Tag Archives: 1689

Destructive & Formidable by David Blackmore [Book Review]

Destructive and Formidable: British Infantry Firepower 1642 - 1765Destructive and Formidable by David Blackmore is a quantitative look at British infantry doctrine using period sources from the British Civil Wars of the seventeenth century up to just before the Napoleonic wars. If anything you can see the constancy, which drove the success in battle of British forces, even when outnumbered.

Development of British Infantry Doctrine

Re-enactors from the Fairfax Battalia demonstrate infantry drill in the Tower of London. Pikes are charged and the musketeers present for a salvee in two ranks. (photo: Mandy Holloway)

This has got a lot of the detail you need to model infantry battles in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It’s not quite at the level of the WW2 operational research, but it’s good enough. There are comparative weights and rates of fire. Measured hit rates based on range, and commentary on doctrine and how certain tactics worked in certain situations but not others. In short everything you need to design a game (although there’s clearly a morale factor, which Destructive and Formidable covers but makes no attempt to quantify).

There’s a fairly readable style, and the book isn’t long. The examples are of individual battles and focus only on what the British infantry did, their immediate context and the doctrine/tactics of their immediate enemy. The only place there’s anything more in context, and discussion of the commanders impact, is the chapter on the North American irregular wars. This latter chapter also touches on failures of leadership, and shows that there is an effect of good leadership on the successful application of doctrine. The defeats are more attributable to poor leadership and lack of confidence than to failure of doctrine.

Core Infantry Doctrine

The core of British infantry doctrine was to reserve fire until they were close enough to ensure that it was effective. Once fired from close range the British infantry then closed to hand to hand, with clubbed muskets in the early period and bayonets later. Only one or two round were fired, often from a salvee or volley. This kept the effect concentrated, which increased the shock value.

Why didn’t British infantry doctrine spread?

Musket practice by re-enactors from the Fairfax Battalia. You can see the second rank ramming home their charge as the front rank fires. The third rank is charging with powder. (photo: Cindy Holton)

If British infantry doctrine was so successful why did other nations not copy it? Blackmore shows a relative isolation in the British officer corps from the debate of firepower vs shock which European armies seem to have spent the period arguing about. British infantry doctrine seems to have developed by trial and error during the British civil wars to get decisive battles based on the available people and technology. Early civil war battles were inconclusive, yet the British on both sides strove to improve effectiveness. They got closer before opening fire, massed to fire salvos and closed with the enemy to finish them off. Europe spent the same period in the Thirty Years War yet never came to the same conclusion. Drill manuals from the period emphasise fire, the cavalry doctrine shows shock of impact is what works.

What made the British successful?

My suspicion is one of the main things that keeps the British Army successful in this period is a continuity of experience. From the civil wars there is a near continuous presence of warfare. More importantly the outcome of the civil war is the establishment of a standing army. Even though this is supposed to be temporary, Parliament needs to renew it every year, it remains continuously in being. This means that soldiers pass on their experience to the new recruits, and many officers are professionals. Serving in one war as juniors and returning to later wars as commanders of battalions and armies.

Designing a game

My copy of this is flagged in many places, and there are a lot of marginal notations. I fully expect to use it as the core of an infantry combat model for one or more games. There’s a good model explained in the book. Maximum effective range is about 80 yards, at 100 yards less than 1% of shots result in a casualty. At 25-30 yards about a quarter of shots cause casualties. Closing with the enemy is pretty much always decisive (they either break or die). Infantry firing by platoon can stop cavalry with firepower alone if they reserve fire until the cavalry is about 30 yards away. Similarly if you fire at charging Highlanders at about 10 yards (or less) then it ends the charge…

This is an edited version of a post that was first published at https://www.themself.org/2019/01/destructive-formidable-david-blackmore-review/

1689 Reading List


So far this half a shelf is my 1689 reading list for the proposed megagame about the Glorious Revolution.  I’ve read some of this already, and marked up the interesting bits. Notably Bonnie Dundee and the Bruce Lenman books as well as Glencoe by John Sadler which sets the scene for the 1692 massacre very well with a decent treatment of the 1689 campaign.

What I’m largely missing is stuff on the events in Ireland, I know that there is a load of material on the campaigns there. Albeit much of it biased by the sectarianism that continues into the present day. My bookshelf coverage of Ireland is much later than this, mainly the recent Troubles and the early 20th century events.

If you can recommend any books about the 1688-1694 period that would be good. Ideally I want material that covers the administration of the armies and government as much as the series of events. As the say Amateurs talk tactics, professionals love logistics.

Recommend me some books for my 1689 reading list please?

1689 Megagame Idea

A 1689 Megagame of the Glorious Revolution

Prince of Orange Landing at Torbay, engraving ...
Prince of Orange Landing at Torbay, engraving by William Miller after J M W Turner, (Photo: Wikipedia)

In November 1688 William of Orange landed at Torbay with a combined force of Dutch and British troops. Early in 1689 the English Parliament declared for William. In Scotland and Ireland things were less clear cut, Scotland was finely balanced and Ireland was more Jacobite than Williamite. The events of 1689 determined who sat on the throne, and Britain becoming a global power.

A 1689 megagame will let players explore this and see if the outcome was a foregone conclusion or not (I don’t believe it was as easy as history makes out, and the Jacobite rebellions of the first half of the 18th Century bear out the continuing support for King James II and his descendants).


The 1689 megagame will be a political and military game about the events of 1689 that historically lead to the overthrow of King James II and his replacement with William & Mary.

  • The events in Scotland must be played
  • Events in Ireland could be played
  • events in England are unlikely to be played (it was much less contentious)

The 1689 megagame should cover the strategic options of both Kings, and the immediate political issues from the ruling classes of the Kingdoms. Specifically there should be a real dilemma for players on whether to switch sides (and at what point to jump, and whether to jump back). Historically changing sides was common, and some major figures did so more than once.

Underlying this there is a military game. Although all out war was avoided in England (the memory of the Civil Wars was too recent) this was not true in Scotland or Ireland (where the memory was still recent, but there were more scores to settle and force of arms was used more often). Significantly the settlement was rapid in England because William threatened to take his army home.

There are also resource constraints. Money needs to be borrowed, and paid back, to finance the campaigns. William appears to have planned better and has more immediate resources.

Potential Structure for a 1689 Megagame

Two Kings

William’s Government

William III ("William of Orange") Ki...
William III (“William of Orange”) King of England, Scotland and Ireland, Stadtholder of the Netherlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

William has a Government in London and the Netherlands. It supplies him with money and troops and he needs to engage politically with both Parliaments. He is also fighting a war with France, of which this becomes a wider part.

Decisions here are about deployment of resources and diplomatic efforts to close down support for James, and ensure that he does not have to get blood on his hands directly. His orders in late 1688 specifically allow James to escape, he was worried that elements of the English aristocracy would push him into a position where a captured James would have to be executed.

Members of the government (not William himself) could potentially be subject to desertion to James, so they need to be kept onside.

Scaling  at the lower end this can be a control role, in a high turnout game it could be a small player team to co-ordinate across Scotland and Ireland and do some diplomacy (via control).

James’s Government in exile

Portrait of King James II & VII
Portrait of King James II & VII (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As with William King James II has some loyal followers with him. Initially he is in France, having fled London in December 1688. After getting help from the French he returns to Ireland to raise an army to fight against William’s troops. Throughout the period his government is in letter communications with a number of officials and sympathisers across the three kingdoms to keep them in play as his loyal subjects.

Within his cabinet there is a high level of political intrigue and this leads to it being dysfunctional. In particular the Drummond brothers are hated by many who are otherwise loyal to James. There are also other enmities, often borne of the same issues that lead to William being invited over.

Defections and desertions from and to James are common.

Scaling this could be a control role in a small game. In a larger turnout it would be useful to play some of the Cabinet roles with James as Control. In a very large game then there could be a Hitler’s Henchmen style sub game going on with this team.

Scots Convention of the Estates

This represents the Nobles, Clergy and Gentry of Scotland. It met in March 1689 and was initially neutral, however when Viscount Dundee left it then it eventually declared for William & Mary. Potentially this could have been different. Orange or Lemon deals with this area and I’d re-use it as a sub-game in a 1689 megagame.

In effect this group of players hold the Government in Scotland in their control. They have agreement of who is the King, and to some extent the office holders of the Scottish Government are drawn from their ranks. Which way the Convention jumps will have a major impact on the course of the game (if they went for King James it could lead to him landing in Scotland rather than Ireland and calling on the Scottish Army to march south (it was disbanded at Reading in December along with the English Army)).

Scaling  this needs at least 7 players, of which two are staunch supporters of one of the Kings. If the ‘wrong’ King is chosen by the convention there is a role for these characters elsewhere in military opposition to the decision. The minimal player set are the leaders of the main interest groups, most of whom are undecided. In a medium sized game there are roles for up to 20 members of the Convention, the decided factions get a little larger and more undecided players are added. Each of the undecided will have agendas they want to see to gain their support, and a fear of being on the wrong side. It will take longer to make the Convention choose with more players, but it should become decisive if lobbied correctly.

Highland Clans

rp_300px-scotland_map-en.jpgThese are a disparate bunch, with internal conflict within them. Typically the Chiefs are well educated men (many are university graduates, or have studied). However they have a distrust of central government and obey only in so far as the King is willing to enforce things. They recognise authority in force of arms rather than de jure. An internal power struggle will be seen as a golden opportunity to settle old scores and raid for plunder in the guise of supporting the King.

There are few that can control Highland clans, their Chiefs and people they respect. An example of this is the recent Battle of Maol Ruadh (anglicised as ‘Mulroy’) in June 1688. Though government troops were involved, the fight was essentially a localised, private power struggle between clans (the MacIntosh clan settling a land dispute against the Keppoch MacDonalds). It was the result of deeply-entrenched, on-going clan tensions exacerbated by decades of political upheaval and lack of centralised authority in the Highlands. The battle of Mulroy highlights King James’ tenuous political authority and inability to maintain order in Scotland.

Scaling the major clans need to be played, ideally with at least two players per clan to allow dealing with both political and military issues (or both sides simultaneously if they aren’t active military). This would make for at least eight players (two each of the Grants, Camerons, MacDonalds and Campbells – although the last have at least one in the Convention). With a larger turnout there are 18 major Chiefs that were involved in the 1689 battles that could be played. There is also the possibility of running the clan sub-game in a similar way to the ancient celt game.

Military Forces

James II disbanded the armies, but William brought his own loyal troops from the Netherlands, including a Scots Lowland brigade. There were also some other Lowland troops raised either to fight for William, or re-mobilised by William. There are also some castle garrisons.

Conventional Forces

Conventional forces operating North of the Highland line are hard to keep supplied and operational. Also the terrain makes a lot of the training and doctrine hard to implement. The primary military leader for William was Major General Mackay, a highlander who had spent over 20 years in the service of the Netherlands. He has considerable freedom of action in how he deals with Jacobite forces in Scotland. His primary constraints are money and logistics.

Scaling the conventional forces need 2-3 players as a minimum. They have a standard command structure which means that the subordinate players have less freedom of action. If the game was larger there could be scope to add some liaison officers and logistics officers, but this is unlikely to take the need to more than 5 players. The key determining factor is the number of independent forces that could be created and the level of diplomacy done by military players. In the latter case I would expect this to be done by players from the Convention once it had reached a consensus on the King it was supporting.

Castle Garrisons

There are three significant castles, Edinburgh, Stirling and Dumbarton.

Edinburgh is a player role and casts an important shadow over the convention. The other two could be run by control if necessary. They guard important routes to and from the Highlands and are nominally controlled by the King. Other castles exist but these are private strongholds.

Time Period

The entire revolution took just under two years, but mostly the decisive phase is between March 1689 and August 1689. Ireland takes another year to mop up, there are also some loose ends in Scotland to deal with after the clans return home after the defeat at Dunkeld.

Potentially the Convention decision cycle could be extended from when it actually happened to allow it to go in parallel with the raising of the clans. That would allow the events to take place over 8-10 turns of about 40 minutes each (longer first turn and variable end). This would give a notional turn period of about two weeks.

Thoughts or comments?

  • Would you play in a 1689 megagame if it was worked up?
  • is there anything else you think could be included or left out?
  • would you want to work with me to make it happen?

leave a comment and let me know what you think. If there is enough interest I’ll approach Megagame Makers and see if it can go on the programme.

Inspiration – Glencoe & Dinosaurs

Map in English of Scotland This is a lighter r...

Image via Wikipedia

Today has been an unusually inspiring day, I had two separate ideas for games both of which I reckon could be pulled off in the space of a couple of days basic research and writing briefings etc.

Tracy & I both woke up early and we got a couple of hours to do things before Alexander surfaced at the rather late (for him) 9am. In that time I unusually got to watch some TV of my own choice.


The first idea came from a programme on the freeview channel ‘Yesterday’ about the Glencoe Massacre (or more accurately the events leading up to it and the aftermath. This is the follow on to the two games I’ve done about the revolution in 1689-90 in Scotland. There was a meeting between Albany and the Highland Chiefs where two secret treaties were agreed, one for each of the Kings! It struck me that there was huge potential for one of CLWG’s traditional double dealing and money making deals in this. So much so that I went and checked my bookshelf to see if I had any books on the subject, but it was a bit thin. So I ordered the John Prebble book on the subject Glencoe: The Story of the Massacre from Amazon.


20140624_103621I was going to offer that as a session at the CLWG Christmas meeting until I got my second sleet of inspiration later on. After dinner Alexander decided that he wanted to watch a movie about dinosaurs, so we got to watching Jurassic Park III. This set the brain cells firing again, and I got to wondering what the Government reaction would most likely be to the news of the first Jurassic Park. The game idea is that I will brief one player to be the CEO of a corporation that has built the dinosaur safari park on an island offshore. The other players will be the various Government Ministers and officials. Depending on their reaction we might re-role and widen to take up other national government roles, and perhaps even military roles. Anyway no doubt I will do a little more on this as I get on with writing it up as a game.

CLWG Games Weekend 2007 Reports

Some reports from the Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group (CLWG) games weekend.

Siege of Yendor Tryout

Jim put on a session to try out the mechanisms for the upcoming megagame. We spent some time trying to bring down a section of wall, and also seeing whether or not it was possible to directly assault the wall without first undermining or demolishing it.

Jim’s Breeding Idea

This was a design session rather than a game, but we gave it a good go none the less. Jim had come away from the Light of the Trees megagame with an idea that it ought to be possible to do a sub-component of a game about breeding heroes using some real genetics theory. The main aim was that, like in real life, the players managing the breeding programme wouldn’t actually know what the actual genetic make up of their characters were. Over time those players that were keeping an eye on things and using the evidence that they were accumulating would be able to make some educated guesses about the best pairings that would drive their breeding programme in the direction that they wanted to take.

We all started off with a single individual each, although without worrying about whether that individual was male or female (as this was thought to over-complicate things). The idea was to work with a bloodline rather than a series of individuals, although each generation would be split into separate individuals representing the main lines. This was felt to be necessary to allow the breeders an opportunity to selectively breed those with the correct traits with individuals from the other bloodlines.

The fact that we rapidly bogged down was fairly predictable as we tried to track several individuals. There was a fair amount of mechanical detail involved in generating the offspring as well as the players not having enough information to make good decisions about which individuals to breed with which others. There would have been a better handle on it if we’d played out a bit more of the game before moving into a general discussion of the issues, approach and suggestions of how it could all be achieved.

As a design session it was very thought provoking, and I carried on thinking about it for almost a whole week, on and off. Jim’s conclusion from the session was that it probably wasn’t practically possible to achieve what he set out to do. At the time I would have agreed with him, but a few days of thought have changed my mind on that.

I come to this with more than a smattering of background, I studied “Genes, Organisms & Evolution” as an undergraduate, the course forming a major part of my degree. That said I’ve forgotten most of the detail in the intervening 15 years since I graduated. However the text books are still on a bookshelf nearby.

I think that the general premise that Jim was trying to attain is a sound one and that with some streamlining and appropriate background that it can be achieved. The key is to stick with Jim’s bloodline idea and not get drawn into dealing with individuals, except where heroes or other primary characters are required, and these Heroes should have nothing to do with the breeding stock, although their characters will be determined by it.

The key assumption I am working on is that that this is a sub-component of a game that plays over generations rather than a game in itself. As part of the background the designer of the main game needs to make some decisions about how many characteristics need to be tracked, whether these have any inter-relationship or are independent and also how often he wants particular characteristic levels/attributes to feature.

For example let us assume that a game designer wants to track both personal bravery and intelligence in the hero bloodlines. He might decide that these will not be related to each other. For bravery he might decide that there are four possible states, Heroic (no morale required), Brave (positive modifier to morale), Normal (no modifiers) and Cowardly (negative modifiers). Of these outcomes he might want Heroic to be quite rare, Brave to be common but not a majority, Normal to be the majority position and Cowardly to be less common than Brave, but more likely than Heroic.

Taking the assumption that bravery is a hereditary characteristic how does this translate into genetics?

Well you could specify three variants of a bravery gene (alleles are they are known), H, O & C. HH would be the Heroic types, HO the brave, OO and OC the normal and CC & CH the cowards. In these cases the H allele is recessive (so only those with two copies are heroic). The C allele is also recessive, but dominates the H allele. The O allele is dominant over C but not over H.

This takes you into a method of at least allocating a characteristic based on genetics, but it doesn’t address either simplicity of recording it nor of proportions. Not all genes are evenly distributed in the population. Those that confer survival advantages propagate more widely and those that lead to disadvantages rapidly leave the gene pool.

In this case you would expect O & C to be widely distributed, possibly equally. H is likely to be less frequent as though it confers an advantage when hunting it becomes much less advantageous once farming is available, and in fact becomes a positive disadvantage over time. If 10% of the population carried the H gene then 1% (i.e. the proportion with two copies of it) would be heroic. If the O allele was 50% of the population and the C allele the remaining 40% then you would have a distribution as follows:

H (10%)

O (50%)

C (40%)

H (10%)

1 (Heroic)

5 (Brave)

4 (Cowardly)

O (50%)

5 (Brave)

25 (Normal)

20 (Normal)

C (40%)

4 (Cowardly)

20 (Normal)

16 (Cowardly)









Let us also assume that there was a decision to track intelligence as a numeric score also with three alleles generating a score when summed. The alleles being 0, 1, 2. These would be distributed as 10%, 80%, 10% in the general population.

Tracking Bloodlines

The method I thought you would use to track each bloodline is a table with each of the attributes to be tracked down the side and the alleles to be tracked along the top. Each allele would have a score between 0 and 10 to show its relative proportion in the population of the bloodline. An example of this is shown


H (r)


C (r)

Bravery alleles





L (0)

M (1)

H (2)

Intelligence alleles




In each generation the player running the breeding would be given some feedback of their bloodline’s characteristics. In this case they would be told that they were of average intelligence and not especially brave. The breeder player would then make a decision about trying to improve the bloodline either from the general population, another player’s bloodline (with the specific approval of that player) or from within his own bloodline.

The general population bloodline should be determined before the start of the game and remain constant for the duration of the game. Player controlled bloodlines are very likely to change over the course of generations as the genealogists recommend good matches for strengthening the bloodline based on observed characteristics of other bloodlines.

Breeding from the General Population

There is a general assumption that there are other bloodlines that the genealogists are aware of but which are not part of the played groups. These probably represent the minor nobility or some other class that the main bloodline knows but are lower than those represented by player teams. When breeding from these it is assumed that the characteristic which is sought to be improved is always manifested in the individuals that are to be added to the bloodline for breeding purposes.

Using the general bloodline track (see example above) the umpire checks whether the person has one or two copies of the appropriate gene. In the case of characteristics which are recessive then there are always two copies of the gene. (e.g. If you were trying to breed heroes into your bloodline then you would start off with two copies of the H allele to breed in).

For each of the genes recorded (i.e. Bravery and Intelligence in these examples) you would determine which alleles were to be incorporated into the new bloodline. Roll 1d10 for the copy to be imported (except where we have previously determined that recessive characteristics give an exact gene). We’re already getting an H from the hero, we need to roll 1d10 to see which intelligence allele will be passed on. This is most likely to be an M result.

These alleles will then displace one of those in the general bloodline. If a 2 is rolled for the Bravery gene then the new H allele displaces an O allele. Another 2 for Intelligence has the new M allele displace another M allele, so no real change. The new bloodline track looks like the example below.


H (r)


C (r)

Bravery alleles





L (0)

M (1)

H (2)

Intelligence alleles




The feedback to the player would be that the family was of average intelligence and above average bravery, although with a larger number of cowards than one would expect. (There are now 4% heroic, 16% brave, 32% Cowardly). This might prompt an attempt to breed out the cowards, harder than might appear as the C allele is largely recessive.

What this system needs is a proper game to sit within. Ideally one of dynastic succession and involving at least a bit of individual character impact on the outcomes. Sadly that isn’t something on my current project list.

Religion in ‘Hapsburg Ascendant’

Brian started off a discussion of the role of religion in games set in the 17th century, particularly his upcoming megagame. His wish was to get some roleplaying of the religious motivations that were what made the 30 years war happen and to get the players to warp their rational decision making process (if you can describe wargamers as rational) to fit the religious mindset prevalent at the time.

We had a fascinating discussion, aided by Arthur having a stack of relevant textbooks to hand in his classroom. We talked around the issues of not giving perverse incentives and not making it too easy for players to work out how they got advantages from religious behaviour.

The conclusions that we came to were that each of the major sects needed to have its own set of rules, that there ought to be a league table so that there was a visual incentive to act correctly (this being a lesson from the Sengoku megagames) and that once a defined level of behaviour had been reached that there ought to be a direct umpire driven reward for the correct behaviour. The reward needed to be strong enough to show that it was ‘God’s work’ but also not so strong that it caused problems. Also we felt that because ‘god works in mysterious ways’ that the players should not get to determine what might happen if they had their god’s favour.

Orange or Lemon? – Onside Report

This game was intended to show the political goings on in the attempt to get a revolution settlement in Scotland following on from the English parliament’s declaration of Prince William of Orange as their King in February 1689 (new style).

The game we played was a highly entertaining roleplay of some of the issues and certainly gave a good flavour and reached, more or less, the historical outcome. I certainly enjoyed it immensely, and I think the players did too.

I designed the game with almost a board game like level of mechanism for winning the support of the non-played members of the Convention (which is essentially an unofficial Parliament as it had been called by Prince William of Orange and not King James).

Almost none of those mechanisms were tested in the game we played, but it worked as a game anyway – almost a proof of the old saying that you could stick a bunch of CLWG members in a room with some game money and an a game would break out. Instead of money I gave them a map of the Edinburgh High Street and an idea. I’ll leave it to the players to tell you how the game actually went.

In terms of future development I will refine the player briefs (I was still working on these when I started the session and a couple are not yet fully complete). This will improve player understanding of the period and importantly make their personal objectives a bit more tailored from the generic ones of:

  1. Stay alive.

  2. Ensure that the clan/family remains in being and in control of its territory.

  3. Increase your/the clan wealth (either through plunder or by increasing territory).

  4. Increase the influence of Clan Cameron.

  5. Have your King accepted as de facto sovereign.

  6. Ensure that your enemy is diminished.

For the lowlanders you can replace ‘Clan’ with ‘family/heirs’. These do work, but there need to be a couple more triggers to get some of the characters to get stuck into being active. There is also a need to explain the general apathy of the population in their support for the King who has antagonised most of them in the last decade, even before he became the King.

Blitz Firefighting

An end to the weekend with an extended bout of firefighting during the London blitz. This game actually started at the same time as my session and I joined in when we’d finished playing Orange or Lemon? I ended up as one of the LFB professionals sent along to bolster the firefighting force.

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