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.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

1864

My latest reading has been 1864, which I bought before the I knew the TV series was to be shown on UK television.

The book is much more of a narrative history of the war than the TV series. Understandably for a wider audience, the TV version puts much greater emphasis on the human interest stories, and has a modern day look back that frankly didn't add much to the story. Despite that, I thought the battle scenes were very well done and was up to the standards of Nordic drama we are getting used to.

The story of the War of 1864 is pretty extraordinary. To the modern reader the idea that Denmark would provoke a war against the might of Prussia and Austria, seems absurd. Of course it was a tragic miscalculation, but not quite as absurd as it looks today.

Denmark had sort of triumphed in The First Schleswig War between 1848 and 1852. However, the problem of largely German duchies, particularly Holstein, being part of Denmark was not resolved. The Danes had done little to modernise their army after the war and this time they had little international support. The woeful Danish political leadership provoked the war by integrating the Duchy of Schleswig into the Danish kingdom in violation of the 1851 Treaty. Bismarck couldn't believe his luck and mobilised the more modern German and Austrian forces.

The book and TVs series cover the evacuation of the outflanked Southern defence line at the Dannevirke and the fatal defence of the inadequate position at Dybbol. Prussian artillery heavily outnumbered the Danish artillery and Denmark was forced to sue for peace. As a result of the peace settlement, the land area of the Danish monarchy decreased by 40% and the total population reduced from 2.6 million to 1.6 million.

I probably enjoyed the book more than the TV series, although both were very good.

The British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston said: "Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business—the Prince Consort, who is dead—a German professor, who has gone mad—and I, who have forgotten all about it". Well, we all understand it a lot better now!

 

 

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Bloody Big Battles

I played my first game with Chris Pringle's newish rule set for 19C warfare, Bloody Big Battles, yesterday.

Chris's rules are always worth a look, going back to Warring Empires, the mechanisms of which were expanded into Principles of War, which I used to play a lot of.

The title is apt because this is firmly aimed at the big battles. A unit is a brigade or division of 3 or 4 bases, which means you can play the biggest battles of the period on a normal tabletop. A day is typically three turns, although that can include four rounds of firing but only one, albeit generous, movement per side. It means you need to think out your plan carefully, particularly as the random element means your troops might not move at all.

Firing is typical of the author's previous rules with factors and a table for outcomes. Similarly for assaults. They are pretty straightforward, with no need for micro managing units at this scale. A game is easily playable in an evening.

There are scenarios in the main rule book for the Franco-Prussian War and there is a separate booklet of scenarios for other 19C campaigns. These are well set out and means you can quickly get units onto the table.

Chris did send me a draft of a Balkan War scenario. Sadly, some building work in the house means my table is currently occupied, so I could only try them out on a reduced size game. It was Bulgarian v Turk with a couple of Corps on the Turkish side, defending against a four division Bulgarian army. My 15mm Balkan War armies are based for Spearhead and that works fine for these rules.

This is move one, which didn't go quite as the Bulgars planned. Their game plan was to pin the Turks in the fortifications and go for the high ground. However, most divisions moved slower than planned.

Move two went well on the right, with a Bulgarian division pushing the Turks off the hill, but slower in the centre, with the supporting division stopping.

The final move of the first day saw the Bulgars capture the hill in the centre as well. Although at some cost.

The rules then cover night actions, which in the main are an opportunity to regroup. In this case the Turks would have called it a day, or rather night, and pulled back.

I enjoyed these rules and will certainly play more of them. I'll still use Black Powder for the tactical games, but these do exactly what it says on the tin.

 

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Silk Road

My latest fiction read has been Silk Road by Colin Falconer.



The main character is Josseran Sarrazini, a French knight serving with Templars in Acre in 1260. The Mongols have arrived in the Middle East and our hero is sent on a diplomatic mission with a priest tasked with bringing Christianity to the Mongol Empire.

The local commander sends them on to the Mongol court and the story chronicles their journey along the Silk Road. This is the period when the empire was breaking up and they are captured and end up in the Chinese court of Kublai Khan. The love interest is an unlikely relationship with the daughter of a Mongol leader.

In many ways it is more a 13th Century travelogue, with vivid descriptions of the journey, places and the different peoples.


It felt like a long read, but not always easy to tell on the Kindle. The story drags a bit in places, but has plenty of well researched detail and multiple sub-plots to keep the reader engaged.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

L’Art De La Guerre

I played my first game of the Ancient and Medieval wargaming rules L’Art De La Guerre at the club today. My ‘tutorial’ game was Ottoman Empire v Hungarian, using 15mm figures.

For those not familiar with these rules they are unit based, with a unit consisting of one FoG/DBM size element, with one or more behind for some infantry units. Armies are split into three commands. There are all the usual troop types and each has a protection and cohesion factor as well as basic combat/shooting factors.



Units are activated by each command using a single dice with a bonus for better quality commanders. The result is halved and that’s the number of units or group of units you can move or attempt to rally. Movement is measured by front edge to front edge and uses base widths with deductions for turns etc.

It’s an IGYG system although both sides can shoot in that phase. Combat resolution is by a single D6 and modifiers with both players rolling a dice. The outcome is a loss of cohesion points, usually one, but big defeats can mean more.

The standard game is 200pts and that size of game is played on a 4’ x 3’ table. Each command will have around 6 units, so it doesn’t need lots of figures. It also means a game can be played in a couple of hours. That is a real strength as it makes for a good evening game. It also points to its strength as an introduction game - quick and relatively few figures for a full battle game.

The rule book is not cheap (£27), but it includes full army lists, so there are no additional costs that you get with FoG and others. A nice laminated QRF comes with the rules.


The game plays a bit like DBM, which I wasn’t a great fan of, but this is better. I can’t see me playing it a lot, but equally it wont gather too much dust. I’ll try 28mm figures next over the summer.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Carronade 2015

Another very good show from the Falkirk club on Saturday. The school is a good, spacious venue, with reasonably priced catering and car parking.

Running a display game with a regular stream of engaging visitors meant I didn't get to spend much time looking around and spent even less. At least my lead pile isn't too much bigger. None the less there was a good turnout of traders and I hope they did well. It seemed busy at least.

GDWS had two display games. Iain and I did a Spanish Civil War game, 'There's a Valley in Spain called Jarama' using Bolt Action in 28mm. The figures are mostly Empress and the much admired village buildings are from the Grand Manner range. The Nationalists broke into the village by packing up time, so it wasn't quite 'No Pasaran' this time.

 

The other GDWS display game was a Dystopian Wars game, Assault on Gibraltar.

And here are a few more games that caught my eye.

Starting with Alexander on the Hydaspes. Yes, that is a sand table, with a bit of flock.

Medieval with actual toy soldiers.

Far East Bolt Action game. I'm not a big fan of MDF buildings, although it does work here in wooden Far East buildings, particularly with the chads added to the roofs.

Waterloo of course.
The Durham boys with their 54mm Napoleonics, always worth a look.
Wars of the Roses. 1st Battle of St Albans
Glasgow Phoenix medievals using Lion Rampant rules on one of the new Cigar Box mats
Very nice terrain for this Sudan game
Wings of War - WW2 this time.
Vietnam in 28mm. Seen this before but I love the Phantom.

 

 

Friday, 1 May 2015

The Coming War - Sino-Japanese conflict in the East China Sea

My latest reading is a bit off the beaten track for me. ‘The Coming War’ by Todd Crowell postulates a war between Japan and China in the near future. You might think this is a bit far fetched – until you read this book.

Putting to one side the long history of conflict between the two states, there are a number of possible causes. In the main they revolve around disputed island chains.

The Senaku islands are 100 miles from the nearest occupied Japanese island in the East China Sea. Formally annexed by Japan in 1895 they are actually closer to China and may have significant gas and oil deposits. They used to be occupied by a fish processing plant. However, the Chinese claim they were Chinese and only occupied as a result of Japan’s aggressive wars and therefore should have been returned after WW2.


Japan has been building up its defences in the area, including new radar complexes and moving troops from the northern islands, where they watched the Russians, to the Southern islands. Anti-ship missiles, aircraft and ships have also been deployed. Japan’s Western Infantry regiment has been retrained in amphibious operations.

The Chinese have also been building up their armed forces in the area and are believed to have war plans for a short sharp war in the East China Sea. Incursions into what Japan would claim as its airspace have become more common. Chinese naval flotillas pass through nearby channels.

Chinese political rhetoric plays to the sense of grievance over Japanese actions in the 20th Century and right wing governments in Japan are far more militaristic than any seen since WW2. Anti-Japan protests are not uncommon in China.

The author describes the forces available to both sides and describes possible scenarios. Obviously, China heavily outguns the Japanese defence forces, but not as significantly as you might imagine. And then there is the stance that Japan’s treaty ally the USA might take if these actions develop into a shooting war.

The best prospects for defusing the tension appear to rest with an endangered species of bird, the short-tailed albatross. The suggestion is that Senkaku is turned into a neutral nature reserve - an elegant solution that might work, if there is the political will to find a peaceful settlement. However, that is by no means clear.


There are plenty of ‘what ifs’ for the modern wargamer to try out including air, naval and amphibious operations.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Salute 2015

The alarm going off at 4:30am on a Saturday morning in April, can only mean one thing, the UK's biggest war game show - Salute.

After car, plane and train from Glasgow my first experience of Salute is the queue. And this is for pre-paid tickets!

In fairness, it took about 25 minutes to get us all in. Not bad given the numbers.

As I was flying back, it was more looking than buying. Also my afternoon was spent at Craven Cottage and it's a bit tricky lugging lots of wargame scenery into a football ground!

The strength of Salute is the trade presence. Just about everyone is there, including firms you just don't see on the show circuit. An impressive array of fantasy figures demonstrates more imagination than I would have thought possible. While MDF buildings are still popular, there was a continuous queue at the 4Ground stall, there wasn't the pervasive smell I noticed last year.

As for games, well there were a lot. Here's a few that caught my eye, or my iPad.

South American Wars of Liberation in 20mm using plastics.
The Lardies showing off their modern adaptation of Chain of Command
Steampunk pirates, I think.
Mightily impressive moderns.
WW1 Middle East
One of my purchases was the new Pike and Shotte supplement for the Thirty Years War, being used here.
Lots of Saga of course on their nice display boards
ACW using Longstreet.

Mega Waterloo

Very nice Japanese village from terrain company Oshiro

Drop zone Commander I think. Not my thing, but credit for the effort.
Fraustadt 1708, Great Northern War.

Shooting down a pretty big Zeppelin

I'm not into Sci Fi, but you have got to be impressed with this.
This is what a good 28mm WW2 table should look like. Plenty of cover.
I've forgotten which town this is, but looks good.
There were a number of games utilising snow this year.
Fine display from the Continental Wars Society.

Two photies of The Fort, based on Bernard Cornwell's book. Probably the most impressive game of the show.

And finally, the theme for this year's show - Agincourt.