Saturday, 3 June 2017

The East Ablaze a Russian Civil War game in the far east

For today's monthly game at the barn I was asked to put on a Russian Civil War game.

I decided something a bit different was in order and went for the Civil War in the Russian Far East.

The story of Baron Von Ungern Sternberg and his invasion and occupation of Mongolia in the 1920's I the sort of story that people wouldn't credit as fiction. A psychopathic Baltic Baron and leader of the Russian Asiatic Cossack division who took his men plus odds and ends of the retreating Siberian Russian army into Mongolia where he was hailed as the Buddhist God of War and the reincarnation of Genghis Khan. Raising the Mongol tribes and defeating two Chinese armies he occupied Mongolia and commenced a brutal and bizarre reign of terror before taking his rag tag army to invade Russia where it was promptly ambushed and defeated in a forest just over the border.

This seemed the ideal battle for me to put on for our small group of gamers.
 Above is the table before the troops are positioned.

 Here he is charging across the steppe. The bloody Baron.

The Whites start the game strung out down the road into Siberia surrounded by a forest, their forces consist of:

4 units of 7 Mongol cavalry
3 units of 8 Cossacks
2 units of 8 Lancers
3 units of 9 White Officers
6 units of 8 line foot
2 MG's
2 Field Guns
1 Tchanka

The whites have no vehicles at all and no air support.

As they near the end of the forest they are confronted by Red troops dug in around a Buddhist temple and small settlement with a gun an MG and 4 units of Veteran troops.
Red forces consist of:

Blocking Force
1 MG
2 units of 8 Siberian Rifles Veteran
2 units of 9 Red Sailors Veteran

In ambush behind the forest
5 units of 8 Red Foot
3 units 8 Red Horse
2 units 7 released POW's
1 unit 10 Checka
1 Gun

Off Table
5 units Red Foot
3 Units red horse
1 armoured car
1 aeroplane 

We were using Triumph of the Will rules by Two Fat Lardies. Each turn Richard C threw 2 D6. On a 1 or 2 we got a unit of foot, 3 or 4 horse, 5 the armoured car and  6 the plane (a sopwith camel) The roll of a D10 determined where all but the plan came on.

The Whites quickly determined that a rush on the village and temple was suicidal, so leaving both their guns and the Tchanka with two officer units to hold the gap in the forest they turned the rest of their army to try sweep around the right flank. The ambushing red army set off for the same gap in the forest.

The three units of quickly became entangled with the Mongolian horse who had the aggressive bonus to their dice, a series of very bloody skirmishes left one unit of Red cavalry destroyed and the other two very badly mauled, my complete inability to roll a six was met with much hilarity except from my partner in crime Richard who left me in no doubt as to what the Checka would do if I couldn't roll better. Fortunately the Mongolian unit ended up sat in front of the advancing red foot who quickly finished it off.
With the roll of a six it was now time for the Whites to feel some pain as the Sopwith Camel strafed their cavalry virtually destroying another units of mongol cavalry.

With the roll of a six it was now time for the Whites to feel some pain as the Sopwith Camel strafed their cavalry virtually destroying another units of mongol cavalry.

A series of bloody skirmishes then followed seeing the red cavalry and the majority of the Mongol cavalry destroyed along with a unit of Red foot.

Being a civilised lot it was now time for Lunch and we sat outside in the Glorious sunshine at the barn. Thanks very Chris!

After 30 minutes of sunshine and politics we were back to the serious stuff of shooting at each other.

At the far end of the table the Polish Lancers charged the Cheka rated as Militia with predictable results. With a big hole in the line the Poles swung onto the next unit of Red Foot who put up slightly more resistance before being over run in turn.

 Further over the bloody melee in the centre continued as both sides were worn down. The last unit of red cavalry seeing off the third unit of Mongols before being shot down in turn.

There were now remnants of various partially destroyed cavalry units blocking up the space and adding very little value to either side.

Whilst the Poles had been systematically destroying 2 units of foot and 1 of horse they had of course been taking the odd casualty. Hit in the rear by artillery and the front by musketry from the remaining red foot both units were down to just one man each.
 In the centre the timely arrival of the Sopwith again stabilised the situation for the reds and virtually destroyed another unit of White Cavalry.

The red cavalry reinforcements had now arrived and a brave (some might say suicidal) charge by the last Polish lancer was finished off.

With all the reinforcements on the game had now devolved into a stalemate. The best troops for both sides were facing off out of range of each other either side of the gap near the temple. Neither side willing to take the large casualties that frontally attacking a bottle neck covered by veteran troops, machine guns and artillery would inevitably bring.
 In the centre both sides had plenty of foot left, but the reds were too mauled to press on and the Whites too few troops to break through.
 On the left equal and undamaged forces faced each other but again neither side could gain an advantage. In the end the Whites would be forced to retreat in good order back into Mongolia, whilst the badly mauled reds although having stopped the Whites invading Siberia would be unable to follow up until fresh troops arrived.
All in all a fun game enjoyed by all, especially me as I actually got to play.

In reality in this battle the White forces were badly defeated and the retreating army began to disintegrate as it retreated back to Mongolia, eventually leading to the capture and execution of the Bloody Baron.

For those who want to know more about Ungern Sternburg, Peter Hopkirk's fine book "Setting the East Ablaze" is good introduction. For more detail you can try James Palmer's "The Bloody Red Baron". I also enjoyed two memoirs involving Ungern Sternburg. Dmitri Alioshin's "Asian Odyssey" is the memoir of a Russian Officer forced to fight in the Bloody Barons army and contains detail of some of the atrocities that is not for the faint hearted, finally "Of Beasts Men and Gods" is a memoir by a Pole trying to escape the "Bolsheviki" Ferdinand Ossendowski who also runs into the Baron as he makes his way home and relates some of the bizarre goings on in Mongolia at this time. The last two are I think out of print but available if you look hard enough.

Well that's it for this write up, something a bit different I hope you enjoyed.

See you soon and thanks for reading.


  1. Great battle report, very enjoyable


  3. What a fantastic report Roger, armies are awesome, and the mix of infantry/vehicles (wonderfful tchanka!)/cavalry...and plane is spectacular! Oh, btw, this Buddhist temple is a great addition...

    1. Cheers Phil, I cheated with the temple, I think was originally meant to be a Roman bathouse but it looks the part. Apart from how it plays the asthetic of having armoured cars and bi-planes alongside cavalry I just love, glad you like it.

  4. Mongol cavalry. Sopwith camel. Truck mounted machine guns. Sounds like a "Boys Own" adventure and cracking fun.

    1. That's the idea Paul, yes was a good fun game. Was tempted to do something similar for Partizan 2 but its my daughters 21st night before so chances of being in a fit state are slim.

  5. Tremendous stuff. Thanks for perhaps diverting me from 18thC to dig out my RCW stuff 🇷🇺

    1. Thanks Colin, not sure if that is good news or bad but as long as you are enjoying it