Legio Wargames

The Legio Blog

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.






By smacdowall, May 29 2017 06:30PM

On Sunday 28 May a group of us took over the wonderful Southwold Sailors’ Reading Room

overlooking Sole Bay.


The Sailors Reading Room, Southwold, Suffolk, England
The Sailors Reading Room, Southwold, Suffolk, England

Our purpose — to do a tabletop re-creation of the Battle of Sole Bay which took place on 28 May (old Julian calendar) in 1672.


Although three times larger than Trafalgar and fought in plain sight of the Suffolk coast (three miles from where I live), this battle and much of the Anglo-Dutch wars seem to have been largely forgotten in modern times.


This being as near as possible to the 345th anniversary of a battle and a bank holiday weekend as well (long weekend for readers on the other side of the Atlantic) we made it a public event running a game in parallel with explanations of the historical battle. As Southwold is a holiday destination we expect quite a few visitors and there was indeed a steady flow from 11am through to 5pm.


I did my best to explain to the many interested visitors what went on 345 years ago and what was going on with the tiny 1:2400 scale ships on the table. Meanwhile one Umpire, two English and two Dutch players got on with the game.


The Anglo-French fleet moves out from shore to meet the Dutch attack
The Anglo-French fleet moves out from shore to meet the Dutch attack

We set the historical start position with 3 Dutch squadrons coming in from the northeast with the wind to their backs. The two English squadrons and French fleet started close into the Southwold shore on the western table edge. Thereafter the players were free to make their own decisions.


The French fleet turns south
The French fleet turns south

The umpire intervened at one point with an appropriately annoying instruction for the French fleet which was to sail to the south - away from the action as happened historically. Our assumption that Admiral d'Estrées was under orders from Louis XIV not to loose any ships. That he was from landlocked Switzerland probably had nothing to do with it!


The ghostly Flying Dutchman
The ghostly Flying Dutchman

Less historical, but adding a bit of fun, was the sudden appearance of the ghostly Flying Dutchman, famously celebrated in Adnams Southwold-brewed Ghost Ship pale ale just as their Broadside beer commemorates the Battle of Sole Bay,



In 1672 the Dutch achieved a strategic victory by inflicting enough damage on the Anglo-French fleet so as to prevent it from blockading the Dutch ports which had been the allied intention. It did not go so well in our mini re-creation of 2017. Attempting to head off the front of the English ships the Dutch found themselves getting in too close where they were raked by multiple broadsides from the English ships.


A Dutch fire ship sails towards the English Blue Squadron
A Dutch fire ship sails towards the English Blue Squadron

The fireships the Dutch sent forward against the English were not as effective as they had hoped. Some were sunk by cannon fire, others missed their target and one exploded prematurely. An English fireship was successful, however.



English and Dutch flagships come to close quarters
English and Dutch flagships come to close quarters

Quite early on in the battle the Dutch Admiral de Ruyters was killed in the fighting. With a Dutch defeat certain the French fleet was allowed to return to the action.


The French flagship captures a crippled Dutch ship
The French flagship captures a crippled Dutch ship

For most of us this was a first foray into naval wargaming. It was also the first time any of us had run a game in the public eye — tying it in with an historical event and location. It was incredibly gratifying to encounter such an interested audience, most of whom had little or no knowledge of the battle and even less about wargaming.


Many stayed to watch for quite a while, others came in the morning and then re-visited to see how things had progressed. All of us were pleasantly surprised by how interested the visitors were, not only in the history of the original event but also the mechanics of the game.


We used 1:2400 scale ships from Tumbling Dice. They were a bit fiddly to put together but most of us found them very enjoyable to paint. The wonderful seascape was made by Terrain Mats in nearby Ipswich.



The peacful Sole Bay today viewed from the Southwold Sailors' Reading Room
The peacful Sole Bay today viewed from the Southwold Sailors' Reading Room



















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