This site – Steven’s Balagan – is about Spanish and Portuguese Military History, Wargaming, and other stuff.
I’m a Kiwi living in London (UK) and according to my daughter I’m “a reader”. It is true, I read a lot, facilitated by hours on trains and the Tube. What makes me a little unique is that I then type up notes about what I read.
Military history is the interest I pour most of my spare time into. When a teenager I wanted to learn about all wars, every where, over all time. Luckily I soon realised that was quite a wide scope and that being a bit obsessive this interest would quickly lead to insanity. So I decided to specialise.
I landed on the Wars of Spain and Portugal for two reasons:
- The history of the Iberian peninsular is rich, diverse and fascinating. And as I extend my interest to where the armies of Spain and Portugal reached it gets even more appealing.
- I studied the Spanish language for a while during and after school.
Sadly, despite those early attempts at learning the language, my Spanish skills are pretty poor. And Portuguese is a complete mystery to me.
Luckily there is a growing wealth of material on the Wars of Spain and Portugal in English. When I get time I write up the material I read about. For example I’ve sections on the Carthaginian and Roman conquest of Iberia, Barbarian conquest of Iberia with the Fall of Rome, the Reconquista, Conquest of Mexico, Conquest of Brazil, First Carlist War, Rif War, Portuguese in WW1, Spanish Civil War, Spanish in WW2, and Portuguese Colonial War, amongst others.
I’ve also got a few secondary interests although these really don’t get the attention they deserve:
- I’m a Kiwi so I’ve got some material on New Zealand, particularly the New Zealand Wars and WW2.
- And my wife is Israeli so I’ve got material on the Arab-Israeli wars.
- My interest in the Spanish Blue Division has given me an excuse to look at the Eastern Front in general. How could I resist given I was playing with Airfix plastic Russians and Germans as a kid.
- I’ve got material on the Carthaginians and Romans so it naturaly extended into the Punic Wars and then the Roman conquest of the Mediterranean, i.e. the Macedonian Wars. And the first two wargaming armies I had, both converted Airfix plastic figures, were Carthaginian and Later Macedonian.
I’m a second generation wargamer. My father, Gary Thomas, was in touch with luminaries of the British wargaming community and joined the Society of Ancients when it first formed. I’ve still got the original Slingshots in storage somewhere. In fact Gary wrote a set of rules for me and they appeared in an early Slingshot as “Steven’s Rules”. And the rest, as they say “was history”. Wargaming was in my blood.
As a kid I played with airfix plastics. Robin Hood, Romans, Gauls, Russians, Germans. When an adult I inherited my father’s plastic army. A lovingly converted Alexandrian Macedonian army. When I say I “inherited” the army, Gary didn’t die he just lost interest in figure gaming. He found board games and then computer game more engaging. I took the Macedonians, extended them to Later Macedonian, and supplemented them with Carthaginians.
My airfix plastic armies are long gone. I was living in Sydney in the late 1980s and the Essex franchise was just up the road. Since then it has been 15mm all the way (with one slight detour into 5mm).
Now I collect wargaming armies for both Spain and Portugal and for their enemies, and, of course, I use all these to fight battles. I’ve played variations on DBx, but at the moment Crossfire – Arty Conliffe’s WW2 rules – is my passion. I’ve even dabbled in writing my own rules, e.g. Twilight of the Sun King.