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 31 December 2013

The Pagan Lord

Second on my holiday reading list has been Bernard Cornwell’s latest epic, ‘The Pagan Lord’.

This is the latest in the Warrior Chronicles, telling the story of Uthred, the pagan warlord, who was brought up by the Danes, but fights for the Saxons. This is the seventh instalment in the series and covers the period after Alfred’s death up to the historical battle of Teotanheale in 910. The Danes are still pressing the Saxon kingdoms and Uthred is as usual in trouble with the church he despises. He is banished, tries to capture his birth right fortress at Bebbenburg, and when that fails, comes back to save the Saxon’s yet again.

If this all sounds a bit familiar, it does have to be said that the formula is getting a bit worn. A bit like Uthred himself, who is getting on a bit. You might think, time to ride off to Valhalla with sword in hand and you would probably be right.

However, the problem with this critique is that it is still a great yarn. Absolutely compelling reading that you just can’t put down. Cornwell is simply the master storyteller and while the formula is getting a bit repetitive, there is enough of a gap between titles for the reader to recover. Bring on the finale!

Monday 30 December 2013

Chain of Command

I played my first game of Chain of Command at the club yesterday, the WW2 platoon level skirmish game by Two Fat Lardies.

We played a VBCW scenario, with three sections of my Red Clydesiders supported by a T26 and an armoured car, against a similar force of Covenanters.

The spotting phase is innovative, with markers patrolling in 12” moves until they contact an enemy patrol within 12”. That locks them in place and converts into jumping off points for a rifle section. You have four markers that have to keep within 12”, so that constrains your ability to start too far into the table. In most cases it will probably result in a standard deployment, but it doesn’t take long and makes you think about the terrain and how best to exploit it with deployment.

The game places a great emphasis on leadership. The command dice roll at the start of each phase makes all activations and these allow leaders to move, fire or rally troops. Senior leaders are the most important as they have multiple activations for troops within 4”. You also collect command points that can be used to interrupt during your opponent’s phase.

Shooting effectiveness is based on the training of the enemy troops like FoW. The ranges are long as this is a skirmish game.

We had a fun game, but I have a few reservations. Like a lot of TFL games the movement is very random. Troops can sit around doing nothing for a long time and I am just not convinced about this. Units faltering by events like being fired on I can understand, but just sitting around when you have clear orders from the outset, simply doesn’t feel right. It is also possible for one side to have two consecutive phases, which is a very big hit.

A number of the mechanisms are unduly complex, even allowing for our first game learning. There are unnecessary stages and detail that I am not convinced adds anything to the play or the ‘realism’. When you get to armour effects there are many outcomes that you need to write down to remember. I found this irritating, slows the game down and visually unattractive.

In summary, some nice ideas and I don’t have a problem with the leadership focus. However, it’s too random, unnecessarily complex in places with some turgid mechanisms.  I’m afraid it wont tease me away from Bolt Action.

Saturday 28 December 2013

Militargrenze using Muskets and Tomahawk rules

I did promise myself some gaming over the holidays and I got to a project inspired by my first game with the excellent Musket and Tomahawk (M&T) rules.

At the time it occured to me that this would work just as well on the military border between Croatia and Bosnia/Serbia, known in Austrian as the Militargrenze.

I have written a short article on Balkan Military History explaining the military structures on both sides of the border. Then I converted the main troop types into M&T classifications.

I have now fought three short games around a Grenzer village being attacked by Ottoman forces. The rules work really well and provide interesting and quick games.

Here we have a unit of Azebs and another of Gonullu trying to work their way around the back of the village. However, they are repulsed by the sturdy Genzer.

The Janissaries did little better in the frontal attack.

Just as the Grenzer though it was all over with the Ottomans in flight. The mighty Rasputin (our cat) arrived on the scene!

But of course, with name like Rasputin he has to be an Orthodox Christian, so he decided to play with the fleeing Azebs!

Whatever the M&T classification - he wins!

Thursday 26 December 2013

To Conquer or to Die!

My holiday reading starts with, ‘Conquer or Die! Wellington’s Veterans and the Liberation of the New World’ by Ben Hughes.

Simon Bolivar’s campaigns to liberate the northern states of South America are fairly well known. Popularised, for wargamers at least, by John Fletcher’s ‘Liberators!’ booklets and range of figures. He is also the author of a recently published Osprey essential histories book on the wars of liberation.

However, this book focuses on the 6,000 or so British volunteers who served, largely with distinction, in the republican armies of Venezuela and Columbia between 1817 and 1820. In the main, they were Napoleonic wars veterans who volunteered to fight in South America. It tells the story of these wars through their eyes and by any standard it is a remarkable story. One of great courage, much misery and endurance, coupled with incompetence and farce. Nonetheless, they made a significant contribution to the republican victory, one that is only partially recognised, even today.

My wargaming of this period has focussed on the other great Liberator, San Martin, who led the Argentine armies across the Andes to liberate Chile and then Peru, where he joined up with Simon Bolivar. There is more on this at my website and GDWS did a number of display games with the converted figures in 28mm during 2007. Wargames Illustrated published a feature article on these games in August 2007.

I would also recommend reading Robert Harvey’s ‘Liberators’ and John Lynch ‘Simon Bolivar – A Life’. He did another book on San Martin.

Orinoco Miniatures have just brought out a range of figures in 28mm for the period, starting with the British Legion. They look very good together with the first Columbian and Spanish foot. I suspect I will give in when the distinctive Llanero cavalry arrive. Flags of War have also started a range of flags.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Type 95 Ha Go tank

Merry Christmas to everyone. Hope you got all the toys you wanted! Given my huge pile of metal I asked for some restraint from Santa, but it just means more book tokens.

In the words of the song I could say, 'all I want for Christmas is a Ha Go tank', but not quite true as I finished painting it yesterday. Now all my Brits need for xmas is a 2pdr anti-tank gun, otherwise they are in serious trouble!

This is the Warlord 28mm model. Very nice with one complaint. Do the people who design these kits every assemble them? If they did they surely would not expect a long piece of metal (gun barrel) to stay in place with a pathetically small lug hole. Barely pin sized on this model. Much swearing and super glue later I got there, but a bit of thought guys ....

Have a good holiday.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Malayan Campaign Brits

Two more units of Brits for my Bolt Action Malaya project. These are Perry plastics as several units got diverted to Singapore.

And a Type 92 70mm infantry gun for the Japanese.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Japanese reinforcements

Some more 28mm Japanese for the Malaya campaign. Again these are Warlord, based for Bolt Action rules. If I can finish off the Brits by Xmas, I might even get a game over the holidays!

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Japanese in 28mm

First of the Warlord Japanese off the bench.

These are from the Warlord metal box and few extras. Probably a few too many kneeling and crawling figures for my taste in the box. I would expect to see Japanese charging across the board!