Pre-feudal Scots v. Scots Isles and Highland

15 July, 2009

I really had to try out some of my newly finished armies, and also try out recording a game—writing each move and taking photos. Therefore, last Friday I decided that I’d use the Pre-feudal Scots (the South Welsh really need a mounted opponent to be interesting, and currently the only ones are lowly Tabletop figures!). Given this choice the most appropriate opponent therefore seemed to be the Scots Isles and Highlands army, even though it didn’t follow the DBA list, but my adaptation of the DBM one:

6 x 4Bd (Islemen, 1 = cmd)
2 x 3Bw (Highland archers)
1 x 2Ps (Highland skirmishers)
1 x 5Wb (Highland rabble)
2 x 3Ax (Irish mercenaries)

The Irish were necessary, as the Galwegians were in the Scots army. The Islemen were also actually Vikings, as not enough of them have been painted, and one of them was an element of Thegns.

The Islemen, led by Fergus mac Dougal, are raiding somewhere along the West coast near Galloway in the early 11th century. They are met by the local Scots leader, Malcolm Canbeg, who has the support of nearby Galwegians, who are always keen on a scrap.

  • Deployment

They meet Malcolm along a road in an area of low hills with a small wood on their left flank. Malcolm has deployed with his skirmishers facing the woods, their spearmen in the centre and the Thegns and Galwegians on their left flank, flanked by Malcolm and his retinue and a troop of light horse.

Initial Deployment

Initial Deployment, Fergus on right, Malcolm on left

To meet this Fergus deploys his Irish to gain control of the wood, the Highland rabble next to them, then himself flanked by more Islemen, then the Highland archers to face the cavalry, and finally more Islemen supported by skirmishers to meet the cavalry and the warbands.

Malcolm decides to shift his cavalry to his right flank and move spearmen to face the archers.

  • Turn 1

With 2 PIPs Fergus chooses to advance the Irish and the right flank, hoping to move the archers towards the cavalry.

Situation at the end of the first turn

Situation at the end of the first turn

With 4 PIPs Malcolm advances the entire line 200 paces, and then spends the remaining PIPs getting his skirmishers into the woods.

  • Turn 2

Fergus has 4 PIPs and contests the woods with the Irish, advances the right flank and wheels the archers towards the cavalry. They lose the first fight against the skirmishers, but manage to win the second.

The situation at the end of the second turn

Situation at the end of the second turn

Malcolm uses 5 PIPs to advance his skirmishers to overlap one of the Irish, he then advances the cavalry, thinking perhaps to flank the Irish next turn. The rest of the troops continue to advance. The Irish run like a pack of cowards (they roll a 1 against a 6!). That was not expected, and suddenly Malcolm looks to be dominant on the left flank.

  • Turn 3

Fergus has 4 PIPs and retreats the Irish, advances on the right flank and splits the bow, sending one to support the right flank.

Situation at the end of the third turn

Situation at the end of the third turn

Malcolm decides that his LH are not suited to facing archers, retreating them and starting to send them to provide support on the opposite flank. He himself retires to line up with the line of spearmen.

  • Turn 4

With 4 PIPs Fergus hurries the right flank forward, hoping to make contact before the LH can arrive. He aligns the Irish with his own line and advances it too. The archers, having chased off the LH, try to catch up with the right flank. The archers lined up with the right flank fire ineffectually on the Thegns.

Situation at the end of the fourth turn

Situation at the end of the fourth turn

Malcolm continues to be energetic and has 5 PIPs. The LH complete their manoeuvre (3 PIPs), and the skirmishers advance to the edge of the woods (not too smart!). The Thegns are again shot at ineffectually.

  • Turn 5

With 4 PIPs Fergus takes on the skirmishers in the woods. The Irish and rabble advance to contact, and then the rabble use an extra move to close the door. The right flank advances to contact, fearing the LH flanking. The lone archer moves a little closer. His shooting on a spear unit was ineffectual (he probably was shooting illegally at the one providing overlap support on the other archers).

Situation at the end of the fifth turn

Situation at the end of the fifth turn

Then it got messy! The Islemen facing the Thegns go first. They are confident (6 v. 3), but the dice are against them (1 v. 6!), and they’re routed. Their plan, risky as it was, had hinged on this combat going well. The Galwegians recoil, as do the spearmen. Remarkably the archers survive; only recoiling (0+4 v. 4+1).

Malcolm used his 3 PIPs to advance his spear and Galwegians against the Islemen and flank them with the LH. He also advances his spear against the archers. The archer not in contact illegally shoot at the spear providing overlap support, forcing it to recoil (I missed that at the time!).

The spear and cavalry are too much for the Islemen, who are routed. However, the Islemen facing the Galwegians, despite being overlapped on both sides, forcedthem to recoil again (4+6 v. 4+3). The spearmen fail narrowly to destroy the archers (4+6 v. 2+4). Actually, had they still had their overlap as they should have, the game would have ended then.

  • Turn 6

Fergus doesn’t despair, and energetically tries to recover the situation with 4 PIPs. The surviving Islemen on the right flank retreat. The Irish and rabble tackle the last skirmisher (I’m not sure the Irish could sidle into contact; perhaps they should have closed the door and had the rabble, at best, as overlap support). Fergus himself tries to avoid his archers with a wheel of 100 paces and an advance. The archers, despite support, fail to disconcert the spear with their shooting, but it’s close (3+6 v. 4+5). The Irish avenge their comrades in a tough fight (3+6 v. 1+5).

Situation at the end of the seventh turn

Situation at the end of the sixth turn

Malcolm remains energetic and sends the Galwegians into another charge (2 PIPs) on the Islemen supported by the Thegns and the LH. They fail again (4+2 v. 4+4). The archers again shoot ineffectually at the spear.

  • Turn 7

Starting to lose momentum, Fergus has only two PIPs, which he uses to make contact with the enemy himself. He gets some overlap support from some archers. The spearmen, however, are resilient. Those overlapped by the archers recoil ((5+4 v. 3+2), narrowly avoiding breaking. Those facing Fergus are bolder, but are still forced back (6+4 v. 3+4), and Malcolm and the Islemen facing him poke at each other halfheartedly (3+1 v. 3+1!).

Situation at the end of the game

Situation at the end of the game

Malcolm, clearly distracted, issues almost no orders; with only one PIP he orders his spearmen back into contact. The overlappers are now overlapped, and the archers are mauled (4+6 v. 1+3), giving victory to the Scots. No longer overlapped Malcolm fights with more energy and forces his Islemen back (4+4 v. 3+3). Fergus’s other flank support, clearly unnerved by the destruction of the archers next to them, are also forced to recoil (4+3 v. 4+1). Fergus himself, overlapped on both sides, nevertheless fights his opponents to a standstill (4+3 v. 4+3).

  • Review

It’s hard to say how much of Fergus’s defeat was due to his bad deployment—the archers would have done better on the left flank, where they would have neutralized any attempted redeployment of the LH. His decision to try to get the archers across to meet the cavalry was probably worse, as it forced the gamble of attacking on the right flank before the centre could catch up. However, his luck was as big a factor; he was unlucky in the woods, and Malcolm was lucky to get his LH around to the other flank so fast. Also the collapse of Fergus’s right flank was caused by the Thegns remarkable victory. Perhaps they were expressing some sort of opinion about being earmarked to become Islemen! If so, they were emphatic about it.

Battle honours are owed to the Thegns (it’s not the first time they’ve done this, either!), and to the Islemen/Vikings who valiantly held off the repeated attacks of the Galwegians, even when flanked.

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4 Responses to “Pre-feudal Scots v. Scots Isles and Highland”

  1. Doug Says:

    Very nice report, DBA always plays really well with historical matchups i find. One thing i noted though is both lines are extended as far as possible, and no reserves? What happens when you get the unlucky 6-1 and your opponent punches a hole?

    • Mark Says:

      You’re right. I find historical match-ups much more interesting. That’s why I’ve concentrated on DBA armies from the same time period and region, and why I’m keen to run a campaign.

      It’s a difference I’ve noticed to some of the HOTT games I’ve played, where I’ve used ad-hoc armies of the figures I have available (i.e. finished painting) in order to try out the rules. These games lacked spark and were less memorable. I think that will change once I have some armies finished that have their own identity.

      Thanks for the tactical observation. It’s a regular weakness in my deployments. I’d probably have any reserve form up behind but in contact with the line of battle so as not to get left behind. The PFS could have used either of their mounted units as a reserve, as they have the speed to react. The SI&H army is slower, and any central reserve would struggle to react to anything on a wing. However, one of the Bd (probably the commander) could have been behind the line as a reserve, which would be an additional argument for having the archers on a flank.

  2. hrldplmr Says:

    Great report, Mark. I guess the PFS LH became a reserve once they chose discretion over attacking the bows? When you get more units painted do you think you will keep your bespoke lists? For instance the Irish Ax were handy, but what would have happened if the Islesmen had had all those Bd? The DBA list is a little one dimensional though.

    • Mark Says:

      Thanks. Yes, the LH did get to function as a reserve, but was fortunate with the PIPs to be so effective.

      As for the lists, I think I will stick with them once I paint more figures. Firstly, they’re based on the DBMM lists and are proportional to the numbers in those, and then for the SI&H army in particular, I think the weighting for Highland elements is very low. The provision for a psiloi is probably the most useful modification, along with the Bonnachts.


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