|From the North, near the end : my right wing gone!|
Welcome back, all. Things have been quiet here hobby-wise, but there has been remote gaming. What now seems an age (but was in fact around two weeks) ago, I was lucky to be part of M.S. Foy's remote gaming extravaganza, re-fighting the battle of Kilsyth, 1645. Readers of this blog have very likely seen his description, preceded by the extensive and excellent research and preparations, on his brilliant Prometheus in Aspic blog. It was great fun, and I can't resist giving my version of events. I took a couple of screenshots near the end, of which the above is one ( by this time my right wing seems to have mostly evaporated ).
When it came to choosing sides, I thought I'd better go with my ( possibly imagined ) ancestry; my paternal grandmother being a Campbell. As a child I was under the firm impression of being at least one-quarter Scottish, and was told that members of that side of the family in the 1930s/40s would don the tartan and dance the sword-dance at parties ( I later traced the family tree, and found that my Campbell ancestors came from as far North as - Enfield. I did at least learn that one of them managed to be present at Tel-el-Kebir, with a detachement of Royal Engineeers ). I digress.
Anyhoo.. when it transpired that the Government/Covenantor regime was headed by Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyle, I thought that was good enough reason to opt for the role of William Baillie, the Government commander. That left the dashing Montrose to be impersonated by my good friend and fellow Dave, the proprietor of St Cyr on Wheels blog - whose Scouse roots probably gave him good claim to command the formidable Irish Brigade, mainstay of Montrose's army.
|Initial setup - courtesy of our host |
The forces in their starting positions were as shown in Foy's map (above) provided by him as a playing aid; Baillie's units are shown in blue. Though the armies were equal in numbers of units ( 12 each ), I was very much aware of having only two cavalry units ('TR' = Trotters) to Montrose's three, and only one veteran foot (FT) regiment (Home's) against three in the form of the Irish Brigade. I had three 'Raw' foot units, the Fife Levies on the left, not much use at all - Montrose had four 'Raw' units but these were the Highlanders (HI), who had a compensatory ability to charge further than a normal foot unit, albeit also not being equipped with muskets - so hand-to-hand combat only. I did have the only gun - marked 'MG' , which designation may have given me a misplaced sense of its possible fire effect. Overall I thought I had a slightly inferior force, and not being the most dynamic of commanders, my conclusion was to hold my position, take a defensive posture and see if I could shoot the Royalists down as they came to attack me. It turned out that this chimed with Baillie's preferred plan for the actual battle, since he knew reinforcements were on their way to him, hence saw little point in risking attack before their arrival. In real life, he was overruled by his political masters (and by some of his units getting carried away) and forced to attack - with disastrous results. Could I do better, by staying true to Baillie's own idea?
Despite a built-in disadvantage for the more plodding Baillie against dynamic Montrose when it came to initiative die rolls, I did get lucky at the start and won the initiative on the first couple of turns - I used my commanded shot and infantry to occupy the hills, ruins and mill in the centre-right, and hoped to hinder Montrose's advance with them. Meanwhile I gathered most of my infantry into a fairly formidable-looking defensive line around the hills at my left-centre. But it all unravelled very soon, especially as Montrose's men were aided by a massive lucky streak of die-rolling throughout the evening. When it came to shooting and combat, they won every time, and my units were blown away - starting with the Commanded Shot, who never actually got a volley off, being ridden down immeditely by a Royalist cavalry charge! A cavalry fight ensued, which Dave/Montrose duly won, while he brought forward his Irish veterans, and my cavalry and a further Infantry unit bit the dust. My Veteran ( Home's ) regiment held up well, and might have knocked out one of Montrose's infantry units, if I hadn't decided to use their combat roll against the opposing cavalry - the dice gave no hits, but would have been 4 hits against foot! That was fairly typical of the 'dice gods' attitude that evening. Added to that over on my left, one hard-marching Royalist infantry regiment managed to dispatch my gun ( which got one shot off - and missed, of course ) and one of the Fife levy units. All too soon, it was 7 Victory Points to 'them' and zero to 'us', and the game was over. Oh well, even with the cursed Royalist dice, it was still great fun and a jolly evening!
|From the South: Fife Levies about to succumb|
I should say something about Foy's rules - his 'Ramekin' variation on 'Command and Colours', adpated for Pike and Shot warfare. I liked their rather elegant simplicity - for example in handling Pike and Shot units, no need to try to remember what proportion have pike or musket. Basically one combat dice per remaining 'block' in the regiment - in close combat, if the unit has pikes, just add one more dice. When firing, if pikes present, subtract one dice. Simples! The 'Ramekin' part is the allocation of command actions, replacing the the C&C card deck, the number of actions each turn being decided by a modified die roll. I like that, as I always thought the C&C card deck was problematic - it has an uncanny knack of giving me loads of actions in the sector where I have no units or don't want to attack, which is very frustrating!
If I have one 'note' on the system, I think I might look at the way that given a limited number of actions per turn, both sides can easily get fixated on only one part of the battlefield. Once fighting starts, one tends to want to focus more actions on it, knowing that the other guy will do the same, and I think that tends to mean that just one battlefield sector sees all the action. In 'Pike and Shot' armies there was a definite command structure of 'wings' and 'centre' each with their own leaders capable of independent action, and/or following orders from the C-in-C, and I wonder if it might be good to ensure each of those sub-commands were ensured a share of the action points, to allow them all to use their initiative. They could perhaps voluntarily 'hand back' their actions to the commander if just standing on the defensive in their sector, and the overall commander should perhaps have some actions he could allocate where he chose, to generate the main thrust of his attack. I wonder if that could work? In this game, I especially noted that there was a stand-off in the centre, with my infantry and Montrose's Highlanders just scowling at each other, because all the action points were being expended on the Government right flank. I should have used some actions to go and try to shoot up the Highlanders, perhaps, but once the brawl began on my right flank, all energies were taken up with that. Hmmm...
|My own paper and blu-tak based play aid - worked OK!|
Having said all that, the game worked fine, the rules were easily memorised and easy to use - which set us free to be Generals, not clerks or lawyers. In fact our host did all the calculation of die rolls etc - so the remote gaming setup actually made me feel more like a 'commander' than a 'player', because my job was to simply tell units to advance, retreat etc and whether to charge or fire - the results were determined and relayed to us by Foy. Alas the result didn't go my way (and how!), but I am the least competitive wargamer I know, and I was too busy enjoying myself to worry too much about losing!
So, many thanks to MS Foy for hosting and providing a lovely setup, fantastic game and possibly too much information on the battle - some of which I have not quite read even now ! And to Dave 'St Cyr' for being such a worthy and good-humoured opponent - clearly such a charming chap, indeed, that the very dice joined his army...
There was some jollity over the colloquial description of my ( probably not ) ancestor Archibald as 'The Bastard Campbell' - for information, here he is in all his glory, presumably contemplating the massacre of some wretched hambuger-vendors. Thanks to Foy for providing the image.
|No, I do not require fries with that.. |
Finally by pure chance, in the run-up to the game I was skimming through the Battlefields Trust magazine's latest issue, and in the book reviews they feature a recent publication from Partizan Press - 'William Baillie's Vindication' by Stuart Reid, which discusses the papers presented by Baillie to a court of enquiry into the defeat at Kilsyth. The review points out that 'accounts of the battle are typically from the Royalist side', so this is presumably a valuable counter-weight, and from the primary source, too. Worth a read, I suspect, for all students of Montrose's campaign.
|'The dice were against us, alas..'|
I'll leave it there. A great time had by all, once again many thanks to MS Foy, and it has restored my blogging mojo too! A bit too much of real life recently meant no time for this whimsy - time to spend some time in hobby world again. Keep well, everyone.