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