Building the Auldearn Scenario : The Gardiner Gambit

The map shown in the header is that which appears in the second volume of S. R. Gardiner’s The History of the Great Civil War (1890ff). It shows very organized lines of battle and the great flank attack led by Montrose and the Gordons.

Meanwhile, on the home front, the reorg of the house continues, aided by the loss of broadband internet service thanks to a particularly virulent attack of thunderstorms – d_guy.

When I first became interested in the English Civil War period (upon seeing the movie “Cromwell” in the early 1970s) I read all four volumes of Gardiner’s history. In his day his methods were very sound and he carefully analyzed all the information then available to him. He writes in a narrative style that I have always found easy to follow. While his focus is on events in England he gives sufficient attention to Scotland and Ireland so the full scope of what is now more often called The War of the Three Kingdoms can be seen in broad strokes. He does have the somewhat romantic late Victorian view of Montrose as a warrior poet (a view that even the most critical modern historian must still admit holds some truth). This view may, however, have shaped Gardiner’s analysis to some degree.

Gardiner’s Auldearn narrative follows Wishart’s account closely and both Stevenson and Reid (among many others) have taken some exception to that. In Wishart’s view it was all a clever trap by Montrose (almost spoilt by a brave, but rash MacColla). Wishart was not at the battle but Patrick Gordon of Ruthven likely was. Ruthven presents the Royalists being suprised by Hurry doubling back during the night. The battle is very confused and the Royalists, in disarray, send in troops piecemeal as they are assembled. Ruthven particularly emphasizes the personal heroics of his fellow Celt, MacColla, as instrumental in holding the position while Montrose and Lord Gordon organize the counter attack.

One problem with Ruthven I have found is that Spalding, the account of the Lovat Frasiers, and the account of the MacKenzies (the Ardintoul Manuscript) all seem to suggest, like Wishart, that the Royalists were already prepared for the Covenanter attack. It is these ambiguities that will make it fun to set up Auldearn using multiple scenarios.

We’ll call this first one the “Gardiner Gambit” but use Ried’s very forward deployment of two Royalist regiments on Garlic Hill. This will be the balance to forcing the Covenanters to be restricted in the center. I have arbitrarily placed O’Cahan’s on Castle Hill to represent the musketeers deployed there.

Auld Gardiner Scenario

The opening deployments for the Gardiner Gambit. The position of each unit is conjectural. Details of the OoBs are found in a previous post.


The Gardiner Gambit deployment shown from above the Covenanter lines around Kinnudie and looking east toward Auldearn. The Covenanter reserves (the closest two rows of units) are in a staging area and not yet on the board. The Royalist advanced forces occupy the crest of both Garlic Hill and Castle Hill.

Special Scenario Rules For This Variant

The Covenanter Focus on the Center.
Gardiner emphasizes that Hurry is being drawn into the center so that Montrose can spring his surprise flank attack. To simulate the focus, the Covenanter army is limited to rows D through G until at least one of their units is east of the marsh squares in Column 8. Additionally, they may not change face to either flank until Montrose appears on the table (the Gordon flank attack). The remaining Covenanter forces come on in squares 1D, 1E and 1G as they can.

Lord Gordon’s Flank Attack
Two horse Regiments and the Strathbogie Foot (with Montrose attached) will enter the game on a card draw. Starting at the beginning of turn two and each succeeding turn until triggered, draw one card from a 12 court card deck. The first King and all Jacks and Queens are ignored. On drawing the second King, the two horse and Strathbogie Foot enter on the Royalist left (appearing in three adjacent squares centered on the square given below).

Diamond ♦️ H12
Club ♣️ X10
Heart ♥️ X7
Spade ♠️ X5

Recall that if the Strathbogie Regiment is brought on in a woods box without a road they will lose their pikes.

Victory Conditions

All scenario variants will have the same victory conditions:
1) If the Covenanter player holds either the Auldearn Kirk square (C11) or any two of the three Auldearn village squares (D11, E12, F11) at the end of any turn, it is a Covenanter victory.
2) Either side may win on points in the usual manner (the Royalists break on giving up their 13th victory point, the Covenanters break on losing their 18th)

The game ends at the end of turn 16.
If the Royalists avoid the Covenanter victory conditions it is a Royalist victory.

I’ll play through this variant a few times and then summarize the results in a later post.


8 thoughts on “Building the Auldearn Scenario : The Gardiner Gambit

  1. Sorry, that was little misleading, I STORE the components in Excel BUT assemble them in MSPaint. The base grid itself IS made in Excel.
    I’ll email you and happy to send to you the pieces.


  2. This post is too detailed for me to follow but as always shows your attention to detail and research. Play on!


  3. Pingback: Playing the Gardiner Gambit | In Red-coat Rags Attired

  4. Pingback: Building the Auldearn Scenario: A Shot in the Dark | In Red-coat Rags Attired

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