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

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Silk Road

My latest fiction read has been Silk Road by Colin Falconer.

The main character is Josseran Sarrazini, a French knight serving with Templars in Acre in 1260. The Mongols have arrived in the Middle East and our hero is sent on a diplomatic mission with a priest tasked with bringing Christianity to the Mongol Empire.

The local commander sends them on to the Mongol court and the story chronicles their journey along the Silk Road. This is the period when the empire was breaking up and they are captured and end up in the Chinese court of Kublai Khan. The love interest is an unlikely relationship with the daughter of a Mongol leader.

In many ways it is more a 13th Century travelogue, with vivid descriptions of the journey, places and the different peoples.

It felt like a long read, but not always easy to tell on the Kindle. The story drags a bit in places, but has plenty of well researched detail and multiple sub-plots to keep the reader engaged.

Sunday 17 May 2015

L’Art De La Guerre

I played my first game of the Ancient and Medieval wargaming rules L’Art De La Guerre at the club today. My ‘tutorial’ game was Ottoman Empire v Hungarian, using 15mm figures.

For those not familiar with these rules they are unit based, with a unit consisting of one FoG/DBM size element, with one or more behind for some infantry units. Armies are split into three commands. There are all the usual troop types and each has a protection and cohesion factor as well as basic combat/shooting factors.

Units are activated by each command using a single dice with a bonus for better quality commanders. The result is halved and that’s the number of units or group of units you can move or attempt to rally. Movement is measured by front edge to front edge and uses base widths with deductions for turns etc.

It’s an IGYG system although both sides can shoot in that phase. Combat resolution is by a single D6 and modifiers with both players rolling a dice. The outcome is a loss of cohesion points, usually one, but big defeats can mean more.

The standard game is 200pts and that size of game is played on a 4’ x 3’ table. Each command will have around 6 units, so it doesn’t need lots of figures. It also means a game can be played in a couple of hours. That is a real strength as it makes for a good evening game. It also points to its strength as an introduction game - quick and relatively few figures for a full battle game.

The rule book is not cheap (£27), but it includes full army lists, so there are no additional costs that you get with FoG and others. A nice laminated QRF comes with the rules.

The game plays a bit like DBM, which I wasn’t a great fan of, but this is better. I can’t see me playing it a lot, but equally it wont gather too much dust. I’ll try 28mm figures next over the summer.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Carronade 2015

Another very good show from the Falkirk club on Saturday. The school is a good, spacious venue, with reasonably priced catering and car parking.

Running a display game with a regular stream of engaging visitors meant I didn't get to spend much time looking around and spent even less. At least my lead pile isn't too much bigger. None the less there was a good turnout of traders and I hope they did well. It seemed busy at least.

GDWS had two display games. Iain and I did a Spanish Civil War game, 'There's a Valley in Spain called Jarama' using Bolt Action in 28mm. The figures are mostly Empress and the much admired village buildings are from the Grand Manner range. The Nationalists broke into the village by packing up time, so it wasn't quite 'No Pasaran' this time.


The other GDWS display game was a Dystopian Wars game, Assault on Gibraltar.

And here are a few more games that caught my eye.

Starting with Alexander on the Hydaspes. Yes, that is a sand table, with a bit of flock.

Medieval with actual toy soldiers.

Far East Bolt Action game. I'm not a big fan of MDF buildings, although it does work here in wooden Far East buildings, particularly with the chads added to the roofs.

Waterloo of course.
The Durham boys with their 54mm Napoleonics, always worth a look.
Wars of the Roses. 1st Battle of St Albans
Glasgow Phoenix medievals using Lion Rampant rules on one of the new Cigar Box mats
Very nice terrain for this Sudan game
Wings of War - WW2 this time.
Vietnam in 28mm. Seen this before but I love the Phantom.



Friday 1 May 2015

The Coming War - Sino-Japanese conflict in the East China Sea

My latest reading is a bit off the beaten track for me. ‘The Coming War’ by Todd Crowell postulates a war between Japan and China in the near future. You might think this is a bit far fetched – until you read this book.

Putting to one side the long history of conflict between the two states, there are a number of possible causes. In the main they revolve around disputed island chains.

The Senaku islands are 100 miles from the nearest occupied Japanese island in the East China Sea. Formally annexed by Japan in 1895 they are actually closer to China and may have significant gas and oil deposits. They used to be occupied by a fish processing plant. However, the Chinese claim they were Chinese and only occupied as a result of Japan’s aggressive wars and therefore should have been returned after WW2.

Japan has been building up its defences in the area, including new radar complexes and moving troops from the northern islands, where they watched the Russians, to the Southern islands. Anti-ship missiles, aircraft and ships have also been deployed. Japan’s Western Infantry regiment has been retrained in amphibious operations.

The Chinese have also been building up their armed forces in the area and are believed to have war plans for a short sharp war in the East China Sea. Incursions into what Japan would claim as its airspace have become more common. Chinese naval flotillas pass through nearby channels.

Chinese political rhetoric plays to the sense of grievance over Japanese actions in the 20th Century and right wing governments in Japan are far more militaristic than any seen since WW2. Anti-Japan protests are not uncommon in China.

The author describes the forces available to both sides and describes possible scenarios. Obviously, China heavily outguns the Japanese defence forces, but not as significantly as you might imagine. And then there is the stance that Japan’s treaty ally the USA might take if these actions develop into a shooting war.

The best prospects for defusing the tension appear to rest with an endangered species of bird, the short-tailed albatross. The suggestion is that Senkaku is turned into a neutral nature reserve - an elegant solution that might work, if there is the political will to find a peaceful settlement. However, that is by no means clear.

There are plenty of ‘what ifs’ for the modern wargamer to try out including air, naval and amphibious operations.