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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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Stallaponen, East Prussia, 1914

The Great War, Setting the East Ablaze, 28mm

In October the AB1 group I’m part of is running a big weekend-long Back of Beyond game. The plan is to use the Setting the East Ablaze! rules, which are a revamped version of Chris Peers’ Contemptible Little Armies.  We wanted to run a game, just so a few of the guys could try out the rules, but rather than one set in Central Asia, we opted for a game set in 1914. In our little scrap, two evenly matched forces – one German, the other Russian – fought each other for control of a little village on the Russian-East Prussian border. Each side had eight infantry companies (each of ten figures), two cavalry squadrons (the same size), backed up by two battalion commanders, and two machine gun and two field gun units. Each side also had a C-in-C – a regimental commander. As the Germans were rated as a better class of troops, we gave the Russians a “stubborn” characteristic, and attached a tschanka to their cavalry.The game was played out on an 8x 6 foot table, with Bart Zynda and I running the Russians, while Bill Gilchrist and Campbell Hardie commanded the Russians. Both sides entered the table from opposite long edges. In Ablaze! movement is random – in good going infantry move 2D6″ a turn, and only when their card is pulled out of a pack. We made up cards that allowed us to move or fire two units at a time, but to increase the friction of the game we inserted two Schnapps/Vodka Break cards. When the second one is played the pack is reshuffled, and we start drawing the cards again. This means there’s no guarantee a unit will move every turn.Anyway, while the Russians advanced pretty much all along the table, the Germans tended to aim for the village. We covered each flank with just one infantry company, an Ulhan squadron and a field gun. That meant six infantry companies, supported by two machine guns began heading for the village. Surprisingly, the Russians got there first. They established a foothold at one end, and while the Germans took control of the rest of the place, it was clear one side or the other would have to clear the enemy from the buildings if they wanted to win the game. The first thing though, was to strip the Russians of support. On my left flank this was achieved quite easily through a combination of close-range machine gun fire and longer range artillery support. Bart had a tougher time over to the right, mainly because the Russian cavalry were deployed there en masse, and threatened to overwhelm the German flank.Still, Bart is a Pole, and given lancers he’ll always charge with them, regardless of the odds. This is exactly what he did, and almost got away with it too. Unfortunately for him his ulhans didn’t quite have the movement dice they needed to make contact. The next turn they were suppressed, which meant they couldn’t advance, and Bart pulled them back to regroup. To stave off the Russian cavalry he re-aligned two infantry units, his machine gun and his field gun. Everyone else – two companies – headed towards the Russian-occupied part of the village, supported by fire from my guys in my side of the main street. Once again though, the attack stalled through close-range rifle fire and a poor morale test. By then though success was immaterial, as the Russian garrison was reduced to a single figure, thanks to close-range German rifle and machine gun fire.That wasn’t quite enough to claim control of the town though, as the same Russians who saw off Bart’s ulhans now sidestepped to occupy the very eastern tip of the place. this meant that the Germans would have to stage another all-out attack, to claim victory. By then Bill’s Russian infantry on his right flank had advanced through woods, forcing me to pull back my own ulhans, or risk them being shot up. This though, was a pretty stable flank fir us, as the open ground in front of the woods was either covered by infantry or my field gun. By now five German infantry companies were in the village, and while a couple had suffered casualties, they were firmly ensconced. So, when the time came to end the game, we declared it a draw (as nobody fully controlled Stalloponen), but one which favoured the Germans.All in all the rules worked pretty smoothly, especially considering three of the four players hadn’t used them before. Bill was happy enough with them as he was used to the Chris Peers’ originals, and so knew what to expect. The other guys had played this sort of game before too, and so everything ticked along nicely. Apart from the vodka/schnapps break, the other break from the rules as they’re written was the linking together of two units on the activation cards. Each unit moves when its card is turned over from the pack, but instead of, say, having the 3rd Company being activated when their card was turned, we activated both the 3rd and the 4th companies. It worked very nicely, and almost certainly speeded up the game. We’ll try the rules again soon, and no doubt we’ll keep tinkering with them until we’re completely ready for our big game this autumn.


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