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
or on Mastodon @balkandave@mastodon.scot, or Threads @davewatson1683

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Black Powder - Napoleon in Egypt

First go at a Napoleonic game using the Black Powder rules at the club on Sunday.

The opposing forces were Napoleon's army of Egypt and their Mameluke opponents. I originally built up these armies for a series of display games at shows in 2008 and they featured in Wargames Illustrated in August of that year. We used Principles of War rules for the display games so it was interesting to use a different set of rules.

Napoleon had to march a cavalry brigade and two infantry brigades across the table whilst attacked by hordes of Mamelukes supported by Bedouin light horse. The outnumbered cavalry eventually crumbled but the infantry squares held firm. The rules played really well, particularly the special rules like 'determined charge' that required the Mameluke horse to attack the French whenever they came in charge range. Very impressed as it gave a really enjoyable game.

The inspiration for the orignal game was Charles Grant's books on the campaign and in particular Bob Marrion's artwork. One of my projects for this year is to develop the British forces for the later stages of the campaign. The paintbrush awaits.......

Thursday 15 April 2010


My short break after Easter took us up to the West Highlands for a few days.

After my business trip to Stornaway (see earlier blog) it was interesting to be in the heartland of the original Lord of the Isles, Somerled. I picked up a book I hadn't seen before by Kathleen MacPhee, Somerled, Hammer of the Norse. Interesting title as there are those who argue that Somerled himself was of Norse descent. Others that he was a Gael and yet others a Scot.

The book gives a concise guide to Scotland and the West, in particular during the 11th and 12th Centuries. The imprtant role of of the Vikings based in Dublin, Man and Orkney as well as their home in Norway. Somerled ruled what is roughly modern day Argyll. The Scots kings of the period had no effectve rule over these territories, as military might depended on a powerful fleet, and that meant longships.

This was the transition from a Celtic Scotland based on the rule of the Earls, to a feudal Scotland with the introduction of Norman knights, with names more familiar in later centuries like Bruce. I feel another opportunity to field my Normans coming on!

There are many of the coastal castles that can be visted including my personal favourite Castle Tioram. I didn't get to visit it this time. But we did get to Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, always worth a visit with its new visitor centre.

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Eclipse of the Crescent Moon

Short break away after Easter allowed me to catch up with some reading.

My choice was the Hungarian author Geza Gardonyi and his novel Eclipse of the Crescent Moon. This is the story of the siege of Eger, Hungary, in 1552. A small garrison successfully resisted a huge Ottoman army for nearly six weeks, forcing it to withdraw. The novel concentrates on the life of one of the Captains in the siege, Gergely Bournemissza. He takes us through his early life and the events of the period he was engaged with. This all culminates in the epic siege that is told in some detail.

Excellent novel, well written and highly recommended.

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Heroic Voices of the SCW

My Spanish Civil War project in 15mm is grinding slowly on. My latest reading has been Heroic Voices of the Spanish Civil War by Peter Darman.  This book covers the actions involving the International Brigades, through the stories of individual soldiers. The format is a brief overview of the battle, followed by a dozen or so eye witness accounts. This is an interesting and different approach that gives you a real feel for how the war was fought from a soldiers perspective. As all these soldiers were volunteers from around the world, you also get a better understanding of what motivated them to fight in a war far from home.

Some progress on the painting front. My Republican armour is now completed. A BT5, 3 T26 light tanks, 3 BA10 armoured cars and a BT6. A mixture of Skytrex and QRF models. I decided on a brown primer, then a dark green khaki, finished off in Soviet forest green. Then plenty of earth brown around the tracks and some drybrushing on the upper bodywork. A few simple numbers and we have a reasonable finish. I need a finer brush (and a steadier hand) to tackle a few slogans.

Below is the BT5.

Followed by some T26 light tanks

No Pasaran!

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Tannenberg 1410

I have been working on the preparation for our next display game over the holiday weekend. This will be Tannenberg, the epic encounter between the Teutonic Knights and the Polish/Lithuanian army in 1410. The show will be the excellent Carronade at Falkirk on 8 May. The handout is completed and on the club web site.

For the game we will be using 28mm figures and WAB rules. I am pleased to say that we appear to have almost all the troops required between me and Andy McGreary with support from Bob Low's Rus and a few of George Dick's Hussites. Yes there were Czech mercenaries (including Jan Zizka) and three banners of Russians from Smolensk on the Polish/Lithuanian side.

I did struggle to find Polish banners and had to resort to Mirliton. So I hope the postal service from Italy is good. While on their web site I purchased a few figures for the period that might make it if painting time allows.

With around 5000 points a side it should make a good display even if the battle is a bit more complex than I remembered before reading the Osprey campaign book. Mind you I am going to need a few more trees!
Below are my Hinchcliffe Teutonic kinights. Despite their age the quality (great animation) is nearly as good as my more modern Gripping Beast figures - although less chunky.

Sunday 4 April 2010

19C Ottomans

Just completed the monthly update of Balkan Military History. The feature article this month is the Ottoman army of the 19th Century.

Actually the reformed army after the Greek War of Independence that performed adequately during the Crimean War but less well in the Russo -Turkish War of 1877. The exception was the defence of Plevna by Osman Pasha. Osman Pasha’s inspired defence of the town lasted five months.

The siege is covered by several sites in the city. The Museum of Liberation of Pleven 1877 in ul Vasil Levski actually only preserves the house where the Tsar received Osman Pasha after the capitulation, although the surrounding park has two artillery stands and the railings and gates are made from cannon and bayonets. The Mausoleum is impressive but is not open to the public. The main museum is situated in Skobelev Park (known as the Green Hills during the siege), includes a massive panorama built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle. The circular paintings and displays concentrate on Skobelev’s southern assaults on the town and can only be described as superb. 

South of Plevna in the Balkan Mountains is Shipka Pass, the site of an epic battle when Ottoman troops fought to displace the Russian and Bulgarian advanced guard. A smaller monument and museum here is well worth a look.

My 15mm Ottoman army include Minifigs, some old Pioneer figures and the rest from the Awesome Enterprises, Rank and File range. These are particularly nice chunky figures. I haven't seen them advertised recently so they may be out of production.