Monday, 20 September 2021

Auldearn 1645 - The Armies

The Strathbogie Regiment ready for battle.

… they being confident both of their men and their number fell hotly on, but being beaten back, seimd to cole of their fury, and only intended to blocke us up (as it wer) till more number should come which perceiving I divided myselfe in to two wings (which was all the ground would suffer) marched upon them most unexpectedly.” Extract from Montrose’s account of the battle in his letter to King Charles.

In this blog post I’m looking at the two armies for Auldearn 1645, ready for the Friends of General Haig running a game recreating this battle at the Warlord Games Open Day on 25th September (  

You can see the previous Auldearn blog post on terrain here:

… and the first blog entry on Auldearn looking at Boath Doocot here:

Scots Royalists

For the two orders of battle I have leaned heavily on Stuart Reid’s ‘Auldearn 1645’ in the Osprey Campaign series (  This actually covers all of the battles in Montrose’s “Year of Miracles”, with added emphasis on Auldearn.  As part of this it also includes a handy breakdown of the likely regiments and numbers of men taking part in the battle.  It is a small battle when compared with some of the major engagements, such as Edgehill and Marston Moor,  in England.  Mr. Reid’s estimate, based on the primary sources, is around 2,000 Royalists and 3,300 Covenanters. This makes a fabulous size for a wargame as it is possible to represent every unit, and have a figure to man ratio of less than 1:20.

My starting point to organise the two wargames armies was to first try and figure out a rough ratio of wargames units to numbers of men in the actual battle. The Pike & Shotte rules work on the basis of armies being divided into standard size ‘units’.  (This works quite well for this period when the common practice of commanders was to organise the available companies (foot) or troops (horse) into appropriate size battlefield formations for their standard drill and battle plans.)  Looking over Mr. Reid’s order of battle I could see that Mac Colla’s Lifeguard was attributed 140 men. This unit played a pivotal role in the Royalist early defence when it was hard pressed trying to hold off the Covenant army while the rest of the Royalists were being woken from their beds and formed up.  It would be a good start if this 140 man unit was a ‘regular’ sized unit under the rules. 

The Earl of Seaforth’s regiment awaits a ‘highland’ charge.

Using 140 as the template for a unit, I then broke down the rest of the order of battle, and it came out with a number of units that I had enough figures to represent, as well as looking like it would make a nice table-filling spectacle.  This is the breakdown in units 

Scots Royalists

  • Mac Colla’s Lifeguard - 1 unit
  • Irish Regiments - 4 units
  • Strathbogie Regiment - 3 units
  • Gordon of Monymore’s Regiment - 2 units
  • Dismounted dragoons - 1 unit
  • Gordon Horse - 2 units
  • Other Horse - 1 unit

Total of 14 units

Scots Covenanters

  • Campbell of Lawers’ Regiment - 3 units
  • Lord Chancellor’s Regiment - 3 units
  • Earl of Findlatter’s Regiment  - 3 units
  • Earl of Lothian’s Regiment - 3 units
  • Earl of Seaforth’s Regiment - 4 units
  • Earl of Sutherland’s Regiment - 3 units
  • Northern Levies - 2 units
  • Halkett’s Horse - 1 unit
  • Drummond’s Horse - 1 unit

Total of 23 units

(Note.  In this scale of battle particularly, the Pike & Shotte rules represent Pike and Shot formations with their pike and musket armed troops in separate units. So a typical pike and shot formation translates in to 3 units; one pike unit and two shot units. )

Using this breakdown of units I created two army rosters using the the Army Lists in the Pike & Shotte supplement, To Kill A King, as a guide.  (There may be one or two small tweaks to the units stats. based on my own preference, and figure availability!) I have set out each army’s roster in a PDF on Google Drive; links below.

Covenanter Roster (PDF in Google Drive):

Royalist Roster (PDF in Google Drive):

Major General Sir John Hurry - the Covenant army commander.

You will see that, although very much outnumbered, the Royalists have a definite edge in troop quality and commanders’ ratings.  With the troops sorted out the next step is to consider the tactical situation and how deployment will work. 

I decided to start the battle with Mac Colla’s vanguard deployed on Garlic Hill. These were those troops that were to hand when the Covenanter’s surprise dawn attack was discovered. The Covenanters start the game with their first few units deployed from their forced march, and the rest trailing on to the table behind them.  The remaining Royalists, who at this point in the battle were hurrying to arm themselves and form up in their respective formations, are not deployed at the start of the game.

Preparing for a ‘cheeky’ highland charge! 

Sir John Hurry, the Covenanter’s commander in chief, had hoped to take the Royalist camp completely by surprise, and scatter or destroy Montrose’s army. The Royalists were lucky that some of their scouts heard the sound of the Covenanters firing off their muskets, so as to clear any problems with wet powder after heavy rain in the night, when they were a few miles from the Auldearn. The alarm was duly raised in the Royalist camp but Montrose’s army had spread itself around the surrounding countryside, probably in search of dry sleeping quarters, and it would take some time to gather the Royalist army together. While Hurry had not achieved the complete surprise he wanted, he could still deal a heavy blow to Montrose if he could storm in to the heart of the Royalist camp in the village, and prevent the Royalists troops having a central point on which to rally. 

Lieutenant General James Graham, The Marquis of Montrose - the Royalist army commander

Although surprised, Montrose was not going to simply dance to Hurry’s tune. If Mac Colla’s small force could hold up the Covenanters for long enough, Montrose may be able to turn the tables on the Covenanters, and outflank their attack. 

To represent this situation the following special game rules were defined for each army. 

Royalist Special Rules


 At the start of the game the Vanguard (MacColla’s) command can be deployed anywhere East of the centre of Garlic Hill.   The artillery must be deployed on Castle Hill.  Montrose’s command stand is deployed in Auldearn village between the chapel and the dovecote on Castle Hill.   Montrose must remain here until all the Royalist army is deployed on table.   This represents the frantic organisation of the troops following the dawn surprise by the Covenanters. 

The remaining troops can be deployed as follows:

  • The Irish Regiment units are rallying in the village.  To represent this, even before the troops are deployed, 1 dice of shooting can be made each turn from each village building. Roll one dice each turn.  If the number rolled is less than the turn number, then the Irish Regiment units can be deployed in the village.
  • On the turn after the Irish Regiments arrive the Horse units can be deployed behind the village.  Montrose may to choose to wait for an additional turn and then the Horse regiments can arrive on both or either flanks up to half way along the board edge instead.  Montrose may choose to delay the flank marching Horse until a turn of his choice.   If flank marching, then each unit must pass a normal command roll to move on to the board.
  • In the turn after all the Horse units are deployed on the board the Strathbogie regiment can be deployed in the Royalist camp to the South of the village.

Special Rule - Fall Back!

MacColla’s Battalia have orders to delay the enemy and then fall back to the village.  Therefore, these units can always move back toward the village, even if disordered, and even if they fail a command roll.  If they fail a command roll, and they chose to use this option, then they must move a whole move back directly toward the village.  


If Montrose’s command position is taken by the Covenanters, then the Horse regiments cannot use the flank marching option and instead must deploy behind the village.

The Royalist army is broken when 8 (eight) units are destroyed or shaken.  If the Royalist army survives the battle, then this is a draw.  If the Covenanter army is broken, then this is a Royalist victory.

Generals in Hand-to-Hand

If a general joins a unit that is in hand-to-hand combat, then Montrose and Gordon add 1 dice to a unit’s Hand-to-hand factor.  MacColla adds 2!

Alasdair Mac Colla ‘ The Devastator’ with his bodyguards. 

For the Covenanters:


At the start of the game the Campbell’s battalia may be deployed anywhere up to the Western edge of Garlic Hill.  The rest of the army starts in column and will arrive by the road from the West end of the board.   All of the Covenant commanders start the game on the board.


The Royalist army has been surprised by the Covenanter’s dawn attack and only a few Royalist units are able to be deployed at the start of the battle.   To take the greatest advantage of the Royalist army’s disorder it will be necessary disperse the troops as they are being assembled.   Montrose and the Royal Standard represents the centre of Royalist camp.   Capture this position to reduce the Royalist options for their troops deployment.  

Break the Royalist army for a victory.   If the Covenant army is unbroken at the end of the day, then the battle is drawn.  The Covenant army breaks when 11 (eleven) units are broken or shaken.

Generals in Hand-to-Hand

If a general joins a unit that is in hand-to-hand combat they add 1 dice to a unit’s Hand-to-hand factor.

The Earl of Sutherland’s pike advance on Irish shot.

You can see from these extra games rules that the battle starts as a race for the Covenanters to overpower the Royalist vanguard so as to disrupt the Royalist forces rallying and being able to react to the attack. The Royalists have to hang on to give their troops time to rally, but also have the opportunity to turn the tables on their attackers. 

So, how will the game play out? I’m looking forward to Saturday 25th to see what happens. I hope some of you will be coming to the open day and so able to come and see the game in full swing.  If you are coming along, and you can spare some time from the great set of events set up over the day, perhaps you’ll come and play a turn or two as your favourite character from the battle? Newbies welcome!

Alba gu bráth!

Andy @ The Friends of General Haig


  1. Wonderful shots of the commanders, good ideas to make a scenario memorable. Looking forward to the game.

  2. Fantastic figures and quality info'.

  3. Wonderful work Andy; the scenario sounds excellent with sound objectives for both sides. Freshly Raised is a great special rule to represent the unpredictability of the highlanders.

    1. Much appreciated, Codsticker 👍. We’ve found Freshly Raised is a nice anti-buff to give raw troops. Typically gives them a stuttering start, without completely crippling them. It is amazing how often I roll a ‘1’ for my Freshly Raised units, though! 😆

  4. Wonderful images of Scots and Irish warriors, Andy.