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 27 January 2015

More WW2 Japanese

My painting schedule has dropped off to almost next to nothing. Work mostly, but the truth is I need to be the mood and I haven't been.

So I thought I would try some bite size filler projects, using the pile of lead awaiting the paint brush.

I have just completed the first of these, some reinforcements for my 15mm WW2 Japanese. This is a rifle squad with an attached light mortar and a couple of trucks. All from the FoW range. I particularly like their trucks, no assembly required!

I have also struggled through some related reading. 'Bloody Shambles' by Christopher Shores, tells the story of the Allied air campaign across Singapore, Malaya, Burma, Ceylon and the Philippines during World War II. It documents the Allied underestimation of Japanese ability, which led to the destruction of 50% of the British bomber force in two days.K

I say I struggled, more accurately I dipped in and out. I find air warfare books hard going at the best of times and this is no exception. The format is a diary of the campaigns and while I appreciate the detailed research, I'm afraid it is very easy to put down between chapters.

I have been gaming though, with a great GDWS double header and Open Day last weekend. I played in the big Bolt Action game, roughly 4,000pts a side with seven players.

This weekend I am off to York for the Vapartnak wargames show on Sunday. Looking forward to it and the Blackburn v Fulham game on the Saturday. Although a bit more trepidation about the latter!



Sunday 11 January 2015

The Last Crusaders

My latest reading is the ‘The Last Crusaders’ by Barnaby Rogerson. It tells the story of 15th and 16th Century conflicts between the Christian states of Europe, mostly led by the Habsburg’s, and the Ottoman Empire and fellow Islamic states in North Africa.

While the Ottoman invasions of the Balkans have been well covered, this book also covers the crusades of Portugal and Spain in North Africa. Both countries had a foothold on the coast and fought a series of wars against the local rulers and later against the corsairs. These are wars I was much less familiar with.

His choice of final conflict is the Battle of the Three Kings1578.  The young King Sebastian of Portugal invaded Morocco. Facing him was the dying Sultan Abdul Malik who had to be strapped into his saddle his horsemen attacked the Christian square. In a renaissance version of Custer’s Last Stand, the flower of Portugal’s nobility was wiped out with 26,000 men dead or captured.

The author writes a narrative history of the period in the best tradition of the historical storyteller. A very good read.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Dacia: The Roman Wars

This is one of those books that you say ‘wow’ on opening, before you even read a chapter.

‘Dacia - The Roman Wars’ by Radu Oltean is truly a superb piece of work. The author sets out the latest archeological evidence in a straightforward way for the general reader, offering alternative scenarios when the evidence is contestable. However, what gives this book the ‘wow’ factor is the illustrations. They come in several forms. Photographs of the sites today; exhibits from museums; clear colour maps; and best of all, colour plates that reconstruct the forts and battles of the campaign.

For those not familiar with historical Dacia, it covered much of modern day Romania, but was centred on Transylvania. The key fortresses that the Romans wanted to capture were in the Carpathian Mountain chain and the rugged terrain and valleys that make up that region.

My Dacian army and their Roman counterparts are covered here.

Highly recommended.

Saturday 3 January 2015

Open Combat and skirmish games

I find myself playing many more skirmish games than I used to. With work and other commitments eating into my limited time - shorter games and less painting is a big plus. Certainly compared to the big projects I have done in recent years.

Bolt Action isn't really a skirmish game, but it only needs 30 or so figures compared with 100 plus for Hail Caesar or Black Powder. However, Saga has been the real driver, again with less than 30 figures.

The current supplements only cover the Dark Ages and the Crusades, but there are a growing number of unofficial battle boards. I have recently played with Romans and Gauls, thanks to battle boards developed by Doug Colbeck, available through the Saga forum that is a great resource. They play really well and with a tweak or two, I plan using them for my Dacians.

Listening to the Meeples and Miniatures podcast drew my attention to a new set of skirmish rules called Open Combat from Second Thunder Games. These are real skirmish level games, arguably pretty close to role playing, with the introductory 150pt games involving six or eight figures a side.

The beauty of these rules is that they work for any army in a pre-gunpowder setting, including fantasy. You can produce your own warband list using the simple point system. Each ability level; speed, attack, defence etc and special rules all cost a point each. So you can create different ability levels within the same warband.

I used the Romans and Gauls again to test the rules. My Roman band had Macro and Cato from the Simon Scarrow novels with higher attack, defence and fortitude levels than the rest of the legionaries in the warband. The Gauls were of course led by a super stat Asterix. Sadly, his stats didn't save him from Cato's pilum, even after our cat had made one of his increasingly regular interventions on the wargames table. Razzy has a high 12 attack factor!

The rules themselves play very well and games can be finished in a hour or so. I quickly switched to the QRF with only occasional references back to the full rule set on my iPad. They are available as a PDF download for only £10 and the production quality is excellent.

I can see some great possibilities for this system, with super heroes battling their way through hordes of low quality troops, using the flexibility that you just don't get with other systems. It also means that you can get troops onto the table quickly. Good for the early stages of bigger projects as well as some niche games using figures that don't have a bespoke rules system.

Highly recommended and at £10 you really can't go wrong.