Thursday, 2 October 2014

Dux Britanniarum for The Wars of the Roses: The Battle Rules

This promises to be quite a short post in relation to the other ones in the 'Messing about with Dux' series. The main reason is that I don't intend making any vast changes to the rules as they stand.

As the rules are designed to accommodate three main troop classes, with the assumption that armour types, weapon skill and morale are similar across a troop class, there is no real point in altering this. We are dealing with a Civil War, for want of a better term and the troop types used are essentially the same for both sides.

I haven't really touched upon armour differences, as there would be a distinct lack of uniformity in this regard. As a rule the best protected men would be in the higher social and troop classes, but mixed in with them would be less well protected individuals too. Some acknowledgement to this already exists within the rules, so I've left this alone. The same goes for horse barding, as I doubt there would be any uniformity as to its presence.

The weapons used by the combatants are generally their own and mostly chosen by them. In the case of the lowest quality troops, weapons provided for them and their unfamiliarity with them, can be assumed to be factored into their generally poor performance. Some weapons are easier to use than others however, while some even require years of training to use effectively. The predominate missile weapon, the bow, will only be carried by those skilled in its use and their class reflects their experience and expertise with it.

The sole exceptions to the above comments are with regard to two weapons not native to England, the Pike and the Handgun, and the inclusion of rules for artillery. While the pike wasn't initially used in any great numbers, its incidence increased throughout the Wars of the Roses period and if recent authors are correct, played a significant part in Henry Tudor's victory at Bosworth in 1485.

The Handgun and Artillery also become less unusual during the Wars and while they were less physically effective than they were to become, they did have a psychological effect that was out of proportion to their potential as a weapon. While experienced soldiers would have been relatively unimpressed by their use, the bulk of men fighting in the wars weren't experienced soldiers.

The discharge of a group of musketeers is quite loud and startling, even more so when you are facing them. Modern spectators, despite being used to gun shots on every other TV programme or computer console game, are still startled and shocked at the noise made at re-enactment events, they'd be even more so if one or two of those stood with them were hit by bullets.

In the case of artillery, even in modern wars, where men are relatively safe when 'dug-in', artillery has a very depressing effect on those on the receiving end of it. It's an arbitrary enemy, which the common soldier has no means of fighting back against.

This was also true in the fifteenth century, as guns were usually further away than bows could shoot and there was no protection against them in the open field. With guns you would see the flash, hear the blast and then start praying that it would miss you. Invariably it did miss, but those moments waiting to find out must have been as scary as hell.    

Most of the troops were vulnerable to all weapons, but their leaders, often in the cutting edge of armour of the time, were only really vulnerable to the heavier crossbows and the handgun,  with the rare unusual and thus noteworthy exceptions prior to this. Deaths in battle amongst the armoured only really increase dramatically with the widespread adoption of firearms, where 'notable' casualties become far more common.

For these 'new' weapons therefore, we need rules that reflect both their varied effects and their impact, without slewing the game by creating wonder weapons at the same time. There are one or two other rule changes and add ons too, so I'll go through each section of the Battle Rules and note the changes accordingly.

There is a summary PDF for this and the other articles in this series.

Phase 1: Before the Game

No real changes here, as Pre-Game Initiative has been covered in the 'Campaign' post. Single combat between champions, Bibamus, Begnino Numinae, Miracles and Speeches, are all facets of medieval warfare, to a greater or lesser extent, although you might want to change the names and some of the terms.

Fate cards were covered previously too and I suggested some additional cards. Setting up the fate card packs is up to your preferences, but short of any particular scenario related differences, I suggest both packs are identical.

Phase 2: The Game

The main changes to the rules are for; 'Close Ranks' - replacing Shieldwall (p.37), Changes to the Missile Troops rules (p.41) and the introduction of rules for Gonnes.

Close Ranks!

Again no changes at all until you reach formations, where 'Shieldwall' is replaced by 'Closed Ranks'. This option is only open to Retinue and Yeomen 'Spears'as well as Mercenary melee foot. It is essentially the same as Shieldwall, but does not confer any protection from missile weapons.

Yeomen Archers and Tenants may still be part of a 'Mass Formation', which includes troops in 'Close Ranks' at the fore, but gains no advantage from that, other than being protected by their presence.

Formations may still lose their cohesion by rolling a 6 for movement, as per the rules on p.37. All other movement rules are as stated.

Missile Troops

The role of Missile Troops in Lord of Battles is somewhat different to that portrayed in Dux Britanniarum. In medieval England, the Archer was the most common 'warrior' routinely raised for wars, domestic or foreign. The most numerous troop type was of course the Tenant 'Billman' or 'Stave', however they come under the heading of 'better than nothing' and if present, were just making up the numbers essentially.

Missile Troops are therefore organised into groups of the same numbers as the 'Spears'. Dux Britanniarum uses groups of 6-10 men (6+2x 2 figure reinforcements maximum), although there is no reason why you can't increase or decrease this to suit your preferences.

The ranges and to hit rolls remain the same, except that;
  • Handguns always shoot with a -1 to their die roll 'To Hit' at 12-24". 
  • Handguns always add +1 to their die roll for 'Effect' at 0-12".
  • Household Missile Troops always add +1 to their 'To Hit' and 'Effect' Rolls. 
  • Yeomen Missile Troops always deduct -1 from their 'To Hit' and 'Effect' Rolls.  
I've made no distinction between crossbows and longbows, the rapidity of fire being, in my opinion, cancelled out by the generally higher force of the crossbow and by the inferior quality of arrow heads (many bodkins have been recovered, which were iron rather than quality steel and could not have penetrated most of the typical armour types at anything over 100 yards). Crossbows can also be carried loaded, while bows have to nock and draw from a stationary posture.

You can argue to the contrary if you wish, but the law allowed crossbows in lieu of longbows right up to Henry VIII's reign, so if contemporaries drew no distinction, who are we to? It also makes life easier from a gaming point of view, but if you are a believer in the 'Great English Longbow', feel free to make rules to suit. 

The distinction between troop types is somewhat arbitrary. 'Retinue' troops were pretty much full time soldiers. Yeomen were a mix of professionals and part-time warriors, generally having fairly good equipment and their pick of arrows from stock, if they didn't have them custom made. Tenant archers were the poorest of the 'archer classes', possibly having sub-standard weapons (which were replaced at muster for the French Wars, though I doubt such a luxury was possible in the hurried raising of men for domestic conflicts), 'stock' arrows and probably less opportunity or inclination to practice. 
Missile Troops may not Close Ranks, but may be part of a 'Massed Formation' of differing troop types and classes (p.36-37). A group of Missile Troops may disperse to Harass the enemy, or Reform from Harassing (each counting as a Change of Formation p.36). Medieval English Archers were quite flexible in their roles, although their idea of 'formed' would turn a modern drill-sergeant's hair white.

Massed Shooting

Bow-armed Missile Troops may also shoot as a 'Massed Formation', the rearward groups adding volume of arrows to the more accurate shooting of the front rank groups. Up to two groups may 'support' the shooting of a group, providing;
  • each of the groups are either; in base to base contact with the rear of the 'shooting group', or otherwise in contact (to side or rear) with a single 'supporting group'.
  • a group may only support the fire of one group to its front, where there is an overlap across more than one unit.
How Mass Shooting works is that each shooter in the foremost group can apply a modifier of +1 (in addition to other modifiers), for each group 'supporting', to both his 'To Hit' and 'Effect' rolls.

In other words, a group of archers, with a group in contact behind them and with another in contact to the rear of that supporting group, will add +2 (the maximum) to each shooting figure's rolls. The same would apply if the foremost group had two groups behind it, in contact and next to each other (in a 'wedge' if you like), each group supports the foremost group, so again +2 is the modifier. 

The commander has a choice therefore; he can either deploy his bows in an attempt to make every shot count and trust to luck, or he can add 'quantity' to the 'quality' and literally bring down an arrow storm on his foe. 


As I said above, Missile Troops were quite flexible and while in battle, large formations of them might be preferred, there was also room for skirmishing troops at a tactical level. Missile Troops can be either. Changing to or from 'Skirmishing' is a formation change (p.36).

As a result, the four man group restriction is ignored (p.42). Skirmishing troops shoot at half the range of normal missile troops (0-6" and 6-12") but the 'Effects' chart on p.42 is still used as is.

Close Combat

Once more there are no real changes to this, other than the inclusion of some special rules for Pike-armed troops, namely Flemish, Scots, French and German mercenaries, who were variously involved in the Wars of the Roses. While the scale of the local conflicts we are modelling would really exclude the use of foreign troops en-masse, it wouldn't be the end of the world if someone did field them.


Pikes and particularly long spears had a very chequered history with regard to England. They were the weapon of choice of victorious Scots armies, but also their downfall in their defeats. With the exception of Martin Schwarz's German and Flemish bands, at Stoke Field (1487), those from other countries aren't mentioned at all, we just assume they were present.

A stained glass window (now tragically lost to us) in St. Mary's church, Merevale, is reputed to show a body of men in a 'Swiss-style' formation, reputedly the troops, who the Earl of Oxford ordered to stay close to their standards. We know a body of men from the training camp at Pont de'l'Arche were 'lent' to Henry Tudor in 1485 and was the same camp where the Swiss had previously been training French pikemen. While they weren't Swiss, what ability they had, would have been quite in excess of that which the bulk of native English troops brought to the battle, making them, at least in English terms at the time, an elite.

From what I can gather, despite the Swiss, who developed tactics involving aggressive manoeuvring, the pike block was invariably, in a tactical sense, a defensive formation at this time. Therefore in an effort to make them effective, but not overbearing, I've simply combined some of the 'Massed Shooting' effects with the Supporting Units (p.44) and Shieldwall (p.37) rules.

There are two ways you can use a body of pikes; initiating combat with them (i.e. 'charging'), in which case they follow the same rules as any other troops, without any change - or they can make a 'Stand of Pike' (a term that's a bit too ECW perhaps, but you get the idea at least).

A Stand of Pike is a defensive posture, it counts as a formation change (p.36). All of the group, or groups, in the case of massed pikes, are assumed to be in 'Close Ranks' as above, regardless of their class - the sole exception to the Close Ranks rule on troop classes permitted to use it.

The rules for A Stand of Pike are as follows;
  • All figures in an engaged Pike-armed group can fight, regardless of the facing of the group. All fighting models within a group must be facing in the same direction however (see Who can fight? on the diagram below). 
  • A Pike-armed group, or a body of Massed pike-armed groups, may adopt an 'all round defence posture' (as per p.39 and p.48). This is an additional formation change to forming A Stand of Pike however. 
  • A Pike Group may be supported by up to 3 groups in successive base to base contact to its rear. Each successive group adds a cumulative +1 modifier to the 'to hit' dice roll of each 'fighting figure' in close combat. But not the figure's effect roll.

  • Where a Massed pike-armed group is attacked from the flank of the formation, it may either turn to face and fight this threat or provide support to its front, but not both. If it turns to face the threat, successive pike-armed groups behind it, may no longer support the foremost fighting group. 
I've subsumed any minority of men within a pike-armed group, or within a mass formation of pikes, who would be armed with polearms and other weapons, within the pikes themselves. Wholly pike-armed bodies hadn't appeared by the mid to late 15th Century and there were still varying proportions of 'other weapons' within these groups.

Represent this as you wish, but as a whole, any massed 'melee troop' formation containing at least half of its groups as 'pike-armed' will benefit from their presence, effectively themselves becoming pike-armed groups while within a massed formation containing them. In other words, if half of the groups within a massed formation of infantry are pikes, then class all of the groups in the formation as pikes, regardless of position or armament.

I've tried not to make pikes offensively overpowering, in the way that many Swiss pikes tend to be in some rules, whilst making them vulnerable, but not emasculated, to a flank attack. If you find that; like Oxford's French at Bosworth, they steadfastly resist all comers, or like Schwartz's men at Stoke, they are the last beleaguered unit standing on the field at the end, then I've got it right.

In all probability they will not be facing off against other pikes, as in other wars, so deserve to be a bit special and not just there for period colour. They might not be battle winners, but they certainly might prevent a resounding defeat. Neither the continental variety, or the Scots, appear to have made a positive lasting impression on English military thought (such as it was) at the time and it wasn't until the 'Lansknecht era' that they began to appear in any numbers in England, supplanting the bill as the 'common hand weapon' of the commonest men.


Perhaps no surprise, but there are no artillery rules in Dux Britanniarum. I've given a fair degree of thought and committed myself to some reading about it and have come to some conclusions about its place and effect on medieval battles;
  • Its effect was out of proportion to the casualties it actually caused.
  • It was a more common item than we would tend to believe.
  • Once positioned it was rarely moved around, even the lighter 'field gun' types.
  • There was a wide variety of guns in use.
  • They were expensive to maintain and use.
Besides the fate cards which allow the possibility of impromptu Gonnes turning up, there also needs to be some mechanism to allow players to 'purchase' them for their forces. As a basic rule therefore, a player may exchange one group (of any type) in any four groups in his force, for a Gonne and crew. Each campaign month however, the player must pay a Yeoman's Tithe per gun, for their upkeep and an additional one, per Gonne, for each battle they are involved in (Gonnes are not used in Raids).

The Gonnes available vary as to type (I've been a little loose with the names) and are rolled for randomly (2D6);

2-4 Carte of Warre or Ribauldequin - a multiple barrelled weapon, with small bores on a portable wheeled frame. Counts as four figures for shooting.

5-8 - Fauconneau or Falcon - a single barrelled weapon with a small bore (2-3") on a wheeled carriage or portable frame. Counts as four figures for shooting.

9-11 - Serpentine - a relatively long barrelled gun of medium bore (3-4"). Counts as six figures for shooting.

12 - Culverine - the heaviest weapon capable of being used in the field. Although on a wheeled carriage, once emplaced for battle it was nearly impossible to reposition. Counts as eight figures for shooting.


Culverines are positioned when a players forces are deployed at the start of a battle. During the battle, it may not be moved and must remain facing in the original direction it was positioned in. 

Serpentines may be positioned in the same way as Culverines, or may begin the battle limbered. They will move at infantry pace while limbered. They may be positioned at any point in the game, taking a whole turn, but may not re-limber subsequently. They may change their direction, but may not shoot in the turn in which they do this.

Falcons and Cartes of Warre move at the same pace as infantry when limbered. They may deploy to shoot, counting as a formation change (p. 36), or re-limber, also counting as a formation change. They may change direction freely in the same way as infantry.  


All Gonnes shoot as the equivalent number of figures as they have crew, less casualties received.

Cartes of Warre shoot at the same range as normal missile weapons. All other Gonnes shoot at double the normal distance (0-24" and 24-48")

Gonnes (except Cartes of Warre) shoot in the same way as normal missile troops, except that they count cover as one factor less (Heavy becomes Light, Light becomes Open). Cartes of Warre count cover as it is.

Gonnes don't cause casualties, they cause Shock (p.54). A 'kill' on the effects table becomes 2 points of Shock inflicted on the target group. 

Despite armour being somewhat meaningless against artillery, still count the troops as the appropriate troop type/class, as this depicts their relative resistance to being 'spooked' by artillery fire.

Sallet Dressing

That is pretty much it for my attempt to translate the Wars of the Roses into Dux Britanniarum terms, I hope you've enjoyed the ride and thank you for the time you've spent reading it! 

To finish off, I've a couple of thoughts regarding improving the look of the game, rather than its actual prosecution.

Depicting 'Shock'

In the rule book (p.54), the use of dice or markers is mentioned to represent the Shock points a unit has received. Most commercial markers and certainly dice spoil the whole look of a game, yet are somewhat necessary to keep track of things.

I don't put this forward as an original idea by any means, but why not create 'Shock Markers' which involve the 'casualty figures' most ranges feature, or leftover plastic torsos and bits if you are using the Perry Plastics? Each point of shock can be represented by single or multiple bases (for multiple points of shock) of 'wounded, dead' and other suitable figures, or even bases including fallen arrows.

I've seen both of these types done and it really makes a difference visually, especially if you are planning doing a demonstration at a show. Nothing is worse than seeing a beautifully crafted and produced game, with a load of dice, cups and whatever strewn across it.


In the post-Napoleonic world, where armies have consistently attempted to reduce the size of an army's tale, we are used to far less in the way of transport and supply than our medieval forebears. As a general rule of thumb, for every twenty men in an army, there would have been a cart or wagon, commanders of various levels having one or more to themselves.

When we are talking armies of between six and ten thousand men therefore, there were perhaps 300 to 500 wagons, plus several thousand camp followers. The obviously inflated figures for armies of the time, may have simply been the chronicler included the army's 'tail' in his numbering of people involved.

I had considered including rules to make use of the various baggage and camp follower models about, but that seemed somewhat unfair on those working on a budget, or who don't own a miniatures company. Even those less restricted financially will often weigh up the value of a single wagon model, compared to the number of 'fighting figures' he/she could buy instead.   

Nevertheless baggage had a role in medieval war. While most armies marched some distance from their camp to fight, this was not always the case. The Earl of Salisbury apparently used his baggage wagons to create a 'laager' against a numerically superior force at Blore Heath and the Lancastrians were forced to deploy men to hold off the Yorkist advance prior to Tewkesbury, in an attempt to give their baggage time to find a crossing point over the Severn. 

We aren't just talking supplies, whores and alcohol here, the administrative wing of an army, its essential craftsmen and of course the army's pay, were also with the baggage. Without it, an army just couldn't function... on that basis, surely it's worth buying a wagon or two, if you can?   

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