Legio Wargames

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By smacdowall, Oct 1 2020 03:19PM

Taking advantage of what may be a breif window of non-lockdown opportunity, I recently marched with my contingent of French to link up in person with the Imperial army to help stop an Ottoman advance on Austria.

This was the first face to face game I have played since the lockdown. To comply with the Corvid rules we had three players and an umpire appropriately socially distanced around the table with the other players ‘Zooming in’ remotely. The purchase of handy phone clips that could be attached to small tripods greatly improved our ability to provide the remote players with a decent view of the battlefield.

We Imperial/French players were confronted with a bridgehead of entrenched Ottoman infantry on our side of the River Raab. They were screened by hordes of Tartar light cavalry backed up by heavy Sipahis. Many more Turks, including a huge artillery train, were following up on the enemy side of the river.

We needed to attack the Turks before they could break out of their small bridgehead. If we could prevent them from doing this, then their vastly superior numbers would be of little use. We had to push our men through four gaps in the woods and then deploy in relatively close range of the Ottoman cavalry screen.

We decided to push forward with foot first in order to force back the enemy screen and to create enough room to bring our artillery up and for our horse to charge through.

On our left, the French foot and artillery deployed and our cavalry made ready to charge out on both flanks of the foot.

Although our cavalry looked splendid, it did not go according to plan. The French cavalry were soundly defeated, leaving the infantry isolated and without flank support.

Our right flank was quite open and we could see Janissaries marching towards that flank on the other side of the river. We assumed, therefore, that this was where the enemy intended to break through. We attacked here with our largest Imperial contingent, driving back the Ottoman cavalry with a combination of our own cavalry supported by artillery fire.

The umpire told us that there had been torrential rain overnight. What we had not appreciated was that the river was no longer fordable and so there was no chance of the enemy Janissaries getting across the river on our right. Therefore we continued to push the Hapsburg foot up towards the river rather than turning in to attack the bridgehead — which is what we should have done.

In the centre, the Markgraf von Baden’s contingent had difficulty in creating enough space to bring the cavalry up, thanks in no small part to successful charges by the Turkish Sipahis against the lead units of German foot.

When we were able to finally bring our horse into action in the centre, it looked as if victory was assured. We had managed to pin the enemy cavalry with our infantry to the front as our cavalry charged in on their flank.

Once again it did not go according to plan and our men were forced to retire, thanks in no small part to the intervention of a 'mad mullah' who was encouraging the failthful to ever greater deeds of arms.

Initially we had thought to avoid assaulting the enemy trenches but by now we had realised that the torrential rain had not only made the river unfordable but it had also washed away much of the enemy entrenchments. Our best chance of victory, therefore was to attack the thin line of Ottoman foot holding the washed out trenches. Had we been able to make a coordinated attack then this may have worked. An attack by a single Imperial regiment was not enough.

Bereft of cavalry support the French foot closed up and attempted to storm the trenches on the left. A timely Ottoman cavalry attack on the flank drove off one regiment, making an assault impossible.

The game ended with an outcome not too dissimilar to the historical battle of St Gotthard in 1664 but with much less success on our side. The Ottomans had indeed been prevented from breaking out but that was more down to the weather than any tactical brilliance on our part. Had we realised sooner that the enemy could not cross the river then we could have brought our right flank in on the entrenchments in a coordinated attack with the centre and possibly swept the field.

By smacdowall, Sep 14 2020 05:42PM

My Hundred Years War project is nearing completion. I am still working on some French dismounted men-at-arms that could serve in the engagements after Crécy when the French learned to dismount when faced by massed archers.

In the meantime here are some photos of the mounted English knights I painted back in 1983, when my patience and ability to paint fine heraldic detail was better than it is today — even if my overall painting style may have improved a little. All the miniatures are Essex 25/28 mil

Here we have King Edward III’s knights. From right to left (their perspective): Sir Thomas Felton; Bartholomew Lord Burghersh (King’s Chamberlain); Sir John Erpingham (holding the royal banner); Michael Lord Poynings; Thomas Lord Berkley; and Sir Thomas Wingfield. Of these Burghersh and Poynigs were in the King’s battle at Crécy. Sir John Erpingham was the father of Sir Thomas who commanded the archers at Agincourt. Sir John certainly fought in France under Edward III but there is absolutely no evidence that he carried the royal banner at Crécy.

A rear view of the king’s knights.

The second unit contains knights from the mainward (R-L their perspective): Sir William de Hardreshalle; Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel; Sir John Delves; William de Bohun, Earl of Northampton; Sir William Fitzwarin; and Sir John Chandos.

And here they are again from another perspective.

Last but certainly not least we have:

Edward of Woodstock, aka the Black Prince — his standard carried by Sir Richard Fitzsimon. The Prince is wearing rather old fashioned kit for a 16 year old in 1346 — perhaps hand-me-downs from Daddy!

And finally Edward III, King of England (and France?) with his herald and his hawk.

All of these fine gentlemen started me off on a 37 year long Crécy project. Although nearly 40 years old, none have yet seen combat on the wargames table for the simple reason that the English rarely fought mounted.

Maybe one day they will see action.

By smacdowall, Sep 5 2020 02:17PM

It was more than 20 years ago when I painted my first English knights and archers with the intention of one day seeing them in action against the French in a re-fight of Crécy (1346). It has taken me until now to amass enough miniatures to give it a go.

Crécy is a difficult battle to replicate on the wargames table as with historical hindsight no one would charge mounted knights uphill against massed longbowmen backed up by dismounted men at arms and spearmen.

Therefore, rather than a conventional game, I decided to have two players on the French side with the English being umpire controlled. The two French players, representing the Comte d’Alençon and the Johan von Luxembourg, would vie with each other for reputation and prestige. The victory points encouraged them to behave as chivalric 14th century knights rather than 21st century wargamers.

The game was played remotely via Zoom. I umpired and moved the miniatures while the two French players rolled the dice for their actions. They were awarded prestige points for chivalrous and heroic actions such as charging enemy men at arms or capturing valuable prisoners. Actions against archers or spearmen were considered beneath them and not worthy of note.

I deployed the troops historically with as close a recreation of the Crécy battlefield as I could on an 8’ x 6’ table (played lengthwise).

The English deployed in 3 battles — the Black Prince on the right, Northumberland on the left and King Edward in reserve at the rear.

The French would be attacking from line of march behind a screen of Genoese crossbowmen. Alençon was forward and angling right, Luxembourg slightly behind and angling left. King Philip Valois and the militia (both umpire controlled) took up the rear.

As mentioned in the previous post, I decided to adapt Andy Callan’s excellent Never Mind the Billhooks rules from the Wars of the Roses to the Hundred Years War, further adapting them to suite my element based armies. I made up suitable HYW cards and order tokens, used casualties as daunted markers, arrows on counters to keep track of archer shots, and small pebbles to recored 'casualties' on my element -based units.

The game played out much like the historical battle. Both Alençon and Luxembourg surged forward, anxious to gain glory in combat with enemy men of rank.

The English archers and cannon made short work of the Genoese crossbowmen and shot apart the lead units of French knights. When the French first managed to charge home across the hidden pits in front of the enemy positions, the English archers held their ground rather than falling back behind the supporting men at arms (determined by a die roll).

This deprived the French of honourable combat against worthy opponents. Instead they had to contend with exchanging blows with mere peasants and the Ignominy of then being forced to retire when the peasants held their ground.

The French charged again and again.

Finally Luxembourg managed to drive back the Black Prince’s archers and engage the Prince and his dismounted knights in honourable combat. Even though he was driven back, Luxembourg could claim greater glory than Alençon.

By this time most of the French knights were retiring and although King Philip had yet to engage there was little point in yet another charge. The game had come to a natural end with Luxembourg in ascendancy and Alençon licking his wounds.

Despite suffering enormous casualties (while very few English died) moral victory certainly went to the French. Not only did the English knights cower behind peasants but they also used smoky, filfy cannons which spoke of witchcraft!

Although there is still work to do in adapting Never Mind the Billhooks for my element based armies they worked well for the Hundred Years War, giving us a fun remote game that came to completion in 3 hours.

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