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, 21 October 2014

Game of Thrones - House Stark

My painting schedule has drifted off in the last month. Busy at work and I have spent my spare evenings rebuilding the Glasgow and District Wargaming Society website. I am very pleased with the result. Please give it a visit and if you do Facebook and Twitter give us a follow there as well. I have used Weebly for this site and I am very impressed with the software.

What painting I have done is to complete my Saga Game of Thrones army for House Stark.

Ed Stark commands this force, with a figure from the Dark Sword range. A bit big for 28mm, but you can get away with this for a command figure.

The Stark and Lannister armies got their first run out on Sunday at the club. The Starks won and so Ed still has his head!


Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Long Turkish War

Soldiers and Weapons is a new series to me, published by TheSoldier Shop in Italian and English, splitting each page in half. The format is similar to Osprey, with plenty of illustrations and quality colour plates. I got my copy from Caliver Books.

No.24 is on the Long Turkish War 1593-1606. After a short introduction there are chapters on the Ottoman and Transylvanian armies as well as good description of the Austro-Hungarian forces on the military border. Military operations are in the final chapter covering the main actions and the small war that continued either side of formal operations.

The colour plates are excellent and cover all the main troop types. They include a plate of a Scottish infantryman belonging to a company based in Transylvania in 1596. This is a Balkan-Scottish link I was unaware of. It seems Stefan Bathory in Poland originally hired them. They served at the siege of Temesvar and then the garrisoned the Prince of Transylvania’s residence at Gyulafehervar. The uniform was similar to Scottish troops of the period.

Warlord Games have just released some Croat cavalry for the Thirty Years War, which would be fine for this period as well.

Somewhat tangentially, I dragged my beloved on Friday night to see the film ‘Dracula Untold’.  I had some modest hopes for this film as it at least appeared to be set in the correct historical context. The introduction was pretty accurate, describing the early years of Vlad Tepes. Sadly, as far as history goes that was it. The story disintegrated into a horror movie plot with Vlad doing a deal with a Vampire in return for superhuman powers to fight off the Ottomans, single-handed!

The portrayal of Wallachian/Transylvanian troops wasn’t too bad, but the Ottomans were too uniformed and disciplined. None the less it wasn’t a bad film and Luke Evans looked the part as Vlad. His interview at least shows that he understood the historical context and that the real Vlad is to this day regarded as a national hero in Rumania. Worth a look for entertainment value, even if not for the history.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Hannibal: Clouds of War

This is the third in Ben Kane's Hannibal trilogy and is another gripping read.

It follows two unlikely friends, one a Roman and the other a Carthaginian, as they fight in the Second Punic War. The last book ended in the Battle of Cannae and the surviving legions are dispatched to Sicily. Inevitably our Carthaginian hero is also dispatched there by Hannibal to support their ally Syracuse. The book ends with Roman siege and of course the main characters meet up, albeit briefly.

I thought I knew quite a bit about the Punic wars, the Carthaginians were my first wargames army. I also associate the Sicily theatre more with the First Punic War. So I found the historical context interesting.

As with Ben Kane's other books, there is a close attention to historical detail without it slowing up the pace of book. It has all the elements you look for in the best historical fiction. The history, action, treachery and the personal interaction. Recommended.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Somerled and the Battle of Renfrew

I attended the Somerled and the Battle of Renfrew conference today, held in the fine setting of Renfrew Town Hall. For those not familiar with Scottish town halls, many were built in the baronial style, and Renfrew is a particularly fine example.

My particular interest in this local battle goes back to a GDWS display game in 2011, Somerled's Last Stand.

Somerled, King of Argyll and Lord of the Isles died at the Battle of Renfrew otherwise called, Bargarran, Knock or Inchinnan in 1164. His Islesmen, Manx and Irish allies were defeated by a Norman/Scots army led by the High Steward, Walter Fitz-Alan. We actually know very little about the battle or the forces involved, so the game was somewhat conjectural.

The first session by Ted Cowan gave us some background to the period and, for me at least, confirmation that we have very few sources. Then Denis Rixson reviewed the evidence of the West Highland galleys that were an essential element of the armed forces of the isles. Birlinns were smaller versions of the classic Viking longship, more suited to the economy and warfare of the isles. He has a new book out on the subject.

The main primary source for the battle is a later poem, 'The Song of the Death of Somerled and the Sacking of Glasgow'. Dr Alex Woolf has a paper analysing the poem and what little it tells us about the battle.

In the lunch break we had an excellent original musical interlude from the Renfrewshire Youth Music Initiative. A haunting tune that beautifully captures the battle.

In the afternoon David Caldwell talked about Somerled and the Lordship of the Isles. Again, we have limited sources. It is likely that he came from Ireland in about 1130 to lead a brilliant campaign to recapture Argyll from the Norse and eventually became King of Argyll. David outlined the likely strongpoints and administrative structures.

Derek Alexander gave us an archeologists perspective with a description of what the area looked like in the 12C and an overview of the key players. The favourite site is on the Knock, Kemp Howe in Moor Park housing estate, but no real hard evidence. What we do know is that the victory enabled the Steward's to expand across the west of Scotland.

Really interesting day, pulling together what little we know about a little known battle that had important consequences for the development of Scotland.



Saturday, 20 September 2014

Game of Thrones - House Stark

Back to the Saga, Game of Thrones project this week.

I decided to use GW Lord of the Rings figures again, this time Riders of Rohan seemed the closest fit for House Stark. I know some war gamers regard GW as the evil empire, and it has to be said their figures don't come cheap. However, they are well sculpted and unlike a lot of historical plastics they fit together well with properly designed lugs etc.

I decided to go with the grunge look for the Stark's as in the TV series. The Direwolf shield transfers are again from Vini Vidi Vici. I have some banners from Flags of War, which i'll use with the command figures that are the next paint job

These are the hearthguard.

and these are a unit of mounted warriors.

I am thinking of starting a new blog on the perils of wargamers with cats. I left these outside while I got my iPad for the photos and came back to find the cat on top of them. Much glue required for repairs. More Grrrr from me rather than Meow!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Dividing the Spoils of Alexander's empire

I have had a Seleucid army for many years and I notice it is pretty popular amongst tournament FoG players. I can see why with its balance of quality cavalry and infantry together with exotic units such as elephants and chariots. However, my (and I suspect most players) understanding of the period was a bit sketchy.

Step up Robin Waterfield, author of 'Dividing the Spoils - The War for Alexander the Great's Empire'. It probably should have been called 'wars' for the empire, because there were at least four main wars and plenty of conflict in between. The period 323-281BC were filled, not just with conflict, but intrigue, diplomacy and treachery. Game of Thrones has nothing on this period!

Waterfield has narrated these conflicts well, almost in the style of a historical novel. It's one of those books you can pick up and read in short bursts, thanks to subchapter headings, without losing the flow of the story. Recommended.

A couple of units from my 28mm armies of the period

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Aussies in the Far East

Some reinforcements for the Empire forces in Malaya 1942, in the form of Aussies.

These are Warlord Chindits painted up as Australian infantry. The reluctant mule is a nice touch as are the native scouts.

I picked up some more Japanese off EBay, so that's just about the project finished. Of course there is always a 'but' there. A Lanchester armoured car would be nice and ......