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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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The Saving of Samarkand, 1920

The Back of Beyond, The Men Who Would Be Kings, 28mm

Hurrah! With Spring almost upon us it was time for the first ‘League of Gentlemen Wargamers’ get-together of the year! that involves a weekend in Kirriemuir (just an hour’s drive from the ferry port at Aberdeen), a large game, and a chance to catch up, game, eat and drink with old friends. This one promised to be even better than usual, as it was a ‘Back of Beyond’ game – very loosely based on the Russian Civil War in Central Asia. Urrah! For this one, we divided up into five two-player factions – the Reds, the Whites, the British, the Chinese and the Muslims. Kieron and I played the part of the locals – the forces of the Emir of Samarkand and his Turkish commander Enver Pasha.Essentially, we were in the middle of a cross-shaped table, with the other factions each heading towards Samarkand, plump in the centre of the cross. In all, the game involved around 1,200 figures, plus other cool  toys. As usual, there was plenty of room for skullduggery, alliances, treachery, special events, the search  for money, mercenaries and zeppelins for hire, boats, aircraft, armoured trains and spies.Oh, and that little shit TinTin, who spent the game helping the British, and proving he and his dog Snowy were bullet proof! Every team had their own secret agenda, unique victory conditions, and set of likely opponents. Apart from that it was a real free-for-all…The mayhem was expertly umpired by Chris and Donald, who kept throwing in interesting events, or special opportunities. For instance, the Bank of Uzbekistan in the centre of Samarkand was up for robbing, and both the locals and the White made good use of it.My Basmachi tribesmen even came across a Buddhist temple, where they had to stop for a turn, as the peace and good karma of the place gave them pause! It was all excellent chrome. Meanwhile, the four factions advanced steadily towards the city. That’s the Whites advancing towards the city gates above, after disembarking from their river transport, while down below the British and their local allies are seen doing the same from the opposite side of the city.The Reds and Chinese of course, were doing the same, with the Reds passing the encampment of Wagnergruppen, some German mercenaries, available for hire to any faction. Naturally the Red players Bill and Steve were quick to do a deal with them!It made good diplomatic sense to form alliances with other factions. We made one with the Whites (played by Peter and Dale), which amazingly lasted throughout the whole game. We also had non-aggression alliances with the Reds and Chinese, which didn’t last quite so long. The British though, refused to do a deal,  as their victory conditions involved fighting their way through to the Blue Mosque, to free an important British archaeologist held there!So, the mayhem slowly ran its course.  Occasionally aircraft appeared, and dogfights were fought in the skies over the city, or the troops of enemy factions were strafed or bombed. It was all good – in fact excellent – fun, especially when nobody really knew what to expect next!Eventually, all the four advancing factions reached the city, and fighting broke out between just about everybody. For us Muslims, the key victory conditions were the holding of the Blue Mosque, and the Emir’s Palace, a grandiose building on the edge of town that became a battleground.Over on the far side of town the British and the reds made an unholy non-aggression deal, which allowed the Brits to sprint forward into the town centre. The Whites weren’t much use either, as they wouldn’t shoot at the British – or even the Reds for a fair bit of the game! Unholy alliances indeed!In the palace complex the Chinese filled the place with troops, where they faced off Kieron’s palace guards, while the rest of the Chinese faction massed close to the Blue Mosque, as if getting ready to attack. All this, of course, at a time when we were busy fighting both the Reds and the British..In fact the Reds martial ardour was cooled when the remnants of the much-bloodied Wagnergruppen mercenaries packed up and went home – partly as I’d just liberated their wages from the bank. The British though, were up for some tense house-to-house fighting, in the Stalingrad of Uzbekistan.Still, we held them off, and even stopped a desperate British lunge towards the mosque, let by that little shit Tin Tin. In the end though, our real threat came from the Chinese, who broke their treaty with the Muslims, and attacked the Palace. Kieron though, held off Kevin’s troops with grim aplomb. Over by the Blue Mosque the Chinese assault also came to naught. I lost my armoured car, but apart from that the Muslim defenders stood firm, and gunned down Martin’s attacking Chinese in droves. That meant by the end of the game, all our objectives – the defence of the Palace and the Mosque – had been met, and the Emir of Samarkand was safely ensconced in his palace. It was touch and go though, as the British were still driving forward.So, helped by this, and by our robbing of the bank, we won the game on points. The Whites came next, followed by the British, and then the less successful Reds and Chinese. The main thing though, was that everyone had a blast! The Back of Beyond, as ever, lived up to its reputation as the most entertaining wargame period of them all! 






4 Responses “The Saving of Samarkand, 1920”

  1. Campbell
    20th March 2024 at 12:21 pm

    Just lovely.

    • 20th March 2024 at 6:54 pm

      Thanks Campbell! To be honest, I just rocked up with my figures – the rest of the guys set up the table. These ‘BoB’ games are always amazingly entertaining, especially when you have inventive umpires and lots of players.

  2. Bill Gilchrist
    22nd March 2024 at 9:05 am

    Angus it was a great game
    My proletarian masses did eventually get into action with the dastardly Whites. Long live the mighty red artillery. Well played by the Muslims as I thought you were doomed by the setup!

    • 22nd March 2024 at 10:24 am

      Indeed Bill, it was a memorable game indeed! It was hard fending off all-comers (Apart from the Whites), but being ensconced in the city itself helped us a lot, despite being in a central position. The British and Chinese had to advance in the open to get at us, and paid the price. Besides, Allah willed it.

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