Friday, 11 September 2020

Battle at Dungborough 1471 with Billhooks!

Above, Perry artwork used in the rules. Taking the Never Mind the Billhooks (Wars of the Roses rules) out again for another spin, we find ourselves in the fictional county of Dungborough. It is 1471 and both armies are on the march to take the high ground that is Larkin’s Hill.

Each force is in march column with their respective Van’s in the lead, each followed by their Mainward and Rearward. Due to the high ground before them, neither side is aware of the others presence.

This post covers an AAR of the action. Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.

The Yorkists under Lord Saye, had encamped at the settlement of Piggy Longton overnight and are now marching towards Larkin’s Hill, a low ridge with a light copse at the northern tip.

The Lancastrians under Lord Montagu have intelligence that a Yorkist force is near to the Parish of Piggy Longton and Montagu is under orders to contain the Yorkists by seizing Larkin’s Hill and holding it until The King arrives with the rest of the army.

Orders of Battle.


Vanward under the command of Sir John Delves: 1 x Longbow, 2 x Bill, 1 x Handgunners (sk)

Mainward under the command of John Neville, Lord Montagu: 1 x Longbow, 1 x Bill, 2 x Pike (combined block)

Rearward under the command of Sir Edward Hampden: 1 x Longbow, 1 x Men-at-Arms

Total 126 points plus 10 points for leaders


Vanward under the command of Viscount Bourchier: 1 x knights, 1 x Bill, 1 x Longbow, 1 x handgunners (sk).

Mainward under the command of Lord Saye: 1 x Longbow, 1 x Bill, 1 x Artillery

Rearward under the command of Sir John Lisle: 1 x Longbow, 1 x Men-at-Arms

Total 123 points plus 10 points for leaders. 

All leaders have a Command Class of ‘2’. All units are classed as Retinue except the mounted knights are classed as Household (Veteran).

NOTE - I am using different base frontages than the rules suggest. I am trying 80mm, I think the rules are looking at around 120mm because they have frontages of 6 infantry figures.

Special Rules.

The first Leader Card that each side draws is used to activate their Vanward, regardless of the leader named on the card. Play then continues normally. It will of course mean that the named leader on that card will not get a chance to activate for the remainder of the first turn. It also means that if the first card drawn is not for the actual Vanward commander, then there is every prospect that the Van will be able to activate again during turn one, when their ‘real’ Leader Card is drawn (though obviously not if they happen to be the last card in the deck ..... which never gets drawn).

At the end of each turn, after the Play Deck has been re-shuffled, check to see if one side is the sole occupant of Larkin’s Hill, or were the last to be the sole occupant, if so, the enemy lose one Army Morale Token. This can only happen once in the game (i.e. the first time the hill becomes player controlled).

Larkin’s Hill counts as a Hill, so cavalry cannot charge uphill, but it is open ground and counts as good going rather than bad going. The ridge line is an obstruction to line of sight.

The game!

Never Mind the Billhooks opens each game with a Manoeuvre Phase. Here the players take it in turn to move one unit, with play going back and forth between the players after each unit is moved until the first attack is made. At that point this one-off initial phase ends and the normal Sequence of Play starts, which from there-on-in has the activation of leaders being governed by card draw.

Lancastrians in red, Yorkist in blue

Both sides send their compliment of handgun armed skirmishers forward. They meet on the hill, but hold back their attacks while their forces try to get into position.

The armies approach Lakin’s Hill

But the Yorkist handgunners take an early view that the Lancastrians are getting the better of the manoeuvre, so they attack the skirmishers opposite them to bring the Manoeuvre Phase to an end. This results with both forces having their vanwards close to the hill, but the rest of their forces trailing quite far behind as they try and get out of column and move up.

The Lancastrian vanward under Sir John Delves successfully get onto the hill, spurring the Yorkist cavalry to push out and move up the hill to engage those billmen and prevent Delves getting a hold on the high ground.

The cavalry cannot charge uphill, so they just move to contact and they suffer quite heavily with 3 losses, but the billmen are put to flight and they flee the field. The loss of a unit causes the owning player to surrender 2 Army Morale Points from their ‘bank’, once they can no longer pay the points for losses, they lose the game. The Lancastrian Morale drops from 8 to 6. 

Yorkist cavalry see off Sir John's billmen

Events unfold quickly at the hill. As the forward units close, the skirmishers vacate the high ground and take positions up on the flanks. The suddenness of the close engagement between the two vanwards means that the archers of both armies have not had a chance to wear down their enemy before contact (most of the archer units still have their arrow supply die still showing their full allowance of 6).

The Yorkists archers in Viscount Bourchier's Vanward fall in behind their billmen and the bill, move up the slopes to engage the enemy vanguard, which still have archers bristling along their front. They do not evade, but rather stand firm and put a shower of arrows into the approaching Yorkist billmen, but with surprisingly little effect. 

The billmen clash before the bowmen can get out of the way and they deal a devastating blow to the Lancastrian van. The archers break and flee, taking their own billmen with them, Sir John Delves' entire Lancastrian van is carried off the field. The loss means that the Lancastrians have to lose 4 Army Morale Tokens, they have just 2 left. This is early in the game for such a loss.

The Yorkist van is then able to play a ‘Perk’ Bonus Card that they have acquired and they use it to redeploy along the the ridge in line. The Yorkists are now in sole occupation of Larkin’s Hill. This forces the Lancastrian player to try and get units onto the hill by the end of the turn, else they will have to surrender another precious Army Morale Token, as per the special scenario rules for hill occupation.

The pike advance on the archers

The Lancastrian mainward under Lord Montagu are ordered up. Their pike assault the hill, aiming at the enemy archers, while his own archers move up to bring the enemy billmen into short arrow range. The archers targeted by the pike fall back and the pike consolidate the lower slopes of the hill ...... just in time to avoid that ‘sole occupation’ penalty.

Montagu’s position is perilous though. He has lost the vanward and he needs to gain some momentum in the attack with his pike, while his remaining units get into better attack positions ..... Suddenly, a gift presents itself!

As the pike advance onto the crest of the ridge, they see directly below them the enemy mainward with Lord Saye, moving around the base of the hill, skirting it to take up position on the Yorkist left flank, but in doing that their flank is totally exposed to the pikemen - who do not hesitate and strike at the vulnerable archers, which are formed up in front of their billmen. The archers suffer grievous casualties, drop their weapons and flee to Snooty Wood.

Archers flee to Snooty Wood

On the Lancastrian left, the constant arrow barrage from Sir Edward Hampden (rearward) at the Yorkist knights saw the horsemen flee the field, not able to suffer the arrowheads any longer. Hampden now only has some skirmishers in front of him, otherwise he is clear to envelope the enemy.

In an instant, the initiative had shifted back to the Lancastrians and a sense of balance has returned to the field and despite the Lancastrians losses, it is the Yorkists who are now scrambling to pull together a cohesive line. They have managed to get their artillery atop the hill, but even that, without support, is in great danger! Both sides have just 2 Army Morale Tokens left, once below zero, a side will lose the game.

Lord Montagu’s (Lancastrian) mainward assaults the western slopes of the hill with his bill and archers. His pike have pushed out rather too far and are now beyond his influence (out of command range), he will have to do some leg work to get his ward back into a properly operational formation. This will take time, as Montagu is some distance from the pike.

Yorkist Men-at-Arms from Sir John Lisle’s rearward were at the same time moving up the eastern slope, crashing into Montagu’s advancing troops. The surprised billmen took casualties, but they initially held firm as the two sides fought for the crest. The Men-at-Arms pressed harder, eventually breaking Montagu’s billmen and then also pushing his archers off the hill (evade). 

Now somewhat beleaguered, the isolated Pike had come to a halt and was being assailed by arrows. Lord Saye judged the time right to take his billmen forward and press the depleted pike block, taking heavy casualties and receiving a wound as he did so, but both bill and pike held firm, locked together, with neither giving ground.

Both sides were now reaching exhaustion. The front of the pike block had been hammered by arrows, their spirits diminished, they became ‘Daunted’ (like shaken in other rules) and fell back, retiring from the hill. But Lord Saye’s billmen had had such a rough handling that they too became Daunted and retired back towards Snooty Woods, the place where their archers had originally fled to and were still hiding! The Yorkist left wing had collapsed!

The Daunted result means that the Lancastrians has to hand over an Army Morale Token to the other side, but they do not have any left, so they automatically lose the battle. It is a very tight close game, because the Yorkists are also now in sole control of the hill, which under the special rules of the scenario means that the Lancastrians must surrender one of their Army Morale Tokens ..... but they have none left either! This would mean that since they couldn’t pay Morale tokens, they would lose.

However, this special rules about sole occupation of the hill happens at the very end of the turn, but of course technically the Yorkists have already lost before then, but it shows how tight this game was.


This was the second outing with the rules in a full engagement situation, though this time we added terrain to the table and that did bring a good dynamic to play.

I fancy that the scenario is a bit more unusual in that it has both side moving in pre-battle column and shaking out into battle formation takes a little time, especially, as in this game, if the Manoeuvre Phase is brought to a prompt and early halt. This did add to playing time.

In most respects as far as this game went, this was a symmetrical table with near equal forces (in terms of points) on either side of the ridge. The Yorkists certainly did not get the best from their heavy cavalry and it virtually took the entire game to get the artillery into a firing position and they only set up there (instead of falling back) because they were about to be compromised (use them or lose them!). In the end, they only got one turn of actually firing.

A useful card ... that I forgot to play!

For their part, the Lancastrians wasted their Men-at-Arms unit. It was in their rearward under Hampden, who early doors veered off to the left and didn’t really do enough, although twice, it was his command card that was the last card in the deck and therefore it was being undrawn that stopped him. By the time he got going, the situation had changed and the threat was on the hill itself, so he then stopped his enveloping intentions and spent more time manoeuvring to get back below the western slopes - so he never really did anything anywhere! 

A question for me is whether I am satisfied with My experiments with the single based units and the standard frontage of 80mm. For these particular rules, it means visualising some of the maths elements as to how many figures are ‘really’ in each rank when calculating attacks and losses, but as the system uses 6 figures for infantry and 8 for cavalry, this is relatively easy. The marking of losses (rather than single figure removal) can look a bit messy with bits of paper around, but I think the numbers are low enough here that a roster could be used without too much administrative distraction.

The 80mm base certainly allows for more units to fit into a smaller space and that alone makes the basing attractive to me, but I think that for a while, I may be ‘loosely’ attaching figures to bases while I decide.

The ‘official’ cards from wargames Illustrated are very nice and well worth their £6 cost. They are standard playing card size and printed in colour to both sides and are of a good weight with a satin finish. If you do order the cards, it might be worth picking up a spare packet of 'leader cards' so that you can have a range of named leader cards to choose from.

Painting Queue - a few Perry plastic crossbowmen (from their mercenaries box) have just come off the painting sticks and await basing, while a unit of retinue billmen have just been primed and are ready to get a slap of beauty paint. The Perry metal Richard III  and Henry VII mounted command teams have also been primed to take their place in the painting queue. So the Bosworth project is moving on, encouraged I must say by these rules and the experience of getting a few games to the table.

As painted units start to reach the table, future accounts will be prettied up by their presence and there will be less reliance on the maps.

As a final note, I just want to thank those who have become supporters of this blog and to say a quick hello to those recently joining. My interests are quite varied, so not every post will interest everyone, but hopefully there is enough here to generally please, at least some of the time and your visible support does help keep up the motivation to post what can at times become quite lengthy articles! - thank you.

Resource Section.

A link to my first trial of the game, played over an open table without terrain and explaining some of the system. LINK


  1. A very exciting game Norm with an awful lot of action going on. I've done a few simple games to get a hang of the rules and like what I've seen so far. The terrain makes a difference as one can imagine and interestingly I want to run a similar scenario with both sides arriving in line of march.

    As for recording hits etc, I've found my normal 6mm die work well. I've yet to decide on base sizes etc as I would like to be able to use them for other rulesets. Howver larger more diorama style bases do appeal.

  2. Thanks Steve, a very engaging game and i think the rules are hitting above their weight, with quite a bit going on under the bonnet, so to speak.

    The archers that ran away into Snooty Wood were actually down to just 1 figure, so not destined to last long, but I don’t think I want to see a sabot designed for 12 figures, running around looking bare with losses - but there is a convenience to taking figures as casualties.

  3. That all worked nicely. I'm not a fan of near empty sabot bases either,

  4. Thanks, I am following your exploits with the rules with interest.

  5. A splendid write up Norm, the narrative certainly sums up my thinking of what such an engagement in the WotR would be like.
    As for basing while I appreciate the versatility of single bases they just do not look like a formed body of troops on sabot bases, perhaps I am just old fashioned?

  6. Thanks Phil, I think the narrative that falls out of the rules has a good feel. Basing is a tough one. At the moment, I am just blu-tac ing the current 50mm bases as singles onto the 80mm bases, just to identify them while I see how 80mm performs. When properly done, the bill will have around 10 figures on them and they should look like David’s Carthaginian units. But the jury is still out! I could go to 3 x 50mm, which would give the 12 figures per unit that the rules rely on.

  7. Another entertaining account of an incident -packed engagement. Glad to see my rules are doing their job?

    1. Hi Andy, yes, gave a very entertaining couple of hours at the table and further nuances showed themselves in the second game as I start to remember all of the smaller rule elements.

  8. Pike units are very uncommon in WOTR battles. Only present at Bosworth (and even then that is subject to some doubt) and Stoke Field.

    1. Hi Mike, thanks for stopping by. My current project is Bosworth. I will be using one unit of pike to represent the French contingent who are described as having 22 foot spears, though I am imagining something shorter, however, without conversion and with going with plastic, the pike figures from the mercenaries box seem the closest fit ...... plus, they will make for a pretty unit :-)

      The 1471 reference is purely because I used the leader names from those who died at the battles of Barnet and Tewksbury as I didn’t want to use the more well known names in what is a fictional low level encounter in a fictional county. the thought does occur to me to increase the scope of the fictional country, to run a number of small engagements at the family feud level.

    2. Hi Norm, I also have a single pike unit for the French mercenaries at Bosworth. A fictional county is a good idea and if you are going to do that I would recommend you take a look at the battle of Nibley Green which is just the sort of local encounter that would fit.

    3. Thanks Mike, what a lovely resource, very interesting.

  9. Really excellent AAR Norm. The map really helps following the battle. There’s nothing like a good set of rules to build excitement about a new genre. 😀

    Good luck with your basing. I don’t have any advice that would be useful.

    1. Thanks Stew, also relatively low number help motivate a new project as you are no doubt finding with your Tomahawk and Musket interests.

  10. Sounds like you enjoyed both game and rules, Norm. With single element BMUs with a 120mm frontage, forces built specifically for this ruleset would work for both Impetvs and To The Strongest! Perhaps that was intentional? Loved your game maps. Knowing that you create these on an iPad, I would enjoy seeing how you creat such pleasing maps. Nice job!

  11. Jonathan, I think 120mm would be the visual gold standard and I have some 100mm as a half way house, but the 80mm allows for a 50% increase in table size value, which is probably my main driver. There is of course the alternative of 60mm frontage in 15mm scale, which is even more economical of space.

    The maps use just two apps, Pro-Create to do the artwork and then pass it through Pronto to do the units and text etc. it is then saved as a jpeg.

  12. Thanks Norm for the review, I managed to get my copy and I am now all a dither about collection WotR , perhaps in the new year ?

  13. Hi Matt, glad you secured a copy. I think the activation system alone will something that will interest you and it can travel across periods, in the same way that your Bolt Action dice do.

  14. A good read as always Norm that gives a good description of the dynamics of the rules. Seems to capture the period flavour well.

  15. Thanks Lee, a ruleset pitched at the level that I think we have both come to appreciate.

  16. Nice report Norm and the rules seem to give a fun game - several elements are reminiscent of TtS - the coins/tokens spent when taking casualties. the archers having a dice to indicate ammo level etc

  17. Thanks Keith, some have commented that elements of Lion Rampant are also there, so some influences are at play, though everything knits tightly together and it looks like the system has been built from the ground up with the author definitely knowing the direction of travel for these rules.

  18. Nice write up,good to see you finding a way of using 28mm figures, I really like the mercenaries box, it's one of my favourites, maybe you shouldn't have sent me the landsknechts!
    Best Iain

  19. Hi Iain, the mercenary box is very useful for what it contains, plus makes for a good kit-bash source of goodies. Glad you have the landsknechts :-)



Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.