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 table and figures looked really good (even if I do say so myself), with the result that all involved could really get a taste of this fascinating interwar period in all its eclectic glory. Bolshevik Naval infantry and Polish Legionaries, Red cavalry and Polish lancers, tachankas and Polish-allied Ukrainians, were all in the mix.

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!