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 31 March 2013


One of the very few Balkan conflicts I haven't done before is Trajan's invasion of Dacia.

I have been collecting Roman units for the past six months or so. Not quite a full Hail Caesar army yet but getting close. I have a reasonable collection of generic Celtic infantry that will muster at the least the back ranks of the Dacian foot units. There were several Celtic tribes in the area so they can also be fielded in their own right.

To supplement this I have used the Warlord Dacian plastics. Tremendous animation in these figures, probably too much to fit together well, but these will provide the front rank for my units. Not really enough falxmen so I will need to supplement these with metals.

Some command stands of course. Although with Hail Caesar rules you can't rely on your units to take any notice of them!

What I really like about the Dacians is the balance the Sarmatians give the army. Shock cavalry and horse archers. These Warlord metals are very nice indeed. My horse archer collection will probably suffice, but can I resist a unit of female warriors? Probably not.

If these fine figures are not enough for the project, Warlord have produced a supplement, 'Rome's Dacian Wars', written by Craig Woodfield. This is very good. Plenty of eye candy to go with the potted history, scenarios and army lists. In addition some rule additions including sieges and a skirmish game. I am also painting up some Foundry casualty figues for those very nice Warbase casualty counters.

Hail Caesar - Rome's Dacian Wars

Monday 25 March 2013

Constantine the Great

A short interregnum in my reading around my key projects has been Elizabeth James book, 'Constantine the Great - Warlord of Rome'.

Constantine is of course best known as the Roman emperor who converted to Christianity and effectively led the Empire very quickly in the same direction. However, as the title implies, the author seeks to remind us that this was only possible because he was also an outstanding general.

James sets out the organisation and equipment of the Roman army in the 4th Century and how it sought to defend the extensive borders of the Empire. Constantine was in Britain when his troops declared him Emperor and there is a statue of him in York. She then takes us through the campaigns of the ensuing civil war including the 'vision' at Milvian Bridge that led to his conversion. Then the later campaigns in the Balkans that led to the capture of Byzantium. This was converted into the new capital that bore his name, Constantinople.

This is a good narrative history and while the religious impact is explained, this book focuses on his military campaigns and the armies he led.

Sunday 24 March 2013

Russo-Turkish War 1877

Some reinforcements for my Russo-Turkish War 1877 project in 28mm. These are from the seriously good Outpost Miniatures range. I have returned to this project largely due to being inspired by Quinton Barry's excellent book 'War in the East'. It includes some of my photies taken at Shipka Pass, a very well preserved battlefield.

First up a unit of Redif infantry. These are reservists that had been called up when war broke out with Serbia the previous year. These are modelled with the turban wrapped around the Fez. This distinguishes them from the regular line infantry although they didn't all do this. The main difference was the rifle. Reservists were mostly armed with the older Snider rifles, inferior to the Berdan issued to regulars, but still as good as the Russian Krnk.

Then a Turkish Pasha to command the army together with some officers and line infantry reinforcements for existing units. He has been modelled in what I assume is closer to full dress uniform. Most of the photos show a slightly plainer uniform but we do like our generals to stand out.

Next up a unit of Russian guardsman. The main difference with the line is the Furashka cap instead of the kepi.

And finally, no Russian army would be complete without General Mikhail Skoboleff. He is surrounded by some line infantry reinforcements. I would welcome any suggestions for a suitable flag.

I am of course kidding myself that is is still a skirmish project! Hence the individual bases. But Warbases helpfully provide slot bases for units in regular formation for a full Black Powder game.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Albigensian Crusade

I am getting into the research for our first display game of season at Carronade in May, the Battle of Muret 1213.

I usually start with a general history and this is Jonathan Sumption's 'The Albigensian Crusade'. To most people 'crusade' means the Holy Land or perhaps Spain, or if like me your interest is in the Balkans, then perhaps Nicopolis 1396. You probably wont think about Southern France and the Languedoc in particular. However, in the early 13th Century there were several fully authorised crusades aimed at extinguishing the Cathar church.

Front CoverThe beliefs of the Cathar church are not at all clear because the Catholic church destroyed their writings, but they appear to have been similar to the Bogomils in the Balkans. They were certainly a protest against what they perceived to be the moral, spiritual and political corruption of the Catholic church. They opposed war and capital punishment, marriage vows, sexual intercourse even to the extent of not eating the product of any intercourse. Instead of priests they had Perfects who administered  the Consolamentum, involving a brief spiritual ceremony to remove all sin from the credente, or believer.

While this was a grass roots movement, it had widespread support amongst the nobility, including at least tacit support from the area's main ruler, Count Raymond VI of Toulouse. Militarily this meant the crusade pitted the knights of Northern France against those from the South. The widespread northern enthusiasm for the Crusade was less to do with religious fervour than the papal decree permitting the confiscation of lands owned by Cathars and their supporters.

The crusade was led by Simon de Montfort, no not the Barons War one, but his father. The war fell into a routine of summer gains, mostly through siege warfare, when Simon was supported by large numbers of crusaders. Then some falling off during the winter when he had to hold off the locals with a small number of knights. The decisive battle was Muret in 1213, a victory against Raymond of Toulouse and his allies, including Peter of Aragon who died in the action. In the longer term it had greater significance to the royal house of France than to Simon de Montfort, as it was a big step in the creation of the unified French kingdom we know today.

Sumption's book explains the dualist tradition of the Cathar Church and then the main campaigns that didn't conclude until the French King Louis VIII led a crusade in 1224 - 29. The Cathar church gradually died away after that. The last major military stand was at the Cathar fortress of Montsegur in 1244.

While Sumption describes the campaigns he doesn't say much about the armies. For that I turned to Osprey MAA 231 'French Medieval Armies' that has a rather good colour plate of Simon de Montfort on the cover. Ian Heath, 'Armies of Feudal Europe' is always a good source. Oman covers the battle itself in Volume One of his 'Art of War in the Middle Ages'.

So, history understood, the next stage is the armies. I have started to collect flags from a variety of suppliers and a few figures including the Mirleton version of de Montfort. Then we will need an audit of figures in the collection of GDWS members to identify the gaps for the painting table.

Sunday 10 March 2013

Albanich 2013

My first wargame show of the season was yesterday's Dumfries show, Albanich. I was working in the morning so I only had time for a brief visit in the afternoon. This is a small show, but apparently a good turnout and there was a strong showing by traders. They certainly did well out of my short visit, including books, paint and more than a few figures from the Warlord stand.

I resisted adding to my ancients, but it was difficult when you see the quality of these Aventine figures.

There were only a few games but they were all very good.

Being Dumfries a VBCW game is mandatory.

French Indian wars

Bolt Action
An unusual Russo Japanese skirmish

And finally the Battle for Madrid (SCW)

Saturday 2 March 2013

Flodden 1513

This year is the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden. It was fought in Northumberland on 9 September 1513 between a Scottish army led by King James IV and an English army led by the Earl of Surrey. It was the largest battle ever fought between the two kingdoms and resulted in a major defeat for the Scots and the death of King James.

The war began when Henry VIII invaded France in 1513. Scotland was allied to France and James agreed to a diversionary attack on England. He invaded with an army of 60,000 men supported by French arms including the first use of pikes by a Scots army. The Earl of Surrey mustered 26,000 troops from across northern England, as the best troops were in France.

By the time the Scots army reached the hill of Flodden Edge it had shrunk to around 35,000. This was a strong position with entrenched artillery so Surrey marched the English army to the north forcing James to move to Branxton Hill. After suffering casualties from English artillery fire James advanced his pike blocks off the hill to attack the English lines. After initial success on the left the main attack faltered under artillery and bow fire. The arrival of Stanley's force seals the victory. Some 10,000 Scots were casualties including the King. English losses were around 1500.

Cover of: Flodden by Peter Reese
My reason for reading up on the battle was our plan to include this in this year's GDWS display game programme. We like to do at least one anniversary battle. So I started with a good general history, Peter Reese, 'Flodden - A Scottish Tragedy' and then the Osprey Campaign 'Flodden 1513'. Having understood the battle, I then moved onto the armies. The Osprey MAA series does a book on both armies and I also have Ian Heath's excellent study 'Armies of the 16th Century'. There are some good online resurces as well including the Flodden Ecomuseum.

After this reading we decided that sadly Flodden was not a viable project. We had thought that our late medieval armies would form the backbone and it would only need a few add ons. However, the Scots army in particular is almost unique to this battle and, other than the highlanders, very few of our figures would do. The English were also much more renaissance looking than we expected. Painting large numbers of figures for a display game is of course nothing new for us. But this was on a pretty daunting scale, in only a few months, to produce armies that, for the Scot's at least, can only really be used for this one battle.

So, I enjoyed the research but it won't feature on the tabletop, at least not in 28mm. I do have the English in 15mm, so other non-display possibilities there.

Back to the drawing board and we settled on another anniversary battle, Muret 1213 for our next display game at Carronade. But that is another story....