Assembling The New Parts (I)

I have been using magnetic sabots to build units for using the Impetus/Baroque rules for quite some time now but have just completed a minor rebasing and a more systematic approach to unit assembly.  Most of the rebasing centered around combining the separate command stands with one of the combat pieces in each unit and standardizing the figure types on each of the combat pieces.

Baroque uses a dozen or so unit types (based both on weapons and tactics) and with the substantial list of characteristics provided, these unit types can be customized in a myriad of ways. Several army lists are provided with the rules and many more can be found on-line. As I deal with battles mainly on the Celtic Fringe I have my own way of building army lists which can be found at  Unit Builder page.

The pictures and descriptions below represent the various unit types (using my abbreviations from the unit builder tables). Each picture can be opened into a larger window by pressing or clicking it.

Musket & Pike (P&M) Units (regular foot)

The bulk of the combat units in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms carried both muskets and pikes and were trained to use them in an integrated way. The typical regiment (or perhaps more usefully, battalion) deployed with the pikes massed in the center and the muskets placed in two near equal “sleeves” on the flanks. Each rank depicted below would represent three in actuality.

Regular M&P

The foot units shown are Scots Covenanter but the deployment would be the same for all other factions. The unit types (from top to bottom) are P&Mv, P&M and P&Mi. At the top is a representation of a 500-700 man regiment, the center a 200-499 man and at the bottom a unit of less than 200 men.

The term, “regular” can be slightly confusing as it can be applied to those units that are recruited for long duration (or at least a specific expedition), are practiced in arms and go where they are sent. But it also implies that they fight in regular order with standard weapons.

The milita (which might be called different things in different places) also fights in regular order with standard weapons and has some semblance of training. They are usually drawn from the men who have some property or some other stake in the community (although a “substitution” process was available). They might be called out as a defense force for their town, county or region and usually did not go on extended campaigns beyond the local area. As the war progressed, however, many became regular foot (in the first sense of the term).

The levy included every able-bodied male (usually between the ages of 16 and 60) and was called out for a short time to deal with a local emergency. The difference between “militia” and “levy” was often vague in some parts of the kingdoms. The levy would be drawn up in regular order if they were appropriately armed but they would be minimally practiced.

Militia M&P

The same pieces as the regulars are used to depict the militia and levy although the central piece is substituted with a single flag command element. In practice the levy and most of the militia would have turned out in civilian dress. The unit type is P&Mm or P&Ml. At the top is a representation of a 500-700 regiment, the center a 200-499 man and at the bottom a unit of less than 200 men (for a levy unit the number of firearms would likely be less than those shown)

Some additional Scottish examples:

Additional Scots M&P examples

Two Scots Royalist regiments are shown to the rear and are made up by substituting out the Covenanter flags. To the left is the Strathbogie regiment (P&Mv) and to the right, Graham of Inchbrackie (P&M). Both are configured for Kilsyth (without number adjustments). To the front is the Seaforth regiment (P&Ml -McKenzie levy in regular order as at Auldearn). They wear highland dress.

Highland Warband (HW) Units (irregular foot)

Irregular foot is a fairly broad category which uses the designation of warband to suggest that not only is the unit not under a tight military discipline but it does not generally use ordered formations. The Highland Warband was deployed mainly in Scotland.

It consists of two general types, retinue and clan levy/array. These may or may not be the correct terms but they give a functional name to groups that are not particularly known or well described in the 17th century.

I use “Retinue” to describe a group of supporters, kin and retainers of a specific individual (usually noble or gentry) and it might be applied to many groups throughout the three kingdoms. The late Tudor and early Stewart monarchs  had made a concerted effort to greatly supress the remaining private armies (particularly in Ireland and in Scottish Highlands and Borders) but systems of kinship and/or feudal obligations still ran deep and at the very least the concept of retinue was still in place. Ironically the monarchy needed the continuance of some retinues to carry out the suppressions and to have a pool of trained fighters for external wars and military expeditions. In this climate small private wars continued to be fought in the Three Kingdoms and armed retinues (although greatly reduced) were a necessary result.

There seems no fixed agreement in wargaming circles on how to best model highlanders in a game.  Most rules recognize them to be excellent close combat fighters but with often fragile discipline and morale. They are often treated as mythic heros with super-human fighting ability who refused to give up the “old ways”. There is a huge layer of Victorian romanticism and current popular culture that helps maintains this view. It is great story telling (much like the Shogunate  warriors of the Boshin War as depicted in the movie, “The Last  Samurai”).

In my estimation the Highland warrior class did not eschew modern weapons in preference to more traditional ones but merely adapted both to a fighting style that was effective in their native terrain and against the right opponent, Inverlochy, Knocknanuss and Killiecrankie being examples.

HW Retinue types

At the top is a Highland Warband (HW) made up of well armed retinue warriors. It represents the popular view of Highlanders. To the lower left is an enhanced (HWe) unit with additional muskets. It could represent a unit like Inchbrakie’s at Fyvie. MacColla’s Lifeguard (HWl, to the right) is shown as a warband but with a great deal of extra firepower.

Configuring the Highland Warbands is an exercise in conjecture using part tradition, part historic record, and part wargame playability (and fun!). Inchbrachie’s Atholl Highlanders, for example, end up being portrayed as a clan levy at Tippermuir (they were probably among those who were throwing rocks at the advancing Covenanter horse), as an enhanced warband at Fyvie and a regular Musket & Pike unit a Kilsyth. I make no claim that any of these are the “correct” portrayal.

As a general rule, if the unit comes from the lowland arc, they are routinely portrayed as Musket & Pike units. If from the highlands they might be either P&M or HW depending what sense I have of the historic record available to me.

HW Massed types

The unit at the top left is a Clan Array (HWca), the combination of a retinue and levy in deep formation (massed). Such a unit might be used in the Campbell defense of Lorne or as part of the Covenanter army at Inverlochy. To the lower right is a clan levy (HWcl), a deep but weak formation which may have comprised the bulk of the Campbells at Inverlochy.

Possibly I have overemphasized the traditional weapon makeup of the Highland Warbands but it provides a great deal of diversity and interest in wargaming the period and I don’t believe I have slipped into the realm of fantasy as some have kindly suggested. 😀

3 thoughts on “Assembling The New Parts (I)

  1. Once again I’m impressed with the background knowledge you have of the history of the times and military units. It’s obvious you’ve spent a lot of time doing research. It’s a passion.


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