Europa Games and Military History

Month: October 2011

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.