|Mac Colla, with his vanguard, trying to hold off the Covenanter’s surprise attack.|
This blog post is a battle report for the Auldearn 1645 game that the Friends of General Haig played at the Warlord Games Open Day on the 25th September.
You can see the previous Auldearn blog posts on:
- the armies for the battle here: https://theviaregia.blogspot.com/2021/09/auldearn-1645-armies.html
- on terrain here: https://theviaregia.blogspot.com/2021/09/auldearn-1645-battlefield.html , and
- on building Boath Doocot here: https://theviaregia.blogspot.com/2021/09/auldearn-1645-boath-doocot.html .
Despite a cloudy start to the day the weather brightened up as we arrived at Warlord Games new HQ in Nottingham. The Warlorders were as busy as bees getting everything ready for the start of the Open Day, and we were soon directed to our pitch. We were allocated a space for the Auldearn game in a marquee in front of the building. For this game we would be playing on a set of terrain boards that belongs to Warlord supremo, John Stallard. John had it crafted by the talented Ernie Baker some years ago with the Auldearn battlefield in mind.
|The board set up and ready to go!|
On top of the board we added my terrain and two armies, as described in the previous blog posts (see links above), and before you could say “Irn Bru; brewed in Scotland from girders!” we were ready to go.
As a quick re-cap, the battle starts with Major General Hurry and his Covenanter force springing a surprise dawn attack on Montrose’s Royalists, who are camped in and around Auldearn; a small village less than 20 miles from Inverness in NE Scotland.
|The Covenanters form up ready to attack Auldearn, with only a scant few Royalists to hold them off.|
Our game started with the Covenant force shaking itself out from column of march in to battalia formation for the attack. To oppose them there is just a small Royalist vanguard, led by Montrose’s right-hand man, Alasdair MacDonald, better known as Mac Colla ‘The Devastator’.
The Covenanters had a brisk start and they made good progress over Garlic hill towards Auldearn. The Covenanters knew that time was a critical factor, and that if they could break in to Auldearn, then they could hinder the rest of the Royalists from forming up to fight them. The Covenanters therefore threw themselves forward, with speed being of the essence.
Mac Colla knew that he had to hold up the Covenanters for as long as possible, to give Montrose enough time to rally the rest of the army, and reinforce him. Not wanting to engage in a firefight with the Covenanters superior numbers, Mac Colla decided that attack was the best form of defence, and led an immediate charge with his lifeguard in to the leading Covenanter regiment. The lead Covenant regiment reeled back from this onslaught, and Mac Colla also pulled back to rally his men for another charge.
|Mac Colla leads in his lifeguard again, while behind him, Gordon clansmen try to fend off Covenant horsemen|
There was some confusion while the Covenanters tried to bring up supporting troops. Hurry managed to bring up Drummond’s Horse on the Covenant right to threaten Mac Colla’s beleaguered troops. Mac Colla then took a gamble; he charged again in to the Covenant foot with his lifeguard, and trusted to luck that his Gordon clansmen would hold off Drummond’s horse.
Some well timed shots from the Gordons slowed the attacking horsemen enough that their charge was held, and then, despite the fear with which the newly raised Gordons faced their first mounted attack, the horsemen were thrown back.
|To the rescue! The Irish Brigade marching out of Auldearn to join the battle.|
Mac Colla’s charge was even more successful and some of the Covenanters were scattered by the impact of his lifeguard. However Mac Colla’s forces were tiring fast, and had to continue to fall back against the overwhelming numbers of the Covenanters. It was with much relief that Mac Colla saw the first of the Royalist reinforcements marching out of the village, the doughty Irish Brigade.
|Covenant pikemen trying to develop another attack while Hurry tries to rally the Covenant horse.|
The next Covenant regiment finally managed to push forward towards Mac Colla. Their fresh musket fire tore in to the rallying Royalist vanguard. This was too much for the Gordon clansmen who ran for the shelter of the village. Despite Hurry’s pleas, Drummond’s horse would not rally to charge again, and finish off the remainder of Mac Colla’s force.
The arrival of the Irish brigade, and the Covenanter’s continuing difficulty in bringing forward more troops, stabilised the position for the Royalists. If only their own Royalist horse could arrive. Suddenly the urgent sound of trumpets sounded from the Royalist left flank. Could this be the Gordon Horse arriving in the nick of time?
Well maybe it should have been, but something had gone awry. Maybe it was patch of unexpected boggy ground, or may be some confusion in orders, but the Gordon Horse were delayed.
|The Earl of Seaforth’s levies moving forward against the Irish Brigade.|
This gave the Covenanters a chance to recover their lines and prepare for the Royalists who were trying to flank their position. It also seems to have encouraged the Earl of Seaforth, on the Covenanter’s left wing, to push forward with his levies. The Irish Brigade now had their hands full facing off a horde of Clansmen from the far North Western parts of Scotland, including the dread Lewis bowmen. Seaforth’s levies were supported by Halkett’s regular horsemen.
|Finally, the Royalist cavalry arrive.|
The Gordon Horse finally galloped on to the field and found that the Covenanters had started to pull back from their approach. Despite having lost some of the element of surprise, the Gordon Horse still put in a well timed charge and put Drummond’s Horse to flight. Lord Gordon managed to rally his horsemen, and regrouped as the Strahbogie regiment, arrived from the village, marching up in support of their kinsmen.
|The wall of firepower waiting for Mac Colla’s last, desperate charge.|
Mac Colla’s lifeguard were worn out from their earlier heroics and so Mac Colla instead lead forward his remaining Gordon foot to try and keep up the pressure on the Covenanters. This proved to be one charge too many. The Gordon foot faltered in front of well timed volleys from the Covenant musketeers, and were finally routed. A wounded Mac Colla was last seen being dragged back to the village by the Gordons while he protested that “Just one more charge will see them off!”.
|Hurry, seeing Montrose in the front line, tries to lead his cavalry in a charge.|
On the Covenant left a fierce firefight now developed between the Irish Brigade and Seaforth’s troops. Montrose had to intervene personally to rally some of the Irish. Hurry thought he saw an opportunity to catch the Marquis while he was rallying these troops in the frontline, but Halket’s horsemen refused to follow him in a charge on the Irishmen around Montrose.
|Covenant pikemen lead a charge into the Royalist line.|
A lull in the fighting along the whole front line allowed the Covenanter to regroup and bring forward the last of their regular troops for another attack. Some well time volleys from the Covenant musketeers unsteadied the Royalists, and Hurry threw in his men at charge of pike to try and break the Royalist line.
|Lord Gordon leads his regiment of horse in to the flank of the Covenanters, supported by the Strathbogie foot.|
The Covenant pike went in hard. The Royalist foot bent, but didn’t break. A fierce melee ensued and the Covenant officers urged on their pikemen sensing they were near to breaking through. At this moment Lord Gordon put himself at the head of his regiment of horse, and bellowing “A Gordon! A Gordon!”, charged past the Strathbogie foot, and into the flank of the Covenanter’s attacking troops. Some of the Strathbogie foot, perhaps being carried forward holding on to the stirrups of the Gordon horse, followed suit.
|The Gordon Horse sweep though the Covenent flank.|
The Covenant foot had no reply to this, and beset to their front, and now charged to their flank, started to fall back. This last setback proved too much, and the Covenant army finally turned on their heals, broke, and ran for Inverness.
A Royalist victory; in the final turn of the game, just as we timed out at the end of the day! It had been a hard fought, and exciting game all of the way through, with many twists and turns of fate. Mac Colla’s early aggression was effective in holding up the Covenanters, but his troops were worn down very quickly and only the early arrival of the Irish Brigade saved them. With the Irish Brigade and the Gordon Horse in the battle line for the Royalists, the Covenanters had a much harder battle on their hands. The Covenanters did manage to organise a final attack which was very close to being successful, but the final charge by the Gordon Horse, neatly recreating events in the real battle, finally broke the Covenant army.
The Pike & Shotte rules worked very well for us. The only issue we had was that we were reminded to not have too many special rules for your troops, as they are very easy to forget in the middle of a game! One of the things that we really liked about rules was that they provided lulls in the battle, as well as reversals of fortunes, which are often found in actual battle accounts, but can be rare under some other rules.
Many thanks to the Warlord crew for inviting us to the Open Day, and for looking after us during the day. Also many thanks to John Stallard for lending us his beautiful terrain boards for the game, they set the game off very nicely.
|Our pitch for the day.|
A big thank you as well to all of those that came and talked to us during the day and said very nice things about how the game looked. We had some help from a few people during the day who helped us play the game, but James gets the prize for having the worst dice throws; almost as bad as mine ;-) .
I hope that we were able to show people a little bit about how a game of Pike & Shotte works, and perhaps also inspired a few to try this period for their own games.
Finally a big “cheers” to ‘Friends of General Haig’ Paul for playing the part of Montrose so well.
Alba gu bràth!
Andy @ Friends of General Haig