Legio Wargames

The Legio Blog

By smacdowall, Oct 16 2017 08:38PM



My sincere thanks to Richard Lockwood for organising the second Society of Ancients conference of this millennium. Once again it offered a great mix of discussion, games and good companionship and I thoroughly enjoyed it.


I took the opportunity to put on the Battle of Ad Decimum (AD 533) with my 6 mm figures supplemented by Geoff Fabron’s. This all cavalry battle resulted in Belisarius taking Carthage from the Vandals with only 6000 mounted men. Belisarius left his 10,000 infantry along with his wife and baggage in his camp.


Ad Decimum is a battle I have long wanted to try out. As it was an encounter battle fought over a wide area I felt that it needed the smaller scale miniatures to do it justice and I just based managed to base my last Vandal the day before the conference.


I set the game up historically but gave the players a number of options and let them play out their roles more or less as they wished. I also added a number of Moors riding around the countryside who would shadow both armies and not attack unless they were attacked or if the Romans weakened their camp too much.


The opening moves
The opening moves

The battle opened historically with Ammatas (The Vandal King’s son) enjoying his lunch at Ad Decimum — 10 miles from Carthage — where he had been ordered to take up a blocking position. On sighting the Roman advance guard he charged forward without waiting to form up, nor waiting for his other men who were strung out in a disorderly column on the road from Carthage.


I gave the player representing Ammatas a chance of forming his men up but I weighted the dice against him and so he did as his historical counterpart had done with the same disastrous result. His Comitatus was routed and he was killed. With the reckless Ammatas out off the way, his remaining troops managed better die rolls and began to form up. This caused the Roman commander of the advance guard to prudently pull back and re-form his own men rather than pushing on to Carthage.


The Roman commanders consider their options
The Roman commanders consider their options

The Roman column advances on Ad Decimum
The Roman column advances on Ad Decimum

Meanwhile the main Roman column debouched from the camp as their Hun flank guard was pushed back in a series of aggressive attacks by Gelimer who led his men in a beeline for the centre of the field.


Gibamund's column advances
Gibamund's column advances

Gibamund — who historically led the advance of the main Vandal force coming up from the south — was delayed by a series of bad die rolls. Eventually his column came onto the table, taking up the left flank of a Vandal strike in the centre.


The Romans deployed into line to meet the Vandal attack with Belisarius leading his bucellarii against Gibamund’s household warriors. To add a little fun I gave Gibamund the option of challenging Belisarius to personal combat which he did and which Belisarius disdainfully ignored.


When the main lines clashed the results were fairly even. The Vandals managed to rout one of the Roman units of bucellarii but their right wing units were attacked from two sides and driven back shaken.


At this point I called an end to the game. Although the Vandal attack had failed to defeat the Romans, it was clear that Belisarius was not going to reach Carthage that day. Therefore I declared the result a strategic Vandal victory even if the tactical results were even or even slightly in the Romans’ favour.


The rules we used were a stripped down version of my Legio VI Constantiani which are available as a free download in the rules section of my website. I will write the game up more fully for Slingshot in the near future




By smacdowall, Nov 20 2016 03:13PM

At the Society of Ancients conference back in October, I wanted to re-do a game I first ran at one of the original 1980s events. Set in late Roman Gaul circa AD 430 it is a multi-player game which attempts to recreate the chaos and confused loyalties in the last years of the Roman Empire in the West. The scenario is published in my first book: Goths, Huns and Romans (Argus, 1991)


Mirroring actual events of the time the Visigoths were pushing north from their base in modern Bordeaux. The patrician Aetius was using Huns and Alans to keep order and campaign against the Burgundians on the Rhine. Franks and Saxons were moving down from the north while the Gallo-Roman natives hung on to a precarious existence. Some entered into voluntary serfdom exchanging their freedom for the protection of immensely rich and powerful landowners. Other took to the greenwood in a sort of Robin Hood way — becoming known as the Bacaudae. Particularly prevalent in Armorica (roughly modern Brittany) their ranks were swelled by refugees from Britain.


One player seems happy with his brief - the others deep in thought
One player seems happy with his brief - the others deep in thought

I had room for 8 players: Analosus, a young Visigothic noble who had become frustrated with years of peace. Striking north without official authorisation he is busy accumulating wealth and prestige. He has with him Dietrich (a young firebrand) and Atulf (an older wiser head). Ragnar, a Frank, has been hired to protect the villa of the unpleasant local landowner — Castius, who happens to be a personal friend of Aetius.


One of Ragnar’s thugs raped a local woman and the villagers are up in arms. Ostirus, the Roman garrison commander is doing his best to keep order with locally recruited men who are more than a little upset with Castius and Ragnar. Tibatto, leader of the Armorican Bacaudae is showing up on the scene to avenge the villagers and gain new recruits. A Saxon — Gundar — is in the area with a band of freebooters looking for gainful employment. Meanwhile Aetius has sent Litorius with a Roman field army to crush the Bacaudae and make sure that everyone else behaves themselves. Litorius’ ‘Roman’ army is almost entirely composed of Huns and Alans. Analosus, Tibatto and Litorius are all historical characters — the others fictitious.


All the player-characters had different and conflicting objectives. None had sufficient forces to accomplish their objectives without help — they would have to make alliances. This was what made the game so much fun in the past and did again this time. My intent was to make it a combination of Diplomacy and a miniatures’ wargame.



The village
The village

We had about three hours and much of the first two were spent with each player making tentative moves, trying to figure out who was whom and testing out those who might be open to offers. I asked that none of the players were to reveal who they were so as to keep everyone guessing. When troops arrived on table, if someone asked me what troops the were, my unhelpful answer tended to be: “What they look like.” With Roman armies composed of Huns, and Goths wearing Roman kit, this did not give very many useful clues. The player-characters had to find out for themselves. Messengers were sent criss-crossing the table as plots were hatched and alliances sought, made, and broken.



A sketch map of the battlefield
A sketch map of the battlefield

Ragnar decided at the outset that he was better off without his employer so he did away with Castius, owner of the rich villa which was the target for many of the other players who were in search of loot. He kept this secret, intercepting all messages (also killing the odd messenger) and claiming to speak in his late master’s voice. Ostirus and Tibatto cut a deal early on, both professing to take the cause of the villagers and to avenge their wrongs. Gundar, the Saxon, first promised to support the Goths and then switched sides to join up with Ragnar. A cut of the villa’s wealth and the prospect of further employment swayed him. The Goths also promised Gundar a cut from the villa’s loot but as Ragnar held it and the Goths had to take it. Gundar reasoned that Ragnar’s offer was a firmer bet.



Ragnar's men prepare to defend the villa
Ragnar's men prepare to defend the villa

The Goths had the most numerous troops — possibly enough to capture the villa on their own without help. As loot was one of their main objectives this is what they set out to do. They were hampered by a river which had some dodgy fords. A first attempt to cross failed and although they eventually found one, by the time they were in a position to make an assault, other players were moving against them.


Atulf, the older Gothic leader turned out to have an agressive streak and was more interested in reputation than wealth. While Analosus drew up his followers for an assault on the villa, Atulf attempted to draw out Ostirus under guise of a parley but with the intention of defeating him in combat. When Atulf led his Comitatus out to challenge Ostirus, the Roman withdrew back to his lines but eventually had to turn to fight. The Goths had the better of it, driving the Romans back, but Ostirus survived the combat.



Atulf's Goths (left) drive Ostirus back in front of the village
Atulf's Goths (left) drive Ostirus back in front of the village

Leading a strong mounted force of Huns and Alans, Litorius took over a watch tower maned by Ragnar’s men and a catapult. He viewed Ostirus and Tibatto converging on the village on the other side of the river but could not be certain who they were. Not knowing that Castius had been killed, Litorius decided to support Ragnar in defending the villa from the Goths in exchange for a token contribution to the army’s upkeep.


Analosus attempted a mounted assault on the villa but his horsemen had no chance against the fortifications and took heavy casualties from the defenders’ archery.



The Goths assault the Villa
The Goths assault the Villa

The Goths pulled back, rallied and made ready for a second attempt but by this time Gundar’s Saxons, together with Litorius’ Huns and Alans were blocking the way. In the combat which followed the Goths drove the Saxons back and had some success against the Litorius’ Alans but his Huns had the better of the Goths.


As dusk fell, Tibatto was in control of the village with a new, willing, source recruits. Ostirus had been driven back by the Goths and had lost men, although his standing with his troops and the villagers was reasonably high thanks to his bravery. The Goths had failed to secure any new loot and they had lost quite a few men. Gundar had a deal with Ragnar but his men were being pursued by the Goths and it was not clear how many would survive. Ragnar still controlled the villa and its treasure but he would have trouble holding on to it once Litorius and Aetius learned that he had killed the owner. Litorius had successfully helped to defend the villa but Tibatto’s Bacaudae had been strengthened not weekend. One can only imaging a rather awkward conversation between Aetius and Litorius several days later.


The Goths (left) chase off the Saxons but are held by the Huns
The Goths (left) chase off the Saxons but are held by the Huns

Adding up the victory points and looking at the situation I declared Tibatto as the winner. He had achieved his aim of securing further support and had not lost any men in the process.






By smacdowall, Nov 17 2016 05:24PM



The 6mm Pharsallus game at the Society of Ancients Battle day last spring inspired a couple of us to work on a version of my Legio VI rules to cover the late Roman period. We decided that the Catalaunian Fields (AD 451) would be a good test game — large armies, lots of cavalry and a good variety of troop types.


New Hun recruits emerging from the painting table
New Hun recruits emerging from the painting table

Legio VI Julia Augusta (covering the late Roman republic and early empire) were tweaked, merging some of the Comitatus mechanisms. Masses of Huns were painted — in the end we had over 100 of them — and various substitutions were made with Normans, Saxons and even Persians being drafted in to make up some missing figures for other units.


The Gepid contingent with Roman auxiliary cavalry filling out the ranks
The Gepid contingent with Roman auxiliary cavalry filling out the ranks

This is one of the advantages with 6mm. In larger scales, substitutions of inappropriate miniatures stand out like a sore thumb. With the smaller scale you have a bit more leeway.



Overview of the battlefield from the Montgueux ridge looking north
Overview of the battlefield from the Montgueux ridge looking north

Fighting on an 8 x 6 foot table with small figures allowed us to represent the entire battlefield with the dominating Montgueux ridge and the flat plains beyond, stretching out to the Seine river where Attila probably had his camp.


The Huns advance in wedge-shaped masses
The Huns advance in wedge-shaped masses

Advancing in three divisions — Gepids on the right, Huns in the centre and Ostrogoths on the left, Attila advanced his army to close with the Romans and Visigoths.


Initial deployment from the Roman lines looking east towards the Seine
Initial deployment from the Roman lines looking east towards the Seine

We decided to start the game after Thorismund’s Visigoths had seized the Montgueux ridge and were hidden on the high ground ready to charge down at the opportune moment (dice willing).


The battle lines close
The battle lines close

When they came into range, the Hun horse archers circled around, pouring arrows into the ranks of Romans, Alans and Visigoths opposing them. With foot archers supporting the heavy infantry, Aetius’s men were able to respond but inevitably they were out-shot by the Huns and some of the Roman and allied units began to feel the strain.


The Ostrogoths (on the right)  prepare to charge
The Ostrogoths (on the right) prepare to charge

Closing in on their Visigothic cousins, the Ostrogoths had little missile support so they did what they did best and that was to charge into close combat. The Visigoth foot and dismounted cavalry held their ground. The Ostrogoths were repulsed, wheeled around and tried again with the same result.


The Huns drive back Sangiban's Alans
The Huns drive back Sangiban's Alans

In the centre the Huns drove back the Alans, creating a hole in the allied line, separating the Roman and Visigoth contingents — just as happened historically. On Attila’s right the Gepids made some headway against the first line of Romans but were stalemated by a second line of reserves.


Thorismund's men charge down the ridge
Thorismund's men charge down the ridge

Just as the Ostrogoths were gearing up for a third charge against the Visigoths, Thorismund’s contingent came charging down the Montgueux ridge into their flank. Thanks to some brilliant dice rolling the Ostrogoths held out, even their archers managing to stand their ground despite heavy casualties. This stopped an immediate rolling up of the flank, giving just enough time for Attila to switch some Hun units from the second line of his centre to swing around to meet the new threat.


The Ostrogoths hold out despite being shaken
The Ostrogoths hold out despite being shaken

The lefthand units of the Ostrogothic command were pretty shaken even if they had been able wit withstand the initial Visigothic charge. They could not hold out much longer. The Huns had broken through in the centre and managed to force back a number of Visigothic units after weakening them with archery and then following up with a timely charge.


Despite this success, as dusk fell, it was clear to Attila that he could not break the enemy and there was a great danger if battle continued advantage would shift to the enemy. Therefore he ordered a controlled withdrawal back to his camp, knowing that the Romans and Visigoths were in no condition to pursue.


So it was a draw, with advantage to the Huns. Aetius’s army had suffered far higher casualties and although the Romans/Visigoths had managed to hold their line they would not have been able to prevent Attila from achieving a clean break.


Legio VI Constantiani - rules for 6mm miniatures, are available as a free download from my website here.





By smacdowall, Nov 3 2016 03:44PM

I have found it rather enjoyable getting back into Ancients after a bit of a pike and shot interlude. I will be returning to the latter before long, however. My French and Spanish armies for the Battle of the Dunes still require a few more units.


Warlords & Rebels game at the SoA conference
Warlords & Rebels game at the SoA conference

I think it was the Society of Ancients conference that inspired me to get out my 15mil ancients and Comitatus rules again. Before long I will do a full report on the battle I staged there, set in Gaul, 5th C AD.



Roman infanty in entrenchments with Huns out in front
Roman infanty in entrenchments with Huns out in front

Earlier this week it 15mm figures again but the game was set a century later (AD 530). The Rast Roman General Belisarius was defending Daras from the more numerous Persian army commanded by Perozes.

We used the Comitatus scenario which can be downloaded from my website here. This plays out only the action on the Roman left wing. It is an enjoyable scenario if you like lots of cavaly (I do) . I have played it several times with both Persians and Romans winning on different occaisions. We used Comitatus rules with the optional ammunition supply rule.

I introduced a couple of tweaks to keep add to the fog of war. One was the addition of a unit of Arabs in the Persian army with one or two of them riding camels. This made the Roman player nervous in case his horses shied when they came close. However, I had decided in advance that there were not enough of them to scare the horses.

The same was true for the lone Persian elephant. He was untrained and therefore not fit for combat or else he would cause as much or more damage on his own side. He was there for show only.


The Roman player was allowed to keep Pharas and his Heruls hidden until the after the third move when they could appear on the Persian right flank. Belisarius and his bucellarii were off table in reserve.


Deployed in three lines, the Persians opened the battle with their first line of mostly light horse archers delivering some devastating volleys.


The lance armed Roman foederati were shot to pieces and Hermogones, the Roman commander on their left was killed. This sent his shaken bucellarii charging out to avenge his death — a noble act with resulted in the death of every man. Such heroism will be long remembered around the campfires.


As Roman archery and countercharges began to tell against the first line of Persian cavalry, some pulled back as the second line of heavier troops advances.


Amongst the second line were heavily armoured cataphracts who never actually made it into combat.



The clibanarii of the Persian second line move up against the Roman heavy horse archers who evade out of the way after shooting a volley of arrows.



Swarming around the flank of the Romans, the Persian light cavalry, inspired by their commander, swoop in for the kill.


By the time Pharas’ Heruls and Belisarius’ reserve came onto the table there were very few other Romans still standing, apart from the infantry safely behind their trenches. We decided that at this point, Pharas would have turned to find the nearest other Roman army while Belisarius would have withdrawn the infantry back into Daras and prepare for a siege.





















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