who swam underwater and ambushed the bridge in the center of the board at one point.

Orc forces (pointing at them) arriving on map

The Elves had swordsmen, archers, Treants (like Ents), and their leader. Rich (Humans) had Archers and Footmen, the Sherriff and I’m not sure what else. Each side had one unit on the field at start and then moved in new units one at a time by rolling for activation. I put the Archers on the field, then rolled successfully to get Grumsh on the field.

Forward Gobboes! Grumsh smells MAN flesh for dinner!

What followed was a straight four way scrum that I have to admit the Bad Guys didn’t handle all that spectacularly. The Terrain was not very favorable where I was.. in that I deployed too many of my forces into one zone and they always seemed to be in JUST the wrong position to attack, or fire, and move to where they could attack, etc.

Same view as above from Joe’s ceiling mounted camera. There were two cameras, a ceiling mount and an Iphone camera on a stand for closeups. Since the ceiling mount was high up the figures tended to blur with the scenery. This is why they are all on small coaster-sized unit stands, so they can be seen by the camera.

Rich ran his cavalry down the main road, passing in front of my advancing Goblin archers. I got one good volley off and one not so good. So it goes. In any event, he took enough casualties to knock that unit down to a single rider.

NOT SO FAST, HOOMAN!

Poor Steve Braun bore the brunt of the attack by the goodie two shoes faction. He had some cool units, though. He had a giant skellie swimming in the water at start (and undetectable).

Steve’s Necromancer and a unit of Skellies. He also had Cultists and a giant Skeleton, which was frankly, badass.
And here’s Steve’s cool giant Skeleton ambushing the Elven swordsmen on the Bridge. WHOOPS! Pointy ears never saw it coming!
Just another cool shot of this old Ral Partha figure. I have one of these too.

John Sears ran the pointy eared Elfies. He advanced on the Bridge with his leader, his Swordsman, and his Archers. I had pushed my Giant into the stream, which made him a big target for his archers. My giant had three boulders to toss, one which hit the swordsmen, two hit the archers, which did reduce their effectiveness. My giant got pretty shot to pieces, too, down to two wounds by the end of the game.

Elfie Leader (we called him Lord of the Dance) plus archers.

Rich and Steve were very busy wittling each other down. Steve essentially fought himself into oblivion against Rich and John before I could really support him adequately with my Orcs. I felt badly about that.. I kept encountering terrain blockages and stuff I couldn’t do.

Rich McKee encountered some early on frustration. He brought on his cavalry, then rolled poorly for activation again and again and again… YET, when he engaged, he was very effective and very tactical.

Rich’s Sherriff character entering the Eastern side

The battle ended because the Humans and Elves managed to get their hand off of the “big artifact” which was the main victory conditions for the game. Rich’s leader handed off the “Helm of Command” to the Treants who crossed the river and then turned around and headed back. The Goodie two shoes outfought us, bad dice rolls and all. I could not get my orcs into a good position to assist without putting them into a very vulnerable spot first. That got frustrating for me.
Summary
I think the rules are good, maybe not great. I think there are way too many ways to NOT do things in Dragon Rampart and that was unfortunate. Rich could barely get troops on the table in the first few turns. Activation was severely limiting at times, and I felt like I took forever to conclusively damage enemy units. I understand the designer’s intent there, he didn’t want the figures to evaporate, and they ARE a small unit skirmish rules. On the plus side, we needed a decent set to run in this very particular setting– namely, with a two camera streaming setup. I think Joe managed the technical setup very well. DR was a good choice for this setting and this situation. COVID 19 sucks, absolutely, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop playing miniatures games.