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The Red Factory, 1919


The Great War, Setting the East Ablaze!, 28mm

Last year, Partizan Press/Caliver Books produced Setting the East Ablaze, an update of Chris Peers’ Back of Beyond/Contemptible Little Armies rules. We decided to give them a go, and for our game we used Colin Jack’s figures for the German Revolution of 1918-19, augmented by a few sailors and extra Freikorps from Dave O’Brian and Hugh Wilson. The premise was that in the Ruhr a Arbeitsfabrik factory complex had been taken over by a workers communist collective, who also enjoyed the support of Spartacist militia and German sailors based in the nearby riverside port. The Freikorps – right wing paramilitaries. Being mostly ex-army, the Freikorps enjoyed the support of a tank, an armoured car and an armoured train. All the poor Spartacists had going for them was an armoured car and truck, and revolutionary fervour. The aim of the Friekorps was to capture the factory, while the defenders held on, and hoped that reinforcements from the port would arrive in time to save the day.1919-011The way Setting the East Ablaze works is each unit has a card. When it turns up the unit can then move and/or fire, melee or whatever. This makes for a pretty fluid game, and you have to think what happens if your card is drawn early, or late, or after the one belonging to the machine gun facing your men. Movement is simple – just like the Chris Peers’ rules – infantry move 2D6″ in good going, and D6″ in rough ground. Simple. The Freikorps got off to a good start, advancing down the 14 foot long table towards the factory, which was in the middle. Meanwhile the call went out for help from the port, and German Revolutionary sailors began landing on the quayside. That formed the shape of the game – it would be a race to the factory. On the Freikorps’ right the armoured train lumbered forward, then stopped opposite the factory. For the rest of the game it would use its gun to harass the factory defenders, and the Spartacist reinforcements coming up the road from the port.1919-024The factory was split into two halves, divided by the main road. Each half had a main factory building, complete with a cooling tower, and a yard, surrounded by a wall. The workers communist collective held all four parts, and victory would be decided by the side that held most of the complex by the end of the game. The first assault went in against the factory building on the Freikorps’ right. Hugh’s assault force was spearheaded by an all-female “Sturmkompanie”, an Ehrhardt armoured car and a unit of Bavarians, dressed in Tyrolean hats and lederhosen. The armoured car didn’t do much – it was locked in its own private war with its Spartakist counterpart called “Lenin”. The womens’ secret weapon was their flamethrower. It, and the supporting fire of the train helped the Bavarians get a foothold in the building, and in the ensuing melee the militia were overwhelmed. That still left them with the slightly tougher prospect of capturing the rail yard behind the factory – an area that could only be approached by braving flanking fire from the factory across the road. The strumbattalion and the Bavarians launched two costly assaults, but both were repulsed, and by the end of the game the railway yard was still firmly in Spartacist hands.1919-004Over on the Freikorps left my three infantry companies advanced towards the other half of the factory, supported by an ex-British type D tank, armed with light machine guns. The tank didn’t achieve much apart from breaking down. Once repaired it trundled forward to a small knoll, where it sat for the next few turns, firing in support of the infantry. The first assault was spearheaded by Hugh’s last unit, which fought its way into the loading dock, but was cut down. That though, allowed my Freikorps to move up behind them, and their assault proved a little more successful. The loading dock was captured, and the defenders broke and ran. Now – on to the main factory.1919-025 This time a freikorps unit charged up the road and entered through the main doors. The melee that followed was hard-fought, but eventually the defenders were pushed back. Then a second unit of Freikorps entered the factory through the loading dock doors, while a heavily-depleted third unit moved up the road to support the first attack. The battle for the factory (a converted file box) was fought out on its roof, which acted a bit like a floor plan. The game ended before a clear result was achieved, but the Freikorps clearly had the upper hand, and in another turn or two the factory would have been captured. As for the sailors and Spartakist militia from the port, their progress was slow – Dave O’Brian kept rolling terrible movement dice. They were also held up by the train, which was fighting its own little battle with the militia. In the end the sailors never reached the factory, and therefore they could have done little more than support the defenders in the rail yard. With 2 1/2 out of 4 areas in Freikorps hands, the game was declared a victory for them, albeit a minor and hard-fought one.1919-030The rules worked well, and while they’re very similar to the original Chris Peers’ set, they are a little slicker in a few key areas, like in combat involving guns, tanks and vehicles, or in shooting, which now isn’t quite so numbingly bloody. In fact, we decided to give the same rules another go next week. There’s a dreary EGM at the club, but with luck that nonsense will be dealt with fairly quickly, and it’ll leave us enough time to play a small game – this time set in the Eastern Front in 1914.1919-031

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