Allied Turn

At the start of the new game turn the Allied player rolls a 5 on the Weather Table and it’s still mud in the E weather zone with rough seas in the Mediterranean. The Malta Status becomes 0 this turn.

The Allies get no reinforcements this turn nor do they spend any RPs or ARPs. They still have 14 ME ARPs and there are still some units in the ME replacement pool.

Late in the initial phase the non-phasing Axis player sends harassment missions to 18A:3228, 3229, & 3230 to help protect his desert front line from a possible big Allied attack.

In the construction segment of the initial phase the two colonial 0-1-4 const Xs begin building one turn 3-cap permanent airfields at Tobruk (4817) and the adjacent overlooking ridge hex due south of Tobruk at 4818. In the movement phase the Br 1-2-8 eng X 8 moves westwards to Msus (3523), where it ends its turn stacked with the Ind 2-8 inf X 161, the Br 44th inf XX HQ unit, and two steps of attack supply.

In the E weather zone portion of the rough terrain Cyrenaican “bluge” region, the Ind 10th inf XX continues its westwards march in the mud weather down the coast road to 3617, closing in on Bengazi from this direction. Behind it the Ind 2-8 inf X 5 and the Br lt flk II 37 occupy Derna. Just south of the E weather line and just above the Cyrenaican interior road the Br 2-8 inf X 132 guards hex 3620 and farther east the Ind 2-8 inf X 11 guards Mechili (4019).

Menacing Axis held Bengazi from the south, just below the E weather zone line, are two stout 8th Army stacks at road hex 3223 and stony desert hex 3422. At road hex 3223 are the Br 6-4-6 arm X 1T, the 4-3-8* arm X 23, and the 3-10 art X 10. At stony desert hex 3422, just west of Msus, are the Br 7-8 inf XX 50, the 3-2-10 arm X 7, and the NZ 3-8 inf X 5.

The Fr 2-8* inf X 2FL admin moves westwards from Giarabub to 4318, where it ends it movement with a 1 RE transport counter and perhaps happy to again rejoin the world war.

Just to the SW of Agedabia, three hexes away from the Axis desert front line in front of El Agheila, the Allies form up a quite powerful new desert front line shield at hexes 3328 & 3428. The Allied desert front line’s westward flank is protected by the impassable coast salt marsh hex 3227. Each desert front line hex stack contains at least two Br arm XXs. At 3328 are 29 half AECA/ATEC defense factors, seven flack factors, and four steps of attack supply. At 3428 are 25 half AECA/ATEC defense factors and ten flack factors. The Allied desert front line eastern flank is protected from encroachment by the nearby Sebchet el Gheneien impassable salt marshes and the Br 3-2-10* lt arm X 4 at hex 3527. Not far away on the opposite SW side of the Sebchet el Gheneien is an Allied multi-national mobile force at 3730.

During his exploitation phase the Allied player does a night strat bombing mission against the port capacity of Bengazi (in this scenario a major port and Axis standard supply source) using the two Well 1C NBs, the Well 2 NB, and the Aus Halfx 2 NHB. The Aus Halfx 2 NHB is returned by Bengazi’s four factors of heavy flack, but the Wellington NBs get through Bengazi’s total of seven light and heavy flack factors and also inflict two bombing hits, in spite of halving the strat bombing factors due to the mud weather, which convert into four port damage hits due to Bengazi’s artificial harbor, jacking the port damage total up to 5.

One thing the Allied player is certainly trying to do in inflicting port damage hits to the Axis standard supply source at Bengazi is to implement the “highly experimental” Optional Rule 12C1e-Standard Supply Terminal Suppression, and thereby knock out Bengazi’s Axis standard supply source status capabilities. I currently think this might be a good rule and might be a way out of the “Bengazi problem,” which evidently began when the Cyranaican “bulge” region was incorporated into the E weather zone in the WitD map revisions and perhaps some influential Allied players (this is said respectfully) began to find it hard to capture Bengazi during the spring 1941 mud weather. Added along with this optional rule, which I understand from an earlier EA posting was originally intended to be used against the Axis at Tunis in ’43 in order to help hasten its fall there, might be a new special rule making Bengazi a “fragile” artificial harbor and that one port bombing hit equals to maybe three port damage hits. This would probably compel the Allied player to use his Wellingtons and Blenheims to bomb the port capacity of Bengazi in 1941, which I think historically is precisely what they did many times in the Western Desert campaign during this period. I think this is certainly better than making Bengazi a standard port “at the start of all War in the Desert scenarios” and as perhaps a sop to historical True Believers, throwing at them the almost insulting dog biscuit Advanced Rule 141h-Port Construction (my gripe here being only in its use at Bengazi as a standard port), which I currently believe very few Axis players could or would ever actually use at Bengazi, and thereby the port construction rule in effect makes sure that Bengazi almost always remains a standard port and therefore never a standard supply source. Yes, Bengazi as a major supply port for the Axis should often be worthless, but I think, due to constant Allied port (night) bombing in 1941 and ’42 and not by knocking it down to a standard port, which frees up the Allied Western Desert bombers for use elsewhere. I believe Playfair in his Western Desert war history says that the British had no problems quickly turning Bengazi into a major Allied supply port after its final Allied capture in late 1942.

On the other hand I’ve currently no problem with beginning Bengazi as a major port but not yet an Axis standard supply source (eg., for WW Graziani’s offensive scenarios, for the regular Dec I 40 at-start WW scenarios with the desert maps in use, and perhaps in hypothetical future WW/Enter Rommel II scenarios) and fitting it with a probably appropriate chain hobble like Advanced Rule 12C1d-Axis Standard Supply Terminal Restrictions, which in WW games without the Balkans in play means Bengazi couldn’t become a new Axis standard supply terminal per Rule 12C1a-Standard Supply Terminals until at the earliest about the Jun II 41 Axis turn.

Later, the Allied player says that he might have begun bombing Bengazi’s port capacity on the Dec I 42 Allied turn, but then still harbored hopes that the Axis would, by his turn’s end, abandon any intentions of taking a “to the death” stand there and continue its westwards retreat towards Tripoli of the entire Afrika Korps. He also goes to the trouble of saying that the Axis defenders at Bengazi will soon be “sacrificial lambs” and is pleased that an It arm XX is among the trapped sheep herd there. I remind him that Bengazi is still Axis with 33 defense factors with 1/10th ATEC, possesses a fort counter, the weather there is still mud, and the end of the Western Desert scenario is close at hand. Don’t worry; we’re old friends.

Near the end of the exploitation phase the Axis player does a non-phasing air unit transfer of the Ju 52 at Tripoli to the 3-cap temporary airfield at coast road hex 18A:2418, containing the It 0-6 const III 5A, a Ju 87D, the It Ju 87B, and a resource point. A Ju88A4 based there transfers to the 3-cap permanent airfield further west at coast road hex 1427, three hexes west of Sirte, which contains another Ju88A4, the It 3-6 inf XX 16 Pis, and the It 0-6 lt flk II 11

By the end of the exploitation phase the two SA 1-10 lt arm II’s 4 & 6, moving stacked together in order to gain hex control per Advanced Rule 5B4-Half RE Units, end their exploitation movement at Oasi di Gialo.

German Turn

This turn in the initial phase the Axis withdraws 5 Western Desert (WD) Axis SMPs per Watson’s End of the Beginning El Alamein scenario Axis Reinforcements OB, which we’re using in the game. This leaves the Axis a net of 25 WD SMPs, which puts an additional pinch on what’s already become an attack supply step and resource point movement problem for the regular long striding retreating Axis forces.

An airbase repair point in the mainland Europe off-map holding box is used in the initial phase to repair a hit of airfield damage at Erakeion (18A:4903) on Crete per Optional Rule 141l-Axis Airbase Repair on Islands; at least this is how we play the rule here.

Although the Axis still has the 4 It & 4 Ger WD ARPs from the last air cycle, they’ve been unused and a CR 42AS and G 50bis still remain in the Med/NA Command’s eliminated box where they’ve been since the game’s start. The Axis player is holding onto his remaining WD ARPs to bring back better quality fighters (or needed B, D, or T types) from the WD replacement pool as they are aborted or eliminated.

At the start of the movement phase the Axis player again attempts to sea transport 1½ Ger arm RP’s from Tripoli back to mainland Europe using his Cent Med on-map shipping ability, but for the second Axis turn in a row the convoy is sunk by the Allied player’s Axis anti-shipping die rolls. The Malta Status is 0 and the Axis player is learning the hard way how difficult it sometimes can be to sea transport in this unfavorable situation.

The Axis player uses the Ju 52 based at the 3-cap temporary airfield at coast road hex 18A:2418 to air transport the It 0-6 const III 5A there to Tripoli. A better destination may have been to Bengazi, and then sea transport out of Bengazi the Ger 3-10 mot inf III Afr there to Tripoli using coastal shipping, but the mud weather at Bengazi prevents the single Ju 52 (the only Axis air transport capable unit on-map) from doing this particular transport mission.

The other It const III admin moves to the 3-cap permanent coast road airfield at 18A:1427, two hexes west of Sirte, where it ends its move with the It 0-8 lt flk II 82.

Meanwhile, the Axis desert front line conducts what might be considered another major westwards retreat along the Libyan coast road and ends its movement with a new desert front line at 2127-2128-2129, twelve hexes away from the Allied front line. A protective south flanking covering line dog-legs westward at 2029 & 1929 from the new Axis desert front line shield.

The Afrika Korps would have retreated en masse even further westwards this turn to perhaps Sirte (18A:1727), but was held up by slower moving Italian motorized 8 MP units that protected remote flanking southern positions at 3133 & 3233 at the turn’s start. However, the Axis retreat this turn is not so hasty as to neglect destroying with ground unit MP’s the five 3-cap coast road airfields at 2328, 2428, 2629, 2829, and at El Agheila (2930). The previous turn the Axis player took the time to place a weak It motorized III at four of the five mentioned coast road airfield hexes specifically for the purpose of destroying the airfields there this turn. A fairly long “rat tail” of Axis ground units runs from the rear of the desert front line shield westwards along the coast road up to and including the Sirte hex towards the Axis Tripoli supply source, thus helping to protect the forward units from possible Allied ZOC encirclement in their exploitation movement. This tactic can also be used in WW Balkan Front games.

EA members unacquainted with WitD games may not understand why the Axis player has been conducting these almost regular westward retreats when a superficial study of the Western Desert map situation as described in the game reports may seem to call for a bolder stand, say at El Agheila or even at Agedabia, and take a war chance with an Allied attack. A slug fest might then develop where the Axis may get the best of both sides’ die rolls and thus an essentially evenly balanced front line stalemate could perhaps result, which could be judged from afar as better than the current somewhat unfavorable Axis situation, where the Allies seem to have a definite close-in preponderance, at least when they have a full fighter umbrella available to protect their desert front line and plenty of A, B, and F (w/ a tac factor of 2) type air units in range for GS & DAS. The reason for the regular Axis westwards retreating during the end game period of the reported Western Desert scenario is the playing war gamers’ perceived reality of the Allied Torch invasion of French NW Africa and also what is perceived here as simultaneously historically happening in Tunisia. This observation is not at all a complaint by either players regarding the Western Desert scenario design and we both sincerely assure the EA and the WitD and WW developers that we love playing the existing Europa desert game and find it quite fascinating and satisfying. Keep in mind even TW will have a seemingly arbitrary and abrupt “photo-finish” ending in the midst of an ongoing violent and fluid but by no means unfinished campaign.

Meanwhile, the Axis is forced to do a major reshuffle of its on-map air units and suddenly finds itself way short of available airfields in what’s left of Axis controlled Libya. As a result the Axis feels it must air transfer to Sicily a Me 109F3, a MC 202, a MC 200, a G 50bis, two Ju 87Ds, two Z1007b’s, the SM 84, and the It Ju 87B.

At the Cauldron at-start 1-cap permanent airfield at Sirte is a MC 202, along with the It 1-6 arm II 21, the 1-8 mot art III 1AC, three steps of attack supply, and a resource point. Two hexes to the west of Sirte at the 3-cap permanent airfield at coast road hex 1427 is a ME 109F3 and a MC 200. The Cauldron at-start 1-cap temporary airfield at Misurata (18A:1022) is still knocked out and useless by a damage hit due to the big desert sand storm earlier in the current desert scenario. At the end of the movement phase the Misurata hex contains the retreating It 2-6 inf XX 60 Sbr and the 0-6 lt flk II 36. A motley crew of other retreating weak Italian non-motorized units are scattered along the Libyan road hexes between Sirte and Tripoli.

At Tripoli (18A:0121) is the Ju 52, two Ju 88A4s, a tall stack of recently arrived It ground units including a total of 7 flack factors, and two steps of attack supply. At the 3-cap permanent airfield one hex to the south of Tripoli at hex 18A:0122 is a Ju 88A4, a Ju 87D, a MC 200, a recently arrived stack of It ground units including 2 flack factors, and a step of attack supply.

At encircled Bengazi are 33 defense factors (but no construction/eng. unit), four steps of attack supply, 8 Bengazi generated gsp’s, two Me 109G2s, a MC 202, and the Me 110E, all “on their own” just like at Stalingrad now.