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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 25 April 2015

Salute 2015

The alarm going off at 4:30am on a Saturday morning in April, can only mean one thing, the UK's biggest war game show - Salute.

After car, plane and train from Glasgow my first experience of Salute is the queue. And this is for pre-paid tickets!

In fairness, it took about 25 minutes to get us all in. Not bad given the numbers.

As I was flying back, it was more looking than buying. Also my afternoon was spent at Craven Cottage and it's a bit tricky lugging lots of wargame scenery into a football ground!

The strength of Salute is the trade presence. Just about everyone is there, including firms you just don't see on the show circuit. An impressive array of fantasy figures demonstrates more imagination than I would have thought possible. While MDF buildings are still popular, there was a continuous queue at the 4Ground stall, there wasn't the pervasive smell I noticed last year.

As for games, well there were a lot. Here's a few that caught my eye, or my iPad.

South American Wars of Liberation in 20mm using plastics.
The Lardies showing off their modern adaptation of Chain of Command
Steampunk pirates, I think.
Mightily impressive moderns.
WW1 Middle East
One of my purchases was the new Pike and Shotte supplement for the Thirty Years War, being used here.
Lots of Saga of course on their nice display boards
ACW using Longstreet.

Mega Waterloo

Very nice Japanese village from terrain company Oshiro

Drop zone Commander I think. Not my thing, but credit for the effort.
Fraustadt 1708, Great Northern War.

Shooting down a pretty big Zeppelin

I'm not into Sci Fi, but you have got to be impressed with this.
This is what a good 28mm WW2 table should look like. Plenty of cover.
I've forgotten which town this is, but looks good.
There were a number of games utilising snow this year.
Fine display from the Continental Wars Society.

Two photies of The Fort, based on Bernard Cornwell's book. Probably the most impressive game of the show.

And finally, the theme for this year's show - Agincourt.
























Friday 10 April 2015

West Highland Castles

A short break after Easter with my partner was an opportunity to revisit parts of the West Highlands that I haven't been to for some years. Naturally this included a few castles en route.

Castles in the West Highlands are generally not large because they lacked a substantial mainland economic base. They were usually on the coast because you got around by galley, or Birlinn. The waterways around the islands were the equivalent of our trunk roads and provided a useful source of revenue in the form of 'tolls'. Mind you the Islesmen had a few more persausive tax raising mechanisms than the modern day tax authorities!

While the remains of Ardtornish castle are not the best preserved, its position is possibly my favourite place in Scotland. Situated on the Morvern coast, a pleasant walk from Lochaline, it dominates the Sound of Mull. No doubt this was a strong factor in the Lord of Isles deciding to build here and it became a principal seat of Clan Donald in the 14th and 15th centuries.

And on cue, along came a modern day galley in the form of the islands ferry.

Nearby is the rebuilt 12th century Kinlochaline Castle at the head of Loch Aline. The castle was burned in 1644 by Alasdair MacColla during the civil wars.

Next, the more recognisable sight of Castle Stalker in Appin, one of Scotland's picture postcard castles. The Stewarts built the castle in its present form around the 1440s. However, they lost it in a drunken bet around 1620 to Clan Campbell. It changed hands a few times between these clans after that, including one significant battle on the coast nearby. Finally abandoned and then restored to its present fine state. It featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail for those who have never been, but think it looks familiar!

Bit out of the way this one, but worth a look is Barcaldine Castle, further down the Appin Coast. Built between 1601 and 1609 by another Campbell, it's now a luxury B&B.

And finally, the magnificent Dunstaffnage Castle near Oban. Built by the MacDougall lords of Lorn in the 13th century, but like much else in this area taken over by the Campbell's.


A good trip aided by excellent weather!


Wednesday 8 April 2015

Ottomans v Russians using Blucher

My exploration of Blucher continues with, unsurprisingly, my first Balkan battle. Ottomans against Russians.

All my 15mm Napoleonic armies are based for Principles of War and that poses few problems for my sabot bases. However, irregular troops in PoW are based on a 90mm frontage, so out came the saw to hack through enough MDF to rustle up a 200 point army.

I organised them into four 'corps', two infantry and a left and right wing cavalry corps. The cavalry held up the Russians but struggled to beat either their cavalry corps or the right wing infantry. However, Ottoman infantry more than held their own and sent the Russians packing. You need some cover for the provincial infantry, but the Janissaries, skirmish plus shock trait makes them quite effective when used properly.

A few photies.

At the club on Sunday I also got a chance to use my British, in a 250 point bash againt the French. I think 250 points is about right for a 6 x 4 table, it gives a bit of room for manoeuvre rather than lines of cards with a 300 point game. The British are quite small corps anyway, although of high quality. The Wellington option is expensive, but it's very useful to be able to see your MO dice.


Monday 6 April 2015


I have just finished reading Simon Winder's entertaining personal history of Habsburg Europe, Danubia.

This is more about the Habsburg lands rather than the Habsburg's themselves, although they make up an important part of the story. It's a sort of mix between a narrative history and a travelogue. He takes the reader chronilogically from their medieval base up to the dissolution of the empire in 1918. But he does so illustrating the history with descriptions of the towns and cities he has visited. It's entertaining because there are eccentric characters and interesting stories.

It's also a tragic story. Obviously for the last Habsburg's, but more so for the populations who have been displaced, many times. This is reflected in the different names of the towns in the region as the state boundaries were moved around with associated ethnic cleansing.

By no means a conventional history, or a military history. However, a more than useful insight into the Habsburg's who played an important role in the Balkans for more than four centuries.

Friday 3 April 2015

More testing of Blucher

Got my new bases for Blucher on the Wargames table at last. 1809 Austrian against French. Austrian's won, which makes a change. I am convinced that most Napoleonic rules have a built in bias in favour of the French!

I used the download from Sam's site for the Austrian cards, but in future I think I will just use the roster sheets. Easier to refer to once the figures are on the table.

Here a few photies.