Legio Wargames

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By smacdowall, Sep 5 2020 02:17PM

It was more than 20 years ago when I painted my first English knights and archers with the intention of one day seeing them in action against the French in a re-fight of Crécy (1346). It has taken me until now to amass enough miniatures to give it a go.

Crécy is a difficult battle to replicate on the wargames table as with historical hindsight no one would charge mounted knights uphill against massed longbowmen backed up by dismounted men at arms and spearmen.

Therefore, rather than a conventional game, I decided to have two players on the French side with the English being umpire controlled. The two French players, representing the Comte d’Alençon and the Johan von Luxembourg, would vie with each other for reputation and prestige. The victory points encouraged them to behave as chivalric 14th century knights rather than 21st century wargamers.

The game was played remotely via Zoom. I umpired and moved the miniatures while the two French players rolled the dice for their actions. They were awarded prestige points for chivalrous and heroic actions such as charging enemy men at arms or capturing valuable prisoners. Actions against archers or spearmen were considered beneath them and not worthy of note.

I deployed the troops historically with as close a recreation of the Crécy battlefield as I could on an 8’ x 6’ table (played lengthwise).

The English deployed in 3 battles — the Black Prince on the right, Northumberland on the left and King Edward in reserve at the rear.

The French would be attacking from line of march behind a screen of Genoese crossbowmen. Alençon was forward and angling right, Luxembourg slightly behind and angling left. King Philip Valois and the militia (both umpire controlled) took up the rear.

As mentioned in the previous post, I decided to adapt Andy Callan’s excellent Never Mind the Billhooks rules from the Wars of the Roses to the Hundred Years War, further adapting them to suite my element based armies. I made up suitable HYW cards and order tokens, used casualties as daunted markers, arrows on counters to keep track of archer shots, and small pebbles to recored 'casualties' on my element -based units.

The game played out much like the historical battle. Both Alençon and Luxembourg surged forward, anxious to gain glory in combat with enemy men of rank.

The English archers and cannon made short work of the Genoese crossbowmen and shot apart the lead units of French knights. When the French first managed to charge home across the hidden pits in front of the enemy positions, the English archers held their ground rather than falling back behind the supporting men at arms (determined by a die roll).

This deprived the French of honourable combat against worthy opponents. Instead they had to contend with exchanging blows with mere peasants and the Ignominy of then being forced to retire when the peasants held their ground.

The French charged again and again.

Finally Luxembourg managed to drive back the Black Prince’s archers and engage the Prince and his dismounted knights in honourable combat. Even though he was driven back, Luxembourg could claim greater glory than Alençon.

By this time most of the French knights were retiring and although King Philip had yet to engage there was little point in yet another charge. The game had come to a natural end with Luxembourg in ascendancy and Alençon licking his wounds.

Despite suffering enormous casualties (while very few English died) moral victory certainly went to the French. Not only did the English knights cower behind peasants but they also used smoky, filfy cannons which spoke of witchcraft!

Although there is still work to do in adapting Never Mind the Billhooks for my element based armies they worked well for the Hundred Years War, giving us a fun remote game that came to completion in 3 hours.

By smacdowall, Jun 10 2020 04:59PM

The virus lockdown has given me a huge amount of time to catch up on my painting but no possible opportunity to play a game…

…Until now.

Last Friday, four of us joined together around a virtual tabletop via Zoom. It was for a French revolution game set during the Flanders campaign of 1793.

I played Citizen General General Houchard — charged with holding the approach to Dunkerque at Ghyvelde. My orders read:

“Under no circumstances must the enemy be allowed to besiege Dunkirk. You are to march immediately to intercept their advance, bring their army to battle and defeat them. The very existence of France and our glorious revolutionary depend on you - they must not pass!”

I was also informed that Representative of the People, Louis Antoine Léon de Saint-Just would accompany me. “He will ensure that all the soldiers in your army demonstrate appropriate revolutionary zeal and deal with any weak souls.”

Viewing the battlefield from my computer gave an interesting perspective. The umpire’s mobile phones were placed by the command stands on the tabletop. At a distance I could vaguely make out the enemy and count the flags but I could not make out who was who. It was a much more realistic and challenging view of the battlefield. Unfortunately I neglected to take any screen shots at that stage in the game.

On viewing the enemy from a distance I decided to hold back my right in the safety of our camp and Ghyvelde. I would personally lead a concentrated attack on the left with cavalry and a demi-brigade of infantry, supported by three battalions of light infantry making their way in loose order through the sand dunes on the far left.

My columns crashed into the Hessian line sending them reeling back in confusion as my light infantry began to outflank the enemy left, driving the enemy jaegers before them. It was all going swimmingly well until St-Just decided that the troops holding my right were not showing enough revolutionary zeal and so led them out from their defences in a suicidal attack on the Austrians.

Spotting a gap in the middle of the enemy line I sent my cavalry forward, expecting to burst through. I should have known that men with such fine looking uniforms had royalist sympathies. Their abject performance confirmed this and they beat a hasty retreat.

To make matters worse, St Just’s ill-advised attack on our right was being chewed to bits by the Austrians. I quickly penned a dispatch to the Committee of Public Safety in Paris pointing out that, by ignoring military advice, St Just’s foolhardy behaviour was jeopardising the revolution.

There was nothing for it to press on and press hard. Joining the front ranks of my advancing columns I encouraged them to attack without pausing to give fire. Showing the spirit and élan of true revolutionaries they performed brilliantly, sending the British and Hessians reeling.

The day was won! Although the Austrians were feeling pretty pleased with themselves there was no chance that the enemy could advance on Dunkerque. Had it not been for citizen St-Just and the royalist sympathisers amongst the cavalry, we might have swept the enemy from the field.

Such traitors will no doubt soon meet Madame Guillotine.

It was a novel experience to play a game remotely like this but it worked. It worked very well indeed. In fact I would go as far as to say that in some respects it was superior to a conventional tabletop game.

As a player my view of the battlefield was restricted, giving a much more realistic command perspective. I gave my orders to the umpire (as did my opponent) and the umpire moved the troops. We players could still roll the dice for shooting and combat so it felt like we were really playing. The dynamic made us concetrate on the important command decisions much more than we would in a normal waragme.

I'm looking forward to the next remote game which is rumoured to be a tank battle in Normandy 1944.

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