Experiment, with Advantage

The header image is one of R. R. MacIan’s iconic Victorian era prints of a Highland clan warrior. This particular image is from the catalog Scottish Tartans Authority

The work in the garage continues apace. My wife, who on occasion looks at this blog, usually to proofread, is a fan of Rumpole of the Bailey. She has suggested that if I feel a need to refer to her in the future she would prefer not to be “SWMBO” but rather, “Upper Management”. d_guy.

Now let’s try an experiment where the Highlanders have as much advantage as I think can be reasonably given. Their size is increased from small to normal giving three to-hits per unit. At the same time we continue them as “seasoned” keeping their saves and rout tests at seven. Historically this may approximate the Redshanks at Dungan Hill (1647) under Glengarry or, more so, under MacColla at Knocknanuss in the same year. Both battles were decisive Irish defeats but the Redshanks fought extremely well and at Knocknanuss would have carried the day had they been more than minimally supported by the rest of the Irish army.

But let’s add another advantage, a ridge that permits the Highlanders an opportunity for a downhill charge (and in this case a concealed approach). In my local rules, Highlanders get an extra to-hit for charging down hill. As before, I’ll also allow both sides to have three automatic activations but give the initiative to the Highlanders, another decided advantage.

Hill-I - 1

The Highlanders are drawn up (in the foreground) in four separate groups. Between them and the New Model Army regulars is a ridge which blocks the line of sight.

Hill-I - 2

The Highlanders rapidly cross the ridge and descend upon the Regulars who are able to fire only a single defensive volley. They score one hit, which is unsaved, resulting in one of the Highland units being disordered. The Regulars’ decided advantage in firepower has been initially negated by terrain and speed.

Hill-I - 3

The Highlanders now have to inflict maximum damage with their first charge to win the day. They score four hits (all unsaved) causing two of the Regular units to be disordered and their right flank unit to be double disordered. One more disorder here will cause that unit to break. I would judge this to be a fairly typical result of a head-on Highland charge.

Hill-I - 4

The Regulars fight back and score two hits, but both are saved. Having not broken through the Regulars, however, the Highlanders may now be in trouble. Without any ability to stand and volley, they now must make a second charge and hope for the best.

Hill-I - 5

The Highlanders again recieve a defensive volley and another of their units is disordered.

Hill-I - 6

The Highlanders again engage but with much diminished effect. They still have the downhill bonus, however, making their melee’ strength equal to that of their opponents. The left flank Highland unit finally breaks the right hand Regular unit but its flank unit stands firm. The Highlanders score no further hits.

Hill-I - 7

The Regulars now strike back in melee’ and score two unsaved hits on the center unit of the Highlanders. As this unit was already disordered two additional disorders causes it to break. Its two flank units must now do a rout test and both fail, causing each to receive a second disorder (not good!)

Hill-I - 8

It is now finally the Regulars turn and they will also get three automatic activations. In musket and pike warfare constant decisions have to be taken about how to use your two weapon systems: fire, fight or both. In this case the Regulars can pour three double volleys into the enemy with no threat of return fire. The slaughter begins. The right most Regular unit fires and scores two hits, one of which is saved but the third disorder routs the Highlanders to their front.

Hill-I - 9

The two left flank Regular units can now concentrate their fire on the right flank Highland unit. With each firing a double volley they score one hit which is saved.

Hill-I - 10

In the second activation, the Regulars’ right pivots to face the flank of the Highland unit which has penetrated their line. The remainder of the Regulars again concentrate their double volleys on the other remaining Highland unit. This time they score two hits, neither of which are saved and their target is destroyed.

At this point, I decided that the Highlanders had decisively lost and did not use the Regulars’ third activation. The right flank unit could charge into the flank of the remaining Highland unit (six to-hits!) with no chance for the Highlanders to fight back. While the Highlanders would likely survive they would also most likely be disordered and remain in an untenable position.

Something like this happened at Killiecrankie in 1689 and the Highlanders routed an army of mainly Scottish foot regiments, many of whom were veterans. At Killiecrankie they made a downhill charge but had to withstand musket fire that dropped as many as a third of them before they made contact. It was a near run thing but the center of the Regulars broke and all cohesion was lost. It is probably worth noting that I used musket heavy pike units in the experiment above (set in the late 1640’s) and at Killiecrankie some forty years later, the Regulars were transitioning away from pikes to bayonets. At Killiecrankie these would have been the (short lived) plug bayonet which was both unwieldy and prevented further firing.

This and the previous experiments continue to convince me that the Highlanders are functioning properly in the rules (or more to the point, meet my conception of how they functioned). An army comprised only of Highlanders would have a very tough time wining against a seasoned musket and pike army (and explains why Montrose could not take his army into the more populated lowlands for an significant time).





3 thoughts on “Experiment, with Advantage

  1. Oh that’s good! I like the downhill bonus- definitely one for your scenario book. Also I appreciate the importance of approaching under cover.

    One thing that might be worth thinking about is replacing the bonus melee to-hit cards (or one of them) in the first highland charge with an untried marker for the subjects of the charge. It seems to me that to be on the receiving end of a highland charge must have been a deeply unsettling experience.


  2. Thanks Simon,

    Obviously I like playing around with the base rules to capture the flavor (flavour) of the Fringe. I have said before that FK&P is an excellent framework to use for scenario adaptation. As I’ve mentioned, the use of attached capabilitity markers is infinitely expandable. What a few bows – you got them with a nice looking markers to boot. Grenades, ladders, petards, all now possible with great visual impact.

    I love the dynamic use of untried markers. Need to think about trying that. I have been allowing Highlanders to use the uphill +1 to-hit even after their initial charge and that is likely too much advantage, untried against first charge may be a more reasonable approach.


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