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Subject: Falkirk: The Cunning Plan of Hamish McManlo rss

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Falkirk: The Cunning Plan of Hamish McManlo

Scenario: 1298 King Edward I vs. William Wallace: Free set-up variant

After the massacre that was Falkirk, Hamish McDonald approached William Wallace and said…

“Aye, ya daft Bastard. Whot keend of Defense woz dat? Ya kant juist stand theyre an’ let dose Engleesh bows pik yer to deeth! Now leestin to me…”

And below I have the translated transcript of what Wallace should have done…

You see, what Hamish McManlo was getting at is that “Defence” without counter-attack is not Defence at all! It’s only Delay. You can briefly read about William Wallace’s terrible defence in the historical scenario here:
In the scenario book, it even states that if the English receive more than 10 flight points you should hide your head in shame.

Wallace’s defence of immobile schiltrons, unable to initiate combat or move, were just asking for a piercing by the English longbows. As soon as Wallace’s few longbows were killed or routed, the majority of force was target practice.

In the free set-up variant, Wallace, taking heed of the words from Hamish McManlo set up a bit differently, and almost won the day…


Scotland, 22 July 1298. King Edward I and his vanguard headed out to meet the Scottish pike head on at Falkirk, where a couple burns met at a “T” junction, with some swamp and impassable fen in the centre.

Wallace was caught out, with his axemen and the majority of his mounted and longbows still too far away to reinforce. Unable to flee (which would have seen his pikes slaughtered in the back by the English mounted and longbows, instead chose to set his forces up in 4 large schiltrons. This way his pikes could also witness their slaughter as now they could be shot in the front instead of the back!

Luckily for the Scots, Hamish McDonald stepped in and rearranged the Scottish pikes in huge west-to-east line, north of the burn. On either end, the extra pikes were facing west and east in two small lines, creating a shallow “U” shape. The 6 archer and 2 mounted units began in the centre of the “U” ready to reinforce whichever side of the fen needed them the most.

And so, the battle begins…

LB = Longbows
MM = Mounted Men at Arms
Dis = Disordered
Elim = Eliminated

Bek = The forces of the Bishop of Durham

Scottish forces were under the command of Wallace (pikes), James (MM) and Stewart (LB). All other Leaders were on the English side.

The English only begin with a bit less than half of their forces on the map. The rest come in as reinforcements when their leader is activated.

The way activation works, is that you can attempt to seize activation from your opponent. If you fail they get a free activation. Otherwise, they need to roll for continuity, if they fail you get a free activation. This actually becomes a strategic element, as you need to decide when it’s worth risking a failed seizure, versus allowing the opponent to attempt continuity.

The Battle

Battle report will be given in the format of Leader Activated - followed by the general troop movement

Bek (English) – Began advancing his LB reinforcements in the battlefield while his MM fell back away from the burn.

Lacy (English, continuity) – LB moved up to the glen

Bek (English, continuity) – Began to bring on Pike reinforcements

Wallace (Scots, Seize) – Line of pikes advance to the burn on either side of the Fen. Wallace positions himself in the centre, within range of both the west and east wings so all pike are within command range.

James (Scots) fails continuity

Bek – Finished bringing on reinforcements. Pikes are at the rear. First LBs advance to near the river and begin plucking away at the Scottish pikes (to no effect)

Wallace (Seize) – East flank charges Bek’s archers and West flank charges Lacey’s LB. They got a bit cut down and received 6 Dis and only inflicting 1 Dis on a Lacey LB.

Stewart (continuity) – moving the LB east to aid on the left flank versus Bek. Opening volleys force one of Bek’s pikes to Dis and retreat

Edward fails seizure

Stewart – Arrow volleys exchanged with Bek’s LB

Bek fails seizure

Stewart – Arrow volleys eliminate one of Bek’s LB

Wallace (continuity – Pikes advance on Lacy in the west. 1 Lacey LB eliminated as it couldn’t retreat (Pike column behind it), 1 Wallace pike elim attacking Lacey MM (couldn’t retreat)

Stewart – LB’s versus Bek’s LB. 1 Bek LB elim, another retired. Flight Points Eng:Scot 6:2 FP

Lacey fails seizure

Stewart – Eliminate 1 Bek Pike 8:2 FP and Stewart’s LB charge across the burn as Bek’s forces are being melted away.

Bek (Seizure) - Finally!!! The first English activation after 7 consecutive Scottish activations! A Bek pike unit elim Scottish pike, continued attack and eliminated one of the Scottish LB. This unit advanced all the way across the burn doing so, and was isolated from it’s fellows. 8:6 FP

Wallace fails seizure

Bek – Continuing the attack, 4 pikes charge 4 of Stewart’s LB (also the hero pike from last activation also shock’s a neighbouring LB). In the ensuing shock combat 3 LB Dis and 2 were eliminated (retired). English are now ahead 8:10 FP and the Scots are down to 3 LBs.

Edward I (Continuity) – Began bringing in his LB reinforcements.

Wallace (seizure) – Pikes smash into Lacey, 1 LB elim 10:10 FP although a second Pike was eliminated against Lacey’s MM 10:12 FP. In the east Wallace’s pikes forced Bek’s hero pike to retreat, but their command chain was broken and no further combats could be initiated.

Bek fails seizure

Wallace – As above, the east was ineffective, but in the west the pikes charged the broken Lacey line. Lacey’s standard was captured and they managed to surround Lacey and his two MM. Both MM were Dis and his LB was elim. 12:12 FP

Stewart fails continuity

Middle of the Action Snapshot of the English position: The tension is mounting!

Lacey was in dire trouble. 3 LB were elim, he and his MM were surrounded. His pike column were still advancing, but were in the position to provide some relief.

Bek lost half his archers, but his pike had created a line near the Scots and threatening Stewart’s remaining archers.

Edward’s troops were quickly advancing and soon would be able to provide support for Bek and would soon be able to swamp the Scots.

The English decided that instead of trying to relieve Lacey, or use Edward forces to shore up the eastern defense, they would go for the immediate gratification of removing the remaining Scotish LBs if they could…

Bek – Shock attack the Scots and getting the desired result. 3 LB elim and 1 of Wallaces pikes retired (eliminated). 12:20 FP and the Scot’s archers were all gone.

Lacey fails continuityIt was a calculated risk. Would the Scots be able to do too much damage to Lacey’s MM and pike column…

Wallace – Pikes vs Bek’s pike. Bek’s forces were mostly already Dis from advancing and shocking Stewart’s archers. They fell from Wallace’s counterattack like flies and 4 of Bek’s pikes were retired (regrouping at Bek’s standard). In the west, Lacey and both his MM were eliminated! 8 FPs! but one of Wallace’s pikes was eliminated (no retreat path). Score was now 20:22 FP and almost even

James fails continuity

King Edward I – decides it’s time to finish the battle. He ordered his MM to charge into the Scottish pikes and caught them flat footed. 1 Wallace pike was elim and another dis. Also the ‘chain of command’ was once again broken, putting the easternmost pikes out of command and unable to instigate combat. 20:24 FP

Bek fails continuity

Wallace – While his eastern forces try to regroup and get back within command range his western forces eliminate Lacey’s LB 22:24 FP and began to shock attack Surrey’s MM. They exchanged shock with Lacey’s pikes but no one was eliminated, although a breakthrough was near!

James fails continuity – James two MM were still out of action, halfway to the eastern burn.

Edward – Again, showing why he is King brought up his LB and eliminated two of Wallace’s disordered pikes. 22-28 FP. Sensing that Wallace’s forces were on the verge of routing he charged his MM into Wallace’s pikes breaking the line once again and disordering 4 units.

Wallace (seizes command) – In the east it was damage control and in the west it was Do or Die. Wallace knew he had to deliver some serious damage to his English otherwise his army would soon rout. Surrey’s MM were surrounded and Lacey’s pikes were hit in the front and left flank. Both Surrey MM were killed, but Wallace lost another pike unit against Lacey’s pikes. 28:30

James (continuity) – Finally on the move, James began moving his horse to the aid versus Edward in the east.

Edward (Seize command from Wallace) – The pikes that Edward’s MM disordered were finished off with a series of volleys by Edwards Longbows. Four of Wallace’s units met the grave. 28:38 Wallace’s forces were well and truly past their flight level, and the next flight check would see Wallace’s remaining forces rout.

Wallace (seize) – His pikes (western) flooded Lacey’s but in the ensuing shock combat only a few disorders were doled out.

James (continuity) The English, knowing they had won, had only to wait until a seizure or continuity failed. There was more chance of James failing so they sat back and allowed the Scots to continue (they really had nothing to lose by attempting seizure, so this was a bit of an error) – James moved his MM to the east.

Wallace (continuity) – Finally, after many shocks, Lacey’s pikes fell away and three were eliminated 34:38 FP. But this was the end…

James fails continuity – Flight checks were about to be taken after next activation.

Bek – Activated his standard to rally his retired pikes and regroup them.

Flight Levels were checked and the Scots routed from the battlefield! The English had won, but took severe casualties.

The Flight Point Chart and Mapboard at game’s end


This variant was very exciting. The Scots probably would have had little chance, except for some good luck in the early stages with a series of commands allowed them to put severe pressure on the English, forcing them into a press east or recover west situation. This resulted in a battle that the Scots almost managed to win (well, at least they came close!)

Wallace totally abandoned his historical immobile schiltron defence and made a good go at it. Much better than historically what happened. The inability of the schiltron to counterattack when advantage rears its’ opportunistic head is what spoiled the day for Wallace (historically). With sufficient archers, axemen and mounted units, the schiltron effectiveness is greatly increased, as we will discover together when in the future we move to Bannockburn.


Still favouring the English, the free set-up variant makes the Falkirk scenario much enjoyable and a lot less predictable.
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