Thursday, June 18, 2020

Wargaming Montrose's Campaign (1644-45)

Montrose’s 1644-45 campaign offers plenty of scope for the war-gamer. The numbers in the forces involved are fairly small, the battles varied in scope and the possibilities for linking into a campaign straightforward. The following text offers suggestions into one our approach but these should be considered as an introductory guide. 

Each battle had a distinct character which offer challenges to both players. Often the games may appear uneven in terms of troop numbers, quality or type. The arrival (or lack thereof) of reinforcements will allow scope for uncertainty. Terrain additionally, often played a critical role in the outcome. All of these elements give some very challenging scenarios that can be played separately as one-off battles using historical orders-of-battle.

Playing a Linked Campaign

Another way to make the battles more challenging is to play a linked campaign. Here the Royalist player is forced to manage his limited forces and work with sporadic and often unreliable reinforcements. The Covenanter player, on the other hand, gets to fight many of the battles with fresh forces, but their quality will be controlled by what the government had available within the theatre.

Our recommendation is to play with the historical order of battles, scaled at approximately 1:10. This gives robust unit sizes in accordance with the unit sizes outlined in the Pike and Shotte ruleset.


Montrose’s Army on Campaign

In a linked campaign the Royalist player will start with Montrose’s army at Tippermuir (we recommend using the OOBs published by Stuart Reid in the Osprey Campaign book entitled “Auldearn 1645 – The Marquis of Montrose’s Scottish Campaign”). As the campaign progresses, the Royalists will suffer losses through battlefield casualties, sickness and desertion, but will also gain recruits following victories. To account for attrition within the royalist army, we suggest the following mechanisms should be employed.

Royalist Irish Brigade Attrition
Montrose’s Irish Brigade was extremely resilient and was repeatedly re-marshalled to fight again, despite suffering all manner of hardship and deprivation. At the end of every battle any Irish unit broken and destroyed is reduced in size for the next game. For example, a large Irish foot regiment broken in combat becomes a standard Irish foot regiment in the next game. However, rather than field progressively smaller units, the royalist player can reconstitute his battalions by amalgamating regiments (a standard and a small unit can be combined to form a large unit). That said, the lack of reinforcements combined with casualties (through action, disease and desertion) meant that the Irish could never be fully replaced and as such the number of available units should decrease as the campaign progresses (three pre-January 1645, two pre-September 1645 and one for Philiphaugh).

Scots Royalist Attrition
For every other non-Irish unit in the Royalist army role a D6 at the end of each game and consult the following table. If a unit was broken in the previous battle, then role a D3 and consult the table.

1-2   The unit deserts en masse, the unit disbands and all men return to their homes. 
        The unit will not be present at the next battle.

3-4   The unit suffers from desertion and attrition and is much reduced in size by the 
        next battle. The unit is reduced in size for the next battle. If the unit was already 
        Tiny in the previous battle, then the unit is considered destroyed and will not be 
        present in the next battle.

5-6   The unit is resilient and will take the field in the next battle at the same size.

Royalist Recruits
At the end of every battle the Royalist army can attempt to recruit new units for the next battle. This represents the tireless efforts of Montrose, MacColla and other prominent Royalist nobles to gather Royalist sympathizers and their armed forces to the King’s cause. 

The royalist player must first roll a D3 to determine how many units are recruited. For each unit recruited, roll a D6 and consult the following table to determine what type of unit is recruited:-

1-2   Highland clansmen
3-4   Scots Regular Infantry
5      Scots Cavalry/Dragoons
6      Gordon cavalry

Apply the following modifiers to the above roll:-

After Tippermuir: -3 to dice roll
After Justice Mills: -2 to dice roll
After Fyvie: -3 to dice roll
After Inverlochy: +2 to dice roll
After Auldearn: no modifier
After Alford: -2 to dice roll
After Kilsyth: +2 to dice roll (re-roll modified result of 6 or more)

To determine size of each newly recruited unit, roll a D6 and consult the following table:-

1      Tiny
2-3   Small
4-5   Standard
6      Large

Note: Scots and Gordon infantry were conventional armed with pike and shot. To determine the make up of conventional infantry regiments roll twice on this table. The first roll will determine the size of the pike block and the second roll the size of the two shot sleeves.

The Government Armies

The Covenanters controlled the government and the established military forces as well as the regional conscription process. As such they were able to field what was effectively a new army for each battle. Covenanter armies will therefore begin each battle with a fresh new army using the published historical order of battle. 

We recommend using the OOBs published by Stuart Reid in the Osprey Campaign book entitled “Auldearn 1645 – The Marquis of Montrose’s Scottish Campaign”.

The Battles

There were 8 major battles fought during the short campaign:
  • Tippermuir (September 1st 1644) 
  • Justice Mills (September 13th 1644) 
  • Fyvie (October 28th 1644) 
  • Inverlochy (February 2nd 1645) 
  • Auldearn (May 9th 1645) 
  • Alford (July 2nd 1645) 
  • Kilsyth (August 15th 1645) 
  • Philiphaugh (September 13th 1645) 
What follows are some suggestions on how to refight these battles with some of the historical flavor.

The Battle of Tippermuir
On the morning of September 1st, as the royalists approached Perth, they found a Government army, led by Lord Elcho, deployed and waiting. 

Tippermuir can be re-fought as a modified Meeting Engagement on open terrain. 

Opposing Forces
The armies are as described in the historical OOB for Tippermuir. For the linked campaign, this is the only battle where the Royalist will use the historical OOB. In all future battles in the campaign the royalist players forces will depend on the outcome of the previous battles and the successful of recruitment.

The Covenanters deploy first. The Royalist army deploys second. 

The Royalist objective for both sides is to hold the field at the end of the battle.

Other Special Rules 
The Covenanter army had some artillery, which was captured during the battle and turned on them by Royalists. Defeated or captured artillery can be re-used by the new owners (for this battle only). Highland clansmen start the battle with no muskets and improvised weapons. If they break any Covenanter regiment they gain their equipment.

The Battle of Justice Mills

With the Royalists still on the offensive at this stage, a modest Government army led by Lord Balfour of Burleigh blocks the Royalist advance on Aberdeen at Justice Mills on the outskirts of Aberdeen. Again, this battle can be re-fought as a pitched battle with the Covenanter army deploying first, and the politely providing the royalists time to deploy into battle line. The Covenanter army may place a single forlorn hope unit in the justice mills complex during deployment.

The Covenanters are in a strong position along the crest of a steep embankment (the Justice Mills Brae) which should be classed as Rough Terrain (for Pike & Shotte).

OBJECTIVE: The objective of the covenanters is to hold the Royalists for 8 game turns and have 50% of the Covenanter army unbroken by the end of the turn eight. The royalist objective is to clear the field and completely rout/destroy the Covenanter army.


There are accounts of the Irish being enraged by the murder of an Irish drummer boy during a pre-battle attempt to parley with the Covenanters. The furious Irish subsequently fight like fiends offering no quarter to the defeated Covenanters and brutally sacking the town of Aberdeen (to the great detriment of the Royalist cause). To represent this incident, the Irish can be given the Eager and/or Ferocious Charge rules for this battle only. However, if the Royalist player chooses to utilize this option, an additional -1 must be applied when rolling for recruits in the next battle (as the sacking of Aberdeen unsettles the local lairds).

The Battle of Fyvie

With a third and much larger Covenanter army, led by Argyll, pursuing the Royalists following the sack of Aberdeen, Montrose retreated northwest towards the highlands. However, they are caught while encamped at Fyvie Castle in Aberdeenshire. With MacColla heading west to recruit amongst the clans, and the Gordon’s failing to turn out in strength, the Royalist army is weakened and in a desperate situation. In this battle the Royalists use the enclosed, hilly terrain and woods at the back of Fyvie Castle as a strong defensive position, and are able to hold off the Covenanters for three days of skirmishing before retreating during the night into the Highlands.

This battle could be fought as a series of three mini-battles of 5 turns. The Royalists are well dug-in in defensive positions, with a stronger Covenanter force repeatedly attempting to attack and displace the rebels.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of the Covenanters is to rout/destroy the Royalist army over the course of the three skirmishes and to capture Montrose and the Royal Standard. The objective of the Royalist army is to hold on and minimize losses until the end of the 3 skirmishes.

Hold until nightfall

Terrain will limit the size of force Argyll can commit, but to further represent Argyll’s non-committal tactics, this game may be fought as a series of three large skirmishes, with the breaks representing night-fall. For each new skirmish, both forces begin fresh without disorder, shaken or casualty markers, although destroyed units will stay destroyed.


The Royalists have an additional problem with desertion and must roll a D6 for each non-Irish unit in the army, and on a 1 or 2, those units have deserted during the night. If any of the units in the Royalist army are Gordon units, there is a -1 to the roll.

The Battle of Inverlochy

At Inverlochy the Royalists go on the offensive to devastating effect. After a grueling long distance night march through the highlands, Montrose descends on Argyll’s Covenanter army at Inverlochy. This battle is again a pitched battle but with the Royalists having the element of surprise.

Surprise Attack

To represent the Royalists stealing the initiative, after deployment up to half of the royalist units may make a free move of up to 8”.


To represent the fatigue and lack of sleep after their grueling night march, all units in the Royalist army begin the battle with one casualty marker (This could also be -1 to Stamina).


The exhausted, sleepless Royalist army was in no mood for hanging about after the night march, and were eager to close on Argyll and finish the fight quickly. To represent this all units in the royalist army have the Eager special rule for this battle only.


Whether Argyll got some bad press or not after this battle, most accounts agree that he was very quick to leave the field to his waiting galley. To reflect this, once 50% of the army is either destroyed or in flight, Argyll will leave the field. The remaining Covenanter Brigade commander will take command of the army if it is still able to fight on.

The Battle of Auldearn

Hurry’s surprise attack on the scattered Royalist forces is often thought of as Montrose’s greatest victory. The initial weight of superior government forces must be held off by MacColla, until Montrose is capable of concentrating his forces and launching a telling counter-attack.

Terrain plays a big part in controlling the Covenanter advance, with marshes either side of Garlic Hill preventing their superior numbers from consuming the MacColla’s outnumbered forces.

OBJECTIVE: The objective for the Covenanters is to brush the defenders aside and capture Auldearn village before Montrose can bring his reserves to bear. The Royalists win if they hold Auldearn.

At the start of the game, MacColla’s body guard and one other unit are deployed west of the village, with one other unit in the village. Royalist reserves begin to appear at turn 4 at a rate of one unit per turn. These are deployed on a D3 dice roll of
North of Auldearn
East of Auldearn
South of Auldearn

However, the Royalist player can choose to withhold their arrival, enabling them to be deployed the following turn at a point of his choosing. This allows the Royalist to maximize the effect of their counterblow.

The Battle of Alford

Following up on his victory over Hurry’s Covenanter army at Auldearn, Montrose marched south to meet a fifth Covenanter army led by Baillie. Montrose chooses his ground high on a ridge on the south side of the river Don near Alford. Baillie crosses the river at a ford and deploys for a fight. This battle can be fought as a simple pitched battle, with the Royalists deployed first, waiting while the Covenanters deploy.

OBJECTIVE: The objective for both sides is to hold the field at the end of the battle.

The Battle of Kilsyth

With Baillie defeated and the Lowlands open for conquest, the Covenanters manage to pull together one last home defense army The reluctant Baillie is in nominal command but with his leadership ability now encumbered by his appointed kirk advisors. Montrose is waiting for the advancing Covenanters in the hills at Kilsyth, and Baillie attempts a brilliant flanking maneuver that could have ended the campaign. Unfortunately for the Government, an element of the Covenant army attacks too early, against Baillie’s orders, alerting the Royalists to the flanking movement. The battle descends into a meeting engagement as commander’s loose control and units from both sides join the fighting in a piecemeal manner.

The Royalist army should deploy first along the rightmost 2/3 of their chosen long table edge within 12” of the table edge. The Covenanter army deploy up to half the units in the rightmost 1/3 of the opposite table edge, but can deploy up to half way across the table.

At the beginning of the second and third turns the Covenanter player can deploy a further 25% of the units, such that the army is fully deployed by turn 3. These units are deployed on the same 1/3 table edge as the original deployment, but can take a full turn as normal. This represents the arrival of the remainder of Baillie’s army.

OBJECTIVES: The objective of both sides is to engage and defeat the enemy. The covenanter army should try hard to obtain victory by rolling up the royalist flank.

Loss of Control

To represent Baillie’s inability to control the advancing Covenanter army, the 50% of units deployed initially have the Eager special rule.

The Battle of Philiphaugh

At Philiphaugh, Montrose was outmaneuvered, outnumbered and outclassed by David Leslie and had little chance of achieving a victory. The Royalists should deploy first and infantry can begin the game in cover, behind a hedgerow and/or field boundary ditch.

OBJECTIVES: The Royalist objective is to hold without breaking for eight turns, at the end of which Montrose is considered to have repeated the disappearing act similar to that used at Fyvie. The Covenanter objective is to break the Royalist army before turn eight. If the Royalist army breaks it is considered effectively destroyed.

Continuing After Philiphaugh

If Montrose makes it all the way through the campaign and is successful at Philiphaugh, the campaign can be continued as a series of 'what-if' ladder scenarios based on the known forces at this time and the recruitment and attrition principles established during the previous year of campaigning.

No comments: