Saturday, October 14, 2017

Taking Meg (or Pike me, baby, one more time)

We played our second game of The Pikeman's Lament this Saturday at The Panzer Depot in Kirkland, WA. We'd been pretty much on haitus through the summer, but now that Fall is here, there's more time to play.

The forces

We had four players on a 6' x 8' table. Mike Lombardy and I were on one side, Troy Wold and a new player named Ralph (or Malcolm depending on when you asked Troy) were on the other. The forces were two 24-point companies per side.

Mike Lombardy had his atomic Poles:
2 x Elite Aggressive Gallopers (wingéd hussars)
3 x Aggressive Gallopers (pancerni)

I had my 16th c. Irish in their first game:
1 x Elite Forlorn Hope (redshanks)
1 x Aggressive Forlorn Hope (gallowglass with my commander)
1 x Pike
1 x Shot
1 x Commanded Shot (kern with calivers)

Troy had a 30 Years War force:
2 x Elite Pike
1 x Pike
2 x Shot

Ralph had a force using my ECW figures:
1 x Aggressive Forlorn Hope (angry pikemen plus the commander)
1 x Elite Forlorn Hope (firelocks)
2 x Commanded Shot (dismounted dragoons)
1 x Field Gun ("Murderin' Meg")

Scenario and deployment

We played the Gå På scenario, basically a free for all. No objective other than the enemy.

The field I set up had a lot of terrain. I was fearing a replay of Mike's Pancerni division coming at me and wanted enough places to hide to make a game of it. It turns out that Mike was my ally this game and so I gave good ground to Troy, who was opposite Mike with his units taking position in difficult terrain and behind stone walls and hedges.

Ralph was opposite me. He had a bit of a problem in placing his field gun, which is immovable in the game, but can command the field—if you manage to keep rolling 8s for activation.

I put my pikes and shot just left of our center with the idea of advancing them up to fight on the hill that dominated the center of the board. The kern, redshanks, and gallowglass were on the far left in the town on the other side of the river. My plan for them was to advance up the side and attack Ralph's field gun from the flank while my pikes and calivers were getting shelled from three feet away.

Kern in the bog, gallowglass and redshanks in the town
The game

Mike's aggressive Poles couldn't help but quickly pitch into Troy's pikes. Aggressive Gallopers in TPL really aren't a subtle unit type. In a broader tactical situation, you might keep them as a force de frappe to be unleashed after you've softened up a position with shooting. But with no shooters, Mike had to go pretty much straight at 'em from the get-go.

It wasn't pretty.

Mike's Pancerni division crashes into Troy's pikes
Mike managed to inflict a lot of hurt on Troy, but at a cost. Hard-hitting 6-figure units can do a lot of damage, but can't take a lot before they're in trouble. In the initial clash, Mike managed to rout one of Troy's pike units, but had to struggle against another.

Donnybrook on the right
The advance of my pike and shot in the center was harassed by "Murderin' Meg." There were enough attempts where Ralph failed to activate—rolling an 8 is on the wrong side of the odds. However, when he managed to shoot, it was Katie-bar-the-door.

The Hiberno-Polish center advances
The shot wavered and rolled back from one shot, but the pikes seemed to stand it well, even after taking losses.

Irish pike crest the hill and on to glory (and death)
Working my flanking force along the river took a while and it was several turns before I got in range.

Gallowglass and kern leaving the town to march on the flank
By then, Ralph had moved his firelocks over to protect "Murderin' Meg" and there was a brisk firefight at long range between his firelocks and my redshanks.

Redshanks engage the firelocks at long distance
My kern, however, entered in and the weight of shot soon took out the firelocks.

"Murderin' Meg" and the firelocks
In the center, my pikes managed to crest the hill and drive one of Ralph's dismounted dragoon units out from behind a hedge. That was their high-water maker, however. I couldn't get them to advance across the hedge to the green fields beyond and Ralph's other dragoon unit and Troy's shot peppered away at me until I spectacularly failed my morale test. Good-bye pikes.

The pikes take the hedge
Troy and Mike kept at it hammer and tongs on our right. It seemed bad for Mike, he lost his commander along with his unit and two of his pancerni. But he rolled the blesséd 6-6-6 activation (boxcars followed a by a 6 on the special chart), which brought 4 points of units on the table for him. He resurrected on of his pancerni and went right back to it. Troy, meanwhile, had lost his other two pike units, including his general, and had his centermost shot unit—the one that shot up my pikes—in danger of being overrun.

Ralph blasted my shot unit down to three figures and I couldn't pass the moral test to keep 'em around. That left him free to turn "Murderin' Meg" towards my flanking force. But I was able to shoot his crew away before he could unleash a whiff of grapeshot at me. My gallowglass, The O'Sullivan at its head, rushed in to take the gun position.

The O'Sullivan and his gallowglass take "Murderin' Meg"
Mike had swept away Troy's shot unit in the center, leaving Troy with just his one shot unit that was over on the other flank. Mike then started to move towards Ralph's troops, ignoring Troy's surviving shot. He caught Ralph's dragoons, who failed their evade test, and killed every figure in the unti. Being Commanded Shot in the open, the dragoons had a stamina of 1, which is not what you want to have when you struck by Polish Wingéd Hussars.

At this point, all that Ralph had left was his Aggressive Forlorn Hope. Troy only had a single, damaged shot unit. My redshanks and gallowglass were in great shape, Mike's hussars and pancerni were both at full strength. We'd been rolling for game end for a couple turns and still getting to roll to play on, but Troy and Ralph threw in the towel. They'd lost 38 out of 48 points. We'd lost 22 of our original 48, but Mike had gained 4 points in reinforcements.

This is the end
The whole game lasted about 2 hours and we all had a great time at it. I've come to love the "Rampant" series of games from Dan Mersey. The Pikeman's Lament is especially nice because there's a lot of versatility with defining unit types. For example, I used the dragoon units in our first game as Dragoons, but made them Commanded Shot to try out how they'd work in a terrain-heavy game where they could skulk and shoot. Although Ralph put them in open ground and even my kern (also Commanded Shot) spend the game in the open. It never really came up to have to put them in cover.

I'm happy that my Irish did reasonably well in their first game as a company. When I made the ECW company list, I gave it "Murderin' Meg" thinking that I'd be the one throwing thunderbolts with it. It's not a pleasant thing to be on the receiving end—but I have the delight of having captured the gun by game's end.

Dice and accoutrements

I was able to get another of my unique "Rampant" barker markers into play.

I have two of these, which I got from Warbases in the UK. They're made of MDF and assemble quickly with a bit of white glue. After they were assembled, I distressed them severely with a small knifing file to make a lot of nicks in them. Nothing looks pretty after sitting in the Irish countryside for a few centuries.

I also went back to using my beloved Viking bone dice. My game, my misshapen non-cuboid instruments of chance.

They didn't fail me. My rolls were never spectacular, but I passed nearly all of my activation tests, even getting boxcars twice—and never rolled snake-eyes. My shooting and combat dice were well enough to do the job, so I was happy with the little guys.

They didn't get in the game—but might have if I'd rolled the 6-6-6 activation—however, I wanted to show a pic of the first of my English units for the Irish Project: Pikes.

Lizzie's boys looking formidable
The Timeline/Graven Images/Hoka Hey! line makes a nice command set for the "garrison troops," so I can add some flags for color. The flags I used for them are Pete's Flags, which are available from his eBay store. He only has one sheet of Irish flags, but three for the English. It's a pity, though, that there isn't a corresponding command for Irish pikes. Even with the flags, there's no one to wave them.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Rampant in Gig Harbor

This Saturday we had a Lion Rampant game day at the Gig Harbor, WA public library. Pat Lowinger runs this annually. I was all set to go last year, but Grendel's sickness and death took the mickey out of me and I didn't manage to get my El Cid Spanish retinue completed. (It is, in fact, still uncompleted, which necessitated my borrowing an army for the day.)

En route

Having 58 miles to cover, and always unsure of how the traffic will be, I took my trip south in stages. I started out from home around 9:00 and stopped to have delicious Swedish pancakes for breakfast at Family Pancake House in Edmonds.

From there I headed down I-5 and when I hit Tacoma, I turned off to visit the Tacoma Book Center. It looked even more packed than before. I meant to just stroll in and browse—the game day started at 12:00 and I was making good enough time that I had time to kill. However, I didn't manage to leave until I bought four books on Medieval warfare. I seem unable to ever leave a bookstore without books in hand. C'est comme ça.

From Tacoma Book Center, the next stop was the Gig Harbor library. To get there, I had to cross the Narrows Bridge, which was made famous back in 1940 for its spectacular collapse.

The only life lost back then was Tubby, the poor cocker spaniel who was left in the car and went down with it when the bridge collapsed. An attempt to rescue him before the collapse failed when he was too frightened to get out of the car and bit one of the people trying to pull him out.

My trip across the bridge (rebuilt in 1950 and with a second span completed in 2007) was much less eventful. No lives—animal or otherwise—were lost.

Doubly stable now
I got the the library just after 11:00 and we started setting up. The venue is very nice, with room to fit six tables comfortably (and more uncomfortably). There's access to the meeting room from outside and it was a very short schlepp to bring in our toys 'n' terrain 'n' stuff.

Setting up
We set up 6 tables and had about 10 people playing. There was no tournament, just find an opponent and play. I got two enjoyable games in.

Game 1

My army for the day was borrowed from Mike Garcia. He was playing Medieval Russians and I used his Mongols. I think I gave him reason to think he ought to have loaned me the Russians and played the Mongols himself.

We played on the table I set up with all my terrain. It was nice to get my new trees on a table. We set out the units in our retinues and I won the die roll to start first.

Mongols are, I have learned, a lovely army. I made a retinue with 2 x Mounted Sergeants with bows, 3 x Mounted Yeomen, and 1 x Bidowers. The whole army is fast-moving missile troops. The Mounted Yeomen can skirmish and evade, the Bidowers can scoot through terrain, and the Mounted Sergeants provide a bit of close combat backbone.

Opening moves
In the initial sparring, I lost one of my Mounted Yeomen units when Mike got off a nice shot at it, taking out two figures, and I rolled snake-eyes for my courage test. That had me worried because that unit constituted my entire right wing. Everything else was concentrated on the center and left.

But in the center, I managed to get the advantage on Mike's two Foot Yeoman units. They suffered under the Mongol bowfire. I charged one with my Mounted Sergeants and that was that. The other one broke from an extremely failed courage test.

Running down the oiks, Mongol style
Through bowfire and combat, I managed to wipe out Mike's center. Mike's dice didn't treat him well. I think I had better than average luck. I used my reliable, venerable bakelite dice. I brought my beloved Viking bone dice, but since they're only vaguely cuboid, I figured someone may object to agents of chance that couldn't possible be truly random (though I can attest that they fail me as often as they favor).

The ending action was the combat between Mike's general's unit and mine. We were both Mounted Sergeants, though I had bows. I took it badly in the combat, being beaten twice, but my supporting units managed to put enough arrows into Mike's unit that it evaporated.

Vladimir's last stand

Game 2

For game 2 of the day, Dean Motoyama and Ron Beery challenged Mike and me to a 2:2 game. They'd played each other earlier and were looking for another game. So we added another table to the one Mike and I played on and rotated my felt mat so it perfectly covered the 6' x 8' surface. (I was worried initially that the mat I brought would be too big.)

Table set, forces deployed
I was on our right, Mike was on the left. Opposite me was Dean with his bowless English 100 Years War army. Dean was trying to bring the minimal number of figure, so he had four expensive 6-figure units: 1 x Mounted Men-at-Arms, 1 x Mounted Yeomen with bows (+ expert), 2 x Foot Men-at-Arms. It looked to me more formidable than it turned out to be. Englishmen without bows are kind of a toothless dog.

Mike's force was the one he used in our earlier game: 3 x Mounted Sergeants, 1 x Mounted Yeomen with bows, 2 x Foot Yeomen.

Ron brought the big guns. The core of his force was 2 x Crossbowmen with pavises. They were formidable. The pavises make them hard to hurt, but they inflict hurt at 18". They felt kind of like Hussites without wagons, Foot Hussites, or Hussites zu Fuß. He also had an Archer unit and 2 x Mounted Sergeants.

Dean and Ron won the coin-toss, but elected to receive on turn 1. I pushed my troopies forward against Dean, whose units were all deployed back or behind trees. I was soon able to start pouring bowfire into one of Dean's Foot Men-at-Arms. It takes a lot of 5s and 6s to remove a figure, but I slowly whittled him down.

The fight on the right
I was troubled a bit by Dean's Mounted Yeomen, but I was ultimately able to bear more weight of shot against him—though they fought bravely to the last figure.

On our left, Mike had to contend with Ron's death-dealing Hussites zu Fuß. Actually, we both did, though Mike got the brunt of it. I lost two units in the game, both withering under a hail of crossbow bolts.

Attacking the Hussites zu Fuß (to no avail)
Mike managed to attack one unit with one of his Mounted Sergeants—and push it back, though without being battered—but the attack faltered when Ron started pounding him at close range with the crossbows. That was Mike's high-water mark. He soon lost hist two Foot Yeomen to arrows and crossbow bolts (mental note: Foot Yeomen = pin cushions), and had nothing left to challenge the center. By the end of the game, he was riding around the flank with his surviving two units to see if he could worry Ron's edges without coming into range of the fearsome Hussites zu Fuß.

On my end, I had eliminated two of Dean's units, which was half his force, and was working away on the second Foot Men-at-Arms with my surviving four units.

Hunting Men-at-Arms in the woods
I eventually got it, but not before it managed to charge one of my Mounted Yeomen, which failed to evade. They tore it up, but not fatally. Dean's Mounted Men-at-Arms never got into the fray. He held them back. That was the unit his commander was with and I suppose he didn't want it tearing around the field making unwise charges against units in rough terrain.

At this point, we called the game. Dean and Mike were effectively spent at one and two units remaining respectively. I was still above half strength, but barely. Only one of my units was at full strength and one was reduced to just 2 figures. Ron was sitting pretty. He'd taken just a few losses to one of his Hussites zu Fuß units and a few to his Archer unit, but was comfortably above half strength for both. Every other unit was pristine. His retinue hardly broke a sweat and I wasn't about to tackle him.

After that, we picked up and packed up. I had a long drive home and left just after 4:00. I stopped for lunch/dinner at the Carl's Jr. just over the highway from where we played. I grew up in California where we had Carl's. It's new-ish to Washington. There are a few somewhat near to me, but out of the way. Since there was one athwart my path, I had to stop. Carl's was as delicious as I remember it, though they've added menu items and changed their fries. I loved the Carl's fries I recall from my youthful days in CA. The new fries are good, just not as good as before—or maybe my memory is faulty. I left CA 30 years ago.

It was great to have a Lion Rampant game day. I'm quite chuffed to have been able to use my new Lion Rampant version of the "Barker marker."

Lion Rampant is one of my favorite games, though I hadn't played straight-up Lion Rampant in quite a while. Everything I've been playing has been focused on variants like Quetzalcoatl Rampant and Pikeman's Lament.

I have a renewed interest in getting my El Cid retinue finished and in making progress with all the Old Glory Medievals I bought 20 years ago for the Pig Wars Late Medieval variant I did. I'm also getting eager to play Chariots Rampant, Pat Lowinger's Late Bronze Age variant that was published in Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy 82—I've already priced out a Mitanni retinue using Foundry figures...

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Game day at Fort Steilacoom

Yesterday was our annual game day at historic Fort Steilacoom. This event was begun by Lawrence Bateman, who has been involved with the Historic Fort Steilacoom Association for several years. The event raises funds ($10.00 donation per attendee) to help upkeep and restoration of the remaining buildings from the fort.

The fort was founded in 1849 to give the US Army a presence in light of recent attacks on white settlements by native American tribes. During the Puget Sound War of 1855-56, the US 9th Infantry Regiment was stationed there. The fort was in use through the Civil War and after, but was decommissioned in 1869 and the grounds were used for the Fort Steilacoom Asylum for the insane, which is today Western State Hospital.

Fort Steilacoom circa 1860
Several of the original buildings remain, which are kept as a museum housing several artifacts from the era. There are also a few old cannon on the grounds.

The days of boom are long gone for this old veteran
We set up 4 tables for games in the restored officer's quarters and run two periods, morning and afternoon. So, there's potentially 8 games that attendees can join on a late summer's day.

Our venue
I came (late) for the first game period, but managed to wheedle my way into Kevin Smyth's "America Rampant" game, which is his modification of Dan Mersey's excellent The Men Who Would Be Kings skirmish rules. I have the rules, but this was the first time I played them.

Kevin has a long-running project that focuses on the hypothetical interaction between forces of the nascent American republic and the Spanish influence in the Old South along the Mississippi. Think of it as another French and Indian war, set 40-ish years later, with the Spanish as the French allied with Choctaws.

I commanded a couple units of mounted rifles, who got jumped on turn 1 by two bands of excitable Choctaws hidden in a patch of woods. I got smacked and sent reeling back.

Were'd all them gol-durned injuns come from!?
I had my back to the edge of the board/world. One unit kept failing it's rally test and ran off home to mama. With the other unit, I managed to dismount and start shooting slow rifle shots at my attackers, who kept ripping into me with tomahawks and clubs.

Meanwhile, three units of Spanish regulars were advancing.

¡Adelante, hombres!
In the center and left, American militia and regulars were advancing against a Choctaw stockade and some cornfields, which they had a mind to burn down and deprive the Spanish-Indian forces with food (or capture and make into corn liquor).

Let's make us some popcorn, boys!
Choctaws manning the stockade
The American right (me) continued to crumble. However, the wee American cannon in the center managed to drive the Choctaws out of their stockade. On the left, the American regulars were giving short shrift to the Choctaws skulking in the woods on that end.

I lost my second unit of riflemen under a fury of Choctaw war-clubs and took over command of one of the militia units. I traded shots with the advancing Spanish, but when the Choctaw warbands, fresh from killing my riflemen came on, it was all over.

The last stand
With the last of my units gone, I ran out on a mission to get cash (which I rarely carry) so I could pay my donation and maybe pick up something at the swap tables. When I got back, they were picking up the game. I don't think I ever knew who won. I just know that many fewer militamen were comin' home to their kinfolk.

Other games being played were Dean Motoyama's beautiful First Battle of St. Alban's, which he ran using Lion Rampant rules. Dean's blog has featured his work painting these over the last few months—and really, just a few. He not only paints well, but fast.

Yorkists attack!
The game Yorkists apparently didn't come out like they did historically. The gates of St. Albans (really just barricaded lanes) proved a nut too tough to crack for York and the Neville boys.

Forward to defeat
The one other game played in the first period was a naval game between George Kettle and Damond Crump. I'm not sure what the rules were, but the models were all battleships (WW1, I think), so a hard pounding on both sides, I imagine.

Battleships engage
Kevin Smyth and I went out to lunch in "downtown" Steilacoom where we talked of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings, etc. We also talked up the idea of using The Men Who Would Be Kings for playing the American Civil War. We both have significant ACW lead-piles that we want to do something with. There was talk of doing Fire & Fury Regimental in 28mm, which would be a big undertaking. Doing ACW with TMWWBK is more manageable (for me, the painting weenie—Kevin is another prodigious painter like Dean).

I didn't stay for the second period, but there were a few games setting up. One of them, run by Lawrence, was a skirmish between set in the Puget Sound War using his modification of the Brother Against Brother rules.

After Kevin and I came back from lunch, we chatted with other gamers a bit. Then I headed back north—with a few stops en route—to make it to the vigil mass, so I could sleep in and goldbrick this morning. Last week was a long week.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Summer's end

This is the idyllic time of year. Labor Day is passed and summer is soon to end. The warm (sometimes too warm) days of summer give way to cooler nights and, shortly, to cooler days. These days are like the last few drops of an elixir that has intoxicated us till now. It's like the last rays of light on a warm, beautiful day. You have to just sit and drink it all in.

It's much warmer this year than last. Here in beautiful, bucolic Lynnwood, WA, our high temps are in the mid-80s and the air is very smoky due to the wildfires in the Columbia gorge and elsewhere. By this time last year, high temps were in the 60s and I'd already had a fire or two burning in the hearth.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Grendel's death. This time last year was filled with anguished hope and hopeless despair. I still miss my little man. My heart breaks a little bit every time I think about him. The sharp pain of those terrible six weeks of late summer has subsided, but the sorrow lingers.

I loved that chubby, obstreperous munchkin more than I knew. I love my replacement cow-cat Bogart. He has his own unique personality which endears him to me more each day. I can't help but note the contrasts, however. Grendel was a cool cat, master of every situation. He approached everything with an enviable sangfroid. Bogart is bit more touchy and skittish. He's OK with visitors, but gets a bit agitated if there's commotion. A friend brought her young daughter by a few weeks back and her excitability at meeting Bogart was clearly taking its toll. He withdrew, she followed. I had to back her off in fear that he'd attack her. The window cleaners came by last week and started whumping and bumping their ladders around the house. I had to put Bogey in the windowless master bath to calm him down. He was freaked out and near screeching in fear as strange faces suddenly appeared at the windows. Grendel would just sit at the window and stare them into submission.

I have a week's vacation coming up. I meant to take it in early August, but the demands of work kept me chained to my oar. It will be next week—or the week after that... So, on the plus side, I still have it to look forward to. I'm experiencing what it means to have your cake and not eat it, but the desire to eat the cake is growing. Maybe a week off when the temperatures are cooler and the smoke has cleared is a better option. Painting weather.

Oh no it's not!


Much of my summer reading focused on The Irish Project. However, I managed to get some reading in that was not project related but pure pleasure. As I mentioned in a post in June, my quest for fish 'n' chips brought me into striking distance of Sea Ocean Book Birth and a few delightful finds amongst its groaning shelves. I've completed The Galleys at Lepanto and Sir Francis Drake. Both were excellent reads. Thomson's bio of Drake was surprisingly rich. The narrative moves along well and the story is exciting from start to end. From the first chapter to the last, you find yourself hanging on in anticipation of the next exploit.

Beeching's book on Lepanto was equally rich. He pulls together so many threads to weave the story that you're entranced by the tapestry. I always wanted to be a historian. It's reading books like these that makes that desire grow stronger (though, I'm not sure if I could ever achieve it). I was able to tie in reading The Galleys at Lepanto with reading chunks of Gunpowder and Galleys. I've had this title for a while and only browsed it. It's a very nice technical work on Mediterranean warfare in the 16th century and allowed for a few excurses into ship details where I wanted a bit more that the narrative provided.

I'm now in the midst of reading Mattingly's The Armada. This is a classic work and is proving to be equal to the first two books. His characterization of Elizabeth is an interesting comparison with how Thomson portrays her in his Drake bio. Thomson saw the Armada as more a response to the depredations of the English corsairs, El Draque chief among them. Mattingly starts by tying it to the tensions between Protestant and Catholic England—and the larger tension between Protestant England and Catholic Spain—and the situation after the execution of Mary Stuart in 1587, the year before the Armada, or rather the year it was intended to be had not Drake preemptively wrecked it in harbor at Cadiz.

History is an opportunity missed if the writer can't tell a compelling tale. I love being able to get details, but they're valuable for reference and become onerous the more pedantic they are. A good story is more to be desired than gold. I've read a lot on the US Civil War, but nothing better than anything by Bruce Catton. He was foremost a master story-teller and my understanding of the Civil War is enriched by his colorful narratives.


My primary hope for my week off—whenever I manage to take it—is to get a lot of painting done. Mostly on the English and Irish figures I have, but on a few other projects too. I have some new Beyond the Gates of Antares figures that I'd like to get finished, or nearly finished. They're a quick paint and I have most of them started already. I might also like to complete some long-languishing Xyston 1/600th galleys for my Row Well and Live! project. I'm starting to get eager to complete the revisions I noted for it three years ago and play some more. I may offer it on Wargame Vault at some point when I'm satisfied that it will pass muster.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Irish project (An Tionscadal na hÉireann)

In January this year, I finally got around to ordering some of the Timeline Miniatures Irish from their Border Reivers range (formerly of Monolith Designs/Graven Images). I posted about this earlier, and have alluded to it in other posts, but I thought I'd give an update and sketch out a bit of my plans for the project going forward.


Elizabeth I's wars in Ireland were a bit like a prolonged Vietnam/Boer War/Malayan Emergency. An army designed to fight for a nation state against other nation states found itself in the midst of an insurgency fighting an enemy who used guerrilla tactics. Much of the fighting in the wars involved ambushes of English columns on the march to support isolated outposts. The only thing like a stand-up battle was the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, where the Irish forces of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, discovered why they had hitherto stuck with fighting in woods and bogs: those tactics worked, taking on the English in an open field, not so much.

Since the Norman invasion under Strongbow in Henry II's reign, England had sought to subjugate Ireland. By the time of Henry VIII, Ireland had pretty much subsumed her conquerors and the Anglo-Irish nobility had mostly gone native except for those within the Pale, the area surrounding Dublin where the royal writ was still honored.

The English Reformation was probably a significant catalyst to change all that. Having succeeding in changing England's religion by royal decree, Henry found the Irish less willing to switch. The brief reign of Mary I didn't do much to alleviate religious tensions, which only grew worse with the accession of Elizabeth in 1558. Elizabeth's policies were aimed at effectively de-Irishing the Irish. Their laws and customs were targeted to be replaced by English law, English custom, and the English church—this latter was especially true after Elizabeth was excommunicated by Pope Pius V in 1570 and in retaliation she imposed greater restrictions on Catholic practice throughout her realm, including recalcitrantly-Catholic Ireland.

Seeing the slow encroachment gradually undoing their way of life, many Irish chieftains were alarmed enough to break out in rebellion. The two rebellions of the Earl of Desmond (1568-73, 1579-83) were a resurgence of the Gaelic Irish against Anglicization. The result was the despoiling of Munster, famine, further suppression of Irish customs, plantations of English settlers in Munster, and the Earl's head decorating Traitor's Gate at the Tower of London.

English troops returning successfully from an expedition with prisoners—and heads!

In 1580, Fiach MacHugh O'Byrne rose up against Elizabeth's new Lord Deputy, Arthur Grey de Wilton. At the Battle of Glenmalure, Grey de Wilton lead his army of about 3,000 men into a trap and suffered a huge defeat, losing at least a third of his force, abandoning many weapons and military stores, and retreating pell-mell back to Dublin.

The major conflict of the period was the rebellion of Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone. Known often as "Tyrone's Rebellion," it's formally called The Nine Years War and occurred from 1594 – 1603.

English forces cross the ford at Belleek under covering fire from musketeers and calivermen

When the war started, Tyrone was still maintaining a pretense of loyalty to the crown. He provided troops to Hugh Maguire in 1593 and again to Maguire and Hugh O'Donnell (Tyrone's brother-in-law) in 1594 when they fought and won the scrumptiously-named Battle of the Ford of the Biscuits. However, in February of 1595, Tyrone declared himself in rebellion.

Tyrone's Irish confederation was initially successful using traditional Irish tactics of raid and ambush. Tyrone was able to distract the English to react in one place while he made gains in another. His greatest victory was the Battle of the Yellow Ford, near Armagh, An English force of about 4,000, en route to relieve a besieged garrison at the Blackwater Fort, was ambushed and beaten, losing about half its numbers killed or deserted. (Many soldiers in "English" regiments, were in fact Irish and were prone to switch sides—many of Tyrone's men got their military training from the English.)

The largest force sent against Tyrone was the 16,000 troops commanded by Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (daddy to the ECW Parliamentarian commander) in 1599. Essex squandered his force by breaking it out into garrisons, focusing on the south, and doing very little against Ulster and Tyrone. In the end, he wound up making a disadvantageous truce with Tyrone and went home in disgrace—soon to lose his head after a desperate attempt to restore his dignity by overthrowing Elizabeth (don't mess with Queenie).

By 1601, the war had dragged on with neither side close to victory. Despite many defeats—and being economically on the ropes—the English still possessed superior resources to Tyrone and could replace their losses. Tyrone had finally managed to get the Spanish to send an expedition, which landed at Kinsale in Munster. The English under Mountjoy, their most capable commander, promptly besieged the Spanish and Tyrone and his allies marched south from Ulster to break the siege and, hopefully, inflict a decisive defeat on the English forces. The result, however, was the disastrous Battle of Kinsale. Tyrone's army was routed, the Spanish—who sat out the battle behind the walls of Kinsale—capitulated, and the English took to reducing Munster in their typical fire and sword fashion. After Kinsale, the Irish cause pretty much collapsed.

The war went on until 1603 when James I, who had succeeded Elizabeth that year, made a truce with the Irish lords that granted them pardons—and pardons, too, for all the rebels throughout Ireland—in return for swearing loyalty to the crown and agreeing to the loss of all the things they'd been in rebellion to keep. It was an uneasy truce poisoned with mutual distrust. In 1607, Tyrone and other Irish lords left Ireland for Spain where they hoped to raise an army to restart the war, but nothing came of it. They never saw Ireland again, their lands were confiscated by the crown, and James accelerated the colonization of Ulster with plantations of Scots and English settlers.

Irish forces

The fighting men of the Irish insurgency underwent a change during the years of the wars. The traditional Irish forces were pretty much a chieftain's kern and hired gallowglass, and possibly some Scottish mercenaries known as "redshanks". However, the Irish forces—especially those under Tyrone—were aggressive in adopting the newer weapons and tactics of the time. Dart-wielding kern gave way to more-disciplined caliver-armed shot. The pike, too, was introduced in large numbers.

Reenactors (the chain-link fencing and barbed wire are, I believe, anachronistic)
By the time of Kinsale, the character of an Irish force was quite similar to its English opponents. In some cases, the Irish were even better trained and armed. Tyrone's shot were uniformed in red, according to some chronicles and accounts of the fighting. Though it was more difficult for them to come by powder and shot, the Irish tended to do better in a firefight. Until rather late in the conflict, English calivermen were required to pay for their own powder, likely an attempt to reduce wastage. However, it tended to reduce the amount of firepower because the English shot tended to carry less powder and to husband it since it was to them a dear commodity.

The improved quality of the Irish forces was not lost on the English. Many of the Irish had been trained by the English either as auxiliaries or enlisted within English companies. Although there were regulations minimizing the number of Irish in English companies, some estimates claim that up to 3/4 of an "English" company were actually local Irish. Several English commanders commented on how well the Irish troops performed compared to their experience against them only a decade or so back. In some cases, English officers fell in with Irish units mistaking them for their own.

What the Irish lacked was experience in open field battles. The movements of the Irish battles at Kinsale was disjointed (due as much to rivalry as to inexperience). Their cavalry, while regarded as individually superior to the English, were no match as formed squadrons. The rout of the Irish horse by the near-starving English troopers was the action that started the unraveling of the Irish forces at Kinsale.

The English Forces

The English army in Ireland was one of the few standing forces Elizabeth had. During the crisis of the Armada in 1588, there were more English troops in Ireland than at Tilbury. However, the garrisons of Ireland needed to be supplemented often with drafts from England—certainly for any major action against Irish rebellions.

The quality of the drafted men was mixed. In several of the battles, the raw English troops performed badly, being rescued from complete disaster only by the experience and pluck of their commanders. The Irish were often able to spot the least experienced troops by their uniforms, which consisted merely of same-colored smocks worn over their regular clothing. (There was no such thing as genuine military uniform at this time.) Veterans had long since adopted a more practical and individualist look.

Uniform smocks and 50-gallon hats—like Hoss on Bonanza
English pikemen and billmen were issued with heavy armor, including back and breastplate, pauldrons, vambraces and gauntlets for the arms, tassets for the thighs, and some form of morion or burgonet for the head. However, most soldiers considered the armor to be overly burdensome and unsuited for skirmishing in the wild Irish countryside. Seasoned troops tended to wear a simple jack or leather coat and sport some kind of cap on their heads, looking much like their Irish foes, sometimes to the point of confusion and mischance.

The mainstay of English forces comprised pike and shot. The bill and bow of earlier times were, even when they produced triumphs like Flodden, superannuated when compared with the military practices of the continent. Having no native pikemen (or shot), Henry VIII resorted to hiring German mercenaries for his wars against France. By Elizabeth's time the bow was only an auxiliary weapon and billmen made up a very small percentage of a company.

Artillery was rarely used in the field. It was, however, of great value for taking and defending fortified places. In this regard, the English had a huge advantage over the Irish who had almost no artillery. The situation was so lopsided that Tyrone destroyed his own fortified places to avoid them becoming places where troops could be besieged and lost. In most cases, the Irish were only able to take English forts and outposts by cutting them off from supply (hence so many of the battles being ambushes of relief/resupply forces).


As noted, the minis I'm using come from Timeline Miniatures/Hoka Hey Wargaming. I'd been eyeing these figures for years, but I wasn't sure what I'd do with them, so for a long time I did nothing. When The Pikeman's Lament came out in January, my interest reawoke.

The Border Reivers range, formerly of Monolith/Graven Images, sculpted by the late Jim Bowen is the main line I'm using. Alan Rudd at Timeline acquired them a few years after Bowen died (along with some other Monolith ranges). The figures in this range come in some variety. There are 2-3 basic poses for each type with head variants providing increased variety. As I've stated in previous posts, I really love Jim Bowen's figures. They're simple, but have a lot of charm. If the range didn't exist, I would likely not be doing the project. They're also BIG. (See my review from earlier this year.)

Timeline also produces a range of 28mm Elizabethans. These figures are an discontinued Pendraken Miniatures, which Alan acquired some years back. Pendraken are soley 10mm, as far as I can see, but about 10 years back they tried to branch out into a few 28mm ranges, but they lost their designer and the ranges went looking for new owners.

The Timeline Elizabethans match the Border Reivers range pretty well. The style and size are similar. However, there are only single poses for every type. The Elizabethan range is a valuable auxiliary to the Border Reivers range because they offer several types that don't exist in the Border Reivers range: Irish cavalry (2 types), English cavalry (5 types), "redshanks", artillery, etc.


As noted above, the project really got its start when Osprey released The Pikeman's Lament. The scope and nature of these rules was such that it made it possible to do the Elizabethan wars in Ireland. In most Renaissance rules, the Irish are a hapless lot, bound to be shot to bits by English calivers and then run down by English cavalry. Bringing things down to the skirmish level evens the game.

Even though The Pikeman's Lament was a primary catalyst in starting this project, I have to give honorable mention to Donnybrook. I'd heard about them when they first came out and a few people bought them. However, the reception by those people was negative. I got the PDF version online and I'm not so sure they're as bad as my local fellow-gamers aver. The basing I use, is suitable for either set of rules, so at some point I'll have to play a Donnybrook game with them.


No project would be worthy of the name if it didn't involve our friend the printed page. I have to admit that prior to starting this project, I had a pretty woeful grasp on this period of Irish history. I bought and read a pile of books to get an understanding and, more importantly, the "feel" of the period. The following is a representative (not exhaustive) list of the books I read:

Elizabeth's Irish Wars by Cyril Falls (first published 1950). This is a good overview of the wars from Shane O'Neill's rebellion in the 1560s until the end of the Nine Years War. Falls provides a good background of Elizabethan Ireland and has a lot of information about the nature of the armies that fought.

Gallowglass 1250-1600 by Fergus Cannan (Osprey 2010). Good Osprey-style overview of these traditional mercenaries.

Renaissance Armies 1480-1640 by George Gush (1975). This is a broad overview of Renaissance armies and includes short sections on the English and Irish, which provide a pretty good description of the troops involved on both sides.

The Irish Wars 1485-1603 by Ian Heath (Osprey 1993). Another good overview of the wars with a lot of historical background information and descriptions of the armies.

Irish Battles: A Military History of Ireland by G.A. Hayes-McCoy (1969). This book covers several Irish battles from Clontarf in 1014 to Arklow in 1798. Five of its chapters address a battle from our period: Farsetmore 1567, Clontibret 1595, The Yellow Ford 1598, Moyry Pass 1600, and Kinsale 1601.

The Nine Years War 1593-1603 by James O'Neill (2017). This is a very recent book that takes advantage of the latest research on the war. O'Neill (who doesn't claim to be an ancestor of Tyrone), does a good job dividing the war into phases starting with Tyrone's proxy war and moving in stages to the aftermath of Kinsale. He also provides a chapter at the end about Tyrone's military revolution in Ireland and a final chapter that examines the character of the war in the context of European conflicts.

Armies of the 16th Century: The Armies of England, Scotland, Ireland, The United Provinces, and the Spanish Netherlands 1487-1609 by Ian Heath (Foundry Books 1997). I bought this and a companion volume (about the Aztecs, Incas, etc.) published by Foundry Books when they came out near 20 years ago. Until recently, they've sat on my shelf getting an occasional browse. I started looking through them in earnest when I did the Quetzalcoatl Rampant project with Kevin and now with The Irish Project. There's a wealth of information about the troops that fought in Ireland in this period with lots of nice line drawings (no color).

Scots Mercenary Forces in Ireland (1565-1603) by G.A. Hayes-McCoy (first published 1937). This is a fairly exhaustive study of the role of mercenaries from the Scottish Isles (the "redshanks") in Irish wars prior to and during the Nine Years War.

The Elizabethan Conquest of Ireland by John McGurk (1997). Despite its dramatic title, the book isn't a military history about wars 'n' battles 'n' stuff. It's mainly about the societal impact of the wars in Ireland on the English and Welsh shires that supplied the majority of the drafts for the English armies as well as most of the logistical support. There is a nice chapter characterizing the experience of the Tudor soldier in the Irish wars (spoiler: it was pretty grim).

Chapters Towards a History of Ireland in the Reign of Elizabeth, Being a Portion of the History of Catholic Ireland, by Don Philip O'Sullivan Bear translated by Mathew Byrne (first published 1903). This is a series of  historical notes written by the nephew of Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare. Philip O'Sullivan was sent to Spain in 1602, where he spent his life in Spanish military service. He wrote his Chapters in 1621. They contain a lot of interesting anecdotes about the Nine Years War (which O'Sullivan calls the Fifteen Years War), including a dramatic narration of the Battle of the Yellow Ford.

Ireland in the Age of the Tudors 1447-1603 by Steven G. Ellis (1995). This is a pretty good background history of Tudor Ireland mostly political and societal, but with a bit of military information interspersed.

Articles. Not cited are several articles available online (some as digital copies of printed articles) that address some aspects of the wars in Tudor Ireland. In the age of the Interwebs, there is a surprising amount of information waiting to be mined, especially on the more obscure topics that get short shrift in standard histories, but which attract a lot of interest from budding professional and amateur historians. For example, one BBC article shows how battlefield archaeology by a local farmer has challenged the traditional location of the Battle of the Ford of the Biscuits, by discoveries of caliver and musket bullets at a spot on his land where the farmer had a hunch that that's where the fight occurred.

"Armor-piercing" bullet on the left—tungsten with a depleted uranium core
There are questionable aspects of these articles, however. The BCC article claims that the smaller shot found were special "armour-piercing bullets." I'm rather of the opinion that the smaller shot are from calivers and the larger shot are from muskets and there's nothing more to it than that. I don't think "armour-piercing" was really a consideration for small arms projectiles circa 1594—in fact, the smaller caliver shot, having lower kinetic energy, were less likely to pierce a breastplate than the heavier musket shot fired from a larger bore weapon that used a larger powder charge. In his Chapters, O'Sullivan Beare often distinguishes between heavy (muskets) and light (calivers) firearms, the former being more effective against armored men like Henry Bagenal at the Yellow Ford, whose armor was proof against all, until he lifted up the visor of his close helmet and got shot between the eyes.

State of the Project

"And how's it working out for you?" I hear you ask. Well, it's a going concern. I have a large Irish force painted, based, and boxed already. There's the cavalry yet to paint and I think I need to order a bit more kern, redshanks, and pikes. The English are in the works with 8 units in some state of being worked on and more figures ordered.

English pikemen painted and glopped, awaiting basing
So far, I've made three not-inexpensive orders to Timeline with at least two or three more contemplated. The good thing is that I'm not incurring a lead backlog. The figures paint quickly, partly because of the nifty dip method and also because it's the nature of the figures. They just give themselves to rapid completion.

I hope to get a game in with them sometime in September. The only unit that's been fielded on the felt and seen the dice tumble is my Irish pikeman, who came on as ersatz reinforments in a quasi-ECW game of The Pikeman's Lament. I'm happy to say they acquitted themselves well and put paid to a unit of rampaging Polish pancerni (I did say it was quasi-ECW).

My longer-term goal is to host a few games of it at Enfilade! in May, 2018 with a trial run or two before that (like at Breakthrough in January).