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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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Kidnapping the Queen, Cowdenbeath, 1567

Mary Queen of Scot’s Wars, The Pikeman’s Lament, 28mm

This week the wargame club wasn’t open, as we’d been bumped by another worthy group. Instead, I played a game at home over the weekend – a skirmish set in the age of Mary Queen of Scots. In The Pikeman’s Lament, one of the scenarios is the rescue of a hostage. So, that became the basis of our game – the rescue of Mary, Queen of Scots by her supporters. In this game, played out on my 6×3 foot dining table, my pal David played the Lords of the Congregation, while I led the Queen’s loyal supporters. The premise was simple. In June 567 the rebel Lords of the Congregation captured Mary at Carberry Hill, then held her captive in Leven Castle in Fife, while they encouraged her to abdicate in favour of her infant son James. In our fictional game, the Earl of Morton’s escorts, taking the queen to Leven, were ambushed as they passed through the small Fife town of Cowdenbeath. The rescuers were led by the Earl of Rothes. In this little “grand skirmish” game”, both sides had 24 points of toys. The defenders – the Earl of Morton’s escort – only had half their 24 point force on the table, all passing through Cowdenbeath, with the captive Mary in their midst. The escort was made up of two 12 figure Levy Pike units,  and a unit of 6 of Morton’s dismounted retainers. The rest (two units of 6 Border Horse and a unit of 12 Mercenary Shot) would come on along the western table edge on Turn 2. The attackers, led by the Earl of Rothes had all 24 points on the table; two units of 6 Border Horse, two units of 12 Highland clansmen, a unit of 12 Mercenary Shot, a unit of 12 Royal Archers, and a Commanded Shot unit of 6 Highland bowmen. They all deployed along the eastern table edge at the start of the game, and were the first side to move. The attackers closed in rapidly, with their two horse units trying to seal off the north and south edges of the town, while the highlanders charged straight for the enemy, supported by arquebusiers and archers. The defenders couldn’t do much, apart from turn to face their assailants, while Morton’s attempt to spirit the Queen away to the west were thwarted by a poor activation roll. On the south side of the town the pikemen repulsed a charge by the border horse, while to the north the other horsemen reached thee road, but left the attack to a unit of  highlanders, supported by the small unit of highland archers.  In the centre the other unit of highlanders bested Morton’s retainers, and drove them back into the churchyard. The highlanders pursued, leaving Rothes to greet the queen, and offer her his protection. That done, the next task was to lead her to safety off the eastern table edge. Meanwhile in the north of the village the pikemen repulsed the highlanders, who promptly regrouped and charged in again. This time the pikemen were also assailed by Royalist arquebusiers, and were driven back into the churchyard. The highlanders attacked them again, fighting over the church wall to drive the defenders back. In the end the pikemen retreated, having reached half strength. they spent the rest of the game lurking just beyond the churchyard, unable to do anything else but rally. At that point the Rebel reinforcements intervened, and to the north of the village one of their units of Border Horse charged their Royalist counterparts. The Royalists took one more casualty and were driven back. The Rebel horsemen though, then came under fire from arquebusiers lining a stone wall, and were driven back in their turn. Over on the south side of the town the other unit of Royalist Border Horse had given up on charging pikemen, and resorted to skirmishing – standing off and firing their pistols at half-effect. The pikemen there were suffering from archery fire, but help was on its way. With his retainers wiped out, the Earl of Morton attached himself to his remaining unit of Border Horse, and trotted around the southern side of the town to threaten the archers. By then the highlanders had returned from seeing off Morton’s retainers, and formed a guard around the queen, who – after two failed activation rolls by the clansmen, was led off down the Lochgelly road leading off the eastern table edge. The rescue was working!Still, the Rebels still had a chance to reclaim the royal prize. Their arquebusiers occupied the churchyard, and protected by a stone wall they started shooting up the Royal archers. By then though, Rothes had given the order to withdraw, covering the Queen as they went. The archers pulled back, screening the Queen with her escort of highlanders, while the rest of the force also pulled back. That eased pressure on the remaining unit of rebel pikes, who reformed, and threatened to attack the archers. So too did the Border Horse led by Morton, who was now pressing forward to the south-east of the town. By then though, it was too late – the queen had finally reached the eastern table edge, and was led off towards Lochgelly. That meant the game ended in a victory for the attackers. The situation though, was still a little shaky for both sides. the remaining Highland unit had been weakened, as had the archers and both units of Border Horse. Still, it was enough – the Rebels had also suffered, and apart from their cavalry they lacked the strength to pursue. It was a fun little game, played out in just around two hours. My opponent, an infrequent gamer enjoyed the experience. It helped though, that this is a pretty colourful little “grand skirmish” period, and the rules really lend themselves to this sort of  game. 






4 Responses “Kidnapping the Queen, Cowdenbeath, 1567”

  1. Joseph
    19th September 2022 at 7:21 pm

    Looks and sounds like a fun set to affair. I love that rules set also, one of our local groups most played.
    Also good to see the Queen rescued!

    • 19th September 2022 at 10:57 pm

      Indeed Joseph – they’re fun, like the other games from the same stable. My next mission is to find a suitably dour Calvinist minister – a John Knox type of figure, for future games like this…

  2. peter holland
    20th September 2022 at 12:18 pm

    A fine spectacle and write up

    • 20th September 2022 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks Peter!

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