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 21 May 2016

Sharp Practice 2

My first purchase at Carronade was Sharp Practice 2 and today was the first opportunity to give it a go. I played the first edition, but wasn't entirely happy with it. In particular, I found it a little too random, with units hanging around for several turns without moving.

The new edition is without doubt an improvement. The use of command cards in addition to the leader cards balances out the random element and means you can at least move key units when the Tiffin card ends a turn. 

Each force is made up of a number of 8 figure groups for regulars and 6 figure groups for skirmishers. You start with a deployment move and then each leader can make one or more group activations, depending on their status. An activation allows two activities i.e. Move and shoot or shoot and reload. Movement distance is by dice, which I find a bit too random, but it's OK. 

The combat mechanisms are very straightforward and groups lose figures for kills and shock points. As units accumulate shock points they find it more difficult to move and firing becomes less effective. Not dissimilar to Bolt Action. 

Each force starts with a morale value and loses points for each incident e.g a group withdraws or breaks or a leader is wounded or killed. When you get down to zero the game is over.

The rule book is well laid out with some nice eye candy, without going OTT. You can purchase the cards separately or use chits in Bolt Action style. There is no QRF in the book, so I hope that is coming as a download.

The thing I most like about the new version is that it is no longer limited to the Napoleonics wars. It covers the whole black powder period 1700 to 1865. My trial game pushed that boundary a bit, using my Russo-Turkish War figures. It's 1877, but there are rules for breach loading rifles. I didn't use artillery and it looks like a house rule may be needed for the Krupp guns.

Here is the set up after deployment. There were 4 groups of foot and one of cavalry with three leaders per side. 

The Turks boldly advanced and shot up the Bulgarian group. Then, because three command cards were drawn in a row, the last active unit rolls for a random event. It this case a group of Turks decided their volley was so good they would charge in. They pushed the Bulgars off the hill but then got counter attacked and scattered by the Cossacks.

At this stage the cat intervened in his UN peacekeeping role! This was also the first outing for my new Deep Cut battle mat, which clearly met with his approval.

After the fisticuffs, the Russians got the better of the firefight until the Turkish morale collapsed.

Really good set of rules with lots of additional features like characters that I haven't used yet. They certainly live up to the positive reviews.

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Venice - City of Fortune

Anyone who has visited Venice, with its fine buildings and waterways, probably thinks of the Renaissance. While Venice was of course a power during that period, its naval empire was won and lost in the medieval period.

It is those first five hundred years that are narrated in Roger Crowley’s book ‘City of Fortune: How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire’. From the founding of the city in the lagoon around 1000, to 1500, by which time the Ottoman conquest had clipped Venice’s power, and the discovery by the Portuguese of an alternative route for the spice trade, damaged its commercial success.

My interest in Venice was sparked not only by a couple of visits to the city, but by the role it played in the history of the Balkans. In many cities and towns along the coast of the Balkan peninsular, you can see the typical Italian architecture and the lion of St Mark engraved into the walls and fortresses.

I have John Julius Norwich’s classic two-volume history, which is very readable. Crowley writes in a similar style, covering the Venetian focus on commerce and the steps they took to protect their trade routes.

Their role in the diversion of the 1204 crusade to Constantinople is well covered, but I was less aware of the siege that nearly finished the city in 1379/80, when the Genoese and their Paduan allies nearly captured Venice. The city recovered and it was only the Ottoman conquest that snuffed out their naval bases.

So, if you want a readable, single volume, narrative history of Venice in the medieval period – this is the book for you.

Saturday 14 May 2016

Mexican Revolution - support weapons

Back to some painting this week and the Mexican Revolution project.

First up, some machine guns for the Federales. Machine guns played an important part in the revolution. The Federales and later Constitutionalist forces made great use of them in their defensive battles. These were mostly medium machine guns as light machine guns were rare. The main types were French Hotchkiss M1896 and Colt 'potato-digger' M1895 weapons. The models below come from the Old Glory range.

The Villistas were stronger in artillery, even though they obtained most of them by capturing government weapons. The French manufactured 75mm gun was the most common as well as a number of smaller mountain and 37mm guns. The model below comes from the Outpost range.

Cavalry next.

Saturday 7 May 2016

Carronade 2016

Today was another excellent Carronade show put on by the Falkirk Wargames Club at a very good venue, Graeme High School in Falkirk.

There was good support from the trade with a wide range of Scottish and UK suppliers. I understand footfall was up on last year, so I hope they did well. I certainly picked up a few bits and pieces including the new Sharpe Practice 2 rules. The presence of Last Valley always means some additions to the scenery vaults.

Running a display game means you don't get as much time to look at the other games as I would like, but there were some very good ones this year.

GDWS did Salonika 1916 - Out of the Birdcage. This covered a typical engagement of the allied 1916 offensive designed to force the Germans to switch troops from Verdun. In the end it was successful in achieving that objective. The game used 28mm figures and Bolt Action rules. The array of different units on either side caused some bemused looks from the audience. Only in Greece would you get British, Russian, Greek and Italian troops, fighting Austrian, German and Bulgarian units. The Entente powers won the day capturing the objective - a ruined Greek temple on a hill in the centre of the table. The redoubtable Highlanders fought off all comers.

Here are few other games that I liked.

I like obscure games and Brazilians in WW2 qualifies!

The Durham club like their 54mm figures, this time ancients. Real big boys toys!

This was a colourful rendition of the Battle of Assaye, Wellington in India.

Bolt Action isn't losing any popularity with at least three games. This one presented by the Dunfermline club.

Kirriemuir did a big game of Gaugamela.

The Battle of Towton in the Wars of the Roses

Strong visual depiction of DDay by Glasgow Warthogs

I'm not a big fan of naval games but this pre-dreadnought game was very good. I think the models come from the Old Glory range.

Snow has been a popular theme in show games I have liked this year. This is the retreat from Moscow.

Ian and the Claymore castings team did a very fine ECW game.

I have no idea what this is from the painting competition. But it certainly catches the eye.

And some more conventional offers from the painting competition.

You don't see a lot of Spearhead played these days. Kharkov I think.

Good show and thanks to Falkirk for organising it. And thanks to the catering staff - the white chocolate millionaire shortbread was amazing!