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’ĂȘtre 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

Website for Wargames Illustrated LINK