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.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

DBA revisited

I am sucker for a new rule set. My bookshelves creak with rules that at best I have read and played only once or twice. One reason why I think PDF versions are a very good idea!

I played the original version of DBA when it first came out and enjoyed it. Moved on to DBM, which I played for several years before getting fed up with many aspects of the mechanisms. Played a couple of games of DBMM, but largely the same faults as DBM, although I accept they do give a decent 'feel' for an ancients battle.

I blame the Historical Wargames podcast for my purchase of the latest version of DBA. They did a very good interview with an enthusiastic group of USA gamers who helped develop this edition. It's written in the same basic style as the original, although Phil Barker's writing style has been improved by some external input. No eye candy here, just the rules and all the army lists you will ever need.

My first game today reminded me what a good short game this is. Just 12 elements a side, quick set up and easy to remember factors. I played two games, Han Chinese v Later Greek Hoplites and it ended one each. I doubt if I will be a regular player, but when I fancy a quick evening game, I can see me returning to this set of rules again.

In many ways it feels more like a game of chess, which leads me to mention a very nice gift I was given on a trip to the Western Isles this week. A replica of the famous Isle of Harris chess set. The originals were carved from Walrus ivory and whale teeth. Looks great in my study and I will enjoy the odd game of chess with them.


Saturday, 21 February 2015

Yeoman Soldier, Prussian Farmer

Something a bit different in terms of World War Two memoirs.

Richard Harvey served in the 1st East Riding Yeomandry, a Yorkshire regiment based in Hull. The regiment was part of the British Expeditionary Force that went to France in 1940. They were equipped with Vickers Mark VI light tanks and armoured scout carriers. Harvey was a Bren gunner and wireless operator in the troop commander's carrier.

His unit was part of the fighting withdrawal to Dunkirk, but he was wounded and captured. He ended up in Prussia near the old Teutonic Knights castle at Marienburg.

They were billeted in a farm workers bothy and worked on a German farm. Getting out of the Bothy wasn't that difficult and they did it many times, but without an escape committee they had no access to the necessary paperwork and other resources needed to escape across Germany. He spent three years at the farm and was then sent to Stalag XXB, before ending up in a sugar factory. As the Russian's advanced they were evacuated with the civilians and nearly got killed by allied ground attack aircraft. Eventually they were liberated by the advancing American units, and sent back to Hull.

A short, but interesting read that inspired me to finish another short paint job. This time a couple of German 105mm howitzers for my early war German FoW army.


Monday, 16 February 2015


Be warned, Sam Mustafa's new Napoleonic game 'Blucher' is very good and difficult to resist.

I was itching to get 'Blucher' on the tabletop once the package arrived in the post. The rule book is beautifully produced and seems very robust with the all important quality stiching. There is very little gratuitous eye candy, the graphics are there to explain the mechanisms. There are helpful summaries and examples of play in every section. The Hundred Days cards, an optional extra, are also very nice.

As recommended, I played the first game with cards rather than miniatures. Nine units a side, with the British defending the classic ridge and the French attacking. You start with the cards face down.

There is scope for strategic movement, called reserve moves, but otherwise you activate Corps, individual units or finally the CinC activation. Each activation costs Momentum Dice which unusually are rolled by your opponent and kept secret from you until they run out. The incentive is to do the essentials first.

Movement is by base widths, so the rules will work with any consistent basing, and are reduced to two speeds simple and difficult. A simple move is a pivot and then straight ahead, reminded me a bit of Spearhead. Difficult can be due to terrain or a pivot at the end of a move. The size of the cards and the engagement restrictions make it difficult to do any fancy manoeuvring when close to the enemy.

Fire and combat phases use a simple mechanism. It depends on the strength of the unit and a few bonuses and special rules. This is very much a game of attrition and reserves are important. Here you can see the French advancing and first cavalry clash on the British right. I used casualty markers rather than mark the cards.

Units retreat a couple of base widths if they lose a combat, but can come back if you want. You don't get long melees over several turns.

Anyway, the French pinned the British right with skirmishing and put their main effort on the left. The game ended with the French making a breakthrough.

There are most of the army lists you will need in the book, together with a campaign system and advanced rules. There are also some useful additional resources on the web site, including blank cards.

It's important to emphasise that this is a grand tactical level game. Small unit tactics are abstracted out. So it's not a replacement for say Black Powder. This is a big battle set of rules. Each card or base of miniatures represents 4 to 6 battalions or 2 to 4 batteries.

My initial reaction is very favourable. I play a lot of different games, so I favour simple mechanisms that allow you to focus on the game rather than the fine points of the rules. I anticipate dusting down my 15mm armies that haven't seen much action since I regularly played Principles of War.



Thursday, 12 February 2015

Sheriffmuir 1715

This year is the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715. To coincide with the anniversary Stuart Reid has published a military history of the Jacobite rising that effectively ended with this battle.

It's not a glorious story, more a grand muddle. The rising was poorly organised and coordinated without the necessary troops and equipment from France. In fact without even King James to lead it. He turned up with only two men after the battle.

Reid also documents the simultanous English uprising, with Scottish support, that ended in the Battle of Preston. This was an even more chaotic affair.

This is a proper military history with a detailed discussion of the troops on both sides. Hard evidence is limited, but he has pieced together what is known about each regiment that fought in the campaign. The loyalists were a mix of regular and militia troops, while the Jacobites had lowland troops and highlanders. The battle included a good example of the feared highland charge.

This is a good book for wargamers with most of what you need to game the campaign. I am pulling together a smallish skirmish force in 28mm for either side using the Donnybrook rules. Figures so far come from Reiver Castings, League of Augsburg and Front Rank.

On a side note. Today’s Scotsman newspaper carries a story that the world’s biggest ever auction of artifacts relating to the Jacobite rebellions is to be staged in Scotland this year to mark the anniversary of the 1715 uprising. Several hundred rarely seen items, many of which have direct links with Bonnie Prince Charlie, will be going under the hammer at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Vapartnak - York Wargames Show

I made the long trip to York today for the first big wargames show of the year. And it was well worth the effort.

The show is held at the York racecourse - indoors of course in the main stand. Sounds a strange venue, but it works well with stands on four levels. I am old enough to remember when the show was held in a medieval hall in the town centre, my head bumping off the beams! The only downside of the new venue is parking in muddy fields, bring your wellies!

Most of the usual traders were there and a few I hadn't seen before. A few figure manufacturers were missing that I could have done with, but I picked up a few packs to pad out my projects for the year. Then spray paints, including the elusive Testors varnish, and some rather nice casualty markers for Hail Caesar and Bolt Action.

The standard of display game was very high indeed, definitely the high point. Here are a few that caught my eye.

Pick of the bunch was this John Paul Jones raid on Leith (the port for Edinburgh). Apparently this was planned, but called off due to the weather. Had he arrived the locals would probably have greeted him with 'you'll have had your tea then'!

Then this assault across the Suez Canal in WW1


This participation game based on the 3rd Aghan War, captured the terrain well.

Zulu! Rorkes Drift in 28mm.

Zombies. Not my thing but it looked good.


And finally, this very good Age of Arthur game.



Tuesday, 27 January 2015

More WW2 Japanese

My painting schedule has dropped off to almost next to nothing. Work mostly, but the truth is I need to be the mood and I haven't been.

So I thought I would try some bite size filler projects, using the pile of lead awaiting the paint brush.

I have just completed the first of these, some reinforcements for my 15mm WW2 Japanese. This is a rifle squad with an attached light mortar and a couple of trucks. All from the FoW range. I particularly like their trucks, no assembly required!

I have also struggled through some related reading. 'Bloody Shambles' by Christopher Shores, tells the story of the Allied air campaign across Singapore, Malaya, Burma, Ceylon and the Philippines during World War II. It documents the Allied underestimation of Japanese ability, which led to the destruction of 50% of the British bomber force in two days.K

I say I struggled, more accurately I dipped in and out. I find air warfare books hard going at the best of times and this is no exception. The format is a diary of the campaigns and while I appreciate the detailed research, I'm afraid it is very easy to put down between chapters.

I have been gaming though, with a great GDWS double header and Open Day last weekend. I played in the big Bolt Action game, roughly 4,000pts a side with seven players.

This weekend I am off to York for the Vapartnak wargames show on Sunday. Looking forward to it and the Blackburn v Fulham game on the Saturday. Although a bit more trepidation about the latter!



Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Last Crusaders

My latest reading is the ‘The Last Crusaders’ by Barnaby Rogerson. It tells the story of 15th and 16th Century conflicts between the Christian states of Europe, mostly led by the Habsburg’s, and the Ottoman Empire and fellow Islamic states in North Africa.

While the Ottoman invasions of the Balkans have been well covered, this book also covers the crusades of Portugal and Spain in North Africa. Both countries had a foothold on the coast and fought a series of wars against the local rulers and later against the corsairs. These are wars I was much less familiar with.

His choice of final conflict is the Battle of the Three Kings1578.  The young King Sebastian of Portugal invaded Morocco. Facing him was the dying Sultan Abdul Malik who had to be strapped into his saddle his horsemen attacked the Christian square. In a renaissance version of Custer’s Last Stand, the flower of Portugal’s nobility was wiped out with 26,000 men dead or captured.

The author writes a narrative history of the period in the best tradition of the historical storyteller. A very good read.