Welcome to my blog!

News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. I hope you find it helpful and entertaining.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Commandos on Vis

Back to the Second World War and my recent trip to the Adriatic island of Vis.

Following the Italian capitulation on 8 September 1943, the Germans poured troops into the Balkans, with the 114th Jager Division supressing the Italian divisions. The partisans were not equipped to fight set piece battles so they harassed the Germans and then withdrew to the hills. The islands created a different problem for the Germans, who had limited naval assets in the region, to capture and then to hold them. None the less they eventually captured the islands closest to the coast.

While this was going on the allies, having landed in Southern Italy, were looking for an advanced base with a defensible harbour. This would be a base for RN Coastal Forces (MTB and MGBs) to raid the coast and as a base for the island partisans. A landing strip to enable close support for the partisan operations was also planned. The obvious place for this base was Vis, the furthest out of the islands, closest to Italy and with two natural harbours. The island was not new to the British, who had used it as a naval base in the Napoleonic wars.

The allied liaison officer with the partisans, Fitzroy Maclean, persuaded Churchill and Tito of the merits of his plan and got the Commandos of No.2 Special Service Brigade assigned as a garrison for the island with a remit to raid from it. This included Churchill’s son, Major Randolph Churchill.

So, having collected partisans and Germans in 28mm, I need some Commandos. Well, need is perhaps a little strong! Fortunately, Warlord do a very nice box of them, reasonably priced in plastic. Usual fiddly assembly, but they do at least provide a wide range of positions, appropriate for Commandos.

I’ll be developing some scenarios, based on actual raids, for Bolt Action. But if you want to read more, I recommend Michael McConville ‘A Small War in the Balkans’; Bill Strutton ‘Island of Terrible Friends’ and of course Fitzroy Maclean ‘Eastern Approaches’. For the naval war there is ‘Secret Flotillas Vol2’ by Brooks Richards.

There aren't a lot of WW2 sites on the island, but this is what’s left of the airstrip. It's just about the only flat bit of land on the whole island!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Bolt Action - Serbian Army of WW1

A century ago, to this day, Austro-Hungarian troops reached the foothills of Mount Cer in western Serbia. In a four day battle they were heavily defeated and retreated back over the border into Bosnia. There is some video footage and a photo of the battlefield memorial here.

The Serbian Army of the early war period was the battle hardened force that had been victorious in the Balkan wars only two years earlier. However, there had been only limited requipment and they were heavily outnumbered. I have prepared a basic army list for Bolt Action rules.

The 28mm figures below are mostly from the Tiger Miniatures with some from the Old Glory range and represent the First Ban divisions that had the best equipment. Other troops had outdated rifles and few even had the full uniform. Yes they did favour a moustache!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Bolt Action - Austro-Hungarian Army of WW1

Some reinforcements for the WW1 Austro-Hungarian army, in time to take the tabletop for the centenary of their offensive into Serbia in 1914.

28mm figures for the early period are a bit of challenge since Renegade has gone into hibernation. So these are Old Glory. Nice figures, but much smaller than the chunky Renegade figures. This still leaves me short of artillery, even if Hapsburg doctrine didn't bother with such niceties as preliminary bombardment.

First the infantry.

Then the machine guns.

I am using Bolt Action rules for 28mm WW1. So here is a basic Austro-Hungarian army list I have pulled together.

Monday, 4 August 2014

SAGA - The Crescent and The Cross

I played my first game of the new SAGA rules, 'The Crescent and the Cross' yesterday, after picking them up at Claymore.

I say new rules because this isn't a supplement - it's a stand alone package. The rules haven't changed much from the original, more a case of clarifications, largely to address daft games playing from the rules lawyers.

So what do you get for your £30? What can only be described as a beautiful hardback rulebook, printed on glossy paper that should stand up to a bit of rough handling. A bit of crusading background and then straight into the rules. Plenty of explanation and worked examples, not to mention the obligatory eye candy.

There are some new weapons to reflect the later period, and a new unit type, priests. They have a range of special rules and can substitute for a warlord. Then there are the army lists for Crusaders, Saracens, Religious orders and their opposite number the Mutatawwja, Spanish, Moors and mercenary Dogs of war. These have their own battle boards with their own special abilities. Finally some scenarios and a QRS.

My test game was Spanish against Moors. Just 4 points a side. The Spanish with two hearthguard knights, warrior Jinetes and some foot. The Moors also had two hearthguard nobles, warrior foot and levy archers. The game played well, and mounted javelins are an interesting unit. As always with SAGA it takes a while to understand how best to use the special abilities, but first impressions are very positive.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Game of Thrones - Lannister Army

In between my other holiday painting, rain keeping me off the golf course, I have completed my first Game of Thrones army for SAGA.

This is the Lannister army, led by the arch villain Tywin Lannister, one of my favourite characters in the TV series, played brilliantly by Charles Dance. The bold Tywin is a Dark Sword model, beautifully sculpted, although not in a traditional wargame figure way, that provided me with some painting challenges that I am not sure I have overcome.

The three warrior and one hearthguard units (in SAGA speak) are warriors of Minas Tirith from GW Lord of the Rings range. The only conversion being the filing down of the embossed shields and replacing with Veni Vidi Vici transfers. The flags are from the new Flags of War range.

I bought some Perry mercenary foot figures at Claymore yesterday, for another faction. However, my next effort will be the Stark's as I have a Eddard Stark Dark Sword model. My medieval Scots will supply most of the feudal levy for this faction.

I also picked up the very long awaited Crescent and the Cross SAGA book yesterday. Given that I bought the dice at Salute! Settling down to read this after lunch and then perhaps a short game.....

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Claymore 2014

Off to Edinburgh today for Claymore 2014. I particularly enjoyed this year's show because I attended as a punter, rather than havng to organise the GDWS display game. Thanks to George and David who did an excellent Wild West participation game that had plenty of takers.

The event was well supported, no doubt helped by the wet weather! There seemed to be more traders and plenty of business. My prime purchase was SAGA Crescent and Cross from Gripping Beast, given I purchased the dice back at Salute! Some Perry plastics for another GoT faction and lots of bits and pieces from a variety of suppliers.

Not a lot of new games, with clubs repeating their Carronade offerings, but these are the ones that caught my eye.

Claymore Castings adapted SAGA for a Highland v Lowland medieval clash.
Tidy ACW battle in 15mm

Interesting way of doing the opening battles of WW1 in France on a strategic level.

And another 15mm ACW - Baton Rouge from memory

Forcing the Dardanelles - or probably not!

Very good Indian Mutiny game showcasing the excellent Mutineer Miniatures figures

Durham boys brought their 54mm Napoleonics up - always impressive.

Kirriemuir's Thracian game - well worth a repeat.

As always, thanks to the South East Scotland club for the massive effort involved.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Battle of Harlaw 1411

More holiday reading, this time John Sadler’s ‘Clan Donald’s Greatest Defeat: The Battle of Harlaw 1411’.

The battle, sometimes called 'Red' Harlaw due to the casualties, took place on 24 July 1411 north of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. It was fought between Donald, Lord of the Isles with a force of some 10,000 islesmen and highlanders, against Alexander, Earl of Mar with a Lowland force several thousand strong. 

Donald was enforcing his claim to the Earldom of Ross and was threatening Aberdeen when Mar assembled a force to oppose him. It is likely that the arrival of the Lowland army surprised Donald camped near Harlaw. Mar’s advanced guard consisted of the men of Angus and they were attacked by the Islesmen, being pushed back until Mar arrived with the main battle to support them. The main action was a battle of attrition with the islesmen and highlanders charging the spear armed lowland schiltrons. The rearguard, led by Forbes, joined the battle on the right wing and helped to push back the last assaults by Donald’s army. By nightfall, the Lowland army had lost around 600 men and the islesmen over 900. Mar held the field and Donald withdrew overnight. Probably a score draw to to Mar, but importantly, Aberdeen was saved. 
Sadler gives an extensive background to the conflict and the armies involved. As with most battles of this period, sources are scarce and the battle is described in a single chapter. The book is really a history of Scotland’s relationship with the Lordship of the Isles, rather than simply the battle itself.

Having read the book, it was time to refight the battle using Hail Caesar rules and 28mm figures.

The battle starts with the Lowland Angus vanguard being attacked by the Macintoshes. The left wing is routed and the right forced back.

Mar arrives with the main battle to form a new line as the main force of Islesmen advance.

The highland charge routs the remaining men of Angus and the right wing of Mar's force, but Mar himself fights off the Islesmen.

Finally Forbes arrives with the Lowland rearguard, but so do the Macleans and the whole line is engaged. So far pretty much as we believe the actual battle went.

However, history is now overturned, with Forbes being routed and the isolated Mar pushed back as the Lowland army breaks.

The gates of Aberdeen beckon for the highland host! 

Hail Caesar worked really well for this battle. The command system provided the staggered arrivals and there were credible lulls in the fighting while commanders rallied their men for the next stage.