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Unofficial Rules Variants

Scottish Schiltrons

Because of the threat posed by the Feudal English knights, it was not uncommon for the Scots Common pike to deploy in a special defensive formation known as the "schiltron" (or "schiltrom" to some). Walter de Guisborough describes the Scottish schiltrons as "circular in shape...[with the men] standing shoulder to shoulder in deep ranks and facing toward the circumfrance of the circle, with their spears slanted outward at an oblique angle" in his account of the battle of Falkirk.

At Falkirk, Wallace's pike were deployed in four schiltrons, which remained stationary throughout the battle until finally broken by the cumulative effects of missile fire and impetuous attacks by the English knights. There are accounts of schiltrons on the move, but invariable these involve small bodies of men (50-100) crossing open ground in fear of being ridden down by cavalry, and are much smaller than the schiltrons represented in DBA scale. It seems likely that a formation comprising such as large percentage of an army, as the four schiltrons at Falkirk, would be highly unwieldy to move.

To represent schiltrons on the DBA battlefield, the following variant rule is suggested. I have not played it sufficiently to eliminate all my concerns about play balance, but invite comments from playtesters.

  1. Schiltrons may only be formed by Scots pikes elements in the Scots Common army (#140). Schiltrons must be formed as part of the initial deployment and may not be reformed during the heat of battle.

  2. Schiltrons are formed by two elements of pikes positioned back to back (i.e. facing opposing direction and in rear edge contact). In Double DBA, schiltrons are comprised of four pike elements formed in a square.

  3. Once formed a schiltron cannot move. However, elements comprising a schiltron can move out of schiltron formation to advance or retreat at any time.

  4. Schiltrons have no flanks or rear and therefore elements attacking a schiltron may not claim a flank or overlap bonus.

  5. Up to four enemy elements can engage in close combat with a two element schiltron in a bound if in contact with a front or side edge. The schiltron defends against each attack normally.

  6. Schiltrons receive no close combat bonuses for pike supporting pike.

  7. Because of the morale imperative of maintaining close ranks, schiltrons are allowed to ignore all recoil close combat results. Similarly, schiltrons are not subject to quick-kill by Knights.

  8. If forced to recoil by distance shooting, the target element in the schiltron is destroyed.

  9. If an attacking element touching the edge of two pike elements in schiltron manages to inflict a destroy result in close combat, there is an equal chance that either pike element (but not both) is destroyed. Roll a die to determine which element is removed. Elements engaged in distance shooting always shoot at the nearest schiltron element, but may select a specific schiltron element within a direct line of sight as their target if they are otherwise of equal distance.

Gamer Comments

Roy Beers: Your ideas about the schiltron's all-round defence are sound, particularly for Falkirk - but the whole point of Bannockburn was that the Scots attacked, and from the accounts it would seem a relatively rapid attack at that - both the static "circular" and advancing formations were "schiltrons", which I think ought to be read purely as a "battle" or division composed of spearmen (or Pk as they would be in DBA). Many later battles were lost because Scottish commanders assumed the best way to win was to attack - forgetting the special tactical circumstances of Bannockburn. At Falkirk, probably not really a typical battle, the Scots are described as having their front ranks kneeling; it could be that the attacking formation was a sort of "oval", rather than rectangle, formed around the standards, which could rapidly be arranged as a vaguely circular formation for all-round defence - cutting a long story short the schiltron was used both for attack and defence. It could be that in pure defence it was more vulnerable to missile fire, since plunging shot would strike people from behind and above - but the heavy casualties sustained after just a few volleys at Bannockburn shows how vulnerable a formation it was in that regard anyhow.

One solution might be to treat all the permutations as Pk in the usual way, but rule that a schiltron two elements deep in good going has an effect the same as longbows charged by knights - i.e. the knights are destroyed if they lose.

Since the combination of missile and shock was what did for the Scots every time in their historic defeats a schiltron losing to Kn or Bd could be destroyed if also overlapped by Bw.

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Last Updated: June 23, 1998

Comments and suggestions welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley, c.brantley@ieee.org.