Posts Tagged 'Wars of the Roses'

Busman’s holiday on the number 1460 to Northampton

I decided to take a break from my Kingmaker playtesting on Discord and Tabletopia by playing a solo physical game. My choice, rather bizarrely perhaps, was Northampton 1460, Graham Evans’ excellent storytelling game of the battle of Northampton in the Wars of the Roses.

The game can be played solitaire or 2-player, and there are also 2 modes: you can play it using the historical timeline or freeform. The structure of Northampton 1460 is similar to W1815, in that the armies are not free to deploy where they like, they must occupy their historical deployment grounds and carry out more-or-less the actions that they did during the historical battle. The freeform version allows you to experiment with doing things in a different sequence from the historical one, whereas the historical timeline constrains you into the historical order, with variation only from your own particular dice rolls for your particular enactment of the battle.

Without further ado, I present:


Northampton 1460 game cover: note that this is a game in a book!


Game set-up

Here we see the full components of the game itself, though I note that I’ve managed to clip III, VI and XI on the Weather and Turn Track. I hope you can imagine Quarte, None and Compline to the right! The game book contains rules and historical background material in addition to pull-out pages to enable you to construct your copy. Of course, you might decide to scan the game pages so as to leave the book intact.

The armies are represented by 3 Battles each – Yorkists at the bottom, Lancastrians in their camp at the top. In addition, we have the small cavalry contingents – Scrope and Greriffin – on the left, and the Papal Legate and Archbishop of Canterbury on the right of the Yorkists by the Eleanor Cross (now re-furbished, go and see it if you have the opportunity!), Henry VI in his tent in the camp, and finally Margaret of Anjou, with her son Edward, Prince of Wales in the Delapre Abbey. The cavalry only have 1 hit each and generally carry out a bit of skirmishing prior to the main engagement. The Battles each have from 4 to eight hits, each hit represented by a square counter illustrated with an appropriate coat of arms. The Lancastrians start on 11 Morale, the Yorkists on 10. There is also a stack of weather cards, because rain was an important factor in neutralising the artillery, particularly the preponderance of the Lancastrians in this arm. Finally, each side has 8 cards that describe the actions that can be taken and their effects. I’m going to carry these out in the historical sequence, which is largely denoted by the circled number in the top right of each card, guided by instructions at the back of the rules.

Turns alternate between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians, and the game lasts up to 9 rounds. You draw a weather card at the start of each Yorkist turn, the Yorkists going first, then the Lancastrians.

Cavalry Skirmish

Bolton 1 Northampton 0

The first weather card today is sunny! Just what the Lancastrians need, because 2 or more suns in a row will dry out their guns and make them more effective.

In Prime (Round 1), the first action of the battle is for Lord Scrope’s cavalry to attack that of Greriffin in a preliminary skirmish. Scrope has a 4 in 6 chance of driving off the Lancastrian cavalry, which he duly does. Turning over Scrope’s card, we see that Scrope plays no further part in the battle, preferring to sack the town. Even before the battle is truly joined, it’s not a good day for the people of Northampton.

There is no effective Lancastrian response to this outrage. Henry VI is content to pray in his tent for victory and peace for all England; this prayer has an outside chance (1 or 6) of affecting the morale of either army, but has no effect for now. This ends the first round.

The Archbishop of Canterbury intervenes to try to stop the bloodshed

Terce: Thomas Bourchier, the Archbish of Canterbury, attempts to negotiate.

Terce (Round 2) turns wet, so no benefit to the Lancastrian guns.

Warwick (the Kingmaker) leading the Yorkist army sends emissaries led by Thomas Bourchier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to the King’s advisers to try to negotiate a settlement. Unsurprisingly, the negotiation fails. Henry continues ineffectually to pray for peace. The failure of the negotiation makes the Yorkist army despondent (they lose a point of Morale).


Quarte: Anathema!

Quarte (Round 3) is perchance of a damp persuasion.

For a different type of persuasion, there now occurs one of those ‘most weird’ happenstances – truly this happened in 1460! Present at this battle was Bishop Francesco Coppini, the Papal Legate, under some instructions from the Pope to support the Yorkists, though as a Legate he carried the Pope’s full authority. At this point, he excommunicated the entire Lancastrian Army! While it is unclear what effect this had at the time, or indeed whether excommunication was a tactical ranged weapon, in this game at least some Lancastrians are downcast at being cast out of the Church (they lose 1 Morale). In a kind of “how many battalions has the Pope?” response, the Lancastrian guns attempt to fire upon the Yorkists. The result is that God seems not to like artillery much, and the Lancastrians do no damage and lose 1 of their 3 guns.

At the end of this round, both sides have suffered 1 Morale loss, but the main Battles have not yet engaged.

Artillery duel?!

Sext Guns

Sext (Round 4) is sunny again, but really too little too late for the gunnery.

Both sides try to get their guns to work, but it’s the literal damp squib! To add insult to lack of injury, the Lancastrians lose yet another gun. Maybe that excommunication is having physical aftereffects?!

Forward for Richard!

Octe: naught to see here

At Octe, the sun is again not sunny; ’tis verily wet for 10th July.

The first Yorkist battle to attack is that led by William Neville – no, not THAT Neville, one of the other ones – Lord Fauconberg. It seems this part of the camp is too strong and coupled wtih Egremont’s counterattack, the Yorkists take considerable casualties and fear spreads among their solders (they lose 2 casualties and 1 Morale in total). Will it be the Lancastrians’ day after all?

A Warwick, A Warwick!

None: Warwick 1 Buckingham 2

None sunne. But just 1 sun does no good.

Now Warwick leads his own Battle forward to battle. This kingmaking malarky is proving a tad tricky! Warwick’s troops are also stopped at the barricades and lose heavily, though their opponents also lose men and morale.

After None, Lancastrian morale is at 9, but the Yorkists are becoming increasingly desperate at only 7, as they’ve not made much impression on the Lancastrian position. If their morale drops to 5, they’ll have to take a test and risk their army collapsing.

The Future King!

Decime: March marches.

Decime’s weather is also sunny, so the Lancastrians at last have 2 suns in a row. Unfortunately, it’s far too late for their artillery to have a significant effect now that battle is being joined all along the line.

Edward of March, the future Edward IV who never lost a battle, now shows his mettle. His determined attack wrecks Shrewsbury’s Battle, aided by the turncoat Grey of Ruthin, who lets Edward’s soldiers into the Lancastrian camp. Edward rolled a 6, unnecessarily high as there were positive modifiers because all the Yorkist Battles are engaged. However, a roll of a 1 or 2 would probably have been disastrous, as it would have repelled this Yorkist attack and hit their morale hard. The fortunes of war have favoured the Yorkists for now.

Grey’s treachery means the Yorkists are in the Lancastrian camp, which flips a lot of cards to their alternative side, and favours now a Yorkist victory. Buckingham’s men try to resist Edward’s assault into the camp, but they’re starting to lose the struggle.

The Lancastrians have to take a morale check, because they only have 5 Morale left. If the roll exceeds their current Morale, they have to ask for Quarter, in other words, try to surrender. They pass the test – for now.

Margaret calls it

No Quarter at Vespers

Now they’re in the camp, it’s pretty much all over for the Lancastrians. Edward’s soldiers sweep through Buckingham’s ranks and capture the King. Seeing the writing on the wall, Margaret of Anjou, unable to reach her husband, sweeps up her son and flees. She escapes from the Abbey and manages to avoid capture in the Lancastrian rout that follows. The Lancastrians troops, seeing the King captured and with Margaret running, suffer a collapse in their morale (they lose their Morale check), and ask for Quarter. This is denied by the enraged Yorkists, who proceed to butcher anyone they can catch. In the rout that follows, Buckingham is captured and executed, while somewhat surprisingly Egremont survives and is merely imprisoned.

The Outcome of the 9th November 2020 battle

Graham helpfully provides a method for translating your version of the tactical battle result into a comparative scale of strategic victory, dependent on who survives, who was imprisoned and who got away. In this re-fighting of the battle, Margaret of Anjou and Prince Edward got away, the Lancastrian army was routed, and were given no Quarter, while Henry was captured as was Egremont. The remaining Lancastrian commanders, Shrewsbury and Buckingham, were slain. No Yorkist commanders were killed. Totting up, this gives the Yorkists +9 points, which equates neatly to the historical outcome: “a major Yorkist victory. York/Warwick faction take control of the Government. No one ever considers using artillery forts again for the rest of the war.”

Many thanks to Graham Evans for designing such an excellent, fun and informative game, and to the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society for publishing it.

If you’d like a copy of the game, it is available either from the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society or from myself at All proceeds in both cases go to the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society.

The Society has also published a book by Mike Ingram on the battle, available from their website.

Kingmaker: moves afoot!

I’ve been working on a proposed revision to the Kingmaker board using ‘regional’ movement. In this idea, noble pieces using non-road land movement simply move from 1 region to an adjacent region, rather than having to count up to 5 ‘squares’. In this way, players can avoid many of the difficulties and inconsistencies with the original Kingmaker map, and also the slightly counter-intuitive diagonal movement that is available in many places in the original board. Although there are some necessary compromises, the actual distancies moved are similar in the new mechanism compared with the old one.

When a noble piece lands in a new region, the player selects a specific area within the region for the piece to occupy. This enables a noble or stack of nobles to end up in a specific named location (town, city, castle), in the ‘open field’ or on the road network, ready to exploit road movement in a future move. For ease of play, and maybe a bit of historical realism, I don’t force nobles to decide immediately whether they are in a specific location, thereby avoiding potential random plague death; the decision about the noble’s precise whereabouts can be made when a potential hostile force enters the area. However, if your noble is sent to a location by a raid or revolt, then he should be in that location – so, if it’s a fortified town or city, the noble will be risking plague in this case.

We played the revised map last weekend at Eclectic Games, and it will have another outing or 2 at HandyCon this weekend. It was well received. In the meantime, here’s a sneak preview. Bear in mind that this is a prototype version for playtesting purposes, based loosely on the old game board; it is not a newly created production version; that will only be commissioned once we have the prototype finalised.

In this map, the purple lines are ‘region’ boundaries, the white lines are area borders. Wooded areas are passable only on roads. I would also note that the current draft hasn’t been fully checked, so there may be the odd line missing or spelling mistake; it’s very much a work-in-progress. Also, many thanks to my wife Charlie for much sterling work on this board. Finally in addition, we’ve not yet addressed the heraldry and any geographical anomalies that fans of Kingmaker have identified.

The Cousins’ War: bigger and better roses

The Cousins’ War is Surprised Stare Games’ 2-player game of the Wars of the Roses. It was designed by David J Mortimer, who showed it to me in 2016. I was immediately struck by the elegance and depth of the game – such a lot of game in what was almost a micro-game format: 18 cards, 3 dice, a small board and 27 cubes. I really liked the theme too, as I’ve studied a lot of military history, and I’m a wargamer. So, I persuaded Tony (relatively easily I would say) that we at Surprised Stare Games should publish it.

The original edition was launched at UK Games Expo in June 2017. It came in a small box with beautiful artwork by Klemens Franz and was printed by NSF in the Netherlands. We weren’t sure how well it would sell, as it was a bit different from, not only other SSG products, but also from conventional micro-games or wargames. The Cousins’ War combines both the depth of multi-use action card play with secondary actions usable by your opponent, as in Twilight Struggle, and also a bluffing dice game – like Liar’s Dice – for the battle at the end of each round. The whole fits together very neatly, providing interesting and challenging decisions and a little dose of luck, with the additional advantage that it takes only about 30 minutes or so to play. The cards are highly thematic and the battles too feel very appropriate to the period with bluff and counter-bluff playing the parts of feint and treachery.

The Cousins’ War proved to be very popular. Not only did we sell large numbers at UK Games Expo, but lots of shops in the UK sold large numbers too. We had multiple re-orders very rapidly from multiple shops. By October we’d almost sold out, and we sold the last copies at Essen Spiel ’17.

Rather than immediately re-printing the original game, we decided to produce a new second edition with our international partners: Flying Lemur Game Studio in the USA, Frosted Games in Germany and 2Tomatoes in Spain. Producing more copies reduced the unit costs and made the game more viable commercially. These savings also enabled us to meet the new market demands: the small size of the original game was not good for the additional markets – a larger-sized box is easier to sell, and it enables us to show off the artwork to much better effect.


So, over the next few months, The Cousin’s War second edition was born. We retained all the strengths of the first edition: the artwork is basically the same, the rules in essence unchanged, so it is largely the same game. It’s also larger.

We turned the box art round, so that it is portrait orientation for a cleaner style. The larger box meant we could produce a larger board – much easier to handle the cubes on it; and on the reverse we have space for the full panorama of Klemens’ original artwork. The cards are about 50% larger, so that the text is easier to read, and the play aid card was completely re-designed to make it clearer. While the rules remain the same in principle, we took the opportunity to ask Gaming Rules! expert Paul Grogan to go through them with a fine-toothed comb. Klemens re-worked the layout on the larger pages, so now we have an excellent set of rules with many more examples of how to play. Finally, we could afford to produce better quality dice, so the new game sports 3 white-with-red-spots for the Yorkists and 3 red-with-white-spots for the Lancastrians.

Shortly after the launch of the first edition, we produced the Events expansion – a small number of additional thematic cards to change the game in a minor way each round. For the new edition, we have integrated this expansion into the main game as the Times of Change expansion. The Times of Change adds an extra level of replayability.

The Cousins’ War 2nd edition was launched at Essen Spiel ’18 and has been very well received. We aim to follow up The Cousins’ War’s success with more small games in the future; we have several more little gems in the pipeline.

In addition to Surprised Stare Games for the UK, The Cousins’ War 2nd edition is available from: