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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Culloden Wargames and Modelling Fair – The Battle of Falkirk Muir

Doug and John and myself made the trip up to Culloden last weekend.  We actually went up on the Friday and stayed in Inverness.  A meal and a couple of drinks helped the evening pass very pleasantly and (after a good breakfast at the local Morrisons) we got to the visitor centre at 9am in time to set up.  We put on the Battle of Falkirk Muir, 17th January 1746, which was appropriate to both the setting and our club (Falkirk and District)

Doug provided all of the figures and had done the prep work to make the recreation look professional to the public with a write up on the battle, providing unit and place names in an appropriate font, and some of the terrain.  John also provided terrain including the cloths which worked well draped over some of the club’s terrain squares.  Between them they had worked out some tweaks to the Maurice rules to better reflect the nature of the warfare (highland charges and the like) and the conditions under which it the battle was fought.  I also had made a few suggestions, all intended to make the refight work both as a faithful recreation of the battle and as a decent game to play as well.

Following the decision to retreat back to Scotland from Derby the previous month the Jacobites were besieging Stirling Castle.  A relief force of government troops under general Hawley advanced from Edinburgh via Linlithgow to raise the siege.  Having expected to face battle on the 15th near Bannockburn the Jacobites decided to force the issue and advanced towards the English camp.  Hawley did not take earlier reports of the Jacobites movements seriously and it was mid-afternoon before he started to mobilise his forces.  His artillery, which was made up of pieces from Edinburgh Castle on improvised carriages, got stuck in the mud and played no part in the battle.  Numbers were about 8000 on the Jacobite side (rather more than at Culloden) and 7000 on the government side.

Both sides considered the occupation of the high ground on the Moor to be key.  Hawley ordered forward his Dragoons in the belief that the opposing Highlanders would not stand against cavalry.  This proved to be a mistake as they kept advancing towards the cavalry who were forced to charge or be hit at the halt.  A devastating volley pretty much stopped them in their tracks and the Highlanders then charged home and quickly broke them.

Battle was joined at 4pm on a dismal Scottish January afternoon with a rainstorm (which turned to sleet) battering in the faces of the government troops.  Seeing the Dragoons flee the foot regiments behind ran without a fight and soon most of the government centre turned and fled as well.    However the right wing, which had some protection from a ravine to its front, stood its ground and fired several very effective volleys into the Highlanders.  A number of the routing troops, including some of the Dragoons, rallied and a good portion of the government army made a measured retreat from the battlefield.  Such was the confusion in the sleet and darkness that the Jacobites only realised they had won the following day and no attempt was made to follow up the victory allowing the government forces to regroup at Edinburgh under the newly arrived Duke of Cumberland.

The above tells the story of the actual battle but could also serve pretty much as a description of the wargame.  I took the government side and John the Jacobites.  We started with the fight between the Dragoons and the Highlanders to keep the historical context – no sane wargamer would have voluntarily committed his forces in that way.   It was set up so that better than average dice from John could have broken the cavalry which, under Maurice, would have led to their instant removal.   However instead they withdrew in some disorder followed up by their foes.  This meant that in order not to lose the Dragoons, which would have had a detrimental effect on army morale, I had concentrate in the early part of the battle on withdrawing them to the rear rather than reorganising my infantry to meet the new threat.

The Jacobite right kept storming forward and my centre also gave way but not without putting up a stiff fight.  My right wing then got into the battle (2 of its units being rated trained whilst the rest were conscripts on the day to reflect their actual performance) and started to redress the balance.

The army morale system allocates each side a morale value at the start of the game.  Mine was 12 to John’s 10.  Each time a unit is lost this is reduced by 1, 2 or 3 depending on a die roll.  Suffice it to say that John’s army could have broken on a bad roll when either of his last two units broke and we were both on 1 on army morale when my army was finally defeated.

Overall a very close run thing which succeeded in being both a close representation of the actual battle and an excellent game to play.  We had a fait bit of interest from members of the public who were complimentary about our efforts.

The event itself was quite small.  A nice looking 28mm Prestonpans was the pick of the other 5 games on offer.  In the afternoon John and Doug entertained a couple of young lads and ran through the battle again with them resulting in a much more emphatic Jacobite victory.  I played a game of Wings of Glory and chatted to one or two of the other people there.

We had pretty much finished by soon after 3 when the organiser offered to let us have a free viewing of the exhibition.  It is very well one.  The highlights for me are a room with screens on all four walls depicting the battle, which was very atmospheric, and a large ground level computer based reconstruction of the movement of the troops on the day with an excellent voice over.  Battlefield tours are available but although it was certainly worth seeing it was a little pricey at £10.50 a head or £25 for a family I thought.

Fortunately the weather was good on both the Friday and Saturday making the drive a pleasant one in both directions – thanks to Doug for providing the transport.

The event will probably be held again next year and we may well be back with another Jacobite Rebellion themed offering.

The Jacobite Army
The Government Foot
The Artillery gets bogged down
The Dragoons take the high ground
View from the government lines
The 28mm Prestonpans Game


  1. Sounds like a good outing, I would like to see the new museum sometime as I haven't been up there since before they cleared the trees.

  2. Like the set up what rules did you use and where did you get the card holders.

    1. The rules were Maurice with some minor adjustments to reflect the fighting abilities of the Highlanders. The card holders were not mine.