Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fallcon 20 (21-23 September 2007) Part 3- CLA/BOB

On Sunday I ran the second of two games I ran at Fallcon. This was a Contemptible Little Armies/Back of Beyond game involving four armies which were trying to take a small town in Northeast Asia around 1919. The forces involved included White Russians, Bolsheviks, Chinese Warlord, and Canadian interventionists (yes, I know they just sat in Vladivostock getting sick and wanting to go home – it’s a “what if” type scenario…).

If you’ve been following this blog you may have noticed that I’ve been growing increasingly dissatisfied with CLA over the last while. It’s an okay game if your playing with like-minded pals that are just interested in playing a game, recreating a bit of history on the table-top, having fun and could care less about winning. This is essential for CLA as there are so many poorly written rules that are widely open to interpretation that as soon as someone shows up that actually wants to win and will do anything that the rules “allow” (i.e. doesn’t specifically say you CAN’T!) whether it’s remotely historical or not… well… that’s where it all comes apart. I’ve tried writing house rules and ended up with twice as many pages of clarifications and house rules as there are pages of actual rules in the main rule book…

I debated long and hard about whether to ditch the game and either cancel it or just use some other rules… I made a compromise. I tore all my figures off their individual bases and mounted them on stands in an attempt to simplify, streamline and speed up the game. I stuck with CLA partly because I didn’t have enough time to really learn a new set of rules, partly because I had said I would run CLA (so by George I better run CLA!), and besides the whole point of going to Calgary and attending Fallcon was to hook up with some friends, old and new, and play some games. Could have done it any weekend but since Fallcon’s on in the fall – why not do it then and maybe some people will stop by and express some interest and maybe my Calgary pals might gain some new gamin’ friends. So it was going to be all like-minded friends of mine around the table anyway, right? yeah.... (thanks a lot guys....)

Well… if some of the participants experienced something less than total fun (I’m really sorry) it sure LOOKED impressive! So enough whining, here are the pics:

(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)

Terry, playing the Bolsheviks, got to wear my Budenovka. Here he is keeping a close eye on the advancing Canadians.

First wave of the Chinese Horde!

The White Russian Cossacks charge onto the table.

The Bolsheviks advance on to the table.

Uh… so… horses on the rooftops…. The four buildings were treated as bad going area templates. Whoever controlled a majority of the buildings at the end of turn ten would be declaired the winner – if no one had a clear majority we would continue play until someone did!

Will made a bold move of charging his Cossacks to the town and dismounting them to occupy the buildings. I didn’t have stands of dismounted Cossacks to substitute in, hence the horses on the rooftops. I thought it was particularly bold because it left him rather thin on the ground and by bringing them on he risked not getting his other troops left in reserve until much later in the game (if at all) as they had poor tactical ratings – which had to be diced equal to or less than for them to show up.

The Bolsheviks and Canadians were at it on the first or second turn (top left of the picture). In the bottom left there appears to be white Russians advancing along side the Bolsheviks. This is because I decided to give the Bolsheviks The Rabble-Rouser since they were considerable short-handed. The Rabble-Rouser is a special character that the Bolsheviks can have that can spread the seeds of dissent among their enemy’s troops. Before the game they are allowed to select one enemy unit – if they can dice higher than the unit’s morale value it joins the Bolsheviks! I assumed with their large number of troops with low morale values the Bolshevik player would take one of the Chinese units. Instead Terry took one of the White Russians… leaving Will rather short handed… (sorry Will!)

On the left White Russians have occupied the town and Chinese are moving in. On the left Chinese and White Russians clash in the open.

Chinese cavalry about to enter an already confused melee. Chinese infantry had attacked a Russian MG. Russian infantry then arrived from reserve and attacked the Chinese infantry….

Will (left, playing the White Russians), and Terry (right, playing the Bolsheviks).

A general view of things. Going clockwise from the top of the picture are Bolsheviks, Canadians, Chinese, and White Russians.

The Chinese arrive at the town.

At the bottom of the picture there are white Russians clashing with the traitorous deserters!

Bolsheviks and Candians continue to fight.

At this point the White Russians have two buildings, the Canadians one and the Chinese and Canadians are about to start fighting over one – a struggle that would continue to the end of the game.

The Canadians advance.

Canadians in the foreground, Chinese and White Russians in the back.

The Bolshevik line.

The fight for the town begins.

Brother on Brother – White Russians continue to slog it out with their recent comrades in arms turned traitor!

Bolsheviks, Canadians, and White Russians again.

The Chinese are slowly starting to surround the town. The Bolsheviks are creeping forward at a snails pace. White Russians are moving up to relieve the beleaguered Cossacks in the village.

Bolsheviks and Canadians exchange small arms fire while fierce hand-to-hand combat engulfs the town.

Canadians sent to deal with the Chinese machine-gun that is menacing their advance from their flank are further troubled by the arrival of Chinese specialist assault troops!

White Russians make it to the village but without the numbers to make much difference.

White Russian mercenaries in Chinese service, Chinese staff officer and executioner stand.

The Bolsheviks slowly advance.

Some of the house-to-house fighting in the town. On the ninth turn the Chinese cleared out this building/template giving them a clear majority. The Canucks couldn’t clear out the Chinese and retake the house to contest the village and prolong the game. The Chinese were declared the winners!

Big thanks to those that played in my games, the organizers of Fallcon for giving me a place to run them and Mr. john Burt of giving me a place to crash for the weekend! Cheers!

Coming soon1n Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog:

Taking stock and Game Plan ’08!


  1. I've recently discovered CLA and along with it your blog. I've enjoyed the battle reports and have a couple questions.

    First, I want to use multi-fig bases and was wondering what your house rules are for using them.

    Second, what are the major pitfalls of CLA that I should look out for. After a read through it seems like a fun set of rules that captures the period, but you have noted it has some serious flaws.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Tim,

    Basically I treated each stand as a single figure. So units would be made up of 8 to 18 stands.

    Some units I just didn't have enough stands - so I made some changes to the morale system to accomodate - basically any unit that starts the game with less than six stands is treated like it has a permanent morale failure token (i.e. the effects of the first morle failure token for these units is the same as recieving a second one for regular units - can't move towards enemy units, etc.).

    I downgraded HMGs: 3 dice instead of 6, and they can only affect units within 2" of teh original target (just like artillery). I increased the ranges of trench mortars.


    CLA is a great game if you're playing with like-minded friends that have an appreciation for the period and the tactics used and are more interested in recreating history that winning games. The rules are quite poorly written in some parts and are widely open to interpretation. Rules lawyers or people who play by the rules - regardless of whether a particular rules makes any sense historically will ruin games.

    It is a terrible game to run at conventions. I only did it because I was under the mistaken impression that I had recuited four friends to sign-up and come and play it with me.

    There is a yahoo group where you might get rules queries answered (or you might get silence....):

    Good luck with it. I've had some fun, but it's time to move on. I'm really happy with the mechanics in Blitzkrieg Commander/Cold War Commander and am trying to adapt the rules to play Great War battles with it.


    other tim