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.
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.