“Can Little Beasts with Lions Roar…?”, Montrose’s Army at Tippermuir (1644) – Configured for FK&P

The qoute in the header is the opening of Montrose’s poem, Sovereignty in Danger, which expresses the absurdity of a king bowing to his subjects.

I have written a good deal on the the Battle of Tippermuir previously but now  wish to replay it with FK&P rules and with some updated thinking on Orders of Battle for both sides. Also with FK&P now published I can concentrate more on how I do things  without needing to explain what the base rules say.

I am not a scholar, so in doing Montrose’s 1644/5 campaign I rely heavily on other people’s analysis and interpretation.  That is not to say I have not read, in some detail, the key primary sources (Wishart, Ruthven, and Spalding) and early secondary sources (Rushworth and Monteth among others). One day I may attempt to write some sort of source criticism (some aspects of the early documents seem to derive from a single source and there are some issues with provenance) but that is likely to occur in another lifetime!

Until then I’ll use the readily available histories.  Most historians (and here I think of S.R. Gardener, C.V. Wedgwood, David Stevenson and Stuart Reid as representing the  sweep of the last century or so) have clearly adopted a more source critical approach in recent years. In addition to the usual sources, historians now draw on more wide ranging disciplines such as modern battlefield archeology, cultural anthropology and even serious studies of fokelore and songs.

In the end it seems most useful for wargaming purposes at least, to treat the primaries as the closest thing we will likely ever have to eyewitness accounts (although biased toward the Royalist side) and proceed accordingly. In wargaming you also often have to make decisions about where to place units, how to rate them, and sometime who was actually in command. Above all, in my opinion anyway, you have to come up with an interesting and playable scenario.

Now, let’s get on with Tippermuir (or Tibbermore, if you prefer the modern usage).

Montrose’s army through-out the 1644/45 campaign was a pick-up affair and never more so than at Tippermuir.  It is convenient to take each major component of the Royalist army in turn and relate it to the FK&P rules.

The Irish Brigade (The Center):

At the time of Tippermuir the brigade was comprised of three regiments of about 1600 men total. FK&P uses “Battalia” for a 400-600 man unit and I’ll often use “Battalion” as a substitute term. A regiment contains one and sometimes two battalions (depending on its size) and please note this is a somewhat later construct but useful for organizing units for game play. < the following picture can be enlarged by clicking>

Montrose - Irish

The Irish Brigade at Tippermuir: (From the top) a forlorn hope of several dozen picked men, acting as skirmishers. Two battalions of Laghtnan’s Foot. A battalion each of O’Cahan’s and MacDonnell’s Foot.

A quick note on my current labeling convention: The first line gives the units name followed by a colored dot indicating to which brigade it belongs. The second row provides: H (hits), M (melee value – the number of to-hit cards played per round), A (ammunition – at start of game), D (dash) – at start of game. This is followed by the unit type and the military experience rating. The dice frames are used to hold dice for decrementing Ammo and Dash.

At Tippermuir, the Irish Brigade did not carry pikes (at least not the long pikes of a regular musket and pike unit). All five units are classified as “Veteran”. Some of the men had experience in Flanders with the Spanish army but most of the rest had been fighting in Ireland for the last three years. Besides a musket, a few would have had swords and likely nearly all an Irish Scian, a long dagger much similar to the Scottish Dirk:

Scottish Dirk

Reproduction of a Scottish Highland Dirk. An Irish Scain would have been close to double the length.

There are multiple ways to class type the Irish but I have chosen two (excluding the Forlorn Hope) types.    Laghtnan’s represents the somewhat better armed and are the shock troops placed in the center. They are classed as “Shot Heavy” (although they don’t have pikes) and melee other foot as such. They are, however, marked as “NP” (No Pikes) and have no pike benefit against cavalry (see the Additional Local Rules Extension below).

On either flank of Laghtnan’s is O’Cahan’s and MacDonnell’s more conventionally typed as “Commanded Shot”. Laghtnan’s has been made slightly larger than their 800 to make two battalions, but O’Cahan’s and MacDonnell’s were stepped down to become the smaller Commanded Shot units. An alternative is to make Laghtnan’s a Large unit, giving it 4 Hits, but I wanted the Irish to have greater mobility.

Along with the small forlorn hope I think the above is a fairly good wargame representation of the Irish Brigade in the first half of the campaign. For this battle their ammunition is reduced but as veterans they can all make a Salvee Charge.

The Highlanders (The Flanks)

Like the Irish, figuring out how the Highlanders on Montrose’s flanks should be organized takes some guess work. It is useful to think of the clan system being overlaid and ultimately replaced by the central government system (a process greatly accelerated by the Statutes of Iona (1609) under James VI [James I in England]).

The FK&P rules allow a good deal of latitude in how Highlanders can be configured. I use my own terms to subdivide them a bit. “Retinue” is the warrior class of  a particular clan or clan group (which was being slowly diminished by external pressure). They are the best armed, trained for individual combat, and are classed as “Seasoned” or, occasionally, “Veteran”. They would often also be classed as “Small”.

The Macdonald’s of Keppoch (to the left below) are “Retinue” Highlanders:

Montrose - Highlanders

A clan might also turn out a larger Highlander unit that would be the clan “Levy” of the more fit common men. They would be less well armed and trained. Both the Badenoch Levies and the Atholl Levies (Graham of Inchbrackie’s) in the above picture are of this class.

A second way to deal with Highlanders is to class them as “Shire Fencibles” – the militia levied out by the government – in this case the Covenanter de-facto government in Edinburgh. Lord Kilpont (John Graham) was leading his Perthsire levy to the rendezvous in Perth when he encountered (prehaps by plan) his kinsman, the Marquis of Montrose  and switched sides.

The militia would most likely be musket and pike armed (although the quality and number of weapons would vary) and, unless a city militia, likely indifferently trained.  It is worth noting that Badenoch and Atholl could just as easily be turned out as musket and pike militia.

I use a local rules extension, “Attached Bows” (see below) to add bows and arrows to Keppoch’s and Kilponts.

Taken together, the flanks contain roughly 1500 men making Montrose entire army at Tippermuir approximately 3100.

Command Stucture

One of the most interesting features of FK&P is how command and control is structured. As we will see, Montrose has a decided advantage in his organization.

Montrose, himself, is an experienced field commander. As a Covenanter he successfully suppressed the Gordon Royalist uprising in the Northeast during the Bishops’ Wars (a fact of some political consequence now that he has changed sides). He was charismatic and often led from the front, for this reason he is classed as “Gallant”.  He is the figure on the right in the photo below, with the royal banner of the kings of Scotland. He is configured to fight on foot with targe and half pike.

His army is tightly organized in three brigades, each with competent leadership. Montrose Commanded The right flank which included his kinsman, Graham of Inchbrackie and Stewart and Robertson clansmen (also with family connections). To these I have added the Badenoch levy. It is usually assigned to MacColla since he “recruited” them. They were actually the bribe paid to MacColla to cause him to desist his depredations of Badenoch. They likely would fight better under Montrose

Montrose - Command

In the center is Alisdair MacColla, a near mythic figure, said to be seven feet tall and welding a long two handed sword, he is also a warrior and an experienced battle commander. Like Montrose he is classed as “Gallant” and, although a brigade commander, hold the rank of General (giving him greater command and control range). He commands the five units of the Irish Brigade in the center. His flag is the one conjectured by Project Auldearn.

John Graham, Lord Kilpont, commands the left flank and is shown with the yellow and black Graham flag. Although not an experienced soldier he is a trusted kinsman of the Marquis. Besides his own Perthshire levy, the MacDonald’s of Keppoch are placed with him. They may actually have been with Montrose on the right, but I am conjecturing that Montrose placed them with Kilpont to add some experience. Both units on the left have attached bows.

Montrose’s army at Tippermuir is valued at 30 Victory Point. He can give 50% (15 vp) before losing when the 16th is given. Montrose fought the entire campaign where the loss of battle would spell the end. At Tippermuir, the first battle, he simply had to win. Failure, as it is famously said, was not an option.

Additional Local Rule Extensions


No Pikes (NP)

This is a simple expedient that allows certain Highland and Irish units to melee other foot (including pike armed) as if they had pikes. It is an easy way to account for a variety of polearms, swords, half-pikes, axes, etc. that might allow the unit to get “passed the points” of their opponent and wreak havoc. The unit is typed as Musket & Pike and fits into the appropriate place in FK&P hierarchy of “All Pike”, “Pike Heavy”, “Standard”, and “Shot Heavy”, while being classed as No Pikes against any type of horse.

Attached Bows (AB)

Bows were still in use in the Highlands as late as Mulroy (1688) and likely at Killiecrankie a year later. They were not used in large numbers nor were they decisive,  so not adding them to the base rules is understandable. I like them as they add at bit more flavor (as long as they are kept at some reasonable minimum for the c. 17th).

I use a rule very similar to “Attached Shot” (AB, “Attached Bows”). A marker with an archer is added to a Highland (Highlander or Highland M&P) unit. After much experimentation I have settled on two different ways to use it:

a) It may fire at long range (two boxes) either on activation or return fire. It applies TWO to-hit cards to the target unit (which gets two save draws per hit by bow).

b) It may be used in a charge or counter charge giving an additional to-hit card (with out the double save). If a unit does not counter charge it is lost.

In either “a” or “b”  the Attached Bows marker is removed (no victory points awarded for removal) after use.

Highlander Dash and Pursuit

I have experimented with both and concluded that adding Dash to Highlanders is not worth the effort and brings up all sorts of questions about its use with other units of foot. The FK&P rules handle things very well as is.

Pursuit for Highlanders, on the other hand, is worth pursuing. (Sorry 😄). I used it with great abandon at Mulroy and decided it should be used much more selectively. Experiments will continue. I will not use it at Tippermore.

03/27/2018 Addendum

I just realized I left out one other rule extension for Highlanders which I used at Mulroy and tested elsewhere:

Downslope Charge

The FK&P base rules give an advantage to troop defending against an attack coming upslope. As Highlanders often maneuvered to gain the upslope advantage on their opponents to add momentum when they charged down upon them, Highlanders get a one bonus to-hit card when charging down hill.

10 thoughts on ““Can Little Beasts with Lions Roar…?”, Montrose’s Army at Tippermuir (1644) – Configured for FK&P

  1. Ok. I’ll admit most of this is beyond my understanding. Have fun as you enjoy this hobby turned obsession.


  2. Another really good read Bill:). I’m still awaiting for my rules to arrive, which will hopefully be today…


  3. Bill, you have a real genius for this. I love the way you use the original sources to tweak the rules to your specific requirements. It was, I confess one of the main aspects of Simon’s To the Strongest Ancient Rules that I loved, that it was easy to see how the mechanisms worked, and so modify them to produce something which you particularly required for a specific scenario. It was that aspect which made me believe they could be adapted to the ECW. And, with your help, it has been a really enjoyable experience finding out how far we could go. Tomorrow, we will have a try out of my first thoughts of adapting them further,
    to 1742, the Battle of Chotusitz.


  4. That’s a high complement, Andrew, thanks. To give credit where it is due, you and Simon gave all of us a great tool kit to work with. The use of expendable attached pieces (Assigned Shot, Light Guns, etc – not to mention Gallant Gentlemen) make the rules easy to customize for a local situation and almost infinitely extendable. Plus it allows you to build mini-vignettes which are not only fun but serve a function other than looks.

    I’ll confess I had to look up Chotusitz. You are really pushing the limits out there! 😀
    I’ll ejoying hearing about the outcome.


    • Just back off the battlefield of Chotusitz where, shock horror, Frederick the Mediocre suffered a close fought defeat 50-43. Four players, with no experience of the rules, played it to a conclusion in about four to four and a half hours. Surprisingly it went very well with a good ‘Age of Reason’ feel to it. Some very hard challenges, the Prussian left wing cavalry got caugh trying to deploy into line, and paid the penalty. Richard Clarke, of a Too Fat Lardies Games, was playing the Prussian, and cornered the market in ace drawing! A most encouraging first go!


  5. A reversal of fortune! From what I gather the original was a near run thing. As we said above the basic rules engine is very robust and amendable to extenstion. Glad this first outting was successful,

    I may be forced to extend my armies to 1746! 😄


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