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

Monday, 31 May 2021

Armies of the Thracians and Dacians

 This is the latest in the Pen and Sword Armies of the Past series, written by Gabriele Esposito, looking at the Thracian and Dacian tribes from 500BC to AD150. Along with the Illyrians and the passing Celts, the most important Balkan tribes of antiquity.


The bulk of the text is devoted to the military history of these tribes, or more accurately, tribal federations. 

The Thracians largely occupied the southeast corner of the Balkan peninsula, across modern-day Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. This is a strategically important position and therefore prey to powerful empires. Firstly the Persians, then Greeks and finally the Romans. All these empires struggled to effectively control the warlike Thracians, particularly in the mountainous areas of Thrace. They also provided mercenary contingents for all these powers. When the tribes combined, they could be a formidable threat. In 429BC, the Odrysian Thracian Kingdom assembled an army of 150,000 warriors and successfully invaded Macedonia as allies of Athens during the Peloponnesian War. It is worth considering what a state of this size could have done if they had remained united. Fortunately for their neighbours, this level of unity was rare.

Thracian 28mm infantry in typical geometrical patterned cloaks.

The Thracians eventually became part of the Roman Empire, although not without regular revolts.

The Dacians became a distinct people from the Thracians around 700BC, centred largely on modern-day Romania. They came under pressure from the Scythians and then the Celts, and finally the Romans. The Dacians had incorporated either by conquest or allied with other tribes in the region. Most notably the Bastanae and the Sarmatians. The latter provided cavalry, both light horse archers and heavily armoured shock cavalry.

Sarmatian nobles in 28mm

Rome fought a series of wars with the Dacians, most famously led by Emperor Trajan. This is recorded in Trajan's Column in Rome. Although defeated, the Free Dacians continued the struggle, and the Romans eventually abandoned Dacia and retreated to the Danube. 

Dacian Warband in 28mm

Militarily, the typical Dacian warrior fought in a Warband armed with a sword, spear and shield. The best warriors were armed with the fearsome falx. The typical Thracian warrior was a lighter peltast armed with javelins. Although they did have their own version of the falx, called the rhomphaia. Although this would be more common in Dacian armies who had access to mineral wealth, few troops had armour. Even so, it would mainly be limited to the nobles.

The military history is essentially a summary of secondary sources, done well but nothing really new. The chapters on military organisation and equipment are stronger. However, the real strength of this book is the numerous (about one-third of the content) colour plates of reenactors in Thracian and Dacian costumes and equipment. These come from the Ancient Thrace and Historia Renascita groups, who have clearly put in a huge amount of effort. I would recommend their Facebook groups.

This book is worth the price for these colour plates alone. For wargamers put off the Thracians by the complexity of the costumes, it appears that they largely disappeared after Alexander and, in any case, were less complex than my figures above.

Dacians v Romans








Thursday, 27 May 2021

High Kings and Vikings

 The latest Nigel Tranter novel in my bedtime reading project is 'High Kings and Vikings', which covers Scotland at the end of the 10th century.


This was a particularly violent period, both internally and externally. Scotland had an unusual succession system for its monarchs known as Tanistry. This meant all the male descendants of previous monarchs were eligible for the throne and were elected from the seven Mormaers or sub-kings. The advantage of the system was that, in theory, the best candidate was chosen, and the kingdom was never left with a child King. The downside was that the losing competitor was unlikely to be happy.

This happened at the end of the 10th century when two monarchs were killed, Constantine III and Kenneth III, in fairly quick succession. This leads to Malcolm II (the Destroyer) gaining the throne in 1005. He reigned for 29 years. 

The external challenges came from the Vikings who attacked Scotland in the usual raids and a large scale invasion from Norway. The Saxons also challenged the southern border in the Lothians. This was the period when Strathclyde became part of the kingdom. 

Tranter often uses a fictional character to tell the story. It has to be someone close to the action, and in this book, he invents Cormac mac Farquhar, Thane of Glamis. Glamis is better known today for its Victorian 'castle', family home to the Queen Mother before her death. In the 11th century, there was a royal hunting lodge, but the first real castle wasn't built there until the 14th century. A Thane held his lands directly from the King rather than the local Mormaer.

Cormac manages to capture some Viking longships and uses these to attack Viking raiding parties. The Vikings left their ships weakly guarded while they raided inland, leaving them open to this sort of attack. Cormac eventually builds up a significant fleet using the local fishermen to crew them on a part-time basis. This takes him up and down the coast, and he gets involved in most of the major events of the period. He befriends Macbeth, who becomes the Mormaer of Moray and Ross, although somewhat earlier than the real Macbeth in this telling. The next book chronologically covers Macbeth. Spoiler alert, it isn't like the Shakespeare play!

The book ends with his son becoming the local Mormaer. This followed a campaign in Northumbria, led by Malcolm II, which ended badly at the siege of Durham in 1016. Despite this setback, Malcolm held onto Lothian, which was later settled in Scotland's favour at the Battle of Carham in 1018. The Northumbrians were led by Earl Uhtred, a name familiar to Bernard Cornwell fans, although this one is somewhat later chronologically.

As an aside, Tranter was pretty scathing about history teaching in schools. Last night Muriel Gray tweeted a copy of a 1944 Scottish history exam paper, which includes Carham. I suspect few pupils today would be able to answer that question.


Getting this onto the tabletop, I decided to go for the campaigns against the Northumbrians as I did the Vikings last time. I used figures from my 28mm collection and ADLG rules.


The heavier Saxon Northumbrians have more staying power in ADLG but no more combat punch. The lighter Scots tried to work around the flanks to little effect. In a shieldwall battle of attrition, the Saxons just nicked victory.









Monday, 24 May 2021

Kangzhan - Chinese ground forces in WW2

 This is Leland Ness and Bin Shih's study of Chinese ground forces during the Second Sino-Japanese War 1937-45. I have read several studies of this and the earlier conflict, but little has been published about the Chinese army. This book fills that gap. You can also pick up the ebook at half price from Helion, which at £10.99 is a bargain I could not resist.


The Chinese army during WW2 doesn't get good press when it gets a mention at all. General Stillwell's frustrations about getting them into combat are pretty well known. It is certainly the case that Chaing carefully husbanded his forces for the battles to come with the communists, but that doesn't mean there wasn't plenty of fighting.

The opening chapters give an overview of the fighting in China and with the British and Americans in Burma. Rana Mitter's book 'China's War with Japan 1937-1945' deals with this in more detail, although it is weak on the operational level. For the earlier 1928-37 fighting, I would recommend Philip Jowett's 'The Bitter Peace'. China is a large country, and the similarities between the Japanese advances and the Germans in Operation Barbarossa are evident. By October 1941, the Japanese had lost 132,000 men in action and a further 87,000 from disease and permanent disability. The Pacific War drew away Japanese divisions, although the conflict still raged, tying down significant numbers of Japanese troops until 1945.

The Chinese also fought hard in the Burma campaign, fielding three armies, totalling over 100,000 troops. They suffered over 50% casualties. This was important to the Chinese as Burma was the main supply route into China. The Chinese lost a further 67,000 men in the second Burma campaign during 1944-45. There is also a chapter on guerrilla warfare.

The narrative history of these campaigns is clearly explained, along with plenty of photographs. However, the strength of this book is its coverage of the organisation and equipment used by the Chinese army. This is a complex subject as many divisions were not under Chaing's direct control; they were directed by a range of warlords, each with their own agenda. The central divisions were the best equipped, benefiting from Lend-Lease equipment. The chapter on organisation attempts to make sense of this variety and the development of the organisational model. There were even five cavalry armies in December 1944.

Armoured units had various pre-war tanks, including British, German and Italian light tanks, plus Soviet T26s. Later in the war, the Americans equipped three-battalion tank groups with Sherman and Stuart tanks. Artillery was much prized by Chaing and the warlords resulting in a wide variety of models. Heavy mortars were also a feature of Chinese divisions. The Germans introduced anti-tank guns to the Chinese, and although light by European standards, they were still effective against the largely light Japanese tanks.

Finally, the appendices have many ORBATS, troop dispositions and other data. Just about everything you need to wargame these campaigns can be found in this book. By any standards, this is an impressive piece of research.

Onto the tabletop. I have Chinese forces for this conflict in 15mm, and Blitzkrieg Commander also has an army list. The Chinese troops are defending a tree line and stream as the Japanese advance. Fanatic status in these rules has several advantages, not least in doctrine, but unlike Bolt Action, it is not quite as effective in the full-frontal assault. And so it proved with the Chinese holding off both the infantry and the armoured attacks.













Sunday, 23 May 2021

Sword of Scotland

 Very unusually for me, I have reached the end of my 'to read' shelf, at least for hard copy books. The ebooks folder is still bulging with content. The last book was Sword of Scotland by Anthony Leask, an overview of Scotland's military heritage from ancient times to the present day.

I think I picked this up a few years ago as a remainder copy. It is the sort of book you might buy after visiting Edinburgh Castle or one of the many fine regimental museums we have in Scotland. It has an easy reading style and quickly covers a huge subject for the casual reader. 

It doesn't pass on the more difficult periods, for which we have limited sources. This is particularly true for the chapters on early Caledonia, early medieval and the first kingdom. One source I would have avoided is Shakespeare, whose Macbeth defames a King who was probably not nearly as wicked as portrayed by the Bard. Sources are still an issue even when we get to the medieval period and the wars of independence. However, describing William Wallace as 'of Lanarkshire' is a bit odd. His early life is far from clear, but most historians put him in Elderslie, which is in Renfrewshire.

Once the chapters leave the medieval period, we are on sounder territory. The Jacobite rebellions are given a balanced treatment without falling into the England v Scotland trap. There is also no downplaying of the role Scottish regiments played in the expansion of the British Empire, from the Napoleonic Wars to the colonial campaigns of the 19th century. By the First World War, there were 22 regular battalions, which grew to a staggering 226 during that conflict. That is 200,000 men, which doesn't include those who served in the Royal Navy or the Royal Flying Corps, not to mention the Home Front. There are no accurate records of those who died, but more than 148,000 Scots are commemorated in the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle.

National War Memorial

The final chapter covered Scotland's military heritage and was written when the infantry regiments were being merged into the Royal Regiment of Scotland. 

This book does what it probably set out to achieve for the casual reader. I do have one issue with a consistent theme, the idea of the martial race. Right from the outset, the author talks about "A fierce spirit of independence of family and clan was bred in the soul of its people from these early beginnings. From these roots grew the martial spirit which was to characterize (odd US spelling) the Scottish nation throughout much of its history."

Later we are told the Vikings left their mark "by the infusion of their fiery blood into the local populace." The martial races theory was much loved by the British Empire, particularly in India. It was primarily a means of divide and rule with little evidence to support it. There are many explanations for Scottish troops' fighting skills and undoubted bravery, but I don't think we need to find a dubious genetic explanation. 

That issue aside, if you are visiting Scotland, you could do worse than skimming this book for the background to a trip to our many military sites. Thankfully that is now possible once again.

The '15 - Jacobite rebellion skirmish


Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Kingdoms of Faith - Islamic Spain

 This is Brian Catlos's new history of Islamic Spain. The joy of bookshops reopening and discovering I have an unspent book token, resulting in a book that interested me but I wouldn't have purchased online. I am glad I did. My understanding of this period is deeply influenced by one of my favourite films, El Cid. More Sophia Loren than Charlton Heston, if I am honest. Needless to say, Holywood was somewhat adrift from the actual history, although the film does capture the shifting alliances well.

The big picture starts in 711 when Tariq ibn Ziyad arrives in Spain (Gibralter is named after him) and defeats the Visigoths. Al-Andalus develops over the next three centuries into an Arabo-Islamic society. From around 1000, the empire starts to collapse, and the Christian states start to 'reconquer' Spain. This ends in 1492 with the conquest of Grenada and the enforced conversion and then expulsion of the Muslim population.

The traditional view of the period has a presumption that religious ideology is at the heart of this history. Christians and even Jews are described as 'Europeans', and Muslims are 'Moors'. In fact, most Muslims were of indigenous descent, with very few coming from North Africa. And most of the armies that fought over al-Andalus included Muslims and Christians fighting side by side. The bit the cinematic El Cid got partly right.

Catlos takes the reader through the various rulers of al-Andalus, who were often at odds with the ruling caliphates in the Middle East. The Umayyads essentially lived on in Spain after they had been superseded elsewhere. Abd al Rahman was one such Umayyad ruler who turned al-Andalus from a patchwork of power sharing arrangements into a cohesive state. These included provinces and marches (or thugur) frontier zones where civil and military authority was not separated.

Another myth dispelled for me in this book is the Song of Roland, which turns out to be late-medieval fantasy. I have visited the pass at Roncesvalles and seen the stone. It is at least a great view! 


Charlemagne's campaign came about because he was invited by the Arab governors of Barcelona and Zaragoza to support them against the Umayyads. He was ambushed at Roncesvalles on his way back to Aquitaine as a consequence of Basque treachery. Charlemagne dealt with Muslim kings in the same way as Christian ones.

I also hadn't realised that the Vikings not only raided Spain, but got as far inland as Seville. Looting it in 844. Having their ships attacked by 'Greek Fire' was a bit of discouragement that the Anglo-Saxons and Scots could have benefited from. I was also pleased to see that my beloved Balkans are not missing from the story. Alongside North Africans, the most influential element in the caliphal administration was the Saqaliba, or 'Slavs', slaves and freedmen who were trusted because of their social isolation. They served as governors, diplomats and military commanders. 

The portrayal of a grand Christian-Muslim conflict was largely written by foreign clerics. The later Muslim Taifa kingdoms employed Christian kinghts and the Christian kingdoms did the same in reverse. At the Battle of Cabra in 1079 both Tiafa armies were led by detachments of Castlian knights, including one Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar (El Cid). The supposed icon of the 'reconquest' spent much of his career defending Muslim kingdoms against their Muslim and Christian enemies. Holy war rarely determined to actions of El Cid and others like him. The later Almohads may have presented their wars of conquest as jihad, but they were as pragmatic as their Christain opponents. Even later in the 'reconquest', the Christian kingdoms of Aragon and Castille employed Muslim mudejares and North African mercenaries. Sultans were even granted knighthoods by Castile.

The clerics also ignored the high culture of al-Andalsus, which included a library in Cordoba that contained over 400,000 books. What I would give to have seen that! Knowledge and science were highly regarded in al-Andalus, although so was warfare and treachery. The superb cuisine occassionally contained something more deadly than flavour! 

The fate of the last Kingdom of Grenada was sealed by the royal marriage that unified Castile and Aragon, although it took some time and Muslim disunity before it was completed. Only then did the religious persecution begin in ernest leading to revolts and exile.

The key message in this book is that the history of al-Andalus is not one of a foreign occupation. It is an integral part of the historical process that created modern Spain and Portugal, if not Europe as well. Islam, Christianity and Judaism are all linked elements of the wider venture we call 'the West'.

An excellent book, which will encourage me to dust down my armies of the period in 15mm and 28mm. You can also use 100 Years War units if you take the part of John of Gaunt, who sought to enforce his title, 'King of Castile and Leon' in 1386. This story is told in the May 2021 edition of the BBC History magazine by Helen Carr who also has a new book out on John of Gaunt. A purchase for my next visit to the bookshop!

Almohad foot

Castilian Jinetes

El Cid and his knights, who fought on both sides!







Friday, 14 May 2021

The Balkans in World War Two

 This is Christopher Catherwood's examination of the dilemma Britain faced in relations with Turkey and some of the Balkan states from 1939–41. It is largely based on a study of the British archives of the period, although he references recent work on the Soviet archives. Turkish primary sources are sadly scarce, so it is very much a view from the British side of the hill.


The author takes us through the various military plans and diplomatic initiatives that Britain under Chamberlain and then Churchill promoted in the period up to the German invasion of the Soviet Union. He also covers the very different views within the British leadership. In simple terms, the Foreign Office was pursuing a range of options that would engage Britain in the Balkans, while the Treasury opposed on cost-benefit terms and the Chief of Staffs regarded them as 'adventures' that Britain didn't have the military resources to indulge in.

He also argues that had Churchill been successful in dragging Turkey into the war, then that country would have suffered the same calamitous defeat as Yugoslavia and Greece. And rightly points to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact's impact on the Balkans, not least because most Balkan states feared the Soviets more than Germany.

I have covered some of the more extraordinary plans in previous blog posts, having studied the same archives. The Weygand plan to invade the Balkans is covered in detail, although I wasn't aware of the games being played within the French high command over this. He also deals with the crazy Allied plan to bomb the Soviet oil fields and Churchill's impractical scheme to send the Royal Navy into the Black Sea. Either of these could have resulted in Britain going to war with Germany and the Soviet Union in 1940. 

Unusually for an academic historian, the author does drift into a little counterfactual history, much beloved by wargamers. In particular, he argues that had the British allowed the Balkan states to remain neutral, then there was a 'real chance' that most of the Balkans wouldn't have ended up behind the Iron Curtain in 1946. My own view is that this is a bit of a stretch given Hitler's need to secure his southern flank and the raw materials of the Balkans, not to mention Stalin's drive for buffer states. However, there are several similar interesting debates in the book. 

This is an academic history with a price tag that may deter the general reader, although Palgrave often has attractive offers. However, that doesn't mean it isn't readable, and Catherwood has written books for the general reader (e.g. Churchill and Tito), which are excellent. 

This book inspired me to get a move on with my 10mm Turkish WW2 project. I have played the 'Rommel' rules using 15mm, but it just didn't look right. I have painted these in the winter uniform using Pendraken figures. British equipment and French infantry as with my 15mm and 28mm Turkish armies.



I chose a 1944 'what if' on the theme of Soviets in the Balkans for the first deployment of these Turkish units in a game of 'Rommel'. On 15 September 1944, the Soviets entered the Bulgarian capital Sofia. Instead of immediately regrouping and moving westwards to cut off the retreating Germans, Stavka ordered a concentration of forces in eastern Bulgaria, supported by additional air and naval units for around 20 days. Like Hitler, the German army group commander (Heeresgruppe F) von Weichs believed they were positioned for an attack on Turkey because there were no German units to attack in that direction. It remains unclear if Stalin was planning an offensive against Turkey, or at least suggesting to the Western Allies and Turkey that he might. The Soviet 37th Army with the Black Sea Fleet and 17th Air Army remained at full combat readiness to attack Turkey up to 13 October.

Onto the tabletop with the Red Army massing and the Turkish army (nearest to the camera) defending.


 I didn't hold out much hope as the Turkish player of holding on. T34/85s against Valentines and Stuart tanks looked like a challenge. However, in particular, the Stuarts did well, and the Soviets lost a lot of units before they reached their objective, the prepared defences. Victory to the Red Army but only just. 





 





Saturday, 8 May 2021

Kenneth

 Chronologically the next book in my Nigel Tranter rereading project was Kenneth. This is the 9th-century story of King Kenneth MacAlpin, the first king of Scotland.

At the start of the 9th-century, Scotland was divided between the Picts (Alba) covering the east and north, Strathclyde, Galloway and the Scots Irish kingdom of Dal Riata. These kingdoms and their Irish cousins were under pressure from The Angles to the south and the Vikings on every coast. Kenneth was the son of the King of Dal Riata and succeeded him to the throne, including Galloway. 

The book starts with his early campaigns against the Angles and their Saxon allies. Moving on to many campaigns against the Vikings who established themselves in Ireland and consolidated their bases in the Hebrides and Orkney. His vision of a Celtic alliance was achieved on occasion to fight off Viking incursions. Tranter calls him Kenneth the Norse Slayer.

As Alba falls into internal strife, Kenneth is elected High King of Alba while retaining his other kingship. This is Tranter's take on history, although the limited sources talk about an invasion of Alba in 842 or 843. He died in 858. He certainly created the dynasty that went on to unify Scotland in the centuries to come. 

Unlike the previous book, Columba, this is all action historical fiction. Plenty of battle scenes and plots to keep the reader entertained.

I finished this book just after the new edition of L'Art de la Guerre (ADLG) arrived. With excellent timing, one of the new lists is Later Scots Irish. I have suitable 28mm figures for the Scots and the Vikings.

The Vikings have heavier infantry than the medium Scots, balanced by the extra light troops and a unit of horse, which the Scots used to harass the flanks.

After that, it was a shieldwall slugfest, which the Scots just about got the better of.


However, if the Vikings had survived one more move, they would have captured the sacred camp and broken the Scots. An ADLG lesson is that if you take sacred camps, defend them!





Friday, 7 May 2021

L'Art de la Guerre v4

The new 4th edition of the popular ancient and medieval rules L'Art de la Guerre (ADLG) arrived this week. To the Strongest! is probably my favourite ancient rules, but I play ADLG a fair amount. It is the ruleset of choice for most 15mm players in Glasgow, and there is an active competition scene.

For those unfamiliar with these rules, they are an element based game using standard base sizes (40mm frontage in 15mm). They provide a fairly quick game, typically requiring a smaller number of figures and a smaller tabletop. A 15mm game comfortably fits on the average dining table. Unlike many rules, the book comes with everything you need, including 300 army lists and a laminated quick reference sheet.

I don't play ADLG in competitions, so the subtleties of the v4 changes might be lost on me. For a more comprehensive overview of the changes, you can visit the Madaxeman blog and website, which has lots of resources for the game. There is an interview with the author on the No Dice No Glory blog and in this month's Wargames Illustrated. There is also an official list of changes on the ADLG website.

For those familiar with the game, the changes are not huge. Flank attacks are more deadly due to combat bonuses being added in. Heavy infantry move a bit quicker in the early moves away from the enemy, and you can move and extend in the same movement. There is also some tidying up of the rules on confirming, which I suspect is mostly to address competition issues. 

The army lists have been revised with more options. This does mean some points changes, which I discovered with my Wars of the Roses armies. So, you will need to check your lists before playing. There are 18 new lists with some interesting Scots and Irish armies I will need to look at. Nothing new in the Balkans though!

Troop types are also revised. Longbows become medium swordsmen after 1415, which give them a bit more staying power in combat. Polearms are now distinct from other 2HCW and give a decent defence against cavalry. Light artillery can move and shoot, and war wagons are more manoeuvrable. Cataphracts are improved, and various exotic types are added, including armoured elephants and various incendiary weapons.

The terrain set up rules have also been changed, and some new optional rules, including random events using playing cards.

I have just finished my Wars of Roses project, so this was an opportunity to get them onto the table. The army lists are changed, so I had to redo them. The big changes are the longbowmen and the new polearm classification for the billmen. You save a point for longbowmen, so I could field more retinue types rather than levies.


Tactically, the Medium Swordsmen classification for the retinue longbowmen meant I was more willing to let them get stuck in rather than just shoot away. It means the battle line stays together, which looks more historical. They are still at a disadvantage to armoured billmen, but not by too much, especially if you have disordered them with bow fire. There aren't many mounted units in a WoR army, but the billmen did hold their own in the one combat we had.

Early days, but I agree with others that the changes look about right. More a tidying up than a major rewrite, but enough new content to justify paying for a new edition. Merci, monsieur Caille!



Saturday, 1 May 2021

Hungary 1848: The Winter Campaign

 This is a new translation of Johann Nobili's somewhat sanitised study of the Austrian campaign against the rebellious Hungarians during the winter of 1848. Sanitised because the original by Heller was deemed too critical. The book is edited by Chris Pringle, author of the excellent Bloody Big Battles (BBB) rules. He has made the text more readable, added maps, and corrects the author's spin on history through extensive footnotes.


1848 was the year of revolutions across Europe, and the Hungarians took the opportunity to break with the Austrians, although not the Habsburgs. Once the Austrians sorted out their own revolution, they sent an army under the command of Field Marshall Windisch-Gratz into Hungary. This campaign was not initially successful, and the Austrians had to call upon the Russians to help them out. This study covers the period from the invasion until Windisch-Gratz was removed from command. 

Chris has some sympathy for the Field Marshall, who probably had insufficient troops for the task and was short of key troop types, particularly light cavalry. He also had two corps commanders who rarely did as ordered. Ban Jellacic was overly cautious, and Schlick was the opposite, striking out on his own when he was ordered to concentrate. 

There are several interesting campaign details. One of these is the use of rockets. My view of these is probably covered by the episode in Sharpe and Wellington's view of them. However, this campaign showed that they had some advantages. They were much more mobile than artillery and excellent as incendiaries. Another point is the very low casualty rates. Generally, around 2% compared with 20% or more during the Napoleonic Wars, which were fought with similar weapons. The reasons appear to be low troop density rates and a tendency to withdraw once flanked on the relatively level terrain. The campaign also saw the first substantial use of railways to transport troops.

The war of movement involved plenty of skirmishes, which suits my modest 28mm forces for the campaign, using the Steve Barber range. These often involved river defences, and therefore bridges were crucial. There were major battles, including Kapolna and Isazeg, which are still manageable, and the orbats are very useful. Typically 25,000 to 30,000 per side, over quite large areas. BBB rules in 15mm or smaller would work well for this type of game.

It would be fair to say that despite Chris's improvements, this isn't an easy read. The troop movements are not easy to follow, and the language is typical of the period. It is also a one-sided view of the campaign with the Hungarians plans and movement only touched upon. Chris's notes help address the deliberate bias, particularly Austrian claims of being outnumbered. Despite the challenges, it is worth persevering with this book. The Hungarian revolution is a fascinating conflict, and this is an excellent resource given there is very little in English.

Onto the tabletop with a few of my 28mm units. I use the Rebels and Patriots rules for 28mm games of this period. They allow you to field the range of troop types from well-trained professionals to the almost untrained militia. 

Hungarians on the right defending the village and river crossing


Austrian line infantry attack the village

Austrian composite Grenadier unit goes for the Honved unit in the centre.

Austrian Jagers skirmish on the Hungarian left