Fyvie : The Wargame

Fyvie may not have been the best game to use in starting my new career with Baroque. Learning new rules can be tricky since you often incorrectly interpret something based on the way it works in a different rule system  or fail to carefully read (or understand) what a specific rule actually says. I further complicated things by adding some house rules for a few special units (I call them “doubled” units) AND a solo play module. Still – I really like the rules system and the various pre-game tests played well.

The terrain in this battle is excessive and begins to explain why, historically, a full battle did not occur. Of all the battles I intend to do I doubt I will ever encounter terrain so difficult. If Baroque works for this it should work for anything else!

Since I am interested in historic battles I don’t need to “buy” units but I did a very rough approximation of cost (factoring in that I play at about twice the unit size ). Complicating the calculation is not having proper army lists for what I’m doing AND not yet really grasping all the factors that go into building them. D&P does have an experimental list for most of my units but they are using Impetus values and with no pricing.

With all that said the Royalists are fielding 265 points and the Covenanters 466, giving I think a realistic historic ratio. Of the Covenanters’s 466 points virtually half (228) are horse and this is no country for horse! The Orders of  Battle are on a separate page.

Argyll deploys his foot in two lines opposite Broom Hill where the Royalist Strathbogie Foot hold the forward position. Lord Lothian will lead the first line (anchored by his own regiment on the right) in a quick assault up the broken slope. Argyll commands the second line in reserve:

Baroque-Fyvie-0

The two Covenanter cavalry wings will envelop the Royalist flanks but their approach across marshland and the River Ythan followed by working up steep and rugged terrain will be slow going. There is an area of open terrain between Broom Hill and the very steep ridge occupied by Montrose’s baggage. If the horse can achieve this area they may do severe damage to Montrose’s infantry.

Early in the battle Lothian’s brigade (in the foreground in the picture below) has managed to slog up Broom Hill and is exchanging fire with the Royalists. Because of the need to push forward rapidly, the difficult terrain, and the Covenanter’s poor command structure, all of Lothian’s units have become disordered and are paying the price. The left flank of Lothian’s regiment, in particular, has taken heavy casualties and is already exhausted. After firing off a volley the Strathbogie regiment broke and ran (this was by scenario rule). They can be seen exiting the field at the top of the ridge:

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As the battle progresses O’Cahan’s Irish and Farquharson’s Gordons have blunted Lothian’s assault and stabilized the Royalist line at the crest of Broom Hill. In the background a frustrated Ramsay has all but abandoned his trotters in their attempt to cross the marshland and is beginning to lead his lancers around it to make an attack in the center. In the foreground Dalhousie is slowly leading his horse across the Ythan ford:

Baroque-Fyvie-2

By turn five Lothian is fearful of losing his regiment (and by scenario rule, the game). This fear leads him to pulling his command back and reorganizing it before continuing his assault. Meanwhile Montrose has taken the decision to ignore the wings all together and concentrate his forces at the crest of Broom Hill.

The picture below shows the height of the fighting with some of Lothian’s units already broken. The much diminished Argyllshire Militia managed to cross the first ditch line but received a devastating first volley from Laghtnan’s which resulted in their removal. The Campbell levy also managed to cross the ditch, but into a point blank defensive volley from Farquharson’s Gordons causing them to be seen off a well:

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On the wings, Ramsay’s trotters are slowly working through the mire of the marshland only to be met by the steep slope and dense wood protecting the Royalist left. Ramsay himself is driving his lancers around the marsh to now make a frontal assault up Broom Hill (which will be too late to help Lothian!). Dalhousie continues with his slow advance on the left significantly hampered both by fording the Ythan and now stumbling through Skeugh Burn. By scenario rule Argyll is unable to advance his reserve line until one of his horse units is able to engage! He watches helplessly as Lord Lothian is decisively repulsed.

<At this point I have decided that the hot pink cubes marking discipline class C units are too much even for me and they are being switched out to brown. I am also swapping the blue cubes indicating class B with the black cubes for class A. This will leave only a very few units with bright colored discipline markers.>

As the game progresses Inchbrackie’s Athollmen have abandoned the woods on the Royalist left and taken up position in the ditch on Broom Hill allowing the badly mauled Irish musketeers under O’Cahan to withdraw. Although with no particular affinity for fighting in a fixed defensive position, the Atholl highlanders manage to destroy the first wave of Ramsay’s lancers and stabilize Montrose’s front:

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By the end of turn eight Argyll’s infantry has now been able to come up, supported by the remnants of Ramsay’s lancers. Montrose, who has slowly been giving ground, now realizes that the Covenanter horse has finally worked its way through the rugged woodland on either flank and are posing a substantial threat. Dalhousie’s powerful horse units are the most immediate concern, but as Dalhousie’s lead troops move rapidly across the open ground toward Montrose they are taken in the flank by Nathaniel Gordon’s horse and pushed back.

Montrose now pivots the Gordon’s and Lagtnan’s toward both flanks and positions O’Cahan’s as a rear guard to cover the baggage train. This leaves Inchbrackie to continue to hold the front. Because of the threat of having his flank turned by Ramsay’s remaining horse, Inchbrackie abandons the ditch and pulls back toward Montrose in good order:

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By turn ten a new problem begins to assert itself, Montrose’s army is rapidly running out of powder and shot!

<Ammo expenditure is not in the Baroque rules but is a necessity for many of the games I play; this is particularly true for Montrose who had a near constant supply problem. I will add that Baroque’s exhaustion rule MAY be sufficient to cover this issue but I like bean counting!>

Several unusual things now happened. On three critical occasions the Irish failed to get off defensive fire against charging horse (of course one occurrence was do to player error). Worse, on two of these occasions, the point blank pistol fire was amazingly effective, scoring two hits in one case and three in the other (and this last translated to two casualties after the failed discipline test).

We now have what amounts to Montrose’s last stand. It was over quickly. Ramsay’s motley collection of horse caused the Royalist left wing to collapse and with it O’Cahan’s musketeers (which by scenario rule ends the game and gives the Covenanters the victory.

Baroque-Fyvie-Final

In the end the horse is pretty effective in open ground particularly against foot without pikes or substantial fire power. In retrospect the Royalist decision (OK – my decision!) to employ a forward defense – and then, too late, trying to take up the better position on the high ridge was the critical factor in the Royalist loss. This decision placed the bulk of Montrose’s remaining force in the narrow killing fields between the two hills and the cost was heavy.

I am well pleased with Baroque and, in fact, it exceeded my expectations. The terrain rules are not overly complex but still managed to have the inhibiting effect required for this particular scenario. The balance between fire power and shock seems well designed and requires the player to use a combination of both to be successful. Also a unit being disorganized (and there are number of ways this can happen) can be difficult to overcome (particularly for class C troops). The reductions resulting from disorganization don’t at first seem like a great deal BUT in melee they can end up rapidly degrading the unit.

I want to next play a Baroque game without my doublings and other house rules to get all the basic stuff loaded into my head. I also want to see if I can use the base game to work up my scenarios (the original plan for ROF2). For these reasons I’ll switch back to 1642 Ireland and the Battle of Liscarroll.

Other posts (in sequential order) concerning the Battle of Fyvie may be found here.

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