…(and) with there swordes assailed both horse and foote… The Battle of Tippermuir (1644)

The quote is from Ruthven describing Montrose’s Highlanders attacking on the left flank of the Covenanter army. The photo is from an article at Physics.org discussing the use of stones as weapons, an application of which Montrose’s Highlanders made good use at Tippermuir.

This game will use FK&P with my extended Highlander rules used in the last game AND allowing them to counter-charge any unit that charges them. I noted a proofing error in some of my Covenanter unit labels that did not get corrected when they were auto generated out of Excel: Drummond’s and Elcho’s Horse should be marked 1 for Melee (M) not 2. Because they were also marked PM (poorly mounted) I used one hit card as a matter of course but wanted to clear up any confusion. – d_guy.

The Royalists have the initiative so will move first in each turn. A few special house rules are used in the game which are summarized here.  As always the following pics can be enlarged by clicking.

Tipp2_end One

Tippermuir at the end of the first turn: both sides are generally advancing along their fronts.

Montrose, along with Inchbrakie’s Atholl Highlanders, gain The Lamberkein highpoint in time to receive the charge of the Rosyth Horse led by Sir James Scott. The Highlanders respond with great elan, counter charging down hill into their midst while slinging both rocks and curses. As the horsemen drop from a hail of bullets, rocks, flashing blades and slashing polearms, they manage a ragged and ineffectual volley of pistols but then waver and break. Scott manages to extricate himself from the melee’ and joins his militia foot.

Tipp2_2 charge & counter

Charge and counter charge in turn two. The horse charge (perhaps unadvisedly) with a total of 4 to-hits (1 standard, 1 dash, 1 foot without pikes, 1 pistol). The Highlanders, however, elect to counter charge (becoming the attacker). The Horse decide now to use their pistols but miss. The Highlanders attack with five to-hits (2 standard, 2 muskets, 1 downhill). They score two hits (both 10s) and neither are saved. The horse will break on two disorders which they now have acquired. Scott is not hit and escapes to another unit in his brigade.

In the center the Covenanter regulars, who have been dragging their frame guns forward, finally stop and unleash them toward the advancing Irish with no discernible effect. Kilpont, in a similar vein, is zinging volleys of arrows at Lord Drummond’s Horse who don’t seem much bothered but do halt their tentative advance.

Montrose, having driven of Scott’s cavalry, is now descending on the Covenanter’s left, as a shaken Sir James joins the lead battalion of his Clackmannanshire militia.

Tipp2_end Two

Tippermuir at the end of the second turn: Montrose has achieved the high ground and is moving down toward the Covenanter left. In the center the Covenanter frame guns engage the Irish while on the left Kilpont engages Drummond’s Horse with bows.

Montrose, in full cry, now attacks the first battalion of the militia but they stand their ground and push back the increasingly disordered Atholl men. Scott, seeing the momentum shift, urges Clackmannanshire forward and breaks Inchbrackie’s now exhausted Highlanders. Montrose (personally unscathed) manages to join the men from Badenoch to his rear.

Disaster also reigns on the Royalist left as Lord Elcho breaks Lord Kilpont’s Perthsire men (who have just managed to destroy Drummond’s Horse) with a well timed charge of his second squadron. Kilpont escapes to the Keppoch MacDonalds as Elcho manages to wheel his squadron, preparing to take the MacDonalds in the flank. The Covenanter regulars in the center are exchanging musket and light gun fire with the Irish with both sides beginning to take casualties. The Perth City Militia, acting as a forlorn, breaks under the furious fire of the Irish.

Tipp2_end Three

Tippermuir at the end of turn three: The Royalist flanks are beginning to bend as the center of each army becomes more hotly engaged.

Both Montrose and Kilpont, increasingly concerned about being rolled up, fall into a defensive mode. Montrose pulls back the Badenoch levies, while Kilpont orders Keppoch to turn and face Elcho’s probable charge (which fails to materialize).

Just as Kilpont heaves a sigh of relief, the Irish Forlorn protecting his now exposed right flank, breaks under the volleys of Elcho’s foot. In the center the Dundee militia has come up on Scott’s right flank and are also beginning to exchange long range fire with MacDonnell’s Irish. As in the previous battle, the Irish are stalled, apparently bewildered by the ferocity of the now attacking Covenanters.

Tipp2_end Four

Tippermuir at the end of turn four: The Royalists have now refused both wings and their center is more and more hard pressed.

Montrose, who seems to be unsure how to protect the Royalist right, charges with the Badenoch levies into the second battalion of the Clackmannanshire but fails to break them. The Keppoch lads bend their bows against Elcho’s horse and their arrows disorder them sufficiently to prevent them charging. In the center more and more men join the Covenanter firing line completely halting the Royalist advance.

Tipp2_end Five

Tippermuir at the end of turn five: Montrose gambles he can break through the Covenanter left and fails, while Kilpont holds the left with his archers. The Irish in the center are increasingly in a slugging match with an opponent who only seems to get stronger.

Kilpont pulls the Royalist left flank farther back to protect is own flank and is charged by Elcho’s Horse. The MacDonalds meet them with a counter charge and when the dust and smoke settle, the horse have broken. The Keppoch warriors appear to be the real deal. Montrose, after some fits of near suicidal aggression, is now matching Kilpont’s moves on the left by pulling back to protect the flank of the Badenoch men. The Clackmannanshire militia are only too happy to speed his retreat with long range musket fire.

The Irish in the center continue to disappoint with both their musketry and forwardness and are starting to look overmatched by the Lowland militias. In one furious exchange MacColla was knocked to the ground by a wild swing of a musket butt and is addled for the rest of the turn (and the next as well). His mental absence will play havoc with command and control.

Tipp2_end Six

Tippermuir at the end of turn six: on the Royalist left, Kilpont breaks Elco’s horse while Montrose continues to refuse the right flank. The Irish are being hard pressed in the center.

Unbelievably the Dundee militia now sees off MacDonnell’s Irishers with a spirited charge. Montrose is forced to pull even closer to the center to protect his flank. A glassy-eyed MacColla, repeatedly reciting a passage from either The Cattle Raid of Cooley or prehaps the Carmen Christi (opinions differ), sits down on the ground to contemplate where he left his sword. His brigade seems equally lost. The Covenanter militia on both flanks remain in good order and begin slowly to draw a noose around the floundering Royalists.

Tipp2_end Seven

Tippermuir at the end of turn seven: the Royalist right begins to come apart as MacDonnell’s is broken and Montrose most retreat farther toward the center. Kilpont now further refuses the left flank.

MacColla regains his senses and leads The first battalion of Laghtnan’s first repelled the charge of Tuillibardine’s foot and then breaks them but the Irish are now hard used. Elcho begins maneuvering the Forfarshire Brigade to take the Royalist in the flank but the lead battalion is unable to complete its wheel and is now exposing its flank to the enemy. In the center Tuillibardine begins pulling back some of his seriously disorganized battalions in the hope of rallying them. On the left, Scott’s Clackmannanshire militia continues an ineffectual long range fire against the Badenoch levies.

Tipp2_end Eight

Tippermuir at the end of turn eight: Laghtnan’s breaks Tuillibardine’ foot but the Royalist front continues to shrink and bend inwards.

A volley from the increasingly confident Dundee militia breaks Laghtnan’s first battalion but MacColla escapes unscathed joining the remaining battalion of Laghtnan’s who are now going forward to prevent the Covenanter regulars from rallying. Volleys are exchanged without much damage done on either side. Kilpont, leading the Keppoch MacDonalds, charges the exposed flank of the Forfarshire militia and routs them. Meanwhile, Scott continues to push Montrose toward the center.

Tipp2_end Nine

Tippermuir at the end of turn nine: Laghtnan’s first battalion breaks and Montrose and the Badenoch are in danger of being cut off. On the Royalist left Kilpont leads the Keppoch warriors in breaking the lead battalion of the Forfarshire militia. MacColla, now leading Laghtnan’s second battalion, moves forward to hotly engage the regulars to prevent them rallying.

Although it is difficult to see it, the Royalists are beginning to turn the tide with several critical encounters, the first of which is below:

Tipp2_Nine Keppoch Charge

Kilpont is able to advance, then with a draw of 10 get the automatic activation to charge. He catches the 2nd Forfarshire already disorganized Militia in the flank. As the Keppoch MacDonald’s are also disorganized, a melee’ hit is now scored on 9 and above. Attacking the flanks however is a great force multiplier and the two melee’ to-hits become four (and there is no defensive fire* or return melee’ to-hits). One draw is a miss (the 2 in the upper row) but the other three are hits. Kilpont is not gallant so can not replay the missed hit. The Forfarshire save on the first hit (the 8 chit) but failing on the next two, acquire their second and third disorder and break.

*It is not specifically called “defensive fire” in the rules but it is fully discussed on Page 53 as step one of the melee sequence (firing defensively).

Montrose, with the Badenoch levies, continues to be hard pressed by Scott and with his own flank now exposed to the rapidly approaching Dundee militia, again pulls back toward the center. The Royalist right flank has effectively collapsed. On the left, Kilpont repositions the MacDonalds to now take on the rear battalion of the Forfarshire militia.

MacColla, seeing the absolute necessity of holding the center of the field, joins O’Cahan’s foot, but orders Lagtnan’s to keep pressure on the much damaged regulars under Tuillibardine. Laghtnan’s is now so low on powder they can not double volley and are receiving two for one from the Covenanters. Then it happens! Laghtnan’s returns one of Tuillibardine’s volleys and breaks them.  Seeing this, Elcho’s first battalion waivers and breaks as well. The Royalists have all but destroyed the Covenanter center.

Tipp2_end Ten

Tippermuir at the end of turn ten: The Royalists are now in dire straights and constricted in a small defensive pocket. Suddenly, Laghtnan’s Irish collapse the Covenanter center, and Kilpont maneuvers the MacDonalds to charge the remaining militia on the left.

In the second critical action in as many turns, the Royalists crush the Covenanter regulars:

Tipp2_Ten Return FIre

Tuillibadine, because of the double disorder of both his immediate units, decides to fire on Lagthan’s (to minimize the number of possible return hits). Elcho’s (on the right) activates first (the 9 chit) and fires to no effect (the return fire was also useless). He then attempts to activate his own battalion, fails, retries, succeeds (the 8 chit) but achieves nothing. Laghtnan’s return fire, however,  scores an unsaved hit. Tullibardine’s breaks! Elcho’s Foot must now do a rout test and fails both attempts (the 1 and 2 chits).  This is their third disorder and they break as well. A single return fire has sent off two battalions!

Things now teeter on a knife’s edge, the Royalist’s have only two more points to give (and have been in this condition for some time) but the Covenanters can now lose only one point. MacColla now delivers by charging and breaking Tullibardines last regulars.

Tipp2_end Eleven

Tippermuir early in turn eleven: in the first activation of the turn MacColla charges with O’Cahan’s and breaks Evlico’s second foot battalion. The game is over.

The final critical action of the game is undertaken by MacColla, now at the head of Manus O’Cahan’s battalion:

Tipp2_Twelve Gallant MacColla

Tippermuir, the first and only move in turn twelve: MacColla successfully activates O’Cahan’s (the 5 chit) and charges Elcho’s 2nd Battalion (double disorganized). Their defensive fire misses (the 7 chit behind O’Cahan’s). MacColla now plays two Melee’ to-hits and scores a 3 and an 8, both misses since O’Cahan’s is also disorganized. But MacColla is a Gallant officer and replays the 3 and gets a 10! Tuillibardine’s plays a 7 on the save (they are raw and need a minimum of 8). They acquire their third disorder and break. The game is over, the Royalists win by a razor thin margin.

Finally…from the jaws of defeat the Royalist snatch victory…but only just.

Tipp2_Game End

Tippermuir, the final positions at the end of game:

I am aware of a small group in New Zealand experimenting with FK&P and using this scenario in part. Montrose, I believe, won both games they played. I would have been embarrassed to lose as Montrose…again. I think that the scenario (with the extra forces added to the Covenanters) is fairly balanced but slightly biased toward the side that won historically – the Royalists.  I now heave a sigh of relief since for much of the game I gave the Royalists little chance of winning.

What was the stupidest move I made in the game? After Montrose broke Scott’s Horse with the counter-charge of Inchbrackie’s Atholl Highlanders, he should not have continued to attack. Withdrawing back up the hill and waiting for the support of the Badenoch levies would have been the far superior move. Highlanders are a one trick pony. Once they have shot their bolt they are rather weak, even with my rule extensions added. It was later when Montrose was slowly refusing the right flank that the best, if less glamorous, tactic was displayed.

Why did the Covenanter militia perform so well? An over abundance of luck mainly, they passed almost every “untried” and “rout” test. It was ridiculous really. But there is a second reason also,  they were very well handled (pat, pat 😉). The Forfarshire and Dundee militias spent most of the game out of command (in addition to being “raw”) but they managed to make small maneuvers, absorb (and even cause) a few disorders and, in general, be a sustained annoyance to the Royalist commander. It is hard to ask more of raw militia.

How did the Irish manage to hang on? They were veterans.  The fact that they could save hits with a six or better and were usually fighting units that could only save on an eight or better may actually have won the game. That said, on average they did not score hits in the volume that their opponents did. A disappointment really, like watching a great college basketball team go down because their opponent can rain threes and they suddenly can’t guard OR respond in kind. 

Could Highlanders actually maneuver as well as The MacDonalds of Keppoch? Likely not. The unit as represented was small but seasoned. Several things simply fell in line for them. Having an officer (Kilpont) with them helped as well. Most Highlander units would be raw (as they were on the right flank) but Keppoch is represented as seasoned warriors which implies a greater degree of steadiness. They also managed to produce a disorder (on raw troops) with their bows, a fairly unexpected result.

How important were the officers in winning? Officers add an important dynamic because they can replay an activation for the unit they are with. Correct placement at the beginning of each active turn is almost a game in itself. If they happen to be “Gallant” (the Royalists had two, the Covenanters none), they can replay a missed melee’ to-hit. As we saw in the last move, MacColla made a game winning to-hit replay.

I continue to  love the FK&P rules and now that I have stirred in a bit of my own seasonings they are near perfect for my needs.

Finally, after nearly three years, I have the terrain scheme, the figures, the configurable unit sabots AND the rules I need to begin doing all the battles I originally envisioned (and many more besides).

Finally I can move on to Auldearn (although I might sneak in one last experiment as I do so).




4 thoughts on “…(and) with there swordes assailed both horse and foote… The Battle of Tippermuir (1644)

  1. Interesting battle. Just curious – did you have any particular great college basketball team in mind when you made that comment?


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