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Pre-Feudal Scots
O.G. "Somerled" Scots by John Hansen

Pre-Feudal Scots (846-1124 AD)
DBA IV/45ab

The Pre-Feudal Scots begins in 846 AD bit more properly traces its starting point to 843 AD when Kenneth McAlpin was crowned King of the Scots and Picts, thus uniting Scotland. It extends through the reign of Alexander I (1107-1124 AD) to the beginning of the reign of King David I in 1124 AD, who reunited Scotland with Lothian and Strathclyde. It covers the "kingdom" of Alba, roughly equivalent to modern Scotland sans the Orkneys, Hebrides and Caithness (under Viking control) and the lowlands of Strathcyde. It encompasses such colorful Kings as Malcolm II, victor at Carrham, Duncan I, who slew his grandfather Malcolm for the throne, MacBeth (at right), who dispatched Duncan before becoming fodder for a Shakespearean play , and Malcolm III, nicknamed Canmore (Ghaelic "Cean-mor") or "Big Head," who slew MacBeth in turn.

During this period, the "Scots" were truly an amalgam of people descended from the Irish Scotti who expanded north and east ward into Scotland from their Kingdom of Dal Raida, the Attecotti, the native Caledones, Venicones and other Pictish tribes, as well as settled Norse and Danish invaders. In addition to almost constant internecine conflict between the tribal "clans" with their competing claims to kingship, the Scots also had to contend with Viking incursions and the aspirations of King William and his Anglo-Norman successors to extend their conquest and influence into the north.


The enemies of the Pre-Feudal Scots before 1051AD include Strathcyde (II/81d), the Angles of Northumbria (III/24b), Vikings (III/40ab), other Pre-Feudal Scots (III/45a), and the Anglo-Danes (III/71). From 1052, the enemies include: Vikings (III/40b), other Pre-Feudal Scots (III/45b), Normans (III/51), Anglo-Danes of Northumbria (III/71), Scots Isles & Highlands (III/77), and the Anglo-Normans (IV/3).


The DBA 2.0 pre-Feudal Scots list is broken into two sub-lists -- III/45(a) runs from 846 to 1051 AD, and III/45(b) runs from 1052 to 1124 AD. In sublist (a), the General can be fielded as Cavalry or Warband, whereas in sublist (b), the General must mount as either Cavalry or Knights. Otherwise, lists (a) and (b) are comprised of the same element types and numbers, which include:

3Cv or 3Kn (after 1051 AD) or 4Wb (before 1052 AD) Commander in Chief (King or Duke) and Nobles
2LH Lesser horse and retainers.
4Wb Scottish Thegns with Viking-style arms/equipment
3Sp Clansmen with long spears
3Wb "Wild" Galwegian allies with axe or sword
2Ps Skirmishers with javelin or bow

Camps and BUAs

With low aggression, the arable Scots will be required to field a BUA more often than not. "Royal" castles such as those at Scone, Sterling or Edinburgh are good subjects for BUAs, although most of the famous Scottish castles were built or extensively expanded/remodelled in the 14th-17th centuries. More typical BUAs might be less imposing fortifications (e.g. a square or round tower keep (a.k.a. peel or pele) or simple pallisaded village). A camp would consist of typical baggage, possibly including wagons/ox-carts, pigs, etc. For something more distinctive, you can try depicting MacBeth consulting the witches (Feudal Castings sells suitable specialty figures).

Chris Brantley's Essex Pre-Feudal Scots


In order to field a Pre-Feudal Scot army (a & b) with all options, you will need 3 cavalry figures (including a CnC), 3 knight figures (including a CnC, alhough the cavalry element can do double-duty as knights if you wish to economise), 14 warband figures (including a CnC and 7 other better equipped figures suitable as thegns), 2 light horse figures, 21 spearman (with long spears), and 4 skirmishers (bow or javelin-armed).

In 15mm, Clay Shaw's Feudal Castings from Scotland are highly recommended, with figures specifically designed for this period. Donnington offers several appropriate figures in their Early Medieval European range, including a Scottish knight (MC21), various Islemen (MF29, MF33, MF42, MF56), Scots swordsmen (MF48) and axemen (MF49 ), Scots thegn ( MF52), and Galwegian foot/skirmishers (MF54, MF55). Donnington's Scots Common spearmen can be used in pinch, as well as period Irish, Viking, and even some Norman figures from Donnington, Gladiator, Old Glory15s and other makers. Essex recommends their Early Saxon figures (SXA5 & 6) for Scots "wild" warband and psiloi respectively, and their medieval range for thegns (MID50), spear (MID96), and Light Horse (MID18). Some of the new Essex Dark Ages foot (DGS series) may also be suitable. Essex MID96 spear mixes well with the Feudal Castings spear for variety. Gallia's Feudals range includes Scots spearmen, axemen, and swordsmen although these seem to be designed for the circa 1250 AD period. Similarly, Irregular offers Irish/Scottish light cavalry (R29), foot (HR30) and spear (HR31) in their medieval range.

In 25mm, Old Glory's "Somerled" range offers some excellent choices especially suitable for the early (9th century) Scots. Otherwise you will have to scavenge appropriate figures from other ranges, such as Foundry's Vikings and Early Medieval/Baron's Wars ranges.

Notes on Tactics


Other Resources

There are no Osprey's directly on point, although you may find some useful information in Osprey's The Scottish & Welsh Wars (151) [New Trade Edition], which cover the Scots Common period.

For period histories on the web, visit the BBC's Scotland: Birth of a Nation, Electric Scotland's history page, and Skyelander's Scottish and Medieval History page.

The following period histories are available in the De Bellis Bookstore:

Alba: Celtic Scotland in the Medieval Era by Edward Cowen and Andrew MacDonald, eds., (Tuckwell Press, 2001). 282 pages.

Lost Kingdoms: Celtic Scotland and the Middle Ages by John L. Roberts, (Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1997). 224 pages, softcover.

Somerled: And the Emergence of Gaelic Scotland by John Marsen, (Tuckwell Press, 2001). 212 pages, softcover.

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Last Updated: July 30, 2001