“To the Englishman, vengeance is an idea, a word. Payback, one thing for another, like commerce. Not for us. Vengeance is a living thing. It moves through the generations. It commands. It kills."
The rising has begun. The King Across the Water has returned, and the loyal men of Scotland have taken up arms once more. But in the western highlands, loyalty is not all that sharpens swords. Fifty-three years is a long time, but the clans do not forget. The perfidy of the Campbells and Secretary Dalrymple shall be avenged. And it will begin here, in the hamlet of Glencrae...
2x 8 Good English soldiers, 2x Big Men (Status 3 & 2: Sergeant Frost and Corporal Armstrong)
3x 8 Regular Highlanders (Aggressive, Intimidating Weapons), 2x Big Men (Status 3, 2: Earl MacDonail and Father McCruil)
The soldiers of the King's Own Royal Borderers are on a routine patrol through the hamlet and are expecting nothing more than an old villager or two complaining about the price of flour. Sergeant Frost and Corporal Armstrong must lead half their men off any board edge but their own to gain one victory point. They gain one victory point for each Scottish Big Man killed.
The Highlanders are looking for blood. They gain one victory point for each British group or Big Man destroyed.
|The starting board. All Scots on blinds.|
Clearly eager for a rest and some water after long hours marching through the highlands, Corporal Armstrong and his men broke column to move towards the village. Sergeant Frost was more wary – where were the children, the chickens? He peered suspiciously at the cornfield to his right and made out the merest glimmer of steel among the stalks, but no sound of workmen bantering. An ambush! He quickly shouted his orders, and his men sent a volley into the field before beginning to reload.
|Frost's men fire covering Armstrong's advance.|
Shouts came from the far end of Glencrae, and from the woods burst a flood of kilted warriors.
|Oh okay, eight warriors and a Big Man.|
The cornfields fired back, but Frost's men continued to fire and reload with consummate professionalism. Armstrong's group came under heavy fire from the village, and it was all Armstrong could do to keep them steady. Snatches of Latin came from the field – was there a priest helping the enemy?
|Why yes, yes there was.|
A smattering of fire came from Armstrong and his men as Frost began a slow advance on the cornfield before changing his mind. Grasping the nettle firmly with both hands he led his men in an all-out charge. Yellow wheat was stained red, and a Borderer fell, but the enemy were scythed down mercilessly, and those who did not die fled far and fast.
|The survivors and their margin of success.|
Armstrong moved his men into the village, firing a volley at their enemy as they went. Frost moved up to flank him and realised that there were yet more highlanders waiting for them in the woods! His warning was ignored however as the old Earl led his men in a valiant charge against Armstrong's redcoats. They were driven out at lochaber-point and reunited with Frost's force to the west of the village.
|A brutal melee amid gunsmoke.|
The English reformed, firing at the highlanders who pressed on them from both sides. From Glencrae the Earl egged his men on, but having been savaged in the battle with Armstrong's men, they were uneasy about advancing too far. Seeing their confusion and a chance for revenge, Armstrong led his men forwards again, in an attempt to restore his section's honour. It was a stiff and bloody fight, with many falling on both sides until Armstrong used his polearm to strike down the Earl himself, and the highlanders retreated in a fearful confusion, bearing the body of their lord.
With the retreat of the Earl, it was all over bar a running skirmish with the highlanders in the western woods. As the English retreated they exchanged ineffectual fire with the Scotsmen who seemed unwilling to leave the safety of the treeline – it seemed that having been spectators to the battle, they were unwilling to share their kinsmen's fate.
|The end of the battle.|
Perhaps it was not a battle for the history books, but Frost was proud that he had only lost six men in defeating these bandits. If Captain Castagne agreed, they would return and flush out these ne'er-do-wells, and the highlands would be safe again, their loyalty to the king repaid.
Six Englishmen, nine Highlanders, the Earl wounded, Father McCruil and three companions fled into the wilds.
2-0 to the King's Own Royal Borderers.
I had a book of Heroes and Villains as a child, and the Massacre of Glencoe made a deep and lasting impression on me. Thus, when I started a Sharp Practice campaign for the Rising of '45, I naturally gravitated towards incorporating its memory as the driving force behind the highlanders involved. Having two sympathetic protagonists is something I think is important, and vengeance is so much more relatable as a motive than a king without a throne (except for Aragorn, of course). Incidentally, the starting quote is marginally adapted from an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that I serendipitously watched while writing the scenario (2x14, Innocence).
Frost was lucky to succeed in his Spotting check the first time his card came up, and in the profusion of Sharp Practice cards that came his way. Father McCruil spent most of his time removing shock from his group, since Frost's men fired with devastating accuracy. I gave the Englishmen a Grasp The Nettle card each, to help cope with their outnumbered status, but Tiffin usually removed any chance of using it – the turns were incredibly short for most of the game as there were only nine cards in the deck, which rapidly dropped to six.
All in all, a fun game which could have gone either way a few times, especially had the third group of highlanders managed to inveigle themselves into the main battle without Big Man assistance. But for now, Cry God, for Gideon, England and King George. Because Gideon was definitely Man of the Match... or maybe Armstrong, who despite losing more troops, did cut down the Earl...