Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Running with the Mad Baron - Or what to do when stuck in the Frozen North

OK, to be fair, it was not that cold and there was no snow. But I was stuck for a week in Minnesota on a business trip. To relieve me of any potential boredom, Alan once again was a gracious host to this misplaced Southerner and treated me to a fun game set in the Back of Beyond using the Setting The East Ablaze rules.

The game was a prep game for Alan for a much larger game he was planning on running later on. The long and short of it was, I had great fun.

--------------------------------------------------- The following is the excerpt of a journal discovered by a sailor from the USS Albermele in the basement of a brothel in 1937 while on liberty in Shanghai. The journal was being used as toilet paper at the time as the brothel owner did not speak Russian. Fortunately our sailor was an expatriate from Imperial Russia.

Liberating the journal from its base usage, what has been discovered is a fascinating and highly personal view of a Russian nobleman who served as an aide-de-camp to a Russian that he only identified as "The Mad Baron". While an educated guess can be made to his identity, we will leave this figure in obscurity.

The elements of the journal that describe the authors escape from bolshevik Russia are lost to history. What we are left with is a bitterness towards the Reds for the loss of his country, home and family. This bitterness led to reckless behavior to extract revenge on any Reds that both he and the Mad Baron would come across.

The first incident in the journal is dated October 17, 1921. It seems that the size of the Mad Baron's forces have grown significantly. No longer just formed from Russians and Cossack Whites, they have accumulated an odd assortment of troops. These included some Europeans (Freikorps), Tibetian irregulars (wielding ancient matchlocks) and Mongolian cavalry. His force was motorized as the White Russian officers battalion was fully motorized and also was supported by both artillery and an armored car. The artillery transport team was such that could only be found in the back of beyond, the weapon was towed by Yaks.

By October of 1921, the force was running desparately low on supplies. Apparently, in the chaotic environment of China in the 1920s, a warlord was maintaning a supply depot in a nearby town. The Baron ordered the attack and sent his forces to attack the town.

Surprisingly, there was only one other faction involved. The Chinese warlord Li Fook was the owner of a factory producing ammunition and explosives. The town it self was a small affair of a few small buildings. Some of the streets had been blocked off to create strong points throughout.

The Chinese forces were numerous. There was a large force of students, a force of elite Dare to Die forces, and two large groups of regular infantry. These were supported by a mortar, a heavy machinegun and a single artillery piece.

The Baron initiated the attack by sending his Mongolian Cavalry to the right and Cossacks up the left of the village. Both of these were hampered by the poor ground that surrounded the village. I was attached to the Tibetians and sent up the right side to occupy a close by house. Our men moved slowly and it seemed we would not reach the house. The armored car raced up to the corner of the house and promptly broke down. It would stay there for the rest of the battle. The White Officers mounted in their truck raced straight ahead through the gate and to the center building directly ahead of them. The ponderous Yak pulled artillery piece moved towards the first of the sandbag barricades.

The Chinese allowed the advance unmolested for quite some time. The Mongolian Cavalry was escorted by the Baron himself and they nearly turned the flank of the Chinese regulars.

While to our left the Cossacks had run into trouble from the other Chinese regulars on the roof of a nearby building. These troops were cut up badly by the riflemen. The Freikorps advancing behind them attempted to give the Cossacks some relief by engaging the men on the roof. The building next to the artillery turned out to be the home of Chinese Dare to Die troops. These troops overwhelmed the crew of the artillery piece. All but for one brave yak driver who held on longer than any of the crew. The survivors of the Dare to Die troops were engaged by the White Russian officers and the remaining Cossacks.

The Dare to Die troops were destroyed to a man. The Freikorps and the White officers destroyed the Chinese regulars on the left flank. The Russian machinegun team worked their way towards where the abandoned gun was.

On my front, the Mongol Cavalry came under machine gun fire that killed several men. Led by the Baron they charged ahead and were met by more Chinese regulars. These the cavalrymen butchered with glee. My Tibetian troops finally arrived at the house and occupied it.

My Tibetian troops took to the roof of the house and came directly under fire from the machine-gun team that had worked on the Mongol cavalry. While suffering terrible casualties, my men held firm and fired a volley into a jasail team on an opposite roof, removing this thorn from our side. I would order my men outside of the house to continue the advance.

What happened next is why the Baron is such a legend. He led the remnants of the Mongols to assault the Chinese artillery. He led them to the very walls of the artillery compound and then turned and single-handedly destroyed the machine-gun nest that had killed so many of his Mongols. The Mongols would die to a man as the Chinese students moved forward and fired into the flank of the cavalry.

Such a courageous display led us forward into heavy mortar fire where more of my brave Tibetians fell. My heart swells with pride as I write this as these men did nor break in the face of such loss. They only sought to advance forward and forward again.

To the left, the White officers and Freikorps were now in the center of the town. They cleared a lane for the machinegun team to attack the students who appeared to be the only remaining source of resistance. Before they could be engaged, the last remains of the Cossacks charged with suicidal fury into the Chinese host.

With all enemy resistance crushed within the town, the Baron burst into the ammunition factory. Seizing a flaming brand from a coolie's hand he secured the factory before it could be destroyed. With this victory, we now have the arms and equipment we need to carry on the fight against the red menace.

1 comment:

  1. A great Back of Beyond dust up, Chris. I'm back in BOB mode as well right now, so its great to see this.