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

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Spanish Civil War using FoW

Thank goodness for the Xmas holidays and a chance to get some figures onto the tabletop.

Had my first serious effort at playing Flames of War using my new Spanish Civil War armies. A fairly simple scenario to start with. The International Brigade attacking a Nationalist held village, right out of Ken Loach's film. Land and Freedom for those not familiar with his SCW film.

The attack started with the T26 platoon supported by infantry advancing on the centre. The aim was to pin down the fascists while the remaining infantry platoons attacked the flanks. However, the T26's were quickly knocked out by the Italian ATGs and artillery and the infantry went to ground, so offering little distraction. The right flank did reach the hill and I therefore tried out the assault rules. But the Nationalists were too strong. Heavy Machine Guns are very effective!

I really like the rules. The mechanisms work well, fairly simple once you work through the sections in the right order. The SCW has few of the later complications so I haven't had to tackle many of the annexes. I am playing a larger game at the club on Sunday so we will see how that goes.

Sunday 26 December 2010

Austrian WW1 Hussars

Bit of a fill in job this. I picked these Hussars up from the Geordies at Under the Bed Enterprises in the Summer to strengthen the Austrians for my Salonika project. These figures from their Reiver Castings range, are a bit more slender than many 28mm, but others would say more proportional. Either way I like them.

I went for early war uniforms albeit with the grey linen shako covers. Probably stretching it a bit, even for early 1916, but the later uniforms are very drab and a bit of colour was needed. These lads wouldn't look out of place on a Napoleonic battlefield!

There were 16 Hussar regiments at the outset of the war. However, remounts became scarce as the war progressed and a number of regiments were dismounted. I used the fine colour plate in the Osprey MAA 392 as my reference.

Friday 24 December 2010


A bit more work completed on the Lord of the Isles project. 

I have re-read Andrew McDonald's book on the subject. This is a more academic study that discusses the sources for what we know of Somerled and his life. The sum total is not very much. A bit disappointing in one respect, but for the wargame point of view it gives a bit more license!

On the Bargarran battle scenario I am planning, he concludes that the cause of the conflict was probably conservative opposition to the expanding Anglo-Norman fiefs in the West of Scotland. Their Lords, knights and castles would have been viewed with increasing unease by Somerled and other rulers on the western seaboard. He therefore views the battle as a pre-emptive strike against the expanding Stewarts.

This author argues for two possible sites for the battle. Landing at Renfrew and a battle at Knock. Or a landing at Greenock and a battle at Inchinnan. However, there is no firm evidence for either but we know the broad area.

On the figure front I now have a Somerled. Of course we have no idea what he looked like, so I have gone for the Gripping Beast representation of Ragnar Lothbrok, with some conversion.

Monday 20 December 2010

British in Egypt

And the final units (for now at least) for the British in Egypt project. I now have a balanced force for Black Powder. The Highlanders are plastic Victrix rebased from a purchase on EBay. The Generals and artillery are Front Rank. 

You would never guess I photographed these outside in several inches of snow!

Sunday 19 December 2010

Kosovo 1448

There is an excellent article in this month's Wargames Illustrated by John Bianchi on the second, and less well known, Battle of Kossovo in 1448.  John is the primary author of the WAB supplement Vlad the Impaler that I, and fellow WAB players at GDWS, gave some modest assistance with.

Unlike in the first battle of 1389, the Serbian leadership remained loyal to the Ottomans and it was left to the Hungarian's led by Janos Hunyadi, with Wallachian support, to do battle on the Field of Blackbirds. The plan was to join up with the Albanian leader Scanderbeg, but the Ottomans moved quickly to bring the Hungarians to battle before the Albanians arrived. They were only a day's march away.  Despite being outnumbered Hunyadi nearly pulled off a famous victory. However, it was Sultan Murad who triumphed and the Christian cause in the Balkans was on the defensive for the next 250 years.

The battlefield today, not surprisingly as the monuments were built by Serbia, focus on the earlier battle. But you can still get a good view of where the action took place as can be seen from the pictures on Balkan Military History.

John's article is well illustrated with 28mm figures from a number of ranges including the fine Kingmaker war wagons that represent the wagonburg in the Hungarian centre. He also presents a scenario for WAB that I look forward to trying out soon. We have done the slightly later Vaslui 1475 as a display game. It was fought in the fog, in case your wondering!

Saturday 18 December 2010


This is the first novel from Jack Hight and is based on the siege of Constantinople in 1453.

The book weaves the story of Sultan Mehmed, Longo the Genoese commander of the city's defences and some love interest with the Princess Sofia. The author keeps fairly close to the historical events whilst developing the characters in the best traditions of historical fiction.

He also adds to the history a range of plots and conspiracies that make the story much more than a retelling of the famous siege, epic though that was in its own right.

This is a great read and I look forward to more by this author. His current project is a trilogy about Saladin.

Saturday 11 December 2010

British in Egypt

Working hard to finish a few projects before Xmas so I can do some gaming rather than painting.

The British in Egypt army is close to completion, or at least a balanced force. The latest addition is a regiment of Light Dragoons and a unit of riflemen. I picked up most of the rifles at a show and the rest are Front Rank along with the cavalry. Artillery, Generals and few more Highlanders still on the workbench.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Viking vignette

Done a bit more on the Vikings for the Lord of the Isles project.

Firstly I have read Magnus Magnusson's book Vikings!. I picked up my copy from my local Oxfam bookshop for £2.99, that really is a bargain! This is a sympathetic study as you might expect from an Icelander, validly pointing that they got a bad press from Saxon monks. Dark Age spin doctors it would appear. It is a well illustrated book and very strong on archaeological evidence in particular.

Inspired, I have finished one of Gripping Beasts stunning vignettes. Nor sure Magnus would approve of this. Obviously the boys at the Beast have been taken in by the spin doctors!

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Maida 1806

I have been working through my reserve book pile in anticipation of an xmas restocking, he says with a broad hint to the nearest and dearest. The Battle of Maida 1806 - Fifteen Minutes of Glory by Richard Hopton is a book I bought some time ago. It covers Sir John Stuart's British victory in southern Italy over a French army commanded by General Regnier. 

The year is 1806 and the Third Coalition is falling apart after Napoleon's victories at Ulm and Austerlitz. The British are forced to abandon southern Italy, the mainland portion of King Ferdinand II's Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Napoleon's brother Joseph is installed as King and Ferdinand and the British retreat to Sicily.

Taking Sicily is a much more difficult task for the French. The roads to the launch ports for an invasion through Calabria are almost non-existent and the French are harassed by the Calabrians. The Royal Navy rules the waves following Trafalgar. With his base reasonably secure Sir John Stuart decides on a spoiling expedition and lands near Maida in the Bay of St Euphemia with a small army of around 4000 men.

General Regnier gathers his somewhat larger force together on the high ground above the Bay. As Stuart decides to advance, Regnier, who had a poor opinion of British troops following his contact with them in Egypt, also decided to attack and came down to the plain. His best Brigade was shot up by disciplined musketry and artillery and the others lost heart. The British had no cavalry to effectively follow up but still mopped up the French garrisons in Calabria.

So a famous if modest victory, indeed the only victory that year, achieved for once by the army. Sicily was secured as a British base in the Med.  Despite this the battle is not well known, unless you live in Maida Vale!

The book is well written and gives a full background to the battle and the consequences. The battle itself is interesting in so far as it is likely that the French fought in line and were still beaten by disciplined British firepower. A prelude to the successes of the Peninsular War.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Bulgarian Legion

Latest figures off the workbench are not from one of my current projects. They are 28mm Bulgarian Legion figures from the Russo-Turkish War.

These are from a new range by Outpost Miniatures. I first saw them at the Claymore show in the summer, when their stall was next to our display game. There is a mouthwatering vignette with their display. I resisted them most of the day because I have this army in 15mm. However, one my my pals, in the finest tradition of the drug dealer, sucked me in by buying me a couple of packs.

I have based them as skirmish figures because I am not going to build full size armies. Famous last words!

Bulgaria at this time was part of the Ottoman Empire and the Bulgarian Legion were volunteers fighting with the Russians to liberate their country.The Legion consisted of six rifle battalions and was attached to General Gourko's flying column, tasked with capturing and holding the Shipka Pass. In an epic battle they succeeded although with heavy losses.

Friday 3 December 2010

Siege of Khartoum

Plenty of train journeys this week because of the weather that enabled me to finish the latest John Wilcox novel, Siege of Khartoum.

This is in the Simon Fonthill series. Fonthill is an unusual Victorian character who manages to be at most of the late nineteenth century colonial campaigns, as all good heroes are of course. Unusual because the author has given his hero plenty of 21st Century values. Respecting the role of women, natives etc. If a bit incongruous it makes easier reading for a modern audience.

So here he is trying to reach Gordon in Khartoum before the Mahdi closes in. He gets captured and is rescued by his fiance and a Sudanese warrior, who are the real heroes of the book. Not quite the Four Feathers, and to put it mildly stretching credibility, but a good read none the less. 

It was all a bit predictable but saved by Wilcox's pacy style. As one reviewer put it "Boy's Own stuff".

I sold my 15mm Dervish and British armies earlier this year so I wasn't tempted back to the period with this book. Mind you the Perry's do some very nice 28mm .............

Wednesday 1 December 2010

More Nationalists

These will be the last of the Nationalists, for now at least.

First we have the regular Moroccan infantry. These troops formed the backbone of the Nationalist army. Volunteer troops recruited from Berber hill tribes they were hardy and courageous soldiers.

And then a few Nationalist cavalry.

Roll on Xmas, when hopefully I will find some time to learn and adapt the rules and get these armies onto the tabletop.