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

Friday 31 August 2018

Modern Russians in 20mm

The next stage in my 20mm  Bolt Action moderns project is some Russians. Starting with some basic infantry to go with the very nice die-cast T80 and BTR APCs. These can be used as intervention forces in a number of Eastern European actual or potential conflicts.

The bulk of the painting time is spent with the complex camouflage used by modern forces. The Russians are a little easier than the British, but I haven't got these quite right. In smaller scales you need to use sharper contrasts than is technically correct, otherwise after applying an ink wash they are just not that visible.

Lessons for the future, but they will do for now. I have started with three fire teams and an HMG. I will add heavy weapons next as reinforcements have just arrived from Liberation Miniatures. My reference book is 'The Modern Russian Army 1992-2016' by Mark Galeotti.

Sunday 26 August 2018

Early Iron Age Greek Warrior 1100-700BC

My visit to the Peloponnese in May, with its many early Greek sites, piqued my interest in this period. An Osprey is always a good starting point and Warrior 180, by Raffaele D'Amato and Andrea Salimbeti, doesn't disappoint.

The palatial societies represented by the sites of Mycenae and Tiryns I visited in May, began to decline rapidly in the 13th century BC. Historians are divided on the causes - disease, catastrophic events or the Sea Peoples are usually cited. This led to smaller scale cities during the period covered by this book. 

Iron became the principal metal used for weapons, but warfare was on a small scale, largely based on a small warrior class and raiding actions. This era predates the Hoplite armies that are familiar to most wargamers.

The authors take us through the chronology of the period that covers the Late Helladic and Geometric periods. The archeology gives an indication of weaponry that includes spears, javelins and swords, with limited use of missile weapons, including bows and slings. A range of helmets have survived along with shields that are somewhat smaller than the later Hoplon. 

The warlord and his warriors training, discipline and beliefs is more speculative. The authors take us through the evidence, including the use of chariots, siege warfare and naval actions.

It is a period suited to skirmish games, with figures that are colourful and interesting. As illustrated in the excellent colour plates by Giuseppe Rava. I have too many projects at present, but it's a period I might return to.

The girt walls of Tiryns as described by Homer, who lived during this period.

Saturday 18 August 2018

Modern British in 20mm

On a bit of a roll with the brush this week, on my modern project in 20mm. 

I have finished the first part of my British battlegroup for Bolt Action, ready to take part in interventions in Europe. There is a Challenger supported by two Warriors. These are diecast/plastic models, and very good they are too. Sadly, no shortcuts for the infantry. Each Warrior has two fire teams totalling eight men each. The figures are from the Liberation Miniatures range again.

My trusty 'The Modern British Army' is a bit out of date, so some new reference books were needed.

Osprey Elite 202 'The British Army Since 2000' provides a good starting point. Anything illustrated by Peter Dennis is always worth buying. The latest edition of 'The British Army Guide' is packed full of detail.

Osprey also have another book in the same series that looks at the British army in Afghanistan between 2006-14. Again illustrated by Peter Dennis. While I am not planning to do this campaign, it does give a good description of tactics and deployment.

Next up some Russians.

Monday 13 August 2018

The Walls of Byzantium

As ever I am a sucker for historical fiction set in the Balkans. James Heneage has started a series that I will be drawn to with the first book 'The Walls of Byzantium'.

The hero is the relative of a Varangian who fled Constantinople in 1204 with some form of treasure that he is supposed to have deposited in Mistra. I visited this city in May during my tour of the Peloponnese and it is stunning.

The castle at Mistras

The city below

The story proper starts in the Spring of 1392, just as the Ottomans are putting pressure on Constantinople. Our hero, Luke Magoris, lives in the coastal rock city of Monemvasia, nominally Byzantine, but run by the trading family the Mamonas. They have judged that the Ottomans are the rising power and are secretly collaborating with them.

Our hero is forced to flee the city and ends up in the Aegean island of Chios, ruled by Genoese families. The island has a number of trading advantages, not least the production of mastic. Our hero is drawn into the intrigues between the Mamonas family, Venice, Byzantium and Ottomans. There is some romantic interest as well.

This all culminates in the crusade and Battle of Nicopolis in September 1396. A major Ottoman victory at which our hero is of course present.

This is without doubt a complex tale, with many sub-plots. However, it is told well and has all the key ingredients of good historical fiction. Perhaps not in the same class as Cornwell, but well worth a read. I will follow the series through.

Saturday 11 August 2018

Back to the future in 20mm

Like many wargamers of a certain age, I started the hobby using 20mm Airfix figures. I recently decided to start moderns at small battle/skirmish level. My first thought was 28mm, but when I saw the fabulous ranges of diecast/plastic models in 20mm from a variety of suppliers at very reasonable prices - the choice was made.

I have been picking up a number of models at shows and on ebay. For infantry I have started with the RHModels range and first off the painting bench are some generic East European 'rebels' that will do for a variety of conflicts.

Some Russian armour, not quite state of the art, to go with them. Firstly a T62 tank supported by a BTR60 and BMP.

And finally the venerable T55, one of my favourite tanks.

Being a wargames butterfly, I didn't fancy a completely new rule set. So I alighted on a modern variant of Bolt Action. Published by that amazing wargame blogger, Jay's Wargaming Madness. It's a beautifully produced QRF that keeps broadly to the core rules, so are easily picked up. He also has army lists for all the main nations.

Jay recently published unit summaries for Song of Ice and Fire, before I had even painted my first unit! Some guy!

Next up with be a British intervention force. A Challenger and two Warriors have been purchased and a couple of infantry squads undercoated. The Osprey camo is going to be a challenge!

Thursday 9 August 2018

Threave Castle

I paid a visit to Threave Castle today, which is near Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway.

It's about 20 years since I was last there and it remains one of the most pleasant castle sites to visit - even my wife enjoyed it. It is somewhat larger than the usual Scottish tower house and is situated on an island in the River Dee. You walk through some fields on a good path to the landing stage, where a boat takes you on a short trip over to the island.

The castle was built in the 1370's by the wonderfully named Archibald the Grim. He was a Black Douglas and his family held the castle until they were deposed in 1455 after a siege. The castle only fell by bribery. The added artillery fortifications were effective and are probably the first of their kind.

It then became a royal fortress before being given to the Maxwells. They held the castle until besieged during the Bishops War. The Covenanters demolished part of the castle, but it may have been repaired for use as a prison during the Napoleonic Wars.

This is the classic view from the river bank.

This photo from the island and the excellent information boards, shows the artillery fortifications in front of the tower.

The castle could be supplied from this small harbour on the river.

And finally what is left of the interior. Upper floor and then the lower floor.

Wednesday 8 August 2018

Some painting done!

My painting schedule has gone hopelessly awry in recent months. Plenty of excuses, but little output.

A show is always an incentive and Claymore provided the push to get at least a few of the newly arrived Song of Ice and Fire figures on the table to supplement my conversions.

Here is Clegane 'The Mountain'. Yes he really is big, even allowing for the heroic 28mm proportions of these figures.

Then some knights of Casterly Rock.

Led by the Mountain to show how big he is.

Before these figures arrived I was getting some long standing bits and bobs out of the lead pile. So I finished these WW2 28mm personality figures this week. Kenneth More, playing the Beachmaster in The Longest Day was a Salute giveaway in 2014. Winston and the Bren gunner were freebies with long forgotten purchases.

And finally some Blue Moon German spies etc that I bought for my Very British Civil War games. Another system that deserves some dusting down.

Having got the painting bug, I have made a start on my 'moderns' project. Watch this space.

Saturday 4 August 2018

Claymore 2018

The Edinburgh wargames show, Claymore, is one of the highlights of the Scottish wargames calendar. Held in an excellent venue at the Edinburgh College in Granton and hosted by the South East Scotland Wargames Club.

Thankfully it wasn't too hot a day as the venue can be very stuffy in both main halls. It seemed a little quieter than usual, but a bit more space around the tables was very welcome. I picked up a range of paints and terrain materials as well as some additions to my 20mm moderns project and a weighty tome on the Bulgarian army from the Helion stall.

My club, GDWS, did a participation game based on Game of Thrones, using a simplified version of Lion Rampant rules. The figures came from my collection of converted ranges and the first unit from The Song of Ice and Fire game.

There was a steady stream of players for the game so I didn't get much time to look at the other games. Being the second big Scottish show of the year, many of the games were the same as at Carronade, but none the worse for a repeat showing. Here are those that caught my eye.

Thanks to the SESC for yet again organising the event.