Saturday, 22 May 2021

Bosworth 1485, Percy attacks!

For the ‘World War of the Roses’ event ( being held 22nd / 23rd May 2021 - see resource section below), I decided to join in with my fledgling forces by concentrating on a part of the Bosworth field that is usually side-lined as an area of no activity.

Today we are looking at the inactivity of Lord Stanley, who we may accept as having Lancastrian sympathies ….. if only he had shown them! and Northumberland (Percy), who provided a significant force to King Richard III, but who appears to have retired from the battlefield without engaging the enemy.

While arguably these two magnates were holding the other in check, demonstrated by them simply ‘standing-off’, today we will assume that their motivations for wanting to fight were stronger and that they followed orders to engage from their respective army commanders, these being Henry Tudor for Lord Stanley and King Richard III for Percy 4th Earl of Northumberland.

For the rest of this post and unfolding story, please use the ‘read more’ tab.

We pick up the narrative at the point in the battle that Oxford and Norfolk have initially clashed on the Yorkist right and that fight has developed into a tough grinding contest. Richard, accepting that Lord Stanley has shown his hand to be a threat to the Yorkist left, rather than being a supposed ally (treachery; I hear ye cry), gives the order for Lord Stanley’s son, who has been held hostage by Richard for some months and is present on the battlefield, to be killed.

We now allow our narrative to spin out into one of imagination.

Needing to neutralise the danger of the Stanley brothers fully committing to Henry, Richard moves across to Percy’s position on his left and orders him to attack Lord Stanley, who presently threatens Percy’s flank.

Percy with a slight numbers advantage over Lord Stanley, was concerned that Sir. William Stanley was close enough to come to the rescue of his brother, but not wishing to show any hesitation in loyalty he offered;

Sire, every man shall don their armour and with honourable fealty

by sword, by bill, with righteous conviction and by virtue true

we shall suffer our enemy

to kneel before their King this day.

After hearing such fine words, Richard agreed to re-orientate some of his lighter artillery to support Percy, while directing around 80 of his heavy mounted household to cover the ground between the two Stanley brothers to discourage any union between them.This was their sole task and Richard kept their command separate from Percy in case Percy ‘ruined’ this most noble force in reckless deeds!

There was no time to delay, trumpets sounded and Percy’s Ward manoeuvred into position, re-orientating 90˚, moving from behind the marsh, to put it to his right. Light guns were manhandled to his right and archers took their place in the front lines.

Percy's position

This all took around 20 minutes, by which time, in another part of the battlefield, Richard’s right wing under Norfolk was under extreme pressure as French troops armed with long spear had suddenly appeared on their flank and were making gains. 

Percy's right flank with Richard's cavalry

Percy, who had effectively been the reserve (rearward), was now too committed to attacking Lord Stanley, to be able offer support to Richard’s right. Perhaps the Yorkist situation already doomed even as Percy launched his attack!

Lord Stanley's position

Lord Stanley upon seeing the manoeuvres unfold, set his archers along his front and sent riders to his brother, Sir. William Stanley, to ask for help.

Orders of Battle.

Lord Stanley (Lancastrian) - 1 Men-at-Arms on foot, 1 Retinue bill, 3 retinue archers, 1 light cavalry, 1 handgunners.

Lancastrian reinforcements - (D3) Billmen levy as per the special rules.

Percy (Yorkist) - 1 Men-at-Arms on foot, 1 Retinue bill, 1 Levy bill, 2 retinue archers, 1 levy archer, 1 handgunners, 1 light artillery and 1 mounted Men-at-Arms (under independent command).

Special rules.

Set-up as per the map. Lord Stanley and Percy start the game with their archers just within extreme longbow range of each other. Sir. William Stanley’s reinforcements do not start on the table.

By this time, Sir. William Stanley had already moved to commit to Henry’s position, covering Oxford’s right flank. On hearing of the likely attack against his brother, he ordered his stepson, Sir. Richard Corbet, to gather whatever levy he could and go to his brother’s aid. Once any of Percy’s units advance from their starting position OR after the Royal Artillery have fired twice OR the first time that a unit of Lord Stanley suffers a rout result (whichever occurs first), Lord Stanley rolls a D3 and that many levy bill contingents, sent from Sir. William, will enter the table to Lord Stanley’s far left.

On their first turn of arrival, the reinforcements have their total movement allowance, including any bonus, doubled. They count as being automatically in command and as though having a commander with them for Group Move purposes, until they get past the marsh, at which time normal rules apply and they fall under the command of Lord Stanley.

Percy is Player 1.


The maths of the game are that Lord Stanley starts slightly outnumbered, but once his brother’s reinforcement reach him, he will at least have parity or even be slightly stronger than Percy.

Rules being used are Sword & Spear with 28mm figures in a 4’x4’ space. Don’t worry too much about the flags and banners used not being entirely accurate for 1485 … I’m not :-)

Starting positions. The command base top right
is where Sir. William's levy will arrive.

The Game.

Unsurprisingly, the engagement opens with both sides sending volleys of arrows at the other, together with Yorkist artillery laying fire against Lord Stanley’s left flank. Generally, artillery is quite weak, with the main benefit being its long reach. It does not really play a part in this action as it turns out ….. you may as well know that now!

Percy has a unit of levy archers amongst his front line, which predictably suffer, but the first rout actually comes from one of Lord Stanley’s retinue archer units. As per the special scenario rules (above), this triggers the arrival of Sir. William’s reinforcements. A two is rolled on a D3, so two units of levy billmen arrive on the table edge.

Richard's heavy cavalry become tangled with
enemy handgunners (just above the smoking artillery)

Percy’s mounted Men-at-Arms on seeing reinforcements arrive, ride out to intercept them, but their way is annoyingly barred by Lancastrian handgunners, who had been advancing to get within handgun range. They tangle with them, before riding them down, though they are now a little delayed and have suffered a casualty, so will no longer count as being fresh. 

Sir William's levy march to Lord Stanley's line

They press on and charge one of the reinforcement levy bill contingents, but with heavy fighting and the cavalry taking additional losses, they retire back to the Yorkist line.

Richard's Horse attack part of the levy

On the other flank (Stanley’s right), the Lancastrian light cavalry have moved out to work around the Yorkist left flank, but Yorkist billmen and handgunners start to manoeuvre to negate any positional advantage that the cavalry might gain. The handgunners put down murderous fire that does significant harm to the comfort of the light horse.

Lancastrian light cavalry countered by foot!

To the centre, Percy’s archers are getting the worst of it, suffering at the hands of Lord Stanley’s excellent Welsh bowmen, while the Lancastrian levy reinforcements have at last reached Lord Stanley’s position and are reinforcing his line.

Percy's centre begin their advance

It becomes obvious to Percy that he is losing the archery duel and that he would now have to press on to quickly cover ground and take the fight to Lord Stanley.

Gathering his Men-at-Arms (foot) and a levy bill contingent, he makes surprisingly good time, aiming his heavy infantry at the enemy centre, so much so, that in one part of the line, Stanley’s archers cannot get out of the way quickly enough and find themselves in melee with their armoured foe. 

Both sides are starting to feel the losses, the Stanleys are close to having to take their first break test, while Percy’s men are clearly tiring with each unit carrying casualties, but it looks like the battle is going to be decided in the centre. Stanley loses an archer unit there in the melee, causing everything to test, but it all holds.

Recovered, Percy’s heavy cavalry, under the command of one of Richard’s captains, once more go over onto the attack, hitting the reinforcing levy on Stanley’s left, but this quickly turns to disaster and a protracted melee sees Richard’s knights flee the field, worse, they take Percy’s levy bill unit with them. In just moments, Percy’s right wing has evaporated!

Percy has enveloped Lord Stanley's right wing.

Both sides are on the brink of demoralisation, but though Percy has lost his right, his left has been slowly and successfully enveloping Stanley and finally a contingent of billmen, supported by archers and handgunners, crashes into Stanley’s right wing, putting Lord Stanley’s best troops to flight. 

Percy clashes with Lord Stanley's best troops

For Lord Stanley, the tipping point (50% casualty loss) has been reached and the Stanley force withdraw from the field, leaving Percy the victor …… just! 

But what of Richard’s right flank? where Norfolk was fighting both Oxford and French spear - well that story is for another day!


The fight had been extremely tight, it just needed the next unit of either side to break and their entire army would collapse. In the end the dice conspired against Stanley’s Men at Arms. The billmen who attacked them activated first and then on their combat dice, the Men-at-Arms rolled the most useless of dice scores and that together with the two casualties that they had already absorbed from missile fire, was enough to see them off.

The game was very enjoyable and took a couple of hours to fight. The Sword & Spear rules work quite well for these sort of games as even with a low number of units per side, the game soon breaks down into a combination of smaller actions, where different parts of the battlefield come to feel quite important and separate from what is going on around them, which helps with keeping player interest.

I have found handgunners difficult because they don't seem to survive for long, but here, they caused problems for Richard's cavalry and also put 2 hits on the Lancastrian light cavalry, in both instances causing real problems for the horse.

Thanks to those who have organised the event and encouraged others to get their figures on the table. I am already aware of some superb looking games that have been put on the web (see the Lead Adventure Forum link below).

Resource Section.

World War if the Roses Event - all is explained on the Lead Adventurer Forum. LINK

My sister webspace COMMANDERS is being re-configured to showcase various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and give a flavour of current ongoing projects. Link.

An earlier post that discusses the Sword & Spear rules. LINK


  1. Great looking troops and battle narrative, Norm! I must revisit this period someday.

  2. Thanks Dean, your brush would do it much justice!

  3. A very nice and manageable 'what if' scenario Norm, that certainly looks great with your 28mm figures. Normally I think this game as having a 'Lion Rampant' size to it, but S&S I think probably gives a better game as it's much bigger than a skirmish. It reminds me that I should give this rules another outing, given that I haven't played them for quite some time.

  4. Thanks Steve, the S&S could have been quite happily played on a smaller space, but even so it does give the small battle feel, rather than skirmish, which is where I think their strength lays (big-small battle for relatively few bases).

    If my figure collection was even just a bit bigger, the line of each side could have been expanded by another bill / bowman pairing and that would have felt / looked a bit meatier. As it was, this game took over a couple of hours to play.

  5. A great looking and reading game Norm, your WotR figures look wonderful in action and great that you were able to contribute to the World Day! As mentioned, I am off to Barry's today (its 8am Sun 23rd here) for a WotR game using mainly Marks plastic Perry figures, so should have some nice figures to take pictures of!

  6. Thanks Keith, it was a really enjoyable game with some good background fluff. Enjoy your game, will look forward to your pics.

  7. A most interesting read and that is a fine array of troops you are mustering.

    1. Thanks Phil, the collection is just starting to hit the point of being more fully usable within the Pocket Armies intentions.

  8. Good stuff, Norm! Your figures and photos are superb. I got in a WotR battle today too. Mine was the Battle of Towton. The battle saw a Lancastrian defeat using "Test of Resolve" rules.

  9. Thanks Jonathan, I will await that write-up with great interest.

  10. Norm,
    Lovely figures and great report. I haven’t tried the rules but hear decent things about them. In all the years we refought the battle we only saw Percy move forward once just after Richard had killed Henry!
    Just ordered Test of Resolve as I think they will work well with the 15’s

  11. Thanks Graham, having done this ‘half’ of the battlefield, I think I will do the other half next. it will be a while before the collection allows for representation of the full battle, but I think this game was a success and S&S seem to be working for me.

    Look forward to your views on Test of Resolve.

  12. Sorry I missed this when you posted it. Always ruddy late to the party! Interested to see how you got on with S&S and will be keen to see what you think of Test of Resolve if you get it at some point.

  13. Hi JB, S&S worked well enough for me to press on with it, though I would like to measure it against something like Hail Caesar. It looks like Test of Resolve needs purchase of rulebook, scenario book and pack of cards for starters, so I will be waiting for some views from those already invested. A purpose made set for WotR might become my preference.

  14. Splendid looking WOTR battle, always good to go down to the wire! I'd be interested to see how Hail Caesar compares as that's what we are planning on using for Barnet for our first face to face game!
    Best Iain

  15. Thanks Iain, I will try the Hail Caesar and so something will go up about that. Also planning on getting my Barnet boardgame to the table from the Men of Iron boardgame series, in fact that was scheduled next, but the WWotR weekend suddenly fell into my lap!

  16. An excellent looking bash, Norm!

  17. Thanks Ray, I am getting a lot of pleasure from these.

  18. That was a really fun little battle. Well done. I’m loving your WoTR bases with the die shell included. Makes it so that if your looking for it you can see it but otherwise just blends into the unit. Again, I think the scenario was well done and I can see how it can be expanded as the collection grows. 😀

  19. Thanks Stew, plenty of goodness going on. The die frame is helpful and better than my usual thing of having dice next to the unit, always getting knock to a different face. I tried 7mm first, but that is too small for my banana fingers to pick up out of the sunken frame, the ones I use now are 10mm.

    The next batch of 10 billmen, for a new Lancastrian base, went onto painting sticks today, just as an artillery piece came off the painting tray - complete, based and varnished, so the slow expansion of force continues and the battles can get bigger.

    Hopefully in about a months time, I can re-run the scenario and each side can have an extra bill base and bow base.

  20. Thanks for sharing Norm yet more encouragement, as if I needed it to get my WotR collection started. We’ll see when I get a chance. Your collection is a lovely quality 👍

  21. Thanks Matt, there is a charm to the period, though your painting plate looks pretty full at the moment :-)

  22. Hello Norm,

    Very late to comment but have been busy. A wonderful report and the WotR weekend gave a great reason to get a game in. Almost as if you had planned the event :-) This project seems to be coming along wonderfully. I do note that the table size was 4'x4' - how is your back holding up? I am not sure but seem to remember you mentioning that leaning over much more than 3' could be an issue. Hope it is all Ok and you did magic things like spin the table, play from both sides or simply your back was in a good mood that day!

  23. Hi Shaun, yes, it was nice to gained enough figures to do a Bosworth related scenario.

    As for the back, thanks for asking, like you, I stand at the figure table, so can walk around it to get access from all sides. The table I use has extendable legs and I run a pair of skids underneath to get extra height, so I have the table at 40" high, which hugely reduces bending and in any case, the table was 4' wide, but is never deeper than 44", which is the most I can handle.

    My limits are not only reach, but the time spent standing, which I pushed on this occasion, so have been sore since! but generally the combination of 40" height and 44" depth are a great help and the table can be 4 - 6 ft wide (or wider if I had the space), as long as the depth stays withing 44" - I just mention this for the benefit of any back sufferer looking for a potential solution - all good.

    1. Thanks Norm, most informative. A 40" table is ideal for not leaning over. I know of someone that has a similar setup (due to their back as well.)

  24. I use light pasting table will aluminium frame, legs extended fully to 37 ½ “. This all sits on two lengths of that plastic square drain pipe, the sort that runs down from gutters, which is light, easy to store and being hollow, I just plugged each end with that horrible expanding foam that comes in a can.



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