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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
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Tuesday 9 June 2015


My latest reading has been 1864, which I bought before the I knew the TV series was to be shown on UK television.

The book is much more of a narrative history of the war than the TV series. Understandably for a wider audience, the TV version puts much greater emphasis on the human interest stories, and has a modern day look back that frankly didn't add much to the story. Despite that, I thought the battle scenes were very well done and was up to the standards of Nordic drama we are getting used to.

The story of the War of 1864 is pretty extraordinary. To the modern reader the idea that Denmark would provoke a war against the might of Prussia and Austria, seems absurd. Of course it was a tragic miscalculation, but not quite as absurd as it looks today.

Denmark had sort of triumphed in The First Schleswig War between 1848 and 1852. However, the problem of largely German duchies, particularly Holstein, being part of Denmark was not resolved. The Danes had done little to modernise their army after the war and this time they had little international support. The woeful Danish political leadership provoked the war by integrating the Duchy of Schleswig into the Danish kingdom in violation of the 1851 Treaty. Bismarck couldn't believe his luck and mobilised the more modern German and Austrian forces.

The book and TVs series cover the evacuation of the outflanked Southern defence line at the Dannevirke and the fatal defence of the inadequate position at Dybbol. Prussian artillery heavily outnumbered the Danish artillery and Denmark was forced to sue for peace. As a result of the peace settlement, the land area of the Danish monarchy decreased by 40% and the total population reduced from 2.6 million to 1.6 million.

I probably enjoyed the book more than the TV series, although both were very good.

The British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston said: "Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business—the Prince Consort, who is dead—a German professor, who has gone mad—and I, who have forgotten all about it". Well, we all understand it a lot better now!



Sunday 7 June 2015

Bloody Big Battles

I played my first game with Chris Pringle's newish rule set for 19C warfare, Bloody Big Battles, yesterday.

Chris's rules are always worth a look, going back to Warring Empires, the mechanisms of which were expanded into Principles of War, which I used to play a lot of.

The title is apt because this is firmly aimed at the big battles. A unit is a brigade or division of 3 or 4 bases, which means you can play the biggest battles of the period on a normal tabletop. A day is typically three turns, although that can include four rounds of firing but only one, albeit generous, movement per side. It means you need to think out your plan carefully, particularly as the random element means your troops might not move at all.

Firing is typical of the author's previous rules with factors and a table for outcomes. Similarly for assaults. They are pretty straightforward, with no need for micro managing units at this scale. A game is easily playable in an evening.

There are scenarios in the main rule book for the Franco-Prussian War and there is a separate booklet of scenarios for other 19C campaigns. These are well set out and means you can quickly get units onto the table.

Chris did send me a draft of a Balkan War scenario. Sadly, some building work in the house means my table is currently occupied, so I could only try them out on a reduced size game. It was Bulgarian v Turk with a couple of Corps on the Turkish side, defending against a four division Bulgarian army. My 15mm Balkan War armies are based for Spearhead and that works fine for these rules.

This is move one, which didn't go quite as the Bulgars planned. Their game plan was to pin the Turks in the fortifications and go for the high ground. However, most divisions moved slower than planned.

Move two went well on the right, with a Bulgarian division pushing the Turks off the hill, but slower in the centre, with the supporting division stopping.

The final move of the first day saw the Bulgars capture the hill in the centre as well. Although at some cost.

The rules then cover night actions, which in the main are an opportunity to regroup. In this case the Turks would have called it a day, or rather night, and pulled back.

I enjoyed these rules and will certainly play more of them. I'll still use Black Powder for the tactical games, but these do exactly what it says on the tin.