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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

Saturday 26 April 2014

Bannockburn - the game

I am pleasantly surprised to be ahead of schedule for a show with no last minute painting. Well another unit of knights but that really is it.

These are a few odds and ends. Some Crusader longbowmen that have been gathering dust and you can never have too many of them in an English army. Although they are not likely to see much action at the Bannockburn game with all those eager knights getting the way!

In front of them are some casualty markers with a clever number mechanism courtesy of Warbases. Excellent firm this, always prepared to produce what you want at a very reasonable price.

I have also drafted the handout for our participation game at Carronade. An historical explanation of the first day of Bannockburn and the rules we intend to use. Just a draft these as we will be testing them at the club next Sunday. Looks like a fun game and so, if you are going to Carronade, stop by and see if you can achieve what Edward II couldn't - can you break the schiltrons?

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Hereward: The Devil's Army

This is the second in the series written by James Wilde about Hereward who led an English revolt against the Norman conquest from the Fen country in East Anglia.

This isn't a revolt, or for that matter a region of England, I know a lot about. So I can't vouch for how far the author deviates from the history. However, it's a good story well told with all the essential elements of a good historical novel.

Our hero battles with Normans from a relatively safe base in the Fens, somewhat more treacherous than they are today. There is treachery, romance and even a temporary alliance with a Danish army. We also get to see the other side of the hill through the eyes of an English collaborator in the Norman camp.

I enjoyed the first in this series, but for some reason found the second a little harder going. Not sure why as it has good reviews and it may be that I read it sporadically without really devouring the characters. It would make a good skirmish game using Saga rules.

Saturday 19 April 2014

More Scots

Two more Schiltrons of Scot's spearmen for the Bannockburn project. One more left to base and that will be enough for our Carronade participation game. Still some bits and pieces to do, including more longbowmen and knights. However,  for once I feel actually ahead of schedule and might actually get some gaming in over the Easter break.

I'll be giving them a run out at the club tomorrow against the Teutonic Knights.

A bit of a mix of figures. Certainly Claymore Castings, plus Black Tree, Curteys and Front Rank from memory. The big flags are from Flags of War and the Earl of Lennox is from CitadelSix. A new firm to me. The foil banners work well, but I am not convinced by transfers for flags. The shield artwork is first rate, slightly spoilt by poor quality transfers that chip very easily. But they plug a gap in this period.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Salute 2014

My annual trek down to London yesterday for Salute and some footie in the afternoon. A vital three points for Fulham made my day!

The queue on arrival was mega but as I had an advance ticket it progressed quickly. Nice freebie figure this year that I might for once actually paint.

The trader fest was impressive with more alternative universes than I could imagine. I assume there is a market for all this, or I hope so as the effort, artwork and models are impressive, even if it isn't my thing.

I suppose my abiding memory of this year's Salute is the smell of MDF. It was everywhere with buildings and bases to models. I am not a big fan of MDF buildings, not enough depth for me, although I accept the upper end of the genre are pretty good.

A very good range of games and here are those that caught my eye.


Carlist Wars - Lots of very nice Perry's figures.
Punic wars in I think 54mm
Victorian steampunk
Quartarmain quest
WW2 Keren
This was an impressive MDF village
Painting competition
Demo for the new SAGA supplement. Problem with the printer meant not on sale. I picked up the dice though.
And again this time in Belgium.
Dien Bien Phu


Tuesday 8 April 2014

Opening shots of World War One

My Easter update of Balkan Military History is now complete with a feature article on the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia - 'The Opening Shots of WW1'.

The first shots of the war were fired at Serbia and the people of Serbia paid a huge price for the murder of the Archduke Ferdinand. Suffering the highest casualties of any nation in the Great War.

The early war campaigns have received very little attention in English language histories of the war and I point to what reading there is including Andrej Mitrovic's book, 'Serbia's Great War'. Today's Independent newspaper has a particularly gruesome set of pictures of Austro-Hungarian atrocities during the war.

I am planning to expand my 28mm armies for the early campaign and some figures have arrived from Tiger Miniatures and Old Glory. Early war Austrian's are a bit of a challenge at present with Renegade Miniatures out of action, but I will be keeping an eye open at Salute this Saturday. Looking forward to the show, followed by an absolutely vital home game for Fulham at the Cottage.

My Austrian Hussars and Infantry in early war colourful splendour!

Sunday 6 April 2014

English and Welsh Longbowmen

When I started the army list for our Bannockburn participation game I realised that I didn't have enough longbowmen. I am a big fan of Front Rank figures and their offerings, if perhaps a little too well equipped for Bannockburn, were an easy decision.

Painting these made a change from Scots spearmen and I was delighted that the bows are part of the casting. Having wrestled with gluing a mace on the figure I am painting for Thomas Randolph for several evenings, this was a real pleasure! Skulking at the back of this unit are two English command figures. On the right is Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and to his right is a more generic figure that I will probably use for Robert Clifford. The church will become St Ninian's Kirk and comes from Caliver's Battlefield Buildings range.

English and Welsh longbowmen were an important part of English armies of the period, even if they hadn't reached the fame that they would achieve in the Hundred Years War. The technology and training were the same, but English commanders were not. At Bannockburn they forgot the lessons of Falkirk and charged the spearmen before allowing the longbowmen to soften up the schiltrons. Clifford, De Bohun and Valence were all at Falkirk, but it appears they had forgotten the lessons. 

Noble arrogance is the common explanation for ignoring the socially inferior foot soldiers, before impetuously charging unsupported. It's possible, but that doesn't explain Falkirk or an equally important battle in 1295, when the Earl of Warwick defeated Welsh spearmen at Maes Madoc with a well coordinated attack by archers and knights. There was a time gap, so they could have forgotten the lessons of these actions and Edward's army at Bannockburn was large, but of poor quality. 

A more credible explanation in my view is that the English knights camped on the Carse without their archers because they expected Bruce to withdraw. His advance on the second day of the battle left the English archers on the fringe of the action, rather than coordinated with the knights. 

This is a bit of a problem for war gamers refighting Bannockburn because an English commander knows how to win. This therefore requires some scenario planning to make it difficult for the English commander to use too much historical hindsight.

On the subject of archers, the Scots are often portrayed as being armed with lighter hunting bows. However, we know that the Scots also used the longbow, importing them via the Hanseatic ports. Their inferiority was down to smaller numbers.