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.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Warriors of the Storm

Yes, it's that time - a new Bernard Cornwell book. You just have to forget about doing anything else. Just put the kettle on, cup of tea, a comfy chair and read it from cover to cover.

This is the latest in the renamed 'The Last Kingdom' series to match the title of the new TV series. Our hero Uthred tackles a norse Jarl Ragnall Ivarson who attempts to conquer parts of England. Driven out of his previous territory in Ireland, this Jarl sails into the Mersey, which is held by Uhtred, and links up with Viking Northumbria. After beating off Ragnall, we have a diversion to Ireland where he rescues his Daughter, married to Ragnall's estranged brother Sigtryggr, and together their joint army lands in Cumbria. From there they capture York and make Sigtryggr King of Northumbria. The book ends as usual with a climatic battle at which Ragnall meets a well deserved end.

This book has just about everything. A solid plot, very loosely based on what little we know of the actual history, great characters, humour and of course action. Cornwall does battle scenes like no other author.

Nothing more to be said. Just read it!

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Greece 1940-41

'The Defence and Fall of Greece 1940-41' by John Carr, primarily covers the Italian invasion of Greece that started in October 1940.

It plugs an important gap, in the English language at least, in the history of the Balkans in World War 2. Mario Cervi's excellent 'Hollow Legions' looks at the campaign from the Italian side, albeit critically. I used his work, together with the memoirs of British participants, in my own article on the campaign after I visited some of the battlefields and the museum at Kalpaki. This really is one battlefield you need to visit to understand what happened.

Mussolini's bungled campaign was far from the quick campaign he planned. Badly led Italian divisions ground to a halt against determined Greek resistance, in terrain that levelled the technical inferiority of the Greek forces. A Greek counterattack forced the Italians back into the Albanian mountains and a winter campaign that took a terrible toll on both armies. By the Spring, Hitler was forced to bale out his allies with a blitzkrieg in the Balkans that rolled up the exhausted Greek armed forces and their recently arrived British and Commonwealth allies.

The author has drawn heavily on Greek sources for this book, both from the diaries of front line soldiers as well as the war diaries of Prince Peter, who served on the General Staff and as liaison with the British. It covers the war on the ground as well as in the air and at sea. It is very well written, a real page turner. It could have done with more maps and illustrations, but that is a small criticism for what is an excellent history.

Reading the book inspired me to dust down my 15mm Flames of War armies for the campaign. On this occasion the Italians broke through.

Here is the battlefield with the Italians storming across a stream from the left.

Finally a link to my 25mm figures for the campaign. You can tell I'm really into this period!


Saturday, 24 October 2015

Shattering Empires - Russia and Turkey 1908-18

My latest reading has been Shattering Empires by Michael Reynolds. 

This book traces relations between the Ottoman and Russian empires from the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 to the end of World War I. It examines Russia's policies toward eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus and how the new Ottoman state responded. The author aims to show how the confrontation between the Ottoman and Russian states contributed to the collapse of both empires by describing the rivalry between the two empires and their downfall between 1908-18. 

The book is stronger on the political and diplomatic history of the conflicts, rather than the military operations. The final chapters on the post-1917 campaigns is the strongest from the military historian’s perspective and covers some fascinating campaigns in modern day Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. It also goes some way towards explaining modern conflicts in the region.

Perhaps not a book for the general reader, but if your looking for something different to do with those WW1 Turkish, Russian, and even British and German figures - this might be worth a read.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Last Ironsides

My half term holiday reading has been Jonathon Riley's 'The Last Ironsides'. I am often attracted to obscure campaigns and I picked up this book in a London bookshop a while ago. It is a history of the English expedition to Portugal 1662-1668.

Portugal had been fighting for its independence from Spain for many years when Charles II was restored to the British throne. He agreed to marry the Infanta, Cathrine of Braganza, in return for a much needed cash dowry, trade concessions, and possession of Bombay and Tangier.

Part of the deal was that he would send two regiments of foot and a regiment of horse to support the Portuguese army. This was an opportunity to ship out of the country the remnants of Cromwell's New Model Army. A win-win deal by any standard.

The author covers the diplomatic background and then the campaigns the English regiments fought in. They became, with French regiments, the cutting edge of the Portugese army and distinguished themselves in several battles and sieges. Only a thousand were left standing when the war was won and 400 of these were sent to Tangier, a virtual death sentence in itself.

The English regiments mostly fought in Southern Portugal and Spain. Many of the place names are familiar to the later Peninsular War campaigns in the early 18th and 19th centuries. Badajoz, Merida and Albuquerque, amongst others.

The book is well illustrated with period drawings and modern maps. The English regiments even kept their New Model Army redcoats, so this provides another campaign for wargamers with later civil war armies.


Monday, 12 October 2015


The Wars of the Roses has never been a period of great interest to me. Perhaps being born in Lancashire, but married to a Yorkshire woman, has meant that this is a subject best avoided! In wargaming terms the serried ranks of archers and plate armed foot lumbering towards each other for a slog fest, has also never appealed.

However, it is certainly in fashion at present. Dan Jones's book looks interesting, but I was drawn in by Conn Iggulden's series of historical novels, staring with Stormbird.

He starts in 1437, when Henry VI, the Lamb, accedes to the English throne after years of regency. As the name suggests, he was not a chip of the old block of his father Henry V, hero of Agincourt. His poor health and frailty of mind render him a weakling king, relying on his closest men, Spymaster Derry Brewer and William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk. Others, such as the Plantagenet Richard, Duke of York, believe England must be led by a strong king if she is to survive.

This book focuses on a secret deal struck for Henry to marry a young French noblewoman, Margaret of Anjou, in return for territories in France. However, one of the book's heroes, Thomas Woodchurch, an archer living in these territories, resists the French occupation. This allows the French King to capture most of the English territories in France. Woodchurch then returns to Kent and takes part in Cade's rebellion.

Iggulden is of course a first rate writer and this is classic historical fiction. Well researched, plenty of action, and numerous sub plots. I doubt if it will make the period any more attractive to me in wargaming terms, but it's a great read.


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Battle of Leva 1664 - the game

There is a very good article by Iain Stanford in the latest edition of The Arquebusier on the 4th Austro-Turkish War 1663/4 and the battles of Leva (Levice) and St Gotthard.

Leva was the smaller warm up to the more decisive clash at St Gotthard, but it is a very manageable game for the tabletop. I used 15mm figures and Pike and Shotte rules.

The Imperial forces in Northern Hungary were commanded by Souches and he was opposed by Ottoman forces, including Wallachian and Moldavian vassals, commanded by Ali Pasha of Buda. Souches was besieging Leva when he heard Ali Pasha had moved to cut off his lines of communication. So he abandoned the siege to meet the Ottoman army.

The Ottoman forces crossed the river towards the visible Left and Right wings of the Imperial army. The centre was held back behind some woods. Ottomans on the right of this photo.

The Imperial left commanded by Knigge advances against the Wallachians with Tartar horse.

While the Moldavians advance boldly against the Imperial right commanded by Heister.

The Wallachians get the upper hand.

But it's harder going for the Moldavians. Those curaissiers aren't much bothered by Tartar arrows and the best Moldavian cavalry is slow to advance because of shooting disorganisation.

Then the Imperial centre advances against the best Ottoman troops, the Janissaries.

However, they are split because the Wallachians rout the Imperial left wing.

Game over when the Moldavians do the same on the Imperial right.

A reversal of history as in the historical battle the centre crushed the Janissaries and then rolled up the Moldavians.

An enjoyable game, that the rules played well. My only reservation is how they treat pike and shot regiments, it doesn't feel quite right. FoGr does this better, but the command mechanisms in Pike and Shotte work better for this period. Ah, the search for the perfect rule set goes on!


Monday, 21 September 2015

Sheriffmuir 1715 - on the tabletop

The last unit of lowland militia finished. These are League of Augsburg figures. A more slender sculpt than Front Rank and others chosen for this project.

This enabled me to get the whole project on the table for a game using Donnybrook rules. These work well for this period, nice easy mechanics that allow a quick game. A bit too quick for the Jacobites, as the highlanders got gunned down by the regulars and militia firepower. The horse did better, riding down the militia at least.