The Back of Beyond, Setting the East Ablaze, 28mm
What do a bunch of middle-aged men do when they get a chance to escape for the weekend? Right – they play a big multi-player wargame in a country hotel! In fact I hang out with two groups who do this two or three times a year. This crowd go by the name of AB1 (from the infamous line “you’ll need anything but a 1” – a phrase that invariably presages a bad die roll). On these occasions we take over the function room of a hotel in Lundin Links in Fife, and spend two days rolling dice, shuffling lead and drinking.This time we decided to play a large Back of Beyond game. I won’t even bother listing all the factions. There were a dozen of them – the usual suspects – Reds, Whites, Chinese, Turks and Bokharans – plus a lot of interventionists – German Freikorps, British, Americans … even Poles and Italians. There wasn’t really any aim to the game – apart from having fun.We played all Saturday (apart from a break for lunch), and then stopped in time for dinner. Then on the Sunday we did the same in the morning, breaking for a nice lunch, then continuing on until mid afternoon.It that time we saw the town of Buscok captured by the Turks, the Italians defend the tower of Silence against all comers, the Bokharans and one of the two Freikorps forces dash themselves against the walls of a Chinese fortress, and the Arab interventionists (don’t ask) use their armoured elephant to spectacular effect. That’s it up above, mounting two Lewis guns in the howdah!We fielded two armoured trains and an unarmoured one. Inevitably – given the type of game this is – the unarmoured train was commandeered by a group of German Freikorps, packed with explosives and used to ram the Bolshevik armoured train! These sort of events are fairly frequent in The Back of Beyond…We also had dogfights – two Turkish planes were fielded (one by each Turkish player) along with a Polish and a Bolshevik one. The last plane standing was the Turkish one in the picture – amazingly. That’s it above, seeing off the Polish ace. We also had armoured battles (the Polish makeshift tank was surprisingly effective, a weekend-long grudge match feud between the Poles and the Bolsheviks, lots of back-stabbing and alliance breaking, and a fair bit of heroic and futile charges. Unit by unit my Bolsheviks were whittled down, until the final unit was wiped out shortly before the end of the game.Bill Gilchrist, the other Bolshevik player, fared just as badly, being caught by Poles on one side, and a British-Turkish alliance on the other. My nemesis were the Italians in their strongly-fortified tower of Silence, another group of Turks, who treacherously gunned me down from behind the walls of Buscok, and the pestilential German Freikorps – or one of the two Freikorps bands on the table. As you can guess, historical realism or even probability took a back seat, and fun, mayhem and deeds of derring do was the order of the day.Strangely, I’m not even sure who won in the end. It should have been the Italians, who held the big cache of hidden gold stored in the tower, but during the last two turns their Polish Allies turned on them, and wiped a lot of them out. Then again, in the final turn the Whites revealed a railway hidden beneath the sand that went right up to the base of the tower, and on the last turn they reached it with their larger-than-common-sense-allows armoured train.So, I’m not sure who won in the end – the Whites, the Poles or the Italians. All I really know is that I hadn’t any figures left at the end, nor did several other players. However, we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!