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, 27 May 2017

La Spezia Naval Museum

The Italian naval base at La Spezia houses a small, but very fine museum that focuses on special forces and other technical aspects of naval warfare. 


The main exhibition hall has one of the two man human torpedoes that were so effective in WW2.


It also has some wonderful ship models, from Roman galleys, to Renaissance galleys and later 18th and 19th century sailing ships.



Upstairs there is a fabulous collection of ship figureheads, including several British ones.



In another exhibition hall there are a range of gun turrets and other weaponry.



And finally, outside there are various ships cannon and other equipment.



There are very few signs in English, so you have to make do. Nonetheless, well worth a visit.

You can also see the modern naval base, with old and new frigates on show.



The surrounding area has a fine array of medieval castles, reflecting the 200 year conflict between Genoa and Pisa. This one at Lerichi, is particularly impressive. 














Sunday, 21 May 2017

Bolt Action - Campaign Sea Lion

Operation Seelowe is one of my favourite WW2 campaigns, so purchasing the new Bolt Action supplement was a no brainer.

And very good it is too. It starts and finishes with an explanation of the German plans and how it might have turned out. There is much of the 'What if' in this supplement, which won't please the purists, but the rest of us will love it.



There are lots of new British units, including the Royal Navy, Local Defence Volunteers and of course Captain Mainwaring and the Home Guard.  Longbow armed rural patrols, may be stretching it a little, but apparently they did exist. There are lots of auxiliary units, strange artillery and armoured vehicles. Not forgetting an armoured train, minefields and an array of fortifications.

For the Germans we have Brandenburger units, Abwehr agents and the British Union of Fascists. Their new equipment includes various invasion barges, amphibious tanks and gliders. Finally there are ten scenarios and a campaign.

Fans of the Very British Civil War genre will find lots to like in this supplement and many of the figures will come in useful. I would also recommend Andy Johnson's book, Seelowe Nord, which is a fictional account of landings in Yorkshire.

I haven't played much Bolt Action recently, but this supplement will certainly get me back into the fold.


One of my Seelowe Nord games in 15mm


Vickers light tank in 28mm


The Duchess's Hussars - why not!


Sunday, 14 May 2017

Carronade 2017

Thanks to the Falkirk club for organising another great show - Carronade 2017.

Carronade is one of the two big shows in Scotland held each year - helpfully a few months apart. The venue is a large secondary school that has several halls and canteen facilities. This accommodated 35 games and 40 plus traders.

This year seemed busier than normal and the organisers confirmed that with the numbers coming through the door - a positive sign for the hobby in Scotland. Our participation game was certainly non-stop, with hardly a gap between games and even squeezing in a quick version before closing. Usually you can start breaking down before 4pm, but not this year.

This means I didn't get much time to look at the other games and only bought a few bits and pieces. But what I did see was first class.

Starting with our GDWS game that required players to rescue the princess from the castle using Conan and his war band. The rules were a cut down version of Dan Mersey's 'Dragon Rampant'. It worked really well, with players picking up the essentials very quickly. The Princess got rescued six times, but a few were close run things.


The Princess rescued again - with the priest of Set getting his just deserts


We spared no expense with the prizes!


Here are some others that caught my eye.


French Indian War, if I recall using Muskets and Tomahawk rules


The Men Who Would be Kings - great rules, we will be using these for our game at Claymore


The Aegean 1941 - I have always wanted to try some games based on this campaign


Old school 30mm Seven Years War from the Tyneside visitors


I'm not a big sci-fi fan but this Dropzone Commander game was visually impressive


Spanish Civil War - No Passaran comrades!


No idea how Antares plays - but it certainly has colourful foliage




The Grahams are a raiding in the Border Reivers game. Lovely tower model


Great Northern War from the League of Augsburg


Hundred Years War - with some Scots fighting for the French


Ramilles, showing how small scales do big battles well.



Sunday, 7 May 2017

Soviet Naval Infantry

My Soviet infantry for the Caucasus 1942 project needed some reinforcements. I couldn't face painting another pile of brown Soviets, so I turned to the naval infantry who played a significant role in the campaign. The Osprey campaign book has a great colour plate featuring them defending the Proletary cement factory.

The Soviet Navy contributed almost 100,000 sailors to roughly 30 infantry brigades fighting on land. As the war progressed, these naval infantrymen were assimilated into regular Red Army formations. However, in the Caucasus in 1942 they were primarily naval personnel transferred into land formations. Often with minimal training, they learned on the job. They also had fewer support units, particularly artillery, than normal rifle brigades.

My figures are from the Battlefront range. The basic uniform was black, although many also had blue shirts. A nice quick paint job for these four squads. There is enough in the pack for four more and some sub-machine gun squads.


And onto the tabletop. I haven't tried the new Flames of War rules, but they are a set that need a lot of playing and I don't do much 15mm WW2 these days. So I returned to Iron Cross, a much simpler fast play set of rules for the period. There are some gaps, but a bit of common sense can plug those.


The German mountain troops with tank support struggled to make progress up this river valley, particularly after the Soviet ATGs quickly knocked out the tanks - hurra!





Friday, 5 May 2017

Rebellion's Forge

This is the third in the 'Blood of Kings' series by K.M.Ashman. The setting is Wales in 1109, a country divided into a number of independent Welsh kingdoms and a substantial English presence. There is a truce between the English King Henry and the Welsh kingdoms, but revolts and unrest are commonplace.

A number of characters in the second book continue to play a role, most notably Prince Nesta who was married off to an English knight, and her brothers who organise different rebellions. The Welsh kings are torn between the realpolitik of protecting their kingdoms and moral support for rebellion.


The story appears to follow very broadly what we know of the period, which is not a great deal. It has small scale actions, rather than big battles - coupled with intrigue and treachery. The story is told well by an accomplished and fairly prolific author. I will keep reading this series.

For the wargamer this is definitely Lion Rampant territory. The rules fit this type of warfare really well.


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Eirik Bloodaxe

My latest reading has been Gareth William's book on the Viking ruler, 'Eirik Bloodaxe'. Not quite sure why I picked up this modest volume - I blame Last Kingdom!


Eirik was the son of Harold Finehair, the first king of a united Norway in the early 10th century. The Vikings really knew how to do nicknames! Needless to say Eirik lived up to his by killing several of his brothers. Although the sagas tell us that he was also a rather weak and henpecked husband. Eirik Henpecked doesn't have quite the same ring to it!

The author picks through what we know about Erik's life and times. Relying quite a bit on the sagas, supplemented from other sources. All are bit after his death. He appears to have briefly inherited his father's throne, after killing off a couple of brothers, but was usurped by his half-brother Haakon.

The story then goes that he came to England and ruled Northumbria, not once, but twice. There are those who are not convinced it was the same Eirik, but this author on balance thinks it was. He either died in battle, possibly at Stainmore, or was assassinated. The saga battle version reads better.

Either way, it's a good story, one that Bernard Cornwell could do really well.

As edges swing,
Blades cut men down
Erik the king
Earns his renown

(Egils saga)


I'll finish with some gratuitous Viking eye candy from my 28mm army.


Friday, 21 April 2017

Romanian Army of the Russo-Turkish War 1877

My Easter wargame project was to add some Romanian units to the 1877 Russo-Turkish War project in 28mm. 

Following the failure of Russian assaults at the 2nd Battle of Plevna, Prince Charles of Romania responded to Russian pleas for assistance by concentrating an army of 30,000 infantry, 4,500 cavalry and 126 guns at Plevna.

There were two types of infantry regiments, Line and Dorobanz (territorial). Brigades usually had one Line and two Dorobanz regiments of two battalions each. In addition each division of two brigades had a rifle (chasseur) battalion and an artillery regiment of six, six gun batteries (5 field and 1 horse). Battalions numbered about 750 effectives in four companies.

Most line regiments were equipped with the excellent American Peabody rifle, although most Dorobanz regiments still had the Dreyse needle-gun. The artillery were equipped with the latest 4pdr and 9pdr Krupp steel guns. The cavalry consisted of  regular (Rossiori) hussar regiments and territorial (Calarashi) regiments. Each regiment had four squadrons of 125 men each.


There are uniform details and colour plates in the Osprey MAA 277 as well as Ray Lucas's articles in 'Miniature Wargames' 20&21. However, the plates reflect the dress regulations and in practice there appears to have been considerable variation. In particular between Line and Dorobanz uniforms. Photographs I have seen in the National Military Museum, Bucharest, show Dorobanz with kepis and some regulars with the old 1860's frock coat. In summer a wide variety of  uniform adaptations were adopted by officers and men.

The figures are from the Outpost Miniatures range in 28mm. 

First up line infantry, although they could also be Dorobanz.


Then the Dorobanz, reserve infantry.


And finally the Chasseurs.



For the skirmish game below I used The Men Who Would be Kings rules. I will also use them for games of Sharp Practice 2.







Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Anchialos 917 - To The Strongest

This August is the 11th centenary of the decisive Bulgarian victory over the Byzantines at the Battle of Anchialos 917, near the modern town of Pomorie on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. OK, maybe not a centenary as memorable as the Somme, but to the Balkan enthusiast these things matter!

The infant Byzantine emperor was due to marry a Bulgarian princess, but the power behind the throne was his mother Zoe, who led a palace coup to oust the regent. She repudiated the marriage plans and this provoked Symeon into war.

Bulgarian troops ravaged Thrace and Byzantium adopted their normal practice of seeking allies by sending envoys to the Serbs, Magyars and Pechenegs. The Pechenegs did come south, but either because of failed negotiations with the divided Byzantine leadership, or counter moves by the Bulgarians, they withdrew. This left the Byzantines to face Symeon alone.

The Byzantine fleet landed an army led by Leo Phocas at Anchialos. Symeon kept his army in the mountains overlooking the landing.

The course of the battle is unclear, but it appears that the Byzantines started well, forcing the Bulgarian right wing back to the hills. However, the Byzantines became disorganised, possibly because of a rumour that Phocas had been killed. Symeon rallied his cavalry and counter attacked, supported by an infantry advance. This brought the Byzantine advance to a halt and then a disorderly retreat.


Phocas himself managed to escape to the coast, but his army was not so fortunate. It was reported some 70 years later that the skulls and bones of the fallen could still be seen strewn across the battlefield.

I refought the battle using Simon Miller's, To The Strongest rules. I used the minimum size in 15mm (50mm squares) as my armies for this period are not large. I have been meaning to use these rules again since Xmas, when some posh crackers produced two packs of small 40mm x 50mm playing cards - just the job!.



For more on the battle have a look at my feature article at Balkan Military History.


Saturday, 15 April 2017

Ukraine - The Gates of Europe

When a country hits the news, you can be sure someone will bash out a quick history book. Sadly, the haste often shows in the research and readability of the tome.

Ukraine has been in the news following the Russian invasion of the Crimea and the Russian backed civil war in the East of the country. Serhii Plokhy published 'The Gates of Europe' a year after the invasion, but this book shows no sign of being a hasty publication. It is a scholarly, yet readable history of this troubled country.

Writing a history of a country that has only recently been an independent state, is something of a challenge. How far do you stretch the boundaries to fully understand the influences on the core area you are writing about? This is particularly challenging with the Ukraine, a country that has often been torn apart from all points of the compass.

The ancient history starts with the Pontic steppe and its early contact with Greek settlements on the Black Sea coast. The Slavs filtered their way into it, before the Vikings morphed into the Rus. The influence of Byzantium was always strong and it brought the Orthodox rite to the area, although the western parts of Ukraine soon came under Catholic, or Uniate, influence.

The Mongols tramped over Ukraine as elsewhere, before the tide receded and both Muscovy and the Poles pushed back. Ukraine was the border area, settled by the Cossacks, as a challenge to Tartar raiding. It is the Cossacks who probably define Ukraine and appear on the symbols of statehood to this day. Initially as part of Poland, but following the Great Revolt, they moved gradually into the Russian sphere of influence. Yes, I also struggled to get Tony Curtis and Yul Brynner in the film Taras Bulba out of my mind!

The Hetmanate was arguably the first independent Ukraine, but it eventually got partitioned between Russia and Poland - then Austria-Hungary as Poland collapsed. It shortly became an independent state after the First World War, before being swallowed up into the Soviet Union. Finally, voting for independence in 1991.

I have Cossack units in so many wargame armies. From the renaissance to WW2. However, it is early Cossacks that represent the swagger and character the best. Most of us think of mounted Cossacks, but in this period they were more likely to be found on foot, or in boats. These are in my view the very best Cossacks ever produced, from the Wargame Foundry range.



My current favourite set of rules is Pikeman's Lament, ideal for the small battle actions the Cossacks specialised in. Here are a couple of games - firstly ambushing a Russian convoy and then attacking a village held by Polish troops. The Cossacks came off worse in both games - a bit like the real Ukraine throughout history.

 Russian Boyars lead a convoy guarded by Streltsy out of the village

But the Cossacks are waiting!

Then game two against the Poles.