Legio Wargames

The Legio Blog

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









By smacdowall, Jul 19 2017 03:32PM

A 6mm unit of 6th century Roman horse archers completed I have started to paint up Belisarius' bucellarii. After fixing them to a painting rod I fist undercoat with spray matt white and then give a very thin wash of raw umber. This brings out the detail and makes it easy to paint the tiny men and horses. Then I give helmets and armour a black wash.


After dry brushing the armour with a bright metal colour, I do the horses in a series of washes. This makes the detail stand out even on such small miniatures.


My full 6mm painting method can be found in the painting section of my site here.

By smacdowall, Jul 3 2017 04:41PM

A long time ago when the world was young, I was slim and the internet had not yet been invented — there was only one wargames scale. That was 25mm. There were also Airfix HO/OO plastics which were more or less (mostly less) the same size. For quite a while my Airfix plastics and Minifigs metals served alongside each other quite happily until the latter began to grow in size — especially the telegraph poles they carried instead of spears.


Then we began to hear rumours of 15mm scale but I was not tempted. The first samples I saw seemed pretty crude. Even when much better ones came along I saw no reason to ditch the scale I already had for my ancient — mostly Roman armies — and their enemies. Even as 15mm came to be the most popular scale for ancient wargaming I remained a die-hard 25mm hold out.


As new 25mm castings began to grow in size, I kept my older miniatures and they still happily fight alongside each other despite the differences in size and detail. I do, however, draw a line at the newer bulky 28mm figures which are really closer to 30mil or even larger. In the old days the scale was measured head to toe. With scale creep it is now often toe to nose so that a 33mm tall figure is still called 28mm.


It was not until the turn of the millennium that I started to collect my first 15mm army. I wanted to fight the campaigns of Belisarius against the Persians and — coincidental with a move to London and severe reduction in playing space. I succumbed because I realised that if I wanted to conduct sweeping cavalry actions in a campaign where all the best troops were mounted, I needed an army with smaller troops. Later I took to 6mm scale to field the massed legions of Caesar and Pompey at Pharsallus.


Inspired by the research I did for my book of the Vandals I am returning to Belisarius with the idea of re-fighting his battles in North Africa against the Vandals. Although Belisarius had a significant infantry contingent he rarely used them in open battle and by the early 6th century all the Vandals were mounted, sometimes ineffectually supported by Moors.


Rather than expanding my existing 15mm collection I have decided to scale down to 6mm. I find painting smaller miniatures easier and more fun than larger scales and I was reminded of this when I painted up my 1:2400 scale ships for the Battle of Sole Bay.


Needing masses more horsemen for the 6th century North Africa campaign, I really could not see myself managing to bring the armies to completion in 15mm scale, let alone 25/28mm. 10mm would have been a good compromise but the last thing I need is yet another scale. I can happily paint up a unit of a dozen 6mm horsemen in a couple of days. It takes me more than double that to accomplish the same in 15mm. The other impetus for the much smaller miniatures is that some battles, such as Ad Decimum, were fought over a vast area with different bodies of horseman heading off in all directions. Using 6mm miniatures makes it possible to recreating this an similar actions on a reasonably sized table-top.


Although a fan of the smaller Heroics and Ross 6 mil figures, I have decided to go with the larger and more detailed Baccus miniatures for this project, if for no other reason than I already have some of them which can be drafted in. Baccus do not make any Belisarian era Romans but there are plenty of suitable figures in their other ranges for bow-armed 6th century Roman horsemen.


On the painting sprue are some undercoated Baccus Sarmatians who will become Belisarius’ bucellarii. The painted unit in the background are Baccus Sassanid Persians painted up to be regular Roman heavy horse archers. One of the blessings of this smaller scale is that in the end it is the overall look of the unit that matters — not individual detail. Therefore you can use a variety of miniatures regardless of what the manufacturer calls them.






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