Thursday, September 16, 2010

KISS Wars of the Roses

Although I like the ruleset 'A Coat of Steel' by the Perfect Captain, I find that the time required to play a game is difficult to find, so I have been working up a draft of KISS ('Keep it Simple Stupid') rules for the Wars of the Roses, much in the style of the WW2 Desert War set I recently posted about. So, as all wargamers have suspected: cross-pollination between different projects can lead to inspiration!

The set below is in first-draft form, simplifies all orders, combat, etc. to speed things up for me, but still keeps the crucial strengths of A Coat of Steel – namely the character traits of the varying commanders, and the awkwardness of commanding such an ad-hoc collection of nobles.


Ward chits are drawn as per the original game. As each chit is drawn, the ward can change orders, move, fire, resolve handstrokes and then routs. The next chit is then drawn and the process repeated.


Archers Move 6”

Range 18”

Fire: 6 to hit; (Retinue archers get 5+ to hit vs enemy charging to contact)

Handstrokes: 6 to hit in first turn of contact, 5+ to hit in subsequent turns.

Save: 6 to save vs. fire; no save in handstrokes

Billmen Move 6”

Handstrokes: 4+ to hit on first turn of contact, 5+ to hit from then on.

Save: 5+ for Retinue & Well-wishers; Arrayed troops on a 6.

Men-at-Arms Move 4”

Handstrokes: 4+ to hit

Save: 4+

Mtd Knights Move 8”

Handstrokes: 2+ to hit on charge, 4+ to hit from then on.

Save: 4+ in handstrokes, but only on a 6 against Longbow ranged fire.

Crossbows Move 6”

Range 18”

Fire: 6

Handstrokes: 6to hit in first turn of contact, 5+ to hit from then on

Save: 6 to save vs. fire; no save in handstrokes

Special notes: Targets get -2 save mod against Crossbow fire.

Spears/Pikes Move 6”

Handstrokes: 5+ to hit

Save: 5+

Special Notes: Enemy that are non-Spears will always be pushed back 2” each turn.

Gonne Move: n/a

Range 18”

Fire: 6 to hit. 5+ to hit vs enemy charging any adjacent friendly unit.

Each unit rolls a dice to try and score a hit, then the targets roll to save. All units roll double the number of handstrokes dice if they have enfiladed the enemy.


All units should be 2 bases deep by default. All units can fire (except vs. charging enemy, where only front-rank can fire.) Any unit in 1 rank vs 2+ enemy ranks must fall back 2”.


Each unit is marked with a small square marker, divided diagonally by an 'X' into four triangular areas. Each area is filled in with an order and the counter is rotated to show which one is currently in use. The four possible orders a commander can give are Stand (No move); Loose (fire arrows); Advance (move forward but not engage) and Charge (as advance, but must be made to move into handstrokes contact.)

Each order segment will have arrows marking what the order can be changed to. It is not possible to switch freely between stances (for example, a unit cannot be standing and then suddenly charge to contact – it must 'pluck up it's courage' first by switching to advance and building up to contact.) The arrows I plan to mark on will allow orders to change like this:


Can be reached from: Any

Can change to: Loose; Advance

Effects: No Move. Can rotate on the spot if desired. Will get a free volley against enemy charging to contact.


Can be reached from: Stand

Can change to: Stand; Advance

Effects: No Move. Can fire one volley


Can be reached from: Stand; Loose

Can change to: Stand; Charge

Effects: Makes full move straight ahead if possible. Maintain a gap of 2” with all enemy units.


Can be reached from: Advance

Can change to: Stand (automatic on end of combat)

Effects: May move and must end in contact with an enemy unit. 2” separation may be ignored. (NB: the target unit may get a free volley if it has Stand orders.)

Typically there will be only a small chance of a fumble, so a commander will change orders for a Ward on a roll of 2+ (subject to modification by commander abilities – of which more later!) Failure means you stay stuck with the old order.

Only a single orders change can be attempted per turn, with the exception of Wards with an 'Audacious' commander (who gets two order changes a turn;) or a commander with the 'Captain's Advice' stratagem (who gets a single 'bonus' order change.)


Morale is done by commitment. Committed need a 6 to fail, Well-wishers a 5+ to fail, while Uncommitted need only a 4+ to fail. Companies test as per the commanding magnate or as per the dominant troop type if he is dead (or an unnamed captain leads.)

A unit will test morale if:

It loses 2+ figures in a turn to fire or while closing to handstrokes

It loses more casualties than the enemy in handstrokes

It sees a friendly unit routing within 6”

It sees an enemy ambush being sprung within 12”

A unit that checks morale and fails is always marked as 'shaken' (a stand of arrow-flights, a puff of smoke, etc.) If the unit already has a 'shaken' marker, it is routed.

In addition, a failing unit's actions are decided by what it is doing when it fails the morale test.

If already 'shaken' then it will rout.

If it tests because of being fired on, it must immediately change to a 'halt' order.

If it tests in handstrokes, it must back off by 2” and lose 1D3 figures (Arrayed first, then Well-wishers, then Retinue)

If it tests when out of contact, it must immediately change to a 'halt' order (meaning charging units can be halted short of contact by a defending volley)

If it tests because it's magnate is lost (dead, captures, or fled) then it will lose 1D3 of randomly-selected figures.


Units will rout if:

It fails morale while already marked as 'shaken'

It is reduced to just 4 figures, or half it's original strength.


Largely as per the original rules, but with different effects. Army morale starts at 5, with the following modifiers:

-1 from 'The Coldness of the King' (monarch in enemy camp)

-1 from facing odds of 3:2 or worse

-1 from campaign forced march before battle

-1 from enemy pre-battle bombardment

-1 from each peer (level 3 or 4 magnate) lost/killed/captured/fled

-1 from a ward of the army breaking and routing

-1 from a ward leader lost (double-hitter if it's a peer, or if ward is also breaking)

-1 from friendly troops that show treachery (either changing sides or becoming inactive)

+1 from friendly reinforcements reaching the field

The morale level of the army has the following effects:

Level 5 – OK

Level 4 – OK

Level 3 – OK

Level 2 – Test for morale in all remaining units

Level 1 – Test for morale in all remaining units at 1 level lower than normal

Level 0 – All remaining units rout


audacious can make 2 order changes per turn; +1 to orders roll

old soldier +1 to orders roll

amateur extra 4+ roll required to change order (confusion counter)

practiced standard order roll - no effect

impetuous auto-change to advance/charge orders if the target enemy unit feints or inflicts 2+losses in fire

lethargic 2 extra lethargy chits added to the draw cup

bloodthirsty captured=killed; all routers are auto-killed if caught in pursuit

merciful captured=prisoner; all routers are auto-captured if caught in pursuit

timorous check morale as 1 level lower than normal

anti-x if vs an enemy, wounds=kia; if anti-allied magnate, -1 morale level; if anti- cause of own side, treacherous!

trimmer treacherous!

artifices ambushes can be prepared or obstacles deployed in the setup

treacherous as lethargic, but also add 1 'treacherous' chit - if it is drawn first then the leader switches sides immediately

conciliatory roll against the enemy leader morale at setup - apply -1 to the army morale if failed.


Can select 1 for practiced, 2 for old Soldier, 3 for Audacious, 0 for Amateurs.

A captain's advice allows 1 extra order change to be attempted in a turn, once per game

forethought rout bonus - the '666 rule' becomes the '366 rule'

stout ensign cancel one failed casualty roll for a leader

inspiring (4+ puissance required) Can instantly remove a shaken marker at any time

energetic (4+ forwardness required) reroll 1 failed order roll per game

Master Gonner (gonne must be present in army) Can reroll fire dice once per turn.

caltrops/pavises (artifices required) Can setup defences in front of his ward.

good timing (old soldier required) +1 on to-hit rolls when firing, for one turn only

far sighted detects ambushes. Ambush party must be deployed at start and does not get any usual advantages.

feint (old soldier required) can play to make 1 move order backwards, then auto-halts.


roll 2D6 (check only if losses taken)

In shooting 2-10 ok; 11 wound; 12 killed

In Handstrokes 2-8 ok; 9-10 wound; 11+ killed

if using 'I'll not shrink back' bonus: 2-7 ok, 8+ killed (no wounds)

2 wounds = killed

In rout:

from a Bloodthirsty Enemy = auto-killed if hit,

from a Merciful Enemy = auto-captured if hit

If neither: 1-3 captured, 4-5 killed; 6 escaped.

'I'll not shrink back!'

Can voluntarily be selected by a commander on entering Handstrokes.

add Puissance to rolls as a modifier to 'to hit' rolls (Eg. 3Puissance is 3No +1 mods or 1No +3mod, or any other distribution)

The disadvantage is a higher chance of loss to your commander (see above)

if vs an enemy also using the option: roll2D6 each, add puissance & compare:

tie = no effect

1-2 difference = loser wounded

3+ difference = loser killed

And that, in a nutshell, is the new Rules set. I'll be posting a playtest game soon, to judge the likelihood of future revisions. In the meantime I thought I'd post it, at least to fire interest or hopefully provide a little inspiration to any other gamer out there!


  1. I like what you've done here. Like you, I think Coat of Steel is good, but I fear it is too complicated for a club game. I look forward to seeing what you do with this, and I may try them out myself.

    P.S. Where in Scotland are you? I live in Fife, and game with the RAF Leuchars club. Contact me through my website and maybe we can meet for a game sometime.

  2. Hi david, and sorry for the tardy reply - I've been terribly distracted by the real-life world and forced away from hobby-activity for a while!

    Thanks for your comments, and that sort of interest/inspiration was exactly what I was hoping to spark in some reader out there. I hope to playtest soon, so I will begin to refine the rules a little more!

    P.S. I stay in Cumbernauld, so I'm not a ridiculous distance away from Fife. I am occasionally in the area though, so thank you for the offer - I shall indeed bear it in mind and keep in touch in case the opportunity turns up.