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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

Wednesday 30 November 2016

The Flame Bearer

A new Bernard Cornwell book is always a must read, and The Flame Bearer, the latest in the Last Kingdom series is no exception.

Our 'hero' Uhtred is now based in Northumbria, where his son-in-law Sigtryggyr rules. Northumbria is under pressure from the Saxon kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia, who aim to create England, and the Scots from the North.

Uhtred is besieging his family home of Bebbanburg, held by his cousin. He has to abandon the siege to support Sigtryggyr and successfully foils an attempt by a Wessex nobleman to break the truce. This buys a year or two for Northumbria, but more importantly, time for Uhtred to capture Bebbanburg.

Being Cornwell, this is no simple siege. We have the Scots, Norse raiders, a mad Bishop and the West Saxons all playing a role. They all come together in an epic final battle at the Bebbanburg fortress.

No expletives are too extravagant to describe any Cornwell book. He is the master of historical writing and this title is up to his very high standards.

Saturday 26 November 2016

Killiecrankie 1689

A short autumn break in Perthshire was an opportunity to visit a battle site I haven't been to for a number of years, Killiecrankie.

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 wasn't accepted by many in Britain, including most of the Highland clans, who remained loyal to the Stuarts. Most Lowland Scots supported William and Mary and followed the English Parliament in supporting him as King. This predates the Treaty of Union, so Scotland had its own monarchy and institutions. 

The Jacobites rallied around John Graham, Viscount 'Bonny' Dundee, who joined Lochiel, Chief of Clan Cameron, who was raising the clans. Dundee was pursued by General Mackay, who commanded a government force of around 3,500. Dundee gathered those clans who had arrived at the muster, some 2,400 men, and blocked Mackay's advance at the Pass of Killiecrankie, just north of Pitlochry.

The two forces exchanged fire and then Dundee ordered a charge. When the lines met, the government troops were "swept away by the furious onset of the Camerons". The advance and charge was masked, leaving the redcoats with insufficient time to fix their plug bayonets. Mackay's force fled, suffering some 2000 casualties. 

However, around one-third of the Jacobite force was killed, including Dundee. The Jacobite advance continued until it was stopped by government forces at the Battle of Dunkeld. After which the rebellion dissolved. 

The position of troops on the battlefield today is difficult to identify. There are two modern roads and railway that now go through the pass. However, there is a visitor centre, open in summer months and a path down to the 'Soldiers Leap', where a redcoat is said to have leapt over a ravine to escape from chasing Highlanders. 

And finally, some 28mm figures from the period, from my collection.

Sunday 13 November 2016

WW2 Italian Infantry

Another dabble into my pile of lead box brought out some 28mm Italians. I could do with another squad of infantry for my Bolt Action army to fight the Greeks, so off they went to the painting desk.

I am not sure when I picked these up, but I think David Burns of Burns Miniatures gave them to me. They came in a plain blister pack, but look as if they are from the Black Tree Designs range. Now these can be a bit hit or miss, but these Italians are very nice with great definition. Ideal for a simple paint job and a wash. 

Sunday 6 November 2016


Probably my first fantasy read was one of the Conan books, created by the American author Robert E. Howard in 1932. I bought most of them including the later editions developed by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. They have long been donated to Oxfam, but I recently bought an anthology of them for next to nothing in Kindle format. Of course, we also have Arnie Schwarzenegger doing his best with the concept - although I admit I actually enjoyed Conan the Barbarian, if not the sequels.

I recall the Meeples podcast referring to a Kickstarter game based on the books, but didn't follow through as I rarely play board games. A pal at the club did and pointed out that this was a hybrid figure and board game. He went for most of the stretch goals that brings an impressive collection of miniatures. We played the game last Sunday, and impressed, I bought the core box on eBay.

With the core box you get two double sided playing boards, with a village, ship, tavern and castle settings. This is the ship board I used in today's game.

The box includes the rules, tile cards with the essential stats and counters. Plus the real selling point, 74 hard plastic figures, fully assembled. They include four heroes, including Conan, various other character figures, monsters and basic troops such as pirates, guards and Picts. The figures are large 28mm, actually 32mm from base to eye. Here a few Photies and as you can see, they are well sculpted with excellent definition for painting.

The game mechanics are not complex and a game last around 90 minutes once you have a grasp of the rules. I can see me using the figures for other game systems, Open Combat in particular.