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, Jul 3 2017 04:41PM

A long time ago when the world was young, I was slim and the internet had not yet been invented — there was only one wargames scale. That was 25mm. There were also Airfix HO/OO plastics which were more or less (mostly less) the same size. For quite a while my Airfix plastics and Minifigs metals served alongside each other quite happily until the latter began to grow in size — especially the telegraph poles they carried instead of spears.

Then we began to hear rumours of 15mm scale but I was not tempted. The first samples I saw seemed pretty crude. Even when much better ones came along I saw no reason to ditch the scale I already had for my ancient — mostly Roman armies — and their enemies. Even as 15mm came to be the most popular scale for ancient wargaming I remained a die-hard 25mm hold out.

As new 25mm castings began to grow in size, I kept my older miniatures and they still happily fight alongside each other despite the differences in size and detail. I do, however, draw a line at the newer bulky 28mm figures which are really closer to 30mil or even larger. In the old days the scale was measured head to toe. With scale creep it is now often toe to nose so that a 33mm tall figure is still called 28mm.

It was not until the turn of the millennium that I started to collect my first 15mm army. I wanted to fight the campaigns of Belisarius against the Persians and — coincidental with a move to London and severe reduction in playing space. I succumbed because I realised that if I wanted to conduct sweeping cavalry actions in a campaign where all the best troops were mounted, I needed an army with smaller troops. Later I took to 6mm scale to field the massed legions of Caesar and Pompey at Pharsallus.

Inspired by the research I did for my book of the Vandals I am returning to Belisarius with the idea of re-fighting his battles in North Africa against the Vandals. Although Belisarius had a significant infantry contingent he rarely used them in open battle and by the early 6th century all the Vandals were mounted, sometimes ineffectually supported by Moors.

Rather than expanding my existing 15mm collection I have decided to scale down to 6mm. I find painting smaller miniatures easier and more fun than larger scales and I was reminded of this when I painted up my 1:2400 scale ships for the Battle of Sole Bay.

Needing masses more horsemen for the 6th century North Africa campaign, I really could not see myself managing to bring the armies to completion in 15mm scale, let alone 25/28mm. 10mm would have been a good compromise but the last thing I need is yet another scale. I can happily paint up a unit of a dozen 6mm horsemen in a couple of days. It takes me more than double that to accomplish the same in 15mm. The other impetus for the much smaller miniatures is that some battles, such as Ad Decimum, were fought over a vast area with different bodies of horseman heading off in all directions. Using 6mm miniatures makes it possible to recreating this an similar actions on a reasonably sized table-top.

Although a fan of the smaller Heroics and Ross 6 mil figures, I have decided to go with the larger and more detailed Baccus miniatures for this project, if for no other reason than I already have some of them which can be drafted in. Baccus do not make any Belisarian era Romans but there are plenty of suitable figures in their other ranges for bow-armed 6th century Roman horsemen.

On the painting sprue are some undercoated Baccus Sarmatians who will become Belisarius’ bucellarii. The painted unit in the background are Baccus Sassanid Persians painted up to be regular Roman heavy horse archers. One of the blessings of this smaller scale is that in the end it is the overall look of the unit that matters — not individual detail. Therefore you can use a variety of miniatures regardless of what the manufacturer calls them.

By smacdowall, Mar 18 2016 02:58PM

My book is due out at the end of May from Pen & Sword

Now I have to hurry up and get the index finished. It is certainly the most tedious part of the writing!

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