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"never mind the billhooks for the Italian Wars" Topic

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Legend of Doom16 May 2022 3:24 p.m. PST

I've been contacted by a local gamer with a collection of Italian Wars figures. We have been discussing rules option. Neither of us was enamoured by Pike and Shotte. I played Furioso and I did not care for it. The FOG/ADLG/MEG games are not for us.

However, from what I have seen, NMTB is fast. fun, decisive and handles big armies. Has anyone tried it- the only troop type which may not be represented is decent skirmish cavalry ( i.e Genitors/Jinetes and Stradiotti

Thresher0116 May 2022 5:03 p.m. PST

Seems like a reasonable option to me.

jwebster Supporting Member of TMP16 May 2022 6:27 p.m. PST

Have you looked at "Baroque"? It's the pike and shot version of Impetus. I haven't played it yet, so no practical suggestions

Arcane Steve17 May 2022 4:29 a.m. PST

There is a second edition of NMTB currently in production. It will be called Bill Hooks Deluxe. The basic rules will not change, they have just been clarified in places as a result of the queries and questions resulting from wider play. However, the new edition will expand to cover other periods, including the Italian Wars and there will indeed be rules for Stradiotti. The launch of the new edition has been delayed for all sorts of reasons. COVID has been a problem, as expected. Also the new periods have been written by a number of enthusiasts and experts but there has been a need to 'unify' their contributions for the sake of continuity in the book. The latest launch date is now Early Autumn. To keep up to date with news, the Never Mind the Bill Hooks facebook group is a good place to join.
Regards, steve

D6 Junkie17 May 2022 6:17 a.m. PST

We played our first game a few weeks back and really enjoyed it. I also have quite a few Italian wars figs and am thinking of using the rules as well

Legend of Doom17 May 2022 12:04 p.m. PST

hi Arcane Steve

That is perfect news . Much appreciated to you and D6 junkie for answering the question, I was expecting lots of responses which DNAQ- Did Not Answer the Question

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP17 May 2022 1:39 p.m. PST

G'day, LoD. NMTBH can handle large battles- see link for replays of Towton, etc, and also some good ideas for tailoring the system to deal with historical situations.

Legend of Doom18 May 2022 4:20 a.m. PST

I saw that link on TMP which is why I looked at the rules. When I first saw the rules I just saw card based activation skirmish which really was not what I was looking for

I've got about 600 painted 28mm figures for the Italian Wars

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2022 5:22 a.m. PST

I've been using them for a couple of years. For a game night they work well- quick, fast game and easy to learn rules. Only tried one "large" battle (about 200 figures/side, not the size you're looking at) and it worked fairly well. There were a couple of gripes- the commanders with more than two blocks under command had real problems with orders (we needed more command figures, in other words). Also cavalry need a commander who could move with them and issue orders. Skirmishing cavalry would move on the initiative cards and not have to worry about that.

We have thought about bringing crossbow units in (fire once per turn, ammo of "6") and hand-guns (fire once per turn and ammo of "4"), but haven't play tested them as yet.

Legend of Doom18 May 2022 6:55 a.m. PST

I saw that the Shed wars refought Towton with 1500 figures ( it looked magniicent) . So these rules look like they scale up

I will be giving it a try using my Burgundians on Monday. I need to print off the cards and counters. I watched the Youtube vidoe and I feel quite positive . I need to discuss army size with my popponant but I can do 200 points. The 24 figure units are nice touch

Legend of Doom18 May 2022 11:39 a.m. PST

I read through the rules and am confused- the rules describe "archers, skirmishers and artillery as being able to loose shots. They give ranges for the bow, kern skirmishers and artillery but not handguns and crossbows. What are the rules for crossbow and handgun equipped troops

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2022 2:33 p.m. PST

Post a game report please, mate. Also, you may be able to contact Andy Callan via Wargames Illustrated, if you want to discuss things with him.

In the rules all "shooting" skirmishers use the same 12" distance, as given on the back page of the rules book (the "cribsheet" page). We're still debating/arguing/wondering about crossbow and hand-gunner "volley" ranges. I think the same short range of 9" as for the archers, but a long range out to 18" for the crossbow and 16" for the hand-gunners, so there's some reason to use them. The debate goes on, with the crossbow ranges being the issue (too long or too short at 18"?).

Legend of Doom18 May 2022 2:41 p.m. PST

I could just fudge things and not bring crossbows. I have enough longbow .

Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP18 May 2022 3:26 p.m. PST


Why Baroque? Impetus was designed with the Italian wars in mind. Just put them as units on 12cm bases and give it a try.

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2022 8:37 p.m. PST

I could just fudge things and not bring crossbows. I have enough longbow .

There is that solution, too. :-) See if you can contact Andy- from what I've heard he's always open to ideas and questions.

Arcane Steve19 May 2022 4:17 a.m. PST

The best way to contact Andy Callan is through the Never mind the Bill Hooks Face book page. He will answer questions very quickly when posted. If this link works, it should take you to a recent exchange regarding using crossbow units in the Italian Wars:
Andy and I will be at Partizan in Newark this Sunday so if you are UK based you can come and have a chat.
As an aside, we are running a parcipation game of 'Never Mind the Boat Hooks' Medieval Naval Warfare!

Arcane Steve19 May 2022 4:21 a.m. PST

As regards Skirmisher ranges, Dal Gavan is correct, in standard billhooks, Crossbows and Handgunners have a range of 12 inches as skirmishers. There are no 'units' of Crossbow men or Handgunners in the original rules although this will change for the Italian wars supplement – agian see the link above for more information.
I hope that helps, regards, Steve

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP19 May 2022 4:56 a.m. PST

Thanks for chiming in, Steve. I'd discuss with Andy on FB, but I don't, and won't, have an account.

My group is setting up a Kingmaker campaign, using NMTBH to fight the battles generated in the board game, hence why we're looking at crossbow units. Hand-gunners got dragged in by one of the players who wants them. We'll adjust once the V2.0 rules are available.

Legend of Doom20 May 2022 5:03 a.m. PST

I decided that we would go 100 points using small forces so that works out at 9 mounted men at arms, 2x12 Longbow, 2x12 bill and 1x6 handgunners , pretty small so hopefully we should easily finish a game in one night.

If we like then we can increase the units -maybe double the army sizes ( I have the figures)

Legend of Doom20 May 2022 11:24 a.m. PST

I am a bit confused as it seems to alternate activating units untill one unit shoots or attacks the other at which point its random card activation. Am I correct in how I read that- it just seems really odd.

I prefer the alternating activation to card based ones

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP20 May 2022 3:54 p.m. PST

Yes, mate. You take turns activating single units or blocks of two combined units. There's no command restrictions or need for orders, and you can activate the same unit more than once. However, once the first unit shoots or attacks that phase ends and you start using the cards for activation. Remember that the last card in the play deck doesn't get used, and signals the end of the turn.

I like the system. The initial phase is the mad scramble to get your troops into position, send out flanking forces, etc. Or you may want to move a unit unit forward to trigger the formal sequence of play quickly, before your opponent has done everything she/he wanted to. The cards mean coordination isn't as easy as in Igo-Ugo games- one of my mates hates it. You can always ignore the cards, but I think they enhance the game. It lessens the control you have over your units and can't rely on having any unit move exactly when you want it to.

Sandinista21 May 2022 4:33 p.m. PST

for those without facebook here is the conversation:

Hey Guys,
Quick question, how would you do run Italian Crossbows for the Italian Wars? I know they will be addressed in the forthcoming Delux rules. But I'm trying to get a few folk introduced to the rules this weekend and they have mostly Italian Wars stuff.
Initial reply from Andy Callan
Skirmisher x-bows in 6 man Bands, as now. but they can also be 12-man companies, operating either alone or paired with a company of Bill/Spear/Pikemen. Assume x-bow companies all start off loaded but after their first shot count only half numbers for each shoot action (to reflect their slow re-loading). If attacked they react like Archers, but can't shoot if they have all shot already this turn.
Follow-up Q:
Andy Callan are skirmishing crossbowmen having a reduction in their dice rolls too? If not I can't see why you would field a company of crossbowmen instead of two skirmish units, (unless points prohibit it).
Reply from Andy Callan
No, same shooting stats as before. Remember that Skirmishers are effective but flakey – they roll 1D6 for morale and rout on a 1-4 (and are therefore likely to spook any neighbouring skirmishers too). 12 man companies roll 2D6, so they are much steadier.
And PS x-bow companies will have a longer range (9-15 ins, like WOTR archers) than skirmishers (12).

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP21 May 2022 5:12 p.m. PST

Thanks, Sandinista, that's informative- not enough to get me back on FB, though. The slow loading affect is interesting and I'll add that in to our campaign rules. The only advantage of the (heavier, cranked) crossbow- a slightly longer effective range- isn't addressed, but he's probably averaging out the different types rather than dirtying up the rules with too many crossbow types/stats.

Any hints from Andy as to when V2.0 will be out, mate?

Arcane Steve23 May 2022 4:21 a.m. PST

I was with Andy yesterday at Partizan and briefly with Dan from WGI. The most likely release date will be late summer/early Autumn. Everything is written. It is now a case of finishing the proof reading, setting up the photos (particularly the 'new armies') and completing the graphic design.

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2022 5:29 a.m. PST

Cheers, Steve. I look forward to it.

Legend of Doom23 May 2022 3:45 p.m. PST

Played it this afternoon with 100 point armies with 2 commands using the lists which appeared on the WI website.

Jury is out still out on what I think of the rules. When they first came out my initial feeling was "meh! another skirmish game with funky activation" not my thing as I prefer big battle games however, there are so few big battle games out there which I actually enjoyed that I thought that I could give these a try especially after seeing that the rules scale up

The pluses

I liked the base sizes and the look of the units and the game, I liked the to hit and to save mechanisms and I liked the buckets of dice and the figure removal. I liked the arrow storm and the forming up of combined formations. In short the mechanics of combat and shooting were to my tastes. The morale rules caused some head scratching . One oddity was that a routing unit could cause panic tests in units it fled through but if the same unit were destroyed by missile fire no test would be required. So , routing units is better than destroying them.

I also liked the opening manoeuvre phase and the scramble to get into position

The indifferent

The activation phase, I had thought that the activation was for units however, it is for commanders and the units under their deployment. This means that if a unit is outside of 6" of a commanders radius it cannot act unless the commander is with the unit. I have mixed views on this- this in effect encourages you form up in large blocks which does mirror the actual deployments into wards or battles, however, that divisional organisation is for battles rather than the small battle/large skirmish these rules are targeted at. I would imagine that in large battles you would need lots of commanders otherwise the game would be unplayable. We had one cavalry unit each with an attached commander and whilst there were cavalry charges during the wars of the roses ( Bosworth) it was hardly a period characterised by the thunder of hoofs whereas the Italian Wars armies ( other than the Swiss) did have lots of cavalry and if the sources are to be believed, cavalry tactics including envelopments, charges and withdraws and reserve lines were a feature and I am unsure how that would play out using these rules.

The negatives

We found that the layout of the rules caused a bit of head scratching and we were not sure that the special play cards added much to the game however, we just used the ones where you could gain re-rolls etc rather than the hidden ditches etc. I have played a lot of Song of Fire and Ice which uses alternating activations and players draw cards from a deck of tactics cards which they can use in situations and that is a mechanism I had enjoyed.

As I said, first try and as the game progressed it did get better. I will need another game or two to decide. It has promise

Arcane Steve24 May 2022 4:42 a.m. PST

Hi Legend, I'm glad to hear that you have given the rules a try and that you had a good games. A couple of clarifications.
Please bear in mind that I dont have the rules in front of me now – I'll double check when I get home but from memory:

A unit that is destroyed by shooting will cause a morale check if it is part of a combined unit. This has been clarified in the FAQs and will be made very clear in the new edition of the rules.

AS regards, Cavalry, they operate best with a commander of their own – an ideal role for a dolt if you have one! Addition commanders only cost 5pts. If you up your points total to abot 120pts you will easily accommodate the extra commander. Experience has shown that Light cavalry can be very effective as a distraction and to harass the enemy, particularly if they dont have their light cavalry. Mounted MAA are an expensive luxury that can be effective but rarely decisive against a competent opponent.
I think that you are using the card decks incorrectly (apologies if I have misunderstood). You should have three decks. One, the play deck with the commanders, skirmishers and Bonus cards. The Bonus card deck and the Special Event Deck.
When you turn the 'bonus card' in the play deck, you dice off to see who wins it. A draw means that no one wins. The first bonus card also indicates that any ongoing melees should be fought. Bonus cards must be used in the turn that they were drawm – use it or lose it.
If you draw the special event card from the bonus deck, that prompts you to draw a card from the Special event deck. These cards can be game chargers and only two may be drawn in any game. Some can be saved to use when convenient, others must be used immediately.
It sounds more complicated when trying to write it all out. In practice it is all quite straight forward.
I hope that helps, regards, Steve

Arcane Steve24 May 2022 5:15 a.m. PST

By the way, if you haven't done so already, its worth watching the WGI series of your tube videos. They are in short bites, covering a walk through of the game over 9 videos. The first one is here:

YouTube link

Legend of Doom24 May 2022 12:09 p.m. PST

We opted out of the special event cards simply because its not a mechanism we disliked.
I have plenty of mounted MAA for my Burgdians and Italian armies , if I wanted to have multiple cavalry units how would that work

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2022 2:18 p.m. PST

G'day, LoD. A good review of the system, mate. The Special cards just add another level of uncertainty and I've only seen two special cards drawn once- the average is one card every couple of games. I think the 6" command span is for exactly the reason you said, in that it encourages keeping the units together in blocks.

As I said, to use cavalry effectively you need a commander attached to them. Otherwise, once the manoeuvre phase is over, they'll be left out of command and just sit there for the game, doing nothing. Light CAV are great for chasing away skirmishers and gun crews but die quickly if they get too close to archers. The only time we used knights they sat, out of command, until Pete sent up some archers and cleaned them up in the end of turn shooting phase. With the mainland European wars the large cavalry presence is going to require a lot of commanders.

One thing Andy may want to consider is an "opportunity charge" for cavalry which have enemy within a certain range of their front (perhaps with a 1D6 to decide what the CAV want to do, not what the player wants?). If they do charge it would be their move for that turn, or it could be used as an option if the unit hasn't done anything that turn. As a plus it would discourage the tactic of sending archers/skirmishers up to clean up out of command cavalry, who can't react.

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