Remaining Civil

Our local group – known as the Monday Night Group – has made the momentous decision to change our regular day from Friday to Thursday. The honour of putting on the inaugural game fell to me, and I went for the Russian Civil War and my Return to the River Don rules.

I’ve written about the rules both on this blog and elsewhere. The strong bits are the command/control/disobedience mechanisms and the armour rules. What hasn’t really been tested thoroughly are the cavalry melee rules and any adjustments needed for armoured trains.

So what better than to run a scenario with a broken down armoured train and two mounted forces, one trying to rescue it and one trying to capture it?

Well, as it turned out perhaps having dental surgery without anaesthetic might have been better for some of the players but you have to try these things, don’t you?

Our first Thursday meeting achieved a good turnout, with five out of our regular six making it. So that gave me two Red Cavalry commanders, an armoured train commander and a Cossack hetman (plus me umpiring).

I think the game looked good, - you can judge from yourself from the pictures. The system still suffers slightly from an overload of markers but there’s a lot going on so it’s that or have record sheets for each unit. Very 1970s.

There are a few things to clarify about the set-up. The station building represents several buildings with streets in between, and the only bit of the armoured train that counts is the gun carriage that represents the entire train. All the other bits are purely decorative.

The scenario is that the train engineer has told the Whites that the train has broken down, so the train commander has telegraphed for some support whilst another engine is sent to recover it. However the engineer has actually sabotaged the train and managed to telegraph the Reds to tell them, so theyt can come and capture it. Hence the convergence of the two cavalry forces.

So that I could focus on the melee mechanisms and the armoured train I increased the quality of both troops and commanders to reduce the number of fails on the Nyet/Da command rolls and so keep Coercion and Mutiny to a minimum. Whilst they’re important for the game’s flavour if the troops refuse to fight it’s hard to playtest the combat rules.

The Reds used a pincer movement with Comrade Willski coming down the rail track and Comrade Ianov making his way through the woods. Count Phllin had the train and waited nervously in the station yard for the Red Hordes to descend upon him whilst hoping for the arrival of General Kempski.

Comrade Ianov got the combat underway by launching a mounted assault on the station. He succeeded in expelling the occupying White Infantry (general dissatisfaction all round at this) despite being under the guns of the train. However his support from his colleagues was delayed as some smart shooting by the train forced some reorganisation which slowed the advance down.

The combat round the station intensified as the White infantry steadied themselves and poured fire into the buildings. Eventually they would be able to re-occupy them, and, supported by the train, fight off a combined assault by two Red Cavalry units, one mounted, and one on foot.

Meanwhile on the other side of the tracks the White Cavalry had entered into a protracted melee with Comrade Willski’s mounted proletarians and had just about succeeded in beating them off before we drew the game to a close.

All in all the game proved what I feared, - that the melee rules are poor, particularly when horse are involved. The train needs a lot more thought as well.

However, I think most people enjoyed themselves. We might have made more progress but as this was a first meeting for a few weeks and with a big turnout there was a lot of catching up to do, as well as much deep philosophical discussion. Oh, and helpfully, an informed debate about what cavalry actually did in the RCW compared with the Great Patriotic War, likewise for armoured trains.

So, despite being a failure the game was a success.

And I was able to listen to the first 30 minutes play in the last day of the test on the way home, until rain stopped play.