Legio Wargames

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By smacdowall, Mar 27 2017 05:33PM

To celebrate some significant birthdays for two of our group, several of us gathered together for a weekend of wargames, good food and good companionship.

The first game was the pivotal English Civil War battle at Marston Moor in 28mm. The miniatures were recruited from several of our collections and the rules used were my Close Fire and European Order (17th C version).

I commanded the Royalist Cavalry on the right wing and made rather a mess of it. Not realising that the Parliamentary Horse had learned a thing or two since our earlier encounters, I foolishly ordered one of my brigades to use pistols rather than swords. I did this because I was more afraid of getting tangled up in the enemy foot - as happened in a previous Edgehill game - than I was of the opposing horse. We gave a good fight and held our own for a turn or two but in the end the roundhead ironsides cut through our ranks and the Royal army’s right flank was turned.

We did better in the centre where our foot commander noticed a hinge in the enemy line between the English and Scots. Rather than hang back he advanced forward, concentrating force on the weak point of the enemy line. After a bit of back and fourth the Royalist foot broke through the centre, splitting the enemy army in two.

On our left flank another cavalry battle flowed back and forth with the parliamentarians winning initially only for the second line of Royalists to throw them back.

With three distinct sectors having three different outcomes the umpire declared a bloody draw as the parliamentarians had won their left, we had won in the centre and it was pretty well even odds on the other flank. We probably could have gone on for a few more turns but had this been an actual battle both commanders would have decided that a clear win was not possible.

Perhaps more importantly the pub beckoned.

By smacdowall, Feb 11 2017 04:07PM

Moving on from James Stuart's early career at Mardyke (1657), yesterday the Royal Army encountered Monmouth's rebels in a re-creation of the Battle of Sedgemoor (1685).

Taking the role of Colonel John Churchill, I was officer of the watch as the Royal Army prepared for a restful night. After a quick look out over the drainage ditches towards the village of Chedzoy, I retired to my into my tent certain that we will catch and crush the rebels the following day.

At an ungodly hour of the morning I am awaked by a sentry reporting noises. As I go out to investigate, taking a troop of dragoons as escort, I hear shots and then see our piquets galloping out of the night gloom. The night gloom being admirably represented by a dark blue sheet which separated the playing table so that neither side could see what was going on more than a few feet away.

Narrowly avoiding capture by a troop of Lord Grey’s rebel horse, who suddenly emerge form the darkness, I have my trumpeter sound ‘stand-to’ and beat a hasty retreat over the drainage ditch known locally as the Bussex Rhine.

Our men stumble out of their tents trying to get their bearings in the early morning haze, mist and gloom

Unbeknownst to me, on the other side of the table hidden by the ‘sheet of night’ the full rebel force is advancing on us in two columns, the Duke of Monmouth on the left and Lord Grey on the right.

As our men rush to form hasty firing lines the enemy are only a few yards away!

On our far right a devastating volley in unleashed into Dumbarton’s regiment out of the dark. Many men are killed, others run and it takes the Earl of Feversham’s brave personal intervention to steady them.

Taking command of the Coldstream Guards, with the First Foot Guards to their right, I push across the ditch with as dawn breaks, intending to blast the rebels away from the centre of their line with our superior musketry.

Unfortunately the enemy give as good as they receive while the Duke of Monmouth joins their ranks to keep them steady.

Forgetting about the fearsome scythes carried by many rebels, I order the guards to fix bayonets and close in for the kill, supported by a troop of Horse Guards.

The rebel line holds steady while the Royal Horse Guards are driven back. It had been a mistake to move into close quarters as inevitable superior discipline would have won a prolonged fire-fight. Now committed I had no choice but to continue fighting at close quarters.

The enemy foot on our far left also hold firm in face of repeated attacks while my supporting battalions become bogged down as they stumble across the drainage ditch. While I am busy fighting in the centre, Kirk’s Lambs and Trelawney’s Regiment are unsure of my intent so they halt, awaiting further orders.

Despite the superior training and mounts of our Horse and Dragoons, they take a mauling from Lord Grey’s Horse supported by a small battery of light guns.

Eventually the superior discipline and training of our men in the centre overcomes the valour of the rebels. Worn down they break and flee. Monmouth goes with them doing his best to rally them but without success.

When the routing rebels reach Chedzoy, Monmouth is advised to flee the field and save himself. This he does. Although the rebel units on the flanks still hold firm, with their centre blown apart and Monmouth gone, the rebel force disintegrates.

It was a great scenario designed and umpired by Gary Kitching with his troops gracing the table. With a relatively small number of troops there was plenty of scope for two players on each side. Although a rebel defeat was probably inevitable there were enough unknowns to keep it gripping right to the end.

The rebels did much better in this game than they did historically. The breakthrough in the centre eventually won the day for us but as one more comfortable commanding cavalry I made a mistake in fixing bayonets to get stuck in so soon. A better tactic would have been to wear the enemy down in a protracted fire-fight and then clear them away with a timely charge. By getting stuck into the combat my reinforcements were unable to get into the battle. The rebel commanders, on the other hand , deployed well and made the most of their lesser quality troops.

The rules we used were my Close Fire and European Order (17th C version) which are available as a free download here.

I doubt that Judge Jeffreys will take the valour of the rebels into account at the Bloody Assizes. I only hope that the executioner’s axe will be a little sharper than it was when the historical Monmouth met his end.

By smacdowall, Jan 25 2017 11:04PM

Having just painted up King Charles II’s English Regiment (forerunners of the Grenadier Guards) I felt it time to stage another small encounter set in the 1656-1658 campaign in Flanders. The excellent little book Better Begging than Fighting gave me the idea for the game scenario.

Set in October 1657 the English Commonwealth forces hold the fortification of Mardyke just 6.5 kms south of the Spanish base of Dunkirk while Marshal Turenne has taken the main allied French army south to besiege Gravelines. With two English battalions supported by some French and the off-shore English Fleet Sir John Reynolds is busy repairing the outworks to make the place more defensible.

Turenne has put some Squadrons of Cardinal Mazarin’s Gendarmes and companies of the Swiss Guards on standby to reinforce the English in case of attack.

Meanwhile, Don Juan of Austria, the Spanish Governor General of Flanders, decides to make a demonstration on Mardyke due in no small part to the arrival of King Charles II at Dunkirk. 5000 men, mostly British Royalists and French Frondeurs supported by a body of Spanish horse advance on Mardyke without any siege artillery. Don Juan probably has no intention of doing more than making a demonstration but Charles and his brother James, The Duke of York hope to destroy the enemy outworks and in doing so convince Don Juan to launch a full scale assault.

As the enemy are sighted advancing on Mardyke, the French Battalions working on the fortifications form up while a forlorn hope of English and a body of Croat light cavalry try to delay the British/French/Spanish advance.

Under the command of Colonel Thomas Blague, Middleton’s Scots and the King’s English Regiment push back the skirmishers, allowing Ormond’s Irish to break up into working parties to begin the destruction of Mardyke’s outer defences.

The Scots are halted by a withering fire from the French manning the inner entrenchments, supported by heavy guns from the Mardyke ramparts. Taking advantage of the temporary stalemate the Croats launch a charge to drive the Irish working parties from the outer ramparts. This brings them into close range of King Charles II’s lifeguards who loose a pistol volley at them with little effect.

Anxious for a taste of real battle and to win bragging rights over his younger brother James, the King in exile overrules his advisors to lead his lifeguards in a charge to drive off the Croats. This succeeds but leaves him dangerously exposed to fire from the inner fortifications. Fortunately (or not depending on your political point of view) King Charles is unscathed and his lifeguards are able to pull back in good order behind the outer entrenchments.

The large body of Spanish horse to the right of the British Royalists halt as they have been forbidden by Don Juan to advance any further than the outermost entrenchments. Under constant cannon fire from the walls and from an English sloop which has come up the canal on their right flank they begin to take casualties. Their commander, the Marquis of Caracena, sends a messenger to the Duke of York urging him to use his brother’s influence to persuade Don Juan to allow him to attack. The request is in vain. Don Juan has no intention of becoming embroiled in a decisive engagement and as the messengers go back and forth Caracena is wounded by shot from Mardyke’s walls.

Eventually Sir John Reynolds is able to rouse his English foot from the brothels and taverns to form a formidable defensive line supported by a troop of French Horse. This brings the advance of the French Frondeurs on the allied left to a halt. The rebel French take cover behind the inner entrenchments. Meanwhile a cloud of dust to the south (right of Reynolds’ line) signals the imminent arrival of loyal French reinforcements.

The French Frondeurs pull back to form a defensive line as Cardinal Mazarin’s Gendarmes drive off a troop of Condé’s Horse. It is clear at this point that the British/Spanish/French Frondeur force cannot advance any further. They managed to destroy some of the enemy’s outworks but with the Spanish under orders not to advance on the right and new enemy coming up on their left they have no choice other than to conduct an orderly withdrawal before they loose too many casualties.

Don Juan is not overly perturbed by the outcome. In fine fettle he raises a glass to his latest Mistress to wash down a particularly fine lunch. He has succeeded in letting the English King whet his appetite for battle with very few Spanish casualties. He dictates a letter of condolence to the Marquis of Caracena in respect of the wound he suffered hoping that the good Marquis would soon recover.

This was a historical scenario. King Charles actually took part in the engagement and in his eagerness he took fire and had to be held back by his lifeguards. The Royalist/Spanish/French rebel army did take the outworks and managed to destroy part of them before withdrawing. The English fleet did send ships up the canal to support the defence of Mardyke with cannon fire. Don Juan had no intention of assaulting Mardyke and was content to withdraw when the enemy consolidated their defence.

It made for a great small scale game which took us 3 hours to come to a satisfactory conclusion. It did not require masses of troops and it was enough out of the ordinary to provide a great deal of interest. You don’t necessarily need a ship model to run the game as you could have cannon fire coming from off table. For the walls of Madyke I used sections of a 15mm scale star fort (the miniatures were 28mil) with 15mm cannons mounted on the walls.

By smacdowall, Dec 15 2016 04:59PM

Last weekend saw a return to what we are beginning to call The Wars of James II. Between several of us we now have a good collection of 28mm miniatures spanning 1657-8 campaign in Flanders, when James commanded as the Duke of York, through to the fighting in Ireland when he attempted to regain his throne in the 1690s.

Smaller scale miniatures allow for the spectacle of a big battle with the plenty of room for manoeuvre on a normal sized table. You can do the same in 28mm if you have space for a huge table. Fortunately, thanks to Gary Kitching, we had the space, the miniatures and the enthusiastic players to do this.

Following the True King’s spectacular victory over the Williamites at the Boyne earlier this year, he had to once again defend his divine right of rule at Aughrim. His position was strong with foot formed up in the centre on high ground protected by a boggy stream lined with hedges.

The Williamites massed their horse and best foot on their right flank hoping to force a crossing over a causeway towards a ruined castle and the village of Aughrim. The Jacobites had been expecting the main attack to come on the other flank where the ground was more open. Consequently most of the Jacobite horse were on that flank while the causeway was relatively lightly defended by detachments of commanded musketeers supported by a few squadrons of horse. King James immediately gave orders to transfer several squadrons of his best horse from the right flank to reinforce the left.

The Danish contingent advanced on the Williamite left, forcing back the Irish dragoons who had been sent forward of the boggy stream to delay their advance. The Danes had only intended to feint on that flank but as the Jacobites pulled back they concentrated their forces to push across the boggy ground and close in.

Expected the decisive fighting to take part on the two flanks, the Jacobites thinned out their centre, holding the hedges with relatively inexperienced Irish levies. The better battalions were placed on the ends of the line to support the flanks

Taking advantage of this the English foot surged forward, forced a way across the bog and over the hedges to drive off the Irish defenders. It looked as if they would break through the centre and split the Jacobite army in two. Fortunately King James (who was present on the field after his victory on the Boyne, which was not the case in the historical battle) had drawn off several battalions from his right flank to reinforce the centre.

One of these Jacobite battalions was able to size the opportunity presented by a gap in the enemy line presented when the Danes drew off to the far left wing of the Williamite line. They surged forward to lap the flank of the English and pour a devastating fire into their flank. This, combined with a timely charge by the King’s Lifeguards, not only restored the centre but drove the enemy back over the bog. Now it was the Williamites who had a hole in their centre. The victorious Jacobite battalions could then either swing around to engage the Dutch to their left or march straight through the gap to loot the enemy camp. Naturally they chose the latter option.

The action on the Jacobite left flank was hard fought and confused. The lines broke up with individual units engaging in melees which flowed back and forth with advantage going to the Williamites. For a moment it looked as if the Jacobite left would collapse as the enemy Horse managed to force their way across the causeway. In the nick of time reinforcements arrived which King James had switched from his right flank. These were just enough to stabilise the situation on the left.

The Dutch Guards achieved initial success against the left side of the Jacobite centre, despite the fact that they were held off for several turns by the Irish levies opposing them.

By the time the Dutch broke through King James had been able to re-position his foot guards to intervene. They charged forward full of élan. The Dutch held them for a turn but when Sarsfield’s Horse joined the fray they were thrown back.

The battle was over. There was now no chance for the Williamites to take the position. It had been a very hard fought affair and on several occasions it looked as if William of Orange’s men would break through.

The Jacobite casualties
The Jacobite casualties

The Jacobites suffered very heavy casualties, most of them Irish. All of the Irish battalions had been driven from the field as had half of the dragoons and several squadrons of horse. The Williamite casualties were comparatively light but despite their initial successes, the intervention of King James’ reserves had restored the situation in all sectors and made it impossible for William to dislodge the valiant defenders of the true King and true Religion.

Time to take ship for England!

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