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, 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.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Dacia: The Roman Wars

This is one of those books that you say ‘wow’ on opening, before you even read a chapter.

‘Dacia - The Roman Wars’ by Radu Oltean is truly a superb piece of work. The author sets out the latest archeological evidence in a straightforward way for the general reader, offering alternative scenarios when the evidence is contestable. However, what gives this book the ‘wow’ factor is the illustrations. They come in several forms. Photographs of the sites today; exhibits from museums; clear colour maps; and best of all, colour plates that reconstruct the forts and battles of the campaign.

For those not familiar with historical Dacia, it covered much of modern day Romania, but was centred on Transylvania. The key fortresses that the Romans wanted to capture were in the Carpathian Mountain chain and the rugged terrain and valleys that make up that region.

My Dacian army and their Roman counterparts are covered here.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Open Combat and skirmish games

I find myself playing many more skirmish games than I used to. With work and other commitments eating into my limited time - shorter games and less painting is a big plus. Certainly compared to the big projects I have done in recent years.

Bolt Action isn't really a skirmish game, but it only needs 30 or so figures compared with 100 plus for Hail Caesar or Black Powder. However, Saga has been the real driver, again with less than 30 figures.

The current supplements only cover the Dark Ages and the Crusades, but there are a growing number of unofficial battle boards. I have recently played with Romans and Gauls, thanks to battle boards developed by Doug Colbeck, available through the Saga forum that is a great resource. They play really well and with a tweak or two, I plan using them for my Dacians.

Listening to the Meeples and Miniatures podcast drew my attention to a new set of skirmish rules called Open Combat from Second Thunder Games. These are real skirmish level games, arguably pretty close to role playing, with the introductory 150pt games involving six or eight figures a side.

The beauty of these rules is that they 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.

I used the Romans and Gauls again to test the rules. My Roman band had Macro and Cato from the Simon Scarrow novels with higher attack, defence and fortitude levels than the rest of the legionaries in the warband. The Gauls were of course led by a super stat Asterix. Sadly, his stats didn't save him from Cato's pilum, even after our cat had made one of his increasingly regular interventions on the wargames table. Razzy has a high 12 attack factor!

The rules themselves play very well and games can be finished in a hour or so. I quickly switched to the QRF with only occasional references back to the full rule set on my iPad. They are available as a PDF download for only £10 and the production quality is excellent.

I can see some great possibilities for this system, with super heroes battling their way through hordes of low quality troops, using the flexibility that you just don't get with other systems. It also means that you can get troops onto the table quickly. Good for the early stages of bigger projects as well as some niche games using figures that don't have a bespoke rules system.

Highly recommended and at £10 you really can't go wrong.




Tuesday, 30 December 2014

To the Strongest

'To the Strongest' is a new set of wargame rules for the ancient and medieval periods by Simon Miller.

I was attracted to them following a couple of reviews including the latest edition of Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy. The mechanisms are very different from anything I have played before, offering up the prospect of a quick game.

So what's different?

Firstly, there is no time wasted on measurements because it uses a grid. You don't need ugly squares on your tabletop, I just put felt pen black dots on the reverse side of my normal cloth. Units generally move one square for foot, two for mounted. Diagonal and sideways moves are possible, but require higher activation card scores. This really does speed up play and obviates the need for any debate over movement distances, match ups etc that can get in the way of a game like FoG. You can use different size squares depending on the scale of figures you want to use.

Secondly, there are no dice. Instead you use two packs of playing cards. You separate the court cards out to be used for strategems. The number cards are used for everything else. Activation requires anything other an Ace to start with and you can keep going so long as you draw a higher card. If you fail that ends the turn for that command. Activation can be used to move, shoot or charge into melee. Again the cards are used with a minimum score to hit, plus or minus a few modifiers. Then the defender saves and then hits back. There are different hit scores and saves for units in the generic or specific army lists.

I have only played one game, but it works very well. I used 100 Years War French and English and it resulted in a quick game that looked and felt right for the period. Melees did drag on a little longer than I would have expected, but they may just have been the luck of the cards.


The rules come as a very reasonably priced (£9.99) PDF download and are nicely laid out with hyperlinks between the relevant sections. The QRF could have done with a few more of the basics, but once you have played a few times, I suspect the numbers will be remembered easily enough. There are a few army lists available as a free download and the generic points system is easily adaptable for others.

Playing cards are perhaps not visually great, but you can substitute poker chips or something else. The MDF markers are ammo chips. Each shooting unit has a limited number at the start of the game, another rarely used mechanism in ancient wargaming.

These rules are a bit different and well worth look at this price.


Saturday, 27 December 2014

Some wargaming inspiration - 2015 anniversaries

As we approach the New Year, I will do my usual look forward to military anniversaries. 2015 will see some pretty significant commemorations that I suspect we will see represented on wargame tables across the globe.

There are a few in the Balkans.

The Gallipoli campaign started in April 2015 and in May Italy joined the war on the side of the Entente. In October, Bulgaria joined the Central Powers and invaded Serbia, which together with the renewed German/Austrian offensive, spelt the end for Serbian resistance and led to the long and terrible retreat over the Albanian mountains.

Talking of Albania, they will undoubtedly celebrate the birth of Norman Wisdom, a somewhat bizarre cultural icon on Albania. His films were one of the few western productions allowed in that country during the Hoxha regime.

In April 1815, the Second Serbian uprising against the Ottomans started and this led to the recognition of Serbia as a semi-independent state. The Ottomans had more success a hundred years earlier in July 1715 when the fall of Nauplion in the Peloponnese, effectively ends Venetian resistance to Ottomans in the Morea.

Five hundred years ago, 615 is the date usually ascribed to the Slav invasion of the Balkans that led to the modern day Serbian and Croat states. Actually, the Slavs slipped into the Balkans gradually over many years, but 615 saw significant events such as the siege of Thessalonica.

Interesting though these anniversaries are to me, I suspect one or two others might get more prominence. The 200th anniversary of Waterloo is of course the big one, alongside the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt 1415. I see the Perry’s are ahead of the game with their new plastics for the period.

In Scotland, we have the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion and the Battle of Sheriffmuir. While in England the 1215 signing of Magna Carta will no doubt be remembered, with probably less attention given to the subsequent First Barons War.

The Swiss will want to make a noise about the November 1315 Battle of Morgarten, when they defeated Leopold’s Austrians and went on to found the Swiss Confederation. For gamers of a certain age, the William Tell TVseries will be a reminder of the period. Even if it was filmed in Snowdonia.

And finally, not to miss out our American cousins who may wish to mark the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the first combat troops (US Marines) in Vietnam 1965. More significantly, it is also the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War.

More than a few events here to keep us busy painting and gaming in 2015.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Dystopian Wars - Russian Coalition

The battle flotilla of the Russian Coalition joins my Dystopian Wars collection. That's a Dreadnought, 3 gunships, 4 destroyers and 2 submarines.

They got their first outing today, doing battle with the Ottomans. Only my second game and the rule book can be a bit irritating as you have to keep flitting back and forward. Not to mention remembering all the special rules. However, it plays fairly well and once I get used to the characteristics of each ship, I'm sure it will get quicker.