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 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.
























Friday, 10 April 2015

West Highland Castles

A short break after Easter with my partner was an opportunity to revisit parts of the West Highlands that I haven't been to for some years. Naturally this included a few castles en route.

Castles in the West Highlands are generally not large because they lacked a substantial mainland economic base. They were usually on the coast because you got around by galley, or Birlinn. The waterways around the islands were the equivalent of our trunk roads and provided a useful source of revenue in the form of 'tolls'. Mind you the Islesmen had a few more persausive tax raising mechanisms than the modern day tax authorities!

While the remains of Ardtornish castle are not the best preserved, its position is possibly my favourite place in Scotland. Situated on the Morvern coast, a pleasant walk from Lochaline, it dominates the Sound of Mull. No doubt this was a strong factor in the Lord of Isles deciding to build here and it became a principal seat of Clan Donald in the 14th and 15th centuries.

And on cue, along came a modern day galley in the form of the islands ferry.

Nearby is the rebuilt 12th century Kinlochaline Castle at the head of Loch Aline. The castle was burned in 1644 by Alasdair MacColla during the civil wars.

Next, the more recognisable sight of Castle Stalker in Appin, one of Scotland's picture postcard castles. The Stewarts built the castle in its present form around the 1440s. However, they lost it in a drunken bet around 1620 to Clan Campbell. It changed hands a few times between these clans after that, including one significant battle on the coast nearby. Finally abandoned and then restored to its present fine state. It featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail for those who have never been, but think it looks familiar!

Bit out of the way this one, but worth a look is Barcaldine Castle, further down the Appin Coast. Built between 1601 and 1609 by another Campbell, it's now a luxury B&B.

And finally, the magnificent Dunstaffnage Castle near Oban. Built by the MacDougall lords of Lorn in the 13th century, but like much else in this area taken over by the Campbell's.


A good trip aided by excellent weather!


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Ottomans v Russians using Blucher

My exploration of Blucher continues with, unsurprisingly, my first Balkan battle. Ottomans against Russians.

All my 15mm Napoleonic armies are based for Principles of War and that poses few problems for my sabot bases. However, irregular troops in PoW are based on a 90mm frontage, so out came the saw to hack through enough MDF to rustle up a 200 point army.

I organised them into four 'corps', two infantry and a left and right wing cavalry corps. The cavalry held up the Russians but struggled to beat either their cavalry corps or the right wing infantry. However, Ottoman infantry more than held their own and sent the Russians packing. You need some cover for the provincial infantry, but the Janissaries, skirmish plus shock trait makes them quite effective when used properly.

A few photies.

At the club on Sunday I also got a chance to use my British, in a 250 point bash againt the French. I think 250 points is about right for a 6 x 4 table, it gives a bit of room for manoeuvre rather than lines of cards with a 300 point game. The British are quite small corps anyway, although of high quality. The Wellington option is expensive, but it's very useful to be able to see your MO dice.