The Back of Beyond Setting the East Ablaze 28mm
Its been almost a year since our last “Back of Beyond” game. That’s pretty stupid, as every time I play the period I enjoy it so much I land up wondering why we don’t play it more often. Games are always hugely enjoyable, and are often quite a spectacle. Actually this wasn’t really a proper Back of Beyond game at all. Instead of being set in Central Asia, this one was set during the Russo-Polish War of 1920, during the Red Army’s advance of Lvov (or Lviv) in the Western Ukraine. It pitted the troopers of Budyenny’s Red Cavalry Army against the Ukrainian defenders of a village on the road to Lvov, and a string of Polish reinforcements.For this one, Alisdair and his son played the Ukrainians and Poles, I took charge of the Soviets, while Bart acted as the neutral umpire – no easy thing for a Pole! The 8×6 foot centred around a village defended by the Ukrainians. The Soviets had to capture it, and force the way through the defences and off the far side of the table. to help them they had a string of reinforcements, so casualties weren’t a major problem. the defenders got reinforcements too – Polish ones – but on a less lavish scale.The drawback for the Red Army though, was that it would take time to reach the village, while the Poles could move up a road network and get there much faster. Still, I was fairly sure I could bludgeon my way through, especially when my field guns got into action. So, the game began with me pushing forward through the rough terrain to the west of the village, then emerging into the valley in front of it. The Ukrainians had nothing to do but sit tight ans wait for a target.Everything was fairly quiet as my leading cavalry columns approached the village. Too quiet. Then the defenders opened up from the buildings, cutting down one cavalry unit with Lewis gun fire, and generally messing up my neat columns of horsemen. I sent one unit riding around the village, only to find that in the woods behind it a Polish unit had appeared, and was forming a firing line. I charged, but it ended badly, with my riders suffering a volley as they went in, and so being outnumbered in the fight. The survivors withdrew, only to be gunned down at long range. So much for that. Meanwhile though, my two field guns had come up, and were soon firing at the wooden buildings. First one then the other was hit, and set on fire. most of the defenders were killed, and as the survivors ran out into the village street they were charged and chopped up my my second wave of cavalry. So far so good. Then though, the Poles brought up a tank. Sure, it was only a baby one – an FT-17, but it was better than anything the Soviets had with them. Meanwhile my infantry – a naval brigade – had come up, and were deploying for the attack. They had to advance across a cornfield, and on towards a line of prepared positions held by Ukrainian troops. The defenders were supported by a field gun and a machine gun, while I had an armoured car, a tchanka machine gun cart, another machine gun and of course my two field guns. First though, i had to deal with that tank, which was busy hosing down my cavalry. A lucky shot from my field gun put paid to it, leaving it burning in the village street. Another lucky hit from my machine gun silenced the Ukrainian machine gun too, giving my sailors a fighting chance to make it forward without getting wiped out. By now though, it was clear that I was losing the race – the enemy were feeding in troops faster than I was. So, it was time for one last all-out push, while I still had the troops in place to do it.Actually, this grand plan didn’t last more than a turn. My sailors kept advancing, thanks to some pretty lousy shooting from the Ukrainians and their field gun. On the left though, I was fast running out of cavalry. Any attempt to advance beyond the village was stopped short by Polish rifle and machine gun fire. So, I’d reached a sort of high water mark. I tried filtering more cavalry over to my right, hoping to outflank the defenders and take out their field gun. this worked fairly well, until a well-placed round caused two pinning hits on them, and brought the charge to a halt a foot short of the gun. The onlthing going my way now was in the centre, where the sailors kept advancing, and my armoured car seemed to be invulnerable to enemy fire. it amused itself by shooting up the Ukrainian earthworks, and keeping the defenders pinned down. It was clear though, that the whole Russian juggrenaut was running out of steam. I had more troops coming on, but they had to work their way through the hills and woods to reach the valley. That all took time. Even when they did appear, it would be in penny packets, and by now the Polish line behind the village was looking pretty solid. my only success now was my naval machine gun and armoured car managed to shoot up the Ukrainian field gun, forcing it to limber up and pull back. By then though, it was too late to make a difference. It was now clear that the Soviet advance had run out of steam. We’d done fairly well in capturing the village, and killing virtually all of the Ukrainians, but the Poles were still there, and standing firm. So, the game ended in a Polish victory. It was a great little game though, and with all those Red Army horsemen it really looked terrific. it also made me realised I need to paint up another tchanka and armoured car… and of course more cavalrymen. Then it’ll be on to Warsaw … or Bokhara!