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The Jizzakh Affair, 1919


The Back of Beyond, Setting the East Ablaze, 28mm

We’d been planning to stage a “Back of Beyond” game for some time, but for various reasons we had to postpone it. This week we finally got it together. The scenario was a weird one, as you’d expect from this “period”. The premise was that the Bokharan city of Jizzakh had risen up in revolt against the Emir of Bokhara, and the local Bolsheviks had taken over the place. This wasn’t such a good idea as two anti-Bolshevik armies were in the area;  a White one, and a Green (or Muslim) one. Each in turn was split into two groups. For the Greens, the Bokharan force was augmented by a Turkish expeditionary force led by Enver Pasha. The Whites were backed up by the Polish Legion – a bit like the Czech Legion, only with stranger hats.The local Bolsheviks fled as these two armies approached the town, leaving Jizzakh completely undefended. Now, both the Whites and the Greens decided to lay claim to the place before the other lot did. Within both of these armies though, each faction secretly planned to take control of the town before their own allies could. So, we had a four cornered contest between Bart’s Poles, Campbell’s Bokharans, Peter’s Turks and my Whites. The rule was that the allies couldn’t fire at each other, but that Bokharans and Turks could shoot at Whites and Poles, and vice versa. You could fight your former allies in a melee though, which counted as a no-holds barred fistfight.The game was played out on an 8×6 foot table, with the walled city of Jizzakh at one side of it, and outskirts and a walled enclosure dominating the other side. The four factions diced for their starting locations, which worked out with Bokharans and Whites closest to the city, and the Poles and Turks a little further out. Each side had seven units, of which no more than two could be support weapons. No vehicles were allowed.

The other thing was the objective. Each of the five key buildings in Jizzakh was worth a point. These were the palace, the city government building, the mosque, the railway station and the radio station. All very Junta, eh? The side with the most buildings at the end won the game. Draws were to be decided by other less important buildings – the winner going to the side with more in his possession than his opponent. You didn’t have to occupy any of these – just be the last to pass through them. So the scene was set for a particularly crazy game – which is exactly what you’d expect from “The Back of Beyond”!The game started with all four factions heading into town. The Bokharans aimed for the spot where the new railway pierced the old walls, the Poles headed for a section where the walls had crumbled into a breach, while the Whites and Turks aimed for the main city gate. my Whites got there first, and despite a policy of temporary neutrality with the Turks I chose my moment to open up on them. My officer cadets, a field gun and later a machine gun did the dirty, and the surviving Turks fired back. Meanwhile the rest of my force seized the gate. First through were my cavalry, who rode into town and occupied the railway station. Meanwhile, the Bokharans were also arriving, and took control of the palace (which we called the “Smurf Mahal” for obvious reasons). They also seized the crumbling old mosque on the way past. Next it was the turn of the Poles. Their cavalry leapt over the breach, and thundered on to occupy the government building. As Bart didn’t have dismounted figures this led to the strange sight of mounted Polish ulhans riding around on the flat roof of the city hall! While the Polish infantry plodded on behind them, heading for the crumbling section of wall, the Bokharans consolidated their position by bringing up their mercenary cossack cavalry, and an elephant-drawn field gun. Back in the outskirts Peter wasn’t making any progress, so he decided to be sneaky. He worked his own unit of cavalry around the back of the buildings, then launched a hell-for-leather charge at the Whites guarding the gate. I cackled like a hyena when I pulled the next card, and with 14 dice needing 4-6 to hit (11 rifles and an LMG), I was feeling pretty smug. I duly rolled nothing but 1s, 2s and 3s! Aaaargh! The cavalry slammed into me, and in Setting the East Ablaze melees are particularly vicious, and cavalry are all-powerful. In two turns I was ridden down, and the Turkish horse charged into the next unit of mine, and promptly did the same to them. A handful of survivors managed to escape into the nearest building – which – fortunately for me – was the unoccupied railway station. Any smugness on Peter’s part was duly knocked out of him when his surviving cavalry were wiped out by fire from Poles and Whites. Ha!We were now reaching the end game. Bart’s Poles were still spreading out through the town, and skirmishing with Campbell’s Bokharans. That’s Bart moving them up (above), with me wondering what the heck he was planning to do with them. Back outside the walls Peter’s remaining Turks and my Whites were still locked into an increasingly pointless firefight. The Bokharans (seen below) had actually been playing a smart game, spreading out and not only grabbing buildings but denying avenues of advance to others. So, we decided to call it a day. The Bokharans and the Whites both had two key buildings apiece, while the Poles had one. The hapless Turks had nothing. The Bokharans had more lesser real estate than anyone else, so by rights they should have won. However, by then Bart (who was keeper of the playing cards) had decided a new way to score the game. Each key building earned a player two cards, and lesser buildings one card. Aces low, royals count as 10s. When we totaled everything up I’d beaten Campbell by two points, while the Poles came third, and the Turks a clear last. really though, it was really a Bokharan victory – claiming their city back from the infidels. All in all though, it was a cracking little game, and everyone had a blast. Then again, I’d be hard-pressed to remember a “Back of Beyond” game which wasn’t rollickingly good fun. Its a great period, and one we keep revisiting. Long may it continue. 

 

 

 

 

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