Trouble in Tashkent, 1918
16th February 2023, 4 Comments
The Back of Beyond, The Men who would be Kings, 28mm
This week we had a visitor – my old chum Peter Marshall – which was an excellent excuse to run a multi-player Back of Beyond game. The 6 x 6 foot table was covered in buildings, representing Tashkent. the town was divided into the sectors of three factions – the Cheka, the Railway Workers Collective and the Red Guard. These were played by Nick, Sean 1 and Sean 2 respectively. Later, archaeology student Dan came along, and helped Sean 2. I was umpiring, while Peter played the part of Col. Bailey, a British officer. Each of the three factions had a couple of 12 figure units, a field gun and a machine gun. The Cheka also had an armoured car, while the Red Guard had a tank – Sean 2’s newly-painted pride and joy. The Railway Workers only had an unarmoured train as a vehicle, and half their force – Austraian POWs and a field gun – didn’t even have any weapons, until they stole them from the town armoury!Each of the three players had a headquarters – one for the Cheka (top left in the town photo), one for the Red Guard (top right) and the Railway Station (bottom right). The Armoury was close to the station, while across the street from it was the square, grey-roofed tearoom, where the Austrians were hiding out. Peter was treated differently though, Scattered around the table were a dozen civilian figures and suspicious-looking characters. Only Peter knew which one of these was Col. Bailey. The others were merely decoys. Peter’s aim was to visit three buildings in the town – the homes of key anti-revolutionaries. If he managed it, then these town elders would call in a White Army force, which would try to recapture Tashkent from the three Bolshevik factions. the leaders of the three factions could interrogate the civilians, in an attempt to expose Bailey. If captured he’d be taken to their headquarters for a full “interrogation”. The three “Bolo” factions also had their own victory conditions – the Cheka and the Red Guard both had to capture their rival’s HQ, and to capture Bailey. The Railway Workers had to arm the Austrian POWs, hold the station against all-comers, and send the Austrians off home in the train. They didn’t really care about Bailey – their main enemy were the Tashkent Cheka and Red Guard. An early casualty was Sean 2’s beloved Mark IV tank. It was brewed up by the Cheka’s field gun, after a brief but hard-fought duel. The rules are Colonial-era ones, but it was a fairly simple task to add rules covering armoured vehicles, as well as snipers, indirect fire and even aircraft. It all seemed to work very well. That tank hit though, left the Cheka’s Austin-Putilov armoured car the top dog. That didn’t last long though, as it was quickly taken out by the Red Guard field gun. The next development was the capture of the Armoury by the railway workers and the Austrians. Now fully-armed, the Asutrains set off carrying shells to the field gun – still on the train – while the Railway Workers headed off to defend the station. An Austrian sniper though, tried to kill the Red Guard commander, Major Stolishnaya, but when he missed he was silenced by the Red Guard machine gun. On reaching the train the Austrian PoWs helped unload the Railway Workers’ field gun and machine gun, then clambered aboard and set off in their train, heading off the table in their bid for freedom. That though, left their Railway Worker allies short-handed. Meanwhile, Col. Bailey had been working wonders. His first port of call at the town mosque was followed by another at the main foreign consulate – the building closest to the burned-out tank. Just one more and he’d have achieved his objective! Peter came up with the brilliant idea of moving about in a gaggle of half a dozen civilians. That made it almost impossible for the Cheka leader Commissar Smirnoff to detain everyone, even with his own Red Sailors helping t round people up. Several slipped the net, including Bailey, and he managed to reach the last house – the one of Nazaroff, Tashkent’s leading counter-revolutionary. His hidden radio was used to send a message of help to Col. Krupskaya, leading the White troops in the region. So, the game changed pace. Bailey slipped away off the table, his task complete. His only failure was that he was unable to sneak into the Cheka HQ, and steal documents, as it was too well-guarded. Still, he’d achieved his aim, and the Whites were now on their way! Sure enough, an armoured train pulled into Tashkent station, flying Red flags.This was a ruse though. It quickly shot up the Railway Workers’ field gun and machine gun, and the troops it was carrying tumbled out. At the same time, other White troops entered the table. Their aim was to take out the Railway Workers and Red Guard, before dealing with the Cheka. It didn’t go well though – the Railway Workers held firm, taking out the White machine guns, while the Red Guards dealt with a unit of 10 Cossacks and two units of 12 White cadets, dressed in white smocks, who were gunned down in a desperate assault on the Red Guard HQ. That pretty much brought the game to an end, as everyone was too bashed around to take on the others. In the end the Railway Workers were the only faction to fulfil their objectives – defend the station and get the Austrians off the table in the train. Col. Bailey of course, was the real winner in the evening’s entertainment, as Peter had deftly fulfilled his own objectives. After all, it wasn’t his fault the Whites weren’t really up to the job of retaking Tashkent. The main thign though, was that everyone really enjoyed themselves. Sean 2 even called the game memorable, even though his new tank went up in flames. He’s right. Back of Beyond games are always cracking good fun!
A brilliantly organised game. No one caught on about the Whites turning up in a train. My beloved tank went down fighting, but it was great to get it rumbling around. The first wargame item I’ve painted in nearly forty years! Thanks Angus. There are a few stand out games that we talk about for years and that was one of them.