The Back of Beyond, Setting the East Ablaze, 28mm
By popular demand we staged another multi-player Back of Beyond game this week. It’s a “period” you can’t take too seriously, and this makes it an ideal pre-Christmas game. So, this one was set in the mean streets of Tashkent, and featured eight players – two Reds (Angus and Peter) two Whites (Alexander and Young Michael), two Turkish (Alexander and “New Michael”), and two Interventionists (German Michael with Brits and Bart with Polish Legion). We have so many Michaels we have to tell them apart. The 8×6 foot table was covered in a town, complete with palace (the Smurf Mahal) and a railway line. This game was a sort of multi-faction land grab. Each building had a coin hidden under it – either gold or silver. Each was worth a certain number of rubles. So, the more buildings you captured and searched, the more money you got.You could then keep the money with the unit, or detach some men to carry it off the table to safety. In fact the only ones to do that were the Interventionists – and it paid off. So, the opening phase involved everyone rootling through the buildings closest to their entry point.Once all the coins were collected the game changed gear, and it became all about taking the money from the other players. This wasn’t a free-for -all though. No sirree. Each pair (Reds, Whites, Turks or Interventionists) couldn’t fire on other troops of their own faction. Other than that it was open season.The starting point of each faction was decided randomly. This worked out pretty well for the Turks and the Whites, with both forces of each faction coming on next to each other. The Interventionists were split though, as were the Bolsheviks. This meant that once the land grab was over, some players had allies who could watch their backs. For my part I found myself wedged in between the British and the Polish Legion. I didn’t get very far either, getting drawn into a pretty ineffectual shooting match with Bart’s Poles, and then being ambushed by Michael’s Brits. My only real asset was an armoured car, and it singularly failed to damage the Polish improvised tank, despite firing at it throughout the game.Meanwhile one White player was fighting the Bolsheviks, and another the Turks. They agreed to leave the Poles alone, while the Turks fought the British, the Reds and the Whites. The Reds fought everyone, but especially the Turks and Poles. It was all pretty confusing, I’ll tell you! The way we activated units was using the Bolt Action system. Each player had a colour-coded dice, one per unit. Everyone had six units, so 48 dice went into the bag. Two purple ones went in too. They represented the “Vodka Break”. The first one was just a warning. The second meant the turn ended, even if players hadn’t moved all their units. That second idea was stolen from Sharp Practice, and it works a treat. As the game progressed Bart’s Poles and Michael’s Brits kept whittling me down, until I was only left with a couple of units. In fact I even bartered gold coins with Michael, in exchange for a temporary cease fire. So, when the game ended I just had two units on the table, plus my leader. One of them though, was my armoured car, whose machine guns were absolutely useless. I killed a few Poles though, with my other units. Peter’s Reds fared almost as badly, being picked on by three other factions – the Turks, the Brits and the Whites. Meanwhile Alistair’s Whites arranged their own ceasefire with the Polish Legion, and advanced pretty well unhindered. In the end though, the game degenerated into a building to building fight in downtown Tashkent. One of the sillier highlights was the arrival of a Turkish plane, with a pilot crazed on opiates. He randomly attacked whoever he flew over, with control of the plane being decided by a die roll. He landed up strafing Reds, Whites and Turks before flying off the table. It was pretty crazy, but that’s what makes Back of Beyond games such good fun. There was also an armoured train and a couple of tanks in town, which I believe could be activated as special events – but nobody managed it. SO, in the end we tallied up the coins, and worked out that Michael’s British were the new rulers of Tashkent – or rather most of it. In fact the Interventionists were the most successful faction, with the poor old Reds the least successful. It was a crazy game, but great fun, and just what we needed for our last wargame before Christmas.