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Pict Army
Photography by Brian Kearney

Caledonian or Pictish (75 - 846 AD) - 67

By Dan Mersey

The names Pict and Caledonian derive from the names used by the Romans to describe the tribes of modern Scotland; in wargames terms, "Pict" usually describes the southern peoples, and "Caledonian" the more mysterious highland dwellers (often described of being of a "very ancient" ancestry).

As England became more Romanised in the years following the invasion of AD43, the Roman army pushed north and encountered these less sympathetic northern tribes, nicknaming them Pictii ("painted") due to their tatooed bodies. [Similarly, the Scots-Irish called them the "An Cruithain" or "painted folk."] Campaigns were certainly directed against the Picts and Caledonians, and Agricola's victories are well recorded including the climatic battle at Mons Graupius in 83 AD (although I have recently read a very good argument that they are fictional - contact me for details). Mostly subdued, the Picts remained beyond Hadrian's and Antonine's walls, occassionally raiding or being raided by the Romans and their British allies.

With the withdrawal of Roman troops, the Picts raided on a more serious level - the Britons sent pleas to Rome for aid. Whilst this raiding occurred, Scots-Irish peoples were settling in western Scotland, and battles between the Picts and their new rivals continued until Kenneth MacAlpin united the two nations in AD846. Pictish armies also battled the Saxon Northumbrians, and defeated them in several battles.

Army Composition:

2x LCh
or 3Cv:
Early armies may have used chariots in lowland areas - just like other British tribes. However, these would probably have been replaced with cavalry shortly after the Pict's first contact with Rome. Later Pictish cavalrymen are depicted in carvings as being heavily armed - with helmets, shields, swords, spears, and probably mail armour too.
2x 2LH Like many other Celtic peoples the Picts used many light horsemen, armed with javelins and shields and mounted on sturdy ponies.
6x 3Wb
or 3Aux
The tribesmen fought as spear, sword, and shield armed infantrymen. Warbands represent the early tribesmen, and later raiding parties, and the Auxilia represent the peoples accustomed to fighting in the hills.
2x 2Ps Pictish Psiloi may have been armed with javelins, slings, bows, and maybe even crossbows (one carved stone looks to have a crossbow armed huntsman upon it).

Enemies:

Enemies of the Caledonians and Picts include the Scots-Irish (#61), Early Imperial Rome (#64), Middle Imperial Rome (#69), Early Saxon (#75a), Middle Anglo-Saxon (#75b), Late-Roman (West) (#77a), and Sub-Roman British (#82). Perhaps most surprisingly, a Pictish/Caledonian army may not fight itself, despite the fact that a good deal of inter-tribal conflict could have occurred. So you'll have to content yourself with the seven listed enemies.

Tactics:

If you choose the warband option (which I generally would, unless on a table with too much bad-going), then "Charge!!!". Six Warband is enough to play with, and when you consider that a Picish army also includes 2 Cavalry and 2 Light Horse, it has the flexibility and punch to cope with most of its historical opponents - it's certainly possible to give the Saxons and Britons a bashing, anyway!

Camp:

Pictish or Caledonian camps could have been a one of a variety of forms - a hill fort, a broch (a fortified, round tower), some lowland Picts may have used Irish-style lake dwellings, a group of raiding boats drawn up onto a beach or river bank, or even a cluster of stolen animals and villagers.

Painting Tips:

Early Picts must have worn tatoos or warpaint - this is suggested by their latin name. The dye used was probably woad, or some other blue colour; warpaint, at least, had probably died out (excuse the pun) by the end of the Roman period. Tunics would have been chequered like most Celtic clothiing, and cloaks would probably have been drab. Trousers do not appear to have been worn.

Shield designs were probably intricate - Pictish art work included many mystical (and not so mystical) beasts, and a variety of styles of knotwork. Ponies would probably have been dun or roan.

Resources:

As far as figures go, loads of manufacturers make Picts (which are the same as Caledonians of course). It's not even worth listing them all here as there are too many - but look at the manufacturer's guide and these resources for some suggestions.

Book wise, Historic Scotland publish a range of books detailing Scotland's history, which are very nice and give just the right amount of detail. WRG's Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome and Armies of the Dark Ages give more details too - and there have been many other books written about the Celts, Picts, Caledonians, and a host of other Scottish peoples too! Plug time - my book Glutter of Ravens details the post-Roman British armies and their enemies (incuding the Picts); it also contains a set of rules designed exclusively for fighting such battles, and they are compatible with DBA-sized armies.

Other resources include:

Scenarios

About the Author

Dan Mersey has a degree in Archaeology and is a Contributing Editor to The Castles of Wales website. E-mail: danielmersey@yahoo.com.


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Last Updated: Feb. 21, 1999

Questions, comments, suggestions welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.