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

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Field of Glory

Early medieval battle at the club today using Field of Glory rules. Haven't really mastered these yet, probably because I don't use them enough given all my other interests, but they almost always produce a good game.

My opponent was Robert Low, author of the Oathsworn series of books. Bob has a superb Rus army in 28mm and like me is finding his way with FoG. I fielded a Ghaznavid army and he clearly wasn't expecting the elephants. Despite some pretty desperate combat dice they manged to stomp their way through his right flank whilst my cavalry peppered him with arrows in the centre. Elephants are more predictable in FoG compared with WAB but still great fun.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Wallachian army

Just completed my monthly update of Balkan Military History. The feature this month is the Wallachian army of the 15th century.

Medieval Wallachia first gained its independence in 1330 when it defeated the Hungarians and established a principality. They allied with the Mongols but by 1368 again fell under Hungarian control. By this time the Ottoman Turks approached their frontiers and under Mircea the Old they defeated Ottoman attacks four times between 1394 and 1408. After the disaster of Nicopolis the pressure built and the Wallachians had to accept Ottoman suzerainty in 1417.


Of all the princes who seized power in the 15th Century the best known is Vlad the Impaler (1418-56). He had a number of successful attempts to hold off the Ottomans but eventually conceded (see The Real Dracula). Despite this Wallachia remained a Christian state and was never absorbed fully into the Ottoman Empire.

The figures below are 15mm Wallachian cavalry from my collection.


Thursday, 28 January 2010

Foreign Correspondent

Just a quick plug for The Foreign Correspondent, the newsletter of the Continental Wars Society. This is something of a labour of love for the Editor Ralph Weaver, who always puts together an interesting collection of original articles and reprints on warfare in 19th Century Europe.

The latest edition (No.85) has some Balkan interest with a reprint of Captain von Herbert's 1906 study of the Bulgarian Army. To modern eyes his stereotyping of the character of a country's inhabitants is anachronistic at best. Bulgarians and Turks are apparently 'stolid', and have the "virtues of sobriety and moderation, and morality in family life; the Russian has not." This not entirely objective view might just have been influenced by a period of captivity in a Russian PoW camp!

An annual subscription is a very modest £6. Cheques to Ralph Weaver, 37 Yeading Av, Rayners Lane, Middx. HA2 9RL.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Slingshot - Battle of Pydna

The latest edition of Slingshot, the journal of the Society of Ancients has been my current reading . Rarely a light read, but it does provide a nice balance between scholarly articles on ancient history, practical tips for wargamers and those essential reviews.

Issue 267 has Balkan interest with a detailed article on the Battle of Pydna, fought between  Rome and Macedon in 168BC. The article takes the reader carefully through the sources on each aspect of the battle and follows that with the author's (Richard Taylor) interpretation. Plus a helpful section on wargaming the battle. An excellent read and inspiration to dust down my Macedonian and Republican Roman armies.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Albanich 2010

First wargame show of the year was Albanich 2010 in Dumfries yesterday. This is smaller local show put on by the Dumfries club at a new venue and date.  The Cairndale Hotel has a good sized function room ideal for a show of this size with limited catering the only shortcoming. A number of traders made the journey including Under the Bed and Warlord.

It is a bold venture for a small club to put on a show in a more remote part of Scotland in January. The numbers attending were reasonable and it was good to see a fair number of local non-wargamers turning up to see what was going on. I spent time with a number of people explaining what wargaming was all about. That's good for the hobby and I hope the Dumfries club benefit from the interest. Either way congratulations to them for putting the show on.

There was a good range of display games and a WAB competition. GDWS put on 1711 Peter on the Pruth in 28mm using the Black Powder rules by Rick Priestley. This is a new rule set for us and we are just beginning to get the hang of them. They give a fast  and fun game and because they cover such a wide period (300 years) we should get good use out of them.  

Friday, 22 January 2010

Smugglers

A day off work today partly to prepare for tomorrow's show in Dumfries, but also to catch up on much needed exercise given the big freeze over xmas and new year - or at least that's my excuse!

As the golf course is too wet this time of year for my taste, it was a walk. I chose the Smugglers Trail that runs from Troon to Dundonald Castle. For those outside the UK this is on the west coast of Scotland, famous for its championship golf course.

In the 18th Century the smugglers and the Revenue Officers played a game of cat and mouse down the coast and the Loans Smuggling Company was the most successful in Scotland. Their preferred route from the beach by the modern golf course, around Troon, through Loans and up to Dundonald some 8km inland, can be walked on a well marked and maintained path.

The path ends at Dundonald Castle. This is a fortified tower house built by King Robert II in 1371. The Stuarts maintained it as a royal residence for the next 150 years. It is in reasonable condition, more than a ruin and has a visitor centre open in the summer only.

A pleasant walk in good weather and a bit of history. What more could you ask for!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Mercenaries

Just finished this book by Jack Ludlow. First in his Conquest series about the Normans in Italy. Historical fiction but firmly rooted in the history of the 11th Century. Based on the story of the de Hautevilles this is a fast paced narrative with some larger than life characters. A good read if, like me, you are a fan of this genre.

I have been fascinated by the history of the Normans in Italy ever since reading John Julius Norwich's books Normans in the South and Normans in Italy.

Balkan interest as well. In May 1081 Robert Guiscard and his Norman/Italian army landed at Avlona on the Albanian coast. He marched north to lay siege to the Byzantine regional capital Dyrrachion (modern Durres). Robert was a member of the Hauteville clan of Normans who had carved out an empire in Southern Italy at the expense of the Lombards and the Byzantines. His aim was to do the same in the Balkans assisted by his son Bohemund who of course played a major role in the First Crusade.

The story of this battle is covered in Dyrrachion 1081 and you can also link to a GDWS display game we did at the Wappinshaw show in 2005. Norman Sicilian is also the army I use in our WAB competition. It has the punch of a typical Norman army but with the Arab mobility. The Normans in Sicily were pretty pragmatic about religion and created a powerful and culturally strong state with a degree of religious toleration.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Balkan Photos

A new web service to me at least is V for Vintage. Essentially a collection of old photos posted by users and from public archives. The link above is a search result for the Balkans that largely includes what appear to be German troops in WW2 on security operations. I particularly liked this atmospheric photo - the narrow mountain road, the mist.......

Moldavian Alliance

Once a year my wargame club GDWS holds a double header - two days of gaming over a weekend. This enables us to play big multi-player games.

This year I organised a game - 1713 Moldavian Alliance. The scenario involves Peter the Great trying again to occupy Moldavia with a new invasion after his abortive 1711 campaign. This time he obtains support from the Austrian’s. The War of the Spanish Succession was grinding to halt and the Austrian’s had crushed the Rakoczy (Hungarian) Rebellion by 1711. The Austrian’s were concerned about Swedish troops on their northern border and the Ottoman’s in the Balkans. Historically they did actually go to war against the Ottoman’s in 1716.


We envisage a Russian army led by Peter the Great crossing the Pruth River and besieging the Moldavian capital Jassy. An Austrian army is coming through Transylvania to support him. In opposition the Ottomans have mobilised a large field army and have been joined by their allies the Crimean Tartars as well as more reluctant support from their vassals in Wallachia and Moldavia.

We used 28mm figures from my collection, over 600 in total, using 18C Principles of War rules. The scenario provided a good game. The Russians only just stopped the Ottomans from cutting off their line to the Austrian's and then their other flank nearly collapsed. Their centre held well supported by cavalry until the Austrian's arrived and the day was saved. The Ottoman's had plenty of troops but not enough room to deploy them or the necessary punch.

Plenty more pictures at the GDWS pages.



Thanks to Bob, Bill, Derek and three Dave's for a good weekend gaming. Yes it is obviously true that most wargamers are called Dave!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Painting 15mm pike and shot

Part of my war room tidy up has been to pull together some of my disparate collection. One project was my 28mm Austrian Imperialist forces that at different times have taken the field as English Civil War and other conflicts. The beauty of the all purpose pike and shot.

This is even more the case in 15mm. I picked up a box of pike and shot armies at Britcon a few years ago painted as ECW. So to create a Balkan version (Austrian Imperialist) I have had to recruit and paint up some additional units - dragoons, grenzer and battalion guns in the main. I haven't painted 15mm for years (bit of an age thing probably) and you forget how quick it is compared with my usual 28s. Looking forward to getting them on the table when FoG renaissance comes out.



Nostalgia

My new year's resolution is to have a grand tidy up of my war room. Clear out some of those odd units that represent the start of the project that never materialised or possibly even an army or two that I have not used in years.
Whilst engaged on this theraputic (though sometimes stressful) activity, I decided to throw out old rule sets that have just gathered dust. Either because I have moved on or new editions have superceded them. Real trip down memory this. Mainly many old WRG sets - horse and musket, ancients, WW2 and modern. Still kidded myself on that some of the army lists will come in useful - well maybe not that much of a clear out.............

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Empire of the Moghul

Just finished reading the first in a series Empire of the Moghul from a new author to me, Alex Rutherford. Whilst this is historical fiction it is based on the rise and fall of the Moghul Emperors. The first book Raiders from the North covers the rise of Babur the first Moghul Emperor. Gripping read in the style of Cornwell, Iggulden and Scarrow - couldn't put it down over New Year.
Inspiration for me to do a bit more with my 28mm Moghul army that featured in Wargames Illustrated last year.

Fortifications

My painting schedule was a bit limited this xmas holidays but I did manage to finish some 28mm fortifications. These are for our display game 1711 - Peter on the Pruth at the Albanich show in Dumfries on 23 January - the first show of the year. They will represent Russian defenses protecting Peter the Great from the Ottomans. Photies of my Russian army figures can be viewed here.

The fortifications come from the Reiver Castings range produced by those very friendly Gordies at Under the Bed Enterprises. They are excellent, no excess resin, they come primed and the texture is perfect for drybrushing. Photie below.

Welcome

This blog is essentially an adjunct to the websites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow and District Wargaming Society.
It will cover many of the activities covered by these sites and my wider historical and gaming interests. I hope it will be of interest to wargamers and those with a broad interest in military history.