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

Saturday 21 February 2015

Yeoman Soldier, Prussian Farmer

Something a bit different in terms of World War Two memoirs.

Richard Harvey served in the 1st East Riding Yeomandry, a Yorkshire regiment based in Hull. The regiment was part of the British Expeditionary Force that went to France in 1940. They were equipped with Vickers Mark VI light tanks and armoured scout carriers. Harvey was a Bren gunner and wireless operator in the troop commander's carrier.

His unit was part of the fighting withdrawal to Dunkirk, but he was wounded and captured. He ended up in Prussia near the old Teutonic Knights castle at Marienburg.

They were billeted in a farm workers bothy and worked on a German farm. Getting out of the Bothy wasn't that difficult and they did it many times, but without an escape committee they had no access to the necessary paperwork and other resources needed to escape across Germany. He spent three years at the farm and was then sent to Stalag XXB, before ending up in a sugar factory. As the Russian's advanced they were evacuated with the civilians and nearly got killed by allied ground attack aircraft. Eventually they were liberated by the advancing American units, and sent back to Hull.

A short, but interesting read that inspired me to finish another short paint job. This time a couple of German 105mm howitzers for my early war German FoW army.


Monday 16 February 2015


Be warned, Sam Mustafa's new Napoleonic game 'Blucher' is very good and difficult to resist.

I was itching to get 'Blucher' on the tabletop once the package arrived in the post. The rule book is beautifully produced and seems very robust with the all important quality stiching. There is very little gratuitous eye candy, the graphics are there to explain the mechanisms. There are helpful summaries and examples of play in every section. The Hundred Days cards, an optional extra, are also very nice.

As recommended, I played the first game with cards rather than miniatures. Nine units a side, with the British defending the classic ridge and the French attacking. You start with the cards face down.

There is scope for strategic movement, called reserve moves, but otherwise you activate Corps, individual units or finally the CinC activation. Each activation costs Momentum Dice which unusually are rolled by your opponent and kept secret from you until they run out. The incentive is to do the essentials first.

Movement is by base widths, so the rules will work with any consistent basing, and are reduced to two speeds simple and difficult. A simple move is a pivot and then straight ahead, reminded me a bit of Spearhead. Difficult can be due to terrain or a pivot at the end of a move. The size of the cards and the engagement restrictions make it difficult to do any fancy manoeuvring when close to the enemy.

Fire and combat phases use a simple mechanism. It depends on the strength of the unit and a few bonuses and special rules. This is very much a game of attrition and reserves are important. Here you can see the French advancing and first cavalry clash on the British right. I used casualty markers rather than mark the cards.

Units retreat a couple of base widths if they lose a combat, but can come back if you want. You don't get long melees over several turns.

Anyway, the French pinned the British right with skirmishing and put their main effort on the left. The game ended with the French making a breakthrough.

There are most of the army lists you will need in the book, together with a campaign system and advanced rules. There are also some useful additional resources on the web site, including blank cards.

It's important to emphasise that this is a grand tactical level game. Small unit tactics are abstracted out. So it's not a replacement for say Black Powder. This is a big battle set of rules. Each card or base of miniatures represents 4 to 6 battalions or 2 to 4 batteries.

My initial reaction is very favourable. I play a lot of different games, so I favour simple mechanisms that allow you to focus on the game rather than the fine points of the rules. I anticipate dusting down my 15mm armies that haven't seen much action since I regularly played Principles of War.



Thursday 12 February 2015

Sheriffmuir 1715

This year is the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715. To coincide with the anniversary Stuart Reid has published a military history of the Jacobite rising that effectively ended with this battle.

It's not a glorious story, more a grand muddle. The rising was poorly organised and coordinated without the necessary troops and equipment from France. In fact without even King James to lead it. He turned up with only two men after the battle.

Reid also documents the simultanous English uprising, with Scottish support, that ended in the Battle of Preston. This was an even more chaotic affair.

This is a proper military history with a detailed discussion of the troops on both sides. Hard evidence is limited, but he has pieced together what is known about each regiment that fought in the campaign. The loyalists were a mix of regular and militia troops, while the Jacobites had lowland troops and highlanders. The battle included a good example of the feared highland charge.

This is a good book for wargamers with most of what you need to game the campaign. I am pulling together a smallish skirmish force in 28mm for either side using the Donnybrook rules. Figures so far come from Reiver Castings, League of Augsburg and Front Rank.

On a side note. Today’s Scotsman newspaper carries a story that the world’s biggest ever auction of artifacts relating to the Jacobite rebellions is to be staged in Scotland this year to mark the anniversary of the 1715 uprising. Several hundred rarely seen items, many of which have direct links with Bonnie Prince Charlie, will be going under the hammer at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh.

Sunday 1 February 2015

Vapartnak - York Wargames Show

I made the long trip to York today for the first big wargames show of the year. And it was well worth the effort.

The show is held at the York racecourse - indoors of course in the main stand. Sounds a strange venue, but it works well with stands on four levels. I am old enough to remember when the show was held in a medieval hall in the town centre, my head bumping off the beams! The only downside of the new venue is parking in muddy fields, bring your wellies!

Most of the usual traders were there and a few I hadn't seen before. A few figure manufacturers were missing that I could have done with, but I picked up a few packs to pad out my projects for the year. Then spray paints, including the elusive Testors varnish, and some rather nice casualty markers for Hail Caesar and Bolt Action.

The standard of display game was very high indeed, definitely the high point. Here are a few that caught my eye.

Pick of the bunch was this John Paul Jones raid on Leith (the port for Edinburgh). Apparently this was planned, but called off due to the weather. Had he arrived the locals would probably have greeted him with 'you'll have had your tea then'!

Then this assault across the Suez Canal in WW1


This participation game based on the 3rd Aghan War, captured the terrain well.

Zulu! Rorkes Drift in 28mm.

Zombies. Not my thing but it looked good.


And finally, this very good Age of Arthur game.