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

Sunday, 12 August 2012

A World Aflame


Played my first game of the new interwar rules 'A World Aflame' today at the club. These are written by Paul Eaglestone of Empress Miniatures and published by Osprey. Our trial run was a battalion size game of Very British Civil War between Red Clydesiders and Scottish Government forces in 28mm.

These rules have a retro feel to them. A bewildering array of dice including a return for an old favourite, the average dice. Some nice set up features including dicing for officer grades and ammo levels. These can be replenished during the battle from reserves by carrying or trucking them. Unlike most wargames it makes you think about not firing all the time, particularly at long range. Realistic too, as many SCW memoirs I have read mention critical ammo shortages.

Forces are very like the Great War rules we have been using for the period. Three 8-10 figure squads and support weapons for a company. Two or three companies to a battalion with attached artillery. There are a couple of starter army lists and a scenario to get you going.

Movement can be at different speeds and there is a variable element. Who goes first is by initiative rating plus dice, one unit at a time. Bit complex and untidy this part and the effect is that better trained troops go first. Firing is by individual figure although you can speed matters up through firing by squads. The effect is pretty bloody with no saving throws, but the game moves quickly. Similarly for melee. Artillery firing is particularly good as the mechanism makes firing at blocks of troops very bloody, but difficult to hit individual targets. I managed to land fire on my own troops in the first round! There are rules for everything you would want including aircraft, boats, tanks and Heath Robinson improvised vehicles.

We didn't use chance cards in the first game, but they are a small variable and shouldn't dominate the game. The production quality is what you would expect from Osprey and a very reasonable price wise at £9-12 depending on supplier.

There is a bit of paper recording of matters like ammo levels that might put some people off, but we are used to playing PoW, so that's nothing new. Overall we enjoyed the game and it felt right. We might make a few tweaks to the factors, but will certainly play again. Chinese warlords against an allied intervention force in a months time.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Hitler's Gulf War

My latest reading has been Barrie James's book, 'Hitler's Gulf War'. This covers the fight for Iraq in 1941.

In 1941 Iraq was in the British sphere of influence, with an army largely trained by the British and a friendly government. This changed following a coup by Axis sympathisers, led by Rashid Ali and the Mufti of Jerusalem, together with politicians and army officers in what was known as the 'Golden Square'. The 1 April coup was to be followed by Italian and German intervention in support of the Iraq army.
Hitler's Gulf War: The Fight for Iraq 1941
The only British forces near enough to Baghdad where at RAF Habbaniya, 55 miles away. They consisted mainly of training aircraft and some poorly equipped soldiers. None the less this force fought off the larger and better equipped Iraqi army until a relief force arrived. This force was a hotchpotch of units and equipment (including Glubb's Arab Legion) that marched over 500 miles of barren desert to relieve the airfield and capture Baghdad. German and Italian intervention came through Vichy Syria in the form of air support (ME110 and HEIII's). However, not in sufficient strength to make a decisive difference. The Germans were otherwise occupied with the invasion of Crete.

The author tells this impressive story with a fast paced narrative. It reads more like fiction than fact. But fact it is. Some great characters as well.

All doable on the tabletop. The Flames of War supplement 'Burning Empires' is a good starting point for units and would be my choice of rules for this campaign. Might struggle with some of the aircraft types that I certainly hadn't even heard of.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Maurice

Maurice - Cover

Played my first game of Maurice. This is Sam Mustafa's latest game covering the 18th Century wars.

Dusted down my Adler Seven Years War collection and deployed the Prussians and the Austrians.

These rules are full of different concepts from other sets covering the period. I suspect you will love them or hate them.

The key feature is that the game is driven by action cards that are necessary for almost everything other than volley fire. It does give some interesting command dilemmas as you can only do one each move. Do I deal with a key combat or use my cards to bring up another force? This is fine as a game, but I am not sure it gives me the period feel. It is possibly just too random. Here I am displaying my prejudice against card driven games. I have similar criticisms of Two Fat Lardie games, particularly Sharpe Practice.

There are also no command structures. A 'force' can vary from move to move as the player wants, albeit constrained by having to be of the same type, formation and of course you need the requisite number of cards. I didn't play the optional 'notables' rules so that may help. It doesn't feel quite right to me without brigades etc, or even centre and two wings.

The combat and firing mechanisms are straightforward  and seem to work well. Army morale is based on points that reflect the deterioration of your army as units are destroyed. Although there are some random elements that seem unnecessary to me.

The production values are excellent and I like the campaign options including imaginary nations. The game is well supported on the web site with a good forum. Essential as some basics are not well explained in the rules. I fear a case of author and experienced play testers assuming knowledge.

Overall, you can say I have a number of reservations. However, I will persevere with some more games before coming to a final view. For those who want to try the basics there is a free lite version on the website.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Claymore

Excellent day out yesterday at the Claymore show in Edinburgh. Telford College is a good venue, although more than a bit warm, if like us you are stuck in the Atrium.

Our display game Las Navas de Tolosa went well with the Alomohads doing at lot better than last weekend's trial game. It started badly for them with the left wing collapsing, thanks to some awful morale tests. However, the centre and right both held the all important first charge of the knights. After that numbers told. The Almohad counterattack fared no better against the Christian foot and that's when the game finished. More photies on the GDWS web site.


There were a number of very good games at the show and photies of those that took my eye below. Also good trade support. I bought some more trees from Last Valley and other bits and pieces. Caliver had pre-publication copies of Osprey's "The World Aflame" interwar rules that I have been eagerly awaiting for Very British Civil War purposes. Test game coming up at the club next Sunday. I also bought 'Maurice' as several pals have been raving about them and if the rain keeps me off the golf course today, I might dust down my SYW armies. The SAGA 'Northern Fury' supplement also found its way into the bag as an excuse to get my Scots out along with Hail Caesar medieval army lists and a few other books. No new figures grabbed me, just as well given the painting list!

Thanks to the Edinburgh club for putting on another good show.








Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Almohad Foot

There has been the usual last minute rush to get our display game ready for the Claymore show in Edinburgh this coming Saturday. We are doing the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa 1212.

The trial run at the club on Sunday confirmed that more infantry were needed to blunt the first attack of the Spanish and crusader knights as happened in the historical clash. The solution came in the form of my paintbrush and credit card. 

The prompt delivery by the Beast of some Berber spearmen gave me the chance to put together this quick paint job. There is an option in the army list to make them 'stubborn',which together with an Imam and shooters all around gives them at least some chance of holding off the knights. The flags are from the 'Flag Dude' that I picked up at Salute.


Then the credit card and a summer sale at Hinds Figures produced this unit. A bit further East than most Almohads, but they give a flavour of the very varied recruiting grounds for this army.


The battlefield is fairly bare plain other than a small village and the Almohad camp. I already have suitable items for these with the addition of some banners, courtesy of my update to the latest version of Photoshop. A feature of the last stage of the battle was the Christian knights attacking the camp defended, according to Christian sources, by black troops chained together to stop them running away. This sounds to me like propaganda as there was no lack of motivation in the Almohad army and the Caliph was unlikely to be guarded by reluctant troops. More credible is a chain line as a cavalry obstacle and that's the interpretation I have gone for.

With lots of wire spear cut offs left over from the Berbers, some MDF and a sortie to EBay jewellers for some 'antique' chain, we have the raw materials. Construction was fairly straightforward and plenty of rust pain to finish the job. The Navarre legends have it that the chain was gold and such a chain appeared on their flag after 1212. I think that was also unlikely so I slapped at least some rust over the chain as well.


With excellent timing the film El Cid was on BBC 2 last week. I can almost recite the script word by word I have seen it so often! Plus Michael Portillo is doing a BBC radio series on Islamic Spain. Well worth a listen.

If you are going to Claymore on Saturday, pop over and say hello.