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

Thursday 15 December 2022

Border Wars

 Border Wars is a 28mm border reiver skirmish wargame. It was a Kickstarter from Flags of War, and it should be available early in the New Year to purchase as a game. Iain is taking a well-earned Christmas break!

In the basic game, you get the rulebook, cards and tokens. Plus, a box of foot figures and a box of cavalry figures. In addition, there were some stretch goals, with additional figures, which I assume will be available to purchase at some stage, along with other expansions to the system.

This skirmish game is aimed at between 8 and 20 models per side. So, while it is a specialised bit of history, it isn't too expensive to buy into. The history is outlined in the book, and it involves families on both sides of the Scottish/English border in the 16th century. This was a lawless land, although some rules were resolved by march wardens. A typical action would involve a family raiding another, reiving their cattle and other goods. The law allowed you to cross the border to get it back within six days if you were attacked. A process known as 'Hot Trod'. There are several histories of the borders and fiction, including Bob Low's triology.

The figures are lovely, and I have painted up most of the foot models. My only criticism would be the need to assemble the cavalry horses, which are resisting the best efforts of my Superglue. I have a pretty low tolerance when it comes to assembling figures, and I struggle to see the reason as it adds nothing to the pose. However, I already had some cavalry from another project, so it's not a problem.

The rule book is a lovely piece of work illustrated by Peter Dennis. It takes you through the setup and how to create your family. Then the playing rules and six scenarios. Finally, a bit more about the border reivers and their legacy. The rules are straightforward and come with a QRS. The author is a member of our wargame club, but I have only needed to ask one question so far.

For the play-through, I set up a simple scenario with a raid on a typical Pele Tower by mounted raiders. The defenders are on foot. This is played on a three-foot square mat.

You get a card for each character, which comes with the starter set, and more can be downloaded from the website. Typically these include a leader, one or more heroes, and the remainder are soldiers or civilians. In addition, you draw heroic actions and special ability cards for your leader and heroes. 

Each figure has to be activated, and then they can carry out two actions, with some limitations. The card has all the game statistics for the character, and you can use them to place counters that show wounds, reload, etc. A range of different dice are used, but a four or more is a pass. This is a neat way of giving better-quality characters a better chance of doing what you want them to do while avoiding too much page-turning.

The reivers didn't go in for a lot of shooting, although there were a few pistols, bows and caliver muskets. If you pass the activation, the shooter throws the number of dice for that weapon, and then the defender rolls the defence dice. Here the bowman on the left shoots at one mounted reiver. A bow gets three D6, with a +1 modifier for mounted, which was two hits. The reiver has a shield, so he saves on 3 rather than 4, so he survives.

Close combat is pretty similar, except you start with a roll-off. Here you can see a leader's advantage over a soldier with a standard dice. This should have been a D10, as you use attack dice even when being attacked. Either way, it wasn't enough, so the soldier got to use his weapons, followed by defence rolls as per shooting.

This combat shows the use of heroic action cards. This one allows the attacker to shoot when he attacks. He missed but won the close combat.

And this one shows the use of a special ability card.

If a melee continues, as in this clash, other figures can pile in, resulting in an outnumbered modifier. There are only a handful of modifiers which speeds up play.

The defenders drove off the reivers in this game, and the civilians were not called upon!

I enjoyed this game as a distraction from my bigger projects. I will play more and look forward to using them in other period actions. There are rules for carrying off livestock or capturing people, which all add to the colour of this period. I have some Landsknechts somewhere who made an appearance in the borders.


  1. Thank you for the review. Been looking at this and it seems like a nice little game. I am intrigued you writing that you look forward to using them in other period action, as I immediately thought of Bloody Miniatures wonderful figures. Would you say that the rules could be used for ECW/TYW?

  2. TYW would work well with its very similar small war actions. The film 'The Last Valley', with Michael Caine and Omar Sharif, springs to mind. I am looking at the Habsburg/Ottoman border, which had very similar border conflicts over a long period.

  3. Looks a decent game 👍👍
    I agree The Last Valley is indeed an excellent film - definitely recommended.
    As a youngster I played in a Play-By-Mail game (very loosely based on the Tweed valley, called Tweedia and GM’d by Jim Kemeny. I was Grand Master of the Knights Templar and many of my fortresses were based on real strongholds in the area. I even spent a long weekend travelling round the area and photographing “my castles”. Those were the days… 😉

    1. PBM, that takes me back. Hard to think what the current generation would make of waiting for moves to arrive in the post!