Legio Wargames

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By smacdowall, Apr 22 2017 09:50PM

In June 1658 the last battle of the Franco-Spanish War, English Civil War and French Fronde rebellion was fought amongst the dunes near Dunkirk. This engagement captured my imagination and two years ago I started on a project to build the armies needed to re-fight it with 28mm miniatures representing the various forces involved.

On one side, under Marshal Turenne, were French Royalists aided by a sizeable English Commonwealth force, supported by the English fleet. On the other was the Spanish army of Flanders, British Royalists in exile and the Prince of Condé’s French frondeurs. As regular readers will know from my posts over the past couple of years, I concentrated on building up the French (for both sides), Spanish and British Royalists, leaving Gary Kitching’s excellent New Model Army figures to form the English Commonwealth contingent.


The historical battle came about when Don Juan of Austria (the Spanish governor general of Flanders) led 6000 foot and 8000 horse to relieve Turenne’s siege of Dunkirk. Rather than waiting for them, Turenne marched north through the dunes to attack with 12,000 foot, 7000 horse and 10 light guns. Caught by surprise the Spanish/British/French army deployed along a line of high dunes without time to bring any artillery into the line nor to recall half of their horse which were away foraging.


Despite the difficult of manoeuvring through the sandy dunes the Franco-English won the day. The English foot under Sir William Lockhart charged up a very steep dune to engage the Spanish and Anglo-Scottish-Irish Royalists frontally as some of the French horse managed to get around their right (seaward) flank by advancing along the beach. Supporting fire from the English ships helped.


The full table view with Franco-English on the right.
The full table view with Franco-English on the right.

Our game started well for the Franco-English.


On the meadows to the landward side, the French Royalist cavalry made short work of the first line of French rebel horse, seeing them off and then catching them in the rear as they fell back. One French rebel unit which had ridden through the ranks of its opponents decided to surrender and profess loyalty to the king rather than be surrounded and cut to pieces.



On the seaward side, the guns of the English fleet started to wear down the Spanish troops deployed to protect that flank as a large number of French horse advanced along the beach despite the umpire’s warning of the incoming tide.


A unit of Spanish mounted arquebusiers suffered so heavily from the naval guns that they had to withdraw to recover their order as if they stayed put they would risk suffering significant casualties.


Turenne held his French infantry centre back, engaging the Walloon, German and French foot in Spanish service with long range musketry, no doubt feeling confident that a victory on both wings was nearly in the bag. Indeed the Spanish players were overheard musing what we would do for the rest of the day as the battle seemed almost over.


Then it began to turn. On the meadows of the landward side, Turenne’s front line horse chased the enemy off the field and half of them decided to loot the Spanish camp rather than return to the action. This, along with the timely intervention of the Spanish lancers and cuirassiers of the guard stabilised that wing for a while.



In the centre the Duke of York’s Lifeguards charged and overran the French guns. They decided to keep going on to Dunkirk rather than turning back to continue to play a role in the battle.



On the seaward flank the incoming tide caused half of the French horse who had been working their way up the beach to turn back and head for solid ground. The others were driven in closer to a Spanish Tercio guarding the beach flank and took casualties from musketry while masking the supporting fire from the English fleet.



The first line of the English charged up the dune behind the cover of a forlorn hope. They did well but not well enough to take the position so they fell back. Then the second line charged, also meeting the English and Irish royalists as well as the Spanish.



They very nearly made it but an inconclusive result was not enough to break the Anglo-Spanish line.




Those of the French horse who had managed to make it around the seaward flank, attacked a Spanish Tercio from the front and rear. Unfortunately for them they were in a state of disorder, had taken significant casualties from musketry and the Spanish had a deep formation of pikemen who had a second rank able to turn around to protect their rear.



The cavalry attack made no headway against the Tercio. Then the Spanish mounted arquebusiers who had previously withdrawn to recover their order attacked them in turn, supported by a battalion of Scottish foot.


At this point, as the foot of the Spanish centre were slowly stepping back to avoid contact, we called an end to the game. The French had a significant advantage on the landward side, nothing significant had occurred in the centre and the English attack on the seaward side had been blunted.


The Spanish had fared better than they did in the historical battle but they did not win the day and most probably would have given up any further attempt to relieve Dunkirk without reinforcements.


Despite their numerical superiority and the lack of Spanish artillery, the Franco-English army had a very difficult task. Advancing over the dunes to attack an enemy on higher ground was never going to be easy. They almost made it but not quite. No doubt the scribes on both sides would be hastily recording victory although the result was actually a draw.


The battle was fought using Close Fire and European Order rules available as a free download from my website here.





















By smacdowall, Apr 17 2017 05:15PM

My troops are nearly assembled for the Battle of the Dunes which will be re-fought later this week. I have been too busy painting and doing other things to post many pics of the newly recruited units and will try to correct this now.


This is King’s Own English Regiment — the forerunners of the Grenadier Guards. Formed from Englishmen who had followed King Charles into exile and supplemented by English soldiers from the French army who answered the King’s call to join him in Flanders when France entered into an alliance with Cromwell.


There are a few fleeting references to King Charles II receiving a supply of white (or grey) cloth from his Spanish allies to clothe his men. I have assumed that this regiment has received some of these coats — the blue turn back cuffs being conjectural.


As the regiment was made up from a steady trickle of individuals who had been serving in several different French regiments I imagine that there would have been a variety of dress. Therefore not all of the men are wearing the Spanish-supplied coats. By the time of the restoration the regiment was probably in red. So I have added in a number of red coats along with the usual French browns and greys.


The miniatures are a mix of Dixon Grand Alliance, Northstar 1672, Front Rank Monmouth rebels and a few Perry English Civil War. The pikemen, ready to receive cavalry, are Dixon French which come with a variety of heads. One of them sports a classically influenced helmet which is said to have been

popular in some French units of the time.


The men are wearing variations of the long justacorps which was becoming fashionable but had not yet supplanted the shorter jacket of the English Civil War. My intent was to give the sense of a hastily raised regiment at a time of transition before uniforms became the norm.



Next up is another Spanish Tercio. I have chosen to give my Spanish a more archaic look than their French enemies and British allies as I will re-use them for earlier battles of the Franco-Spanish War and Thirty Years War. Some contemporary paintings indicate that the Spanish may have hung onto older clothing styles as the French took to new fashions. Musket rests seem to have more or less fallen out of use by the 1650s but as I had a number of good looking miniatures with them I decided to not worry about this.


My previous Spanish Tercios were painted in the same style using a similar mix of miniatures. This unit has been mostly recruited from Warlord Games (both plastics and metals) with one or two Redoubt and The Assault Group thrown in for variety.


I wanted to give the unit the look and feel of veterans. The heyday of the Spanish infantryman had probably passed but these men will have fought in many campaigns and have a reputation to live up to.



By smacdowall, Mar 27 2017 05:33PM

To celebrate some significant birthdays for two of our group, several of us gathered together for a weekend of wargames, good food and good companionship.


The first game was the pivotal English Civil War battle at Marston Moor in 28mm. The miniatures were recruited from several of our collections and the rules used were my Close Fire and European Order (17th C version).


I commanded the Royalist Cavalry on the right wing and made rather a mess of it. Not realising that the Parliamentary Horse had learned a thing or two since our earlier encounters, I foolishly ordered one of my brigades to use pistols rather than swords. I did this because I was more afraid of getting tangled up in the enemy foot - as happened in a previous Edgehill game - than I was of the opposing horse. We gave a good fight and held our own for a turn or two but in the end the roundhead ironsides cut through our ranks and the Royal army’s right flank was turned.


We did better in the centre where our foot commander noticed a hinge in the enemy line between the English and Scots. Rather than hang back he advanced forward, concentrating force on the weak point of the enemy line. After a bit of back and fourth the Royalist foot broke through the centre, splitting the enemy army in two.


On our left flank another cavalry battle flowed back and forth with the parliamentarians winning initially only for the second line of Royalists to throw them back.


With three distinct sectors having three different outcomes the umpire declared a bloody draw as the parliamentarians had won their left, we had won in the centre and it was pretty well even odds on the other flank. We probably could have gone on for a few more turns but had this been an actual battle both commanders would have decided that a clear win was not possible.


Perhaps more importantly the pub beckoned.




By smacdowall, Feb 11 2017 04:07PM

Moving on from James Stuart's early career at Mardyke (1657), yesterday the Royal Army encountered Monmouth's rebels in a re-creation of the Battle of Sedgemoor (1685).


Taking the role of Colonel John Churchill, I was officer of the watch as the Royal Army prepared for a restful night. After a quick look out over the drainage ditches towards the village of Chedzoy, I retired to my into my tent certain that we will catch and crush the rebels the following day.


At an ungodly hour of the morning I am awaked by a sentry reporting noises. As I go out to investigate, taking a troop of dragoons as escort, I hear shots and then see our piquets galloping out of the night gloom. The night gloom being admirably represented by a dark blue sheet which separated the playing table so that neither side could see what was going on more than a few feet away.


Narrowly avoiding capture by a troop of Lord Grey’s rebel horse, who suddenly emerge form the darkness, I have my trumpeter sound ‘stand-to’ and beat a hasty retreat over the drainage ditch known locally as the Bussex Rhine.


Our men stumble out of their tents trying to get their bearings in the early morning haze, mist and gloom


Unbeknownst to me, on the other side of the table hidden by the ‘sheet of night’ the full rebel force is advancing on us in two columns, the Duke of Monmouth on the left and Lord Grey on the right.


As our men rush to form hasty firing lines the enemy are only a few yards away!



On our far right a devastating volley in unleashed into Dumbarton’s regiment out of the dark. Many men are killed, others run and it takes the Earl of Feversham’s brave personal intervention to steady them.

Taking command of the Coldstream Guards, with the First Foot Guards to their right, I push across the ditch with as dawn breaks, intending to blast the rebels away from the centre of their line with our superior musketry.


Unfortunately the enemy give as good as they receive while the Duke of Monmouth joins their ranks to keep them steady.


Forgetting about the fearsome scythes carried by many rebels, I order the guards to fix bayonets and close in for the kill, supported by a troop of Horse Guards.


The rebel line holds steady while the Royal Horse Guards are driven back. It had been a mistake to move into close quarters as inevitable superior discipline would have won a prolonged fire-fight. Now committed I had no choice but to continue fighting at close quarters.



The enemy foot on our far left also hold firm in face of repeated attacks while my supporting battalions become bogged down as they stumble across the drainage ditch. While I am busy fighting in the centre, Kirk’s Lambs and Trelawney’s Regiment are unsure of my intent so they halt, awaiting further orders.


Despite the superior training and mounts of our Horse and Dragoons, they take a mauling from Lord Grey’s Horse supported by a small battery of light guns.

Eventually the superior discipline and training of our men in the centre overcomes the valour of the rebels. Worn down they break and flee. Monmouth goes with them doing his best to rally them but without success.


When the routing rebels reach Chedzoy, Monmouth is advised to flee the field and save himself. This he does. Although the rebel units on the flanks still hold firm, with their centre blown apart and Monmouth gone, the rebel force disintegrates.


It was a great scenario designed and umpired by Gary Kitching with his troops gracing the table. With a relatively small number of troops there was plenty of scope for two players on each side. Although a rebel defeat was probably inevitable there were enough unknowns to keep it gripping right to the end.


The rebels did much better in this game than they did historically. The breakthrough in the centre eventually won the day for us but as one more comfortable commanding cavalry I made a mistake in fixing bayonets to get stuck in so soon. A better tactic would have been to wear the enemy down in a protracted fire-fight and then clear them away with a timely charge. By getting stuck into the combat my reinforcements were unable to get into the battle. The rebel commanders, on the other hand , deployed well and made the most of their lesser quality troops.


The rules we used were my Close Fire and European Order (17th C version) which are available as a free download here.


I doubt that Judge Jeffreys will take the valour of the rebels into account at the Bloody Assizes. I only hope that the executioner’s axe will be a little sharper than it was when the historical Monmouth met his end.


























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