Legio Wargames

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By smacdowall, Sep 17 2018 09:24PM

With a view to re-fighting Malplaquet next Spring, Dave Allen and I visited the actual battlefield a few weeks back — as close to the actual day of the battle (11 September) as we could manage. We wanted to understand what the ground was like, how the troops deployed and what they could see, in order to represent it accurately for the wargame.


The battlefield monument
The battlefield monument

Straddling the French-Belgian border just south of Mons the battlefield is easily accessible. The starting point is a monument standing just in front of the centre of the French lines a few metres south of the Belgian border.



Orientation map of the initial deployment
Orientation map of the initial deployment

There are some excellent orientation maps around the monument which give good detail of the units involved along with their deployment and movements. The French side of the battlefield benefits from a signed walking tour which can be followed with the aid of a most helpful app. This gives information and maps in English as well as French.



Bois de la Laniere on the French right
Bois de la Laniere on the French right

One thing that struck us was the very limited visibility. Although there are no significant hills, the gently rolling terrain generally limits visibility to less than 200 yards. The main French infantry lines were on a slight reverse slope with the result that troops on the opposing sides would have been unlikely to see each other until within less than 100 yards of each other.


The Bois de Sars at the point where Lottum attacked
The Bois de Sars at the point where Lottum attacked

The woods which formed the flanks of the gap which the French defended are still there. The Bois de Sars to the west still has the same outline as it did back in 1709. It is hard to imagine just how the tens of thousands of allied troops managed to attack through them to emerge on the other side.



Information board on the site of the French redans
Information board on the site of the French redans

There are no traces of the French redans or entrenchments but their locations are reasonable well marked and by walking along their lines it is possible to get a sense of what it must have been like.



The allied forward battery circled in red
The allied forward battery circled in red

Many accounts of the battle say that Marlborough’s grand battery of 40 guns first fired into the Bois de Sars to support Lottum’s attack. Then they switched their fire to engage the French cavalry that could be seen on a slope behind the French foot, hidden by their reverse slope position. Although we tramped over all the possible locations for this battery there are no good fields of fire to substantiate this. The maps by the monument suggest another battery of 10 guns and 3 howitzers well forward of the allied centre and indicate that is was probably indirect fire from this battery which inflicted casualties on the French horse to the rear.


Memorial to the French senior officers killed in action
Memorial to the French senior officers killed in action

The small church in Malplaquet has a memorial to the French officers killed (Lieutenant Colonels and above).


Malplaquet church
Malplaquet church

The church was there in 1709 and although it has since been re-built it was done so in a way to closely resemble the original.



Blairon farm cicled in red viewed from the French centre
Blairon farm cicled in red viewed from the French centre

Blairon farm forward of the French lines forms an obstacle we had not appreciated. It is not so much the farm itself as the deep north-south running stream that runs through it. This, and the now much depleted Bois Thierry to the north, break up the allied line of advance. Once committed beyond this point it would have been pretty well impossible to move troops from the allied left (east) to the centre or visa versa.


Scattered around the battlefield are several monuments as can be seen in the following photos:



Monument to the Swiss regiments on both sides
Monument to the Swiss regiments on both sides


Monument to the British regiments that fought at Malplaquet
Monument to the British regiments that fought at Malplaquet

Plaque at the position of the French artillery which decimated the Dutch
Plaque at the position of the French artillery which decimated the Dutch


Monument to the French carabiniers who held the left flank
Monument to the French carabiniers who held the left flank


19th century mural on the side of a barn
19th century mural on the side of a barn









By smacdowall, Aug 28 2018 04:34PM

Having previously refought the battles of Blenheim, Ramilles and Oudenarde I am now turning my attention to the last and bloodiest of Marlborough’s great battles — Malplaquet (1709).


The Battle of Malplaquet
The Battle of Malplaquet

I have most of the troops I need but a few reinforcements are still required. First off the painting table if the French régiment de Champagne. This regiment of the vieux corps was fourth in seniority after Picardie, Piedmont and Navarre. It played a key role at Malplaquet, where it lost 50% casualties.


Earlier in the War of Spanish Succession the Champagne regiment was engaged on the Upper Rhine, taking part in the battles of Friedlingen (1702) and Blenheim (1704). It was transferred to Flanders after Oudenarde and therefore did not take part in that battle, nor Ramilles. This is why such a senior regiment has been left out of my wargames order of battle until now.



Drummers wore the King's livery
Drummers wore the King's livery

Like all the senior French line infantry regiments, the régiment de Champagne wore grey-white coats with cuffs of the same colour, brass buttons and yellow lace on their tricorns. Their waistcoats were red. The drummers wore the king’s livery of blue coats with red/white lace.



Two battalions of the regiment
Two battalions of the regiment

I have painted two battalions of 15mm Minifigs. The first battalion carries the colonel’s colour — the prestigious drapeau blanc (white cross on a white field). The second battalion has the drapeau d'ordonnance of a white cross on a green field.

The first battalion carries the drapeau blanc
The first battalion carries the drapeau blanc



The second battalion carries the drapeau d'ordonnance
The second battalion carries the drapeau d'ordonnance


The rear view
The rear view


The two battalions together
The two battalions together




By smacdowall, Aug 15 2018 10:54AM

I have long considered building an Ottoman army to provide a new and interesting opponent for my War of Spanish Succession Imperialists. I was, however, put off by the sheer numbers of troops I would have to raise and the fact that there are no opportunities for fielding a contingent two to serve as allies in any of my existing armies. Fortunately one of my friends decided to do it himself. Not only that he has the space and patience to raise an Ottoman army in 28mm scale.


Ottoman light cavalry
Ottoman light cavalry

I played the Ottoman right wing commander with an all-cavalry force of light Tartars, Bedouins and Akinci irregulars backed up by some heavy Sipahis. As a cavalryman at heart, these are exactly the type of troops I love to lead on the wargames table.


Süleyman the Magnificent
Süleyman the Magnificent

Our Sultan, the benevolent and magnificent Süleyman, arrayed his army with a powerful artillery force in the centre along with elite Janissaries behind mobile fortifications.


Jannisaries and artillery of the centre
Jannisaries and artillery of the centre

His plan was to wear down the Hungarian foot with superior firepower, while the cavalry wings drew off the enemy mounted knights and retainers.



Commander of the Hungarian right wing
Commander of the Hungarian right wing


Hungarian knights and retainers
Hungarian knights and retainers

The Hungarian knights were heavily armoured with many riding barded horses. In an even combat they would inevitably have the edge but we had many light cavalry who could wear them down.



My light cavalry overwhelm the enemy right
My light cavalry overwhelm the enemy right

Although I had initially planned to simply wear down the enemy cavalry on my flank, good shooting by my Tartar horse archers gave me the opportunity to close in and overwhelm the enemy light cavalry screen. I was then able to drive off the entire enemy left wing, forcing King Lajos to move his reserve knights to shore up his collapsing flank.


The Ottoman guns open fire
The Ottoman guns open fire

In the centre our guns opened fire at long range.


The enemy foot take casualties from artillery fire
The enemy foot take casualties from artillery fire

Although it took 3 turns for our heavy guns to re-load, by the time the enemy Landsknechts and Hungarian foot reached our lines they were already beginning to waver.



The cavalry engagement on our left
The cavalry engagement on our left

On our left a huge swirling cavalry battle developed which flowed back and forth with neither side gaining a significant advantage.



The Saphis rout
The Saphis rout

Meanwhile on our right, King Lajos’ reserve knights succeeded in routing my Saphis. Isolated and in danger of being surrounded by my hordes of light cavalry the Hungarian knights called off their pursuit and pulled back to re-form. This gave my Saphis the opportunity to rally.



The enemy foot crumble
The enemy foot crumble

When the Hungarian foot came into close combat with the Janissaries in the centre, they were so worn down by artillery and musket fire that their lines crumbled.


Victory was ours. We had destroyed the Hungarian left wing and centre. We had managed to hold their right wing and their reserves without having yet committed our own reserves.





By smacdowall, Aug 13 2018 11:33AM

It has almost been a year since I played the German commander in day one of an Operation Seelöwe game which I reported on here: The Battle of Folkestone July 1940. The end of this game saw the Germans establishing a salient around Hythe and Folkestone after suffering heavy casualties.



Folkestone in German hands
Folkestone in German hands

After a number of strategic moves conducted by email, we picked up the action a few days ago, moving the game on to day three. The situation at the end of day 2 looked pretty bleak for us Germans. The Royal Navy had made a mess of our attempts to reinforce and resupply by sea and despite the Luftwaffe’s best efforts to establish air superiority we did not have control of the skies. Low on ammunition and thin on the ground the temptation was to hold on to what we had and await reinforcements. The British, however, would be able to reinforce far more quickly than we could so I decided that my only option was to try to expand the salient and position my troops to eventually take Dover and its vital docks.


The German plan
The German plan

I knew I did not have the strength to take Dover so I gave orders for my best units to move east from Folkestone to cut the road and rail links into the town in the hope that I could isolate it. Having beaten off a counter attack on Hawkinge airfield and receiving intelligence that the enemy had ‘shot their bolt’ in that sector, I also decided to expand the salient to the north so as to be in a better position to protect that important airfield. I would leave just enough troops to hold the western edge of the salient, especially Lyminge airfield and the port of Hythe. I suspected we would have to face a British counter-attack and so I ordered my commanders to take up defensive positions as soon as they ran into any serious resistance.


The British plan
The British plan

The British did indeed counterattack and did so in more strength that I had feared. Our attempt to expand the salient turned into a defence of our vital points: the airfields of Hawkinge and Lyminge, and the ports of Hythe and Folkestone. We beat off an attack on Hawkinge with relative ease thanks to the quality of our troops aided by an effective Stuka bombing run.


The German defence of Hawkinge airfield
The German defence of Hawkinge airfield

In the west the British attacked both Lyminge airfield and the approach to Hythe in divisional strength. I judged that with three battalions in good defensive positions and a regiment of Fallschirmjäger in reserve I had just enough men to hold without diverting any troops from the east. It was touch and go. We managed to hang on by the skin of our teeth but it took all the remaining ammunition of our supporting artillery and our last remaining bombing runs to do it.


The Battle for Aldington
The Battle for Aldington

On the approach to Hythe the 2nd Battalion, 21st Infantry was reduced to only one platoon but they passed all morale tests and hung on in the village of Adlington while the Fallschirmjäger flanked the enemy that bypassed them. The RAF intervened but fortunately their air sorties were far less effective than ours. A few reinforcements arrived by sea at Hythe. This was just enough to ensure we could hold the western flank.


The British attack in the centre
The British attack in the centre

We had barely time to congratulate ourselves for the successful defence of Hawkinge airfield when the British launched a major attack from the north aiming for Folkestone town. We had very few troops in this sector, our artillery was low on ammunition and we had no air sorties left. Therefore we had to redirect troops from the east, including our only Panzer battalion to deal with this attack. The fighting was fierce and we inflicted heavy losses on the enemy but at a terrible cost including the complete destruction of our armoured reserve.



The Germans shift troops from the east to the centre
The Germans shift troops from the east to the centre


The massive British attack from Dover
The massive British attack from Dover

At this point the British launched an attack from Dover in overwhelming strength — both armour and infantry. Our eastern flank was only thinly held, we were out of artillery ammunition, had no tanks left and no more air support. It had been very hard fought and our heavily outnumbered troops had acquitted themselves incredibly well. With the enemy in a position to dominate Folkestone Docks there was no longer any hope of significant reinforcements and therefore Operation Seelöwe had failed.



The table overview
The table overview

Although we lost it was a great game and a very hard fought one. As in the previous game we used 6mm miniatures with Spearhead rules. The rules worked very well for an operational game of this magnitude. They were easy to pick up by novices with the aid of some judicious umpiring.





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