The Back of Beyond, The Men Who Would Be Kings, 28mm
With yet another week when we couldn’t game in Kirkwall, Sean 2 came out to the house for a game here. We’d been planning a large Back of Beyond game the previous day in the club’s all-day event. When this couldn’t happen, we decided to stick with the period, but play a small even-sided game, with Sean’s Bolsheviks on one side and my Whites on the other. We were fighting for control of the town of Buka, some 30 miles south of Tashkent. We both had fairly equal forces, with both Reds and Whites fielding a tank, and armoured car, a unit of 10 cavalry, a tschanka, a field gun, a machine gun and four units of 12 infantry. One of these infantry units on both sides was half-decent, two were average, and the third one was poorly-trained militia. Both sides entered on opposite table edges, with the town in the middle of the 6×4 foot table. Both sides also had two leaders – a variant from the rules. In them, each unit has a leader. That doesn’t really work so well for us, so we have independent leaders, who can boost the motivation of the men within 12″ of them. So, off we went. Oh, for the first few turns occasional wargames volunteer Davis helped Sean, until he was called away. The main aim of the game though, apart from having fun, was to test out our newly-tweaked rules for tanks, armoured cars and other weird stuff not covered in the rules. In our game, the first real fight was between the armoured cars, who dueled for control of the town’s main square – actually its only square. The Red one was supported by a unit of former Austrian PoWs, which soon left their charge and occupied a building in the White corner of the square. Actually, this duel proved singularly ineffective, until the White tschanka deployed its machine gun, and this peppered the Austian-Putilov, and knocked it out. The Bolshevik infantry wasn’t doing so well either. A unit of Cheka found itself in a duel with a White unit – in bright white tunics – and surprisingly they lost the firefight, despite having a Lewis gun attached to their unit, which gave them more firepower. The Austrians countered though, by wiping out the white tunic unit in the open as it tried to sneak past their building into the town. So, at this stage honours were fairly even, giver or take.The Austrians though, found themselves under fire in their turn by the White “coloured” unit – an all officer unit, supported by a machine gun and a field gun,. With this level of oomph the former PoWs melted away, and the survivors fled the field. That’s them up above, holding on against the White hordes. That though, pretty much yielded the town to the Whites, who rolled forward their armoured car to hold the square against all comers. Over on the other side of the table the two tanks got into action against each other – both ex-British Mark IVs. The reds also had a tank and a machine gun in the area, but for some reason they fired at the White partisans instead, occupying a building in another corner of the square, overlooking the railway tracks. So, the tanks duelled on, without anyone scoring a telling hit. By then though, Sean had decided to send in his infantry to tip the balance of the fight.His Red Army unit advanced across the tracks to occupy Buka station. From there they could contest control of the square, and fire at the White partisans (pictured above). Still, until the tank duel was resolved, nobody really wanted to get too far ahead of themselves. Still, Sean launched a cavalry charge which was stopped in its tracks by the White tank, and the White machine gun. The survivors of the Red cavalry then broke and ran. Meanwhile, Sean had been sneaking his own Red Partisans around the left flank of the Whites, moving through a small wood to get in range of the tank. I wasn’t too worried, as Partisans didn’t carry “bombs” (grenades) – the only thing that could threaten the tank. It turns out though, they did. Sean had taken the grenades from his Austrians, and given it to the Partisans. So, a crazed charge later, a Double 6 on the dice, and my tank was toast! That’s pretty much where we stopped the game. The Whites held Buka, apart from the railway station, but without the tank they couldn’t do much more. The Reds were in a poor position, and with the Whites bringing up their field gun they’d pretty much consolidated their hold on the place. Still, for the sake of seasonal harmony, we declared the game a draw. It was fast, fun and at times wonderfully ridiculous – just what you want from “The Back of Beyond”!As for our tank rules, we merely adapted the ones from “Setting the East Ablaze”, and simplified them a bit. We also added the chance that the tank or armoured car wouldn’t be knocked out – merely pinned. they can also cope with weapons that can take out armour, such as machine guns, field guns, flamethrowers and – yes – grenade-wielding Partisans! All in all we think we’re on the right track, but we’ll tinker a bit more before we’re sure.