The Back of Beyond, Setting the East Ablaze, 28mm
First off, let me apologise for the ropey photos. I left my good camera in Edinburgh, and these were taking with an old and temperamental one, which I’ve forgotten how to use. Anyway, the game was so much fun we’ll do another one soon, using these two armies again. The game pitted the Bolsheviks of the Tashkent Soviet against the forces of the Emir of Bokhara.To say the Emir’s army is exotic is an understatement. it is downright bizarre. His force consisted of 30 “Guard” Cossacks and red-coated infantry, 30 Bokharan line and militia in white or black coats, the Bokharan artillery in green, whose train included two elephant-drawn 18th century guns, an anti-aircraft gun and a machine gun, and a host of 60 Basmachi tribal horse and foot. Oh, and the two sub-commanders were both black-robed mullahs, but I’m too scared to post a picture of them…The “Bolos” also had a rather eclectic force, consisting of the Comrade Colonel and the Commissar, 20 Red Guards, 10 Austro-Hungarian POWs given rifles, 10 Cheka, a brace of field guns, a machine gun, a tchanka, and 10 Bolshevik cavalry. They also had an aircraft. This meant that despite their slight edge in technology the Reds were outnumbered, which was unfortunate, as they were also attacking. the aim of the game was to demolish the Bokharan army, but a decisive victory could be won if the “Bolos” breached the walls of Bokhara, and broke into the city. The scenario was lifted directly from the first scenario book for Setting the East Ablaze.Sean and I played the “Bolos”, while Alan and Giles took command of the Bokharans. For their deployment they crammed their tribesmem and militia into Bokhara itself, as well as the machine gun, anti-aircraft gun and the Emir’s command base. Their one semi-modern gun guarded the gateway, while another older piece sat outside the walls, in an emplacement. Another old gun covered their left flank, where the Bokharan guard sat, waiting for the enemy advance. One look at the walls of Bokhara and we decided to go for a non-decisive victory. We didn’t have the manpower to launch an all-out assault against the horde of defenders, as even badly trained troops can lay down a heavy fire, even if they are using obsolete single-shot rifles. So, our brace of field guns deployed to pound the enemy artillery, while the rest of the army concentrated on the Bokharan left flank.What followed was a very strange game, as the fortune for both sides kept on fluctuating. The Bolo advance to the river was met by rifle fire from the “Turkish” guard unit, who wore red coats, white trousers and sported red fezzes. They caused a few casualties to our cavalry, which then pulled back, just as the Bokharan guard cavalry made their charge. These black-coated Cossacks were halted by some well-aimed rifle fire from the Cheka, and then driven off by the POW’s. So far so good. At that point our aircraft came on, and after a few turns lumbering into position it bombed the Basmachi tribal cavalry. Both bombs missed. We had more luck firing at them with a unit of Red Guard, but the unit was so large that it was hard to whittle them down sufficiently to knock them out of the game.So, we launched the Cheka and the cavalry at the Turkish guards, and the Bokharan unit was eventually demolished in a firefight. Spurred on by this the remnants of our cavalry charged the Bokharan gun emplacement, and rolled over the gun position. That meant one of their two obsolete bronze guns was out of the game. that though, was when disaster struck. The two remaining Bokharan guns and the Bolo pair had been trading shots for some time, and suddenly the Bokharan shot struck home.A roundshot demolished one of our two field guns. The following turn the same gun repeated the success with out other gun. That put paid to any lingering idea of breaching the walls and storming the city. It also left our left flank seriously weakened. Things got worse two turns later, when the same pesky 18th century gun destroyed our machine gun. Their artillery then caused a hit on one of our two Red Army units, causing it to break and run. Oh dear!That meant that the only offensive troops left in play – apart from a Red Army unit stuck behind a hill on our left – were the Cheka and the Austro-Hungarian POWs in ou right centre, and an attached tshanka, backed by four cavalrymen. the Bokharanss still had another guard unit, a line unit, a militia unit and those tribal cavalry facing them, plus they had the advantage of better defensive terrain. The city itself was still bristling with defenders. So, we decided to call it a day. However, the troops of the Tashkent Soviet will return to Bokhara, and avenge this defeat at the hands of the effete backward defenders of the Emirate of Bokhara!The rules in the game – Setting the East Ablaze! – worked perfectly well, with their card-driven activation and nice balance of troops, equipment and weaponry giving a novel feel to the game. The rules though, are largely based on the older Chris Peers’ set Contemptible Little Armies, and share their same high casualty rate and fast pace. All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and if truth be told even though I was on the Bolshevik side, you can’t help rooting for the funky Bokharans!