The Age of Mary Stuart, The Pikeman’s Lament, 28mm
The club always holds its AGM on the last Thursday of November, which usually means the evening is wasted. Well, it’s wasted in terms of gaming, but not if you like the interminable reading out of budgets, minutes, health & safety regulations and other such stuff. Don’t get me wrong – I suppose we need a committee – I just wish they’d get on with it, and not let it get in the way of gaming!So, as I knew we would only have an hour or two of gaming time after all this, I decided to lay on a very small, quick game, using lead that hadn’t taken the field before. So, this week we’re off to the Anglo-Scottish Borders in the late 16th century, for our first-ever game in the period, and also our first time using these rules, a 17th century skirmish set from the same stable as Lion Rampant, and published by Osprey.I based the game around a raid on the Scottish border town of Jedburgh in 1572. That February, the town’s provost (mayor) humiliated a messenger from the exiled Mary, Queen of Scots. Instead they declared themselves loyal to the Protestant child heir, Prince James. This proved too much for a local reiver and Catholic, Sir Thomas Kerr of Ferniehurst, who gathered a posse and set off to teach the townspeople a lesson in manners. The provost got wind of the raid, and called out the town militia. He was also helped by Sir Thomas’ cousin Sir Robert Kerr of Cessford, who, as luck would have it, was a Protestant, and no friend of his relative. That’s him below, without a hat. The game was played out on a 4×4 foot table. Five units of Kerr of Ferniehurst’s Border Reivers (classed as trotter cavalry, each of 6 figures) lined up on one table edge, and Provost Richard Rutherford’s foot on the other – three 12 figure units – one each of pikes, bills and shot. Riding on behind them from the friendly (northern) table edge were reinforcements for the Jedburgh militia – Sir Robert with two units of Border Reivers( 2 x 6 “trotters”). We used the rules as they were written, but gave the reivers a “Counter-Charge” ability, and made each of the three contingent leaders a maned officer. Actually there was a forth – Sir Thomas had a sidekick – Walter Scott of Buccleuch – a forebear of the great novelist . So, effectively, every player had an officer figure on the table.The game began with Peter’s Jedburgh militia forming up on the heath to the south of the town, while Ferniehurst (played by Bart) and Buccleuch (Campbell) rode north towards the waiting line of foot. Actually, only Bart headed towards the militia – Campbell tried to be sneaky, and angled left, trying to ride around them. He soon found his way barred by my contingent – the reivers of Cessford. We soon squared up for a cavalry clash, while Bart’s reivers took on the Jedburgh militia. These four markers by the way – the ones that look like little concrete blocks with wires in them – are clip stands, holding cards with each major character’s names on them. Bart soon learned to be wary of the Jedburgh town arquebusiers. The boys from the local shooting club emptied several saddles, forcing Bart’s first assault to pull back. The exception was on Bart’s right, where one unit of reivers smashed into the Jedburgh pikes. It was touch and go, but eventually the riders were forced to retire, ending the first Ferniehurst assault. At that point Bart rolled a “Double 1”, and then another “1”, which meant he lost a unit – presumably riding off in search of easier pickings.Over on my side of the table we soon worked out that by giving our cavalry both a caracole” ability and a “counter-attack” one we’d made them all a little too powerful. So, if you charged then you were counter-charged, and as we’d used “Trotter cavalry” statistics they were hard to beat defensively. So, after a few turns of this, both Campbell and I set down to firing our pistols at each other, using the “caraole” ability. To cheer me up though, I rolled a “Double 6” and then a “6” – the mirror image of Bart’s result – and gained a unit of extra reivers. That meant that if things continued Campbell would eventually be out-shot.Meanwhile, back in the centre, Bart rallied his horsemen, but was kept at bay by long-range arquebus fire. Peter hived off his militia billmen to hit a unit of reivers – to no effect – while his pikemen advanced slowly, keeping their tight formation, in an attempt to support the arquebusiers, and to drive Ferniehurst’s reivers from the field. By now we’d been playing for 70 minutes, and were reaching the end game. it was clear that both Bart and Campbell’s cavalry were getting the worst of the exchange, and their pile of casualties were rising. Luckily for them Bart got another unit of reinforcements thanks to another lucky die roll, and his cavalry had a second lease of life. He spotted Provost Rutherford standing among the arquebusiers, directing their fire. So, he launched an all-or-nothing charge across the table, hoping to cut his way through to the Jedburgh’s civic leader. Instead he got halted by a volley of arquebus fire – Peter had won his own lucky break – an extra “First Fire” capability – and he used it to good effect. Kerr of Ferniehurst was duly shot from his saddle, and his horsemen rode off, the body of their badly-wounded leader draped over a saddle. The Provost had saved the day!That just left Ferniehurst’s ally, Walter Scott of Buccleuch. Campbell tried everything – charging, counter-charging, caracoling and just plain old shooting, but nothing seemed to work. Still, he’d really whittled down Kerr of Cessford’s riders, forcing one unit to break and another to waver. By now though, he was assailed on two sides – from the my remaining horsemen to the front and Peter’s billmen to the side. It was at that point, when the attackers’ morale finally gave way, that we decided to end the game.Officially it was a pretty clear win for the defenders of Jedburgh. A combination of Peter’s stalwart militiamen and my more flighty reivers had seen off the threat, and the attackers had lost more than half their force. It was a great little game, and could have gone very differently. While Peter moaned about the lack of rules covering attacks in the flank, it was, after all a skirmish set, so this was irrelevant. What was a big hit though, was the way the rules were easy to pick up – you could play them using a playsheet and a card with your units’ stats – and the way it was fun to play, even when you were getting beaten. So, Peter’s moan aside, The Pikeman’s Lament was a big hit, and proved the ideal rules set for an evening where club business impinged on the gaming time. We’ll certainly play them again soon, – in fact I can see them becoming something of a club staple in 2018.