Author Topic: Harlaw-ish  (Read 484 times)

Erpingham

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Harlaw-ish
« on: January 03, 2021, 05:23:24 PM »
After my quick rule refresher reported in the Last Game topic, I was inspired to run a full small scale game based on Harlaw.

The rules were my own (as yet untitled but familiar from earlier posts as the Dux Bellorum derived set), using the condensed scale (single element units, 60mm frontage).  Fought on my special condensed scale board 3ftx2ft (Ok, it's an old office noticeboard).

Layout was simple, with the only terrain a line of hills along the Isles baseline (see attached photo)

The forces were
Isles
Donald of Islay & household
Hector maclean & household
8x clansmen
2xarchers (skirmishers)

Lowlands
Earl of Mar & household
Scrymgeor & household
1xMMAA
5xspearmen
2xarchers (skirmishers)

All Isles forces were fierce, the lowland spearmen were deep

Looking at the drone shot, we see the Isles forces on the left.  Donald is at the top of the picture, Hector at the bottom.  The lowlanders are concentrated against the Isles centre and left.  Scrymgeor faces Donald, Mar is in the centre.  Mar is relying on his cavalry to delay Maclean's force long enough for himself and Scrymgeor to take out the rest.

The lowland forces marched gallantly forward, the Islesmen held position, intending to launch a downhill charge.  This plan worked on their left but , in the centre, the clansmen failed to control themselves and charged too early, hitting Mar's division on the flat (a costly error).  With the centres engaged, Maclean's men intended to sweep down into Mar's flank.  However, a spoiling attack by the lowland horse tied up Mar and one of his units, a third ploughed into a unit of archers and the fourth couldn't get a flank angle and went into the front of Mar's leftmost spear schiltron without the advantage of slope. 

The fighting in the centre proved brutal - without any elite troops, the clansmen were outmatched by Mar and faired badly against the schiltrons.  On the Isles left, Donald's charge carved into Scrymgeor's men, forcing them back.  Scrymgeor survived five blows in this fight.  One schiltron was stalemated in an attritional fight (3 rounds of drawn combat) but the other schiltron drove the flanking clansmen back up over the hill till they broke.  It was a similar story in the centre, as first one then all four Isles units gave way, sweeping away their hapless archers, who had tried, and failed, to get in a charge against one of the pursuing schiltrons (skirmishers need to pass a contact test to enter close combat).  The Isles forces had now lost half of their units "of account" (skirmishers don't count - they were all out of play by this stage anyway).  The Isles forces were now reduced to taking a morale test each move. 

What though of Hector Maclean?  One of his clan units had been lost tangled up in the centre but he still had three.He overwhelmed the cavalry who were very unlucky.  Normally, they would have been able to break off a losing melee (this was Mar's plan - hit and run to keep Maclean occupied) but, when the time came, a pursuing unit of clansmen was directly behind them preventing their move.  Maclean had eliminated the opposition just at the point where one of his units decided that things didn't look good and fled.

Donald was still fighting but with a final effort, Scrymgeor turned the tide.  Donald was struck down, his death weakening the clan unit at his side so that they were overwhelmed in the next round.  Yet still the battle raged (the Isles forces were now at 70% losses, with defeat at 75%).  There was one last drama, as Donald's household men fought on and finally broke Scrymgeor's men.  Scrymgeor would be found mortally wounded on the field.  But there was no more hope.  Hector Maclean now stood only with his household and he reluctantly fled.  Mar was the victor.  Aberdeen was saved.

The brutal statistics of the battle were a lot less even than the telling (taken clearly from later clan histories).  The Isle's forces lost 8 elements of clansmen, their archers and their commander.  The lowlanders lost a unit of MAA, another of cavalry, their archers and their second in command.  Only three units (Maclean and two of his clan units) took no damage.  Later , there would be suggestions of treachery and cowardice, leading to several centuries of clan feuding.

Overall, the rules worked nicely.  The clarified uncontrolled advance rules worked OK.  I think there were a couple of times when a morale bonus should have been applied and was missed on Islay's flank but otherwise I don't think I forgot the rules this time.




  • Anthony Clipsom

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Re: Harlaw-ish
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2021, 07:13:07 PM »
nice write up Anthony. I have started painting up my Scots and Irish 10mm to supplement my Post Roman project....gets me itching to try them out along the same lines
  • Dave Hollin

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Re: Harlaw-ish
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2021, 09:03:50 AM »
Yes - good report. I enjoyed reading that over my first morning coffee.
  • David Kay
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Re: Harlaw-ish
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2021, 05:58:12 PM »
I enjoyed that, thank you.
  • Stephen Brennan

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Re: Harlaw-ish
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2021, 02:15:44 PM »
Interesting - I will try and give it a go sometime

Erpingham

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Re: Harlaw-ish
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2021, 03:18:47 PM »
Interesting - I will try and give it a go sometime

The thing about Harlaw is it is a great setting - two essentially dissimilar armies, a clear tactical offensive/defensive set up.  The big downside (and the reason why this is Harlaw influenced rather than a refight) is we know almost nothing about it as a battle.  Nearly all the details in modern accounts are taken from much later histories.   

My key starting points were:
*The Isles forces should outnumber the lowlanders - the ideal force balance will vary according to rules
*Contrast the two sides - my Isles force is a stereotypical one of fierce tribal types and the lowlanders are stock lowland types.
*Give the lowlanders a cavalry option - some versions of Harlaw talk of a cavalry charge - but Scottish MAA were often on foot in pitched battles
*No significant missile strength - the Isle's side almost certainly had a fair few archers but they were more bow armed warriors so how to handle that?
  • Anthony Clipsom

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Re: Harlaw-ish
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2021, 03:55:37 PM »
Test of Resolve might work quite well but we are still very much in Warsof the Roses action aat the moment