THE DESERT WAR
The Campaign for North Africa (Starting Date #1: The Italians)
Special thanks go to playtesters Major Chet Pool, his son Lt. Col. Jim Pool, and Jeremy MacDonald.
1. UNIT COLORS
- German-Tan on Dk. Gray
- Luftwaffe-White on Dk. Gray
- Italian-Lt. Tan on Gray
- It. Blackshirts-Black on Gray
- Regis Aeronautica-Cream on Gray
- British-Dk. Blue on Brown
- New Zealand-Blue on Brown
- Australian-White on Brown
- South African-Black on Brown
- Indian-Green on Brown
- RAF-Lt. Blue on Brown
- RAAF-Cream on Brown
- SAAF-Brown on Brown
- RCAF-Cyan on Brown
- Free French-Blue on Tan
- Polish-Red on Tan
- Greek-Lt. Blue on Tan
- Czech-Cream on Tan
- USAF-Green on Tan
- FFAF-Dk. Blue on Tan
- Greek AF-White on Tan
- RN-White on Dk. Blue
The Campaign for North Africa depicted in this scenario can be divided into six phases.
2.1. The First Round (June 1940 - February 1941)
This period included Graziani's poorly supplied offensive into Egypt in September. The Italians halted after advancing less than 60 miles to Sidi Barrani. In November, O'Connor launched his "five-day raid". It turned into a complete rout of the Italians. The Commonwealth advanced over 400 miles in 61 days, and destroyed ten Italian divisions. But the Axis invasion of Greece caused Churchill to strip O'Connor of much of his force for the support of the Greeks and his offensive stalled.
2.2. Rommel's First Offensive (March - October 1941)
The arrival of the Germans under Rommel allowed the Axis to take advantage of the Commonwealth weakness. His offensive blitzed all the way to the Egyptian border, and included capturing O'Connor. But Tobruk held out. While Rommel laid siege to Tobruk the Commonwealth launched the unsuccessful "Battleaxe" offensive in June.
2.3. The Winter Campaign (November 1941 - June 1942)
In November, the Commonwealth launched the successful "Crusader" offensive, which pushed Rommel back to El Agheila. But in December, the Japanese entered the war. Again, the Commonwealth forces were shipped off to other points. And again, Rommel took advantage. He quickly swept back to a line anchored at Gazala.
2.4. Rommel's Second Offensive (June - July 1942)
The Battle of Gazala, in June, forced the Commonwealth forces to fall back into Egypt, leaving a garrison at Tobruk, as before. But this time, the garrison fell, with 35,000 prisoners. Rommel pressed on, and the first battle of El Alamein was fought in July. Rommel was stopped at Ruweisat ridge.
2.5. The Alamein Line (August - November 1942)
At this point, the Commonwealth commander was replaced with Montgomery. Rommel's last-chance offensive began in August. He was stopped at Alam Halfa ridge. The second battle of El Alamein began in October. Montgomery's 1917-style tactics broke the depleted Axis defense. In addition, "Operation Torch" deposited a huge Allied army in Morocco and Algeria on November 8th. Rommel had to retreat.
2.6. The Great Retreat (November - December 1942)
Rommel made a brief stand at Fuka, but had to fall back to Tunisia no matter what. By the first week of January, 1943, the Axis forces were completely off the map of this scenario, into Tripolitania.
3. SIGNIFICANT EVENTS
- The Italians must take El Hamra, Sofafi, and Sidi Barrani by the end of turns 3, 4, and 5 respectively. Failure to do each by those deadlines will cause the game to end in a Commonwealth victory. In addition, if the Axis player cancels the cease-fire and the Commonwealth retakes Sidi Barrani plus either of the other two, before turn 25, the game will still end with a Commonwealth victory. Otherwise, once the cease-fire starts, this risk ends.
- Note that if the PO plays the Axis, all these requirements will be canceled. Also note that none of these effects last past turn 25.
- The turn after all three required hexes are captured, a cease-fire will automatically take effect, unless it was canceled by the Italians on turn one. To cancel the cease-fire, the Italian player must disband the red txp unit (labeled "Disband unit") in hex [0,52] on turn one. Note that, if canceled, the risk of sudden victory for the Commonwealth will continue until turn 25. Otherwise, it ends upon the cease-fire. Once invoked, eleven forward-most Italian formations are placed in Garrison deployment. Open-fire will be invoked automatically on turn 25 unless the Commonwealth player exercises his theater option to invoke it earlier. The eleven Italian formations are restored to Attack deployment one turn after the open-fire.
- If the Axis converts any hex closer than 20 hexes to hex [184,92] the Commonwealth 70th Inf Div and 4th Ind Div will be released the next turn. Otherwise, they both release by turn 6.
- Furthermore, if this occurs any turn before either the ceasefire TO is selected or the three objectives are taken, the Axis shock penalty will be increased from 8% to 25%., lasting till the start of O'Connor's raid. Moral - take the objectives or cancel the ceasefire at least by the turn of crossing the borderline. Note that this effect can never be triggered past turn 10, so if you get that far, you can forget about it.
- The Italians suffer shock and air shock penalties for Graziani from turn 2 until the Germans start arriving on turn 49. The penalties worsen for four turns upon the start of O'Connor's Raid (open-fire invoked or turn 25 if the cease-fire was canceled).
- If the Commonwealth approaches closer than 20 hexes to the Axis reinforcement hex (3,98) before turn 53, they suffer a 99% shock penalty that lasts until turn 53. After turn 53 this restriction is lifted. The scope of the scenario is large, but not large enough to include that option. The edge of this restriction zone is marked with a boundary line. But this penalty is now subject to cancellation as follows.
- If Tobruk falls before the end of turn 35 AND Derna falls before the end of turn 37, the above restriction zone will be canceled on turn 39. Also, restriction zone 2 now also protects the Axis reinforcement area. It is automatically removed on turn 53, but the Axis player has a theater option from turn 25 on, to remove it earlier, if desired.
- The Commonwealth forces receive shock penalties on turns 55-65.
- The Axis forces also receive air bonuses on turns 177-181. The Axis replacements are zeroed on the final fourteen turns. This effect is canceled if the Axis capture Alexandria. Capture of Alexandria also cancels the Axis air-cap withdrawal, withdraws all Commonwealth sea-cap, withdraws half of Commonwealth rail-cap, and increases Axis supply by 40.
- The "Desert Fox" rule: The arrival of Rommel on turn 53 raises the Axis recon level from 0% to 35%. It stays there until turn 191. (On turn 191 it drops to 15% due to the loss of the 661st Radio Intercept Company). It also includes a 4% Commonwealth shock penalty that lasts until Auchinleck takes over (turn 185), and a 4% Axis shock bonus that lasts until Monty arrives (turn 201). The Commonwealth gets a two-turn "Crusader" respite from this penalty on turns 123-124.
- The Commonwealth gets a two-turn "Crusader" respite from this penalty on turns 123-124. There is now a Theater Option to delay this respite indefinitely until the Commonwealth player desires to invoke it. The option to delay becomes available on turn 113 and must be exorcised by the end of turn 122. If exorcised, a second TO will appear on turn 123 to invoke the respite.
- The Commonwealth recon level starts at 15%, drops to 0% when O'Connor is captured (turn 59), rises to 5% when Auchinleck replaces Ritchie (turn 185), and finally rises to 15% when he is replaced by Monty (turn 200).
- In this regard, the Commonwealth executes the "Raid on Rommel" on November 15, 1941 (turn 122). It has a 3% chance of success. If successful, the Axis "Desert Fox" shock bonus ends and there are shock bonuses for the Commonwealth. If unsuccessful, there is a 10% chance that one of the LRDG units will be eliminated. Similarly, there is a "Raid on Tobruk" on September 13-14, 1942 (turn 209). It has a 5% chance of success and the same risk to the other LRDG unit. If successful, Axis supplies are temporarily disrupted.
- On the 18th of December, 1941 (turn 132), Italian frogmen slipped into Alexandria harbor and inflicted major damage to several ships (including the Queen Elizabeth and the Valiant) in their daring "Chariot Raid". On the 25th of December, 1941 (turn 134), the Battleship Barham was sunk by a submarine. Those ships are withdrawn on those turns.
- In addition, if the Axis forces capture El Alamein, the fleet is placed in garrison mode, Cairo and Alexandria are clogged with refugees, and the Commonwealth sea-cap is halved. Note that the garrison mode represents the fleet withdrawing beyond the Suez Canal. But unlike actually withdrawing the fleet, the garrison mode can be reversed, if El Alamein is retaken.
- Commonwealth recapture of El Alamein will restore the fleet to active mode. This can be cycled repeatedly if El Alamein changes hands repeatedly. But if Alexandria falls, the fleet is permanently withdrawn, never to return.
- In addition, there are 238 Commonwealth units withdrawn over the course of the campaign. 122 of these units later return. Returned units have a "+" at the end of their names.
- On turn 69 the Tiger Convoy units arrive and are immediately disbanded into the replacement pools.
- Axis supply level varies from 24 to 60, depending upon their historical naval convoy level. Also, after June, 1942, Malta begins to have some detrimental effect on this level. Commonwealth supply increases from 40 to 52 to 78. Axis air cap rises to 2400, but is withdrawn on turn 229. Commonwealth air-cap rises to 3600. Commonwealth sea-cap starts at 175 and its rail-cap is 390 after turn 25 (when it drops from 1170). Once the Commonwealth captures Tobruk its sea-cap rises to 500. This lasts until the Axis retakes Tobruk, at which point the Commonwealth sea cap permanently drops back to 175. Axis sea-cap is 0 (rising to 27 after capture of Alexandria) and its rail-cap is 0.
- On May 20, 1941 (turn 71), Axis units land on Crete. On turn 73 the Crete Luftwaffe units begin to arrive, as the Commonwealth evacuates Crete. The restriction zone over Crete is removed on turn 73.
- Axis forces receive a permanent 25 VP bonus for recapture of Tobruk and 50 VP for capture of Alexandria.
- On the turn after their capture of Tobruk, the Commonwealth receives the Tobruk Minefield units within the Tobruk perimeter. However, the Commonwealth must take Tobruk by turn 57 or the units will be canceled. On turn 145 the minefields fall into disrepair and the units are withdrawn, assuming they still exist.
4. PLAYER'S NOTES
The purpose of the mandatory initial Axis objectives are to prevent the Axis player from using perfect 20:20 hindsight and deciding to avoid O'Connor's raid by retreating. He is instead required to advance the 17 hexes to Sidi Barrani. Failure to do so will immediately cost him the game.
To this end, it is critical that the Axis player take full advantage of the starting situation. The Commonwealth's front-line is stretched fatally thin. No significant fraction of it should be allowed to escape. If it does, the Axis player will probably not be able to meet his required objectives and the game will end early.
Once the objectives have been taken, he will either be protected by the cease-fire or will be able try to advance on the Pyramids, depending on his turn-one cease-fire decision. If he chose to try to advance, he should be aware that he remains under the obligation to protect the three objectives from re-capture by the Commonwealth. Also note that the option to cancel the cease-fire expires at the end of turn one.
Once the cease-fire begins or (if canceled) once turn 25 is reached, there is no further chance to end the game early, and the Axis player is under no further requirement to hold anything. But note that if the cease-fire is invoked, the Italian forces will be immobilized until one turn after the end of the cease-fire.
If the cease-fire is invoked, the Commonwealth player gets to pick the turn of the start of O'Connor's Raid with his theater option. The option becomes available four turns after the cease-fire and remains available up to turn 24. Also, four turns of shock bonuses are synched with the start of the raid.
The new requirement for the Axis to hold either Tobruk OR Derna to near their historical loss dates is to prevent even more 20:20 hindsight by the Axis player to save for Rommel all 10th Army units arriving after or surviving O'Connor's Raid. Failure to do so will cancel the protected area near the eastern map edge, putting any units so saved back in danger.
Players should note that many Commonwealth formations arrive in reserve status, and are released two to eight weeks later. This represents time spent training. As a result of this training, these formations have higher proficiencies than they would otherwise have had, but their availability for operations is delayed. The following formations undergo such training delays: 6th Australian Division, Polish Brigade, 4th Indian Division, 18th Australian Brigade, 1st SA Division, 2nd SA Division, 22nd Armored Brigade, 1st Armored Division, 8th Armored Brigade, and 8th Armored Division.
Note also that all the Italian units that begin on the map, or that arrive prior to the Sabratha Division have been designated ineligible for reconstitution (there are a few minor exceptions). Similarly, some units of the Commonwealth 2nd Armored Division, most of the 2nd South Africa division, and seven other Commonwealth brigades have also been so designated. Finally, all Base Support units (both sides) are ineligible for reconstitution.
Both sides have supply points in Benghazi, Derna, Tobruk, and Alexandria. The Axis also have a point at El Aghelia and the Commonwealth have a point at Mersa Matruh.
The Commonwealth has the maximum supply radius of 25. The Axis start with a radius of 20 but increase to 25 on turn 49. Each gets to augment this with their supply units. The Commonwealth start with two and receive one more on turn 121, and a final one on turn 201. The Axis get two on turn 49, and one more upon re-capture of Tobruk.
Also, the Commonwealth player should use his RR units to repair the rail line from Mersa Matruh to Tobruk.
Late in the campaign, the Axis receives two paratroop formations. Similarly, the Commonwealth has amphibious capability East of Derna. Both sides should secure their rear areas accordingly.
If the Axis captures El Alamein, the Commonwealth fleet will be placed in garrison mode. But since this represents the fleet having been withdrawn beyond the Suez Canal, the Axis player should, in fairness, refrain from attacking fleet units until such time as they are released by Commonwealth recapture of El Alamein. But this is only if the Commonwealth player has moved them out of support range before they assume garrison mode, which the Commonwealth player is advised to do if he loses El Alamein.
New house rule: Supply Units must stay on improved road hexes (the black ones) at all times.
5. DESIGNER'S NOTES
To overcome the poor modeling of hex conversion in this scenario's environment I've chosen to greatly increase the recon level of most units via the use of recon teams and light scout cars. This is a necessary kluge of the TOAW system and does not represent historical equipment.
The Attrition Divider is 4.
6. PRIMARY REFERENCES
- "The Campaign for North Africa" (wargame), Richard Berg, Redmond A. Simonsen, Martin Goldberger, et al., Simulations Publications, Inc., 1978.
- "New Millennium World Atlas Deluxe" on CDROM, Rand McNally 1998.