Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Blood & Horse Droppings - WOTR Rules from Dr Robert Jones

My only as yet completed company, Warwick's for my planned WOTR collection

Last week in a chat with friends from the DWG, in one of our regular Zoom gatherings which have replaced in the recent lockdowns our regular pub gatherings following a monthly club meeting, a new set of Wars of the Roses wargame rules came up in conversation, written by Dr Rob Jones a medievalist historian based in Cardiff and whose name immediately rang a bell, having had the pleasure of listening to him present at Penarth Wargames Society's annual show, Crusade in 2017 and 2019, both of which I reported on here at JJ's and can be seen in the link below.

Rob Jones Presentations at Crusade 2017 & 2019

In addition to the name of the author, what further peaked my interest, was that his new rules were based on the rules I was planning my own collection around, 'A Coat of Steel' (ACOS) by The Perfect Captain which seemed to me to really capture a lot of the peculiarities of medieval warfare and the warfare of this particular era, if in a rather opaque manner, with its references to a lot of medieval nomenclature which provides some of that 'feel' but at times rather confuses the matter of simply being a set of wargame rules.

Warwick's boys get stuck-in in a Christmas game held at the DWG a few years ago

Anyway intrigued, I found my way to Dr Jones' web site and the page relating to his rule set, 'Blood and Horse Droppings' (BHD) and promptly got a copy of the rules, a set of 'Warre Dice Stickers' and some army lists for the period and sat down to read, compare and contrast with ACOS, see link below if you are interested.

Blood & Horse Droppings Rules

So in essence, Rob Jones has sieved out what I feel are the best aspects of ACOS, namely its rather unique method of combat resolution. which requires opposing commanders to select from a range of six distinct tactical options for their 'companies' that in the case of  BHD, when compared one to another and combined with the result of a six sided 'Warre Die' result, churns out a result of casualties, disorder and/or pushbacks that helps to capture the feel of the bloody scrum produced from men locked in close combat with two handed 'tin openers'.

I was slightly disappointed to see his dropping of the similar shooting options of choosing different ways to launch arrow attacks dependent on wind direction and the tactics of the target presenting themselves in an advantageous way or not in the approach to combat, but can see that his simplification of this process could well pay off in a cleaner and faster resolution to this aspect of the game.

Perfect Captain - A Coat of Steel
Perfect Captain - A Crown of Paper

However additionally BHD retains the use of the wonderful artwork and characteristics beautifully captured in ACOS's with its character cards and the use of Traits and Puissance ratings to show the tactical and aggressiveness ratings for the various captains together with their respective ranks, that is Royals, Barons and Knights.

Another key change is the organising of the various troop types (retinue, array, mercenaries, spears, mounted men at arms, scurrours, Irish and Gonnes) around a set sized (base footprint) unit incorporating figures to represent the different troops that would be grouped within a company, the basic unit; therefor a retinue company would feature a captain and his fully armoured men at arms, some other jacketed men at arms and a group of archers, liveried and locals, the number of which and the types used being simply to illustrate the look of the unit, perhaps with archers to the rear and men at arms to the front. 

Rob Jones made particular mention in his talks of how groups of men were raised during this period, which would include a mix of weapon specialists, and how they would fight together in 'their company', be that liveried retinues or commission of array, with a group loyalty to one another and the captain who raised and organised them, and he has reflected this in the rules, together with a very limited range of movement options also captured in his presentations.

Some Scurrours, painted for a friend at club, during lockdown (Vince - I'll bring them along for you next month)

I would thus take my current based groups of figures as seen in the pictures above and group eight such bases of infantry types, four to the front and four to the rear on a movement tray to represent such a company, and for my cavalry units, probably sticking to a single rather than double rank with a similar frontage as for the infantry. 

Different strength companies, under or over strength are represented by a casualty rating of 4, 5 or 6 indicating how many casualties can be absorbed before the company breaks and with the lower or higher number indicating an above or below strength average company.

The various hits taken by units in the form of casualties and 'Black Flag' disorder hits could probably be easily recorded using micro dice, small markers or on a roster, depending on your own taste.

By retaining the basic character parameters and troop types in ACOS it also should enable BHD to be played using 'A Crown of Paper' (ACOP), the stand alone campaign game from The Perfect Captain which is another compelling reason to check these rules out.

I plan soon to make a start of my big pile of Perry WOTR plastics and metals and I will continue with my ACOS basing system which will easily convert as illustrated into BHD units, a rule set I am keen to have a go with, seeing that they incorporate a lot of the ideas of medieval warfare that Rob Jones outlined in his very entertaining presentations.

More anon


  1. Gosh there are a lot of Wars of the Roses rules coming out. These ones sound different to Never Mind the Billhooks and Test of Resolve Wars of the Roses, which is good. Variety is said to be the spice of life after all

    1. Hi David,
      Yes indeed, WOTR is right up there in the fashion charts at the moment, and it is good to have a variety of offerings to suit all tastes.

      As I’ve discussed in previous posts, the rules I use reflect my criteria of game vs simulation and fun vs not fun to play, with my preference towards simulation and fun, realising of course that all rule sets carry a lesser or greater amount of compromise.

      These measures imply a large amount of subjectivity, but help me to assess the rules on the basis of:

      Do they match as close as is feasible what I understand warfare in this period to look like, based on my reading and research?


      Do I enjoy playing them and get that satisfying experience of a game, full of narrative and drama for the period?

      Among those two specific requirements also falls the desire to have the rules create a satisfying look to the game when the figures and models are on the table.

      There has perhaps been a recent trend towards so called ‘fast play’ rules which are great if that is your primary requirement, but for me, if fast play implies more game than simulation then that becomes a compromise too far, because if I just want a fast game with dice, I can play Snakes & Ladders, which is very fast play.

      Some writers and designers of rules meet my criteria consistently and I would include Rich Clarke & Nick Skinner of Lardy fame and Sam Mustafa with his Honour series of games in that group, producing rules with clever mechanics that hit that sim/fun button consistently.

      I hope that helps to define the rules I tend to feature here on the blog.


  2. I fully agree with your own views of game versus simulation, JJ. I'm not interested in pushing around toy soldiers without the historical context and feel. And I will follow your medieval postings with interest - medieval history was my first love but I have never gamed it. That may change...

    1. Hi Bill,
      As a wise man once said, 'rules are like shoe sizes, just because I take a size 8 and you take a size 10 doesn't mean either are wrong or no good it just comes down to personal preference', and it would seen we prefer a similar approach.

      Like you, I have a passion for medieval history and have only gamed it with others collections but have always intended to do something about that, so I look forward to starting work on the new collection.