Legio Wargames

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By smacdowall, May 1 2018 02:26PM

On 7 April I took my 6mm Macedonians (reinforced by Geoff Fabron’s) to The Society of Ancients Battle Day at Bletchley. Now in its 15th year, the Battle Day aims to refight a historic battle with different rules-sets and miniature scales. You do not have to be a member to attend. With 15 games this year we almost matched the record of 17 in 2015 for the show down between Alexander the Great and the Indian King Porus at the Hydaspes.


Eumenes line with the silver shields on the right
Eumenes line with the silver shields on the right

I have a reasonable collection of Macedonians in both 25/28mm and 6mm scales. Given the large numbers of troops involved at Paraitakene (close to 40,000 on each side) I decided that 6mm was the best scale to go for. Deployed en-masse 6mm miniatures look really impressive on the table top and you can replicate the sweeping cavalry actions on the flanks even on a relatively small table. Six by four feet was all we needed. It helped that Geoff had a significant number of 6mm Macedonians so that I did not have to paint up too many more to field the two armies.


I decided to scale the armies at one 20mm square base representing approximately 400 infantry, 150 cavalry or 10 elephants. This was roughly one 6mm miniature to 25 men or 10 elephants. Technically a light infantry base modelled far less men than a close packed heavy infantry base but I chose to ignore this for the reason given above.


Antigonus advances in echelon
Antigonus advances in echelon

I deployed both wargames armies as they had been deployed historically. Then I allowed the players do decide their own tactics. The rules I used were my own Legio VI designed for 6mm big battles and stripped down to represent only those troops used in the early Alexandrian successor battles. These (Legio VI Diadochi) can be downloaded for free from my website. www.legio-wargames.com/rules.


Elephants on the rampage
Elephants on the rampage

Just as it had been historically, the elephants looked intimidating but actually had little impact. There was some elephant on elephant action and the gods (the dice) favoured Antigonus. This helped to partially neutralise Eumenes’ elephant superiority. In several cases some elephants broke through the enemy ranks causing disorder, in other cases they rampaged and did the same to their own troops. For this to have a significant impact it required other troops to quickly follow up to exploit the enemy disorder but none of the table-top generals were able to do this.


Antigonus turns Eumenes' left
Antigonus turns Eumenes' left

As our game progressed it looked for a moment that we would get the opposite result from the pre-Battle Day encounter. Antigonus kept the left wing of his phalanx well away from the deadly Silver Shields and punched through on the right. The Eumenes player, however, was able to brush aside Pithon’s light cavalry to move in on the left flank of Antigonus phalanx supported by elephants. The result, therefore, was inconclusive.


The SoA Battle Day
The SoA Battle Day

It was a great day out as ever. Of the 15 games played at the Battle Day the results were relatively even. Antigonus won some, Eumenes won others. This is not particularly surprising. In an even odds battle on flat, featureless terrain, victory was down to the skill of the table-top generals and a goodly amount of luck. In almost all cases it came down to a simple matter. Could your strong right wing turn the enemy flank before he could do the same to you?


Gauls ready for Telamon
Gauls ready for Telamon

The 2019 Battle Day will feature Telamon (Gauls v Romans 225 BC). In 2020 it will be Bosworth (1485) which ended both the Wars of the Roses and King Richard III. So I need to get painting more Gauls.


The Suffolk Levy on the way to Bosworth
The Suffolk Levy on the way to Bosworth

I already have quite a good Wars of the Roses collection. The 2020 Battle Day will give me the focus to concentrated on some of the more important Bosworth contingents.







By smacdowall, Mar 29 2018 12:23AM

With the Society of Ancients Battle Day fast approaching it is time to put the Marlburians off to one side for a moment and get ready. The SoA battle is Paraitakene — the first major battle between the successors of Alexander the Great.


The battle lines deploy
The battle lines deploy

Last weekend I gave it a trial run with 6mm troops scaled at roughly 1:20 to represent the armies of Eumenes and Antigonos. Played out on a 6 foot x 4 foot table we used historical deployment but the players were free to make their own decisions as how to proceed.


Eumenes' centre
Eumenes' centre

Eumenes’ phalanx started out in a solid line behind a screen of light infantry and elephants. Eumenes had twice as many elephants as Antigonos and hordes more light infantry. There were so many light infantry (18,000 of them) that I scaled them down by more than half as there is no record of them doing anything significant in the actual battle.


Antigonos advances in echelon
Antigonos advances in echelon

Although outnumbered in elephants and light infantry, Antigonos had the advantage in cavalry and heavy infantry. His army deployed in echelon with a strong right wing and a refused left.


Eumenes' cavalry advance on his right wing
Eumenes' cavalry advance on his right wing

The game progressed in much the same way as the historical battle. Eumenes’ strong right wing cavalry pushed hard against Antigonos light cavalry. The latter harassed their opponents with javelins and arrows, melting away when threatened. Feeling the need for some light cavalry support on that flank, the Eumenes player transferred some from his left wing just as his historical counterpart had done.


Antigonos' strong right wing closes with Eumenes' left
Antigonos' strong right wing closes with Eumenes' left

Antigonos delayed his right wing attack, looking for a gap in the enemy line to exploit. This is also what the historical Antigonos did. It was possibly a mistake. Although Antigonos’ superior cavalry inevitably triumphed against those holding Eumenes’ left, they did not clear the flank before Eumenes had done so on the other flank. A sturdy defence by some of Eumenes’ left flank cavalry also served to delay Antigonos’s attempt to turn his opponent’s left flank.


The lines close
The lines close

When Eumenes advanced his phalanx he moved off in echelon from the right to match Antigonos’ advance. By doing so the whole of his phalanx would be engaged when the phalanxes met, rather than allowing Antigonos to first hit the weaker part of his line with picked troops.


The push of pike
The push of pike

When the phalanxes clashed the odds were more or less even with success and failure on both sides.


The silver shields
The silver shields

Eumenes’ elite Silver Shields, however, made short work of the hastily raised pantodapoi (Persians equipped as phalngites) opposite them. While the rest of the Antigonid line pushed forwards against the regular Macedonians.


The final push
The final push

While the centre engaged in a more or less even struggle the silver shields broke the far left of Antigonos' line. At the same time Eumenes' cavalry managed to work its way around the Antigonid left while Antigonos' cavalry on the other flank had yet to break through.


Eumenes won the day. The elephants on both sides had little impact other than causing some disruption to the opposing phalanxes as they passeed through their lines. Eumenes’ victory was down to the fact that he had been able to turn Antigonos’ left flank before Antigonos could do the same to him.


I shall be replaying the game at the Society of Ancients' Battle Day on Saturday 7 April. Please feel free to join in if you wish. You do not need to be a member to take part. There will be plenty of places for walk-ins but if you wish to secure a place feel free to contact me at smacdowall@hotmail.com

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.






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