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.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Sharp Practice 2

My first purchase at Carronade was Sharp Practice 2 and today was the first opportunity to give it a go. I played the first edition, but wasn't entirely happy with it. In particular, I found it a little too random, with units hanging around for several turns without moving.

The new edition is without doubt an improvement. The use of command cards in addition to the leader cards balances out the random element and means you can at least move key units when the Tiffin card ends a turn. 

Each force is made up of a number of 8 figure groups for regulars and 6 figure groups for skirmishers. You start with a deployment move and then each leader can make one or more group activations, depending on their status. An activation allows two activities i.e. Move and shoot or shoot and reload. Movement distance is by dice, which I find a bit too random, but it's OK. 

The combat mechanisms are very straightforward and groups lose figures for kills and shock points. As units accumulate shock points they find it more difficult to move and firing becomes less effective. Not dissimilar to Bolt Action. 

Each force starts with a morale value and loses points for each incident e.g a group withdraws or breaks or a leader is wounded or killed. When you get down to zero the game is over.

The rule book is well laid out with some nice eye candy, without going OTT. You can purchase the cards separately or use chits in Bolt Action style. There is no QRF in the book, so I hope that is coming as a download.

The thing I most like about the new version is that it is no longer limited to the Napoleonics wars. It covers the whole black powder period 1700 to 1865. My trial game pushed that boundary a bit, using my Russo-Turkish War figures. It's 1877, but there are rules for breach loading rifles. I didn't use artillery and it looks like a house rule may be needed for the Krupp guns.

Here is the set up after deployment. There were 4 groups of foot and one of cavalry with three leaders per side. 

The Turks boldly advanced and shot up the Bulgarian group. Then, because three command cards were drawn in a row, the last active unit rolls for a random event. It this case a group of Turks decided their volley was so good they would charge in. They pushed the Bulgars off the hill but then got counter attacked and scattered by the Cossacks.

At this stage the cat intervened in his UN peacekeeping role! This was also the first outing for my new Deep Cut battle mat, which clearly met with his approval.

After the fisticuffs, the Russians got the better of the firefight until the Turkish morale collapsed.

Really good set of rules with lots of additional features like characters that I haven't used yet. They certainly live up to the positive reviews.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Venice - City of Fortune

Anyone who has visited Venice, with its fine buildings and waterways, probably thinks of the Renaissance. While Venice was of course a power during that period, its naval empire was won and lost in the medieval period.

It is those first five hundred years that are narrated in Roger Crowley’s book ‘City of Fortune: How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire’. From the founding of the city in the lagoon around 1000, to 1500, by which time the Ottoman conquest had clipped Venice’s power, and the discovery by the Portuguese of an alternative route for the spice trade, damaged its commercial success.

My interest in Venice was sparked not only by a couple of visits to the city, but by the role it played in the history of the Balkans. In many cities and towns along the coast of the Balkan peninsular, you can see the typical Italian architecture and the lion of St Mark engraved into the walls and fortresses.

I have John Julius Norwich’s classic two-volume history, which is very readable. Crowley writes in a similar style, covering the Venetian focus on commerce and the steps they took to protect their trade routes.

Their role in the diversion of the 1204 crusade to Constantinople is well covered, but I was less aware of the siege that nearly finished the city in 1379/80, when the Genoese and their Paduan allies nearly captured Venice. The city recovered and it was only the Ottoman conquest that snuffed out their naval bases.

So, if you want a readable, single volume, narrative history of Venice in the medieval period – this is the book for you.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Mexican Revolution - support weapons

Back to some painting this week and the Mexican Revolution project.

First up, some machine guns for the Federales. Machine guns played an important part in the revolution. The Federales and later Constitutionalist forces made great use of them in their defensive battles. These were mostly medium machine guns as light machine guns were rare. The main types were French Hotchkiss M1896 and Colt 'potato-digger' M1895 weapons. The models below come from the Old Glory range.

The Villistas were stronger in artillery, even though they obtained most of them by capturing government weapons. The French manufactured 75mm gun was the most common as well as a number of smaller mountain and 37mm guns. The model below comes from the Outpost range.

Cavalry next.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Carronade 2016

Today was another excellent Carronade show put on by the Falkirk Wargames Club at a very good venue, Graeme High School in Falkirk.

There was good support from the trade with a wide range of Scottish and UK suppliers. I understand footfall was up on last year, so I hope they did well. I certainly picked up a few bits and pieces including the new Sharpe Practice 2 rules. The presence of Last Valley always means some additions to the scenery vaults.

Running a display game means you don't get as much time to look at the other games as I would like, but there were some very good ones this year.

GDWS did Salonika 1916 - Out of the Birdcage. This covered a typical engagement of the allied 1916 offensive designed to force the Germans to switch troops from Verdun. In the end it was successful in achieving that objective. The game used 28mm figures and Bolt Action rules. The array of different units on either side caused some bemused looks from the audience. Only in Greece would you get British, Russian, Greek and Italian troops, fighting Austrian, German and Bulgarian units. The Entente powers won the day capturing the objective - a ruined Greek temple on a hill in the centre of the table. The redoubtable Highlanders fought off all comers.

Here are few other games that I liked.

I like obscure games and Brazilians in WW2 qualifies!

The Durham club like their 54mm figures, this time ancients. Real big boys toys!

This was a colourful rendition of the Battle of Assaye, Wellington in India.

Bolt Action isn't losing any popularity with at least three games. This one presented by the Dunfermline club.

Kirriemuir did a big game of Gaugamela.

The Battle of Towton in the Wars of the Roses

Strong visual depiction of DDay by Glasgow Warthogs

I'm not a big fan of naval games but this pre-dreadnought game was very good. I think the models come from the Old Glory range.

Snow has been a popular theme in show games I have liked this year. This is the retreat from Moscow.

Ian and the Claymore castings team did a very fine ECW game.

I have no idea what this is from the painting competition. But it certainly catches the eye.

And some more conventional offers from the painting competition.

You don't see a lot of Spearhead played these days. Kharkov I think.

Good show and thanks to Falkirk for organising it. And thanks to the catering staff - the white chocolate millionaire shortbread was amazing!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Salute 2016

That's another Salute come and gone. We will pass quickly over my trip to Brighton the night before for the footie - grim on all counts. I am not a huge fan of Scotrail, but all is almost forgiven after travelling on Southern!

Fortunately, Salute didn't disappoint. The Warlords have cracked the queuing with the scanning and it was straight in. First a trip around the games, and very good they were. Then the traders. With no game at Craven Cottage in the afternoon, I had a couple of hours more than usual to empty my wallet. Flying back was a bit of a limitation, but I did remember to bring a larger cabin bag.

My purchases included the new Black Powder supplement for the ACW and the FoW Pacific war supplement for the Japanese. Other than that it was bits and bobs, the items you don't see often at other shows, particular scenic items. In particular, I had more time to look at the huge array of fantasy figures and pick up some interesting additions for my historical and fantasy armies. The imagination of game designers in coming up with new settings is truly amazing. 

Here are the games that caught my eye.

First off is the Essex Gamers massive Vietnam War game utilising the mega Ron Ringrose collection.

The first game I saw on entering the hall was this Hammers Slammers game. Not my thing but the terrain was good.

Then Iron Cross the new WW2 rules that I recently reviewed. I think the buildings are from 4 Ground.

Very nice Frostgrave setting.

This Mexican Revolution game got me excited as this is the GDWS participation game at Claymore in August. However, this is in 20mm not 28mm, so no figure inspiration.

There were a lot of Martian games this year to go with the Steampunk theme.

Impressive Seven Years War game. Kunersdorf I think, a rare Frederick defeat.

I love these 54mm Napoleonics. If my eyesight deteriorates further I could be heading in this direction!

Impressive big scale age of sail with a well modelled land element.

This really looked like I imagine the Battle of Agincourt, with masses of French queuing up to attack.

They must have used a huge amount of snow flock for this Winter War on ice game

Lovely buildings in this Peninsular War game of the Battle of Adrados - al a Sharpe's Enemy, before you hunt through Chandler!

On the subject of buildings this town scene was very good too.

A fictional Seven Years War battle of Willhelmstadt with lovely scenic boards.

This was the better of the Kings of War games

But this one wins the prize for the busiest table I think I have every seen.

Finally, a shot from a stall selling big scale toy WW2 from a firm called Cobi. These are just brilliant. If it hadn't been for the baggage limitations I would have bought these for summer games in the garden!

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Viva Villa!

The Pancho Villa project has got off the starting blocks. Well the first two units painted at least!

The plan is to paint up two armies in 28mm (Villistas and Federales), suitable for Bolt Action. At present that is looking like at least 3 infantry squads, a cavalry squad, artillery and HMGs for each side - although it will probably grow! I'll need a target, so we are going to do this as the GDWS participation game at the Claymore show in August. That should be plenty of time - he says boldly!

After much internet research, I also have a railroad van that, with a bit of conversion, should do as a game objective. Also a model of a Wright biplane - the Villistas converted 75mm shells for rudimentary bombing runs. I suspect we will need some house rules for this one!

Below are the first two units. On the left we have a dismounted squad of Pancho Villa's elite unit (don't wargamers always paint elite units first!), the 'Golden Ones'. They wore a distinctive olive green uniform, so at least they will be easy to spot on the tabletop. On the right we have some Federales, in the later khaki uniform.

These are from the Old Glory range. The sculpts are a bit basic, but there is nothing intricate about these troops. A block paint job, followed by an ink wash, gives a suitably grubby appearance. I also have some slightly larger and chunkier Outpost figures that will need to populate different units.

I'm off to Salute on Saturday, so I am hoping to pick up some more suitable figures for irregular units. Really looking forward to this one. I get a bit more time at the show because Fulham are playing the night before in Brighton. Possibly the furthest away game a Scottish based Fulham could possibly travel. I'm not as confident of a result on Friday as I am on Saturday!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Palmyra and its Empire

Coincidentally, as Palmyra has been in the news following its ‘liberation’, I have been reading Richard Stoneman’s book ‘Palmyra and its Empire’. This is the story of Palmyra and in particular, Zenobia’s revolt against Rome in AD269.

While archaeological evidence on the site goes back to Neolithic times, the city is first documented in the early 200’s BC. It became part of the Roman Empire in the first century AD (although it retained considerable autonomy) and was an important buffer between the Roman’s and successive Persian states.

The city’s wealth came from trade caravans that travelled along along the Silk Road. Trade wealth enabled the construction of huge projects, such as the Great Colonnade, the Temple of Bel, and the distinctive tower tombs. The Palmyrenes were a mix of races with close ties to the nomadic tribes that occupied the area around the city. Unlike the impression one gets from modern pictures, it was probably a good deal more fertile in ancient times. The city’s inhabitants spoke Palmyrene (a dialect of Aramaic) and its culture produced distinctive art and architecture that combined eastern and western traditions.

The book takes us through the history of the city, explaining its strategic position, its structure of governance, religions and the reason for its wealth. It’s more than halfway through the book before we get to Zenobia.

Her husband Odaenathus had defeated the Persians and strengthened the city’s position. On his death Zenobia effectively took the throne and launched successful military campaigns into Roman Arabia and Egypt. The high point was an invasion of Anatolia that reached as far as Ankara.

The Roman’s were otherwise occupied when much of this expansion occurred, but when Emperor Aurelian was able to respond, his legions defeated Zenobia at the Battles of Immae and Emesa in 272AD. Zenobia escaped the subsequent siege, but was captured and ended her days in Italy. 

The following year the city rebelled and massacred the Roman garrison. Aurelian returned and raised the city. It never really recovered, but the ruins remained until Isis captured the area from Syrian government troops and destroyed a number of buildings. A very brave curator Khaled al-Assad saved many antiquities - paying the ultimate price by being beheaded for refusing to give them information.

Palmyran armies consisted of cataphracts, horse archers and foot archers. There is a FoG army list for them in 'Legions Triumphant' and they are also covered in Osprey MAA 243 'Rome's Enemies (5) The Desert Frontier'.

Stoneman’s book was first published 1995. I picked up my copy second-hand quite cheaply and it appears to be still available. Well worth a read to get the history behind the news.