Legio Wargames

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By smacdowall, Nov 27 2017 05:42PM

The Battle of Oudenarde (1708) was one of the first historical Marlburian battles I ever played. Because Oudenarde was an encounter battle there is a lot of manoeuvre in the opening moves and we never got very far beyond them. At that time (decades ago) we decided to try it again one day and split the game in two. We thought the initial moves, as the Allies crossed the River Scheldt to attack Eyne and various French units were fed into the fight, would make a great game in its own right. A second game could be fought later taking into account the results of the first one.


This remained a vague aspiration until recently. With one of our number having amassed a substantial 28mm War of Spanish Succession collection to supplement our extensive 15mm figures, the idea was reborn. Why not play out the opening moves in 28mm and then fight the follow-on battle in 15mm scale?


We fought out the 28mm game last week with five players and myself umpiring. The game covered the historical moves from 12 noon to 5 pm using historical starting positions but allowing the players to make their own decisions with certain limitations. These limitations were more severe for the French who had to contend with a divided command between Vendome and Burgundy and Burgundy’s historical reluctance to advance. Their problems were compounded by the fact that they had been taken off guard and their Swiss brigade was in an exposed forward position without orders.


The game was fought on a 10 x 6 foot table. The Allies had 16 battalions of foot, 28 squadrons of horse and dragoons and a battery of light guns. The French had 19 battalions of foot, 28 squadrons of horse and dragoons and a battery of medium guns. Allied battalions were 4 bases (16 figures) strong, French battalions 3 bases (12 figures). A cavalry squadron was represented by one base of 2 figures. This made for a very manageable 28 mm game and more than covered the number of troops needed for the opening moves.


The Attack on Eyne
The Attack on Eyne

The Allies moved quickly to attack the Swiss forward position at Eyne. The attack was conducted by Sabine’s English brigade with the Prussians moving up to the west of the village and the Allied horse extending their line even further to the west.


The Allied Foot Advance
The Allied Foot Advance

The Swiss put up a tough fight and it took the personal intervention of Cadogan to steady the English ranks even though one of the lead Swiss battalions decided to retire rather than stand firm — this due to a test I had introduced to reflect the historical battle when only one battalion held and the other three decided to retreat.


Ranzau (bottom) and Biron (top) come to grips
Ranzau (bottom) and Biron (top) come to grips

Biron, commander of the French cavalry on table sent off a message to Vendome to inform him of the developing situation. He advanced cautiously against Rantzau’s Hanoverian horse near Diepebeek. He was worried about the potential disorder that the streams and reportedly boggy ground might cause him. It was Rantzau, however whose men suffered most from the terrain. As he was re-dressing his ranks the French cavalry attacked, getting the better of the engagement and wounding Rantzau. The commander of the Prussian foot brigade was also wounded as his men took fire from a battery of guns deployed to the south of Mullem.


Vendome takes command of the French Horse
Vendome takes command of the French Horse

At this moment Vendome arrived on the table and personally took command of Grimaldi’s brigade of 16 squadrons that Burgundy had sent south to test the Allied positions and see if the ground was suitable for cavalry. As Biron’s cavalry rallied back, Vendome advanced forward to follow up his success.


The Prussians Advance
The Prussians Advance

At the same time the lead 10 squadrons of Natzmer’s Prussian cavalry were moving up to support Rantzau. Full of élan and being personally led by a Marshal of France, the French horse made short work of the Prussians, scattering them to the south.

The French Horse Breakthrough
The French Horse Breakthrough



The Scots and Irish form up to assault Heurne
The Scots and Irish form up to assault Heurne

The French defenders of Heurne
The French defenders of Heurne

The Allies take Eyne and Heurne
The Allies take Eyne and Heurne

The Allies, however, were not disheartened. By 4:30 pm the English had taken Eyne and the Scots and Irish had formed an assault column to clear Heurne.





Marlborough takes command of the Prussian cavalry
Marlborough takes command of the Prussian cavalry

The second line of Prussian horse were well positioned to close in on the flank of Vendome’s pursuing French horse while Rantzau stopped them in front. To make sure that this could not possibly fail Marlborough himself led the Prussian charge. Then the Allies snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by rolling two ‘ones’ on the dice. Vendome’s cavalry saw off their attackers and pressed on to continue their pursuit.


The French foot advance south from Mullem
The French foot advance south from Mullem


Overview of the table at the 5pm move
Overview of the table at the 5pm move

At 5pm (historical time) we called an end to the game. The Allied foot had been successful in clearing Eyne and Heurne and would have been in a position to attack Burgundy’s left flank had it not been for the sight of large numbers of French reinforcements coming down from the northeast.

Burgundy had sent a brigade of 6 battalions south of Mullem to block the advancing Prussian and Danish foot and and Irish brigade in French service had also moved south towards Diepenbeek.

Flushed with the joy of victory Vendome’s pursuit led him headlong into Ouwerkerk’s Dutch who were advancing in column from Oudenarde.


The wider situation as of 5pm ready for the next game
The wider situation as of 5pm ready for the next game

The game felt very much like a French victory, however, the outcome will not be decided until we fight out the next 10 turns (using 15mm miniatures). This will take place sometime next year.






By smacdowall, Oct 16 2017 08:38PM



My sincere thanks to Richard Lockwood for organising the second Society of Ancients conference of this millennium. Once again it offered a great mix of discussion, games and good companionship and I thoroughly enjoyed it.


I took the opportunity to put on the Battle of Ad Decimum (AD 533) with my 6 mm figures supplemented by Geoff Fabron’s. This all cavalry battle resulted in Belisarius taking Carthage from the Vandals with only 6000 mounted men. Belisarius left his 10,000 infantry along with his wife and baggage in his camp.


Ad Decimum is a battle I have long wanted to try out. As it was an encounter battle fought over a wide area I felt that it needed the smaller scale miniatures to do it justice and I just based managed to base my last Vandal the day before the conference.


I set the game up historically but gave the players a number of options and let them play out their roles more or less as they wished. I also added a number of Moors riding around the countryside who would shadow both armies and not attack unless they were attacked or if the Romans weakened their camp too much.


The opening moves
The opening moves

The battle opened historically with Ammatas (The Vandal King’s son) enjoying his lunch at Ad Decimum — 10 miles from Carthage — where he had been ordered to take up a blocking position. On sighting the Roman advance guard he charged forward without waiting to form up, nor waiting for his other men who were strung out in a disorderly column on the road from Carthage.


I gave the player representing Ammatas a chance of forming his men up but I weighted the dice against him and so he did as his historical counterpart had done with the same disastrous result. His Comitatus was routed and he was killed. With the reckless Ammatas out off the way, his remaining troops managed better die rolls and began to form up. This caused the Roman commander of the advance guard to prudently pull back and re-form his own men rather than pushing on to Carthage.


The Roman commanders consider their options
The Roman commanders consider their options

The Roman column advances on Ad Decimum
The Roman column advances on Ad Decimum

Meanwhile the main Roman column debouched from the camp as their Hun flank guard was pushed back in a series of aggressive attacks by Gelimer who led his men in a beeline for the centre of the field.


Gibamund's column advances
Gibamund's column advances

Gibamund — who historically led the advance of the main Vandal force coming up from the south — was delayed by a series of bad die rolls. Eventually his column came onto the table, taking up the left flank of a Vandal strike in the centre.


The Romans deployed into line to meet the Vandal attack with Belisarius leading his bucellarii against Gibamund’s household warriors. To add a little fun I gave Gibamund the option of challenging Belisarius to personal combat which he did and which Belisarius disdainfully ignored.


When the main lines clashed the results were fairly even. The Vandals managed to rout one of the Roman units of bucellarii but their right wing units were attacked from two sides and driven back shaken.


At this point I called an end to the game. Although the Vandal attack had failed to defeat the Romans, it was clear that Belisarius was not going to reach Carthage that day. Therefore I declared the result a strategic Vandal victory even if the tactical results were even or even slightly in the Romans’ favour.


The rules we used were a stripped down version of my Legio VI Constantiani which are available as a free download in the rules section of my website. I will write the game up more fully for Slingshot in the near future




By smacdowall, Sep 18 2017 06:45PM

My historical wargames interests are set firmly in the time before firearms become effective.

Some time ago I dabbled for a bit with Cold War micro-armour but the last WWII game I fought was decades ago.


It was on my childhood bedroom floor with unpainted Airfix HO 8th Army and Africa Korps — the original 1960s sets.


Shortly after watching the film Dunkirk, I was inspired to break the mould by an invitation to play the German commander in a 'what if' Operation Seelöwe game. The scenario imagined a German landing on the beaches of southeastern England on 14 July 1940. The British would have been licking their wounds after Dunkirk while the Germans would have been feeling the wind behind their sails.


I was given a rough map with even rougher intelligence. From this I had to select 4 beach squares, on each of which I could land an infantry regiment of 3 battalions, which would arrive in three waves. I also had two parachute regiments and could select three adjacent squares for each of the regiment’s battalions to land. Following on from my decisions and those of the British commander, a tactical game would be played to see what happened next.


I decided to concentrate my attack on Folkestone with a diversionary attack on Deal. The blue circles A-D were the beaches I selected and the maroon circles 1-6 were the parachute landings. Hythe and Deal had small harbours which would allow me to land infantry reinforcements while Folkestone and Dover had proper ports where I could land heavier troops. If I captured the airfields of Hawkinge (maroon circle 4) or Lyminge (maroon circle 1) then I had the possibility of bringing in further reinforcements by air.


Dover had a better port than Folkestone and would allow me to bring in more reinforcements. I decided, however, not to attack there as it seemed like too hard a nut to crack. I felt that if I took Folkestone, Hythe and the two airfields then I could concentrate my forces in a relatively tight area with good opportunities for landing follow-on troops and supplies.


I allocated the vast majority of my air resources to achieve air superiority, leaving some air assets to provide cover for my landing craft and ships. I also ordered a naval bombardment of the beaches north of Dover to hopefully divert British attention there.


The view of the table from Lyminge looking south-east towards Hythe
The view of the table from Lyminge looking south-east towards Hythe

The tactical tabletop game which followed was played out in 1:300 scale on a 16 x 6 foot table covering the area from RAF Lyminge in the west to the beaches northeast of Folkestone. The rules we used were Spearhead. I had no experience of these or any other WWII rules before. I found they worked rather well. They are relatively simple and do not get bogged down into fine detail. The mechanisms are easy to remember and give enough tactical nuance to make close actions interesting while keeping the game at the grand tactical level.


The para-drops drifted a bit and did not land exactly where I had wished. Those aiming for RAF Lyminge had a bit of a hike to get to their target and by the time they reached the airfield, British infantry reinforcements were already arriving form the west.


The British defences at Hawkinge
The British defences at Hawkinge

It was easier at RAF Hawkinge and after hard fighting my paratroopers were able to overcome the defenders to take the airfield. As soon as they had they done this, the1st London Rifles arrived from the north to launch a counter-attack. After fierce fighting both sides were so worn down that the survivors dispersed leaving Hawkinge airfield unoccupied.


German paratroopers cut the rail junction above Folkestone
German paratroopers cut the rail junction above Folkestone

One of the parachute battalions from the regiment assaulting Hawkinge was tasked with cutting the rail junction above Folkestone (maroon circle 6) and then support the infantry attack on Folkestone. It took the attached engineers an inordinate amount of time to blow the rail lines (thanks to low die rolls) but when they finally did, their support of the attack on Folkestone proved invaluable.


The first wave lands between Folkstone and Sandgate
The first wave lands between Folkstone and Sandgate

The initial landings on the beaches met little initial resistance but as soon as the German infantry approached Hythe and Folkestone they ran into a determined defence which more or less wiped out the first wave of attackers in house to house fighting.


Close quarter fighting in Folkestone
Close quarter fighting in Folkestone

It was hard going and it took supporting attacks from the paratroopers before they finally managed to clear the defenders from the built up areas. An ad-hoc battalion of British sharpshooters from the nearby School of Small Arms were particularly annoying.


The first wave lands below Hythe
The first wave lands below Hythe

My troops managed to take Hythe in tact but just as Folkestone was about to fall into my hands the defending stevedores blew up the port facilities rendering it useless for landing much needed reinforcements.


British reinforcements hold up the paratroopers attacking Lyminge
British reinforcements hold up the paratroopers attacking Lyminge

I re-occupied Hawkinge airfield with infantry from the third wave but the RAF Regiment defending Lyminge grimly held on to the last man, inflicting heavy casualties on the paratroopers who finally captured it.


As daylight began to fade I started to set up defensive perimeters, anticipating a fierce counter-attack, especially from the direction of Dover. When I moved troops towards the village of West Hougham to take up a position dominating the road to Dover they came under fire from the Home Guard. They had been reinforced by British regulars who had fled Folkestone along with a heavy machine gun.


The home guard at West Hougham hold up the German advance
The home guard at West Hougham hold up the German advance

Despite repeated artillery bombardments the defenders of West Hougham kept up a withering fire on my men, taking out a 50mm anti-tank gun and several platoons of infantry. They held up my advance for 4 hours and it took paratroopers reinforced by 2 tanks to finally clear the village so I could establish my defensive perimeter.


The umpire called the game as night fell on 14 July 1940. I held two salients around Folkestone and Hythe and controlled the airfields of Hawkinge and Lyminge. My lines were stretched and I would need further reinforcements if I was to hold out against a determined British counter-attack.


We will continue the campaign some time in the future, picking up where we left off.






By smacdowall, Sep 2 2017 08:11AM

Earlier in August I made my way over to northern France for the annual Roman and Barbarian festival at the Musée des Temps Barbares at Marle, just to the north of Laon.


Reconstructed Frankish Hall
Reconstructed Frankish Hall

The small museum displays artefacts from the early Frankish occupation of Roman Gaul in the 5th-6th centuries. It’s main drawing point is the reconstructed Frankish village where from time to time various re-enactments are staged.


Nerby Laon is worth a visit for the walled Medieval centre perched high above the surrounding plain. My alter ego DonQui Oaty highly recommends the Domaine de Barive not far from the museum for an indulgent overnight stay.


As to the re-enactors at the festival - I shall let the photos tell the story:


Fifth centruy Romans
Fifth centruy Romans



Negotiations between Franks and Romans
Negotiations between Franks and Romans


A fine looking Roman officer
A fine looking Roman officer


Frankish Smiths
Frankish Smiths

Alamannic women
Alamannic women

Alamanic warrior
Alamanic warrior


Romans on the march
Romans on the march


Germans attack a Roman frontier fort
Germans attack a Roman frontier fort


Roman skirmishers engage
Roman skirmishers engage


Clash of shield walls
Clash of shield walls

Children scouring the battlefield
Children scouring the battlefield


Frankish bakery
Frankish bakery









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