The General Staff Archives

Europa Games and Military History

Month: August 2011

Aug I 42

Allied Turn

Though stung by the loss of Tobruk, the Allied player is by no means beaten. Indeed, this turn brings on some additional reinforcements for the still formidable 8th Army in Egypt and also plenty of replacement forces. He rebuilds with inf RP’s two 3-8 art Xs and the 0-1-4 const X 64RPC, all three lost at Tobruk in the July turns. The Ind supported 1-2-10 mot anti-tnk X is again resurrected for at least the second time in the current WD/DC scenario. He spends 3 arm RP’s to build the 4-3-8 arm X 8 upgrade from the Mid East Forming Pool. With Allied ntp I turn replacements he replenishes his West Med ntp contingent sea transporting gsp’s to Malta and jacks up his depleted East Med ntp’s to eight. Lately the Axis Cent Med anti-shipping die rolls have been torpedoing with effect. With ARPs he brings on-map two Well 1Cs from the aborted box and the Bftr 6F from the eliminated box, leaving him 1 ARP for the next turn. In the Mid East Forming Pool remain three 5-3-10 arm X upgrade units along with a supported 4-3-8 arm X, a regular 4-3-8 arm X, a 1RE mot transport counter, and the 10th arm XX HQ unit, all reorganization units per the WitD Allied OB. All these units are awaiting arm RE expenditures before going on-map. After the end of his builds the Allied player has a net of ½ Br inf REs, 2 1/2 Br arm REs, 3 Aus REs, ¾ Ind REs, ¾ SA REs, and 1 3/4 FF REs. Near the end of the initial phase the non-phasing Axis player sends the G 50bis on a CAP mission over the three Ju 52s based at the permanent airfield at the coast road hex 2629.

At the beginning of the movement phase the Allies send gsp’s to Malta and Cyprus and ships into Alexandria or Suez his reinforcements and replacement forces starting at the east edge sea hexes of the Red Sea. One West Med ntp is sunk en route to Malta by the Axis anti-shipping die roll. At the first movement phase opportunity the non-phasing Axis player air transfers all four Ju 52s in Libya to the Mainland Europe off-map holding box.

The Allied player then abandons the far western Egyptian defensive zone that was the necessary counterpart of the defense of Tobruk and begins a strategic retreat of the 8th Army all the way back to 19A: 1818-1819-1820, carefully destroying all the Allied permanent airfields in between. Although definitely a prudent and force-saving measure in the short-run, this is by no means the retreat of a beaten and decimated army unable to stand up close against a significantly superior enemy force. It is rather a calculated means of gaining some time, perhaps 2 to 4 turns, in order to build up a potent and lethal counterattack force poised at a defensive bastion base replete with forts, a south flank protected by the advantageously funnel-shaped (for the Allies) Qrattara Depression impassable hex sides, very close to the Allied standard supply source, and possessing lots of close-in airfields for basing short legged fighters and other Allied desert air units. This strategy lures the Afrika Korps ever eastwards down the seemingly endless North African coast road, like a long scraggly chicken neck stretched to its limit, into an alien battle zone devoid of Axis defensive positions/terrain or established airfields and far away from their general supply sources/ports or stores of RPs, eg., into something like a death trap. Since the Axis cannot use it, the Egyptian coastal rail line is left intact for the Axis to tear up. To be sure, the Allied on-map armor inventory is formidable even during the current Allied movement phase featuring a major retreat: two 8-7-10 arm XX’s, two 3-2-8 arm Xs, two 4-3-8 arm Xs, a 6-4-6 arm X, a 3-2-10 arm X, a supported 3-2-10 lt arm X, a 2-1-10 lt arm X, three 1-10 lt arm II’s, two 1-10 mot support Xs, and three 1RE mot transport counters. In this same El Alamein defensive zone are at least four inf XX’s, three 3-8 art Xs, four inf Xs, three const/eng Xs, and numerous other inf, lt AA II’s, and positional flack units. In the vicinity are at least 9 attack supply steps and an unused resource point. All are currently under the protective canopy of the now close-in Allied desert air force.

Late in his exploitation phase the Allied player sends the two Well 1Cs on night strat bombing missions against Tobruk’s harbor and also night bombs the Axis owned but unoccupied Bardia harbor with the Well 2 and Blen 4, but scores no port status hits. Afterwards the Axis player does non-phasing air transfers of his SM 84 and the Z1007b from the Gazala-Tobruk airfield zone to the Tripoli vicinity in obvious preparation for a next turn Malta air attack. Back in the Gazala-Tobruk airfield zone the Axis player does a big reshuffling of his Luftwaffe forces, even though the closest Allied forces to his Tobruk front line are at least 20 hexes away eastwards. Significantly, he sends to Sicily no Axis fighters from the Axis desert front line zone (via Crete and the Mainland Europe off-map holding box base) revealing that the Malta attack will certainly be a night bombing strat attack against the Malta Status, risking crash landings afterwards. At the end of the Allied exploitation phase the Axis player rebases the CAP flying G 50bis at Agedabia.

Some lessons of Tobruk. At the game board the Allied player finally talks some about his ill-fated Jul II 42 attack on the DAK XXX marker at 4918 and reveals that it was done maybe in haste due to a fit of anxiety caused by the fear of a very possible Axis attempt against Tobruk on the Jul II 42 Axis turn (in order to go after the +30 WD scenario VP award for control of Cyrenaica) and increased frustration caused by the growing defense/supply crisis engendered by the ’42 siege of Tobruk. He had hoped to maybe inflict casualties against the Axis side and/or perhaps lift the siege by a DR, thereby restarting the whole isolated/supply status cycle over if the Axis subsequently surrounded Tobruk again. The Axis player reveals that he only had two additional It hvy flk II’s to contribute as “reinforcements” for a Jul II attack against the improved fortress, which in the projected attack factor tally, as still recorded in the botched Axis Jul I 42 attack attempt, would have added maybe only ½ to one additional attack factor, depending on how he would have had to reshuffle his 10 RE attack force crafted around the It asslt eng II in order to do away with the -1 die roll modifier. In the context of the recorded combat numbers after the DAS/GS AA firing of the botched JUL I 42 attack, the Axis player would still be ¾ to ¼ attack factors short of a raunchy 3 to 2, and in that case would have had to roll at patently miserable 1 to 1 odds (possible AH if a 1 is rolled) with maybe a trembling hand. At the end of the table talk both tentatively agree that on his Jul II 42 turn the Allied player should have perhaps “sat tight” without doing any relief of Tobruk attacking then and instead maybe have done the max to assure fighter coverage over the improved fortress and have tried to make available within range lots of DAS tac bombing factors to throw into the next turn’s looming fray, come what may. This could maybe have decreased the chances of the Axis taking Tobruk on his Jul II 42 turn and thereby dashed any Axis hopes for the +30 VP award for control of the Cyrenaica. After the Jul II 42 game turn there would be no scenario VP pressure for the Allies to hold onto Tobruk and then maybe a gradual withdrawal could have been attempted, starting with the sea transport removal of one of the SA inf XX’s, as they get no regular SA inf RP’s in ’42. Even the old Bombay transport could have been flown in at night to pick up a ground unit without heavy equipment and air transported it to safety. So what if it would have crash landed in Egypt; it would have done a heroic rescue mission. Both players readily see that a ’42 siege of Tobruk requires a significantly larger Allied defensive garrison than what was required in the earlier ’41 siege in the Wavell epoch, and this would likely have precipitated an eventual unfavorable U-4 supply crisis there. But with a little luck, no telling how many more turns the Allies could have held onto Tobruk while maybe each extra turn retrieving some of its gallant defenders to fight the Axis again at the newer and better Egyptian desert front line in the El Alamein defensive zone. The two SA inf XX’s and the expensive Br 6-4-6 arm X 32T in the Mid East replacement pool, both lost at Tobruk, will likely not be resurrected in the current desert scenario. In this same Western Desert military grave yard rest the 0-2-8 hvy flk X, an Ind inf X, and a point of positional hvy flk, all lost at Tobruk. Keeping them company amongst the grave markers are the Br inf XX 50, the supported FF 3-8 inf X, another Ind inf X, and also the 8th arm XX HQ unit, the latter placed there per the Jul II 42 WitD Allied OB.

German Turn

The Axis player feels a new phase is beginning in the WW Western Desert campaign scenario after the fall of Tobruk on the Jul II 42 turn. An Axis advance eastwards certainly seems in order to occupy and control some of the hex void caused by the Allied player’s strategic withdrawal to the El Alamein defensive zone “stop line” at 1818-1819-1820. But how far, and in what manner, and to what final end will the North African coast road lead the war gamer’s cardboard Afrika Korps force? For sure it leads straight towards a war game battle clash for possession of the strategic prizes of Egypt.

The Axis player gets some reinforcements and replacement forces this turn, and so turns to these issues in the initial phase. With ARPs he builds an aborted Ju88A4 and an aborted Z1007b, leaving the Germans and Italians with a net of 3 ARPs each. He places both in the Tripoli/Sirte area in preparation for a big Malta Status night strat bombing mission at the very beginning of the movement phase, before shipping, to hopefully improve the chances of the Axis reinforcements and replacements making it across the central Mediterranean to Libya. Using Italian arm and inf RP’s stored at Bengazi, the Axis flips to full strength the Cauldron at start 3-8 arm cadre 133 at ridge hex 4818 overlooking Tobruk, which in a stroke uses up all the meager Italian RP’s so far sea transported across the Mediterranean and carefully stored up in Libya. There are no German ground units in the Med/NA replacement pool. In spite of the interesting array of Italian units in the Axis replacement pool, he does no other builds with the turn’s new It inf and arm RP’s because he feels the need to hoard them in Libya in order to be able to quickly rebuild Italian armored and mot inf divisional losses in the looming climactic Egyptian battles of the Western Desert saga. The Allied player then sends three hits of harassment to 0419-0420 and 0818-0819 each. This annoys the Axis player, as it fouls up his initial plans for advancing eastwards beyond the Libyan border into Egypt. The Br 8th Army’s armored force is very powerful and the next Allied turn will be likely further reinforced by Allied OB armor reorganizations and armor upgrades called for at somewhat earlier turns that now he is ready and stacked for.

The first thing during his movement phase the Axis player sends three Ju88A4s and two Z1007b’s on the Malta Status night strat bombing mission; all make it through Valletta’s flack, but he rolls bad on the bombing table and scores no hits. On their return to base a Z1007b crash lands and is aborted. This leaves the Malta Status at 7, but the Axis player is lucky and the Allied Cent Med anti-shipping die rolls score no hits on the sea transported reinforcements and replacements. The turn’s 1½ It arm RP’s and the Ger 164th inf XX HQ unit and inf III reinforcements all disembark at Bengazi. The Lw mot hv flk II reinforcement is shipped into Tobruk in order to get to the desert front line by exploitation. The three Ger arm RE’s are significantly shipped into Tripoli, an indication that the Axis player doesn’t want to keep too many RP’s in Bengazi and then be caught in a bind when and if a hasty pell mell retreat westwards out of Egypt subsequently becomes necessary. Per the original intended plan the three Ju 52s brought in from the Axis 1942 Sp-Op Forces Pool air transport another attack supply step (the fourth) to the Gulf of Sirte coast road airfield at hex 2629 and the Jul I 42 reinforcement Ju 52 airlifts to Bengazi one It and one Ger inf RP. This turn’s other attack supply step and two Ger inf RP’s remain in the Mainland Europe off-map holding box. At Derna the It 0-6 const III uses all 6 MP’s to finish repairing the damage hits on the harbor. The other It 0-6 const III moves into Bardia and the Ger 0-8 const III Afr moves to 19A:0419. Next turn both will almost certainly build 3-cap temporary airfields in order to help provide short legged fighter protection over the systematically advancing Afrika Korps force sallying into Egypt.

The bulk of the Afrika Korps motorized divisions advancing into Egypt break down and fan out in order to eventually gain hex control of the roads to Giarabub and Siwa and the Egyptian coast road/rail line up to 19A:1319, including the Matruh hex. The rail line is torn up from the rail head at 4818 up to 19A:1119, just west of Matruh. The Axis force penetrating into Egypt eventually settles into a longish defensive perimeter just east of Sidi Barani, with one Pz XX in a stack at 0818 and the other Pz XX in a stack at 0819, both hexes forming a desert front line shield. The Ariete arm XX is at 0720 and the Trieste 5-8 mot inf XX is at 0620. A presumably non-overrunable south flanking line runs 0520-0420-0320-0219-0120 to 18A:5020. This gives the Axis a two hex land buffer to the Mediterranean Sea, hopefully providing free admin movement along the coast road from Libya up to the front line in Egypt. For fighter defense three MC 202s, two Me110s, and the Re2001CB are within CAP range of the desert front line shield, and the two Ju 87Ds are within DAS range.

Meanwhile, at an obscure southern Cyranaican ravines hex at 3928, the It 2-1-8 supported lt arm III 3 and the It 1-8 mot art III 2 AC finally catch up with the U-4 Br lt arm II 1DG “desert rats” and attack them at 9 to 1, -1. Using Advanced Rule 12D3-Minimal Attack Supply, the Axis attack factor becomes 2½ to the Allied ¼ (out of supply and unsupported); elimination is automatic. Late in the movement phase the G 50bis based at Agedabia flies CAP over the remote and desolate battle zone. In the exploitation phase the two It motorized units push northwards towards the Msus-Mechili road.

Late in the exploitation phase the Axis player sends a Ju 87D at extended range to bomb the rail line at coast hex 1618, where he wants a rail hit to better assure the protection of the desert front line shield of his Egyptian invasion force just east of Sidi Barani. The Allied player still has hex control of the coast road/rail line up to 1418. He initially sends the single Stuka to 1618 to presumably lure into interception the lone Allied fighter within range (the P 40C) and then quit the mission and return, but for some reason the Allied player doesn’t take the bait. The tac bombing die roll misses, so the Axis player sends another extended range Ju 87D and finally a SM 79-2 to the same hex before finally scoring the rail line hit he desires. Another SM 79-2 is sent on a second rail line bombing mission to coast hex 1418, but misses. Finally, the Axis player transfers the SM 84 based at Tripoli back to the 3-cap temporary airfield at coast road hex 4618, where the two SM 79-2s are based. At Tobruk are the two Ju 87Ds, the Re2001CB, and a Me109F3. At the 3-cap temporary airfield at 4819 are the three MC 202s and at 4718 are the Me 110E & F and another Me 109F3. A Me 109F3 is based at the 3-cap temporary airfield at 4719 and also at Derna, and a MC 200 and a Ju 52 are based at Bengazi. The G 50bis bases again at the 1-cap permanent airfield at Agedabia. A Z1007b is based at Tripoli and three Ju88A4s are based at the 3-cap permanent airfield at coast road hex 1527, two hexes west of Sirte. At the end of the exploitation phase the five on-map Axis attack supply steps are at the front line 19A:0818 stack with one of the Pz XXs, at coast road hex 4718 just west of Tobruk, Mechili, Agedabia, and at the Gulf of Sirte coast road airfield hex 2629 along with the three Ju52s based there.

About 10 minutes after the Allied opponent leaves for the night, the Axis player, upon reviewing his finished turn at the game board, suddenly sees flaws that maybe earlier desert storms must have blinded him to. Maybe the reason the Allied player wasn’t too concerned abut a rail line hit at hex 1618 is because the 8th Army 2-8 eng X is only four hexes away at the bottom of an Allied stack at the coast road/rail hex 2018 and can easily repair the rail hit. This makes both the Ariete arm XX or the Trieste mot inf XX liable for a very powerful British armored attack along with plenty of GS and fighter protection. Moreover, rearward hexes 0618&0619 are vacant. Egad! The two SM 79-2s and the SM 84 will certainly have to be used for harassment. But the 15 defense factor stack (full AECD/ATEC) at 1819, spearheaded by the 21st Pz XX, is still in harm’s way. Next turn will be interesting.

 

Jul II 42

Allied Turn

First we had to put a patch on the rules errors detected by the EA discussion of Game Report #6. Beginning with the easiest fix, the Axis player moves backwards the two steps of attack supply he air transported with the ’42 Axis Sp Op Ju 52s from the mainland Europe off-map holding box to Libya and subsequently moved in the Jun II and Jul I movement phases. One attack supply step backs up to Tripoli and the other supply step backs up to the at start permanent airfield at 2630 where the three inoperative Ju 52s are still based, waiting to do a non-phasing air transfer the first opportunity during this turn’s Allied movement phase. Though technically this frees up some Axis SMPs used on the Jun II and Jul I Axis turns, he feels OK with where the other supply steps are at (one at 4918, 4920, 4618, & 4417).

Second, on the Jun II 42 Axis turn the Axis player scored three tac bombing hits to the Sidi Barrani at start permanent air field and claimed aborts on the inoperative Hurri 2C and P-40C fighters based there. We agree that the Allied player gets back the ARP he used to rebuild the P-40C the next turn, but agree to leave the Hurri 2C in the abort box where it’s at because we now realize that the Allied player began the WW WD/DC scenario with a Hurri 2C on the map that probably should have been in the abort box at the game’s start (my error when drawing up the revised DC May II 42 at start OB for the WD/DC scenario).

The fix at Tobruk after firing the DAS/GS AA and punking out on the combat die roll is a little more complex, but here’s what we agree to. Basically neither player wants to do the straight up 1 to 1 combat die roll attack; the Allied player fears a possible 6 roll: DR, and the Axis player fears a 1 roll: AH. So we agree to tweak the past a bit and “say” that the Axis bombing mission to Tobruk “in fact” occurred the first thing during the Axis exploitation phase. The AA aborted Axis Z1007b doing GS is kept in the abort box and all Allied and Axis air units ultimately remain where they based at the end of the Jul 1 Axis turn. No Allied DAS bombing air units over Tobruk were ever aborted or eliminated by phasing player AA. Two of the nine Axis air units bombing Tobruk do an airbase attack and the rest do a port bombing attack. The airbase raid fails to make a hit but the port gets 4 bombing hits, converting to two port hits for Tobruk’s strong natural harbor. However, at this war game table the Axis player feels that, had the Allied player insisted he go through with his 1 to 1 attack at Tobruk, he would have been obliged to do so. Both players believe that the port bombing attack was probably not in fact the optimum redo choice for the Axis player, all things considered, but both believe it was the best in the context of game and WW rules integrity and redo simplicity. In the context of abetting a possible Axis attack against Tobruk on the Jul II turn, perhaps the best bet would have been an air raid against the Allied permanent airfield at 0819. But attempting this begs maybe an additional redo of how both side’s air units would have landed at the end of the botched Axis combat phase (minus the Tobruk attack) and also at the end of the exploitation phase airfield attack itself, not to mention certain Allied interceptions or exploitation CAP, making the thing perhaps too complicated and risky for game integrity to attempt.

In the initial phase the Allied player brings back with ARPs an aborted A-30 and a Hurri 2C, and also an eliminated A-30. But he does no ground unit RP rebuilds, possibly waiting until the Aug I turn to bring on some big Br arm upgrades and maybe waiting for additional Allied inf RP’s coming then. Near the end of the Allied initial phase the Axis player once again sends the two Ju87Ds on harassment missions to hexes 5018&5019. A G-50bis at the 1-cap Agedabia DC at start airfield does CAP over the Ju 52s at 2629; and the Me110F, accidentally based too far off for interception, does CAP over Benghazi. In the sea movement segment of the movement phase four Br ntp’s carrying gsp’s to Malta or Tobruk are sunk by Axis Cent Med anti-shipping die rolls. Some of the gsp’s shipped to Malta come from Gibraltar per the “Gibraltar convoys” clause found in WW Rule 41B1b, but as one of the very few at start house rules we allow up to four to come from here as would seem to be the case if we were playing WW desert scenarios using the Europa West Med maps (24A&25A). Note that up to 2 Allied ntp’s can be replaced each I turn per Rule 35D. The single Axis SM79-2 on naval patrol from the airfield at coast road hex 4618 goes after an Allied ntp from Alexandria with 2 gsp’s at 0717, but ends the mission when the P-40C intercepts. But this is to make at least one good Allied fighter inoperative for the rest of the turn and hopefully maybe make things a little safer for the non-phasing Axis side. Afterwards the Allied player sea transports another attack supply step to Tobruk, making a total of 4 there now.

Late in his movement phase the Allied player dramatically reveals that he’s tired and annoyed with the current Western Desert military situation and sends two large and powerful stacks to 5017 and 5018, menacing the Axis DAK XXX marker stack at the coast road hex 4918 (adjacent and east of Tobruk) containing the 21st Pz XX, the 90 Le mot inf XX, and the 0-1-10 mot lt AA II. Beginning to worry, the Axis player quickly responds by sending a MC200 and the Re2001CB (too far away for interception in the combat phase) on CAP over the DAK hex. The two adjacent tall Allied stacks contain every Br arm unit on the map (except the 6-4-6 arm X in adjacent Tobruk and a single 3-2-10 remaining at Halfaya Pass), including three lt arm II’s, and each stack contains a primo 8-7-10 Br arm XX. Two 1 RE mot transport counters carry a Br 3-8 art X and the 2-8 FF 2FL inf X. And that’s not all. The intimidating force also contains the non-motorized Br 7-8 50th inf XX, indicating that evidently the Allied player is intending to stay put in the Tobruk vicinity at his turn’s end and not subsequently back away in the exploitation phase to the relative safety of the Allied defensive zone in far western Egypt.

At the beginning of the combat phase the Axis player is faced with the DAS and fighter interception issues. The Axis player sends on DAS mission to 4918 the SM 84, a Z1007b, two MC 202s, and three Me 109F3s without escort because no Allied fighters are within interception range. To be sure, only five Axis air units can actually give DAS bombing factors (halved) per Rule 20G2c, but additional ones are sent due to possible DAS AA flack shot returns/aborts. There are no Allied fighters at the Tobruk airbase and have been none there since the ’42 Tobruk siege began. The Axis player holds back two Me109F3s within interception range of hex 4918 to assist the two It fighters there on CAP when and if the Allied GS comes in. No Ju88A4s fly DAS because the Axis player has accidently based them too far away at Benghazi to fly the half-range B-type DAS mission per Rule 20G2c. The Allied player begins to tip his hand by sending ample GS with four fighter escorts to 4918. The Axis sends in the two nearby Me109F3s on interception to assist the two weaker It fighters flying CAP; he throws three intercepting fighters against the four Allied fighter escorts and opts to attempt bypass with a Me109F3. The MC 200 is eliminated and so is an escorting Br Bftr 6F, but the bypassing Me109F3 returns an A-30. The SM84, Z1007b, two Me109F3s, and a MC 202 make it through the attacker’s flack; the rest are returned except for an aborted MC202. An A-30, two Well 1Cs, and the Blen 4 make it through the DAK’s flack to give GS, but the defender’s flack returns an A-30. And so the Allied attack tally becomes: 26 from Tobruk, plus 29 from 5018, plus 20 from 5017 and plus 6 GS= 81 attack factors. The Axis defensive tally becomes: 18 at 4918 plus 8 tac bombing DAS factors halved per Rule 20G2c to 4= 22 defensive factors. The Axis has full ATEC and the Allied player is 1/10th AECA due to the Br 50th inf XX, the Tobruk 0-2-8 hv flk X and the two SA inf XXs, and the FF inf X brought up by the 1RE mot transport unit. The combat equates to a 3 to 1, -1, and the Allied player manages to roll a 1: AR. Alas, from one perspective not enough Allied GS got through to make it 4 to 1. For combat results the the Tobruk attacking contingent is eliminated: the two SA inf XX’s, the hv flk X, the 6-4-6 arm X, and two 3-8 art Xs. Three attack supply steps are expended (one in Tobruk) and the two attacking stacks outside Tobruk AR one hex eastwards.

During the exploitation phase the retreating 8th Army attackers withdraw to 0419 (Halfaya Pass) and 0420. At Halfaya Pass await the 7-8 4th Ind inf XX and the Br 1-2-8 eng X, making for a total of 24 defense factors (1/2 AEC); at 0420 stands the 8-8 2nd NZ inf XX, helping make for a total of 27 defense factors (½ AEC). The unfortunate 7-8 Br inf XX 50 remains alone on its own at 5018 where it retreated in the combat phase. The Allied player has a secondary western Egyptian defensive zone force at Sidi Barrani and rail hex 0819. At the Sidi Barrani airfield are the Hurri 2D and a Hurri 2C. At the airfield at 0819 are the P-40C, a P-40 E, and a Hurri 2C. In the Matruh vicinity are a P-40E, the three A-30s, and the Blen 4. In the Alexandria/Delta area are two Well 1Cs and the old Bombay transport. The long range Br 1-10 lt arm II limps at Axis U-2 to 18A:4020 and the supported 1-2-10 Ind anti-tnk X goes south to Giarabub at 0327.

In Tobruk the surviving supported Ind inf X 29 and the 0-1-4 const X 64 RPC write farewell letters back home. From the overlooking ridge hex 4818 south of Tobruk the Ariete tankers see the pall of smoke rise from the Allied destruction of their three remaining attack supply steps (4 gsp’s remain) and also a small column of smoke coming from the British commander’s chimney as he burns his despatches.

German Turn

The Axis player is as stunned as the Allied at the ramifications of his costly AR retreat last turn in attempting a November ’41 Crusader-like relief of Tobruk in the summer ’42 Cauldron epoch, resulting in the loss of 26 of the 29 defense factors at the improved fortress. But both WW II desert gamers know that in the smaller and compacted Europa desert games (eg., along the North African Mediterranean coast road) big attack “coup de mains” can cause sudden and almost brutal turns in the desert war game’s course. Specifically, big attacks against an opponent’s main desert front line stacks (often containing around maybe 18-34 defense factors) that result in big losses can bring pounding Allied Crusader-like offensives to a dead stop or else turn static front-line Sidi Barrani/El Aghelia/Gazala/El Alemein deadlocks or sleepy-headed Tobruk sieges into “pall mall” retreats. As reflected contemplation of the Allied player’s big attack die roll against the DAK XXX marker stack fades into memory, the stinging Allied loss was maybe due to a combination of both Allied GS being turned away and Axis DAS getting through. I’ve got by with risky big attacks before (eg., when we played a WW Western Desert/Crusader scenario) and know and respect the Allied player too well to call his attack a case of bad judgment. From the game board perspective here I say it was specifically a case of bad die rolling.

In the initial phase the Axis player spends two ARPs to rebuild the Me110E from the eliminated box, leaving 4 Ger ARPs. He uses It ARPs to retrieve a MC202 and a SM79-2 from the abort box, leaving 4 It ARPs. This means that the Axis player must spend ARPs wisely and sparingly to make it without regret to the next Sep I 42 air cycle. The Allied player currently has 5 ARPs left. Using It inf RP’s, he finally rebuilds an 0-6 const III at Derna, where much earlier he sea transported an It inf RP before the Allied player destroyed the use of the harbor by port bombings. During the movement phase the const III does 6 repair MP’s to the port status, leaving a net of 2 effective port hits at Derna. At Bengazi he rebuilds the It 1-8 mot art 2AC. Both units were in the Axis player’s Med/NA replacement pool per Watson’s DC battle scenario. The Germans loan the Italians 1/2 arm REs to assure them the possibility of rebuilding the 133 arm cadre to full strength next turn, providing it’s not in Allied ZOCs.

At the start of the movement phase the Axis player air transports another attack supply step (the 3rd, so far) from the mainland Europe off-map holding box to the coast road airfield hex at 2029 and airlifts the Ger 2-8 inf III 163A/382 reinforcement to Bengazi. In the battle zone in eastern Libya, the Axis player plans and moves for what he feels are the three required Axis attacks on the game maps called for by the logic of the war game and the WW scenario’s victory conditions: Tobruk, Giarabub, and against the forsaken Br inf XX 50 at 5119. At Giarabub he sends the 15th Px XX and five other mot attack factors to attack the supported 1-2-10 Ind mot anti-tnk X. Very early in the movement phase he sends three MC202s on CAP over Giarabub to discourage Allied DAS from aiding this remote Allied held Libyan point city. In the combat phase he sends the Me110E (4 tac factors) on GS and has the makings of a 9 to 1, -1. At 5119 the Axis sends the 21st Pz XX, 7-6-8 Ariete, the 133rd 3-8 arm cadre, and a couple of other mot units to attack the gallant Br 7-8 inf XX 50 there. A mixed bag of It motorized units surround the bedeviled unit to keep the Allied player from getting special inf RP’s or having any DR space. Some GS is flown in to assure an automatic elim. At Tobruk, the Axis player has enough spare ground units, along with the It asslt eng II and fleshed out with the 8-10 90 Le mot inf XX, and with practically all the Afrika Korp’s artillery and Italian heavy flack IIs to make for a straight up 9 to 1 against the factored 2 1/2 Allied defense tally inside without committing any GS at all against the two remaining Allied flack factors (a Br positional flk unit and the WW intrinsic Allied permanent airfield flack factor). The Allies are short on fighters within range of the three attacks for interceptions, CAP, or DAS escorts, and so fly no missions. All three spots aren’t good for Allied fighter dog fights or safe DAS attempts. The Axis fighters are bunched up close to Tobruk and hex 5119 and the three MC202s based at the temporary airfield at 4819 can just make it to remote Giarabub flying CAP. All three Axis attacks result in automatic eliminations.

In the exploitation phase the Axis sends to Valletta on a Malta Status night strat bombing mission the two available Ju88A4s based at the 1-cap permanent airfield at Sirte and the 3-cap permanent airfield on the coast road hex 1527 (two hexes west of Sirte). Both Luftwaffe bombers did a non-phasing exploitation phase transfer the previous Allied turn from Bengazi to the above mentioned airfields. A hit is scored at the Valletta port, jacking the Malta Status to 9, and the two Luftwaffe bombers manage to land back at their bases without crash landing.

Near the end of the exploitation phase the Axis treks the newly built It mot art III and the It supported lt arm III 3 (spotted with its twin 32 and both retrofitted into the WD/DC scenario at start Axis OB from Watson’s excellent End of the Beginning El Alemein WitD battle scenario in Europa magazine #63) down the Saharan back road towards the remote Oasi di Gialo (18A:4033) in order to chase down the furtive long ranging Br lt tnk II 1DG, perhaps trying to hide at sand hex 4030. In the movement phase both admin moved on the long road march towards the remote Libyan oasis. They end their exploitation movement at 4031 and 3830 respectively.

By the end of the exploitation phase the Axis has ZOC control of the Bardia hex, but does not attempt to occupy it just yet. The stout Br inf XX 50 blocked Axis non-mot units, like the 0-8 const III Afr, from moving in during the Axis movement phase. Instead he opts to make a short but strong desert front line going southward from Tobruk to 4818 and 4819. A secondary and presumably non-overrunable southward flank cover line arcs westward 4719-4619-4520-4419. The Ger mot anti-tnk II guards Mechili and other Axis units are here and there along the coast road between Derna and Tobruk. The four on-map Axis attack supply counters are at the Gulf of Sirte coast road airfield at 2029, Bengazi, Tobruk, and 4618. A hasty exploitation occupation of Bardia and a greedy Western Desert scenario +10 VP grab of the Egyptian town of Siwa Oasis are both very tempting, but each would be lightly held and quite vulnerable to motorized attacks from the experienced and miffed Allied player yearning to destroy his first Axis ground units. The Allied player gets reinforcements and replacement points the next turn and the Allied Mideast forming box is chock full of new primo Br armor X units ready to be built with arm RP’s and brought on-map. The Axis player feels that with the fall of Tobruk (and Giarabub) behind him and the subsequent Jul II 42 harvest of +30 WW WD scenario VPs, it might be wiser instead to pause, regroup by Tobruk, and maybe carefully prepare for a possible coordinated lunge against the quite powerful 8th Army forces in far western Egypt by first moving up more attack supply steps, somehow building “first stage” forward airbases in the Libya-Egyptian border vicinity, perhaps rebuilding to full strength the It arm cadre 133, and maybe bring eastwards by sea and air transport to Derna, Tobruk, or perhaps even Bardia some inf and arm RP’s to be able to replenish closer to the desert front certain future battle losses in Egypt. To be sure, after the preliminary fall of Tobruk, an all-out Rommel-like offensive thrust with the Afrika Korps penetrating deep into Egypt towards El Alemein is not the only available mid summer ’42 Axis North African military strategy. The deteriorating Malta status is also very worrisome and its dire ramifications for sea transporting to Libya vital heavy equipment forces like arm RE’s and motorized reinforcements. The Axis player ponders if he should continue risky and dicey night bombing there or else possibly send a swarm of Me109F3s to Sicily and see what happens if he goes after the two menacing Spit 5s there in a certain bloody fighter death match of attrition for air supremacy of the island’s skies.