Friday, 28 August 2020

Never Mind the Billhooks - free WotR rules


It is time to feel the love for our wargame magazine publishers. The latest issue (393) of Wargames Illustrated is out and this month they have a free 32 page rules supplement authored by Andy Callan.

I have really been looking forwards to this, a great combination of a good set of rules by Andy and lovely presentation from the WI team. 

Please use the 'read more' tab for the rest of this post, which looks briefly at the rules and magazine.


Essentially this is a large skirmish / small battles system in which the author intends us to have a 100 points army per side, which could be as many as 100 figures, but most likely due to the points cost of various unit types and extra costs for upgrading to veterans and stakes etc, will be lower. A game this size looks like it may take around an hour and a half to play.

The presentation shows an inclination for 28m figures singly based and then grouped onto sabots, however, wargamers are quite adept at adjusting rules and scales to meet their own requirements and collections and that is perfectly possible here.

The single basing is because casualties are taken by the figure and shooting / fighting is done by the figure count remaining, but for those of us with multi figure bases, it would work fine to just have dice behind the unit to reflect current strength and when rank size matters for calculation, just recognise that losses have come from the rear rank as it is assumed the rear are feeding into the front rank to replace losses. With unit size fixed (i.e. 12 men in 2 ranks for a bill unit), the calculation is straight-forward, you will always have 6 figures filling the front ranks, of course only until they then start to take the losses because the second rank have gone!

An army sets up within 9" of the table edge and the gap between the armies should not be more than 30" apart, so hello real world table in many real world gamer's homes (thank you!) and yes, measurements are in inches, for which many will be grateful and those who are not can easily be converted, especially if dropping down a scale or two.

This looks like the first round of melee starting


For those that have a nostalgic fancy at the thought of such things (me), there is a definite Featherstone / Grant feel here as fighting is done with the number of dice thrown equating to the number and type of figures present, plus we have hits from the resulting bucket of dice and then saves based on armour class and situation. Indeed, the designer notes in the magazine say that the dice rolling is familiar Old School.

Armies consist of units. Units are formed into 'Wards' (also known as battles, wings, divisions or brigades in terminology of other systems). Each ward has a commander and an army is formed of three wards and an overall commander

One of the things I like about the rules is that two units can combine into a single force, so you can create mixed units of billmen and archers (as well as other combinations), which seems to be an important aspect of this period that is not always touched on by rules.



At points in the game, a unit will be forced to take a Morale Crisis Test. This will come down to a pass or fail and the fail itself is split into the unit becoming 'Daunted' or worse, the unit being Broken and leaving the field.

Movement, units can move straight forward or up to 45 degrees obliquely without penalty,  but a more difficult move or entering difficult terrain will cause a unit to take a Disarray Token

Winning can be gained in one of two ways. An outright kill of the enemy army commander or by collecting the enemy Army Morale Tokens to the point that the enemy runs out of their tokens. At the start of play, each army is allocated a number of tokens that represents their army composition, so surrendering those tokens to the other side shows the slow collapse of a force brought on by the rigours of war (mainly losses and suffering daunted results)

Cards are included in the rule set, but for those who just can't bear to chop up a rule book (me), there are downloads at the WI website. The cards in the rulebook are on thin paper and double sided, so the player will want to laminate or sleeve them.

The cards will form 3 decks, Play, Bonus and Special. The play deck contains the named leaders and as you draw the card, you can activate that leader, this alone should make for a dynamic game .... especially as the last card is not drawn!

Below is an example of a card from the Special Events Deck.

one of 9 Special Event cards


When a leader is drawn, they can give out one or more orders (depending how good they are). A single order to a unit or combined unit will be translated into two of the available actions in the Action List, so Shoot and Move or Move and Move for example.

The rules are well spaced and perhaps only half the book is given up to actual rules, with the other half giving support material. The game runs off a single page crib sheet on the back page of the rule set.

I have only read through the booklet a couple of times and have not put into practice any of the mechanics, but I really like what I am reading and there is quite a bit of nuance tucked away in the game that I have not even touched on here.

I know that already there is at least one YouTube review and a video that shows a game in progress.

It seems to me that these rules cleverly walk the tightrope of being easy rules, but not simplistic and I'm sure from several blog conversations going on at the moment about wanting increasing playability of hobby time games, while reducing the amount of rule learning / referencing during play, that this rule book will hit a sweet spot for many.



The magazine issue itself is also a splendid issue. It supports the rule set (obviously) with articles as the issue is WotR themed, but the other content is interesting and I am seeing this issue as being a cover-to-cover read and one to keep hold of for future reference.

Wargames Illustrated have really pushed the boat out here, aided by the generosity of Any Callan sharing his rules. I see a lot of comment on the internet along the lines of 'I don't buy the magazines anymore', well if ever there was a moment for the hobby legions to race out and buy this mag and give a huge injection of support to our post Covid  printed hobby media, it is deservedly so today.

As with everything on this blog, this is not a review in the proper sense of the word, I only write about the things I like, so my posts tend towards being enthusiastic rather than critically objective.

I have some WotR in the lead / plastic pile and this issue of the magazine has excited me enough to get that project onto the front burner (sorry ACW) and bring this game to the table. If part of the raison d’être of a magazine is to inspire or motivate, then this issue does it by the bucketful, it has already caused me to further boost my WotR stash with an order for some Perry plastic foot knights and their lead Lancastrian command on foot.

I really enjoy these sort of rules (like the Firepower rules in the Perry ACW 28mm Battle in a Box set) and hopefully this venture will become successful enough to encourage the magazine to step in this direction again.

At the time of writing, the magazine has just gone onto the shelves at W.H.Smith (UK high street stationer), which is where I got my copy ..... hurry :-)

Resource Section

My sister site COMMANDERS is a bit more snippet based than here. LINK

https://commanders.simdif.com/

Website for Wargames Illustrated LINK

https://www.wargamesillustrated.net/



31 comments:

  1. Interesting write up,funnily enough my nephew just WhatsApped me about these rules as we are planning on playing WOTR for our next game, Barnet probably, lots of special rules I guess!
    Best Iain

    ReplyDelete
  2. Barnet yes, mistaking who might be friend or foe! and all of that fog ....... ideal for treachery flavour :-)

    You never know how these things will go. My own WH.Smiths puts out a lot of copies of WI and at the end of month there are still copies to go back to the supplier, but I suspect this particular issue will be somewhat sought after and clubs especially may bee seeking out several copies.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the review Norm. I've read another review and they remind me somewhat of Lion Rampant, which is good, but with some neat activation ideas and obvioulsy period detail. I may need to take a trip out to buy these for future reference for when I eventually get around to basing up my Medieval miniatures.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Steve, the designer notes do talk about a Rampant influence. Definitely worth getting hold of for anyone who might be having medieval dabblings.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There is just so much gaming goodness, it is tough on the gamer that’s for sure :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Especially tough with someone leading me to the trough!

      Delete
    2. I think the lady doth protest too much!
      Best Iain

      Delete
    3. It's only a matter of time! :-)

      Delete
  6. I just looked at Issue 1 of 'WI' , Sept 1987. In his editorial Duncan MacFarlane said he would 'include, if possible, a complete set of rules in each issue'. And in that issue, you got 'Loose Files and American Scramble' - by Andy Callan, of course!
    So they are following a fine tradition; well done to all concerned.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I wonder whether this will prove so successful that we will see similar, perhaps yearly, it must be a tough schedule to pull something like this off.

    Issue 1, now that is something :-)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Very nice overview of the rules. It’s nice when you read a set of rules and end up liking them more and more at each turn of the page. This is for WotR or 100 years war?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Stew, it is a WotR set, but you know wargamers, there will be a napoleonic version before tea-time! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on these rules!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ray both the rules and the mag make for a really good and worthwhile package

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hahaha - a Sex Pistols punk rock reference in a set of wargames rules - I initially thought this pun must be from Lard Island! The author(s) must be of a similar age to me! (Just in case anyone is too young, the Pistols first album was Never mind the Bollocks, here's the Sex Pistols - circa 1977)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Yes clever, once in the mind, it refuses to leave :-)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Very tempting to buy the war of the Roses paper soldiers which also come with rules by an Andy Callan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed and a fast way to collect the armies, Your experiment of photo-copy the paper army to increase them to 40mm would look particularly good.

      Delete
  15. A fine and informative run through, Dave has passed on to me his copy to see if we can use them for our Italian Wars games, I have only had chance for a quick peruse so far though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Phil, that would b very interesting, the first tempting thought would to be 'it should be fine as is', but the shift in balance from the bow to the handgun may cause a slight shift in overall engagement range, whether it is enough to matter or whether the maths of the rules have been designed and balanced around the longbow is something I don't know enough about. But tinkering is what what we are about :-)

      Delete
  16. WoFun, a Romanian makes of plexiglass flats has been releasing new ranges using Peter Dennis illos and Andy Callan rules. A War of the Roses range is coming up soon...

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Renaud, I have seen the WoFun flats and they look very nice. A WoFun / Peter Dennis / Andy Callan combo would be popular. I think a lot of stockists are going to find a run on their Perry Plastic boxes over the next few days.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks Norm you have reminded me to try and pick up a copy and I haven’t been into smiths yet this weekend 🤔

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi Matt, well worth a look, I hope this issue does well for them and perhaps rekindles some interest in the printed word. It will be interesting to see how quickly the stock drops.

    Noticed they are also doing the first issue of a Part Works of all the Queen albums in vinyl - their first issue for just a tenner is ‘A Kind of Magic’, something else that will likely fly off the shelves.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Norm,
    Waiting for my copy to come in the local store I wonder how close they are to his rules in the paper soldiers book which I thought looked good.
    Speaking of which following my refight of Blore Heath I’ve started making a base using the paper soldiers reduced to 15mm and placed on a 60x40 for possibly replacing the counters in the game and using on a hex mat!, madness

    ReplyDelete
  21. Graham ... superb madness! Another blogger, Peter, has grown the paper soldiers to 40mm, so this scalable aspect to them is compelling. As for Men-of-iron, each unit type is generic enough that I think it would be easy to manage your hex game without needing to put unit counters also on the table for their values. The 3D aspect will be very nice.

    I can’t remember where I read it, but I was left with an impression that Andy’s rules differ from the Paper Soldiers book at least by scope .... i.e large skirmish / small battle Vs big battle. I think you will really enjoy the rules and the mag.

    ReplyDelete
  22. The Billhooks" rules have nothing at all in common with the WOTR rules I did for the Peter Dennis paper soldiers book. but there is nothing to stop you using the paper soldiers to play Billhooks. Watch out for the Wofun plastic versions of Peter's WOTR paperboys - due out later this year

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hi Andy, thanks for visiting, I am enjoying the rule / mag combo.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Having watched 7th Son on YouTube and now getting the latest hobby magazine, I'm going to have to get some figures now. And I've just splashed out on the Rorke's Drift set from WG too!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hi Edward, there is just too much goodness :-)

    There does seem to be a big interest in the War of Roses at the moment with quite a few video bloggers showing their painting techniques and armies and Peter Pig has just released his period rules.

    ReplyDelete