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Beyond the Khyber Pass, 1919


The Back of Beyond, Contemptible Little Armies / Back of Beyond, 28mm

This was a Colonial game with a difference – a merger of a typical “North-West Frontier” game with “Back of Beyond”, our long running campaign system for the Russian Civil War. In this scenario, a small Bolshevik expeditionary force was attempting to cross Afghanistan and reach India. Somewhere in the Khyber Pass they met a British Field Force sent to stop them. In between lay a Pathan village, and a mountaintop held by the Afghan Army. The Afghans had little time for either group of invaders, nor were they particularly fond of the troublesome Pathans. In other words, this would be a four-cornered contest!nw-frontier-077Both the British and the Russians started with small forces – just their respective advanced guards – and rolled for reinforcements. In the end it the British managed were steadily reinforced, while the poor Bolshevik player had to make do with three units – two of infantry and one of cavalry. The British Field Force consisted of British and Indian regulars, Ghurkhas and a machine gun. The Afghans had their own regulars, supported by poorly-armed militia, a field piece and a n obsolete machine gun. As for the Pathans, they had tribesmen, and old field piece, and a unit of cavalry.nw-frontier-048Bizarrely, the British began the game by assaulting the Afghan-held hilltop. They made the assumption that their Pathan guides were trustworthy, and could hold the Russians until the British had seized the dominating high ground. Well, this was ambitious – but foolhardy. Although they saw off the first line of Afghan defences (a unit of militia guarding the lower slopes), casualties mounted, and the attempt was abandoned.nw-frontier-036By then the Bolsheviks were halfway up the valley, and as the British redeployed they launched a ferocious cavalry charge against them. Fortunately for him, the British commander had just set up his machine gun, and reinforcements arrived. The cavalry were duly mown down. The rest of the small Bolshevik force was really too weak to do anything more, so it spent the rest of the game loitering in the middle of the valley, as the Russian player hoped for a miracle.nw-frontier-042It almost came. Just when the British were becoming complacent the Pathan cavalry swept into them from their flank, and a furious melee began. Meanwhile the Pathans had begun to outflank the Russians, but stopped when they came under artillery fire from the Afghans, who didn’t want the tribesemen to win all the glory. In the end the British saw off the Pathan horse, and both British and Russian forces held their ground, both sides too weakened to take the fight to the enemy. The Pathans were bloodied but unbowed, and they still held their village. The Afghan regulars also still held their heights, and ended the game as the strongest force on the table.nw-frontier-021 In the end, victory was awarded to the British. Despite heavy casualties they stopped the Russian force from reaching India – which – after all, was their mission. The objectives of the two local forces was to gather plunder, but the Bolshevik and British player had guarded their supply trains too well to allow any plundering.nw-frontier-086Once again, the “Back of Beyond” system produced a rattling-good game, helped by the fact we used such as strange collection of figures, deployed amid Colin Jack’s spectacular mountain terrain (sculpted last year by Hugh Wilson). I look forward to our next return to “the Frontier”…nw-frontier-092

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