Saturday, 20 December 2014


Sword & Spear Review -  War Of The Roses 

Thursday evening and time to test out the Sword & Spear rules written by Mark Lewis.

I have been looking forward to trying these out since I bought a pdf copy of the rules in the Autumn.
Mark was good enough to put on an introduction game which helped understand the game mechanics.

Seen as master Shakespeare already has a very fine collection of Heroics & Ros War Of The Roses figures we thought it would be a good starting point to get these on table and have a bash of the rules.

We decided in the interest of time just to deploy both armies and camps quickly so we could get straight into the game. With 16 units on each side roughly balanced at around 600 points the armies were deployed....

Yorkist C in C - Longbows and men at arms

Another group of York units

Armoured Knights

The house of Lancaster elects to deploy in one large line

More Armoured Knights

These longbows turned out to be very handy on several occasions!

With all the forces deployed we began. I provided a brief run down on the mechanics of the turn explaining action dice and discipline, together with how to use captains and generals. This all made sense and everyone seemed to pick things up pretty fast.

We opted for a 90mm frontage for our units in two ranks so to keep things simple I decided to use 2" as a DU which is near enough !

Turn 1 - York advances forward...

The movement rules are precise and clean. Nothing that really hinders the game play which we all thought was refreshing. Too many other rule sets do very badly with their movement rules by trying to be to clever and overcomplicated. With these rules you can either advance or if you get the action dice to exceed the units discipline then you can perform a manoeuvre which allows you to move in any direction (even backwards but at a loss of distance) so long as no part of the unit moves further than allowed.

One mistake I did make was not to allocate our units into commands and use 4 different coloured markers as we had a 2 v 2 game. It was not an issue really as we just wanted to play out a game and test the rules. Something to remember for next time as it would be important !!!

York C in C attached - we grasped the group move rule very fast

General Jon of Lancaster....

He's just realised that he forgot to clear that A380 that was holding at 8.30 this morning.

The Yorkist's quickly realising that Lancaster was not budging pressed on the attack

It doesn't get any better than this.

A solid unbroken line of troops just waiting to inflict a whole lot of pain and a flagon of fine ale!

I opted to use gems instead of dice to draw out the bag. These were kept to one side and we rolled dice and allocated as normal but placed gems next to activated units.

A novel idea but I think I will just stick with using dice for our next game!

Lancaster orders some longbows forward with a manoeuvre.

We found to our dislike that these units were rather good.

With 3 strength and the extra impetus dice PLUS the change of using a bonus on a 6 or double meant that there was a lot of dice coming in when shooting took place. The rules do a very good job with Armour in that certain weapon types either reduce or nullify (in the case of artillery and two handed weapons) the effectiveness  of armour.

Things are starting to heat up now. We had spent around 1 hour (with permitted Gabbing allowed) moving our forces forward. In hindsight I probably would of A: used smaller armies for this intro game (Mark and I can't resist the lure of big battles sorry!)

B: Deployed the forces closer to each other

Over on the right flank the Yorkist army was possibly stronger as we had more armoured knights, this proved not to be the case as the battle unfolded.

Jon kept his cool over on the left flank but moved a few units closer to pour down some fire.

Mark and I agreed that we should of perhaps concentrated on one area of the table and used our action dice more wisely. It turned out that we tried to move everything and keep some lines.

We found out later that it was handy to use bonus dice to give units the extra distance so it was possible to charge in with some units which normally would be out of normal range.

Here are my two fabulous units of knights.

And here they are again routed a few turns after....

I lost both of these down to some pretty crap dice rolling in response to a volley of arrows from the Lancastrian longbows. The longbow reduces one level of protection making the weapon particularly deadly. When I played the first game with Mark Lewis most of the shooty units in ancients were all strength 2 and did not pack any punch.

It's good to see that the rules do a good job for each period they cover

Back over to the left and we were struggling to get our units close enough to charge and the combination of the artillery and arrows was slowly chipping away at our strength...

Spearmen advance....

Over on the right despite losing our knights we were nonetheless feeling optimistic as we staretd to close on the Lancastrian position.
I had one unit of cavalry left, not as good as the Lancastrian knight's they faced.
I originally wanted to get around the flank and rear but after checking the movement restriction rule out (and I think we played this correctly) we said that the cavalry had to end its move facing the knights because they were in front of them at the start of the move.

On the Lancastrian phase they quickly reacted to the threat and managed to move some units into better positions.

On our next turn we got cheeky and used a 6 on an action dice to move an extra 1 DU (2") and elected to charge a unit of longbow with our previously unused billmen.

They ended up eating them and we quickly realised that with a strength of 4 these guys were just brutal. We resolved the rout and pursued straight ahead into the corner of the knights, pivoting and conforming as shown. We then fought a round of combat but with no impetus for either side but ended up taking a casualty!

I really like this mechanic as it allows a victorious unit the opportunity to roll up the line (we just unlucky on the dice here but against other troop types pursuits could be very destructive given the right circumstances)

Back to the action on the left flank and surprisingly we managed to flank charge a unit of Lancaster knights which had previously pursued after routing one of our units in the earlier phase.

A rash move which left their flank exposed!

We still could not beat them enough though in the fight! 

10.30 and time to call it 

The Lancaster's earn a fine win by having routed 2 of our York units to 1 of their's.

Well played to Ian and Jon and thanks to Mark for the use of his armies.

Post game thoughts

I think it fair to say we all enjoyed the game and the rules were quick to pick up. They are the best written set of rules I have used to date which is a huge plus for me. The command and control rules are perhaps the most interesting feature of the rules and really do make you think about how you direct the troops on the table.

Mark has been very clever with how he has written these rules, everything is kept simple enough but at the same time allows you to do everything you need.

Movement rules are slick, there are no areas for any "gamey" tricks to be used
Shooting and combat rules "work" and with no tables / charts to consult things move along at a rapid pace, again excellent thinking. There are a few modifiers which come into play but these are both necessary and kept to a minimum.

Morale rules in a rule set are a must for me and I like the the way that these work. It is simple and effective.

I have read a few other reviews and some people have mentioned the amount of dice on table, this never bothers us so was not a negative!

We will be playing these rules again soon and I will be putting a theme Month on next Year at some point.


  1. I thought it played very well. I think the command and control, as you indicated, needs bringing into our games, and yes, small is better when learning a new set! I think the gems worked well and they are less confusing than more dice hanging around the table. I look forward to playing more, and especially to see if they work with an historical game.

  2. I liked the rules too.especially the bit where all your cavalry died!

  3. looking forward to the next battle