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. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave

Monday, 27 September 2010

FoG Renaissance

Start of the new club year and the first round of the FoG competition yesterday. My Byzantines did not do well last year but surprised me with a comfortable win over an Alexandrian Macedonian army. I managed to avoid all those long pointed sticks and won the key cavalry battles, with it has to be said, some generous luck with the dice.

Received my copy of the new FoG Renaissance rules last week together with the first army book. A couple of members were giving them a go on Sunday. So far everyones impression is favourable. The mechanisms are not too far removed from the ancients and the changes appear to be designed to encourage historical formations.

So I am looking forward to dusting down my 15mm renaissance armies that haven't been used since we stopped playing DBR. The first army book hasn't got much Balkan interest, with the exception of the Hungarian/Transylvanian army. This appears to have a bit of everything in it so should make a change from the pike and shot armies. I am planning a trip to Budapest soon, so some time in the army museum will be useful.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Spanish Civil War tanks

Just finished the new Osprey Vanguard 170 'Spanish Civil War Tanks' by that No.1 tankie, Steven Zaloga.

He gives a good overview of tanks and the operations they supported throughout the war on both sides. Italian tankettes and Pkw1 for the Nationalists and largely Soviet T26 for the Republicans. There were also a number of home produced tanks that I hadn't seen before.

As always with this series this book has many excellent photies and colour plates by Tony Bryan. I need to touch up my collection after looking at these plates.

The author concludes that the conflict was not really the proving ground for Blitzkrieg. Similarly the Russians did not really learn the lessons. This was mainly due to the small scale of tank deployment in Spain, together with poor tactics.

I also re-read an earlier article by this author on Soviet tank operations in the Journal of Slavic Military Studies (Sept 1999). He reached similar conclusions whilst recognising that the war did have important consequences for tank technology. In particular the need for gun armed tanks and better armour to counter the contemporary anti-tank guns.

Altogether a good read and helpful in developing my SCW project.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

David the Prince

Early thoughts about a new project for next year's shows have focused on something Scottish. A surprising change for a Glasgow wargaming club!

Several members have very fine collections of 28mm Vikings and Normans so my research starts around the 11th and 12th centuries.

When it comes to Scottish history my personal starting point is always Nigel Tranter. I think I have just about every book he wrote. His books may mostly be fiction but they are rooted in his knowledge of Scottish history and they are a great read. I seem to recall a radio interview with him just before he died when he described how he wrote his books when out walking. Don't know how he did that but his walks must have been inspirational.

So my train reading for this week has been his 1980 book David the Prince. The story of King David, the Prince who never expected to be King but succeeded his brother in 1124. Before succeeding, he was an Anglo Norman nobleman in England gaining favour through his brother-in-law, Henry 1 of England. He was the great modernising King and brought a number of his Norman pals to Scotland including the du Brus, later to be better known as Bruce.

Now, what do my army lists say about his army........

Monday, 13 September 2010

South American Wars of Liberation

Dusted down my 28mm armies for the South American Wars of Liberation at the club yesterday. This was a first run out for these armies using Black Powder.

This was the largely Argentinian army of San Martin during the invasion of Spanish held Chile. The game played really well with Black Powder. A cavalry battle on the left flank flowed back and forwards whilst the infantry fought over a village. The buildings are Grand Manner - real substantial 28mm buildings these.

I built up these armies for a series of display games a few years ago and they featured in Wargames Illustrated. You can see more of the figures and find out more about the campaign at my website.


Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Mistra

I have finished reading on the train tonight 'Lost Capital of Byzantium' by Stephen Runciman.

This is a history of the hilltop city in the Peloponnese that was once, the capital of the region. Mistra is close to ancient Sparta, however, it was the Franks who after their conquest in the 13th Century who built a castle on the hill. After the defeat of the Franks the city prospered under Byzantine rule and became a centre of learning and the arts. It also prospered under Ottoman rule but was finally destroyed in the Greek War of Independence.

This book tells a great narrative history of the city and its role in the events of its time. Written by one the finest historians of the Byzantine period.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Fiat CR.32 Aces

A couple of train journeys help to catch up with some reading. My latest is the new Osprey, 'Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War' by Alfredo Logoluso.

The Fiat CR.32 bi-plane fighter had a poor reputation in WW2. However, it was the mainstay of the Nationalist air force and their Italian allies in the Spanish Civil War. It performed well, even against more modern Soviet monoplane fighters, like the Rata. The top ace was a Spaniard, Castano, with 40 confirmed kills.

The book gives a description of the campaigns the plane fought in and the top pilots. Together with the usual fine collection of photies and colour plates. I just need to find some models now for my SCW project. 

Normans

Another round of our club WAB competition last Sunday. My Sicilian Normans doing well again. Good firepower from the crossbow and bow armed infantry allows you soften up opponents. Then together with the Arab cavalry you can force some of the more defensive medieval armies out of their fixed positions. That's when the ferocious charge of the knights finish the job.

If you haven't seen the recent BBC2 series on the Normans get clicking onto i-player. Well worth a watch. I particularly enjoyed the programme on the Normans in the South. This really was an amazing story of how a few itinerant knights eventually produced the King of Sicily, and ruled most of southern Italy as well.

For a good read on the subject I would recommend John Julius Norwich 'The Normans in the South' and 'The Normans in Sicily'. He is a wonderful narrative historian.