Thursday, 8 November 2012

Muskets and Lochabers, 1745

I've been steadily working through my backlog of models and terrain over the last few weeks, and I'm not buying any more models until the New Year sales. To get around this, and to celebrate the successful conclusion of my first month in the new job, I bought Studio Tomahawk's Muskets and Tomahawks – and very nice it is too. Of course, having played it at the White Hart a few months ago, I already knew that.

Not having any French or Indians to fight the French & Indian Wars with, I decided to trial the rules with my Rising of '45 models. I totted up the points for the English and the Jacobites, rolled to determine the scenario and side-plots, and set to - the English outnumbered 3:4. For those with a copy of the rulebook, Castagne's side-plot was Madness, and MacDonail and McCruil had Emotive and Truce respectively. In a lovely bit of narrative irony, Frost and Dunmore rolled Friendship and A Hateful Heart.

Angered by his perceived humiliation at the hands of the gallant Captain Campbell at Caleduin, Castagne has decided to burn this hamlet to the ground himself. The rage that has burnt in him since Lochlann's Tower is starting to take its mental toll, so his underlings watch him very carefully. Sergeant Frost is particularly paranoid of his superior's attentions due to the admiration he harbours towards the tough old laird they hunt. In grim difference, Lieutenant Dunmore of the independent companies is simply determined to prove his loyalty to King George in the blood of his fellow Scots.

Recovered from his sickbed, the Laird MacDonail has risen to avenge his firstborn's death at Caleduin. Now irrevocably allied to Father McCruil's cause, he looks to kill the fat king's slaves, though he is loathe to bleed his clan any further. Little does he know that Father McCruil has received secret orders from King James to trick the English into thinking that the Westermen are loathe to fight...

The Game
Opening positions.

As the action opened, Father McCruil ordered the highlanders on the Jacobite right forward through the woods. They moved quickly between the trees, planning to take up firing positions in the treeline. Only after the lowlanders under the Laird's direct control swept into the fallow fields did the Royalist infantry notice the enemy's advance.

Mindful of their comrades' example at Caleduin, the independent companies on the Hanoverian left moved forward through the cornfields. The King's Own Royal Borderers, wary in Castagne's presence, marched through the muddy fields, eyeing up the lowland militia opposing them. As the highlanders edged on toward the hamlet, crowding the edges of the woodland, the central group of company men seized the closest building and set about smashing out windows and wattle for firing ports.
A card into Turn Two.

Unwilling to waste his men's powder at long range for the chancy virtues of firing first, Castagne whipped his men on towards the increasingly uncertain-looking lowlanders. Luckily for the Borderers, their advance to the hedges was unimpeded by treacherous fire, and their first volley tore a bloody hole in the enemy centre. One flank fell back and the other fled back toward the hedge they had just merrily climbed.
The KORB's fire pushes back the survivors.

Realising that they could do no good from inside the house, the independents set the place ablaze and fell back. On the other flank, the bloodthirsty Dunmore led a second group of his men in a gallant charge against the closest highlanders. Though Dunmore's adversary thwarted his charge, his men did sterling service and pushed the enemy back for a small loss.
Dunmore takes the woods' edge...
But the highlanders push back!

Dunmore's men resisted the first rush, but numbers began to tell. In a steel flash, Dunmore was alone among the trees. With a quick one-two he was past his opponent's defence, the long-haired rebel dead at his feet, but as he crowed another man stepped up with his pistol and fired a crooked ball through his eye, leaving him slumped over his success like a bloody doll.

Furious at the cruel vandalism shown by the independent companies, the rest of McCruil's highlanders were flooding around the burning building to exact revenge. This show of Scottish spirit seemed to rally the Laird's men, and though the initial effect of their fire was negligible, the number of balls flying began to tell on the Borderers they faced.

It was as well they did not see the rest; dragged into open ground by their rage, the leading highlanders found themselves in a deadly crossfire between the fields and the house burners, losing half their number in one swift volley. The second cast the survivors down like scarecrows in the storm.

The next group launched themselves over their comrades' corpses, hacking at the independents with that passion reserved wholly for traitors and home-burners. But fury is no aid when skill is needed, and the independents held, starting a swirling melee beneath the roaring flames.
Scotsman versus Scotsman.

Not only did the independents hold, but they avenged themselves wholly of Lieutenant Dunmore's death, cutting down all but the weakest highlander, who fled in terror before death's reach.
Start of turn three.

A small party of independent company men began stalking the woods for any trace of surviving enemy, and Father McCruil fled before them. The rest rushed to burn the second house, leaving their muskets unloaded in their haste.

On the other side of the hedges, the Borderers maintained the upper hand, delivering relentless volleys that smashed Scotsmen and Scots discipline apart like so many glass baubles. Despairing of this exchange of fire, the Laird's men charged the hedges, hoping to sell their lives more dearly than those who now lay broken on the farrowed earth.

The men in grey leapt onto the Borderers, fighting like men possessed. Though outnumbered, they fought on grimly, until their dead and the Borderers' surrounded a single redclad survivor. Their fellows in tan caused fewer casualties, but managed to drive the redcoats away from the hedgeline with their eerie highland chants. Once over, they fired a single hurried volley and charged again, but this time their bravery ended more ignominiously.

Only Father McCruil and the old Laird now remained hale in King James' service, and as the second homestead went up in flames they beat hasty and separate retreats to consider what their next moves against the German pretender should be.

Butcher's Bill
Jacobite: 24 Highlanders, 16 Lowland Infantry
Hanoverians: 12 Borderers, 6 Independent Company men, Lieutenant Dunmore

Victory Conditions
Hanoverian: Destroy all buildings      Success
Lt. Dunmore: Kill 6 enemy/3 in melee Failure
Sgt. Frost: MacDonail survives           Success
Cpt. Castagne: Keep on living crazy   Success

Jacobite: Kill 2/3rds of the enemy       Success
MacDonail: Don't play the Morale card Failure
McCruil: Enemy shoots/melees first   Success

Overall Victory: DRAW!!!

That was tremendous fun, and shows you really can get an inspirational bit of skirmish on a 2x2. Dunmore's desperate failure in his sideplot – the eight rounds of combat fought in a single determined turn by the greycoats – the village being burnt by the Scots in the Hanoverian contingent... The whole game seemed very evocative of the period.

Apart from Dunmore, none of the officers really got involved, due to their only having activation each turn... unless I misread? I let Dunmore move because he was part of a unit, but I tried to keep Frost and Castagne back a bit, and boy did that teach me to be careful what I wished for! The same thing happened with McCruil and the Laird, though I'm glad the old fox survived.
EDIT: I now know I did misread, so thanks to all those who told me so.

Man of the Match goes to the lone greyclad lowlander who fought half the above fight himself, and personally killed three of the seven casualties his unit caused!

N.B. At the time of the '45, the lochaber had been relegated to the constabulary, and was considered the police baton of the day. Thank goodness things have calmed down a bit since then!


  1. I like how you write your battle reports, like a short story. Very nice!

  2. To your comments, Officers activate on the card for their type plus on the forward boys card. So, they should have more activations than other units. Hope this helps.

    1. It does, thanks. I'll make sure to bear that in mind next time.