Legio Wargames

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By smacdowall, Dec 15 2018 05:58PM

The latest troops to emerge from my painting table is the Austrian Thüngen Regiment, 2 battalions of which served with Prince Eugene of Savoy at Malpalquet (1709). The miniatures are 15mm Dixon

What follows is a step by step progress from painting to wargame table.

I base each figure on a handling base and always undercoat with a matt white spray. This gives more vibrant colours than a black undercoat and allows the translucent properties of acrylic paints to do much of the work, as a thinned down colour is naturally highlighted by the raised parts of the miniature and becomes darker in the folds.

An initial wash of highly thinned down Raw Umber helps to define the detail for painting and avoids any white gaps that might appear later.

This wash is applied with a thick brush and the ‘paint’ is little more than dirty water. This really helps to bring out the detail for easy painting later. I always do this with 6 mil miniatures, and often with 15 mil. When painting 28 mm miniatures I rarely find it necessary.

Tüngen regiment had ‘pearl grey’ coats with blue facings. I will achieve the very light grey with a near black wash. The blue also benefits from this so this is the first colour I paint — deviating from my normal practice of painting from the inside out in which flesh would be the first colour to be painted.

Next step is to apply a very thin wash of Payne’s Grey (which is almost black). This is applied in the same way as the earlier Raw Umber wash.

When dry the coats are a white-grey and the detail is clearly outlined. If you want further perfection you can pick out the highlights with an off-white, using pure white for the officers if you want to give them the look of wearing finer cloth.

I then paint the faces and hands with a basic pale flesh colour. When dry I apply Games Workshop’s Flesh wash which brings out the details and gives the skin a more natural look. The miniature on the right has had the wash, the one on the left not yet.

A tiny dab of brown in the eye sockets, red-brown over the lips, pale pinkish flesh on the cheeks and very pale flesh on the nose, cheek-bones and chin bring the faces to life.

Then it is on to the browns — buff belts, brown cartridge boxes, wood spontoon and flag shafts, dark brown muskets and various shades of brown for the hair.

Gun-metal musket barrels, black shoes and sword scabbards are next, along with silver buttons.

For the tricorns I use a dark grey first then touch up the low-lights with a black ink wash. This

helps to retain a three-dimensional look.

Then comes the part I really do not like — painting the hat lace. Invariably my brush strokes are not perfect and I have to touch up with black in those areas where the white over-spilled. For regiments with yellow hat lace I find it necessary to first do the lace in white and then yellow on top as yellow is not a strong enough colour to go over black. I try to avoid raising regiments with yellow hat lace!

The final step for the figures is another super thinned out wash of Raw Umber.

This further picks out the detail but, perhaps more importantly, gives the figures a realistic patina.

The final step for the unit is the flag. I design this first on my computer, scale it down to a height of 1.7cm for 15mm miniatures and print it out.

I then over-paint it. Why bother? Well a computer printed flag looks like a computer printed flag. Painting it makes it look much more natural and in keeping with the look of the unit.

And here is the finished battalion of the Austrian Thüngen Regiment, ready to move from the painting table to the wargames table

By smacdowall, Dec 5 2018 01:00PM

Next year I intend to re-fight the Battle of Malplaquet (1709) in 15mm scale with each game battalion/squadron/battery representing three actual ones. In preparation for this, Dave Allen and I recently conducted a test run featuring the allied right wing attack on the Bois de Sars.

Schulenburg's 3 lines of Imperialists advance on the Bois de Sars
Schulenburg's 3 lines of Imperialists advance on the Bois de Sars

Here 20 battalions of French infantry, under d’Albergotti, defended dense woods behind abattis. They were attacked from the north by 40 Imperial battalions commanded by Schulenburg, and Lottum’s 22 battalions of Germans and English from the east. Lottum’s attack was supported by a bombardment from a massed battery of 40 guns.

The open centre defended by French fortifications
The open centre defended by French fortifications

The open ground in the centre was strongly held by the French in fortified positions supported by cavalry and artillery. Orkney’s English formed a single line to protect Lottum’s attack.

The game orders of battle were as follows: —



40 Imperial battalions (Austrians, Germans, Danes & Walloons) represented by 13 in three lines

12 guns represented by 1 model attached to the rear line


22 Prussian, Hessian and English battalions represented by 8 in three columns

40 guns represented by 3 models


11 English battalions represented by 4 in a single line

20 guns and howitzers, represented by 2 models


24 English squadrons of horse and dragoons represented by 8. Reserve in the centre.



20 battalions French represented by 7, on the edge of the woods .

10 guns represented by 1 model


12 battalions French represented by 4, entrenched to the south of the woods


18 battalions French, Irish and Germans represented by 6, in the redans

20 guns represented by 2 models


36 squadrons horse and dragoons represented by12, behind the fortifications in reserve.

Lottum's colums advance on the French
Lottum's colums advance on the French

Our game unfolded much like the historical battle. The allied massed battery wore down the French on the angle of the woods.

Schulenburg's Imperialists close but the first line is repulsed
Schulenburg's Imperialists close but the first line is repulsed

When the allies closed they wavered as they crossed the stream and abattis but although some battalions were thrown back the attack continued to be pressed home.

Lottum's Prussians and English storm the French position
Lottum's Prussians and English storm the French position

Fierce hand to hand fighting ensued but eventually weight of numbers began to tell.

Schulenburg's Danes break-through
Schulenburg's Danes break-through

Finally the Danish foot guard broke through the abattis driving off the French defenders as Lottum’s English closed in on the other flank.

The French entrenchments
The French entrenchments

We called a halt to our test game at this point. The allies had broken into the woods and it would take them quite some time before they sorted themselves out to emerge on the other side only to find entrenched French infantry waiting for them. Historically this took 2 hours, by which time events elsewhere on the battlefield shifted the emphasis from the allied right to the centre.

Massed melée as Lottum's columns close
Massed melée as Lottum's columns close

I was very pleased how the mini-game played out. The rules (Close Fire and European Order) worked very well as did the amendments we made to reflect the reduced ground scale of 1 game unit representing three and the difficulty of movement in the dense woods. I look forward to similar test games for the centre and allied left.

By smacdowall, Dec 2 2018 02:00PM

Shortly after the Society of Ancients conference I was back in the 18th century for a re-fight of Guildford Courthouse in the American War of Independence (1781). Gary Kitching put the game on with some beautiful 28mm troops and a most atmospheric table-top.

I played on the British side with a small but perfectly formed force of battle-hardened regulars against hordes of ragged rebels.

The British Advance
The British Advance

One can only admire the fine appearance of our brave men as they advance with confidence and perfect dressing against the rebel position.

The rebels could not be seen
The rebels could not be seen

The trouble was that all we could see in front of us was a fence and woods behind it. We had no idea where the enemy actually were.

Fighting in the woods
Fighting in the woods

We advanced confidently into the woods and it was not long before we began to encounter Virginia and Carolina militia. There were a few surprises, including cavalry and light infantry suddenly appearing on our flanks. For the most part we managed to see off the rebels with relative ease but we took casualties in the process. By the time we cleared the woods, some of our battalions were feeling almost as ragged as the rebels.

The Continentals
The Continentals

As we moved into the open ground to our front we began to see ranks of Continentals drawn up ready to receive us. They even managed some sort of decent military appearance.

At this point I had to leave the field of battle (work interfering). I was glad, later, to read the dispatch from Lord Cornwallis which informed me that although the Continentals managed to see off the 71st Highlanders, a bayonet charge by the Guards settled the issue. It was a close run thing and in many ways the game unfolded in a very similar way to the historical battle.

The rules we used were Andy Callan’s Loose Fire and American Scramble originally published in the first edition of Wargames Illustrated. I recommend them unreservedly. Only a few pages long, they capture the essence and atmosphere of the American War of Independence. The relatively simple mechanisms conceal a depth of subtlety. It is from these rules that I developed my Close Fire and European Order rules for the War of Spanish Succession.

By smacdowall, Nov 30 2018 04:11PM

The autumn Society of Ancients weekend conference is rapidly becoming my favourite fixture in my wargaming calendar. Resurrected by Richard Lockwood 3 years ago from the original residential weekends run by the Society in the 1980s it gives aficionados of the pre-gunpowder era a chance to meet and engage with like-minded people.

I, for one, enjoy the banter, discussion and interaction with fellow wargamers as much as I enjoy playing the actual games. The beauty of a residential weekend is that we have plenty of time for this.

I highly recommend the conference for anyone with an interest in ancient and medieval wargaming. Details on the Society website. You do not have to be a member to attend.

This year I once again ran my Warlords and Rebels game aka Somewhere in Gaul AD 430. I first put on this on back at one of the original 1980s conferences and again at two years ago. It is a multi-player game with the participants role-playing Goths, Saxons, Franks, local rebels and several competing Roman contingents. There is as much or more diplomacy and skulduggery as actual combat.

The full original scenario can be found in my 1991 Goths, Huns and Romans book, and more detail in my blog post from the 2016 conference.

Here are a few photos from the 2018 game:

The set up. Most troops starting off table
The set up. Most troops starting off table

The Roman field army advances, barely a Roman in the contingent
The Roman field army advances, barely a Roman in the contingent

Bacaudae rebels and Goths face off close the the village
Bacaudae rebels and Goths face off close the the village

The only actual combat was an attempt by the Goths to storm the village
The only actual combat was an attempt by the Goths to storm the village

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