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Oct I 42

Allied Turn

At the very start of the initial phase both players are probably glad the Allied player rolls a 5 on the weather table, as a 6 would mean desert sand storms. Per Advanced Rule 36D2-Desert Storms and Temporary Airfields, this would require a subsequent die roll on Game Play Chart 6’s Success Table for each temporary airfield in Weather Zone E without a const/eng unit present to see if any of the of the game’s 17 on-map temporary airfields take hits of damage as a result of the storms.

This is an important reinforcement turn for the Allies and they are prepared for it. At the start of the initial phase the Allied player is set up for all three conversions and gets the two Br 2-10 mot inf Xs 131 & 133 and his second Br 2-10 mot lt AA X (AA=4) XXX. With the two mot inf Xs now available he can assemble two more Br Arm XX’s, the 8th and 10th, and will now have a total of four primo arm XX’s in the 8th Army. He also resurrects the Br 7-8 inf XX 50 from the ME replacement pool, which was cut down in one of the battles swirling round the fall of Tobruk earlier in the current WD/Cauldron scenario. The Allied player does no more builds, and so at the end of his initial phase has a remaining inventory of 12 ARPs, 2 ¼ Br inf RP’s, 6 arm RP’s, 4 Aus RP’s, 2 ¾ Ind RP’s, 2 NZ RP’s, ¾ SA RP’s, and 1 ¾ FF RP’s.

Near the end of the Allied initial phase the Axis sends out no less then twelve B and D type air units on a massive harassment air mission to hexes 0719, 0720, 0721, 0619, 0620, 0621, 0521, 0522, 0421, and 0422. All are out of Allied interception range; the closest Allied airfield is a 2-cap at hex 1418. If the Axis player has counted his hexes right, this leaves only the Halfaya Pass stack vulnerable to attack from its east side facing coast road hex 0519. Sending out all this harassment is somewhat risky as it in effect leaves available for DAS only a Ju88A4, the Re 2001CB, and the Me 110E. Three MC 202s and four Me 109s are available for needed interception at the Axis desert front line zone at the Halfaya Pass- Libya/Egyptian border vicinity.

In the naval movement segment of his movement phase the Allied player ships gsp’s to Malta, and an East Med ntp is sunk by the Axis Cent Med anti-shipping die rolls. At the first opportunity the Axis player does his usual non-phasing air transfer of the three Ju 52s (this Allied turn at 18A:0122, one hex south of Tripoli) in Libya back to the Mainland Europe off-map holding box, but for the time being keeps his other two operative Ju 52s based at adjacent Tripoli. Early in the movement phase the Allied player gets to work and builds as many new forward temporary airfields as he can. The Br 1-2-8 eng 8 moves to the Matruh hex (1218) and constructs a 3-cap airfield. The 0-1-4 const X 66 RPC at coast road hex 1519 (also the easternmost busted up rail line hex of the Alexandria to Tobruk rail line) evidently postpones fixing the rail hit and instead builds a 2-cap airfield there. The 0-1-4 const X 64 RPC, also beginning the movement phase at hex 1519, moves one hex to 1418, ups the 2-cap airfield there to a 3-cap, and ends its movement at coast road/rail hex 1319. As usual a variety of 8th Army mobile/arm units fan out and regain Allied hex control of the road and rail lines between the two opposing sides westwards up to 0618 and 0620, and also regain hex control of the interior road down to the Siwa Oasis. However, the Allies find out they can only make physical contact with the Afrika Korps at its powerful desert front line forward hex stack at Halfaya Pass (0419) from adjacent Egyptian coast road hex 0519 and unfortunately not also from the SE hex side from adjacent overlooking ridge hex 0520. Nor can the Allies muster a significant number of fighters (either CAP or interceptors or escorts) above the Pass hex to force by bluff or genuine attack threat a big overhead air battle there, which the Allies can certainly now afford possessing 12 ARPs two turns before the new air cycle. Instead of boldly advancing forward and pressing close to the Axis front line with his strongest stacks thus far in the game, the Allied player perhaps somewhat cautiously advances his front line to 1019 and 1020, leaving a 5 hex gap between the two opposing desert armies. At 1019 are 33 defense factors, including two arm XX’s, the 1st & 8th, half AECD/ATEC, and 7 flack factors. At 1020 are 34 defense factors, including two arm XX’s, the 7th & 10th, half AECD/ATEC, and 7 flack factors. Protecting the Allied southern flank at 1221 is a 15 defense factor stack, 1/10 AECD/ATEC, and two flack factors. The Ind 1-2-10* anti-tnk X 3 is at 1422. At Matruh are 7 defense factors, 1/10 ATEC, and two flack factors. Finally, near the end of the Allied exploitation phase, back at Tripoli, the Axis player does his non-phasing transfer of the two Ju 52s based there to Bengazi, where he wishes during his next turn to air lift westwards some of the Axis inf RP’s stored there.

So what is the current WD/Cauldron scenario war game situation and what are the implications? The fact is that the Axis has not lost any ground units by combat since the scenario’s May II 42 Desert Cauldron start date and has so far recently avoided heavy air losses. The past several turns the Axis has been able to gradually but steadily withdraw westwards from its earlier Sidi Barani desert front line away from the strengthened British 8th Army, apparently successfully doing so by covering its desert front line shield with a protective harassment muffler and maintaining over the desert front line zone a fighter umbrella and some potential DAS air reserves. This tactic can be maintained as long as there is a sufficient quantity of existing airfields to base the rather large Axis Western Desert air fleet in its current essentially defensive mode for the desert front line. In the existing war game reality of an impending Allied Torch invasion of French NW Africa and an advancing strengthened 8th Army, the Axis can perhaps maintain the current situation, assuming no mistakes and/or perhaps no sudden Allied lunges right up against the Axis desert front line, until backing up to Bengazi. Then a decision will have to be made to either take a stand at Bengazi and risk splitting the Afrika Korps into two fractions: a Bengazi defensive enclave and a Tripoli blocking force continuing to retreat westwards as best it can, beginning perhaps in the Agedabia vicinity, or else abandoning Bengazi and continuing to retreat en masse towards Tripoli with essentially the entire Afrika Korps force. The Axis player currently believes that not hotly pursuing the retreating Allied forces up to its original El Alamein vicinity “stop line” at 1818-1819-1820, and thus not ever outrunning the Axis air force’s fighter and DAS umbrella, is one of the key reasons the Afrika Korps is currently basically intact and not yet shattered and decimated.

German Turn

In the initial phase the Axis rebuilds the aborted Ger He 111H4 bomber and an eliminated It MC 200 and an aborted CR 42AS. The two outdated It fighters are retrieved because there is not much else available in the Italian air replacement boxes. These ARP builds leave the Ger three and the It with four ARPs left. At Bengazi the It 0-6 const III 10A begins its second turn building the fort there. Near the end of the initial phase the Allied player sends out harassment missions to 0918, 0922, and 0923, evidently to cover his desert front line stacks at Matruh, 1019, 1020, and 1221. None are within interception range of Axis fighters.

At the Axis turn’s start the Malta Status is 5. First thing in his movement phase the Axis player sends the rebuilt He 111H4 based at Tripoli on a Malta Status strat bombing night air mission against the Valletta hex and scores a hit. The Heinkel bomber successfully returns to base at Tripoli. Then two Ju 88A4s at Bengazi stage westward to the 3-cap permanent air field at coast road hex 1527 and from there also fly a Malta Status strat bombing night air mission, but both miss the Valletta bombing target. One of the Ju 88A4s is aborted when it crash lands upon returning to base at 1527. During the sea movement segment of his movement phase the Axis gets the It arm XX HQ unit 131 and the 2-10 mot inf III 5B across the Cent Med to Tobruk harbor, but the It air lndg HQ unit 80 LS is forced to return to the Mainland Europe off-map holding box by the Allied Cent Med anti-shipping forces die rolls. However, the Axis player gets lucky die rolls and successfully sea transports the turn’s It and Ger arm RP’s across the Cent Med to the Tripoli harbor at hex 18A:0121. Using his three RE Cent Med sea transport ability, the Axis player transports 1 ½ Ger arm RE’s stored at Bengazi to the Tripoli port hex using coastal shipping to evade the Allied Cent Med anti-shipping sea transport die rolls. Using all his available Ju 52s, the Axis air transports a step of attack supply from Mainland Europe to the 3-cap air field one hex south of Tripoli at 81A:0122 and also air transports three more Ger inf RP’s from Bengazi to the Tripoli hex air field. Back at the Mainland Europe off-map holding box are two Ger inf RP’s, an It inf RP, the broken down It air lndg XX 80 LS, and a step of attack supply. In Libya are eight steps of attack supply and two resource points. Meanwhile the Ger 0-8 const III Afr moves one hex into Bardia, spends 6 MP’s there to inflict 2 port damage hits, and spends its remaining MP to move to 19A:0217, where it ends the turn stacked there with the It 2-3-8 art III 16C and the Ger 2-8 inf III 382. The It const III 5A, beginning the movement phase at Agedabia, ups the 1-cap permanent airfield there to a 3-cap and ends the movement phase at road hex 3228.

After regaining hex control of the transportation lines eastwards up to 0918 and 0819, and also the interior road to Siwa Oasis between it and 1022, the Afrika Korps bids adieu to Egypt for likely the last time in the current game and by the end of the exploitation phase continues its slow but steady westwards retreat completely back into Libya. The 3-cap temporary airfield at 0419 is destroyed by MP’s and removed from the map. A new defense line is created with the strongest AK stacks at Bardia, 19A:0218 and 18A:5119. At Bardia are the three It arm XX’s: the 131st Centauro, the 132nd Ariete, and the 133rd Littorio. At 0218 the AK XXX marker stack contains the 21st Pz XX with 22 full AECD/ATEC defense factors and seven flack factors. At 5119 is the 15th Pz XX, 19 full AECD/ATEC defense factors, and five flack factors. A presumably nonoverrunable southern flanking defensive line goes from 5019-4920-4921 and 4822. The entire AK ground force between the Egyptian-Libyan border and the Tobruk vicinity is under a large Axis fighter interception umbrella and there are plenty of Stukas and bombers available in the zone. Most of the non-fighter air units will certainly be used for Axis harassment air missions during the upcoming Oct II 42 Allied turn.

Although there has admittedly been no significant ground or big air battles in the current Western Desert war game for some time, both players feel that at least one more big desert clash could occur before the game’s end. Starting on the Nov I game turns there may be off-and-on mud weather in the Djebel Akhdar region in the Cyrenaican “bulge” region, which could make desert strategy and tactics tricky. The important fork in the Libyan coast road at hex 4417 and the E weather zone inland route to Agedabia throw a complex transportation factor into the combat plans of both sides as they maneuver in the Cyrenaica. The desert war game isn’t over yet; Death and Mars perhaps still linger by the board wanting to roll the die and play.

Sep II 42

Allied Turn

In his initial phase the Allied player still does no RP builds, although there are available in the replacement pool some attractive ground units. Some examples would be a pos flk unit, the 0-2-8 hv AA X 4 (lost at Tobruk), the 3-2-10 arm X 7, and two lt tnk II’s. He keeps his 12 ARPs on ice, as he’s already cleaned out the ME aborted and eliminated boxes. He does the Sep I AA unit conversion and brings on-map the Br 2-10 mot lt AA X. The Axis player is still guessing that his opponent is saving his fair-sized pile of arm and inf RP’s for quick divisional and arm X rebuilds the Allied turn following a big attack against the Axis desert front line shield in case of an EX or HX, thus enabling him to quickly hit hard again the Afrika Korps while it’s weakened and off-balance. This turn the Axis player is in no mood to find out what will happen if the Allies go for an all-out ground attack against the Sidi Barini Axis desert front line in concert with the certain big air battle over the combat hex, and so launches the biggest Axis harassment operation thus far in the current Western Desert war game. Every Stuka, Ju 88, and Savoia Marchetti based in eastern Libya do the harassment mission to nine hexes east and southeast of Sidi Barini in an effort to prevent the 8th Army from moving adjacent to the desert front line zone at Sidi Barini (0718)-0719-0619-0520 and attacking. This leaves in effect only the Me 110E and the Re2001CB available for possible DAS if the Axis player has miscounted his hexes or the Allied player is successful in harassment abatement. By the end of the Allied initial phase the Malta status is reduced to 7.

In the naval segment of the movement phase the Allies lose one West Med ntp and one East Med ntp to Axis Cent Med anti-shipping die rolls as he ships gsp’s to Malta. Later the Allies move the two 0-1-4 const Xs to repair the air raid rail hit at coast road/rail hex 1618; both end their movement at 1519. The Matruh to Tobruk railway (the railhead is actually at 4818) is busted up to 1519. The 1-2-8 eng X 8 moves to 1418 and builds a 2-cap temporary airfield there. Early in the movement phase the Axis player transfers the three Ju 52s and the glider unit in Libya back to the Mainland Europe off-map holding box. Having broken down their two armored XX’s (1st & 7th) at the start of the movement phase, the Allies fan out their motorized units to gain hex control of the inland road down to the Siwa Oasis and westwards on the coast road to hex 0919 and rail line to 0918, including Matruh. Interestingly, he does no air missions in the movement phase, nor does he attempt any preliminary harassment abatement in an effort now to lunge at the Axis desert front line.

In the exploitation phase the Allies advance westwards their Western Desert front line to Matruh (1218)-1219 and 1221, leaving 1220 vacant. At Matruh are 25 (including the 1st Arm XX), at 1219 are 24 (along with two 5-2-10 arm Xs and a 6-4-6 arm X), and at 1221 are 22 defense factors (including the 7th Arm XX). A fourth nonoverrunable stack at 1420 (including the 4-3-8* arm X 23 and three lt tnk units) does the double duty of helping plug the gap at 1220 and covering the 8th Army’s southern desert flank. Smaller stacks with some flack capabilities guard the airfields at 1418, 1719, and 1818. Some ground units still remain at the fortified El Alamein gap at 2119-2120. At the newly built 2-cap airfield at 1418 the Allied player bases the Br Spit 5 and P 40E, at the airfield at 1719 are the SA P 40C and the Aus P 40E, and at the 1-cap airfield at 1818 is the SA Hurri 2. This turn the Allies base the long ranging Bftr 8F NHF at Tanta (2917), thus covering all three Suez Canal ports from Axis day or night naval harassment bombings. Once again, the Allies do no bombing missions against hex targets in the Axis portion of the Western Desert. He must be saving his air units and ARP’s for something else. One thing the Allied player is careful to do this turn is set up the appropriate ground forces for the important two 2-10 mot inf X conversions in the initial phase of the Oct I 42 turn. This will enable him at the end of the movement phase to assemble the Br 8th and 10th Arm XX’s. This will give the 8th Army four primo 8-7-10 arm XX’s by the Oct I 42 Allied combat phase. He also sets up for the second 2-10 mot lt AA X conversion that also occurs that turn.

By the end of the Allied player’s turn perhaps both players more clearly realize that the Axis player can no longer stand up close against the strengthened 8th Army, and also that if he suffers a significant ground unit loss after either an Axis or, more likely, an Allied attack, the heretofore two turn gradual withdrawal westward of the Afrika Korps will likely become a pell mell rout. The Allied player is an experienced ’41 Scorched Earth player who knows how to run down retreating units and will not give the Axis the luxury of maintaining a depleted desert front line while a primo Ger panzer/mot inf cadre or It arm cadres pull rearward out of possible Allied zoc control in order to rebuild to full strength. This situation will likely be the signal for the Allies to press up hard against the Axis desert front line maybe even without a full complement of close-in fighter interception cover for protection, as the Axis player will likely not want to risk further losses (by EX or HX rolls) attempting counterattacks with already weakened forces. Like a house of cards, the current Axis desert defense strategy is becoming based on a delicate balance of hex distance (about 7-9 hexes) from the 8th Army’s front line and a mixture of both harassment and close-in fighter cover protecting the Axis front line. Before leaving for the evening the Allied player reassures the Axis that he’s given him a choice for the upcoming Axis turn: “either attack one of my front line hexes or retreat some more.” What to do?

German Turn

Early in the initial phase the Axis player announces the last possible 1942 Ger Sp Op in the current game and activates two more Ju 52s and the second DFS 230 glider unit for a sp op planned on the Jul I 42 Axis initial phase. The Lw air transport units are placed in the Mainland Europe off-map holding box. Later in the reinforcement/replacement segment of his initial phase the Axis player spends two Ger ARPs to rebuild the two aborted Ju88A4s, leaving them with a net of 4; but he spends no Italian ARPs, leaving them with 7. The Axis player believes the Ger ARPs are dangerously low in the face of a strengthened 8th Army desiring to attack and an almost halved Torch-truncated Nov air cycle to look forward to. If the two Western Desert foes tangle in a major air and ground combat clash in either or both of the two upcoming Oct game turns the Axis could easily quickly lose good Ger fighters in combat and then find itself used up in ARPs. An unfavorable correlation of forces and a paucity of available and upcoming ARPs seem to call for a respite for now through another retreat westwards, assuming the Allied player gives the Axis no opening for an ideal attack this turn. At Agedabia the Axis breaks down the step of attack supply there into three resource points and spends one of them for the It 0-6 const III at Bengazi to begin building a two turn fort there: one of the two Axis North African major ports and general supply sources (along with Tripoli) in the current WW WD/Cauldron scenario.

Late in the initial phase the Allied player sends out a large number of air units on the harassment mission in an effort to protect the Allied desert front line stacks at 1219 and 1221. Harassment is done at 1223, 1120-1121, 1019-1020, and 0920. The last three hexes are within interception range of the three Me 109s at 0618 and the Allied player sends some escorts with the bombing missions to 0920 and 1020, but the Axis player declines to intercept any of these Allied air missions. He already knows he’ll be retreating westwards this turn from 0618 and feels he can’t risk any good Luftwaffe fighters on nonessential dogfights just for the sake of attrition combat, plus the retreat will require a major reshuffling westwards of the Axis air units currently based at two forward airfields to be evacuated (the other at 0519). These Allied harassment air missions successfully protect the ground unit stack at 1221 (22 defense factors w/ 2 flack factors and half AECD/ATEC) from perhaps being encircled by enemy zoc’s and then attacked at perhaps 3 to 1 +1 odds in the combat phase of the current Axis turn, and was the Axis player’s choice spot for a possible major attack this turn.

At the start of the movement phase the Axis player uses three of the Ju 52s in the Mainland Europe off-map holding box to air lift a step of attack supply to Libya and two Ju52s there to air lift 2 Ger inf RP’s and 1 It RP to Libya. However, instead of going to the usual 3-cap permanent airfield at the Gulf of Sirte coast road hex 2629 and to Bengazi, the large air transport mission enters the north edge of map 18A at hex 1501 and, carefully arcing westward around the interception range of the two Spit 5s at Malta, end their long and barely within range one-way regular air transport mission at Tripoli (0121) with the Axis inf RP’s and at the 3-cap permanent airfield one hex to the south of it (at hex 0122) with the step of attack supply. For the time being the two operative It Z1007b bombers remain idle at Tripoli, the Malta Status issue by now not very important in the end game period of the current WW Western Desert scenario. Its status is now at 7.

In the sea transport segment of his movement phase the Axis player transports via coastal shipping the It 0-6 const III at Bardia to Bengazi; later in the movement phase it admin moves to the 1-cap permanent airfield at Agedabia. The three Ger inf RP’s at Homs are moved into Tripoli using coastal shipping and a fourth Ger inf RP at Bengazi is also sea transported via coastal shipping to Tripoli. The Ger 0-8 const III Afr moves from Halfaya Pass (0419) to 0218 and there builds a 3-cap temporary airfield. Meanwhile, at the start of the movement phase the Ger pz and mot inf XX’s break down and fan out to regain Axis hex control of the road and rail hexes eastward to 1018 & 1019, including the interior road from 1020 down to the Siwa Oasis, in the current 4-hex gap no man’s land between the two Western Desert foes. Then the Axis player does another carefully measured retreat westwards to Halfaya Pass-19A:0320-0220-0120 in an effort to hopefully get the Afrika Korps out of harm’s way and keep it intact for the immediate future. A presumably non-overrunnable southern defensive flanking line continues westwards at 18A:5120-5020-4921 and at 4722. The new Axis desert front line demands a major reshuffle of its Western Desert air units and in their exploitation phase the Axis also destroy with movement points the two 3-cap temporary airfields at 0618 and 0519. By the end of the exploitation phase the Me 109G2 and the It Ju 87B are based at the 3-cap airfield at Halfaya Pass. The three Me109F3s are at Bardia and the three MC202s are at the newly built airfield at 0218. The two Z1007b’s at Tripoli air transfer to the coast road airfield at 4618, two hexes west of Tobruk, where a Ju87D is also based. At Tobruk and in its close vicinity are four Ju 88A4s, two SM 79-2s, the SM 84, two more Ju 87Ds, and the Me 110E and the Re 2001CB fighters. The G 50Bis air transfers from Agedabia to Tripoli to guard the Lw air transports based there.

This new Axis desert front line again creates a 7-hex gap between the two opposing Western Desert armies and may well be the last Axis stand on Egyptian soil. In the Oct I 42 Allied initial phase the Axis will certainly need to protect with harassment the southeastward facing arc (at 0320 & 0220) of its new desert front line, leaving exposed to possible Allied attack hopefully only a one hex side “shield” at the eastward facing side of the Halfaya Pass coast road hex. At the Pass the AK XXX marker stack contains 21 full AECD/ATEC defense factors and 7 flack factors. At presumably safe hex 0320 (assuming harassment) are 19 full AECD/ATEC defense factors and 5 flack factors. At also presumably safe hex 0220 (also assuming harassment) stands the Italian arm/mobile force with 19 defense factors at half AECD/ATEC and with 3 flack factors. Thus for one more turn the Axis is barely able to hopefully maintain its slow but steady westwards retreat, maybe buying some time and space to reshuffle its Western Desert forces and maybe build some forts and additional airfields. So critical is the imbalance of ground forces and the subsequent necessity to preserve all its air units for definite harassment and potential urgent DAS and non-phasing fighter interception/escort that the Axis cannot at this time entertain the idea of another possibly large naval harassment mission against the Suez Canal Allied ports for some VPs. The Axis player feels all his air units must be kept intact this turn for use later in the upcoming Allied turn for the sake of the survival of the Afrika Korps in the current position of its desert front line. Of course the Axis wants to do battle with the 8th Army when given a favorable opportunity and at the time and the spot of his own choosing, but this ideal combination has not yet happened against the wily Allied player.

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.

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.

Jul I 42

Allied Turn

It’s Christmastime in July for the Allied player in the Western Desert with an Air Cycle and plenty of reinforcements and replacements pouring into the Mid East Command. This game turn may mark the beginning of a period of steadily increasing strength and quality for the British 8th Army during the second half of ’42, perhaps historically climaxing with Montgomery’s late ’42 offensive. Just for starters, the Allies receive two Br 3-2-8 arm X reinforcements. He also spends 3 new arm REs to bring on-map the “full” Br 8th 4-3-8 arm X in the ME Forming Box. Later the Allied player says he intends to upgrade it next turn to a 5-3-10 arm X. He also rebuilds the supported Br 7th mot inf X that was overrun on the game’s DC at start May II 42 Axis turn. Later he says he does this with the intention of assembling both the broken down Br 1st and 7th arm XXs to 1942 full strength 8-7-10 units during the exploitation phase. This still leaves a Br 3-2-10 arm X, three lt tank IIs, the old Br 2nd arm XX’s motorized support group, and one of the two Br 6-4-6 arm Xs in the western Egypt British defensive zone facing the Afrika Korps. The other Br 6-4-6 arm X is part of the Tobruk garrison. There are also in Egypt this turn three Br 1 RE motorized transport counters. The Allied player also uses Indian REs to replace the overrun Ind mot anti-tank X and the supported Ind inf X that was eliminated at the ridge hex at 4818. The supported Ind inf Xs occasionally mentioned in the game reports are part of the Ind 5th Inf XX. In the turn’s air cycle the Allied player tallies up 12 ARPs, meaning he can spend up to 4 ARPs per turn this air cycle. At the same time he has enough remaining unused ARPs to qualify for ¾ VPs per the WW Western Desert VP schedule. The old Hurr 1 guarding the Suez Canal is converted into a tank busting 2D and rebased closer to the western Egypt defensive zone. With the new ARPs he takes the P-40E from the ME eliminated air box and from the aborted box the P-40C and the Bftr 1C. The Bftr is then converted to a 6C per the WitD Allied OB and then transferred per the OB to the Med Anti-Shipping Box.

In the movement phase the Allied player moves the 66RPC const X to Sidi Barrani to begin repairs next turn at the smashed up airfield there. He may have intended for it to begin a 2 turn fort build at hex 2218 east of El Alemein, but probably feels that right now repairing the Sidi Barrani airfield in western Egypt more important. Another Ind inf X transfer from the off-map NE Command per the WitD Allied OB admin moves from Iraq to northern Palestine, and the famed 2nd NZ inf XX rails down from Syria into Egypt to the coast road hex at 1519, having finally been released this turn from the Levant garrison. The Gk 3-8 mtn X guards the coast road/rail hex 2318 (just west of Alexandria) from a possible though unlikely Axis surprise para-drop attack on Alexandria, just in case. This area is often devoid of Allied fighter cover and is a possible target hex of a ’41 or ’42 Axis special-op para-drop if the Axis player knows that the Allied player usually leaves Alexandria lightly defended. In the naval movement segment at the start of the movement phase, the Allied player naval transports gsp’s to Cyprus, Malta, and Tobruk. A SM79-2 based at 4618 on sea patrol and escorted by the Me 110D goes after the Allied shipping at the all-sea hex 19A:0707, due north of Sidi Barrani, the last daylight all sea hex on the sea lane between Alexandria and Tobruk. The110D is eliminated by an intercepting P-40E, but the SM79 sinks 2 gsp’s and returns to base. With the Axis sea patrol used up the Allied player then waltzes a step of attack supply into Tobruk. The Allied player’s long-range “desert rat” Br lt arm II, now at Axis U-1 supply status, limps at half mot movement rating to 4329 at the end of exploitation. Though annoying, the Axis player so far hasn’t begun chasing it. In the exploitation phase the Allied player scores another port hit on Derna, effectively closing this important Axis port with three hits. Then the Allied player begins a series of tedious airfield bomb runs against the 5-odd Axis airfields (four of them temporary) between Derna and Tobruk, returning them to base prior to the bombing mission as soon as the Axis player does interception. The intent is to make some good Axis fighters inoperative, then go after them while parked at one of these bases. This trick worked several times in the Crusader game played earlier, but the Axis player is lucky with having all his fighters bunched into the area and, having seen the trick before, is careful in his choice of interceptors. This time the plan comes to naught.

Since the end of the Axis Jun I 42 turn, a kind of “no man’s land” exists between the Axis front line bunched up around Tobruk and due south of it to 4819 or 4920 and the 8th Army’s western Egypt defensive zone originally standing at Sidi Baranni and at the permanent airfield on the Tobruk-Matruh rail hex 0819. During each player’s turn care is given to gain hex control of the coast road, Bardia, and the road going to Giarabub, thus per WW/WitD rules denying the other side admin movement on the roads or port use of Bardia. On the Jun II 42 turn the Axis player finally has the time and available motorized movement to begin wrecking the Matruh-Tobruk rail line from the rail head at 4818 (per the DC at start Allied OB)to 0502 in far western Egypt On the Jul I 42 turn the reinforced and emboldened Allied player moves forward the western Egypt defensive zone to the coast road hex 0519 and the rail line hex 0620, each hex containing an 8-7-10 Br arm XX and a host of additional motorized elements. A secondary rearguard force is stationed at Sidi Baranni and 0819. The Axis this turn has the 21st Pz XX at 4918, east of Tobruk and the 15th Pz XX at the road hex 4920, along with a host of other Axis units in each stack. Hex 4919 is unoccupied, but the Ju87Ds provide 5 harassment hits at both 5018&5019, thus protecting the Areite arm XX (plus some other units) at the ridge hex at 4818 overlooking Tobruk and the It arm cadre, the 90th Le mot HQ unit, the 0-8 Afr const unit, and the 1-cap temporary airfield basing a MC202 at 4819. Somewhat like jungle tigers, both sides bare their large armored “canines” to each other, threatening attack. And the Allied player is ready for bear, with at least 12 attack supply steps on the map. Four are at Tobruk at the turn’s end, four are in Alexandria, one at the forward hex at 0519, one at Sidi Baranni, and two near El Alemein at 0620. This Allied turn the Axis has 5 attack supply steps in Libya.

German Turn

The Axis player feels he has little choice this turn but to attempt an attack against Tobruk. They have only this turn and the next to try and gain the +30 VPs for Axis control of the Cyranacia. Moreover, the three hits at the airfield at Sidi Barrani now make it more difficult for the Allied player to send fighters over the besieged improved fortress, and on the Jul I 42 Allied turn they didn’t optimally rebase their remaining fighters in Egypt for Tobruk’s defense. As mentioned in Game Report #4, the difficulty in a successful attack is Tobruk’s 29 defense factors and the improved fortress defense modifiers, especially the -1 die roll without the use of engineers. If the Axis throws in everything on the map he possibly can and even with every Axis air unit with a tactical bombing strength of 1 or better getting through, they are still well below a 3 to 1, and must settle for an unacceptable 2 to 1, -1 die roll. A raunchy 3 to 2 straight up die roll is possible if the It aslt eng II is used and a fair amount (eg., over half, close to 2/3rds) of Axis tactical bombing units (assuming every available bomber and maybe a couple of fighters flying a tactical bombing mission are thrown in) make it through the 7 flack factors and Allied DAS is kept very close to 0. This is not a battle of choice, but a battle of necessity, a necessary war game risk due to the slow but steadily deteriorating Axis position in the Western Desert during the second half of ’42.

But at the start of the Axis player’s turn, he can momentarily turn away from the troublesome battle confrontation facing him and ponder the turn’s air cycle, reinforcements, and replacements. With the 3 Ger ARPS per turn the Axis player replaces an aborted Me 109F4, the Me110F, and a Ju88A4. With It ARPs an aborted SM 84 and even a MC200 is replaced, and an eliminated SM79-2 is moved up to the aborted box. During the naval movement segment the Axis player gets all the Ger and It arm REs and all his ground unit reinforcements sea transported across the Cent Med. The Malta status is currently 9. Using their three 1942 Axis special-op Ju 52s brought in last turn, he airlifts one of the attack supply steps to the 3-cap permanent airfield at the cost road hex 2629 by the Gulf of Sirte. The Axis turn reinforcement Ju 52 airlifts in 1 Ger and 1 It inf RE into Benghazi. By the end of the Axis naval transport segment there are in Libya 2 It inf REs, 3 1/2 It arm REs (the 1/2 RE was a Ger aid transfer done the last turn), 5 1/2 Ger arm REs, and 4 Ger inf REs. The Axis player hopes next turn to be able to flip the It 3-8 133 Lit arm cadre to full strength. Remaining in the mainland Europe off-map holding box is 1 Ger inf RE and the other attack supply step for this turn. However, the Axis player must withdraw the It BR20M night bomber, and for the first time since the game’s start, does no Malta bombing. This turn everything must be thrown into the Tobruk assault.

Because the Allied player is experienced, aggressive, and playing his kind of game, eg., knowing he’s gradually gaining strength ascendancy, the Axis player feels he needs to carefully plan out the attack on Tobruk. The assault OB is carefully crafted around the 1/10 ratio for the It aslt eng II. Both Pz XXs, the 90 Le mot inf XX, two It hvy flk IIs, the Lw mot hv flk III, the mot anti-tank II, and every Axis art unit on the map are adjacent to Tobruk. The 0-8 Afr const III’s dash into Bardia along with a stout defensive force is abandoned this turn because of the impending Tobruk attack and its unknown outcome. Instead, it increases the 1-cap temporary airfield at 4819 to 3-cap, then moves west to 4719 and builds a 1-cap field there. The It const III builds a 3-cap airfield at the coast road hex 4718, just west of Tobruk, but won’t participate in the anticipated assault. Plans are made for the possibilities of an EX result or an AR result and the issues of the placement of the non-motorized artillery and what to do in the exploitation phase. The Axis player feels like he gets a small break at the end of his initial phase when the Allied player decides to send two of the Wellingtons and the Blen 4 on a harassment mission to 0421. This means less Allied DAS later in the Combat Phase.

In the Axis Combat Phase the Allied player reveals how determined he is to hold Tobruk even in the face of fighter disadvantage and a not completely hopeless (for the Allies) straight up 3 to 2 Axis attack by throwing in all five available bombers on DAS and with only 2 escorts, a P-40E and the Bftr 6F. This mission force faces a swarm of eight good Axis intercepting fighters over Tobruk. At the end of the movement phase the Axis player might have used CAP to throw in over Tobruk up to two MC 200s and the Re2001CB, but elected to use them for the GS mission to hopefully jack up the attack factor. In the air combat two Me109F4s face the two Allied escorts and the rest of the interceptors go after the bombers. Two Wellintgtons and an A-30 are aborted, and the US B-24D5 is eliminated. Air combat with the bombers aborts a MC202, but an A-30 gets through and it also gets through the Axis attacking flack factor of 3. In the GS segment the Axis player gets 25 tactical bombing factors through (halved at combat for the improved fortress) the port’s flack with just a Z1007B aborted, but the final tally is just 1 ¼ attack factors shy of a 3 to 2 attack, so declines to attack at 1 to 1. From one perspective the A-30 has saved Tobruk this turn from attack. Like Lee in retirement or Donnetz at Spandau prison, he mulls afterwards if maybe he should have sent some or all the three aforementioned fighters on CAP over Tobruk instead of on the GS mission. For consolation the Axis player doesn’t have to expend the two attack supply steps he would have had he proceeded with the attack.

By the turn’s end it seems more probable that the siege of Tobruk will be protracted and not a quick fall into the Axis lap. No doubt in the near future the game’s unfolding 1942 “second” protracted siege of Tobruk will in addition feature some kind of Axis maneuver east towards the Bardia/Halfaya Pass vicinity or even farther eastwards towards Sidi Baranni. Two big Axis attacks during the WW Western Desert campaign’s Cauldron saga epoch have failed to bring Axis victory in the Gazala/Tobruk zone. The first was at the game’s Jun II 42 Axis turn Desert Cauldron start, when the big Axis attack resulting in a DR at 4619 failed to bag them a sizable “Gazala pocket” of prime Allied units. The second was this turn’s aborted Tobruk attack when the air situation was momentarily somewhat favorable for the Axis. A third factor perhaps contributing to the somewhat currently favorable Allied game position was maybe the Allied player’s “Auchinleck skedaddle” on the Allied Jun I 42 turn, rather than, perhaps like Ritchie historically, opting to attempt a second Allied close-in desert front line stand, perhaps in this war game extending due south of the improved fortress. However, the Axis side is still undefeated and so far has suffered no ground unit losses. For two turns he’s inflicted what might be called Allied air battle defeats in the sky above the besieged fortress. Though facing a dark horizon in the future of the Western Desert campaign, the game “ain’t over yet,” and the Axis player still hopes for maybe a not-too-bad VP outcome in the WW Western Desert campaign. For the Europa Association’s Total War fans who may think the WW II African desert campaign a “small potato” second-rate substitute, this Europa war gamer reassures, like an Afrika Korps Maxmillian Schnell to Brando in the movie “The Young Lions,” that “I should be in Russia! But I am here.”

Jun II 42

Allied Turn

Once again in the Western Desert, like in the spring of ’41, the British army is facing Rommel’s Afrika Korps with the Allied military forces split: the isolated and besieged force at Tobruk on one hand and farther eastwards beyond the Halfaya Pass an Egyptian defensive screen on the other. This turn the 8th Army’s defensive stand in Egypt is essentially on the two transportation lines one hex westward of the Sidi Barrani hex (w/ a fort and permanent airfield) and one hex west of the permanent airfield at hex 0819. The fort and two airfields are per Desert Cauldron (DC) at start OB. This positioning puts the British Egyptian defensive force under the air umbrella of strong Allied fighter and DAS protection and for the time being out of range of most all Axis fighters. They are also just within striking distance of the easternmost Axis ground units besieging Tobruk. This turn the farthest east Axis airfield is a freshly-built 2-cap temporary field at the coast road hex 4618, two hexes west of Tobruk. In the ’42 epoch, however, the Allied air strength is almost entirely focused in the Egyptian zone whereas in the spring of ’41, in the Wavell epoch, the then much weaker Allied air was split between the Western Desert and Greece. This time at Tobruk, now U-1 in the Allied initial phase, it is the South Africans who are holed up and not the Aussies, who, after Pearl Harbor, have largely moved out of the Western Desert save I believe for a lt tnk II, a P-40E fighter unit, and the 9th inf XX doing garrison duty in Syria along with the NZ inf XX, three const Xs, and the FF 3FL 1-2-6 inf X from the French Forces in the Levant section of the WitD OB on p. 6.

In the El Alemein vicinity this turn the Br 8 eng X begins construction of a two turn fort at hex 2120, where the previous Jun I Allied turn it had moved to and built a 3-cap temporary airfield. On the coast road one hex east of El Alemein the 66RPC const X, resurrected last turn from the replacement pool, begins construction of a one turn permanent airfield. At the El Alemein fort hex (per the DC OB) elements of the Ind 10th inf XX recently arrived from the off-map NE command stand guard. As the Allied WitD OB has the Ind inf units arriving from the NE, the Allied player brings in some by sea using his Eastern Med naval transport and also sometimes by admin moving them 16 hexes from the westernmost Iraq hex into Palestine and ending up at the secondary rail line hex 4506 in Palestine. The WitD/WW rules may perhaps be vague in exactly how the arriving NE Ind inf unit NE transfers come into play on the Europa maps used in a WW Wesern Desert scenario. In spite of the recent Axis advances in the Caldron battle zone, the Allied player still enjoys the luxury of a bristling arsenal in the Egyptian Delta zone. Here basks the famed 4th Ind inf XX, the Greek mtn X and the Yugo inf II, and old Br Hurri 1 air unit guarding the Suez canal ports from Axis VP port strat attacks, the old Br Bombay air unit, four pos flk units here and there, the other Br hv AA X, an odd Ind inf X or two, and a stack of attack supply counters and one remaining resource point. Even at Cyprus on map 20A the Allied player has kept the supported 7th Ind inf X (from the DC at start OB) and added the 1-2-6 Sudanese DF inf X reinforcement. Each turn gsp’s are shipped or air lifted (by the Bombay) there for supply. The reason for a Cyprus force is for defense against a possible big Axis 1942 special air-op there. The Axis player is known to sometimes actually do such things. Gsp’s are also shipped each Allied turn to Malta, from Gibralter and also from Alexandria and Suez.

Back in the Western Desert war zone, the British player this turn is not intending for the siege of Tobruk to degenerate into a sleepy headed “midnight at the oasis” yawner reminiscent of the second half of ’41, and instead plans what he hopes to be a nasty little riposte against the goose stepping Axis aggressors. Around Tobruk the Axis has wrapped around on all three landward sides of the improved fort hex. On the eastern hex at 4918 are the 21st Pz XX, the 90th Le mot inf XX, the mot lt flk II, and one step of attack supply. On the ridge hex at 4818 poise the 7-6-8 Areite arm XX, the Lw 135 mot hvy flk III, and two art IIIs. One hex south at the 4819 road hex are the 15th Pz XX, the 135th mot inf III, two art IIIs, and an attack supply step. Nevertheless the Allied player boldly sallies forth and bellies up to the Axis desert front line with most all the 8th Army motorized elements poised in the Egyptian defensive zone at the turn’s start. Both Axis front line hexes at 4918&4818 appear in peril with Auchinleck’s British armor in front and a powerful Tobruk defense garrison at their backs. In the combat phase the Axis player sends DAS with escort to both hexes, but some Axis fighters still remain at their bases. When the Allied GS segment comes the anxious imperiled Axis desert front line ground forces look skyward and see the A-30s and the DB7B (and some other bombers) fly past them overhead proceeding farther westwards to, of all places, the coast road hex 4718 west of Tobruk. The sly and experienced Allied player has once again pulled a “rope a dope” on the Axis player! Here is a motley crew of Axis ground units, including an It 3-6 inf XX, the DC at start It 3-8 133rd arm cadre, an It hvy flk II, an art III, and the Ger mot anti-tank II. In the ensuing melee an escorting Bftr 1C and an intercepting Me110F are aborted. At the time of the combat roll the besieged Tobruk garrison expends one of their four attack supply steps and roll at straight up 3 to 1 odds and come up with a 1: NE. The Axis player breathes a sigh of relief and in his exploitation phase the Allied player moves his 8th Army motorized forces back to the previously mentioned defensive zone in Egypt.

In the meantime, like a little pack of furtive desert rats, a Br 1-10 lt arm II slinks westwards far to the south of Tobruk and ends its exploitation at 4728. This is a small indication that for now the Allied player feels he has enough arm and inf RP’s coming in to conduct often suicidal attrition operations such as this to force the Axis player to chase after it.

Axis Turn

Nowadays the only singing going on in the Axis side of this game are the wistful tunes of “Lili Marlene.” Gone is the initial game exuberance and excitement of the early Caludron battles and the three overruns, the ensuing Auchinleck skedaddle, the crushing DE of the Allied “sacrificial lamb” stack at the fort hex at 4919, and the menacing encircling maneuver around the improved fortress Tobruk. Well, what caused this Axis “change of tune” in the war game? Among several long term Axis game problems, a preliminary analysis of the WW Western Desert Scenarios’ Victory Conditions and VP Schedule reveals that it’d be good for the Axis side to capture Tobruk by the end of the Jul II 42 Axis turn and thereby gain +30 VPs for control of the Cyrenacia. Right now this seems to be a pipe dream, at least by the end of Jul II.

The problem of the Axis capture of Tobruk (in the Jun II-Jul I-Jul II 42 time frame) is the 29 defense factors there and the -1 to the die roll for Tobruk being an improved fortress. Can the Axis player somehow juggle the single It aslt eng II into the equation at a 1/10th factored ratio and still come up with decent odds? By the way, when earlier stating the Allied units present at Tobruk back in Game Report #2, I accidently omitted the presence of a supported 2-8 Ind inf X there. Anyway, this turn the Axis player takes a hard look at the battlefield reality of a Tobruk assault and, throwing in the It aslt eng II and every Axis artillery unit on the map, plus somehow at least 15 GS factors (halved against the improved fortress) getting through the 7 Allied flack factors present, plus somehow shooing off any Allied DAS or interceptors, the best the Axis player can hope for is an attack die roll at straight up 3 to 2 odds. There’s 2 chances for an AR, two chances for a NE, one chance of an EX, and one chance of DR. The Allied player has three attack steps at Tobruk, meaning he can routinely keep it in supply for three Axis turns before starting to roll for elimination due to lack of supply while isolated, assuming he doesn’t bother to try to sea transport any there in the meantime. At first thought, the 3 to 2 die roll seems to be an unacceptable game risk and a wiser choice might be a protracted campaign of maneuver (kissing goodbye the +30 VPs for control of Cyrenacia), somehow safely occupy perhaps the Bardia/Halfaya Pass hex vicinity, build maybe at least 2 or 3 airfields there to provide fighter cover for Axis sea patrols (remember in WW sea transports can go 10 naval MPs at night, avoiding daylight sea patrols), and then hope to starve out Tobruk later on in the fall of ’42. Even this turn the Axis dares not march into the unimproved fort Bardia hex and stay, for fear of an Allied attack with GS and fighter cover during their turn or another Allied riposte coming out of Tobruk against a weakened and spread out Axis siege force. The closest Axis const unit is at the 2-cap temporary airfield built last turn at hex 4618 on the west side of Tobruk. The 0-8 Afr const III will have to do a difficult and dangerous maneuver round the Allied improved fortress and later dash into Bardia with a stout Axis defensive force along with some flack. The ’42 Allied defensive covering force just in front of Sidi Barrani is much more powerful than what Wavell had in ’41 and is a dangerous menace to any Axis stack outside of ample Me109F and MC202 fighter cover or straying too far eastwards from the bunched up Axis desert front line currently around and to the south of Tobruk.

The Axis player now realizes that maybe one reason the Allied player committed so many ground units at Tobruk was precisely to deny the Axis player Jul II 42 control of the Cyrenaica, or perhaps at all in the present game, and so decides to play on this angle this turn and try to ruse the Allied player into thinking he will in fact attack Tobruk now and hopefully throw in his air over the fortress so far from Allied fighter cover, thereby maybe giving the Axis fighters the chance for a “turkey shoot” in the interception segment of the Combat Phase and then maybe later some Axis air attacks against Allied bases full of inoperative air units during the Exploitation Phase. The Axis has two more turns after this turn to capture Tobruk and something may happen to increase the attack odds there.

During the Axis initial phase the Axis player reveals a surprise special air-op planned at the game’s DC start and activates three Ju52s from the 1942 Axis Special Forces Pool for a -3 VP penalty. Their intended use is to airlift mainly attack supply counters from the mainland Europe off-map holding box to the Western Desert, most likely to the DC at start permanent airfield at coast road hex 2629 in the Gulf of Sirte. During the Axis turns they would be doing a one-way regular transport mission twice their printed movement rating to a Libyan airfield, then fly a transfer mission back to the mainland Europe off-map holding box the first opportunity early each Allied movement phase. The permanent airfield at 2629 is remote from the Spit 5s at Malta and for the time being is probably safe from Allied bombing attacks from Egypt. The Axis player does have to garrison the field with the It 1-8 136GF inf X to protect it from Allied Desert Rat attacks and places an It 0-8 lt flk II there just in case the Allied player decides to do some dicey long distance tactical bombing against the transports.

During the movement phase the Axis player first moves the 0-8 Afr const III to 4819, two hexes south of Tobruk, where it can still build a 1-cap temporary airfield. This poises it for a dash into Bardia the Axis Jul I turn. The It 0-6 5A const III marches all the way up to the coast road hex at 4718, just west of Tobruk. This is as far east as it can go. The Axis player intends for it to build a 3-cap temporary airfield there the Axis Jul I turn and it would be poised later on to either build a fort there in case a long term siege of Tobruk begins to unfold or else begin the difficult maneuver around Tobruk. By the way, the other available It const III is in the Axis replacement pool per the DC at start OB and the Axis player hasn’t the at start It inf REs to build it. Meanwhile, the Axis shuffles his ground units around Tobruk as if preparing for a Pyrrhic attack. Then, in order to draw fire, the Axis player sends two Me109Fs on CAP over Tobruk near the end of the movement phase. They are too far off for interception during the combat phase and CAP can’t be flown during the combat phase. Then the Axis player says he believes it’s the beginning of the Axis combat phase and asks the Allied player if he wants to perform any DAS missions. The Allied player has taken the bait and throws in almost all his bombers on DAS and a few long legged fighters as escort. The Axis player throws in a hornet’s swarm of Axis fighters flying interception along with the two Me109Fs flying CAP and wins a big air battle over Tobruk. An A-30 and a P-40E are eliminated. The Bftr 1C and a Well 1C are aborted. A Me 109F is also aborted over Tobruk. In the exploitation phase the Axis player sends his unused bombers to the permanent airfield at Sidi Barrani to bomb the airfield and the inoperative units based there. He rolls good and aborts the P-40C, a Hurri2C, and the DB7B, also giving the airfield 3 hits. The Axis player feels good at the end of his turn, but knows that the Jul I 42 turn is a big reinforcement and replacement turn for the Allied player and will be able to rebuild much of his losses

June I 42

Allied Turn

Even at the beginning of the turn it’s obvious the Allied player isn’t comfortable with the situation in the Cauldron battle zone. There are now no Allied air units based in Libya, neither at Tobruk nor the nearby Desert Cauldron (DC) at start airfields at 4818 or 5018, nor at the field at 0319 by Halfaya Pass. The three P-40Es, the P-40C, a Hurri 2C, and the DB7B are based at the DC at start fields at Sidi Barrani (0718) and the airfield at 0819 on the Tobruk-Matruh rail line. The Well 2, a Well 1C, and the Blftr 1C&1Fs are based at either Matruh (1318) or at one of the four other DC at start fields along the Matruh-Alexandria coast road/rail line. To the surprise of the Axis player, who has feared an Allied counter punch this turn, the Allied player does what might be called an “Auchinleck skedaddle” and scoots out most of his ground forces from Libya, save at Tobruk and the adjacent southern fort hex up the ridge at 4818. Inded, in the Allied initial phase the Axis player uses the two Ju87Ds and a SM79-2 for harassment to protect the southern flanks of the extended Axis desert front line “chicken neck” extending eastwards and ending just before the stony desert area to the south of Tobruk. During the Allied movement phase the three aforementioned Libyan airfields are removed from the map, leaving the vacant Tobruk airfield the only Allied one left in Libya. The Allied player later says the more he looked at the Axis forces’ strength, the more convinved he became that holding a desert front line in the Cauldron battle zone only invited heavy Axis attacks with probably at least fair odds each Axis turn.

A very large garrison is left at the improved fortress Tobruk which includes the 1st and 2nd SA inf XXs (both 7-8s), the Br 0-2-8 hv flk X, a pos flack unit, the 64RPC con X, a Br 6-4-6 arm X, two Br 3-8 art Xs, and four attack supply counters. The Tobruk hex and the adjacent ridge hex at 4818 essentially contain the red coats that were adjacent to Axis units with ZOCs and therefore couldn’t move out of Libya and were left behind “on their own.” I of course sang the appropriate stanzas of J. Horton’s “Battle of New Orleans,” but I assure pro-Allied Association members that I soon stopped after further analysis later on.

All is not bleak for the Allied player. In his initial phase the Desert Rat attack per Rule 37F gets a good die roll on the WW success table and inflicts a hit on the unguarded at start Axis airfield at 4218 (just east of Derna) which also aborts a Me109F there. In the exploitation phase the Allied player sends a Wellingtion and all three A-30s (at extended range) to the Erakleion airfield on Crete and gets a hit, also aborting a SM79-2 based there. Wellingtons also score a strat bombing hit on the important Axis port at Derna and jack its port hits up to 2, on top of the game’s at start 1 hit per the DC set-up.

Axis Turn

In the initial phase the Axis player spends one ARP to rebuild the Me109F aborted last turn. He uses a rigid priority schedule where good fighters are almost always brought back first, then later bombers. At the game’s DC start both the Germans and Italians had 6 ARPs. Now they’re down to 2 Ger ARPs and 3 It ARPs. If at all possible, both will retain at least one ARP up to the next Jul I 42 air cycle so as to have an initial ARP total of 9 and thereby each be entitled to spend up to 3 ARPs per axis initial phase in the subsequent air cycle turns. This turn in the desert zone the Axis has three Me109F3s, two MC202s, the RE2001CB, two Ju87Ds, a Me110D&F, a MC200, three Ju88A4s, a CR42AS, and a MC200. Based at Tripoli are the BR20M and a He 111H, and at Crete are a SM79-2 and a G50bis. The Axis aborted and eliminated air boxes are chock full of smashed up Axis air units, whereas the Allied air boxes have few damaged air units. This same trend was evident in the Crusader game played earlier.

Although still superficially on the offensive in the MTO, the Axis player inside feels the Allied player is in a strange way calling all the strategic shots in the theater. At Malta, with the arrival of the Spit 5s, the Axis air abandoned a continuation of the major air offensive there and instead reinforced the Afrika Korps air in the desert war zone. Faced with last turn’s Auchinleck skedaddle, the Axis player has no other choice but to hurl its strength against the “sacrificial lamb” stack at the fort hex 4818 south of Tobruk. Here stand the Br 50th 7-8 inf XX, a supported Ind 2-8 inf X, and a Br 3-8 art X. Although Tobruk and hex 4818 block any significant further Axis eastward penetration, the Allied player sends a large array of hasassment into the Tobruk vicinity. Still, it’s easy for the Axis player to surround the ill-fated Allied stack on five sides. The Allied harassment has only lessened the amount of available DAS that turn. The Axis player throws in a large amount of GS to jack up the attack odds, hoping thereby to avoid exchanges, and attacks with pretty much everything he’s got, except that he expends only two attack supply steps to give only 20 REs full attack strength in order to conserve attack supply in the face of increasing supply problems as the Malta status number gradually goes against Axis Central Med shipping. He wins big with a DE, giving the Axis renewed hope after the May II 42 Axis initial turn fisasco.

At Malta the BR20M and the He111H get lucky and score night strat bombing hits for the Malta Status, but the He111H is aborted upon landing after a night mission. Both fly back to Tripoli to be out of range of the Spits the Allied turn.

May II 42

Some may be surprised that we were pretty much able to use Watson’s original DC set-up considering all the OB changes required to update old WD Cauldron to a revised WitD Cauldron for WW game play. Just one OB change example would be the addition of at least five light tank/recee batts (2 SA, one Aus, and 2 Brit) to the Allied At Start OB. Since we’re playing an abbreviated WW WD campaign scenario, the Allied player doesn’t have to rattle his chain hobble regarding the garrison problem (mentioned earlier in June at the Europa Association website) of the NE Command’s Ind inf unit transfers to the ME Command as he might certainly do in a WW Mid East campaign scenario. Auchtung Allied player!

The Axis player begins by overrunning the gallant 1FL FF brig at the fort at 4620 and the hapless Ind mot antitank brig at 4721. This sets up a “guess which hex I’m attacking” dilemma for the Allies for the two Cauldron at start fort hexes at 4519 and 4619, each containing no flack and, along with some other brigade sized units, a juicy Br 6-4-6 arm brig just waiting to be put into the Allied ME replacement pool. The Axis player sends two Me109Fs on CAP over Tobruk to cover the two Allied P-40Es (Warhawks) based there, but they slip out of the Axis patrol attacks on their way to the impending Cauldron battle zone as if the 109Fs are nothing. The Allies manage to send DAS to both hexes facing impending Axis attack and only then does Rommel show his hand by sending first interception and then ground support to 4619. The fighter battles over the battleground are inconclusive and an A-30 unit (probably Baltimores, but maybe Marylands; anyone in the Association know for sure?) poises for DAS. The Axis AA attack (3 factors) against the Allied DAS is ineffective and the attack arithmetic indicates 9+3 DAS=12 for the Allies and 71 attack factors (along with GS) for the Axis: 5 to 1, -1 for the fort. The Axis player rolls a 4, which turns into a 3 (-1): DR. The Allied player happily retreats into the coast road hex at 4618. The Axis player could have gone against the lone 7-8 1 SA inf XX in the coastal fort hex at Gazala (4518), but went for the glory against either 4519 or 4619. A DE at either would have set up an exploitation all the way to the unoccupied coast road hex at 4618 and the creation of a “Gazala pocket” of likely doomed Allied units. If the large Allied stack at 4519 (2 inf Xs, a Br art X, the BR 32T arm X, and a 1RE trans unit) would have been in the sack along with the SA inf XX, the eventual loss (including the necessary DE at 4619) would likely have been crippling for the Allies.

In the Malta battle zone, the Cauldron at start OB arrival of two powerful Br Spit 5 units has discouraged the Axis player from continuing Kesselring’s air offensive against the island, and so both the BR20M and the He111H do port strat bombing night attacks to try to increase the Malta status number. Both base at Tripoli afterwards to avoid being hit by the Spits doing airbase attacks against Sicily. The single at start Axis fighter based at Sicily (the It Re2001CB Reggiane) and and the SM79-1 also there transfer to the Western Desert on the May II 42 Axis turn. The arrival of the Br Spit 5s at Malta is important, I think, for the ’42 epoch of the WW II MTO, because they seemingly turn the tide in the long running Axis air battle against Malta and in this way drive an important nail into the Axis coffin which the North African campaign perhaps often eventually becomes, in Europa often climaxing with Axis disaster at Tunis.

Meanwhile, back in the Western Desert, miffed by the Allied player’s success in evading a resounding first turn defeat in the Cauldron war zone, the Axis player looks for something to kick in the exploitation phase and does so by overrunning a 3-defence factor Allied stack at the stony desert hex 4820, where the 66R const brig (building a fort there per Watson’s at start), the Aus 1 lt arm II, and the supported Br 7th mot inf X await their fate. But the Axis player is concerned about his own fate also, and so at the end of the exploitation opts not to occupy hex 4619 where just earlier he’d spent so much effort, planning, and energy fighting for. Instead, he braces up against a still powerful and very wily and experienced Europa player and creates an Axis desert front line starting at the coast road fort hex at 4417 and going due south to 4418 and 4419, and hence dog-legging eastwards to 4520 and 4620, sticking out like a long chicken neck. At the easternmost hex 4620 lurk the Ger 21st Pz XX, the 90th Le mot inf XX, the mot lt AA II 617, and a supply step, lugged off-road across open terrain just in case of a nasty surprise Allied “surround” during their turn.

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