Campaigns of Montrose Review

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Campaigns of Montrose

Campaigns of Montrose
A Year of Living Dangerously, 1644-1645
Review by David Lent

I’m always on the look out for historical games that cover periods I’m not familiar with. Campaigns of Montrose fits this bill as I’ve never heard of the Marquis of Montrose or his campaign against the Scottish Covenanter government forces during the first English Civil War. What’s even better is it’s in minigame format, so I was able to get an introduction to this period with a low-complexity game that’s easy to learn.

The Royalist player wins Campaigns of Montrose immediately if he wins 10 victories over Covenanter forces and Burghs. Otherwise, he can win at the end of the game if he has sufficient forces in England. The Covenanter player wins immediately if he kills the Marquis of Montrose. Otherwise, he can win if the Royalist player has not won by the end of the game.

The components for this minigame are 40 counters, 18 campaign cards, map and rules. All of the components are of reasonable quality for such an inexpensive game.

COM’s counters represent leaders, cavalry, Irish, highland infantry and lowland infantry. The unit counters have the movement allowance and strength printed on them. Leaders have a + sign, which indicates it’s leadership value is added to another unit during combat. It also has the movement allowance. All of the leaders are named leaders and the historical notes mention their actions during the actual campaign.

Each player has a deck of 9 campaign cards that provide events during the game. Unlike other Decision Games minigames, none of these are scenario cards. The entire deck consists of event cards.

COM’s rulebook is full-color. Unlike most other Decision Games’ minigames, there is not a separate base and scenario rulebook. What I really like about this rulebook is it contains two examples of play, player’s notes, designer notes and historical notes in addition to the rules. It was nice to read about the history of this campaign as I was completely unfamiliar with it.

The point-to-point map is 11” x 17” and to my delight, has every table and chart you need to play the game printed directly on it. This makes the game play faster as you don’t have to flip through the rulebook to find necessary charts. The map has 4 regions. They are the Highlands, Northern Lowlands, Southern Lowlands and England. These regions are very important as Highland troops can only be recruited in the Highlands and lowland troops can only be recruited in the lowlands. In addition, the Irish cannot retreat past the Royalist Limit until the Royalists have defeated both the Inveraray and Inverlochy Burghs.

Sequence of Play:
Royalist Player Turn

1) Campaign Card Phase
2) Recruiting Phase (non-winter turns)
3) March Phase
4) Battle Phase
5) Disband Phase
6) Player Turn Interphase
Covenanter Player Turn
1) Campaign Card Phase
2) Recruiting Phase (non-winter turns)
3) March Phase
4) Battle Phase
5) Disband Phase
6) Game Turn Interphase

Most of the steps in the sequence of play are self-explanatory, but the battle phase and disband phase require some explanation. In addition to that, I’ll explain some special rules.

COM has two types of battle: combat between armies and attacks on Burghs. The regular battle is similar to combat in many other Decision Games’ minigames. The two sides line up their forces for battle and tactical superiority is determined. Whoever gets tactical superiority fires first and the units it destroys or panics may not fight back. Tactical superiority is very important in these games. Combat alternates between the units of the 2 sides until all surviving units have attacked. If both sides still have non-panicked units then a new round of combat occurs. This continues until one side has no units or only panicked units. The winner takes that space and the loser retreats. He then rolls two dice for each leader that retreated and if double ones are rolled, the leader is killed.

Burgh attacks are similar, except each Burgh has an intrinsic garrison of two 1-strength units. They treat panic results as no effect since they are assumed to be on defensive terrain. The Royalist player is the only player that can attack Burghs.

Royalist units may disband during the disband phase if any victories were won with Highland units. Each stack with Highland units will roll on the disband table to see if any grab their loot and go home. If the Royalists won no victories with Highland units, some may go home if all his Highland and Irish units are in the Northern lowlands. However, if any are in the Southern Lowlands he must roll twice on the disband table.

The Covenanter player always rolls once on the disband table to determine how many of his Highland units outside the Highlands are destroyed. If they are all in the Highlands, none of his units will disband.

Winter turns are unique in that there is no recruiting and every player’s units and leaders must end the turn in a named space or they are eliminated. Eliminated units go back to the pool, but eliminated leaders are removed from the game permanently.

There is another special rule that doesn’t occur until the Royalists win their fourth victory. When this happens, the Covenanter leaders Baillie and Urry are activated. In addition, the Covenanter leader Elcho is removed from the map and replaced with the leader Leslie in Newcastle. Leslie becomes active once the Royalist has won seven victories. Upon activation, he recruits all 2 strength units in the pool.

The last special rule is that Irish and Highland units may never enter England. This means that the Royalist player can only win in England with Montrose and at least four lowland units.

COM begins with Montrose and MacColla in the same stack with two Irish units. The Irish units are the only two-step units and are very strong. However the Covenanter player starts with more units and leaders.

The game play in COM involves much more movement choices than in the typical minigame. Royalist stacks are on a rampage to destroy as many Burghs and enemy stacks as possible, while avoiding taking heavy losses. Initially, the Irish units give the Royalist player an advantage since they are very powerful two-step units. However, if they are lost the Royalist will have a lot of trouble winning. What’s interesting about this game is there are two ways for the Royalists to win, so it keeps your enemy on his toes. Also, the disband and recruiting phases mean that you are often gaining and losing units. If the Covenanter forces have too many Highland units, it’s time to move to the lowland so those forces start disbanding. Disbanding adds an extra dimension to this game that is rarely seen in such a low complexity game.

I’ve found that Campaigns of Montrose is easy to learn, quick to play and more substantial than most minigames. It’s suitable for both beginning and experienced wargamers and I highly recommend it. As a bonus, it will teach you about a campaign that has rarely been explored in wargaming.

View the components in the unboxing video below:


  • Easy to learn
  • Plays fast
  • More strategy than in most minigames
  • Covers a seldom gamed historical campaign
  • More substantial than a lot of minigames
  • The rules have historical notes to familiarize you with the historical campaign.
  • All the tables and charts are on the map
  • Inexpensive
  • Has examples of play


  • The disband mechanic can be a thorn in your side if you keep losing units.


Rulebook Clarity - 7.7
Fun - 8
Originality - 7
Component Quality - 7
Replayability - 7.5
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