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.