Thursday, 19 August 2021

A Medieval Game and Rules

This past weekend I decided to move some of my terrain from one of the draws under my tabletop to a plastic container to free up some space for my old medieval Minifigs collection, which were hidden away in some boxes. Somewhere in this process I decided quite naturally to set up a quick game. For inspiration a quick glance through "Wargaming Ancient and Medieval Period" by Donald Featherstone sound the Battle of Morlaix, 1342. 

Provided inspiration for the game.

The battle has a small English force of 3000 defending a position in front of a ditch against a 15,000 to 20,000 strong French relief force which had arrived to lift the siege of Morlaix. The English were in a strong defensive position in front of a ditch. After successfully repelling multiple French attacks, the English force commanded by the Earl of Northampton made a tactical withdraw through the woods. Using the advice within the book as a guide I setup the tabletop (4 x 4 foot) and army deployment.

The tabletop setup has a shallow valley between the deployed armies. The stream has no  effect on movement, it is there more to show where the valley.

The order of battle for the English army:
  • 1 unit of man at arms (dismounted)
  • 2 units of long bowmen
These are positioned in front of a wood along a rise. To represent the ditch the English archers are positioned behind stakes. The French order of battle has:
  • 2 units of levies
  • 2 units of mounted men at arms
  • 2 units of men at arms (dismounted)
This does not represent all the French army, but if the English can hold their position against double their number they can then make a tactical withdrawal through the woods. The French attack was constrained by the following rules:
  1. Attacks had to be made in the following order - levies, mounted men at arms, and foot men at arms.
  2. The following line could not attack until the previous line had been eliminated.
  3. Men at arms, mounted and foot, had to first engage in melee the English men at arms before they can engage the bowmen. (A matter of position and honour.)
A few photographs of the game as it progressed...

The French levies advance upon the English line who quickly let loose their arrows.

The levies were repulsed and the mounted men at arms charge ahead, although one unit become disordered from shooting. 

The last French line of dismounted men at arms advances

Bowmen leave their positions to joint the fight.

The English see off the last line of attack before withdrawing.

The rules used for this game...

D3 Medieval Wargame Rules

These home-brew rules started out as a variant of Neil Thomas’ One-Hour Wargames Medieval rules. They have been changed to use D3 for combat, and 2D6 dice for checking disorder, and a D6 for unit movement.

Units Types

The game has the following units types:

  • Levies
  • Knights (mounted Men at Arms)
  • Men at Arms
  • Longbows
  • Crossbows

The units are consistently based. I am using two 4x3 inch bases to represent a unit.

Sequence of play

Each player takes a turn to move, shoot and melee with their units in the following sequence:

  1. Movement
  2. Shooting
  3. Melee
  4. Disorder and elimination

The game ends after 15 turns.


During the movement phase a player can attempt to move their units. Dice must be rolled to determine if a unit can move. The D6 score required is dependent upon the order number of the unit being moved.

  • 1st Unit requires 2+
  • 2nd unit requires 3+
  • 3rd unit requires 4+
  • 4th unit requires 5+
  • 5th unit requires 6+

When failing to achieve the required score, all movement must stop. A maximum of 5 units can move during a player’s turn.

Units may move up to the distances listed below:

  • Levies, Longbows, Crossbows, and Men at Arms move 6”
  • Knights move 12”

Units may pivot at the start and end of their move.

Units may not pass through other friendly units.

Units that have moved or pivoted may not shoot or engage in melee.

Units may move into contact with enemy units with the following constraints:

When charging a unit may not pivot during their move. They must move straight ahead.

Only one attacking unit can contact each side of an enemy unit (front, left flank, right flank, and rear)

Combat is resolved in the melee phase

Units that are disordered cannot move.


Terrain has an impact on a unit’s movement and combat.

  1. Woods - Impassable to units
  2. Towns - Impassable to units unless on a road
  3. Marshland and lakes - Impassable to units
  4. Rivers - Can only be crossed at bridges and fords
  5. Roads - Units moving all their move on roads increase their move distance by 50 percent.


Only longbow and crossbow units can shoot. The procedure for shooting is as follows:

  • Units may only shoot at a target within their frontal facing.
  • Crossbow units have a range of 12” and Longbow units have a range of 18”.
  • Assess the number of hits for Crossbows rolling a D3+1 and Longbows roll D3.
  • -1 if the target unit is Men at Arms (dismounted).
  • -1 if the shooting unit is disordered.

Units in combat cannot be shot at.


Units only inflict hits during their own player turn. The procedure for determining the number of hits is as follows:

  • Longbow and Crossbow units - D3-1
  • Knights - D3+1
  • Levies and Men at Arms - D3

Modify the score for the following:

  • -1 from hits for attacks on Men at Arms.
  • +1 If attacking from a flank or rear.
  • -1 where units are defending river crossings or have deployed wooden stakes.
  • -1 if the attacking unit is disordered.

Units are allowed to face an attack upon their flank or rear, only if they are not already being engaged frontally.

Disorder and Elimination

Units are eliminated after taking more than 8 hits and are removed from play.

When a unit has taken hits during a turn check to see if they become disordered. Roll 2D6, if the score is not greater than the number of hits taken by a unit, then the unit is disordered for their next turn. Disordered units cannot move during their turn and -1 from any shooting or melee hit scores.

A unit is only disorderd for one turn, unless they become disordered again.


  1. As ever I think it's the special rules that make the game a good refight. I don't have that Featherstone title what other battles does it cover?

    1. Battles covered: Kadesh 1288 BC, Leuctra 371 BC, Crossing River Jaxartes 330 BC, Ticinus River 218 BC, Cynoscephalae 197 BC, Taginae AD 552, Stamford Bridge 1066, Lewes 1264, Bannockburn 1314, Morlaix 1342, Auberoche 1345, Neville's Cross 1346, Shrewsbury 1403, Verneuil 1424, 1st Battle St. Albans 1455.

    2. Temptation proved too much and is now anticipation.
      This is your fault! ;o)

    3. Hopefully the wait is not too long.

    4. Arrived today a nice clean 1975 hardback edition, smells lovely - I love the smell of some of old books. It's as inspiring as I hoped and I've put alongside my copy of the Pike and Shot period from the same series which is also a classic.

    5. Good to hear. Those old hardbacks always bring back memories of loaning the books from the local library.

    6. My mum used to work in the library so provided no one ordered them I could usually hang on to them as long as I liked.

  2. This is a book I haven't spotted, though I've read most of Featherstone. Will have to see if John Curry has republished it.

    I tried his early medieval rules swiped from a Wargamer's Newsletter - involved way more dicerolling than really worked for multibase figures.

    1. I was fortunate to get my secondhand copy a couple of years back. As for rules, previously I have used Lion Rampant in a campaign tracking all hits with dice against multi base figures.

  3. That's a nice looking game and god to see the tweaks you made to NT's rules. I keep forgetting to check my old school books for scenarios, ideas etc, so will try and rectify this moving forward.

    1. Thanks. I am not sure what prompted me to pull out the book to check, but I am glad I did, and as you say they do have a lot of scenario ideas.

  4. I have fond memories of that book although I never owned it. It was one of those books that was on more or less permanent loan by one of three of us at school! The jump from those straight into WRG Ancients was a steep learning curve!

    1. The libraries were so useful back then for these books. I am not sure I can remember an occasion that I actually finished a game using any of the WRG rule sets.

  5. Another demonstration of how simple rules with a small amountof units can still give a good looking and very enjoyable game!

    1. Thanks. This particular battle was very suited to a solo wargame with the English forces just holding their position. In recent months I have been reducing the number of units I play with and increasing the unit size, and as you say games are still as enjoyable.