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

Sunday 27 January 2013

Capture Tito

Tried a miniature version of the raid on Drvar at the club today, using Bolt Action rules and 28mm figures.

The table below has Tito headquarters in a corner with Tito defended by his escort squad. In the village we have a couple of squads of partisans with two more arriving and over the river an assembling German force with tanks, armoured cars and two squads of infantry. Adding to the mix we have two squads of Fallschirmjager landing with a mortar and HQ unit. Highly compressed, but all the essential elements of the raid.

The Fallschirmjager started well driving the partisans from the graveyard. As veterans they are difficult to hit, especially with inexperienced partisan squads. However, numbers started to tell and firepower rained down on the graveyard as the attack ground to a halt. Aided it has to be said by some poor dice throwing by Iain. The relief force started to cross the river, but the infantry suffered casualties so there was insufficient force to capture the village, let alone move on to Tito's HQ.

The mechanisms worked well but the defences available to the partisans meant that the attackers needed a bigger force. Probably another couple of squads. None the less it has the making of a good display game on a larger scale with a bigger unit of Fallschirmjager. We are thinking of possibly two tables, one for Drvar and another for the relief force battle.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Crucible of Fate

This is latest book by Andy Johnson in his WW2 series.

I have given the first two books rave reviews, so I was looking forward to this read. I wasn't disappointed. I was surprised that he fast forwarded from 1940 to the Normandy landings as I expected the characters to turn up in Greece, the Western Desert or even Italy. However, there is no reason for not going back in time as he did with the second book.

The story is almost entirely based on the first day of the D-Day landings. The German defenders and in particular a unit of misfits who are tasked with holding a wooded hill, code named the Crucible. They may be less than fit, but they include several veterans of the Russian Front. The Brits are represented first by the Paras and then by one of the first infantry units ashore who eventually run up against the Crucible.

The writing style is very similar to the other books. Short chapters written in the first person of a character or characters in the different units. Very easy to put down and pick up again, although putting this book down is not easy.

If, like me, you are playing Bolt Action rules, this is the book to read. Most of the action is at platoon level so you get a real feel for the tactics. The use of cover, flanking moves and the importance of support weapons.

While reading this I have been taking a break from painting the 28mm figures by plugging a few gaps in my Flames of War 15mm armies. Some 20mm AA support for the Germans. Plus additional HMG's, ATRs, 2pdr ATG and mortars for the early war Brits. And another Matilda! The German AA are Battlefront and the Brits are Peter Pig. The Matilda is from the Skytrex range.

Sunday 13 January 2013

Grande Armee

Played my first full game of Sam Mustapha's Napoleonic rules, Grande Armee today.

These are big battle rules with a unit on the table representing a brigade or similar of a few thousand troops. This means you can play the big multi-corps battles of the Napoleonic wars on a normal wargames table. Obviously at this scale there are lots of abstractions, but that also means the game flows quickly.

Weather effect is represented more than I am probably used you and the command elements are represented by command points and control distances. The combat mechanisms have separate skirmish and artillery phases, but all close combat, shooting and hand to hand, is brought together in one phase. There is a fair and helpful review here.

Our game was the Battle of Katzbach 1813. Blucher commanding Prussian and Russian forces against the French commanded by McDonald. In our game the main French effort was on their right. The Russians under Langeron fought and blocking action until they were supported by the Prussians under Yorke. An honourable draw that helped me get a better understanding of the rules.

This was one of several games played at the GDWS weekend of games. Once or twice a year we play big games over a whole weekend. A big AWI Black Powder game as well as Blenheim using Maurice rules. Plus command decision and of course the FoG competition. Photies on the GDWS website.

Sunday 6 January 2013

Pike & Shotte

Played my first full game today with Pike & Shotte, the Black Powder derivative for the Renaissance period.. Tested them with Ottomans against Polish, mid 17th Century armies.

For those familiar with Back Powder the basic mechanisms are very similar. Unlike Hail Caesar that has far more changes. The same basic command system although initiative moves are limited to 6". Distances are generally shorter, I suspect reflecting experience with Black Powder (BP). We like many BP players use the two-thirds play sheet for BP. The key change is the hedgehog formation to reflect the close working of pike and shot units. If you get it right, pikes protect shot effectively against cavalry in particular. Dragoons are also factored in slightly differently to reflect their proper role as dismounted troops in this period. The special rules allow for all the classic renaissance tactics like caracole, gallopers and mercenary units.

More than half the book is taken up with army lists for all the main conflicts. Starting with the Italian Wars and finishing with the wars of the Sun King. A short historical overview followed by the main troop types and a few scenarios. There is a points system for those who feel the need. The options in the army lists are a bit limited. For example, no light infantry musket skirmishers for the Ottomans or foot Croats for the Imperialists, but these are easily added in. You are unlikely to need any supplements to play the period fully.

The game played well. The winged Hussars are very tough in these rules but not impossibly so. They rolled over the Sipahis of the Porte on one wing, but were pushed back on the other after the Balkan sharpshooters weakened them. The Janissaries and Polish foot blasted each other to a standstill and the skirmish cavalry did just that, skirmished inconclusively.

Lovely production values of course, masses of eye candy - worth the price for that alone. I have played the full set of these rules over the holiday period. While there are a few points I am not happy with, generally they all give a good game, with plenty of command uncertainty. I reckon they will be my staple rules for 28mm figures pre-20th Century.

Thursday 3 January 2013

Terror in the Balkans

I have just finished reading Ben Shepherd's, Terror in the Balkans published by Harvard University Press.

This is a study of German armies and partisan warfare in Yugoslavia during WW2, with a focus on the early 1941-43 period. This is not a narrative history of the campaigns although there is a decent overview in the introduction. Instead the author looks at the main occupation divisions with a focus on the divisional and regimental commanders. He argues that many of these were actually Austrian and their actions were influenced by their experience on the Eastern Front during the Great War.
Terror in the Balkans: German Armies and Partisan Warfare
The occupation divisions were generally second line troops and poorly equipped for the terrain they had to fight in. The strategy was conditioned by the German abhorrence of irregular warfare to which was added Nazi ideology. Shepherd argues that the commanders experience and training made them more receptive to this strategy. It resulted in widespread terror with massive reprisal shootings, destruction of whole villages and in some cases deportation. The concept of winning hearts and minds featured only rarely and then only at higher echelons when they realised that the strategy was driving the population into the partisan camp. In particular little was done to address the actions of the Axis allies in the Croatian Ustasha.

This is a well written study taking a very different approach to the conflict in Yugoslavia and is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the German approach to what was a major area of operations in WW2.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Seasons greetings to all. Wishing everyone a happy New Year and a good 2013.

So what are my plans for the coming year?

Projects at present include:
  • WW2 Yugoslavia in 28mm. Some more partisans and Italians for the 1941-43 period. I will also use the Italians as opponents for the Greeks. A few more of them to paint up as well.
  • Russo-Turkish War 1877 in 28mm. A few more infantry units for both sides.
  • Dacians in 28mm. Almost the last Balkan army I don't have. Probably a few more Trajanic Romans as well.
  • Britain 1940 in 15mm FoW. Still a few more units to finish this project off. Some British support weapons and engineers, plus some artillery and AA units for the Gebirgsjager.
  • VBCW in 28mm. Just a few character figures to finish the project off.
Overall, more a finishing off year rather than any new projects. But the year is still young and possibilities include:
  • Serbia 1876 in 28mm
  • Hungary 1848 in 15mm
  • Far East WW2 in 28mm, including the pre-war Chinese and Russian conflicts.
  • Medieval Scots.
I hope to do more gaming this year. In particular:
  • Black Powder along with Hail Caesar and Pike & Shotte.
  • Bolt Action for WW2 projects and VBCW (with chance cards).
  • Grande Armee. Dusting down my 15mm Napoleonics for what looks like an interesting game system.
  • I will persevere with Maurice despite my reservations about systems that are too card driven.
  • Flames of War. I think this is an elegant rules system.
For GDWS display games nothing is decided yet, but two outline plans. The first is the Battle of Glasgow Green, VBCW in 28mm. The second is WW2 Descent on Drvar in 28mm. Both using Bolt Action rules that I am very impressed with. We may also do Flodden given the centenary year.

I would like to get back to a bit more writing this year. Something that has dropped off in the last few years. My day job involves a lot of writing and I therefore find painting more of a relaxation.

Finally, my reading pile needs to be addressed although I have just spent my Xmas book tokens to add to it! As usual my reading can spark off new wargame projects. A longish list of historical fiction, some great stuff out there at present, as well as Balkan and other historical works.

Great plans as always. Probably far too much, but I will have fun trying!