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Europa Games and Military History

Month: September 2011

September I 1915

Entente Turn

The production phase of September 1915 proved interesting to war watchers across the world. Entente production, 12 RP and 18 EqP, with the maximum tithe in South Africa and withdrawals to South, was immensely welcome and would be sufficient for waging the previous style of war with the current supply of personnel (the Entente will run out of people before ammunition), but will not last long once siege engineers start performing their art. Central Powers production, 8 RP and 13.5 EqP after withdrawals to East and South, could almost be small enough to allow a shortage to develop if clear weather remains in effect for two more months. Again, the United States retained strict neutrality; to roll 9+ on 2d6 is hardly impossible, but the US could also manage never to enter the war and the Entente player would bet no better than even that a tilted neutrality will be achieved before 1918 or active participation before 1919. Canadian artillery and mounted rifle formations achieved full effectiveness, the latter after some turns of delay, and the Canadians are almost strong enough to allow the Empire to make a single elite attack before spending a year accumulating Canadian replacements sufficient to compensate for such folly. At sea, small casualties inhibited the morale of Britain and Germany not at all. The railroads of Italy, France, and Germany all deteriorated; the Entente will be moving all of its rail engineers to Italy, where they will suffice to make a difference; the Austrian network is already too shambolic to deteriorate further.

Italian forces rejuvenated 6*-9-5 rfl XX from cadre; repaired their (constantly abused) Ca-2 bomber; replaced a 6-2-2 siege regiment, 2-7 mtn fld art III, and MW task force 1; upgraded 0-1-4 eng III and 2-3-7 mtn X to 1-3-4 and 3-4-7 respectively; and disbanded the country’s final two static artillery units.

French forces replaced 2x 1-5 eng III’s, 7-5-4 hvy art III, and 2-5 fld art II; rejuvenated 12*-15-6 AFR lt XX, 9*-12-5 COL rlf XX, and 2x 10*-13-5 rfl XX’s from cadre; and disbanded the 3-10-0 hvy art XX in Toul (the last easy choice to disband; the others are in/near the front line)

Belgian forces converted 0-1-4 eng III to 2x 1-5 eng III’s at the cost of a cycle worth of infantry replacements (.5!)

Imperial forces rejuvenated 10*-13-5IND rfl, 13-16-5CAN rfl, and 2x 10-13-5 rfl XX’s from cadre. The Royal Air Force also fielded a second reconnaissance group in France, doubling the chance that British arms might strike during any given fortnight.

To plan and execute the Entente movement of I September 1915 consumed considerable time, however much the front line always seems to look as it did for many turns before.

In Austria, British forces took full control over the fifty mile stretch of Alpine no-man’s land furthest into the mountains, northeast of the German-garrisoned Austro-Hungarian fortress of Trient. Italian forces meanwhile continued to shift out of that sector while optimizing their line along the Isonzo River and maximizing their critical frontage around Trient, where the Germans perpetually threaten to break free on both sides of Lake Garda and drive across the middle Po River in a war of movement the Italians could not possibly win.

Entente ground forces in Italy contented themselves with trading pasta for beer for the umpteenth turn in a row, but in the air events heated up from the already ‘wild’ norm. The Italian Ca-2 made its usual bombing run through Austro-Hungarian interceptors and flak, survived both unscathed for the first time, and missed the Austro-Hungarian fleet in Trieste, probably due to shock. Italian and British reconnaissance aircraft combined to hunt and hit a German Alb spotter squadron on the ground, thereby at least preventing its use in the reaction combat phase even though the Germans have plenty of unused air replacements every cycle (in late summer 1915, it is extremely difficult to achieve a flak shot that can inflict an abort and the intercept range is still zero hexes).

In France, Belgium, and Germany, Entente forces shifted considerably in a continuing process. The British Territorial Army is taking the field on steadily increasing strength and Imperial forces expanded their grip on the front to 100 miles in early September, en route to assuming control over at least another twenty or thirty miles before mud sets in. Despite this spreading and the previous month’s nasty AX, the Empire also massed forces and attacked sector 0521 in an effort to get the Germans that last bit of the way into National Will Three. Meanwhile, the Belgian Army continued to shift southward; it appears likely to come to rest in the area of the front inside southeastern Belgium when the British stop expanding for a while. French forces meanwhile, suffering even after their gush of replacements from a significant backlog of cadre divisions awaiting fleshing-out, contented themselves with shuffling forces. The never-ending flow of lower quality French units toward the Vosges Mountains continued, as did the balancing movement of higher quality forces toward the Ardennes Forest. The Germans naturally buffed their southernmost sector after the French coup de main attempt and high quality French units from near Switzerland therefore disengaged and began moving back toward the sea. If not for the steadily growing British, the French would be having trouble holding their sector in secure strength; as is, they have plenty of abysmal units that the Germans nonetheless cannot easily afford to attack given their relative poverty in ammunition.

Three French bombing missions against German resource points failed to connect, quickly draining any prospect of actually finding an advantage during this production cycle due to German ammunition shortages.

British forces, meanwhile, pounded away on the ground in Flanders. Aerial spotting, the precondition, succeeded, cancelling the effects of German entrenchments. A single attack by a pair of engineer regiments succeeded, giving the British a clean die roll advantage. Siege engineers spent prolifically, but failed to impact the battle despite having a 50-percent chance of some success and a 16% chance of a column shift. Odds of 2.7:1 rolled upward and the overconfident Germans apparently blundered somewhere as a roll of “6” yielded a DX!
British losses: 2x RP, 1-5 Eng [III], and 8-4-7 Armd Car [X] eliminated; 10*-13-5 Rfl XX to cadre
German losses: RP consumed; 13-15-5 Rfl and 16-18-5 WUR Rfl XX’s to cadre

Central Powers Turn

The Central Powers version of early September 1915 began with relief on the part of the Central Powers and ended with disgust on the part of the Entente. Precious little happened in between.

During the initial phase, replacement points flowed in rather stingy fashion, despite the relative abundance of a production-cycle-beginning moment. Austro-Hungarian quartermasters chased a 2*-6 Mtn Rfl III off the beaches of Croatia by finally issuing them boots and rifles. French sergeants in three 9*-12-5 Rfl XX’s received new meat to bring their generals entourages back to full strength. British volunteers flooded into a trio of 10-13-5 Rfl XX’s with the enthusiasm of the late August victory in their hearts and nothing at all in their brains. Prussian bureaucrats in spiked caps sent replacements to the cadres of 15-17-5 Rfl, 13-16-5 Rfl, and 9*-12-5 Rfl XX’s; refilled 3-4-7 Jgr and 2-3-7 Jgr III’s; and sent fresh pilots and machines to their aborted Alb C1.

On the ground, German and Austro-Hungarian forces continued reorganizing formations internally and shifting them on the battlefield both to allow that process and to compensate for continuing Entente aggression. Of singular note, Austro-Hungarian heavy flak moved from frontline ammunition dump guard duty to Trieste, to protect the fleet from continuing Entente air attack.

In the air, the Central Powers suffered apparently poor weather at the local scale as every bullet, flak shell, and bomb – and some entire zeppelins – missed their targeted cities and ammunition dumps; eight failures in all.

During reaction, Entente forces repaid the favor on smaller scale as the Italian Ca-2 bomber and a pair of British reconnaissance aircraft missed German ammunition dumps.

On the ground, in reaction, the generals fumed and some troops moved, but no significant combat added to any casualty lists. Italian 3rd Army continued to pull out of the mountains northeast of the alpine fortress of Trient, leaving behind British forces that should suffice to hold inviolate fifty miles of nothing leading nowhere. The Belgian Army sprang to life too, moving heavy artillery into a thirty mile front south and west of Maubeuge (the British hold everything from there to the sea). On the Swiss border, French units moving northward from their failed ‘surprise’ attack across the Rhine continued marching northward as if little had changed, because little had changed. One of many French armies facing the Ardennes Forest, headquarters at Charleville-Mezieres, was likewise active, moving units quickly and competently before discovering that the best French effort against the targeted German sector 1219 would resolve at 2.1:1 with a guaranteed net -1 and probably one or two more bonuses from engineering. To the disgust of the air force, successful reconnaissance is what got the French that far and the goggle-wearers would have been better employed bombing German ammunition dumps. British generals “rested on their August laurel,” an intended slight by a disgusted editor in London, rather than possibly hitting the Germans the first of a set of double blows during this last bit of clear weather.

If that double failure on the battlefront was not enough, perusal of the French replacement chart indicates a devastating and immediate problem: the French are out of men. From late 1915, the French metropolitan manpower replacement rate goes ever further into the toilette, joining the ever abysmal rate of colonials and the vanishingly small rate of foreign enlistees. French heavy artillery, already not as good as their field due to lousy tactics besides being tactically immobile, looks good on paper and will continue to look gradually better, but it is unimaginable that bombarding Germans in fortified woodlands from normal stacking will ever produce enough effect to make it worth the time. French armor is beginning to show up in the forming pool; by late 1918 the French will have something like a hundred attack points of it that will be functionally irreplaceable while providing their only non-artillery offensive power. Entente aircraft remain a feeble shadow compared to their opponents, but neither side is remotely close to having anything like a battle where air power contributes even 5-percent of power. With the French rifle forces now on the road to being entirely cadre, one might be forgiven for wondering how historical France made it through 1916. Meanwhile, the Italians are on the road to extinction in the face of what can be an overwhelming German buildup – our Verdun will probably be a German breakthrough of the Italians that might drive them out of the war – the Belgians are never going to get any larger, the Portuguese will arrive in another year with almost a corps, and the British lack almost any combat support to go with their increasingly powerful rifle armies. This will be a new experience: playing a long, large war where one major force consists almost entirely of equipment rather than manpower. The French are not there yet, but being able to rejuvenate only half a dozen cadres per cycle in 1916 is going to be excruciating, and then things will get much, much worse.

The Entente needs more than one new plan and is already forming several. After they fail, Plan M is to beg the Americans to finally roll 9+ on 2d6 to get on the road to war.

August II 1915

Entente Turn

The latest session of the DJ05 grand campaign of Over There began and ended with consecutive Entente combat phases on both sides of the September 1915 production cycle. The session happened in a slightly different tone because in a free moment months before we had actually calculated the effects of many turns worth of steadily trickling morale point losses from dozens of battles and cyclical events – and the sums of the losses in question astounded us in their magnitude and timing. With the most recent battle results included, national will had finally shifted for the French and was just about to for the Germans, while long-term trends continued to become clearer. French Will had just dropped to four, leaving their armies on the field without an accustomed advantage for the moment but meaning that during the annual February check France shall almost certainly rebound permanently to a Will of probably five and certainly perpetual superiority. British Will, meanwhile, still stood solidly within the four band and, after just a few more battles, would surely stand in superiority to that of any Central Power for the remainder of the war. On the debit side, for the Entente, Italian Will stands at such a low level that the annual February checks will surely not help the country and that a steady German pressure can be expected to force surrender, probably before American entry into the war. On the other side of the line, Austria-Hungary is suffering almost its only losses – and they have been huge – in the South and East (out of play) and can expect not to surrender during the war unless the British, French, or Americans conduct serious operations against them or the Austro-Hungarians contribute dramatically to fighting the Italians, through extremely vexing terrain and a temporary morale inferiority. Most dramatically, however, German Will dropped in August to three and after a few more battles both the British and the French should enjoy permanent battlefield moral superiority while even the Italians will for a while enjoy morale equality with their northern opponents.

During the beginning of late August, replacement depots busied themselves on both sides of the front. Italian factories sent a couple of dozen new machines to the ill-starred Caproni-2 bomber group (which immediately took the skies and was again halved, cut to pieces by Austrian Loh L’s over the Pola naval base in our first air-to-air hit). More mundanely, a variety of divisions were refreshed with manpower: 10*-13-5 Colonial, 10*-13-5 and 9*-12-5 metropolitan, 12-14-5 and 12-15-6 Prussian, 13-15-5 Bavarian and 6*-8-5 Saxon. The French also replaced a 4-5 field artillery regiment.

British excitement about a soon-to-drop German Will apparently led to overconfidence in tactical planning in late August as a rare British attack went horribly wrong. The Empire massed is forces in Flanders against grid 0621 and enjoyed the rare success of aerial reconnaissance that is a precondition for Entente attack decisions (effectively countering the entrenchments of the defenders). Thereafter, everything went sideways. High Command neglected to consume supplies using siege engineers and wasted space in the trenches with a gas battalion that could not possibly succeed in influencing the combat (-1 for battalion, -1 for Entente…the battalion then went back to London to stay out of the way until it is upgraded by OB to something big enough to possibly be useful). Less forgivably, the British engineer force did not move into the combat sector because it is small and rebuilding and being saved for more intensive efforts later. Odds of 2.6:1 rolled upward, nicely, but the combat roll resulted in an AX and would have done so even without the uptick. This was not an efficient method of reducing German morale!
British losses: RP consumed; 2x 10*-13-5IND XX to 4*-6-5 cadre (the last time the Indians can suffer losses without reducing the post-rebuild power of their two rifle divisions), 5x 14-17-5 rfl XX to 6*-7-5 cadre (the pre-war BEF finally being reduced to post-fragile state), 13-16-5CAN XX to 6*-7-5 cadre (the first Canadian losses)
German losses: RP consumed; 12-14-5WUR XX to 5*-6-5 cadre, 2x 10-13-5 rfl XX to 4*-6-5 cadre, 9-12-5 XX to 4*-5-5 cadre

French forces further south likewise flailed against the Germans, though with a distant hope of forcing a German withdrawal somewhere in order to strengthen the line in the face of massive and continuing casualties. This time, sector 1219 in the Ardennes Forest again played the battlefield. Shattered woodlands, entrenchments, and aerial reconnaissance influenced the combat, 2.6:1 odds rolled downward and gave the Entente a huge lump in its throat for a likely second AX for the turn, but the troops came through with a roll of 6 and the usual BX result.
French losses: RP and 3-4-4 fld art III eliminated; 10*-13-5, 9*-12-5, 2x 8*-11-5 rfl XX’s reduced to 4*-6, 4*-5, and 2x 3*-5 -5 cadres
German losses: RP, 5*-6-5 cadre, and 3-4-7 jgr III eliminated; 13-15-5 and 12-14-5SAX rfl XX’s reduced to 6*-7-5 and 5*-6-5 cadres

French forces also kicked off another feeble attempt at a surprise offensive just along the Swiss border. French railroad capacity is less of a limit to operational mobility than it has been in the recent past, but Entente heavy artillery disrupts when moving, which gives advance notice of everything, so that the Germans were hardly surprised. A French AX could have taken the position, a pyrrhic victory at best, and reconnaissance hardly came close to counterbalancing severe penalties from the defending fort and wooded rough terrain (net -3), so that a DL was virtually impossible to achieve. The severe weakness of the Germans was a reasonable result of the severity of the problem for the French attacking across the Rhine River into such terrain and 6.1:1 odds reflected the thin German force, but the odds rolled downward and another BX came to pass in what was effectively a small French victory.
French losses: RP consumed; 6*-9-5 rfl XX to 2*-4-5 cadre
German losses: RP and 3*-4-4 rfl X eliminated

The Germans had been bloodied, not quite to National Will Three, while the Entente offensive bolt was nearly shot at the end of probably the last fair weather production cycle of the year.

Facing the Italians, no Central Powers armies reacted in late August, while most army headquarters in Belgium and Germany did react, merely to pull a great many units out of the line for conversion during the upcoming initial phase.

Entente forces exploited a few specialist units out of the line, shifted to cover weaknesses revealed by casualties suffered, and to mass French ‘quality’ in the vicinity of and west of Luxembourg.

Central Powers Turn

Aside from the usual array of German conversions and reorganizations, neither side in the Central Powers initial phase of II August 1915 acted notably. None of the powers held much in the way of reserves of replacement points and neither side expected Germanic attacks, so both sides held tight and waited for developments to spur actions.

Germanic forces did move during their turn, but not so as to spur any particular action or even annotation. Three zeppelins flew against Italian cities, two reached their targets, and neither scored a hit.

The Entente reaction phase at the very end of August proved somewhat more interesting than did the movement and absence of combat during the Central Powers portion of the turn. Two of three Italian army headquarters activated, along with British 2nd Army in Italy, and the British expanded east and northeast of Trient to a front of 50 miles of mountains and the passes leading there through. Eight of nine French armies failed to activate; 3rd Army west of Jarny succeeded in withdrawing many specialist and high quality units from the line in its sector, to prepare for possible attacks along a wide front in September. 1st British and the Belgian Army failed to activate in the north, but British 2nd Army did activate and furiously shifted units across the British sector after their hideous AX. British and French aircraft attempted to bomb several German resource points and did destroy one, nicely but not sufficient to cause any near-term effect.

Sep I 42

Allied Turn

This turn the Allied player continues to build up his desert force’s strength with good reinforcements and production assets. In the initial phase he has a net of 13 ARP’s, so in the new air cycle he can spend up to 4 ARP’s per turn. In addition to this turn’s five air unit reinforcements he uses ARP’s to rebuild from the aborted box the SA DB-7B and the US B24D5 heavy bomber. This cleans out the Allied aborted and eliminated boxes. Using two arm RP’s he builds the two 5-3-10 arm X (9 & 24) upgrades from the Aug I 41 turn and also brings on the 10 Arm XX HQ unit reinforcement. This cleans out all remaining units in the Mid East Forming Box. However, since he is not stacked for the 2-10 mot lt AA X conversion, he will have to wait another turn for it. Although there are ground units available in the Mid East replacement pool he does no more RE builds, evidently hoarding them for quick vital rebuilds after the game’s upcoming looming battles begin for victory in the desert campaign saga. At the end of the initial phase he has remaining 5 1/4 Br RP’s, 2 Br arm RP’s, 3 ½ Aus RP’s, 1 3/4 Ind RP’s, 1 1/2 NZ RP’s, ¾ SA RP’s, 1 ¾ FF RP’s, and 11 ARP’s. Near the end of the Allied initial phase the Axis player starts to fly his harassment missions, but then becomes flustered when he suddenly begins to see holes in the projected harassment barrier, and in perhaps a fit of frustration then declines to fly any, intending to save the whole lot of appropriate air units for possible DAS in the combat phase. On a lark he sends the SM 84 based near Tobruk on sea patrol.

At the start of the movement phase the Allied player sends gsp’s to Malta, first from Gibraltar, then from Alexandria. The SM 84 goes after one of the ntp’s from Alexandria carrying two gsp’s just south of Crete, but misses. As usual, the Axis player does a non-phasing air transfer mission of all four Ju 52s based in Libya back to the Mainland Europe off-map holding box. The Allied player then moves some of his construction units westwards up to and beyond his previous Egyptian stop line and builds a one-cap temporary airfield at 1818 and a 2-cap temporary airfield at 1719. Evidently he feels it’s time to begin menacing the Afrika Korps and to start forcing the issue of who possesses the Western Desert. At the end of his movement phase he moves a powerful armored/motorized force up to 0919 and 0920, threatening the DAK XXX marker stack at 0819. The Axis player responds by sending the Me 110 F on CAP over the endangered hex, but also knows that he has no less than seven other good fighters in interception range in case things come to a head in the combat phase. He’s also been careful to base the three available B bombers (two SM 79-2s and a Ju 88A4) within half-range of the Axis desert front line shield for possible DAS use along with the two Ju 87Ds and the Me 110 E based in the Tobruk vicinity.

In the combat phase the Axis player sends on DAS all the above-mentioned air units to the imperiled Axis stack at 0819, but the Allied player backs down by not sending GS and escorts, and so there is no combat. His fighters are still out of interception range of the Axis desert front line shield and this may be one reason he doesn’t yet want to engage in an unfavorable big air battle there or in dicey ground combat maybe lacking in sufficient GS (depleted by a swarm of Axis interceptors) and against ample DAS.

During the exploitation phase the Allied player settles into a new forward defensive “stop line” at 1618 and 1620-1621, with a stout rearward line at 1719-1720. At the 1-cap temporary airfield at 1818 he bases the SA P 40C and at the 2-cap temporary airfield at 1719 he bases the Aus P 40E and the new reinforcement Spit 5. Again, he does no night port bombing missions against Axis held Derna, Tobruk, or Bardia, evidently carefully saving up his air units and ARPs for a big desert show down later on. Nevertheless, the Axis player feels hard pressed and threatened at his existing Sidi Barini desert front line, and feels that the Afrika Korp’s day of reckoning is quickly approaching wearing the proverbial “seven league boots.”

German Turn

Early in his initial phase the Axis player deactivates his three Ju 52s from the 1942 Axis Sp Op Forces Pool that have been in play for five turns and removes them from the Mainland Europe off-map holding box, where they are based. Minus three Axis VP’s will be dutifully tallied into the Axis VP score. But a few steps later in the initial phase the Axis player activates two new Ju 52s and a DFS 230 glider air unit from the ’42 Axis Sp Op Forces Pool that was planned on the Jun II 42 Axis initial phase and places these air units in the Mainland Europe off-map holding box. In the reinforcement/replacement step of the initial phase the Axis has a net of 9 Italian ARP’s and 9 German ARP’s for the new air cycle, meaning he can spend up to three ARP’s per turn for each country. He spends two It ARP’s to bring on-map an eliminated Ju 87B and three Ger ARP’s to rebuild an eliminated Ju 87D and and aborted Ju 88A4. Sadly, he withdraws the Me 110F heavy night fighter and the It MC 200, yet another indication that the Western Desert campaign is steadily becoming a low priority theater for the Axis high command as the world war progresses. The It 0-2-6* inf III 330 GaF Tripolitania Garrison release is placed at the Tripoli hex. Late in the Axis initial phase the Allied player sends out a number of air units on harassment and does three hits each on hexes 1418-1419-1420-1421-1422.

At the start of the movement phase the Axis player first sends two Z1007b’s and the He 111H based at Tripoli on a Malta Status night strat bombing attack on Valletta and scores two hits, but the He 111H crash lands upon its return to base. He then sends a Ju 88A4 based near Sirte on the same night strat bombing mission and scores a hit, but it also crash lands when it returns to base. This brings the Malta Status up to 9. This satisfies him, so he doesn’t stage westwards the just replaced Ju 88A4 placed at the permanent airfield at Mechili to do yet another night strat bombing mission against Valletta and keeps it there for possible use in Egypt later. In the naval movement step the Axis player sends his two Ger arm RP’s to Tripoli and the 1 ½ It arm RP’s to Bengazi and they all make it. The It 4-3-6 arm III 31 and the It Inf XX HQ unit 136 GF make it to Tobruk and Bengazi respectively, but the It 1-6 arm II 13 is sunk in transit by the Allied Cent Med anti-shipping die rolls, the first such Axis loss in the present game. The Axis player does his usual air transport of a step of attack supply to the Gulf of Sirte coast road permanent airfield hex at 18A:2629 with the three Ju 52s based in the Mainland Europe off-map holding box (the third Ju 52 is a Jul I 42 Axis reinforcement); the empty DFS 230 trails behind like a dangling kite’s tail. Using his Cent Med shipping capability the Axis player safely coastal ships (per Rule 34B1-Inshore Waters) the It 0-6 const III at Bardia to Bengazi and also an It pos flk unit at Tobruk to the same destination. Then he uses coastal shipping to safely sea transport 3 Ger inf RP’s from Bengazi to Homs (18A:0522) in the hope that this will enable him to buy rebuilds later when the game gets really bad for the Axis in North Africa and Bengazi is perhaps either cut off from the Cyrenaica or captured by the Allies.

The Axis player breaks down many of his motorized divisions at the beginning of the movement phase to better gain hex control of the Egyptian road and rail hexes in the “no man’s land” between the opposing Western Desert forces and to gain a final Egyptian coast rail line damage hit at 1519, but before advancing he does several port bombing missions against Allied owned but unoccupied Matruh harbor. The port hex is within interception range of at least three Allied fighters, but he declines to intercept the bombing mission (two extended range Ju 87Ds) escorted by two Me 109F3s and the new Me 109G2. Had the Allied player opted to intercept the Axis player would have canceled the mission, as he wants to take as few air unit losses as possible this turn in the imperiled Axis desert front line zone in Egypt and save his air units for defense in the upcoming Sep II 42 Allied turn in case the Allied player then executes a major ground attack. He scores one port hit and then sends another bombing mission against Matruh escorted by three MC 202s, which the Allied player again declines to intercept, and this mission scores another port hit, jacking the total to three port hits against Matruh. The three MC 202s land at Bardia. Before the Matruh bombings, the second It const III at the Halfaya Pass hex (0419) ups the 2-cap temporary airfield there to a 3-cap, then moves into the nearby Bardia hex and ups its 2-cap temporary airfield to a 3-cap. Along with it in the Bardia hex are the It 0-1-6 inf III A and the inf XX HQ unit A, and the It 0-8 lt flk II 83. The 0-8 const III Afr at 0618 (with a 3-cap airfield) moves to 0519 and builds a 3-cap airfield there and then ends its move at Halfaya Pass. At the Pass are also the It 1-6 inf III A, the It 3-4-6 art III 8A, the It 0-8 lt flk II 81, and the It Ju 87B and a Me 109F3. The Re2001CB transfers to the newly built temporary airfield at coast road hex 0519. With it in the same hex are the It 3-6 inf XX 17 Pav and the Ger 2-8 inf III 433. In the Tobruk vicinity are three Ju 87Ds, two Ju 88A4s, two SM 79-2s, the SM 84, and the Me 110E.

By the end of the movement phase the Axis has at Bengazi a step of attack supply, the It 0-6 const III, the 1-8 inf III 136 GF, the 8 inf XX HQ unit 136 GF, and two pos flk units (one Ger and one It). But no fighters are based at the important port, the MC 200 having just been withdrawn. At Agedabia is an It pos flk unit, the Fol para III 187, a step of attack supply, and the G 50bis. At El Agheilia is the Fol 6 Para XX HQ unit, and at the 3-cap permanent airfield at coast road hex 2629 is a step of attack supply, the Fol para III 186, the It lt flk II 82, three Ju 52s, and the DFS 230 glider unit. A step of attack supply moves to Derna and there are two at Tobruk. The final on-map step of attack supply is is at coast road hex 19A:0618, one hex behind the desert front line shield. Here also is the 3-cap temporary airfield where the Me 109G2 and two Me 109F3s are based. In the same hex are the It 2-3-8 art III 16C and the Ger 2-8 inf III 382. Another step of attack supply remains in the Mainland Europe off-map holding box along with 1 It inf RP and 2 Ger RP’s.

Feeling frisky and maybe lucky after his Matruh adventure, the Axis player sends the two Ju 88A4s in the Tobruk vicinity on an extended range daylight naval harassment strat bombing mission against the Port Said hex, which the Allied player has still neglected to cover with fighters in interception range. The two Luftwaffe bomber units make it through the three flack factors and one scores a hit, reaping a VP for the Axis player.

By the end of the exploitation phase the Axis player has pushed the rail hit marker in Egypt up to 1519 and has regained road/rail hex control up to hex 1418 and back to the Siwa Oasis. In an apparently small but in fact quite significant move (in this Europa war gamer’s view) the Axis desert front line backs up one hex westwards, putting the desert front line shield now at 0718-0719 (each hex stack containing a Pz XX) and a large It arm/mot stack at 0619. He will still have to secure with harassment the vulnerable southern Axis flank in the Allied player’s Sep II 42 initial phase. This retreat in fact very likely signals the end of any further eastward movement in the Axis invasion of Egypt. It likely marks the beginning of a new and imposed Axis Western Desert strategy of an anywhere from steady to pell mell withdrawal away from an Allied 8th Army now so powerful that the Afrika Korps can no longer stand up to it at close quarters, in particular if the Allies have close-in fighter cover and/or are able to outflank from the south the eastward facing two hex maximum desert front line shield (eg., one Pz XX each in two hexes). Indeed, they may chronically threaten to outflank the Axis desert front line in a “runaway” all the way to Tunis. In each Western Desert war game in late 1942, as perhaps in the real campaign itself, when the Axis player begins retreating the Afrika Korps away from an overwhelmingly powerful Allied force, perhaps in many desert games beginning in the El Alamein vicinity, he only retreats to the final Axis standard supply/major port hex of ultimate Axis disaster and surrender in North Africa. Soon Eisenhower’s Torch invasion of French North Africa will place the Axis in North Africa in the unenviable position of an ant between two large and heavy cinder blocks poised to crush it. In our presumed “historical simulation” situation beginning with the ’42 Desert Cauldron battles, in terms of Axis MTO strategy in the context of the North African campaign, the only two relevant factors for conducting the desert campaign seem be somehow a conservation of some quantity of Axis Western Desert OB forces for use later in the defense of the European mainland (likely Sicily, Sardinia, Italy, and/or maybe southern France) and the delaying of an Operation Husky type invasion of Sicily/Italy/southern mainland Europe as long as possible by a stubborn “to the death” delaying action strategy as long as possible at a North African standard supply source/major harbor (eg. probably either Tunis, or Tripoli, or Bengazi) at the minimum up to the May I 43 Allied turn (eg., the historical date of final Axis disaster in North Africa).

 

Aug II 42

Allied Turn

From the turn’s start the worried Axis player watches the Allied player’s actions in an effort to detect whether he’ll now lunge out and attack the Afrika Korp’s desert front line shield in the Sidi Barani vicinity or instead continue to build up his offensive strength in his El Alamein defensive zone bastion. In his initial phase the Allied player uses two Br arm RP’s to do the Jul I 42 upgrade of the 4-3-8 arm X 8 to a 5-3-10 arm X and also do the Jul II 42 special reorganizations and bring on the supported 4-3-8 arm X and the regular 4-3-8 arm X (23 & 24), a 1RE mot transport unit, and a Br inf RP, to boot. He also brings on with RP’s the Br 8th arm XX HQ unit. This uses up the available Br arm RP’s but leaves him a net of 1¼ Br inf RP’s. In the Mid East Forming Pool remain two 5-3-10 arm Xs (9 & 24) and the Br 10th arm XX HQ unit. Maybe even a blind man can see that with the next turn’s ample production forces the Allied player could easily bring on all three motorized units remaining in the Mid East Forming Pool along with perhaps rebuilding from the Mid East Replacement Pool the Br inf XX 50, the Br 0-2-8 hvy flk X and positional flk unit (both lost at Tobruk), and also the two supported Ind inf Xs (remnants of the Ind 5th inf XX), along with some small change items. Add this to the Br 51st inf XX coming in this turn and the reinforcements coming in on the Sep I 42 Allied turn (especially air units) and the Allied player may very soon have an attack force powerful and lethal enough to give the Axis a big “pay back” counterattack for the earlier Tobruk defeat. The Allied player keeps his one remaining ARP so he can add it on to the 11 he’s getting next turn per the WitD Allied OB and have a net of 12, allowing him up to 4 ARP builds per turn in the new air cycle. Interestingly, the Allied player doesn’t break down one of his 9 available attack supply steps to 3 resource points, perhaps indicating that he’s not currently in a hurry to build forts or permanent airfields in the El Alamein defensive zone. Perhaps the Allied player his hoarding is attack supply steps in the expectation of using them in a rapid sequence series of hopefully large and devastating ground attacks against the Afrika Korps accompanied by plenty of GS. One resource point remains at Alexandria. At the appropriate time in the initial phase the non-phasing Axis player sends the G 50bis on a CAP mission over the three Ju 52s at the coast road permanent airfield at 2629. The two SM 79-2s and the SM 84 do 3 hits of harassment each at Egyptian hexes 0921, 1219, and 1319 to hopefully protect the vulnerable areas of the Axis desert front line in the Sidi Barani vicinity from the feared possible British armored attack mentioned at the end of the previous game report. To be sure, Advanced Rule 22C-Harassment Abatement seems to have very small teeth. The trick seems to be to provide one extra hit of harassment than what the situation calls for in order to make it very unlikely in many WW desert games that the phasing player can successfully shoo off any harassment and subsequently do the ground unit movement the harassment is intended to prevent.

The Axis player also does a necessary and fortunately easy to do on-map correction that was detected in time. On the Axis Jul I and Aug I 42 turns he shipped in error 3 Ger arm RP’s to Libya instead of 2 per the Axis Production Chart found on the back of the WW OB. He was thinking of the earlier Crusader game and accidently neglected to note that beginning on the Jul I 42 turn the Axis arm RP’s reduce from 3 to 2. The three Ger arm RP’s at Tripoli are reduced to 2 and the five Ger arm RP’s at Bengazi are reduced to 4.

As usual, the non-phasing Axis player transfers the four Ju 52s in Libya (the 4th is at Bengazi) back to the Mainland Europe off-map holding box the first opportunity of the Allied player’s movement phase. Then he waits and sees what the Allied player has in store for him. At El Alamein the 0-1-4 const X 68RPC builds a 2-cap temporary airfield and, most significantly for the Axis player, the Br 2-8 eng X 8 goes SE and builds a 2-cap airfield at 2220 instead of fixing the rail hit at 1618. In an instant this reveals that the 8th Army will likely not attack the Afrika Korps this turn. The other 0-1-4 const X 64RPC is at coast road/rail hex 2218. The Allied player uses his plentiful supply of motorized ground units to regain zoc control of the Egyptian coastal area road/rail lines westwards up to 1018 & 1019 and the interior road to the Siwa Oasis up to 0725. At the start of their movement phase the Allies do their routine gsp shipping to Malta and Cyprus, but this turn the Axis fails to sink any Allied East Med ntp’s and the two islands are in supply for next turn. Most interestingly, in neither the movement nor exploitation phases does the Allied player opt to do night strat bombing attacks with his Wellington night bombers against the Axis held Derna or Tobruk harbors. He wonders out loud if he might do one against the Axis held Bardia harbor, but drops the issue when the Axis player half jokingly blurts out that he’d be doing the Axis a favor if he did. The Allied player seems to be wishing to avoid bomber losses this turn due to port flack shots or interception by the Me 110F night fighter in anticipation of maybe having in hand the maximum number of available air air units and stored up ARPs with the intention of perhaps using them to assist in inflicting a writhing blow or two against the Axis forces, in the hopes of eventually exhausting them and bowling them over. At the end of the Allied player’s turn he still maintains the El Alamein defensive zone “stop line” at 1818-1819-1820. All the above mentioned bits of Allied turn and movement data seem to reveal for the anxious Axis player that the Allied player is perhaps “biding his time,” maybe feeling assured that in the ’42 epoch of the WW II Western Desert campaign time is on his side and against the Axis. In this context the Sep I 42 Allied turn or very shortly afterwards seems to be a prime possible date for a big Allied Montgomery style attack with the intentions of destroying or crippling the Afrika Korps and forcing them on a beaten and decimated army’s steady retreat. In any event Eisenhower’s Torch invasion of French NW Africa is not far off. Time seems to be running out for the Axis in North Africa.

German Turn

Though pleased with the admittedly lucky and almost surprise fall of Tobruk into the Axis lap, the Axis player is a little frustrated with the Afrika Korps’ presumably temporary hold-up at Sidi Barani after launching its invasion of Egypt. Indeed, with a little Allied luck and Compass-style maneuvering and attacking he may ultimately become known as the “German Graziani.” The problem of advancing eastwards towards the 8th Army’s El Alamein defensive zone in the third quarter of 1942 is the Axis player’s cautious doctrine requiring that the Afrika Korps’ advance be done with a powerful desert front line shield in place and under the protective umbrella of plenty of powerful short-legged fighters (eg., Me 109Fs and MC 202s) based at forward airfields and protected by a long and hopefully non-overrunable southern flank. At the same time he feels the the rearward forces scattered in the Cyranaica need to be reshuffled to an optimum defensive footing in case a sudden pell mell retreat westwards out of Egypt becomes necessary.

In the initial phase the Axis player spends an Italian ARP to bring an aborted Z1007b bomber on-map and another ARP to move an eliminated CR 42 to the aborted box. The spend on the obsolete biplane is to begin to get it ready for its ultimate required Axis OB withdrawal on the Nov I 42 turn, when it should be on-map. With two German ARPs he rebuilds the aborted Ju88A4 and the He 111H. Then, even though he’s in fact done a 1942 Axis Special Operation, he places the supported Ramke para X reinforcement in the Mainland off-map holding box (along with the turn’s other reinforcements, remaining production chart odds and ends from his last turn, and the four Ju 52s based there) because the operation did not use any German para-troops, just the three Sp Op Ju 52s. This seems to be in compliance with Rule 40A2-Axis Reinforcements. Near the end of the initial phase the Allied player sends 10 air units out on the harassment mission and does 3 hits respectively at hexes 1018-1019-1020-1022 and also at 1319-1320. This leaves on stand-by six fighters and the Well 2 for the Allies in the El Alamein and Delta regions.

Very early in the movement phase prior to sea movement the Axis player launches another large Malta Status strat bombing night attack on the Valletta harbor using three Ju88A4s, two Z1007b’s, and the He 111H and scores three hits, jacking the Malta Status up to 8. This will hopefully abet the Cent Med sea transport of this turn’s Axis reinforcements. A third in a row big night strat bombing attack against Malta will no doubt be necessary next turn in order to help the chances for successful Cent Med sea transport to North Africa of the important Sep I 42 Axis reinforcements and production chart forces, in particular It and Ger armor RP’s. However, two Ju88A4s are aborted when they crash land at the coast road permanent air field at 1527. The two Z1007b’s and the He 111H successfully land at Tripoli, and the third Ju88A4 bases at 1527. Shortly afterwards one Ju 52 air transports two Ger inf RP’s to Bengazi and the three Sp Op Ju 52s do their 5th air transport of a step of attack supply to the permanent air field at the Gulf of Sirte coast road hex 2629. Next Axis turn they will have to be deactivated in the initial phase. The Axis player successfully sea transports all his Aug II 42 turn reinforcements across the Cent Med to Libya without loss, though the supported Ramke para X encounters a possible rendezvous with Death pending the die roll results per the Shipping Results Table, but the paratroopers live another day to tell their tale upon disembarkation at Toburk harbor along with the It 3-6 inf XX and the It 2 RE mot transport unit. The Lw 1-10 mot hv AA II disembarks at Derna because Tobruk harbor still has two port damage hits due to the earlier Axis port bombing there during its siege and no more cargo can unload there this turn. Using some of his 3 RE’s of Cent Med shipping abilities the Axis player sea transports from Derna an It positional flack unit and a Folgore 2-5 para III to Bengazi. This is the beginning of a strategy to start sending westwards slow moving ground units in order to hopefully prevent them from being run down and eliminated if and when a big late 42 Allied Egyptian counteroffensive occurs and begins to roll into Libya. In a tough decision the Axis player uses coastal shipping to send the It 0-6 const III from Derna to Bardia to assist the other two Axis construction units in the Sidi Barini vicinity build temporary airfields in the Bardia-Sidi Barini staging zone for short legged fighter protection. His earlier intention was to send it to Bengazi to maybe begin building a two turn fort there, but now he thinks top priority is preservation of the forward Afrika Korps force. Upon disembarkation at Bardia the const unit uses its remaining four MP’s to build a 2-cap temporary airfield there. The other It const III beginning the movement phase at Bardia moves two hexes to Halfaya Pass (19A:0419) and builds a 2-cap temporary airfield. The 0-8 const III Afr at 0419 moves to 0618 and builds a 3-cap temporary airfield. Now the Axis player finally begins to feel like he’ll very soon have the ample fighter umbrella protection needed to face a powerful and menacing foe like the 8th Army in the third quarter of 1942. Only then will he feel it’s safe to resume the Afrika Korps’ eastward march to the certain desert battle clash presumably in the vicinity of the 8th Army’s El Alamein defensive zone.

Up at the desert front line shield the Axis player breaks down the motorized divisions at the start of the movement phase to better advance eastwards Axis zoc control of the Egyptian coastal road/rail line hexes and better do rail damage hits to the Matruh-Tobruk rail line. But before advancing eastwards he sends the Ju88A4 recently brought on-map with ARPs and based near Tobruk on a port strat bombing air raid at Allied owned but unoccupied Matruh. He rolls good and scores a hit. Then, systematically advancing eastwards, the Axis player pushes the rail hits up to 1319, two hexes east of Matruh, and also pushes the Axis coast road zoc control to 1618, two hexes west of the Allied “stop line” at 1818-1819-1820. Though annoying the Allied harassment doesn’t hinder a successful outcome of these maneuvers.

After closely checking the dispositions of the operative Allied fighters in Egypt, the Axis player notices that the Port Said hex 3413 is just out of interception range of the long ranging Bftr 6F based at the Cauldron at start 3-cap permanent airfield at 2719. Late in the exploitation phase he sends to the Port Said hex the two SM 79-2s and the SM 84 based at the temporary airfield at coast road hex 4718 just west of Tobruk on an extended range tac bombing Naval Harassment mission, which seems to both players to be legal per Rule 20G1f-Ports. The three Italian bombers arc around the northernmost all-sea hex 2711 interception range limit of the Bftr 6F, get through Port Said’s three factors of flack (two intrinsic and a positional flk unit), and when he rolls three dice on the 1 column of the Bombing Table and comes up with a 6, the war gamer nets 1 VP for the Axis side. The Italian bombers return to base at 4718, and no doubt at the watering holes of small Tobruk town have a tale comparable to the Ramke paratroopers or the Matruh bombing Ju 88 flyers.

Close to the end of his exploitation phase the Axis player air transfers three Me109F3s to the new air field at 0618, two MC 202s to 0419, and bases a MC 202 and the Re 2001CB at Bardia. Two hexes due south of Tobruk at 4819 are the Me 110 E&F, and at Tobruk is the fourth Me 109F3 and two Ju 87Ds. At the desert front line hex 0818 is a stack with 19 defense factors, full AECD/ATEC, five flack factors, and the 15th Pz XX. At 0819 is a stack with 17 defense factors, full AECD/ATEC, five flack factors, and the 21st Pz XX. The Italian motorized forces stand in a presumably out of harm’s way stack at 0720, containing 20 defense factors (including the 2 RE mot transport unit), half AECD and ATEC, and five flack factors. There is an attack supply step at 0818, Mechili, Agedabia, and coast road hex 2629; and at Tobruk are two attack supply steps.