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

Sunday 28 February 2016

Fighting in the city

After skirmishing with Frostgrave I have returned to Open Combat, now that the revised rule set has arrived.

The town scene battle mat arrived from Wayland along with some additional terrain pieces to supplement the buildings I covered in a previous blog. Some statues, walls, grave vaults and fountains have all been given the same grey gloomy paint treatment.

So to battle. A valiant band of adventurers led by Prince Valentinian enter the city with the aim of 'liberating' treasure from the graveyard. However, the Orc shaman Carguk and his orcish band decide to intervene.

The orcs are peppered by the two bowmen and the Shaman's fireballs are not doing much damage in reply. So the orcs go on the attack. A full scale melee ensues in the town square and the orcs are routed.

I like these rules, not just because they are straightforward and easily remembered, but it also enables you to pit any daft combination of forces against each other.

Prince Valentinian with three of his band. The bowman getting set up in a good shooting position.

Carguk the Orc shaman and his boys arrive, skulking in the graveyard.

A flanking move by the other half of the orcish band

Open melee in the town square. Carguk gives up on the fireballs and gets stuck in, but to no effect.


Saturday 27 February 2016

Hobby cross overs

Some years ago I used to dabble a bit with model railways. I enjoyed researching and building the layouts, but always ended up selling them when the operating became a bit tedious. None the less, I like to keep an eye on what's going on and that primarily involves an annual pilgrimage to ModelRail Scotland, the biggest show of the year in Scotland, held at the SECC in Glasgow.

Other than admiring the skill and dedication of the modellers, I am always on the lookout for buildings, tools and scenic materials that I can use in my wargames. I walked away yesterday with a few of those.

The stand out layout for me was the Irish model railway society's depiction of Dublin's O'Connell Street in 1949, replete with trams. Any wargame club considering doing the Easter Rising as a display game this year would do well to have a look at this layout. It is amazing, both in scale and detail. God knows how they managed to transport it to Glasgow, but I am glad they did.


Another hobby crossover is the use of wargames figures. This layout depicts a Sealed Knot display alongside the railway. No shortage of castles either.


On the bookstalls, the railways of the First World War feature due to the centenary. I have seen at other shows layouts of bombed rail goods yards and stations during WW2 that make extensive use of Airfix kits.

So, if there is a decent model railway show in your area, I recommend taking a look.


Sunday 21 February 2016

Scottish Battlefields Trust Wargames Day

The Scottish Battlefields Trust held its first wargames day this weekend in Prestonpans.

The venue was the Gothenburg pub in the town. It has a decent size function room that accommodated six games from clubs across Scotland and a small number of traders. The pub has a lot of character with paintings reflecting the military history of the area. It's own micro brewery and good food is an important added extra!

This created a small show of the sort many of us can remember in the past, a very different experience from the big events that dominate the show calendar in Scotland and the rest of the U.K today. Time to chat to the visitors, traders and other gamers in a pleasant setting.

Prestonpans has the added attraction of the 1745 battlefield that the local trust has done a lot to highlight with information boards and a new viewpoint.

The GDWS display game was Flodden 1513. A first outing for Scott's stunning 10mm armies for the battle, mostly Pendraken figures - we used Pike and Shotte rules. And a first outing for our new club banner. The outcome was a reversal of history with the Scots pikes trampling all before them.


The main Scots Division with James IV.

Another Scots Division ready to advance once the artillery has softened up the English position.

The English archers and billmen wait behind the Muddy Moss.

And the other games....

Lion Rampant from SESWC.

Claymore Castings doing the ECW

An earlier Jacobite uprising from League of Augsburg.


Border Reivers by the Falkirk club.

And finally Jacobite skirmish including the re-enactors in full uniform.


A good day was had by all, well worth the journey.


Friday 19 February 2016

Gaming in the Ruined City

I am a sucker for a new set of rules. I bought a copy of Frostgrave at our club's recent open day - I liked the concept of the frozen city and it didn't really require many new figures. A couple of wizards and my large collection of medievals would provide the rest of the Warband.

The rules are, in the main, fairly straightforward. Movement is similar to a lot of role playing games and combat is dice and some modifiers. I am not convinced about D20s though - it provides for a lot of variation. The system gets a bit more bogged down when it comes to the all important wizards and their apprentice. Now you get lots of paper work and many tables to consult. I suspect it's a good thing that the book has a robust hardback binding! I have never been a serious role playing gamer and this is what Frostgrave is really about. I am not a sniffy historical gamer when it comes to fantasy, but when magic becomes the dominant factor, my enthusiasm wanes.

None the less, I like the concept and the arrival of the updated PDF of Open Combat reminded me of how much I liked these rules. The Kickstarter for the printed version and dice is long overdue, but it appears supplies have now arrived from the printers. A city setting would work equally well for Lion Rampant or even SAGA.

So, a rummage through my extensive terrain boxes, finding items I had long forgotten about, resulted in only a few suitable items. An Internet search provide a range of options, but mostly MDF buildings. I realise they are popular, but they just don't do it for me. A western town perhaps, but they don't have the depth of vision for me. They just don't look like real buildings. It has to be resin.

I settled for four buildings from a firm on eBay, 'Tabletopbattle', whose small terrain range has a number of suitable 28mm buildings in resin. I assumed they were one casting, so I was less than pleased when they arrived in several parts. Even less pleased when having washed and filed them, the parts fitted together pretty badly. They needed a lot a green putty before priming.

I wanted dark and gloomy, so I started with a black primer, followed by a heavy dry brush of slate grey. I then sprayed them with the Plastic Soldier 'dirty brown' spray. Then several coats of dry brushing with shades of lighter greys and some highlights of green and brown for mud and vegetation.

I am quite pleased with the finished job, but you can judge for yourself below. I have ordered a town battle mat, but that has also been delayed. Time to paint up some more figures before the first city battle!



Wednesday 17 February 2016

Blitzkrieg Commander

My blog on Warlord's 'Duel in the Sun', reminded me that I haven't dusted down my 10mm Western Desert armies for some while. I usually use Spearhead, but I have played a couple of games of 'Blitzkrieg Commander' in recent years. I had downloaded the very reasonably priced PDF set, but haven't really done much with them.

Blitzkrieg Commander can be played at different figure ratios, but a typical 2000 point army would give you a couple of tank units with infantry and artillery support. I used early war Italian and British battlegroups.

The focus is on the command mechanism, which is similar to Black Powder in that you have to roll below the command value to take an action, which can be movement or shooting. The difference is that you move or shoot once and then roll again at a minus one for eac successful action. You keep taking actions until you fail. At short range there is an initiative phase which allows you to take an action without a command role. It means that if you are lucky, you can take several actions a bound. However, just like Black Powder, you are just as likely to grind to a halt, just when you least want to.

The firing and close assault mechanisms are very straightforward with few modifiers. You very quickly remember these and even the QRF becomes redundant.

It does make for an interesting and entertaining game. A lot more random than Spearhead. There are no movement limitations, a mechanism I never really liked in Spearhead. I understood the reasoning for the rigidity of Spearhead's turn and move, but it never felt right.

On balance, while Blitzkrieg Commander is perhaps too random, the mechanisms provide for an entertaining game where you focus on the tactics, not the rules. The book includes all the army lists you are likely to need, another big plus. I suspect this will become my default set for 10mm tank battles.


Saturday 13 February 2016

Agents of Empire

There has been a dearth of book reviews from me recently, largely because I have been working my way through Noel Malcolm’s latest work, ‘Agents of Empire’. Malcolm also wrote short histories of Bosnia and Kosovo, although the latter is controversial in pro-Serbian quarters.

This is a big book in every sense of the word. It covers mostly the Adriatic during the second half of the sixteenth century, although the actors play important roles in the wider Christian and Ottoman worlds of the period. Instead of a straightforward narrative, the author tells the story of two Venetian-Albanian families, the Brunis and the Brutis, who held such diverse roles as an archbishop, galley captain, advisor to the Voivod of Moldavia and a dragoman in Istanbul. They were often the go-betweens for the empires as traders, slavers, diplomats and spies. This gives a complex, yet fascinating insight into the period and the Balkans in particular.

The research has to have been monumental, drawing on archives from across the region in at least ten languages. Yet despite the detail and the length, it is still a very readable book. The author’s stint as a journalist shows through.

The big events of the period, such as the Battle of Lepanto and The Long War between the Habsburgs and Ottomans, are not ignored. Not least because the families played important roles. However, my own favourite were the chapters on Moldavia, the shifting power struggles and impact of raiding in this borderland. Tartars and Cossacks as well as the Polish and Ottoman states.

This book will take over your reading life for a period, but it’s worth the investment.

Sunday 7 February 2016

Duel in the Sun

Duel in the Sun is the latest supplement for Warlord's popular WW1 platoon level game, Bolt Action. It covers the war in the Meditereanean from the Italian invasion of Greece to the allied assault on Italy.


The main section of the book covers the Western Desert campaign, one of my favourites, but not in 28mm. For me the desert war is about tanks, and they are best gamed in smaller scales - 1/200 being my personal preference. I bought this supplement primarily for the Greek campaigns, even though the army lists are in other supplements.

There is a decent scenario for the Battle of Tempe Gorge, an Anzac delaying action against the German 12th Army's juggernaut invasion of Greece. Also a scenario for Maleme Airfield on Crete during Operation Marita. There are some new unit descriptors, including the Maori battalion, with special rules as formidable warriors.

I doubt if I will be tempted into the desert in 28mm, although those LRDG vehicles look very nice and raiding warfare is very doable in 28mm. My Vis based Adriatic commando unit should work in Italy and some of the later scenarios look interesting.

As a break from my main Napoleonic project, I have painted a Warlord German 105mm howitzer. I haven't had much luck with the off table artillery in Bolt Action. I am more like to stonk my own troops rather than the enemy. So I decided to bring the big guns into the table.

One assembled this is a nice model, but not for the first time, I find the absence of instructions hugely irritating. The excuse that 'we are only a small firm', simply doesn't wash. If you charge £18 for a modest model like this, the least you can expect is a simple diagram. Pictures of the finished model on the website is of little use when they don't show the internal set up. Warlord really can and should do better than this. Rant over - for now!