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.

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.


Monday, 6 April 2015


I have just finished reading Simon Winder's entertaining personal history of Habsburg Europe, Danubia.

This is more about the Habsburg lands rather than the Habsburg's themselves, although they make up an important part of the story. It's a sort of mix between a narrative history and a travelogue. He takes the reader chronilogically from their medieval base up to the dissolution of the empire in 1918. But he does so illustrating the history with descriptions of the towns and cities he has visited. It's entertaining because there are eccentric characters and interesting stories.

It's also a tragic story. Obviously for the last Habsburg's, but more so for the populations who have been displaced, many times. This is reflected in the different names of the towns in the region as the state boundaries were moved around with associated ethnic cleansing.

By no means a conventional history, or a military history. However, a more than useful insight into the Habsburg's who played an important role in the Balkans for more than four centuries.

Friday, 3 April 2015

More testing of Blucher

Got my new bases for Blucher on the Wargames table at last. 1809 Austrian against French. Austrian's won, which makes a change. I am convinced that most Napoleonic rules have a built in bias in favour of the French!

I used the download from Sam's site for the Austrian cards, but in future I think I will just use the roster sheets. Easier to refer to once the figures are on the table.

Here a few photies.


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Lanchester 6x4 Armoured Car

Another fill in project to work down my pile of lead has been the 15mm QRF version of the Lanchester armoured car. These served in Malaya in 1942 and will give some much needed firepower for my Brits who had no tanks. Some bright spark in the War Office thought Malaya was unsuitable for tanks - shame no one told the Japanese!

The Lanchester had a six-by-four chassis and was similar in shape to the Rolls-Royce Armoured Car. The unusual rear part of the vehicle was used for the storage of equipment. Above the fighting compartment a two-man turret was mounted, with .5 inch (12.7 mm) and .303 inch (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns in a dual mount. An additional .303 Vickers was located in front of the fighting compartment.

I usually dread this type of model as they are rarely designed well. However, on this model there is at least a decent lug to support the wheels that otherwise would a be a big problem for a wargame model. The cupola is a poor fit, a fair bit of flash, a couple of missing parts in one pack, but otherwise this is a decent model.


Saturday, 21 March 2015

Basing for Blucher

I have been impressed with my first few games of Blucher and I think it will be my rule set of choice for grand tactical games with 15mm figures. I'll stick with Black Powder for 28mm tactical games.

Learning the game with the cards is OK, but I am a figure gamer, so that can only be a stopgap. Now, as the rule book shows, you can just use your current basing. However, the angles and centre point on the card is useful as is the strip at the back to record casualties. My 15mm collection is based for PoW and so most infantry are on 30mm x 15mm, double depth for cavalry and 40mm depth for guns.

The solution is to turn to possibly my favourite wargame company, Warbases. I drew a design for a sabot base that combines the card and allows my figures to be inserted. In no time at all, at a reasonable cost, Martin delivers a very impressive result. There are two sizes, one for infantry and cavalry and other for guns. I allowed a few extra mm for oversized base width, probably should have done same for depth.

First some Ottomans. These regulars are fine, but I may have to hack about with the irregulars who are on much wider PoW bases.

No such problem for the British, including the deeper artillery bases.

And finally some Russian infantry and Austrian Uhlans.

Very pleased with these. Now to find time for some games!


Sunday, 15 March 2015

More Open Combat

I have played a few more games with the innovative skirmish rules 'Open Combat', published by Second Thunder Games.

These rules work for any army in a pre-gunpowder setting, including fantasy. You can produce your own warband list using the simple point system. Each ability level; speed, attack, defence etc and special rules all cost a point each. So you can create different ability levels within the same warband. The combat mechanisms are very straightforward and a game can be done and dusted in an hour.

In my trial game I created a Roman command using the characters from Simon Scarrow's novels, fighting Gauls. This time, just to test how open the system is, I dusted down my fantasy figures. So Macro and Cato were tasked with investigating a ruined temple and came up against an Orc warband led by the two handed sword wielding Carguk.

No problem at all for our heroes. Dispatched Carguk and his not so merry men without too much trouble. So, step up a bigger challenge. Carguk returns with his pal Shuzug, a minator lookalike, can't even remember where I picked this model up from.

The plan was to pick off the orcs and isolate the monster. Sadly, not even our heroes were up for this challenge. Shuzug despatched Macro with his two-handed axe, one hand for him, and the Roman's decided he could keep the temple!

The rules stood up to the test. So much so that I have signed up for the Kickstarter hard copy of the rules. It's already subscribed, so I am obviously not alone in enjoying this system.