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Author Topic: FOCUS ON.........Campaigns for North Africa  (Read 6385 times)

bob48

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on: September 04, 2022, 07:41:04 AM
North Africa.

Preamble.

My first ever board wargame, obtained in the late 1960’s, was ‘Afrika Korps’ by Avalon Hill. I still have that game, albeit the box has long since disintegrated, and I even download the revised rules and replacement counter set, although I have not actually bothered to print them out. All a bit of a nostalgia thing, really.

Apart from that, my dad was out there! He actually served with one of infantry brigades that was part of 5th Division, which for quite a time was part of Middle East Command, stationed in Iraq, Persia (as it was then) and the Holy Land. He had lots of stories to tell about the desert and his experience during WW2, and vividly recalls being present at the opening of a large battle where he (as an RASC driver) was supplying artillery ammo directly to the gun lines. He was under the impression that this was El Alamein.

I did some research and found that, although 5th Division was not present at this time, still being part of MEC, Monty had drawn a lot of transport units from MEC in anticipation of the coming campaign. Recently, I obtained dads army records and what I found there was a bit different.
Early in 1943, he was temporarily attached to 69th Brigade, part of 50th (Northumberland) Division, and I’m pretty sure that the big battle he referred to was ‘Operation Pugilist’, the assault on the Mareth Line in Tunisia.

Without doubt, the campaign for North Africa has long been a popular subject for wargamers, and many games have been published, and indeed continue to be published covering the campaign(s).

So, I though it would be interesting to look at some of these games and see which one you think are good/bad/ indifferent. I’d like to try and concentrate on operational level game that cover the major campaigns rather than games that only deal with individual battles. In general, the setting is ideal for brigade(ish) size game since there is usually a relatively low counter density, plus the campaigns are very dynamic with the back-and-forth aspect that is so characteristic of the conflict. Add into that a few very charismatic leaders to add some flavour!

I’ll start off with a few games that I have played and let others add to the list with their own comments.

As already mentioned, Avalon Hills ‘Afrika Korps’ which may well be the first game ever on the subject.

SPI/Decision Games ‘Desert Fox’ and the DeLuxe version with lots of maps that takes us right through to the final battles in Tunisia.

Various games on the subject, and in different systems (OCS, SCS) published by MMP, non of which I have ever played.

No Retreat – North Africa. I tried hard to like this game, and the components are very well done. I failed on the card play system and the disjointed maps which I really felt distracted from the continuity of the campaign.

My own favourite, which I sold a while back and have bitterly regretted ever since, is ‘Rommel’s War’ by L2 Publishing. Love the system and all the components and thought the map was the best ever. Unfortunately, ultimately, it was too big for me to set-up and leave, North Africa being the long bit of geography that it is!

As a matter of interest, the same system is used for ‘Slouch Hats and Eggshells’, the game by Legion Games on ‘Operation Exporter’, and, if you have space, can be played in conjunction with ‘Rommel’s war’.

Enough from me, so lets keep this going.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2022, 07:45:03 AM by bob48 »

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Staggerwing

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Reply #1 on: September 04, 2022, 08:43:09 AM
I have a game in my collection also called 'Rommel's War', but it's published by Quarterdeck games. I can't remember when I got it, or how, and I also can't find a copyright date anywhere.
The map art and counters make it look like it'a a few decades old at least.
Oddly, the game box says there are two maps included but there are actually four, with different art styles. I did get it used so maybe the original owner added maps from a later reprint?


EDIT: Actually, It looks like it's the same game as the L2 one, but from an earlier publisher with different art, based on the game's Boardgamegeek entry.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2022, 09:03:18 AM by Staggerwing »

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bayonetbrant

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Reply #2 on: September 04, 2022, 08:48:18 AM
I've only played a handful of the 'big' campaign-wide games that encompass the entire theater.  Like you, I started with Afrika Korps.  Also like you, I've never played any of the OCS games on the theater, but I know a lot of folks that speak highly of them


I've played a bunch of smaller operational-level games, like Rommel at Gazala, Bravery in the Sand, and Tottensontag, and generally enjoyed them, but only bought the ones where I was supporting friends of mine who were the designers.

I do enjoy Pete Bogdasarian's Corps Command system from Tottensontag, but once he released Dawn's Early Light, I had a NATO game with that system and I was happy :)


Whether intentionally-by-design or just a natural culmination of how the campaign unfolded, I know there was a lot of criticism of theater-wide games that eventually everything ended up with a die roll at Tobruk, so the 2-10 hours of gameplay leading up to that was just to change the odds ratio for that die roll, regardless of the game.
I don't know that it's necessarily the case, but I've not played enough of them to really say for sure.  It does seem that geography sort of pulls people that way since that's where the Axis end up in the middle of the 2 allied forces pushing at them.

I'll leave the detailed analyses of the rules systems and comparative combat models to those more knowledgeable than I am.


I've enjoyed the few games that I've played in that theater, but will easily admit that it was someone else's idea to play them, and not my usual preference.

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thecommandtent

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Reply #3 on: September 04, 2022, 08:33:19 PM
I have to admit I have very little interest in the North Africa front and I think it comes down to "judging a book by its cover." Whenever I see a game on the subject I just see yellow desert hexes everywhere and it doesn't fire up my imagination or interest. Historical I understand and appreciate its significance but compared to many other fronts its just does not grab my attention.


To that end I'm genuinely curious why it seems to be such a popular subject for many wargamers.



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Reply #4 on: September 04, 2022, 08:38:59 PM
I have to admit I have very little interest in the North Africa front and I think it comes down to "judging a book by its cover." Whenever I see a game on the subject I just see yellow desert hexes everywhere and it doesn't fire up my imagination or interest. Historical I understand and appreciate its significance but compared to many other fronts its just does not grab my attention.


To that end I'm genuinely curious why it seems to be such a popular subject for many wargamers.

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Reply #5 on: September 04, 2022, 11:02:31 PM
Forgive me for wandering off the board game table but I thought an honorable mention needed to be the fantastic CFS3 addon known as Mediterranean Air War (MAW). It is a free mod done by a group known as the Desert Rats. You can fly for Britain, Greece, Germany or Italy in 6 campaigns covering the North African Campaign the defense of Malta and the Greco-Italian war.

I know folks will complain about the age of the CFS3 engine but as someone who grew up with simming on the C64 I am good with the graphics. It is really the gameplay I am interested in. I don't think there are still a lot of sims that do campaigns as well as CFS3.  Even better you can port the aircraft into a stock install of CFS3 and vastly increase the number of flyable aircraft in that theater. I had a hoot flying "spy drop" missions from England to France in a Westland Lysander.

In case you are interested...............http://www.mrjmaint.com/cfs3/MAWHome.html


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bob48

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Reply #6 on: September 05, 2022, 06:18:32 AM
I have a game in my collection also called 'Rommel's War', but it's published by Quarterdeck games. I can't remember when I got it, or how, and I also can't find a copyright date anywhere.
The map art and counters make it look like it'a a few decades old at least.
Oddly, the game box says there are two maps included but there are actually four, with different art styles. I did get it used so maybe the original owner added maps from a later reprint?


EDIT: Actually, It looks like it's the same game as the L2 one, but from an earlier publisher with different art, based on the game's Boardgamegeek entry.

Yes, this is the original game later re-done by L2 who, as as I know no longer exist. Having said that, I did read somewhere (CSW?) that they still have stock of the game (in Canada, I think) if you can afford the shipping. Game design by Vance von Borries who has designed a few games on this subject.
Since Compass did pick up a couple of L2 games and re-did them (Bitter Woods) I keep hoping that this one will get a reprint as well.

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bob48

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Reply #7 on: September 06, 2022, 06:28:33 AM
Blood and Sand - Worthington.

The African Campaign - Designer Edition - Compass Games.

The Dark Sands - GMT

Non of which I have played.

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Staggerwing

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Reply #8 on: September 06, 2022, 06:59:40 AM
I've got The African Campaign and the Dark Sands but I can't be much help with game play- they're both still sealed up.

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bob48

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Reply #9 on: September 06, 2022, 06:16:21 PM
...a small group of men stand around an sdkfz 250/1, carefully concealed in a wadi, in the shade of an escarpment.

One of the men adjusts the peak of his Afrika Korps cap to give some shade from the blazing sun, and scans the horizon through his binoculars.
"Nothing, Herr General" he murmurs, "there is no one here. Where have they all gone?"
" Ja, Schmidt. I think we booked the wrong resort. They are all enjoying themselves on the Ostfront. I bet there is hardly room to park an halftrack out there"

<sadly shakes head and walks away>

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Staggerwing

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Reply #10 on: September 06, 2022, 09:15:38 PM
Keine zorgen, Herr General. All that wintersport, it is very much overrated...

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Reply #11 on: September 06, 2022, 11:25:39 PM
Plus here in the desert, we have no need for stoves. We simply cook our food on the tops of our tanks as we drive along. Much simpler.

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W8taminute

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Reply #12 on: September 07, 2022, 02:43:34 PM
What?  No SPI's Panzer Armee Afrika?

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bayonetbrant

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Reply #13 on: September 07, 2022, 02:47:14 PM
What?  No SPI's Panzer Armee Afrika?

What are some of the particular aspects you like about that one more than other North Africa games?

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W8taminute

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Reply #14 on: September 07, 2022, 02:52:31 PM
What?  No SPI's Panzer Armee Afrika?

What are some of the particular aspects you like about that one more than other North Africa games?

So PAA had everything Afrika Korps had but the difference was the unit scale was smaller in PAA.  I think, IIRC, I liked the supply and combat system better as well.  I'll have to reread the rule books for both games to see if there are more reasons but that in a nutshell is my summary.

Both are good games with all due respect. 

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