Falkirk - A Battle Report

From atop his hill, Protector of the Realm of Scotland William Wallace surveyed the approaching English army. Liveries and arms shone like the vestements of a fat bishop as the army crossed the stream below him. It was a fine sight, he remarked to his marshal of the central battle, the Lord Galloway.

"Och, aye, Wil'yum," Galloway coughed, "Rbut did we nae beat the bastards afore?" Wallace nodded, but knew that the Battle of Falkirk would prove a much tougher fight. The neatly alternating companies of longbowmen and men-at-arms showed the efficient and ruthless hand of Edward Longshanks, king of England.

As a playtest of Chipco's new Days of Knights rules, we refought the 1298 A.D. confrontation between the Scots and English. Terrain was historical with a stream and marsh in the English rear and the Scots atop a gentle hill with a woods at their back.

Each army consisted of three commands, or "battles" as they were known at the time. Wallace's center was composed of six schiltrons (pikemen in D.O.K.), a company of bow and a troop each of noble knights and heavy cavalry. John of Loch Sloy's left flank battle was identical to Lord Galloway's center. On the right, though, Fraser of Inverness stood atop the hill with his highlanders (six units of "Type 2" men-at-arms -- less well-armed infantry in D.O.K. -- and one unit of bows). Downhill from the Scots, the English center was occupied by Lord Hereford's infantry. The marshal controlled four longbow companies, two "Type 1" men-at-arms (liveried and armored infantry), and one "Type 2" company. Both flank battles were identical in composition. On the right, Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham, aligned his three troops of knights along the flank of his two companies of longbow and two armored men-at-arms. The left deployed similarly, alternating companies of men-at-arms with longbow, with the knights on the flank. The Duke of Norfolk was marshal of the left, and he faced Wallace's highlanders. The battle opened with the English advancing their center and left to the base of the hill and concentrating longbow fire on the slowly advancing Scots line. The Bishop of Durham echeloned his infantry and knights back, worrying about the Scots line of schiltons which stretched past his flank. On the opposite flank, the Duke of Norfolk aligned his knights to charge uphill at the highlanders, who appeared unwilling to advance out of their position.

As the battlelines approached to short archery range, holes began to appear in the Scottish ranks. One schiltron and one highland company were decimated. Unfazed, the Scottish left and center poured downhill in a furious charge. The Scottish knights drove through two companies of Lord Hereford's longbows, while the schiltrons routed one of men-at-arms. Longshank's ordered a counterattack, though, and the battlelines began to surge back and forth in the center. One men-at-arms company, cheered by the king's presence, sent a schiltron streaming back uphill, broken. Norfolk's knights galloped uphill, surrounded and cut down a unit of highlanders on the left, while Durham's knights bloodied two schiltrons on the right. However, the Scots spearmen held and more schiltrons arrived to envelop the knights. John of Loch Sloy's knights - after hacking down the fleeing longbowmen - wheeled and smashed into the flank of a men-at-arms company, rolling up their line. The Scottish heavy cavalry followed the knights' path and bloodied another company of longbows. While Loch Sloy was enjoying success on the left, another Scottish marshal met tragedy on the right flank. Fraser, trying to rally his highlanders in the face of Norfolk's knights, was ridden down and killed in the melee.

The bloody brawl on the slopes in the center continued, with the English slowly gaining an upper hand. One company of longbow men dug in and repelled the attack of the highlanders. Other bowmen massed volleys to decimate two schiltrons and another highland company. This ground the Scottish advance to a halt. In the ensuing turns, the English men-at-arms steadily pushed the Scots back uphill. Longshanks proved his courage by fighting in the front rank, forcing his men to keep up pressure on the enemy. One by one, the schiltrons began to be broken by the more numerous English.

Meanwhile, the fighting on the flanks quickly became one-sided. Each army was crushing its opponent's right flank. Norfolk's English knights trampled unit after unit of highlanders, while the John of Loch Sloy's schiltrons and Scottish knights were destroying Durham's men company by company. Both victorious wings turned inward to work on the outflanked centers, but Norfolk's knights were faster and better suited to the task.

The loss of Fraser on the right and Wallace's absence on that flank prevented the Scots from adequately turning to meet the mounted threat. Despite having lost more points' worth of troops, it became obvious momentum was going the English way. Only the Scottish left was fighting effectively. Soon, only the Bishop of Durham's personal troop of knights remained of his command. The marshal bravely charged with it and checked the advance of the Scottish knights. When Durham's knights routed Lord Galloway's, capturing the Scots marshal, it was all but over. Although Loch Sloy's schiltrons had won on the left, they could not reorder the battleline quickly enough to save the center. The Duke of Norfolk's knights and Longshank's infantry broke the Scots center. Soon, the losses became too high, and Wallace ordered a retreat.

A key matchup in the refight was the English knights against the poorly-armed Scottish highlanders. Three units of knights, with help from longbow fire, destroyed Fraser's entire battle. The Duke of Norfolk and his knights were definitely the "star of the game." On their side, the Scots suffered from poor command and control with one marshal being killed early, paralyzing that endangered flank.

In the historical battle, the Scots lost also. The schiltrons feared to advance off the hill because of the threat of the English knights on their flanks. Stuck in position, they had been defeated by the fire of the longbows. Days of Knights simulated this fairly accurately. The longbows were a threat to the schiltrons, and when lack of flank support caused them to be "sitting ducks" on the hill, their fire proved ruinous. Equally, when the schiltrons had nothing to fear on their flanks and could advance to contact, they proved overwhelming to the knights and longbows, and at least an even or better match for the men-at-arms.

The battle proved that D.O.K. has the troop inter-relationships down well. One aspect that was troubling, though, was the possibility for units to become "stuck" facing the wrong direction and unable to manuever to get back into the battle. Since a unit requires a leader (king, marshal or captain) to turn or wheel, the lack of leaders can render a portion of the army useless and facing in the wrong direction. This can be easily adjusted to the player's preference, though, by including more "captains" in the army.

The participants were regular DBA players, and felt that the increase to a ten-sided die for combat (as opposed to DBA's six-sided) did not adversely affect the game. Chipco suggests 750-point armies. The ones in Falkirk refight were 860 points each. The battle took three hours to fight to a conclusion and proved simple, fast-moving and gave an accurate-enough feel of the medieval era.

- Mike Demana (

Last Updates
18 May 1998page first published
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