Legio Wargames

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By smacdowall, May 20 2016 06:53PM

James Duke of York
James Duke of York

Readers who have been following my Battle of the Dunes project may recall that the young James Duke of York was captured at Ardes after leading his life guards in a wild charge against the full might of the French cavalry. Since then he has been enjoying Marshal Turenne’s hospitality. But there are problems.


The Reverend Samuel Fairclought
The Reverend Samuel Fairclought

Samuel Fairclought, a radical puritan preacher has been stirring up Turenne’s English Commonwealth allies. While they are digging entrenchments in the cold and rain around Dunkerque James Stuart has been living a life of luxury at Ardes. Despite many attempts by the English to force their French allies to hand the prisoner over for a ‘just and fair trial’ followed by execution. Marshal Turenne has so far refused. This presents Major General Lockhart, commander of the Commonwealth troops, with a difficult situation. Urged on by Rev. Fairclought, his forces are on the brink of mutiny unless he takes action to get his hands on James Stuart.


Learning of the mutinous mood amongst his English allies, Cardinal Mazarin decides that the Duke of York must be spirited away to Paris and safety. He is too valuable a bargaining chip to allow to fall into the hands of the murderous heretics. In secret orders, not revealed even to Marshal Turenne (who is after all a Huguenot), he charges le Marquis de la Salle to bring James to Paris under cover of escorting a re-supply convoy from Ardes to Dunkerque. At some point along the route de la Salle is to turn off towards Paris with the important prisoner.



Les Gendarmes Écossais
Les Gendarmes Écossais

Spies are everywhere and word reaches King Charles II in exile of Cardinal Mazarin’s plan — probably from les Gendarmes Écossais who Mazarin has detailed to form part of the escort. James Duke of York had been their commander before the break between France and the Royalist English in exile. King Charles appoints Colonel Thomas Blague of Horringer to command a small force to ambush the French convoy and free his younger brother. Readers may remember than Blague was the hero of the delaying action at Blancard. Since then he has been knighted and his valiant troop of horse promoted to lifeguard status. Prince Condé, leader of the French ‘fronde’ rebels has agreed to support the English Royalist plan.


Word also reaches Lockhart at Dunkerque who decides to seize the moment to prevent mutiny by attempting to intercept the French convoy and take James under his control without breaking the alliance.



The area of operations
The area of operations

This map shows the area of operations. De la Salle is at Ardes preparing to escort James and the re-supply convoy ostensibly to Dunkerque. At some point he will need to whisk James away to Paris. Lockhart is at Dunkerque and is devising a deception plan to draw several companies of Englishmen away from the siege lines to intercept him. Meanwhile Sir Thomas Blague, reinforced by some Scots arriving from overseas and additional troops from Condé, is making his way to Watten. From there he too hopes to intercept the convoy.



Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé
Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé

Each player (de la Salle, Lockhart and Blague) were free to chose their routes and make their plans. Blague and de la Salle had some troops assigned to them and a pot of cash from which they could acquire others. Lockhart had to decide how many companies he could withdraw from the siege lines without raising suspicion. Their decisions and the follow-on strategic moves were conducted as a series of email exchanges between the three players and myself as umpire. As an added twist de la Salle was aware that Blague was on the move but neither he nor Blague were aware that Lockhart was also in the game.


After several exchanges, following which I fed back appropriate intelligence to the players, the situation was this:


Lockhart withdrew 8 companies from Dunkerque ostensibly to escort sick and wounded to Calais and from there to move to Ardes to pick up supplies. De la Salle intended to move from Ardes to Audruicq and then let the supply convoy head on to Dunkerque while he would take his cavalry and turn around back to Ardes taking James with him and then turn south towards Paris. Blague’s plan was to establish his foot at Audruicq, use his light cavalry (Scots and Croats) to shadow the convoy and block off retreat. His main cavalry force would be kept to the south ready to strike once the head of the convoy reached Audruicq.


Blague's Scottish reinforcements from overeas - courtesy of Ross Macfarlane
Blague's Scottish reinforcements from overeas - courtesy of Ross Macfarlane

The various strategic decisions each player took left me as umpire with a couple of problems which could have resulted in no table top battle or a battle in which James was not present. De la Salle’s plan to do an about turn with James could have taken him out of harms way before any troops met. Fortunately Blague ordered his light cavalry to shadow the convoy and block off retreat.



Lockhart's men, accompanied by Rev. Fairclought, on the march
Lockhart's men, accompanied by Rev. Fairclought, on the march

Rather than taking the direct route from Dunkerque to Audruicq, Lockhart had decided to go via Calais and then get ahead of the convoy. The timings he set in his strategic orders would have seen his English Commonwealth troops arriving at Audruicq at the same time as Blague’s Royalists and a day ahead of de la Salle. The result would have been a punch-up between the two after which James would be out of harm’s way. This would not do. Fortunately Lockhart’s plan involved moving on a Sunday so I called on the Reverend Fairclought to intervene. In a 3 hour long sermon he spoke of the evils of working on the sabbath after which the Commonwealth troops refused to move. This delayed Lockhart’s move by a day and so he was trailing de la Salle’s convoy rather than getting ahead of it.


Blague's foot and dragoons deploy at Audruicq
Blague's foot and dragoons deploy at Audruicq

So, on the afternoon of 12 May, Blague is waiting for de la Salle at Audruicq with his cavalry shadowing the convoy. De la Salle’s advance guard of dragoons are approaching the village while his rearguard has spotted some unidentified foot (Lockhart’s men) following up a kilometre or two behind him.


How the game played out will be reported in the next entry





By smacdowall, Nov 9 2015 02:20PM

Looking for a relatively quick but interesting two-player game I thought it might be fun to do a follow-on action from the Battle of Ardes.



The Battle of Ardes a semi-historical scenario set in June 1657


This scenario would see Colonel Thomas Blague of Horringer in Suffolk, volunteering to lead a delaying force to buy time for the defeated Spanish army to make a clean break from the pursuing French. After the Duke of York's capture and the inaction of the British Royalist foot at Ardes, Colonel Blague -- a historical character who commanded the King's Own English Regiment for Charles II in exile -- is anxious to restore the reputation of British arms.


Don Juan de Austria, commanding the Spanish forces in Picardy and Flanders has been hampered in his retreat by bad weather, baggage and guns. He has reinforced Blague and has promised to send an extraction force to help Blague's men withdraw once they have succeeded in holding up the enemy sufficiently for the main Spanish force to outdistance pursuit. Blague's delaying force consists of 2 regiments of British Royalist foot, a troop of British horse, 2 companies of Spanish dragoons, 3 companies of German arquebusiers and a battery of light guns.



Commanding the French advance guard is the Comte de Schomberg who distinguished himeself at Ardes. He learns that the small village of Blancard is being held against him but his orders are to press on, sweep away the opposition and not to let the Spanish get away. He has under his command 7 battalions of foot and 12 squadrons of horse. Marshal Turenne has promised 2 companies of Gendarmes from the main battle to help in the attack.


Bad weather has reduced visibility to a mere 120 yards, the ground is sodden and the going slow. Schomberg has to deploy without being able to see any of Thomas Blague's positions. Assuming the village would be strongly held he decides to bypass it with his cavalry on the right, supported by a forlorn hope of musketeers and most of his foot on the left.



What the French did not know was that Blague had left the village unoccupied. He deployed his British troops, supported by the guns, to the left of of Blancard. Two small groups of detached musketeers held some hasty field fortifications with the Kings Own English Regiment and the Duke of York's Irish holding the gaps.



This came as no small surprise to the French who had thought that their cavalry would sweep past the village on this flank. Instead they were met by a hail of shot and had no option other than to engage Blague's men with pistols -- an exchange they inevitably got the worst of.




On the opposite flank, the majority of the French foot advanced towards the ploughed fields which turned out to be a sodden muddy mess and quite difficult going. Although he was not aware of the state of the fields until his troops got there, Schomberg had susupected that the bad weather may have turned them to a quagmire and this was the reason he deployed his cavalry on the other flank.


Trudging through the muddy fields the French foot found them to be lightly held by dismounted dragoons and mounted arquebusiers. Moving into close range the French succeeded in driving the enemy back. However by this time the Spanish extraction force, consisting of 2 companies of cuirassiers, 3 companies of arquebusiers, and a tercio of foot had begun to arrive onto the field and block further progress.



On the French right Schomberg's horse could make no headway against the British foot. He sent 3 squadrons around the flank under the command of the Marquis de Varennes but they were stopped by the British Royalist horse and after a fierce, protracted melee, Varennes was killed and the French cavalry driven off.



The only hope of a breakthrough was in the centre which Blague had left undefended. With the Gendarmes coming up in support, the valiant Schomberg personally led the Regiment Espagny (which later became Nettancourt and then Guyenne) through the village and into the attack. Their way was blocked by the Spanish tercio which had just come onto the field to help extract Blague's force. If Espagny could break through the tercio the way would be clear for the Gendarmes to follow through the attack, cut off Blague's men and continue the close pursuit.


It was a near run thing but the Spanish held their ground. There would be no French breakthrough and Blague was in position to safely withdraw most of his men having imposed sufficient delay to count as a clear victory. Casualties were relatively light on both side as Colonel Blague had taken advantage of the poor visibility and slow going to cleverly deployed his troops so that it was very hard for the French to come to grips. The only significant casualties came from the prolonged engagement bewteen the British and French horse in which the Marquis de Varennes was killed.












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