Sun of York
Tactical Combat During The War Of The Roses
The War of the Roses was a series of battles fought in England between 1455 to 1487. These civil wars were between the major ruling parties of that time which were the Lancaster and York families. These families both had claims to the English throne because they were direct descendants from King Edward III. Other reasons that these houses came to blow are;
- The ruling Lancastrian king, Henry VI had many unpopular nobles around him
- The unrest of much of the population
- There were many powerful lords who had their own private armies
- Episodes of mental illness by King Henry VI
If you want more historical information on The War of the Roses, there is an excellent website that provides a great amount of historical background complete with timelines at http://www.warsoftheroses.com.
The Game Components
First of all, Sun of York is a card game. The game comes in a xx.xx inch box with the following items;
- Two decks of 110 cards, one for the Lancastrian and one for the Yorkist.
- Half-sheet of 140 status markers
- Two Player Aid cards
- Five six-sided dice
The cards used in the game represent the following;
- Special Cards
As you can see from the above list, all of the types of units that were available during the time of the War of the Roses are available in this game.
Leader and Unit Cards
The information provided on the Leader cards all pertain to the game functions. The first thing that you see on the top of the card is the Leader Name. Under this you see a portrait of the Coat of Arms, Number of Orders the Leader dictate during his play, the Leaders’ Ability Rating, a Leadership Rating, the Royalty or Loyalty Indicator, and Number of Moves.
In the center and opposite side you are advised of the Battles in which this leader can participate, the Card ID Number and the Faction to which he belongs. You can see a sample of a Leader card here.
Next we will take a quick look at the information presented on the combat unit cards. The first thing you notice on these cards is a gorgeous illustration of the Unit being defined. Again we will start on the left and work our way down. At the top of the card on the left you are given the Unit Class and underneath that is the Unit Type. Next is the Weapon Class Icon and after this is the units Ability Rating. Then we have the units Cohesion Rating, Veteran Status and its Movement ability.
On the right had side of the card there are only two pieces of information which are the Card ID Number and an Icon illustrating the Faction that the combat unit belongs to. You can see an example of a Combat Unit here.
Before we continue, we have to provide some definitions for some of the terms that are printed on the cards. Some of the more important items are;
- Orders – The number of orders provided when the card is used as an Order card.
- Ability – When committed to combat the value (or less) required to inflict a hit on an opposing unit. Missile Units have two ability numbers and the red, or second number is used for ranged attacks.
- Battles – Indicates scenarios in which the leader may actively participate.
- Cohesion – The number of dice rolled in combat and the number of hits the unit can take prior to being discarded (routed). Units that take a hit must also make a Morale Check.
Cards are played into three wings each of which has three positions. As you can see from the Battlefield diagram there are also two flank positions where cards can be deployed during play. Leader and Combat units are moved forward and backward within their battle. Combat units can only be moved to adjacent areas. Units begin in their rear area and can move forward, backward and laterally, never diagonally. Positions are adjacent if they share a common border.
Each position on the battlefield can contain up to 4 combat units from each side at a time. Finally, battles during the War of the Roses took place during all times of the year and in all kinds of weather. this is handled in Sun of York by either modifying the cost of giving orders, or decreasing the ranges of Missile Units.
Game Turn Sequence
The game turn sequence used in Sun of York is a bit unique but very simple to remember. Once you play a few games, the sequence makes sense and you plan your strategy accordingly. The Turn Sequence consists of only 4 steps and they are;
We will take a quick look at each of these items before tying it all together.
Combat cards that have a hit on them at the beginning of a players turn must roll a die for each hit they sustained. If the resultant die roll is greater than the units “Cohesion” level the unit must retreat and all hits are ignored. However, if the die roll is less than or equal to the units “Cohesion” level, the unit survives its Moral check, the unit stays in place and the player reduces the units “Cohesion” by the number of hits it received. You can think of this as the unit being engaged and that it cannot break off combat.
Finally, any Leaders that have been involved in combat must check their Morale. A 1d6 is rolled for every hit that a Leader Unit receives. If a 6 is rolled, the Leader is eliminated otherwise there is no effect.
Keeping track of Cohesion during the Morale Phase is one area in which the counters that come with the game are invaluable. They assist the player in bookkeeping and keeping track of such things as Damage Distribution, Attacks, Leader Combat, Control, and Fatigue.
Any combat unit that is in a position with an enemy combat unit is considered engaged and may attack. The first step in Combat is that the Phasing player must declare the pending attacks. This must be done before any dice are rolled. The player places an “Attack” counter on the card to remind him that this unit will attack and as such cannot Move in the next Phase.
The key to Combat in Sun of York is the cards Cohesion Level and Ability Rating. The current Cohesion Level of a unit determines the number of dice the unit rolls in an attack. The Ability Number defines the value of what must be rolled on a die to score a hit. So, if a units Cohesion was a 3 and its ability was a 3, that unit would roll 3 dice and any rolls less than or equal to 3 scores a hit. This is the point when you will use the Damage Distribution counters to keep track of which units received hits. All hits must be distributed as equally as possible among all combat cards in the space. Once a unit receives more hits than its available Cohesion Level, the combat unit is discarded immediately.
A combat unit typically receives an order only once per turn. The cost of giving orders can change depending on terrain that may be used in the game and/or the battle conditions. Orders are given by Leaders and each Leader has a “Number of Orders” Banner on the card. Players play the leader card as an Order card to be able to give orders to the combat units. Depending on the number of orders given, units can;
Move an unengaged unit into (and possibly through) an adjacent position within a battle. (One Order)
Move a unit from the player’s had into (and possibly through) a rear battle position. (One Order)
Disengage an engaged unit into an adjacent position within its battle. Disengaging units must move toward their friendly read positions. (Two Orders)
Move a unit from the player’s hand into a friendly flank position or from one flank position to another. (Two Orders)
As you can imagine, much of the game depends on the type of cards you are either dealt with, or pick up during the Discard Phase.
The final phase in a turn is when a player can discard some cards. A standard hand after the initial setup is that each player has 4 cards. During the Discard Phase, the active player can discard some, all, or none of his cards and he selects new cards from the deck to get back to a total of 4 cards.
Now that that you have a basic idea of the mechanics of Sun of York, let’s take a look at the Scenarios. The Scenario format is very straight forward and consists of only three sections. The sections are;
There are 20 Scenarios provided with the game as well as a Random Scenario and a War of the Roses Campaign Scenario. The 20 historical scenarios are;
- The First Battle of St. Albans – 22 May 1455
- The Battle of Blore Heath – 23 September 1459
- The Battle of Ludford Bridge – 12 October 1459
- The Battle of Northampton – 10 July 1460
- The Battle of Wakefield – 30 December 1460
- The Battle of Mortimer’s Cross – 3 February 1461
- The Second Battle of St. Albans – 17 February 1461
- The First Battle of Ferrybridge – 27 March 1461
- The Second Battle of Ferrybridge – 28 March 1461
- The Battle of Twoton – 29 March 1461
- The Battle of Hedgeley Moor – 25 April 1464
- The Battle of Hexham – 15 May 1464
- The Battle of Edgecote Moor – 26 July 1469
- The Battle of Losecote Field – 12 March 1470
- The Battle of Barnet – 14 April 1471
- The Battle of Tewkesbury – 4 May 1471
- The Battle of Bosworth – 22 August 1485
- The Battle of Stoke – 16 June 1487
- The Battle of Shrewsbury – 21 July 1403
- The Skirmish at Heworth Moor – 24 August 1453
If this is not enough, there is also a Random Scenario where player’s use the entire deck and deal out cards.
Finally, you have the War of the Roses Campaign Game which is where this entire game system comes together. It is here that players can get the true flavor of the War of the Roses while playing Sun of York. This is accomplished by playing all of the scenarios in sequence except for Ludford Bridge, Shrewsbury, and Henworth Moor. There are numerous Special Rules in the Campaign Game that deal with Nobility Deaths, Henry VI, and Crowning Kings. However, the first player who reaches 9 victories is declared the winner, though there are situations in which a sudden death victory can be achieved.
The final two sections of the rule book are the Designers Notes and a Detailed Example of Play.
As I mentioned before, each Scenario has Special Rules. These Special Rules may instruct you to remove cards from the deck, who is the attacker, the weather, and which Leaders are present. Once you have determined the special rules for the Scenario, each player is dealt 16 cards from his deck. Each player then places 12 cards face down in their respective rear areas. The final 4 cards are his hand for Turn 1. Prior to starting a turn each player rolls a die to determine which side has the initiative for this turn. The player who wins has a choice of going first or second. Once this is done, players follow the Game Sequence until a winner is declared.
Sun of York is fast moving game once you learn the rules. There are plenty of other things that I did not discuss in this review, but you should be able to get the feel for the game. The rule examples can confuse the gamer if he reads too much into them which is what happened to me. Once you begin to think about the Game Sequence, the period of warfare and the cards that are deployed, you begin to grasp the concept of the game and get a feel for this period of history. While there have been games that have covered this historical event, this to my knowledge the first card game to do so. As such, it is breaking new territory for this period. Sun of York may not be on the top of every gamers want list, but I can say without a doubt that it deserves a serious look as it is a fun, fast moving game that has a high replay value. You can see that the game designer put a lot of time and effort into the thought process of the research and game design. It is the type of game that you will keep coming back to as it is just fun!