“…leapeing in amongst them with there swordes and targates,…”

The title quote is from Patrick Gordon of Ruthven’s account of the Irish Brigade’s attacks on the wings of the Covenanter army at Inverlochy. The header picture shows several newly made Melee Weapons markers which are used in my local rule adaptations of FK&P, discussed below.

I am currently working on translating several of Montrose’s battles to For King and Parliament scenarios. The map for each battle has to be properly scaled and essential terrain features adjusted to conform to a gridded system as well as the Orders of Battle re-evaluated to assign each unit to the proper FK&P unit type. In addition to the typical units of the period, the standard rules provide for three types of foot that are useful for Celtic Fringe battles in both Ireland and Scotland: Highlanders, Pure Pike and Rabble. A judicious use of unit sizing and experience values plus the assortment of various attached pieces gives scope to this task. I am also adding options to each scenario to use a few modest rule extensions to give a bit more flavor of the Celtic Fringe. These are certainly not strictly necessary but hopefully will value-add even more fun.

I had planned to also begin on a FK&P scenario for Liscarroll (Ireland, 1642) which provides a chance to use Pure Pike units. I have found, however, that with my head firmly stuck in Scotland at the moment, it will be more efficient to go on and complete Alford and Kilsyth first.

That decision taken, one nagging problem remains, what to do with units that aren’t quite Highlander and something less (or more) than pike and shot. In FK&P there is a clear separation between Highlanders and Musket & Pike Infantry and, in the main, it works. In fact most rule and scenario writers of the period simply force the choice and move on (which is exactly what I’m doing with my base scenarios).  Still the availability of some sort of hybrid unit would be useful by allowing a third choice.

The quote in the title (along with a few others) is what continues to disturb my  thinking. Briefly,  I don’t believe the units of the Irish Brigade, for example, ever (or at best, rarely) carried full length pikes. They seem best described as musketeers but with a variable number of melee weapons present. Similarly various Highland Fencible (militia) units, while generally Musket & Pike, might also have a variety of melee weapons in the mix (the MacKenzies at Auldearn and the Campbells at Inverlochy being but just two additional examples).

The answer I’m proposing for making up these hybrid units is to use a special kind of attached piece, which I’m  calling a Melee Weapons (MW) marker. The base rules already use attached markers (Light Guns, Gallant Gentlemen, Attached Shot – and I have locally added the use of an Attached Bow marker to a handful of Highland units). These do a certain thing and once expended are lost. Victory medals (with respect to units) are normally only awarded when the unit is routed (has given up all of its hits). If a unit can be withdrawn from action before it is routed there is a possibility that hits can be replenished (one at a time) by making a successful rally test.

The proposed Melee Weapons marker behaves differently. When it is lost a Victory Medal (VP) IS surrendered. What is more, the marker remains active until it is expended to prevent receiving a fatal disorder marker.

Over the last three weeks I have played out dozens of combats using units with MW markers. I am very pleased with the play and the nuance it adds to game.  Is it a necessary addition? Unequivocally no. Does it take a very clean and well thought out rules set and add too many complications? Probably. What it does do, however, is satisfy my compulsive need to fit wargame rules to historic battle narrative.

Melee Weapons {MW} Marker

1. It gives the ability to replay one missed melee to-hit card in each melee the unit fights while it is still present with that unit.
2. It is substituted (removed) for ANY disordering hit that would cause the unit to rout.
3. One victory point is awarded for the removal of a Melee Weapons marker. Should the unit subsequently rally the {MW} is NOT restored.
4. It may be added to only certain Irish Commanded Shot and Highland Fencible (Militia) Musket & Pike units AND only if they are one or two Hit units.
5. For army list purposes, it has a cost of three and represents between 25 to 75 men. 


O’Cahan’s Foot of the Irish Brigade

Irish Brigade Foot w MW

in 1644, O’Cahan’s Foot had around 400 men. Here they are represented as a Commanded Shot battalion (2 Hit and about 325 men) + One MW marker (1 Hit and around 75 men). With standard rules one could use a Shot Heavy M&P (3 Hit and 400 men) or a Large Commanded Shot (3 Hit and roughly 400 men) instead

Using the two standard units (3 Hit), however, makes them less maneuverable and, in the case of the pikes, not only overates their melee value, but makes them less vulnerable to horse than they should be. If standard Commanded Shot (large) is used they are underrated in melee value.

The proposed hybrid Commanded Shot (still a 2 Hit unit for activation purposes) maintains better maneuverability while having a slightly better melee capability as long as the MW marker is present. Since MW can substitute for an unsaved hit and prevent the unit from routing, they are more robust.

MacColla’s Lifeguard

MacColla Lifeguard w 2MW

In 1645 MacColla’s Lifeguard was a band of picked men from the Irish Brigade as well as some of MacColla’s supporters, friends and kinsmen from the Western Isles. The later group made up a core unit that fought for Macolla both before and after the Irish Brigade’s service with Montrose. “lifeguard” is a useful term to describe those who stood by MacColla (particularly at Auldearn) but likely has no real organizational meaning. The Lifeguard represent about 125 to 150 men and is here constructed as a small Commanded Shot unit (1 Hit and about 100 men) +  two MW markers (1 Hit and about 25 men each). This is, of course, a one of a kind unit with some very interesting properties.

First, they can’t be disordered. On the first and second unsaved hit they give up an MW marker, on the third hit they are routed. As not being disordered gives a roughly 10% better chance of scoring a hit, it provides a slight advantage once the enemy is disordered.

Second, if they reach the enemy intact they can replay two of their missed melee hits. Assuming they use their Salvee Charge ability they now have five chances to gain up to three hits.

Third, even with both MW gone they are still equivalent to a standard Commanded Shot albeit perilously close to routing and with no ability to rally.

Representing the Lifeguard in the standard rules is a bit tricky. I have usually done them as a standard Commanded Shot (2 Hits and about 250 men), but they remain underpowered in melee. A veteran Highlander unit (3 Hits and also about 250 men) might be closer to the mark (although the -1 activation penalty should likely be removed) but they are undergunned.

MacKenzie’s Levies (as Highland Fencibles)

Highland Fencible w MW

MacKenzie’s (Earl of Seaforth’s) numbered around 400 to 500 at Auldearn in 1645. In the standard rules they can be easily modeled as pike heavy Musket & Pike (3 Hit and about 500 men).

Famously at Auldearn, however, they included the Bannermen of Kintail, who fought and died in place, their leader swinging a two handed sword. In the proposed scheme they can be represented as a small Pike Heavy unit (2 Hits and around 350 men) + One MW marker (1 Hit and somewhat less than 25 men) to represent the Bannermen.


Several pairings were tried with some of the more interesting reported below.

O’Cahan’s versus Militia

The testing involved single unit to unit fighting done ten times each. The process was   structured such that the unit with the MW marker would begin just out of musket range (three boxes out) and move as quickly as possible to engage the enemy in melee. The opposing unit never charged. All other rules (including activation) were used. The fighting continued until one unit routed.

It is difficult to succeed with three activations in a single turn to allow the O’Cahan’s to cross the ground and engage. Often they would receive long range fire and, more frequently, short range fire. In 20% of the approaches this fire was enough to disorganize O’Cahan’s before contact. The militia was untried, however, so this caused the them to be disorganized on their first order to fire 50% of the time.

In the end O’cahan’s won six out of ten times. This is somewhat lower than I expected and was assisted by the usual vagaries of the cards.

Melee O'Cahan's V Fencibles

O’cahan’s takes on a Covenanter militia standard Musket & Pike Battalion

MacColla’s Lifeguard versus Pickering’s NMA Shot heavy Musket & Pike Battalion

Assuming that the veteran New Model Army battalion would not waste ammo in long range fire, the Lifeguard began just outside short range and would advance to combat as quickly as possible. 40% of the time they did not make contact in their first move and suffered repeated double volleys in all but one case, losing one MW in  one case and both MW in another. The Lifeguard won four out of ten encounters which seems reasonable.

Lifeguard V NMA

O’cahan’s Prepares to take on Pickering’s New Model Army Regiment configured as Shot Heavy.

O’Cahan’s versus MacKinzie’s hybrid Musket & Pike battalion

The only test encounter between both units having MW markers was particularly interesting. Since the MacKinzie’s had no ammo chits, they had no long range fire capability so O’Cahans started a box away. It was tempting to have O’Cahan’s use their superior firepower to reduce the MacKenzies before charging but I wanted to keep the same test conditions as before so they had to advance to contact. The Irish won seven out of ten of the encounters. Again a quite reasonable result.

The MacKinzies prepare to receive O’Cahan’s Irish

Overall, the use of MW markers does not overly effect outcomes, at least in this very rigid form of testing. They will need to be used in real game situation to see if that is completely true. What they add (as do gallant gentlemen) is huge narrative potential (and a certain tactical granularity).

At some future point I would like to do Tyrone’s Rebellion (the Nine Years War) in Ireland and these types of special markers might serve to make FK&P backwardly compatible to this period.


10 thoughts on ““…leapeing in amongst them with there swordes and targates,…”

  1. Your “job” would be infinitely easier if you weren’t so concerned about historical accuracy, but I’m sure your other followers appreciate your expertise. Enjoy the passion!


  2. Bonnie, as always thanks. The Wars of the Three Kingdoms out on the Fringe where I “live” are not particularly well understood in the details of the actual fighting. We rely on only a few contemporary accounts by people that may or may not be actual witnesses, each of whom had very specific political motives, mostly Royalist but still writing with divergent purposes.

    This means that what I do is highly interpretive and likely completely unnecessary from a rules stand point. I use games, however, to ultimately tell stories (to myself and anyone else inclined to read them).

    The rules as published can do all of that without additions – I just like to add some seasoning to my own taste. 😀


  3. Very interesting concept which l really like. Your analysis is very methodical and logical. I have all my Scots figures for FK@P rules now so painting process is underway. Thanks for taking the time to share your gaming thoughts on your blog.


  4. Just played my first game of FK and P and am a convert also totally agree with you on the irish brigade they were good at melee yet not a P and S unit i will follow this train with interest !


  5. Hi Steve, thanks for the comment (and encouragement)!
    Hope you’ll try some of the rule extensions and give me some feedback. Playing solo makes finding flaws in one’s thinking rather difficult.


  6. Having been to the boyne and aughrim 2 years ago i was wondering if it would be any good for that period but its probaby a bit of a stretch


  7. Actually Simon and Andrew have discussed going forward to the War of the Two Kings. It should be a fairly easy adaptation. I’ve done a bit with Monmouth’s Rebellion with the rules pretty much as is.


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