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

Sunday 28 October 2018

Fiasco Leeds

I travelled down to Leeds today for the Fiasco wargames show. 

Last time I was here it was held in the Royal Armouries, but now it has moved over the square to a conference hall.

The new venue isn’t any bigger than the old and this means it is largely a trade show with little room for games. I picked up books scenery and a nice Lynx helicopter for my modern Brits. 

The games were necessarily on the small size and there were a couple of gems.

My favourite was Ravenna.

I also liked this depiction of the war in Chechnya.

There was some Balkan interest with the Battle of Varna.

Quite a lot of Battletech which will keep some club members happy and other small scale games.

And a WAB Battle - nostalgia in action.

Finally, it is true, all wargamers really are called Dave!

Friday 26 October 2018

Game of Thrones - The Bolton bad boys and girls!

Lost my painting mojo recently, despite having more time on my hands with semi-retirement. Work was obviously just an excuse! The trick is to pick up a brush and get stuck in, after which I did a few nights on the trot.

The subject was some of the extra boxes I bought for the Game of Thrones - Song of Ice and Fire game, in 'heroic' 28mm.

The Boltons are the bad boys of the North, as their 'flayed man' sigil suggests!

First up are the knights, heavily armoured with flails. I have not tried them on the tabletop yet, but they look pretty unstoppable.

Then an unusual unit, Bolton Bastard's Girls. Famous in the TV series for their part in Ramsay Bolton's 'entertainment'. The battle role is to pin an opponent while the handlers shoot them up. Interesting to see how that works out.

Next up, the large number of Lannister figures. Unless I end up with something more enticing at the Fiasco show on Sunday.

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Latin American Wars 1900-1941

A little off my normal beat, but I am a sucker for obscure conflicts. And this new Osprey MAA by Philip Jowett is certainly that.

It covers border wars and revolutions in Central and South America. Most of these conflicts were low-level guerilla wars and even the conventional ones involved fairly small armies. This was because many countries were small and economically weak, which found it difficult to recruit and supply large armies. Modern equipment was always at a premium.

A good example is the Coto War between Panama and Costa Rica in 1921. A disputed region had been awarded to Costa Rica by arbitration, but when Panama refused to relinquish it, Costa Rica invaded. Their regular army consisted of only 400 men and the Panamanians had only 50 rifles. Both sides eventually pulled together small armies, before the USA intervened. This was another common feature, as the US regarded this region as their 'backyard' - keeping the Marines busy for most of the period.

As is usual with Osprey publications, this book is profusely illustrated with period photos and colour plates. They show very clearly the range of uniforms and equipment. Uniformity is very rare.

For the wargamer, the small size of the conflicts means that only small numbers of figures are required. Bolt Action would work very well. My Pancho Villa and Federale armies will work for several armies. You can also use US forces and some European figures. French equipment was popular along with the Adrian helmet. The Ecuadorian infantry of the Zarumilla War of 1941, could be Italians of the same period.

Certainly an excuse to dust down Pancho and his exotic equipment, including early aircraft - Viva! somebody or other!

Monday 22 October 2018

The Raven King

This is the story of the Hungarian King, Matthias Corvinus and the fate of his lost library by Marcus Tanner. History and books, what's not to like!

Matthias Corvinus, or Hunyadi in Hungarian, was the son of the better known Janos Hunyadi, the great medieval warlord and crusader who at least slowed the Ottoman advance into Europe. Matthias ruled Hungary from 1443 to 1490. This was a much larger state than the Hungary we know today, encompassing Bohemia, Silesia, Transylvania and Croatia - even capturing Vienna, displacing the early Habsburgs. Hungary was a superpower of the age and Matthias's 'Black Army' was a formidable force.

He was the main bulwark against the Ottomans and a truly renaissance monarch. The arts and science were probably appreciated at his court more than any other, outside of Italy. This was reflected in his great library, possibly containing 8-10,000 works, only exceeded by the papal library in Rome. It is worth remembering that these were hand copied books, usually beautifully illustrated.

After his death, Hungary collapsed following the Battle of Mohacs in 1526. The library was looted by the Ottomans when they reached the capital Buda - or what was left of it after Mary, the last Queen fled. The library has reached an almost mythical status and many efforts have been made to track down its contents. Numerous volumes have been found and many exist in libraries and museums across Europe and beyond.

This book tells the story of the library and the efforts to find the contents. In doing so the author provides a narrative history of the period and Matthias's reign. A period that is not well known and the author brings it to life in an unusual way through the story of the great library.

Saturday 20 October 2018

Military modelling inspiration

I was at the IPMS show in Glasgow today. Not my hobby, but the standard of modelling should be an inspiration for any wargamer - even if we have to compromise for quantity and robustness.

I am not a big fan of kits for wargame purposes, but that doesn't mean I didnt make a few purchases. Modelling weathering materials can be used on wargaming AFVs, so long as you varnish afterwards. Paints and sprays are usually very good and in a wider range of colours than you get at wargame shows. They also have books and I picked up a volume on the Habsburg's early air force that I hadn't seen before.

The main reason for going is to see the displays. This rail gun was my favourite - frightening to think how many hours went into this.

And more than a few others that caught my eye.

And in case you were tempted to pick any of the models up, as is common at wargame shows - don't!

Thursday 18 October 2018

Second Battle of Kosovo 1448

On this day in 1448, Hungarian and allied forces yet again faced the Ottoman Empire on the Kosovo Polje. This battle was probably not as significant as the 1389 clash, which sealed the fate of Serbia, but still an interesting late medieval action.

After the disastrous crusade of Varna in 1444, the Hungarians were occupied in another civil war, which left Janos Hunyadi as Regent for the young king. With the Ottomans occupied in Albania, fighting Skanderbeg, Hunyadi assembled an army to attack the Ottoman flank in Macedonia. The Pope urged support for the crusade, which brought mercenaries and a large Polish contingent to his army. Wallachian and Moldavian forces also joined the campaign, although there is some limited evidence that the Wallachians may have defected during the battle.

The Serbian Despot, Djuradj Brankovic, refused to join the campaign, honouring his treaty with the Sultan, and actively hindered the Hungarian advance. They may also have slowed Skanderbeg's efforts to link up with Hunyadi. Recognising the danger, Sultan Murad moved his army quickly to attack the Hungarians before the two Christian armies could join.

Hunyadi held a strong position overlooking the plain, building a fortified camp around his wagons, manned by handgunners and artillery. His cavalry included Hungarian, Bohemian and Polish knights, supported by Cuman horse archers and Szekeler light cavalry. The lighter Wallachian and Moldavian cavalry was on the left wing.

Murad had his Janissaries with vassal infantry in a fortified centre. Sipahi horse formed on both wings, supported by Akinci and Deli light cavalry. He kept his own guard cavalry, the Kapikulu Sipahis, in reserve behind the Jannisaries.

The battle opened with the Ottoman cavalry wings attacking the Hungarian line and when the centre had been weakened by sending troops to the wings, Murad ordered his infantry to attack the wagons. This attack was initially successful, but a counter-attack restored the line. Feigned attacks drew the Hungarian cavalry away from the line where they could be encircled, but by nightfall the line held.

Hunyadi then tried a night attack, but the Janissaries held firm.

The next day saw a repeat attack on the Hungarian line, but this time the feigned attacks encouraged Hunyadi to order a general advance. This took the army through the Jannisary camp, but Murad had retained a reserve division that forced the Hungarians back. A flank attack by Thessalian Ottoman horse hit the Hungarians and Wallachians on the left flank hard, causing a rout. Hunyadi decided to break out, leaving the infantry centre to its fate. Many of those who escaped were captured by the Serbs, including Hunyadi himself.

Monday 15 October 2018

Military history tourist in London

Being semi-retired allows a bit more time to enjoy the sights. So, instead of hurtling back from a conference in London, we spent a few days being a tourist.

On Saturday, after my wife insisted we visit the rubbish London Bridge Experience, we went to the Tower of London. While she queued (in the rain) for the Crown Jewels, I visited the Royal Fusiliers Museum.

Passing the 25 pounder...

A 'liberated' bust of the Duce.

And of particular interest to me, caps from peacekeeping duties in Bosnia.

Having been spared the queue, I have to admit the Crown Jewels are impressive. The story of Captain Blood, does get a passing mention!

Then into the White Tower and the Royal Armouries. This is very impressive, especially as I am planning to get to the northern branch in Leeds next weekend.

English Civil War trooper.

A presentation gold plated SMG, which was used in a London murder.

If Ann Boleyn is to be believed, the armourer left a bit too much space for Henry VIII's 'crown jewels' in this suit of armour.

The Goliath and the dwarf

A striking Dragon made from various bits of arms and armour.

James II's royal armour.
 They have a few breastplates!

On Sunday, I went to the football. Please to say, my team, Fulham has a number of Serbian connections, including the manager and Alexsander Mitrovic. We will pass on the score!

On Monday we went to Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum.

It has the largest ship in a bottle I have ever seen.

The Jutland room is very good.

And of course Nelson's navy gallery.

We missed the Cabinet War Rooms, as the queue was ridiculous, but the Household Cavalry Museum was a decent substitute.

And finally on Tuesday morning, The British Library. Including this Ottoman gem.