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 29 October 2016

The Madagascar Plan

My latest fiction reading has been The Madagascar Plan by Guy Saville. His first book in the series Africa Reich, was the very first book I read on Kindle and very good it was.

The setting is an alternative history of WW2. The British army is trapped and destroyed at Dunkirk and so Britain sues for peace, leaving the Germans to dominate mainland Europe. They also take over European colonies in Africa and exploit them economically. However, the British colonies are still there as well as resistance forces.

This book takes the story to 1953. It has the same core characters in Burton and Hochburg, the senior Nazi official in Africa. Burton ends up in Madagascar looking for his Jewish lover, who has been sent there by her British secret service husband when he discovers the affair. The Nazis have deported most European Jews there.

There actually was such a plan, devised by Eichmann in 1938 and revised in 1940 after the fall of France made the colony available for this purpose. However, the plan leaked out and was dropped in favour of what became the 'final solution'.

I won't spoil the story, but this volume is a little less frenetic than the first, building more of the context around the action. It is well written and a great read. Alternative history at its best - fiction, but with a credible historical basis. The author is working on the final book in the trilogy, so I will look forward to that.

I mused after reading the first volume on the wargame possibilities. This time I gave it a go, based on the conflict between British and German armoured battlegroups on the Rhodesian border. Centurions for the British and Tigers for the Germans. I used Cold War Commander rules, but you could just as easily use WW2 rules. The figures are 1/200th or 10mm.

The British moved quickly to capture the village, but came under fire from Tigers on the hill. British artillery was effective in destroying the German infantry and the game resulted in a stalemate. The next book in the series will include an open war, with the American's joining in. So that should give an opportunity to try this again.

On the subject of micro-armour, I have been painting some reinforcements for my modern Turkish army in 1/300th. These are painted to represent the Turkish ACV 15 armoured infantry fighting vehicles - recently seen on our news screens, deployed in Syria. They are a licensed version of the US AICV. The models are the nearest I could find - the Dutch YPR-765 from H&R.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

That pile of lead

My painting has fallen behind of late. All of the usual excuses, but also I do better when I have a target like a show. My next big project is going to be 1848 Hungarian revolution, but the new figures are coming out slowly and I need something to get me back into the groove. 

So, I turned to the that huge box that every wargamer has. You know the one. Full of those half projects you never started, or finished. The odd figure you picked up at a show, thinking, 'that will come in useful', but it never does!

The first figures from this particular project have come off the painting baton. 

First up, some figures for my Game of Thrones project. A couple of Perry's late medieval's as standard bearers for historical units that can be used in a GoT setting. Plus this year's Salute give away.

On the subject of Salute giveaways. My Dragon Rampant goblins lacked a commander. Low and behold the box surrendered a goblin king figure. Just the job!

And finally, while I have only dabbled with Frostgrave, the figures are really nice. I can use this wizard and apprentice for Open Combat.

Now, what else is in the box, or in my case, many boxes!

Monday 17 October 2016

The Norman Campaigns in the Balkans 1081-1108

Self evidently a book with the title ‘The Norman Campaigns in the Balkans 1081-1108’ is going to be on my must read list. The story of the Normans in Italy, as brilliantly told by John Julius Norwich, inspired my interest in the Normans much more than the Norman conquest. A Sicilian-Norman army served me well for many years on the wargames table.

It is one of history’s great stories. How a handful of Norman knights made their way from mercenaries to rule impressive and multicultural kingdoms.

Norwich covers the Norman conquest of Italy and Sicily, but says little about Robert Guiscard’s invasion of the Byzantine Empire in the Balkans. Georgios Theotokis in this new study (in affordable paperback) covers similar ground in his description of the events in Italy. He describes the Norman and Byzantine institutions and their respective armies. He also covers a neglected subject, the navies of both sides.

The invasion of the Balkans is covered in just two chapters, less than a quarter of the book. In fairness, he covers all the primary sources and therefore there probably isn’t much else to say. None the less, the title is a bit misleading.

The most famous battle is Dyrrhachium 1081, which GDWS did as a display game at the Glasgow Wappinshaw show in 2005. Not forgetting the role played by Guiscard’s wife Sichelgaita in rallying the Normans.

This is a solid academic study, although far removed from Norwich’s glorious narrative that reads more like a work of historical fiction. If you have read nothing about this period, I would read this book first and then move on to the story telling master that is John Julius Norwich.

Saturday 15 October 2016

IPMS Glasgow Modelfest

I didn't have enough time today to get up to Forfar for Skelp, so I went to the Glasgow Modelfest IPMS show at Bellahouston. Some very fine modelling on display and picked up some paints and other bits and bobs. 

Here is a selection of the models that caught my eye.

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Sharp Practice 2 - India

My latest Sharp Practice game takes us back to the 18th Century, with the British in India fighting the Mughals around the time of Plassey in 1757. Another opportunity to use my new Deep Cut desert terrain mousepad mat.

These are the army lists, 52 points a side.

The Mughals are grouped around the village with infantry in the centre and cavalry on the flanks. 'Clive' positions his best regulars on the left with his sepoys on the right.

Three units of Mughal horse storm across the table and hit the British regulars on the left flank.  However, the sturdy redcoats held firm and repulsed the charge. I found a rule I had missed in the last game that says cavalry have to rally off shock after falling back, before advancing again. This makes cavalry a bit weaker, other than in the first charge. There are lots of rules like this dotted around the book. I feel the need for a process chart coming on.

The sepoys were not so sturdy. Swept away in the first charge.

The centre exchanged fire at range to limited effect, before the left wing Mughal cavalry swung around to seriously weaken the British centre.

The game petered out after that largely because of officer wounds. Another rule I didn't play properly last time. It can very quickly reduce the initiative level of officers, making it difficult to do anything. Of course the alternative is to keep officers out of the way!

Overall, another interesting game. In comparison to 'The Men Who Would Be Kings' rules, it is a lot slower and the SP2 has quite a bit of detail that you forget when not playing regularly.