Saturday, 4 September 2021

The Field of Battle

"... 'Twas the Sabbath that rose, 'twas the Feast of St. Bride,
When the rush of the clans shook Ben Nevis' side; ..."
The Day of Inverlochy by Iain Lom of Keppoch

In this post I am going to cover recreating the battlefield on which the miniature armies are going to fight.

Determining the precise location of the Inverlochy battlefield is made easier as we know that the Covenanter's left flank was close to the castle of Inverlochy, the ruins of which still stand at the edge of the modern town of Fort William.  We also know that, to avoid forewarning the Covenanters of his attack, Montrose had marched through the hills to the east of the main route down the Great Glen, from Kilcummin.  This would have brought the Royalists to the foot hills of the Ben Nevis range, in a position facing almost due west, overlooking Inverlochy Castle, the Lochy river, and Loch Linnhe.

We know that Auchinbreck drew up his force on a low hillock near the castle.  Despite the changes that have taken place over the last 370 years, with the town of Fort William, with its roads and railways, sprawling out over the battlefield, the hillock where the battle site memorial stands must surely be the battle ground.   This is my view after studying the present day Ordnance Survey maps and walking the ground as it stands today (as much as this is possible in urbanised Fort William!).

I'm not aware of any 17th century maps off the battle or area, but there are plans drawn in the early 18th century when the nearby Fort William was being expanded by the Williamite government as part of its pacification of the Highlands.  These typically show the 'Old Castle of Inverlochy' and so provide some interesting insight into nearby settlements etc. as well as an interesting view of early cartography!  See the Robert Johnson "Plan of Fort William with the country adjacent , in 1710" as an example.

Auchinbrek's position on the small hill, with his left flank resting on the castle, and probably with his right flank refused, curved back to the loch, was an improvised defensive position against an enemy of whose numbers and precise location he was not sure.  Montrose's approach march, in winter, through the Scottish Highlands, had given the Royalists the element of surprise, and left Auchinbreck without an opportunity to manoeuvre.  The one downside to the Covenanters' position was that they would be fighting with their back to the unfordable River Lochy and Loch Linnhe.   This situation no doubt contributed to the large number of casualties once the Covenant army broke and ran, many Campbell clansmen being drowned as they sought to escape.

With this interpretation of the battlefield I began to plan my wargames table.  The key items broke down to: the castle, the small hill on which the Covenanters deployed, the river / loch behind the Covenanters, and the higher ground from which Montrose would advance at the start of the battle.  I knew I would want to sail Argyle's birlinn on the table so I had to adjust very slightly the shape of the river and loch.  I performed some rough calculations, assuming the Covenanters formed up with the regular lowland battalions and Argyle's regiment in the front line, that they made up about 1,500 men, and they were fighting 6 deep.  The result was that this would fit nicely on a classic 8' by 6' gaming table.  Here is my stylised plan.

I was toying with the idea of making some terrain boards myself but I discovered Adrian's Walls ( offered a service of building customs setups using modular boards in polystyrene. (Note that currently, in September 2021, sadly I don’t think this service is offered anymore.)  After an exchange of emails, and a couple of phone calls, I commissioned the very helpful Adrian to build the terrain boards.

Next I needed a castle.  Inverlochy castle is a classic design with four round towers joined by straight curtain walls.  Hudson and Allen (supplied by Vatical Enterprises produce a very nice 25mm castle set which fitted very nicely.  Sadly there is no UK stockist I could find with the castle and so I had to import this piece.  Hudson and Allen also do some very nice highland cottages which I would use as an inconsequential but attractive pieces of side-terrain.  They use an expanded foam to produce their buildings.  I am amazed this isn't used more often rather than the typical resin.  It is much, much lighter, and therefore much more robust.  The detail seems to be just as good as that from resin as well.  (Must be down to a more complex manufacturing process I assume.)

Adrian wanted to use the actual model castle to ensure that the moated area he was putting in to the model boards fitted the model.  I therefore sent him the castle and building which I also commissioned him to paint.  A fabulous job he did, I think you'll agree.  Note the nice bridge across the moat which Adrian built.
The final board, with the the castle and village buildings, I think, looks fantastic.  I wouldn't use the terrain for general club terrain, as it wouldn't hold up to the heavy wear and tare, but as home or show use, it is brilliant.  Here it is with the battle in full swing.
Even with the troops on table, it can look a bit bare, and as I was planning to use the game as a demonstration at a show,  I needed to 'dress' the table.  I gave the Covenanters a camp.  Assorted camp followers from various manufactures (see, a lovely wagon with team from Warlord, baggage from Ainsty (, a wagon from Warbases (, and plastic tents from Renedra ( got the camp done.  Some marshy scatter pieces placed along the shore line helped in that space.  I also used some stone walls and fields to add further interest.

I wanted to add some height to the table dressing and I thought trees would fit the bill.  Inverlochy was at the start of February and so no leaves on trees.  I could have used Scotch Pines I suppose but I wanted something deciduous.  I completely failed to find commercially made deciduous trees without leaves.  I therefore had to resort to make some.  I used Woodland Scenic tree armatures as a base, and after scouring the railway modeller blogs, came across sea-moss as the thing to represent the fine, small branches that make up a healthy tree in the winter.  Sea-moss is easy to buy on eBay.  Gluing the stuff on to the Woodland Scenic armatures was very fiddly, but once done, and after a spray of brown matt car paint the trees looked rather nice.  I even got a complement at a show from Rick Priestly, which sort of made my day!

As a final garnish, what Highland scene could go without some Highland cattle?  Here is my herd from Warbases and Gripping Beast; the shepherd and dog from Warlord.

Until next time - Alba gu bràth!