Lay of the Land: Alford 1645

I hope to fit the six Montrose victories I am doing as FK&P Scenarios on 9 x 12 grids. Alford almost required a 9 x 18 (and, arguably, a 12 x 18 would likely have been better). While some maneuvers the day before and the morning of the battle need a larger grid to explore, once the battle lines are drawn, the actual fighting can be staged on the 9 x 12.

The only named feature required is Gallowhill on whose gentle northeastern  slopes the battle was fought. The River Don, it’s marshy banks and fords are just off the grid to the north. The small hamlet of Alford is, likewise, just off the grid at the south east corner.

For the orders of battle (and unit sizes) I use as a starting point, Stuart Reid’s Auldearn 1645: The Marquis of Montrose’s Scottish campaign (Osprey Campaign Series), because of the very  convenient  tabular presentation for each battle. His, The Campaigns of Montrose (Mercat Press, 1990), however, has more detail on the pre- and post-Auldearn battles and is, I think, better written. Working through the (often sparse and conflicting) source material to glean the detailed information needed is not a trivial task and Reid can save the wargamer a good deal of time.

As with Justice Mills, I used a few figure bases to mark the probable positions of the two armies. The figures making up the units do not necessarily define the actual type that will be used in the final scenario. I used lots of flags so I can easily identify units. (Click to enlarge)



The Battle of Alford: a view to the northwest. With the exception of Gallowhill (and its slopes which cover nearly half the board), the other landmarks are just off the grid in the directions indicated. The edges of the elevation levels have been shaded to make them easier to identify.



The Battle of Alford: a view from above Gallowhill looking toward the northeast. The Royalist army is shown in the foreground in a possible deployment.



The Battle of Alford: a view to the southwest looking up toward the top of Gallowhill. The Covenanter army is in the foreground in one possible deployment.



The Battle of Alford: the view toward the southeast. The elevations have again been shaded on to make them more visable.

Unlike Justice Mills (on which I have made multiple posts), Alford requires a few notes (to myself mainly) for scenario building:

1. Both Baillie and Montrose do not have all their forces. Lord Lindsey’s army defending the lowlands was given about 1200 of Baillie’s best men by the nervous central government. On the other side, Montrose was without Alisdair MacColla and a sizeable detachment who were in the west raiding and recruiting. At some point “what-if’s” could be added to the Alford scenario.

2. The Royalist reserve could not be seen by the Covenanters and it was a surprise when it entered the battle. Likely a mechanism will be added for the location and time of its entry onto the field.

3. The best way to model the cavalry on both sides will require some fiddling. The tactics used by the Gordon horse units at Alford are described differently than those they used at Auldearn. On the Covenanter side the units were subdivided and used in a rather piecemeal fashion.

4. The small groups of Irish musketeers (marked as Forlorns) used to flank the Royalist cavalry were often interlined with them in several of Montrose’s battles. The standard rules have the excellent mechanism of adding attached shot to horse. I may need, however, to make them separate maneuver elements, perhaps a small Commanded Shot rather than Forlorn Hope so they have a chance of resisting horse. Indeed at Alford they slipped in among the enemy horse while they were in melee and hamstrung several mounts with their swords and skeans.

5. There is some indication that the Covenanters may have had some cover to their front (although given their position on the tabletop relative to the Royalists they may have moved beyond it). On the Royalist side the back slope of Gallowhill is covered in enclosures and ditches which Montrose used to guard his rear. This will need to be accounted for in the unit reentry rules for the scenario.

6. To prevent his line from being “over-winged”, he extended it (as did Montrose at Tippermuir) by thinning its depth from six ranks to three. FK&P has and interesting optional rule that allows a single unit to cover two boxes. This presents some interesting possibilities for wargaming.

Next up, Kilsyth.


4 thoughts on “Lay of the Land: Alford 1645

  1. Have you moved off the dining table? You are blessed with a very patient wife! You take wargaming to a whole new level with the amount of research and staging you do. You need a whole room just to set up your “game.” Enjoy your passion!


  2. I am blessed! Yes, still on the dinning table. Most wargamers have to do the same. I try to scale my games for the “everyman” (sometimes, “everywoman” ) wargamer.
    Thanks, it is truly a passion.


  3. Shaping up to be a good bash!

    I’ve tried Alford a couple of times and it has been a hard slog both times, with honours even so far.


  4. Thanks for the comment,CtC. I’m a great fan of your blog where you are doing a stunning job with Inverlochy, was just admiring Argyll’s galley (Birlinn) as a matter of fact.

    As to Alford, it does come out rather evenly matched (and no Alisdair). With Lords Gordon and Ballcarres present, however, no lack of forward fellows to get it started.


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