Lay of the Land: Kilsyth 1645

While my goal has been to fit all battles on a 9 x 12 grid, this simply can’t be done and keep the scaling of the table top as approximation of the original battlefield. Kilsyth was the largest of Montrose’s battles with possibly as many as thirteen thousand engaged. In the end I had to put on the expanded table top and use a 12 x 18 grid.


The Battle of Kilsyth: a view looking west toward Kilsyth. The Covenanter army is in the left foreground. The elevation levels are shaded in for greater clarity.


The Battle of Kilsyth: the view to the east with the Royalist army in the right foreground.


The Battle of Kilsyth: the view of the central portion of the battlefield looking at the rising ground to the north.


The Battle of Kilsyth: a closer view of the Covenanter army in a possible deployment. The left wing / reserve is initially “off-table”.


The Battle of Kilsyth: a closeup view of the Royalist army in one possible deployment. The right wing / reserve is initially “off-table”.


Some notes on building the scenario.

1) Stuart Reid takes the interesting view that the Royalists were initially drawn up on a slight hill more or less paralleling the Sterling to Glasgow Road. If Baillie had continued his advance along the road, Montrose would have been prepared to take him in the flank. The source descriptions are so vague that it difficult to tell much about where and how the Royalists were first positioned, only that they were in hilly meadows just east of the village of Kilsyth. Reid’s novel view, however, provides the most interesting wargame possibility as it counterbalances Baillie’s own deployment problems.

2) Baillie led the Covenanter army off the road at some point northeast of Kilsyth and travelled cross-country to catch Montrose by surprise. It was a difficult approach and was stymied by the terrain becoming even more problematic as they were nearly in sight of the Royalist army. Baillie “embattled” the army at the point where, as he wrote, “I doubt, if on any quarter twenty men on front could either have gone from us or attack us.” The terrain to the front of Baillie’s army on the board is a checkerboard of difficult and impassable squares. It is possible to slowly pass one unit at a time through it, but the Royalists would be easily able change their front (if in Ried’s conjectured position) or destroy the Covenanters piecemeal (if they were already facing east).

3) Given 1 and 2, Baillie’s much maligned swing to the north in an attempt to flank the Royalists seems reasonable. We can start the game assuming the condition that Montrose is not yet aware of the position of the Covenanter army. Conditions will need to be set that will free the Royalists to move (including the possibility of random discovery).

4) Montrose may have already had a small force occupying Auchinvalley farm but the game will be more competitive if neither side has initial control.

5) The Royalists may also have had two small groups of mounted infantry (“dragoneers”) but there is no evidence of any such movement during the battle. I have folded their small numbers into the Infantry.


As I already have the gridded maps worked out for Tippermuir and Auldearn, I’ll next go back and properly scale Inverlochy.


6 thoughts on “Lay of the Land: Kilsyth 1645

  1. Great work once again and as always appreciate the reasoning behind how you are approaching the battle. I always enjoy it when the lie of the land helps explain historical actions, which at times may seem strange when just reading a book.


  2. Hi Steve. Thanks!
    Of the eight battles, this one is really the most difficult one to visualize from the contemporary sources (and that’s saying something!)

    Hope all is going well with you.


  3. That was really over my head but reminds me of your expertise in the history of the time and your ability to translate your knowledge to the war game itself. Enjoy your passion!


    • Hi, Bonnie – thanks (as always)!
      When next you and Jack visit remind me to show you two or three websites which make mine look like that of a dim-witted 10 year old! 😉

      I love this hobby and there is room for everyone and we all encourage each other.


  4. Understand the visualisation difficulties. I used to drive through Kilsyth on many a day to my work in Stirling & trying to figure out where the action took place always intrigued (but sadly eluded) me.


    • Hi Westie!
      It of course doesn’t help that Banton Reservoir (or Loch) now covers the meadow in which Montrose likely formed up! Stuart Reid is by far the most imaginative analyst.

      As I’ve said before, envy folks that can see the “lay (lie) of the land” on a frequent basis. Doubt I could figure it out any better than you.


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