Never mind the Billhooks

My gaming groups foray into the War of the Roses continues as we play test the rules set that Andy Callan has developed. As you can see from the title, there is a nod in the direction of the Two Fat Lardies style of play. The WOTR rules that we are using have morphed from our ‘Rules for Old wargamers with short memories’, which we used for our Napoleonic skirmishes, also written by Mr Callan. Andy has a long history of rules writing and tinkering. Indeed, his rules set ‘Loose files and American Scramble’ originally published in Wargames Illustrated back in the ’80’s (and incidentally, the only article to be republished in the magazines history) has often been copied and they are still in use today. More recently, Andy has collaborated with Peter Dennis on the ‘Paper Soldiers’ Project, with Andy writing the rules for many of the books.

Andy Callan's rules set are included with the book.

Andy Callan’s rules set are included with the book.

The battle report that follows is a run through of the latest manifestation of the ‘Never mind The Billhooks’ rules. As usual, I was playing, so the report will inevitably be biased and one sided, which makes it totally authentic when compared with accounts of the actual battles in the War of the Roses as written by the chroniclers of the time…

The Battle of Bingham Fields - the set up.

The Battle of Bingham Fields – the set up.

The initial set up allows the players to deploy their troops as they see fit, with the army being commanded by a number of officers or characters. In our battles, the commanders are all fictitious, with my commanders named after Tottenham players, Harry Hotspur being the leader.

Sir Harry Hotspur makes ready to advance.

Sir Harry Hotspur makes ready to advance.

The Commanders are activated by  drawing cards and once activated, they can give orders to the appropriate units within their command range. To speed the game up, at the start, players are able to freely move their units, one at a time, until either the first contact or shooting action. At which point the game is then controlled by drawing the cards. This allows the players to manoeuvre before battle is joined!

Skirmishers!

Skirmishers!

Skirmishers are semi independent of the control system, in that they are activated by their own card but can also be given orders if they are within range of a commander.

My cunning battle plan - go right!

My cunning battle plan – go right!

My cunning battle plan was to send my cavalry (out of shot in the above picture) and one unit to the left as a feint, whilst switching the main attack to the right. This would allow me to bring the bulk of my archers to bear against Lord Binghams force. In the game, Archers have a limited arrow supply, so it is important to choose your target carefully. You can see that I had one gun to provoke the enemy into moving. Whilst Artillery isn’t too effective in the game, it does wear the enemy down if they don’t get out of the way!

Archers Loose!

Archers Loose!

With my archers screened by both the woods and skirmishers  on the flanks, they were free to unleash an arrow storm on Lord Binghams forces whilst the Men at Arms advanced in the centre.

Irish Kern attack!

Irish Kern attack!

There was a moment of consternation when a band of Irish Kern skirmishers burst out of the woods and hit the flank of my archers. Lord Bingham had also finally managed to move his archers around the other side of the wood to threaten my flank.

Lord Bingham's Archers - down to their last two shots!

Lord Bingham’s Archers – down to their last two shots!

However, The Cavalry, commanded by Lady Ravenshead were able to halt the enemies advance and Sir Harry Hotspur chased off the Irish to secure the left flank.

Hold the flank!

Hold the flank!

Meanwhile, Sir Eric Diehard had closed with the enemy, and true to form, was giving them a good kicking (you need to be a Spurs fan to appreciate the tactical nuances…), pushing Lord Bingham back.

Captian Eric Diehard secures the right flank

Captian Eric Diehard secures the right flank

With Harry Hotspur now able to join his loyal Captain in the push, Lord Bingham’s force began to waver.

Harry leads his forces to Victory!

Harry leads his forces to Victory!

With numerical superiority established on this side of the battlefield, numbers began to tell and as casualties mounted, Lord Bingham was forced to withdraw from the field. In fact, Lord Bingham was forced to retreat across a turnip field to make his escape! He would be back to fight again once he had cleaned up his armour!

Victory for Harry!

Victory for Harry!

Not quite a resounding victory for Sir Harry but a victory nonetheless!

The battle was a good run through of the rules and many lessons learnt. To be fair, my opponent, Pete, had not played this particular version of the rules before, so I was at a slight advantage. During the post battle discussion, Andy has since come up with some amendments that will allow the battle to flow more easily. As usual, with rules writing, there is a conflict between allowing the rules to reflect some of the character of the period whilst allowing the game to flow. I think that we are getting there. I haven’t described the effect of some of the ‘special cards’ that can be introduced into the game that allow for say, an arrow resupply or for a commander to waver or even change allegiance. The method of calculating a units morale is still quite cumbersome and will be refined.

I particularly like the idea of naming your characters and using them consistently over a series of games. I have found that they can take on a life of their own and add extra fun to the play. Once we have a settled rules set, with Andy’s permission, I will publish a PDF for download.

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Trebuchet

Back in February, I picked up a Trebuchet and some other bits and pieces from Iron Gate Scenery at the Robin Show in Nottingham. Although it was a ‘generic’ model, more fantasy than an accurate scale model, it looked great and I thought that it would make a nice objective for my WOTR army.

Napoleonic Trebuchet!

Iron Gate Trebuchet!

As my current focus is on completing my WOTR army, I thought that I would have a break from painting figures and get on with completing the Trebuchet. I had also just picked up a copy of the latest ‘Painting War’ magazine that covered the Holy War in the Middle ages. There was a nice tutorial in this issue that showed how to paint siege engines and I decided to follow this guide to complete the Trebuchet.

The latest 'Painting War' Magazine

The latest ‘Painting War’ Magazine

So here is the stage by stage process that I followed.

Trebuchet primed with black spray.

Trebuchet primed with black spray.

The first job was to prime the model using Army Painter Black spray primer. This gives a good base to work from and if I miss any of the difficult parts to get to, the black undercoat will look like shadows.

Next coat - Chocolate brown

Next coat – Chocolate brown

The next stage was to paint everything in Chocolate Brown, Vallejo 70872. Use the biggest brush that you feel comfortable with. At this stage I was using a sort of ‘wet brush’ technique, to make sure that the paint covered everything and got into most of the deep cracks.

Trebuchet Stage 2 - Flat Brown

Trebuchet Stage 2 – Flat Brown

Stage 2 was to use a heavy dry brush of Vallejo 70984 Flat Brown. I covered most of the model  but the dry brushing technique meant that some of the Chocolate brown was left in the recesses.

Trebuchet Stage 3 Flat Earth

Trebuchet Stage 3 Flat Earth

Stage 3 and another dry brush with Flat Earth, Vallejo 70983. This was a lighter dry brush than before and I was careful to take nearly all the paint off of my brush before starting the technique. I found that the edges of the model picked up the paint quite quickly – a bit more care was needed on the flat surfaces.

Trebuchet Stage 4 Orange Brown

Trebuchet Stage 4 Orange Brown

Stage 4 was to dry brush with Orange Brown, Vallejo 70981. Again a lighter dry brushing technique was used. Had I not been following the article in the magazine, I might have stopped at this stage! But onto to stage 5.

Trebuchet Stage 5 Yellow Ochre

Trebuchet Stage 5 Yellow Ochre

Stage 5 and another light dry brush with Yellow Ochre 70913. I would not have chosen this colour without the guidance of the article but it certainly brought out the detail and looks very realistic.

Trebuchet Stage 6 - Basic Skin!

Trebuchet Stage 6 – Basic Skin!

Stage 6 and the final dry brush with Basic Skin Tone Vallejo 70815. I would certainly never have thought of using this colour as a highlight on wood! To be honest, at first, I chickened out and only gave the model the lightest of dry brush highlights with this colour. However, I think that it works well and I have learnt something new!

Trebuchet nearly completed

Trebuchet nearly completed

The next stage was to wash the whole model with Army painter strong tone. I watered this down very slightly but the effect was to tie all the dry brush coats together and to add shade and depth to the model. I then went back and used the driest of dry brush coats  with the Basic Skin to bring out the detail again. You can also see that I have picked out the iron work in Plate mail and then washed this with Army Painter Dark Tone Ink. I’ve also painted the leather pouch holding the stone with a coat of Leather Brown, Vallejo 70871. I then dry brushed this with Orange brown and a mix of Leather Brown and yellow ochre. The whole thing was then washed in Army Painter Strong Tone.

Trebuchet - Nearly completed

Trebuchet – almost battle ready!

Two other points to note. The stones were painted with Stone Grey, Vallejo 70884 ( currently my new favourite colour…), washed with Army Painter Dark tone and then highlighted with stone grey and a mix of stone grey and white. The string that I am using is just some parcel string that I had in my ‘spares box’. It is slightly thinner than the stuff supplied with the kit. To make it less white I dyed it in some tea…Yes, standard Yorkshire tea from the tea pot!

Trebuchet read to fire!

Trebuchet ready to fire!

The final task was to add the ‘rope’ to the trebuchet. I have taken a few liberty’s here. The model doesn’t allow for a practical firing mechanism and a close look will show that if it was fired, the stone would never release. There is also no clear firing mechanism or a convenient way of recovering the firing arm once it is released. I made my own attachment for the windlass to the firing arm from a small piece of plastic tube. That all said, it’s a wargaming piece not a museum model and I am happy with the final result.

Trebuchet ready!

Trebuchet ready!

Finally, an apology to any one reading this blog on a tablet or phone. I am having problems with displaying some of the pictures in the correct format. They all look fine on a desk top but for some weird reason, the portrait pictures lay on their side on other devices…. I’ll keep trying to resolve this but I hope that you can still make sense of the post!

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WOTR – Project Update

Mustering my WOTR Army

Mustering my WOTR Army

I now have about 100 figures completed for my WOTR army. Actually, completed is not strictly accurate, as six need basing and I want to revisit some of the Men at Arms to add some detail. The Foot Knights will form the core of my army and they are made from a box of Perry’s Foot knights that I have almost completed. Of the 36 knights in the box, 24 are in ‘plain’ armour and so were quite straight forward to paint. A further 12 have tabards over their armour and it was these that initially slowed me down when it came to completing them. Assembly was straight forward enough, although with one exception, I decided to go for ‘sleeved’ tabards, which reduced the choice of poses and weapons available.

Knights with tabards, assembled and ready for priming.

Knights with tabards, assembled and ready for priming.

Incidentally, in the background of the picture above, you can see that I have also assembled the final 2 of the 38 figures in the Perry’s set – Richard III and his standard bearer – they may not make it into the army but I will complete them. Painting the figures was fairly straight forward, it was deciding on the colours of the livery that caused me a problem. Despite doing  a degree of research, I reminded myself that I was initially building a generic WOTR force for our club games rather than a specific order of battle. This did simplify things in my mind and so I went with a fairly limited set of colours for the livery and I haven’t worried too much about what or who the livery represents at this stage.

Basic colours blocked in.

Basic colours blocked in.

I followed more or less the same procedure for painting the armour. I used Army Painter plate mail, gave this a heavy Dark Tone Ink wash and then re highlighted by dry brushing with Plate mail and then Vallejo Silver. The Tabards were just block painted, although I did use soft tone ink and red ink to do some shading.

Tabards painted and figures based.

Tabards painted and figures based.

The picture above shows three of the finished figures. You can see that I attempted to paint Warwicks badge on one of the figures…It just about passes from a distance but I decided that I would leave the others without a badge until I can find suitable decals. Besides, my eye’s were at the limit of their endurance!

 Foot Knights ready for action!

Foot Knights ready for action!

The final six Foot Knights are almost complete. I just need paint some of the details, add some washes and finish the basing.

The final batch on the work bench

The final batch on the work bench.

With the core of my force completed, we have already started to test our rules set and have played our first game of ‘Never mind the Billhooks’. The rules have been written specifically for generic WOTR battles by Andy Callan and played well on the first game. Once we have knocked them into shape, with Andy’s permission, I’ll put them up on the blog as a free PDF download. We plan to fight a series WOTR battles using our own House retinues over the coming year. Sir Harry Hotspur being the leader of my band. No doubt, Lord Bingham, Sir Peter of Woodborough and Lady Jasmine of Papplewick will be just as capricious at choosing allegiances as the real participants of the War Of The Roses!

Of course, my retinue is far from complete. I need a few more skirmishers and badly need some cavalry support, so I will add these in over the next few weeks. For now though, let battle commence!

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Get them when they are young!

I often read articles that are bemoaning the lack of youngsters coming into our hobby. I dont think that there is very much truth in this – if anything, thanks to the power of the internet, the hobby is growing. I’ve been reading the same old stuff since I was a youngster myself, with the same complaint occuring some 50 or more years ago. If anyone doubts me, I have the original issues of Wargames Illustrated and  Miniature wargames Magazines and you don’t have to look far in the letters page to find evidence. Like all hobbies, it is either in your DNA or not. Wargaming is never going to be a mainstream hobby, it is a niche at best and I suspect that in itself is part of the attraction.

I will concede that Historical wargaming is now, I believe, a minority part of wargaming itself, with Fantasy and Science Fiction taking the larger share and certainly attracting the younger player into the hobby. Many will stay with this side of the hobby, a few will stray into the historical thread. In terms of introducing my children into the hobby, I have been largely unsuccessful. They did take an interest for a while, particularly my son, who was attracted to Orks in particular and 40K in general but alas, the hobby didn’t stick and he has taken up golf…. My daughter quite enjoyed the the painting and crafting side of the hobby for a while but she too is more interested in sport, specifically scuba diving and swimming. I’m not sure where they got the activity bug from – I like sport but prefer watching it these days! As for golf, I’m happy to agree with the sentiment that it is a good walk spoilt. That said, I do like a game of crazy golf at the seaside!

2019-04-19 10.50.58

However, another generation comes along and so the opportunity comes along to try and convert the grand children into willing opponents! Emily is now 6, about the same age that I was when I started making models, so when she stayed over at Easter and asked if she could sit with me while I had sneaked off to the garage to do some modelling, I was pleased to have her company. At first she was happy to watch me working on my WOTR project and we had a nice chat about the ‘Cousins War’. She was intrigued by the story of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ and that a major battle, Stokes Field, took place just down the road from her school.

Memorial stone at East stoke Church

Memorial stone at East stoke Church

It didn’t take long before she asked if she could have a go and so I looked through the ‘lead pile’ and found a figure primed and ready to paint that might be suitable. In the past, I have been quite protective of my paints and brushes but I decided that if Emily was going to try and paint something, she would be better off using the correct tools for the job! So with gritted teeth, I gave her my best brushes and we started to paint a Japanese Peasant lady.

Emilys' first model

Emilys’ first model

I was surprised at just how good she was. Of course, you have to explain how to hold the brush, how to thin the paint, how to use the point of the brush, how to draw the brush over the bits that you want to paint, how to hold the figure. Gosh! I had forgotten just how much I had learnt but in teaching Emily, I remembered just how much technique there is to learn. When it came to the colour scheme, I let Emily choose which colours she preferred – I actually quite like the combination that she came up with – I’ll be using that again!

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Overnight, I did the basing for her, in that I super glued the figure onto a base and added the texture. Superglue and kids are a dangerous combination! The next day, Emily added the scenic bits and to finish the figure off, we used some washes and did a bit of highlighting and dry brushing. Again, once I explained the techniques, Emily was happy to apply the washes and paints. The result is not too bad and I am thinking about what figure Emily can do on her next visit!

Catan, Ticket to ride and Camel Up!

Catan, Ticket to ride and Camel Up!

At six years old I think she is too young to start wargaming but she has already mastered Junior Cluedo and Camel Up so we are not too far away from a more complicated board game – say Space crusade. Another year or so and I think that I might just try her out with a simple wargame. I think a good skirmish game such as Test of Honour or Lion Rampant will be a good place to start. I may yet ensnare her into the hobby….