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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

Friday 1 January 2016

Looking forward (and back) in 2016

Happy New Year! The New Year is a time to look back, and more importantly, to look forward.

My blogging slipped a bit last year, but I still managed a post per week on average. Looking back on some of the rule sets I tested, not all have met the test of time, despite my original enthusiasm. However, I did complete my new projects for the year, covering Sheriffmuir 1715 and the Second Serbian uprising 1815.

I have also just completed the first stage of the rebuilding of the Balkan Military History website. After 18 years it needed a clear out and a new platform. It has a new home at www.balkanhistory.org and the old site will be an archive while I slowly work through the massive amount of content accumulated over the years. The new platform is much easier to update, so expect more news updates than the old monthly cycle.

My projects for this year are in the main some filling in. Expanding my Game of Thrones armies for Lion Rampant or Saga, in anticipation of the new TV series in April. More Bolt Action troops for Yugoslavia and some WW2 15mm fillers. The big job is French Allies in 28mm for the Peninsular War – Poles, Italians and Wild Geese. 

As usual I will take a look at centenaries for project inspiration. This year’s Balkan centenaries are interesting, but fortunately I have most of the armies already.

The last British troops evacuated Gallipoli on 9 January 1916. After the Brusilov offensive in June, Romania declared war against the Central Powers. Not a great success this one and I don’t know any figure manufacturer who does WW1 Romanians, so that may deter me. 

Mainstream WW1 interest will no doubt focus on the Somme (July) and Verdun (Feb) centenaries. It is also the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. Pancho Villa v Pershing could provide some interesting skirmish games. On a skirmish note, the Easter Rising could provide a challenge for the model-building specialists and I expect to see the Dublin Post Office on the show circuit this year.

Nothing much happened in 1816 as the world recovered from the Napoleonic Wars - although the Bombardment of Algiers, marked the beginning of the end for the Barbary pirates.

1716 brings a special Balkan centenary, with the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Petrovaradin on 5 August. I have done Prince Eugene’s famous victory on the Danube before and this will be an opportunity to dust down the armies and the fortress I built.

On 10 January 1616, Sir Thomas Roe presented credentials to the Mughal Emperor Jahangir - opening the door to the British presence in India. I feel an opportunity to dust down my Mughal armies here. 1616 was also when Cardinal Richelieu was appointed, turning France into a centralised state – although for wargamers an excuse for some Three Musketeer games!

The Ottomans and Persians were still at war in 1616 and there was a little known victory for the Safavids at Lake Gokce in Armenia. Not even sure of the date, but I have these armies in 28mm. The Uskok War 1615-18 was also continuing between Venice and the Habsburgs. After my summer visit to Senj, I must use this as an excuse to get my Uskoks onto the table.

A century earlier the Ottoman’s did somewhat better. In July 1515, Sultan Selim invaded Mameluk Syria and defeated them at the Battle of Yaunis Khan in October.

Medieval centenaries include the 5 July 1316 Battle of Manolada in the Peloponnese. This was an Angevin win for Louis of Burgundy over Ferdinand and the dreaded Catalan Company. Back in England a century earlier, the First Barons War was being waged. This included the little known French occupation of London and half of England by Louis VIII. King John’s death in November 1216 allowed William Marshall to recover the royal cause on behalf of Prince Henry. Richard Brooks, ‘The Knight Who Saved England’ is a good read on this conflict.

In July 1116, the Doge of Venice defeated Stephen II of Hungary who attempted to relieve Zadar and other towns in Dalmatia - bringing the Adriatic coast of modern Croatia under Venetian control for 700 years. This might inspire me to take a closer look at early Venetian armies.

In 1016 some of my favourite historical characters, the Norman mercenaries in Southern Italy made their appearance. They were hired by Melus of Bari to attack Byzantine-held Southern Italy. The books of John Julius Norwich are just brilliant on this subject.

Going right back into ancient times we have the Battle of Mardia in December 316AD. Constantine I defeated his rival Licinius and Valerius Valens near the town of Harmanli in modern day Bulgaria. 

However, the big anniversary for ancient gamers must be the Battle of Cannae. On August 2 216BC, Hannibal’s 40,000+ Carthaginian army defeats a Roman force of 70,000 led by consuls Paullus and Varro. This was the classic double envelopment, and in my view, the finest victory by the greatest general of all time.

So, plenty to pick from in 2016 centenaries. Not too much painting required for me – although Pancho Villa is very tempting and I have already ordered the Osprey’s!

P.S. On a positive note my football team, Fulham, has a new manager from the Balkans. By some coincidence Slavisa Jokanovic was born in Novi Sad, which is the city next to Petrovaradin. I hope that is a good omen for what's left of the season!

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