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

Friday 30 December 2011

Dark Age skirmish

My post Christmas gaming, other than a multi-player Napoleonic Principles of War game, has  focused on Dark Age skirmishing.

Firstly, with 700pt WAB games to try out our 2011 WAB tournament rules. These appear to play well and I have selected three scenarios for the year with two games a session. My test games involved Bulgars v Vikings and provided several interesting encounters. Despite the production problems, WAB 2 plays well and the small point options give a quick and enjoyable game.

Secondly, I have been trying SAGA. For those not familiar with this new set of rules from Gripping Beast it covers the Viking Age and at present there are battle boards for Vikings, Anglo Danish, Normans and Welsh. A force can include Hearthguard or retainers, Warriors, Levies and the Warlord. You make up small 'armies' using a simple points system. No complicated army lists here.

The game mechanics are simple with just four measurements and straightforward combat and shooting mechanisms. The more skilled the troop type, the more attack dice you get and the better the armour the more difficult to kill. The subtlety comes with the battle boards that control orders and special abilities. You roll special dice and allocate them to actions (rest, move, shoot) or abilities that strengthen your attacks or defence. It requires some planning to work out what you want to do and how your opponent is likely to respond. 

Everything is clearly laid out in full colour with plenty of eye candy. Helpful summaries at the end of each section and plenty of worked examples. After just one game we were working off the quick reference sheet. But be warned, while the game mechanisms are simple, this is a lot more subtle than it at first appears and you really need to focus on the orders stage and make best use of the actions and abilities on your battleboard.

Overall I enjoyed these rules that allow a quick and fun evening game.

Normans catch a Viking raiding force!

Monday 26 December 2011

Englishman in the Russian Ranks

This the remarkable story of John Morse, told in his own words, an Englishman caught in Germany at the outset of WW1.
An Englishman in the Russian Ranks, Ten Months' Fighting in Poland
He was on business in what was then the Eastern border of Germany (modern day Poland) when Germany was about to declare war on the Entente Powers. His story starts with him slipping through German lines during their initial crossing of the Russian border. He eventually finds the Russian army and stays on to fight the Germans. In the 19th Century he would have been described as a gentleman volunteer, although I doubt the Russian army would recognise the concept. He fought with a Cossack unit, an artillery battery and several infantry units for almost a year before being captured, then escaping, before making his way back to England.

His observations of the war in the East, while very English of the period, are fascinating. He gives great descriptions of small and large scale actions, the impact of fortifications and artillery as well as the much more fluid nature of the war in this sector. While not a professional writer, the book is still a good read and an essential source for anyone interested in the period.

Monday 12 December 2011

Bellini Card

The Bellini Card

Crime fiction is not my usual genre, but when the setting is 19th Century Istanbul and the author is a historian of the period, I am interested. The Bellini Card is the third in Jason Goodwin's series about the Ottoman detective Yashim.

Most of this book is set in Venice 1840. Yashim and his friend the Polish Ambassador set about recovering the missing portrait of Sultan Mehmet. Venice in 1840 is no longer the great city of the Renaissance. After Napoleon captured the city, followed by Austrian occupation, trade and wealth by pass the city. But there is plenty of intrigue and local politics as they pursue the painting.

I won't spoil the story, but as you would expect from this author the tale has some basis in fact. The former British Ambassador to the Porte, who retired to Venice, acquired the painting of Mehmet II by Bellini in 1865 when it was left on his doorstep! His widow donated the painting to the National Gallery in London.

I have enjoyed this series and if you like crime fiction you won't be disappointed.

More Black Powder

We had an opportunity at the club last week to expand our understanding of the Black Powder rules using the Last Argument of Kings supplement.

This time a match up between Russians and Austrians circa 1710. Four brigades a side. On the Austrian right a cavalry brigade with a unit of cuirassiers and two units of dragoons, facing a Russian brigade with horse grenadiers and dragoons. In the centre (see picture below) two brigades of line infantry and grenadiers faced off. On the far left a brigade of Croats (foot and horse) faced a similar brigade of Cossacks.  

The battle started with the Austrian cavalry charging right across the table while the infantry, somewhat more reluctantly, plodded towards the Russian line. The Croats didn't budge an inch. The cuirassiers made short work of the horse grenadiers although the dragoon battle was more even. By the time the Austrian infantry got to effective range the cuirassiers were threatening the Russian infantry flank and started to roll up the Russian line. The Croats eventually got moving, but the Cossacks hardly moved the whole battle and some desultory skirmishing was all that happened on the left. 

I thought the rules played well. The 'first fire' special rule for foot worked well for this period and the firefight was a decent battle of attrition. The cavalry contest could have gone either way. The Croat v Cossack skirmish was just what you might of expected and the Black Powder command rules come into there own here. Overall, enjoyable and pretty good simulation of warfare in the period. More plus marks for Black Powder.

The figures above are mostly Front Rank for the Austrians and Reiver Miniatures for the Russians.