Piotr Stolarski's blog

Whites vs. Reds: The Back of Beyond

Rob brought down his 28mm Back of Beyond armies to the community centre on Friday 8 October. We played a Russian Civil War clash between the Bolsheviks (Reds) and the counter-revolutionary White Russians, with Rob umpiring using his own set of rules.

Both Bolsheviks and the newly-painted White miniatures looked great; the different coloured uniforms and flags of the latter looking fantastic on the table.

I was on the White side together with Doug, Mal, and Patrick. Phil, Theo and Jonathan were on the Red team. Using fewer figures than last time, we each controlled a brigade, and no cavalry was used. The scenario required the Whites to take two villages garrisoned by the Reds, in a bid to seize supplies. The Reds had slightly more troops, with terrain in their favour, but the White forces were of superior quality.

While the Whites failed to seize the villages, my right wing managed to clear the majority of Theo’s units from the table, including some from his village, despite sustaining heavy casualties from Theo's armoured car and infantry, Phil’s artillery, as well as a successful air attack by the Reds. Elsewhere on the table, Mal destroyed much of Jonathan’s brigade, whereas Doug faced stiffer opposition in the form of Bolshevik naval infantry defending a wood. Patrick's White tank and armoured car were reasonably effective on the White right flank, but might have been more decisive in the centre against Phil's artillery.

With Rob’s assistance we managed to assimilate more of the rules on this occasion, and we swapped ideas for possible alterations, though most seemed satisfied with them as they stand. Rob may apply further tweaks at his discretion, as well as produce playsheets with the essential core rules for ease of reference.

All in all a fun game with fine figures and much period flavour. Rob is putting together army lists for the period, while I will be assembling information on commanders, a chronology, list of battles, and maps, for a possible joint sourcebook project. The Back of Beyond is indeed bewildering and beguiling in equal measure, with something for all tastes.

Arab-Israeli War (1967)

Doug deployed his very nicely painted 1:300th scale Egyptian and Israeli models again last night, while umpiring a second Arab-Israeli clash at the community centre using Modern Spearhead rules. Simon and I were Israelis, with Mal and Patrick on the Egyptian side.

Both Mal and Patrick successfully prevented their entrenchments from being overrun, and had masses of men and armour to block the Israeli advance. The Israelis had fewer men and tanks, and were disadvantaged by receiving fire first whenever they moved forwards. The outcome of the game was an Israeli defeat, as one of my (Sherman) tank brigades was destroyed, with most of my infantry decimated, while Simon did not get around to breaching the trenches.

We are still learning the rules and how best to manage our resources in such games, as target priority and different weapons systems really do make a difference to how the game is won and lost. The Israelis need to integrate the superior firepower and protection of their tanks with a steady advance and skillful handling of the more vulnerable infantry, while remaining out of Arab firing range as far as possible.

On the night we discussed the rules as compared to the war itself: was the scenario too difficult, given low Israeli casualties and much easier victory historically? Doug may be bringing aircraft at some point in the future, which could prove decisive for the Israelis who enjoyed air supremacy in the Six Day War.

Overall this was a chilled out and enjoyable night in the company of a smaller group of gamers, and a welcome contrast to noisier and less contemplative occasions.

Missouri Border War (1861)

Yesterday's club game was an attempt at an alternative to the usual ACW set-piece head-on clash of arms.

The scenario was set in the early ACW as Secessionists and Abolitionists fought it out to take the State Arsenal in the border state of Missouri, which historically saw some of the fiercest guerrilla warfare and civil strife during the war.

I brought down my 1:72 scale plastic ACW figures, and used my Beards n' Bayonets rules to umpire a clash between Philip, Noel, Rob, and Mal on the secessionist side, and Doug, Theo and Patrick on the abolitionist side. The two armies were each split into two groups, approaching from all four sides of the table.

Each side had a number of regular units, as well as irregulars (secessionist Bushwackers or abolitionist Jayhawkers) hidden in the many small woods on the table. In each side's phase of a turn, one marker could be revealed anywhere on the table, which could either be a friendly or hostile partisan unit.

In what was a lively game, the abolitionist forces failed to make sufficient headway and the secessionists won a decisive victory on the night, managing to capture the Arsenal as well as the other two built up areas.

The armies used were about half of my 1:72 ACW collection, which was put together from second-hand figures largely already painted.

Age of Bonaparte: Battle of Leipzig (1813) with Cards

Last night saw the first trial club game of my Napoleonic card wargame, Age of Bonaparte, which I designed and wrote during the first 2020 lockdown. The scenario was the first day of the Battle of Leipzig (1813).

Using cards I had produced on MS Word and a grid with '2d' terrain was my answer to the 'portable wargame' concept, as well as being easier and cheaper to make than painted miniatures. Cards also allow the concealment of troops, adding more drama to the game.

Despite some holes in the rules (what are flank lines, again?), we managed to play several turns on a 10x6 foot grided mat from Deep Cut Studios, with minimal teething problems, and generally had an enjoyable evening's play.

In future I may tweak the rules, and have already produced alternative sample cards for World War Two and the Samurai period. The cards have been designed to eschew data and numerical values to allow any set of rules to be used with them, as well as a grid or no grid.

On the night, the French managed to hold Leipzig, but the Allies inflicted 16 more casualties, so they narrowly won the game.

Thanks to all for coming, and we hope to see James and Theo again sometime soon.

Back of Beyond: First Impressions of Setting the East Ablaze II

Last night saw the Bolsheviks (led by Rob, Richard and Phil) and Poles (led by Brian, Patrick and myself) clash over possession of a railway town on the outskirts of Warsaw, c. 1920.

Rob had gone to the trouble of setting up the table and producing action and chance cards for this first Back of Beyond game, using the Setting the East Ablaze rules (v. 2.0).

The rules, which we played for the first time, were a mixed bag, however. We agreed that the movement and firing aspects were sound and straightforward. Melee and morale were less user-friendly though, with the rules being unclear on the number of morale tests and additional factors needed for each close combat.

Another issue was the use of action cards: drawn sequentially from the deck. The rules stipulate one card per unit. Rob and I agreed to apply this to brigades instead, to speed things up. But with 6 Polish and 7 Bolshevik brigades in play (each of 2-4 units) – to exclude separate supporting weapons (each with its own card) – we only managed 3-4 turns from 8.30-11.30pm, so the game barely got going (each side lost about 15 figures).

While the period, figures, and terrain were generally inspiring and we all want to have another go, we may need to modify the rules in future. Specifically, the action cards may need to be reduced further, perhaps to one card per player’s command. Some decluttering of the melee and morale rules is also suggested, to avoid melees being unresolved for long periods due to the caprices of waiting for relevant action cards...

Overall, this was a keenly-anticipated game with somewhat underwhelming results due to teething problems with the rules. The use of action cards made each turn protracted (as opposed to unpredictable) with some players waiting a long time to make moves/combats. Patrick suggested trying Triumph of the Will rules by TooFatLardies, instead, which seem more straightforward.

Even so, I think there is great potential in the period as well as the figures we have managed to paint up. Once we settle on the rules we can definitely put on a fascinating campaign as well.

Hurrah!

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