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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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Battle for Krasnovodsk, Turkmenistan, 1919

The Back of Beyond, Setting the East Ablaze, 28mm

This was the second half of a two part game – the first instalment was played out the week before (see Journal 96) The two sides spent the game landing or advancing, and now both sides were poised for a fight through the dusty streets of Krasnodorsk. When this week’s game started both sides had seven infantry companies and one cavalry squadron in play (each of ten figures), plus two field guns, two machine guns, two commanders and an armoured car. In addition the Bolsheviks had a tschanka and an armoured train, while the Turks had two gunboats (one being rather uselessly small), and an aircraft. The objective was to control more of the town than the enemy by the end of the game.When last week’s stramash ended the Bolsheviks had reached the edge of the town, and skirmishing had already started to the north of the main street. Our game began with a general Bolshevik advance, with the two companies of sailors and one of the Siberian Rifles taking the left flank, leaving the Red Army to advance on the Bolshevik right. As was their wont the Cheka followed up in the rear, acting as a neck-shooting morale-boosting reserve. Gyles and newcomer Sean took charge of the Red hordes. On the Turkish side one three-company battalion deployed to the left of the main road leading from the jetty, and the other deployed to the right. A reserve of a marine company was held back in reserve, while field guns and machine guns were split equally between the two battalions (and two commanders – Joe and I). I got the armoured car to play with, while the gunboat berthed at the jetty (and its attendant spotter) fired in support of any targets of opportunity that it could.Things got off to a fairly slow start. To their delight the Bolshevik players discovered that the railway actually ran as far as the centre of town – the main platform was beside the tall station building facing the jetty. However, the tracks were covered with sand, and so a team of engineers had to probe their way forward (D6 +2″ a move), checking the line was safe. Then the armoured train could forward to lend its firepower to the fight in the town. That was the plan anyway. On the right the sailors and the supporting armoured car had to cross a large patch of open ground, while the Turks busied themselves occupying the big building facing them on the southern edge of town. A long range exchange of fire took place, while Sean’s Austin-Putilov armoured car bogged down, and its crew had to spend a turn digging itself free. Meanwhile the Erhardt armoured car operated by the Turks swung onto the station platform, and began machine-gunning sailors at long range.Over on the Bolshevik right the advance continued, and soon the Red Army was in possession of the first three buildings in the town. The battalion’s maxim gun set up in the foirst of these buildings, and lent its fire to the fight for building four – the one with the small enclosed courtyard in the picture above, which was now held by the Turks.  A Turkish field gun deployed on the hill just to the north, but it was attacked and overrun by Commissar Borsht and his men. The good commissar eventually came unstuck though, when the Turkish cavalry charged over the hill and wiped out the company he was leading. The game on that side of the table then settled down to some brutal but long-range exchanges of fire, with neither side gaining enough of an edge to push the enemy back.Back on the road the last of the Bolshevik force was struggling to reach the battlefield – the squadron of cavalry was quick enough, but the second field gun battery and the tschanka spent most of the game advancing at a crawl, thanks to some very low movement die rolls. When the Red cavalry eventually charged in they were bested by their Turkish counterparts, and sent packing from the field. Although this meant the Turkish horsemen were now a spent force, they’d more than earned their wages that day. Back on the Bolshevik left the sailors continued to take casualties as they advanced, until one of the two naval units was wiped out. The other had moved within firing range of the long southern building, and supported by their own machine gun and the armoured car they peppered the place, inflicting heavy casualties on the Turks lining the roof. Eventually one of the Turkish companies failed its morale test and broke, which meant there was precious few men left to stop the advance of the Siberians, with the Red Army’s Colonel Smirnoff at their head.Still, the Turks were still causing mayhem. The Turkish armoured car wiped out the engineers, which meant the armoured train could only get halfway to the station. This meant its machine gun carriages wouldn’t be able to fire into the sides of the Turkish-held buildings. The Turkish gunboat was making its presence felt too, shelling Bolshevik troops as they advanced up the main road. That though, was where the game came to an end. We’d played it for three hours, and it was now time to take stock. The Bolsheviks had gained control of four buildings (including the one beside the railway to the east of the town), while the Turks also held four. However, the Turks held all of the important buildings (the town hall, the market and the police HQ), as well as the jetty. So, despite it being a very close-run thing, victory was awarded to the Turks. If this game was being fought as part of our Back of Beyondcampaign the Bolsheviks would have to retreat from the town, leaving the Turks to consolidate their hold on the place. This though, was an ancillary game – one designed to introduce the Turks into play in the region. They’d still have to fight their way up the Central Asia Railway heading east from Krasnodorsk if they wanted to achieve their ultimate objective – linking up with their fellow Muslims in the Emirate of Bokhara. The good thing is – there’s plenty of scope for more games, even though we’ll sadly have to leave the coast, and lose the excuse to field our small flotilla of card-built gunboats!


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