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

Saturday 16 April 2016

Salute 2016

That's another Salute come and gone. We will pass quickly over my trip to Brighton the night before for the footie - grim on all counts. I am not a huge fan of Scotrail, but all is almost forgiven after travelling on Southern!

Fortunately, Salute didn't disappoint. The Warlords have cracked the queuing with the scanning and it was straight in. First a trip around the games, and very good they were. Then the traders. With no game at Craven Cottage in the afternoon, I had a couple of hours more than usual to empty my wallet. Flying back was a bit of a limitation, but I did remember to bring a larger cabin bag.

My purchases included the new Black Powder supplement for the ACW and the FoW Pacific war supplement for the Japanese. Other than that it was bits and bobs, the items you don't see often at other shows, particular scenic items. In particular, I had more time to look at the huge array of fantasy figures and pick up some interesting additions for my historical and fantasy armies. The imagination of game designers in coming up with new settings is truly amazing. 

Here are the games that caught my eye.

First off is the Essex Gamers massive Vietnam War game utilising the mega Ron Ringrose collection.

The first game I saw on entering the hall was this Hammers Slammers game. Not my thing but the terrain was good.

Then Iron Cross the new WW2 rules that I recently reviewed. I think the buildings are from 4 Ground.

Very nice Frostgrave setting.

This Mexican Revolution game got me excited as this is the GDWS participation game at Claymore in August. However, this is in 20mm not 28mm, so no figure inspiration.

There were a lot of Martian games this year to go with the Steampunk theme.

Impressive Seven Years War game. Kunersdorf I think, a rare Frederick defeat.

I love these 54mm Napoleonics. If my eyesight deteriorates further I could be heading in this direction!

Impressive big scale age of sail with a well modelled land element.

This really looked like I imagine the Battle of Agincourt, with masses of French queuing up to attack.

They must have used a huge amount of snow flock for this Winter War on ice game

Lovely buildings in this Peninsular War game of the Battle of Adrados - al a Sharpe's Enemy, before you hunt through Chandler!

On the subject of buildings this town scene was very good too.

A fictional Seven Years War battle of Willhelmstadt with lovely scenic boards.

This was the better of the Kings of War games

But this one wins the prize for the busiest table I think I have every seen.

Finally, a shot from a stall selling big scale toy WW2 from a firm called Cobi. These are just brilliant. If it hadn't been for the baggage limitations I would have bought these for summer games in the garden!

Thursday 14 April 2016

Viva Villa!

The Pancho Villa project has got off the starting blocks. Well the first two units painted at least!

The plan is to paint up two armies in 28mm (Villistas and Federales), suitable for Bolt Action. At present that is looking like at least 3 infantry squads, a cavalry squad, artillery and HMGs for each side - although it will probably grow! I'll need a target, so we are going to do this as the GDWS participation game at the Claymore show in August. That should be plenty of time - he says boldly!

After much internet research, I also have a railroad van that, with a bit of conversion, should do as a game objective. Also a model of a Wright biplane - the Villistas converted 75mm shells for rudimentary bombing runs. I suspect we will need some house rules for this one!

Below are the first two units. On the left we have a dismounted squad of Pancho Villa's elite unit (don't wargamers always paint elite units first!), the 'Golden Ones'. They wore a distinctive olive green uniform, so at least they will be easy to spot on the tabletop. On the right we have some Federales, in the later khaki uniform.

These are from the Old Glory range. The sculpts are a bit basic, but there is nothing intricate about these troops. A block paint job, followed by an ink wash, gives a suitably grubby appearance. I also have some slightly larger and chunkier Outpost figures that will need to populate different units.

I'm off to Salute on Saturday, so I am hoping to pick up some more suitable figures for irregular units. Really looking forward to this one. I get a bit more time at the show because Fulham are playing the night before in Brighton. Possibly the furthest away game a Scottish based Fulham could possibly travel. I'm not as confident of a result on Friday as I am on Saturday!

Sunday 10 April 2016

Palmyra and its Empire

Coincidentally, as Palmyra has been in the news following its ‘liberation’, I have been reading Richard Stoneman’s book ‘Palmyra and its Empire’. This is the story of Palmyra and in particular, Zenobia’s revolt against Rome in AD269.

While archaeological evidence on the site goes back to Neolithic times, the city is first documented in the early 200’s BC. It became part of the Roman Empire in the first century AD (although it retained considerable autonomy) and was an important buffer between the Roman’s and successive Persian states.

The city’s wealth came from trade caravans that travelled along along the Silk Road. Trade wealth enabled the construction of huge projects, such as the Great Colonnade, the Temple of Bel, and the distinctive tower tombs. The Palmyrenes were a mix of races with close ties to the nomadic tribes that occupied the area around the city. Unlike the impression one gets from modern pictures, it was probably a good deal more fertile in ancient times. The city’s inhabitants spoke Palmyrene (a dialect of Aramaic) and its culture produced distinctive art and architecture that combined eastern and western traditions.

The book takes us through the history of the city, explaining its strategic position, its structure of governance, religions and the reason for its wealth. It’s more than halfway through the book before we get to Zenobia.

Her husband Odaenathus had defeated the Persians and strengthened the city’s position. On his death Zenobia effectively took the throne and launched successful military campaigns into Roman Arabia and Egypt. The high point was an invasion of Anatolia that reached as far as Ankara.

The Roman’s were otherwise occupied when much of this expansion occurred, but when Emperor Aurelian was able to respond, his legions defeated Zenobia at the Battles of Immae and Emesa in 272AD. Zenobia escaped the subsequent siege, but was captured and ended her days in Italy. 

The following year the city rebelled and massacred the Roman garrison. Aurelian returned and raised the city. It never really recovered, but the ruins remained until Isis captured the area from Syrian government troops and destroyed a number of buildings. A very brave curator Khaled al-Assad saved many antiquities - paying the ultimate price by being beheaded for refusing to give them information.

Palmyran armies consisted of cataphracts, horse archers and foot archers. There is a FoG army list for them in 'Legions Triumphant' and they are also covered in Osprey MAA 243 'Rome's Enemies (5) The Desert Frontier'.

Stoneman’s book was first published 1995. I picked up my copy second-hand quite cheaply and it appears to be still available. Well worth a read to get the history behind the news.

Saturday 2 April 2016

Iron Cross

I was listening to the Meeples and Miniatures interview with Great Escape Games about their new WW2 rules, Iron Cross. Sounded like my sort of fast play game, so I bought a copy.

The big selling point is simple mechanics. Each side gets a command token for each unit in their orbat. After dicing for initiative, the active player activates a unit by using a command token and then move, fire or a combination of both. The non-active player can react (interrupt the activation) by using one of their command tokens and rolling usually 3+ on a D6. If they roll a 6 the initiative shifts to them. Otherwise the active player keeps activating units until they hand over the initiative to the other player. The idea is to try and keep a few command tokens for reactions when needed the most.

Firing requires a base score of 5+ on a D10, with a few modifiers. There are no ranges, the basis being that weapons could reach across the table. There is a plus 1 modifier for close range. It's a bit more complex for armour by cross referencing gun and armour factors, but still straightforward. Each unit has a morale value and when it has exceeded that in hits, it is destroyed. Although you can use company morale checks, at command token cost, to recover morale.

There is no heavy artillery or aircraft, although scenarios can include preliminary bombardment. There are mortars and special rules for some units, but not many. An infantry unit is assumed to have all it needs. There is also no close combat - short range shooting does this.

The production value is high. Almost everything you need, including orbats, is in the 32 page booklet. My only complaint is that it could have done with more orbats. 1944 may be popular, but limits others. Having said that, it wasn't difficult to guess values for early war armies. You can use anything for tokens, but there are some nice ones made for the game by 4 Ground.

My test game involved German infantry, supported by mortars and three tanks, attacking a British held town. The British infantry have two cruisers attached for support as well as a mortar and a 25pdr.

Here is the table with the Germans at their starting point.

The British in the village await the assault.

After the second turn the German armour is in trouble, but the infantry are trying to get around the flanks.

After the third turn, it's all over for the Germans. The British tanks have counterattacked effectively.

It played very well. The mechanics may be simple, but the key to the game is thinking about how to use your command tokens. It needs a well thought out plan and while you can move and fire every unit in a turn, in practice you need to keep command tokens in reserve.  This really is a game were you play the period, not the rules.

You can use any scale of figures. I used 15mm, as my FoW bases work well, the orbats will as well. This is a game I will certainly play again.