In North Africa, there was far more desert than there were troops and equipment available to hold the terrain, so the opposing "lines" were often a series of loosely connected outposts, fortified camps, and bands of vehicles that formed defensive rings at the end of the day's fighting.
As a column of tanks and support vehicles moved, it watched for dust clouds that indicated potential enemy columns (just like the clouds their columns produced, thereby warning the enemy of their approach). The speed of the advance was determined by the mission, but the tankers always had to be wary of potential ambushes by enemy anti-tank guns that were able to stay hidden until they fired.
Operation Crusader in November 1941 saw exactly this sort of fluctuating and unpredictable combat environment, where rear-area units sometimes encountered enemy advance parties that were just as suprised as the rear-echelon troops when contact suddenly occured.
Here we have a typical dilemma for just such an Allied force, which did not realize until almost too late that the dust cloud approaching them was made up of German vehicles.
The race is on!
In an instant the desert was flooded with scores of unarmoured vehicles from the South African supply echelons fleeing with the tanks hot on their heels.
From the report of the 11th Hussars
1 Matilda Mk. II
|1 Panzer III
1 SdKfz 251 Halftrack
2 Crusader Mk. II
|2 SdKfz 251 Halftracks|
|Strategy Decks||(remove the "Heroic Leadership" card from the deck).||(remove the two "Dispupt Medical Supplies" cards from the deck).|
|Starting Strategy Cards||3||3|
|Deployment Zone||Division 1: Any of the hexes with an orange border on map 13A.
Division 2: Any of the hexes with an orange border on map 19B.
|Any hexes on maps 21B and 15A.|
The side with the most Victory Points at the end of Round 7 wins.
|Actions per turn||2||2|
|Reinforcements||Status Phase Round 1:
British Division 1 recieves 2 Bren Gun carriers and 3 Bedford OY Transports on any reinforcement hexes on map 13A.
British Division 2 recieves 3 Matilda Mk. II tanks on any hexes along the west on any reinforcement hexes on map 19B.
|Status Phase Round 2:
German Division 1 recieves 3 Panzer III's on any reinforcement hexes on map 19B.
German Division 2 recieves 1 SdKfz 251 Half-Track and 2 Panzer IV's on any reinforcement hexes on map 13A.
|Special Rules||Optional rule: Give each side an equal amount of Squad Bases and Regular Infantry carried in the Bren Gun Carriers and German Half-Track reinforcements. Extend the game lenght to 8 rounds. Note this will slow the play of the game.|
|HINTS||The British players must not hesitate!
They will lose tanks, but their sacrifice is essential to enable the trucks to get away. Run and live to fight another day.
|The German players have a fantastic opportunity to inflict heavy losses on their enemy, but reckless pursuit will only result in unnecessary losses to their force.|
The war in North Africa entered a lull in the late summer and fall of 1941 as both sides reorganized their forces and prepared for the next phase of the campaign.
The German Afrika Korps under its gifted commander, Erwin Rommel, had surprised everyone — including Rommel's superiors — when it launched an unexpected offensive in the spring of 1941 against the unprepared British. What followed was a chase across 300 miles of desert terrain to the only port in the area: Tobruk. There Rommel's offensive finally faltered, and a series of uncoordinated and poorly prepared British attacks left both sides exhausted.
Over the next several months, the British received a new commander, General Sir Claude Auchinleck, a new name for their army (the 8th), and a large number of men and equipment, including several fresh divisions. Rommel received a promotion, some replacements (British naval and air forces sank much of the supplies en route to Rommel), and a new name for his command: Panzer Gruppe Afrika. The original Afrika Korps, part of PGA, was now commanded by Lt. General Ludwig Cruewell.
Both sides conducted raids and reconnaissance missions, with the British Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) performing particularly effectively in this role. Rommel personally went on a German raid and just missed the main British supply dumps accumulating in the forward area.
Meanwhile, Tobruk remained under siege.
Based on his reconnaissance, Rommel incorrectly assumed that his opponent was not able to resume offensive operations for some time. He therefore planned to fmally capture Tobruk, which would ease his logistical problems significantly.
This time, Rommel requested permission to attack, arguing that the longer he waited, the more likely that Allied superiority in numbers would simply overwhelm him. The German high command assented, but before Rommel could launch his planned assault against Tobruk, Auchinleck struck.
Operation Crusader was preceded by an attempt to assassinate Rommel. On the night of November 17, the German Panzer Gruppe headquarters was hit, along with Axis supply dumps and aircraft on their landing fields.
Although the raids achieved some success against the materiel, they just missed Rommel, who had flown to Rome for a conference and had not yet returned.
Previous British attacks in May—June were poorly prepared and executed. This time, however, the Germans were not aware of the Allied offensive until the afternoon after the assault began!
Rommel, as usual, reacted quickly and immediately launched a panzer column into the desert to determine the intentions of his opponent. This probe stopped one of the British armored columns. Rommel's Italian allies, who usually don't get proper credit for their valuable service, stopped a second column. Only one British column reached its objective.
Like naval ships at sea, the spread—out columns of tanks and other vehicles sought out the enemy and maneuvered for an advantageous position in the vast desert. The Operation Crusader battles were frequently very fluid affairs with enemy forces often inter-mixed. At one point. Cruewell's motorized group was out of fuel and isolated. However, before the British could take advantage of his predicament, reinforcements and fuel arrived and Cruewell immediately went back on the attack.
While usually referred to as "British," many Commonwealth forces such as South Africans, New Zealanders, and Indians fought in the 8th Army in this battle.
November 23 was Totensonntag, the German annual Day of the Dead remembrance for its soldiers who fell in World War I. On that day, just one in the month-long battle, the 21st Panzer Division met the South African Division and British 11th Army Tank Brigade in a fierce action. The Germans got the upper hand, and many of the South Africans were forced to flee. This is the subject of the scenario.
I came to what is today called "classic" board wargaming when I was in sixth grade after I spied a copy of Avalon Hill's Gettysburg set up at a friend's home. I was hooked.
Shortly thereafter, I helped run a small wargame club in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1960s, and some of the original members remain friends to this day.
Over the years, I worked for three wargame companies. The first was Simulations Design Corporation and its Conflict magazine in San Diego, where I met Dana Lombardy. I spent a year and a half working for The Avalon Hill Game Company in Baltimore where I designed the complete remake of their venerable game Bismarck, and soon after spent a summer helping out at Battleline Games in the depths of Georgia.
Bismarck was the first computer wargame published by SSI, and Avalon Hill would settle out of court with SSI for basically "copying" my AH game design for their first computer wargame. I was also briefly part of Paper Wars where I learned about the problems of having a partnership.
or seven years I ran Quarterdeck Games. One of the seven games we published was Vance von Borries' Rommel's War.
It was always pleasant to publish games on topics of interest to me as well as to the customers. Publishing games that received Charles S. Roberts Award nominations and the final awards themselves was a wonderful experience.
It was through wargaming contacts that I was asked to write my first professional book. I had self-published two pamphlets, one entitled Handbook on the Italian Army in World War II and the other Mare Nostrum on the Axis war effort in the Mediterranean. Those, along with my wargame design work, got me my first hardbound book. Since then I have had five books published. Four have been co-authored with my valued Italian friend, Alessandro Massignani. These include Rommel's North Africa Campaign, September 1940 —November 1942 from Da Capo Press as well as two other books, The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1940-1943 and The Black Prince and the Sea Devils. Both Rommel and The Black Prince have appeared in Italian-language editions, and Rommel was serialized in a Japanese wargame magazine.
Clearly the experience with wargames, and especially the research for Rommel's North Africa Campaign, prepared me for working on this scenario.
My philosophy of wargame design spilled over into my published writings and is reflected in both. Essentially. I argue that one must really understand the period one is designing a game for as well as writing a book for. And to come to that understanding, one must gain insight into the thinking of all parties involved. Understanding the thinking of the involved parties — in this case, the thinking of not just the British but also of the Germans and Italians — is vital to creating both a good (historically accurate) game as well as a good book.
However, I also believe that designing a game means translating the history so as to make it a fun experience. A game that is too tedious, where the mechanics bog down the play, is not a good game. I want to have a game that is fastmoving and has many possible outcomes. If I can achieve that, then I consider it to be a successful design.
I hope as you play Totnsonntag that you will be inspired to learn more about this fascinating period in history.
Special thanks to my playtesters Larry Hoffman and Phil Adams.
I completely agree with your comment on Game 4 (gamey approach).
Brit player could easily block all German "R" hexes (see attached pictures).
By the end of round 2 German player should try to free some hexes to allow own reinforcements...
I've stumbled on similar problems with "objective hexes" or "exit hexes".
Even in this case trucks cannot exit if there is a German tank on the road...
I took the occasion to also add texts from "Scenario Notes" and "Designer's Notes" taken from Designer booklet, as a future reference.
round 1 - status
Overall, I was less than impressed with it--the concept behind the scenario is fantastic, but the execution is lacking; it has a lot of potential, but comes up short, for reasons I'll outline here.
I played four times. The Brits barely won the first, on the final action of Round 7 (14-13). The Germans handily won the next two (14-2, 12-8), by the end of Round 6. On the fourth iteration, I applied a "gamey" approach further described below, and the Brits won easily (12-2) by the end of Round 4. Here's a little more information for each play-through:
** Game 1: Brits won, 14-13, on the last action of Round 7. They exited all three trucks, but the deciding action was when they heavily damaged one of the Pz III units, giving them the one-point advantage. I was surprised the Brits won, because of the way things went they didn't have initiative after Round 2.
** Game 2: Germans won, 14-2, at the end of Round 6 (the Brits conceded because they couldn't possibly win at that point). Brits couldn't even cross the bridge because the Germans had put-up such an effective defense there long enough for their Pz IVs to wreak havoc from the north; in the end, the Brits exited zero trucks and only destroyed two half tracks.
** Game 3: Germans won, 12-8, at the end of Round 6 (Brits again conceded). This time, the Brits crossed the bridge on Round 2, controlled initiative through Round 6, and exited one truck, but they still lost; the Brits only destroyed three half tracks.
** Game 4: Brits won, 12-2, with the Germans conceding at the end of Round 4. This was possible because the Brits based their approach on rules-as-written. Rules of Play p. 16 states "A player may not place reinforcements in a hex occupied by enemy units. If all of a nation's reinforcement zone hexes are occupied by enemy units, the player is unable to receive the reinforcements. Even if such hexes are later freed of enemy units, any reinforcements missed in prior game rounds remain lost." The Brits deployed their Round 1 reinforcements in such a way as to allow the Germans to deploy only two Pz IIIs. The Brits then had plenty of firepower to smash-through defensive positions at the bridge and quickly pick-off the Pz IIIs deployed on Round 2, all the while shielding their fragile trucks behind the hill hexes at the north end of the map until it was safe for them to fast-track it to the exit point. The Germans were never able to earn any Command, and so the Brits also controlled Initiative easily while being able to play a couple important Strategy Cards. The possibility of this "gamey" approach occurring is something that other players have noted before (see earlier in this thread).
The foundation of this scenario has a lot of promise--I like that it's vehicle-only (with an option for introducing squads, if desired) and that it encourages a dynamic, mobile approach where both players have to think in terms of offense and defense, concurrently. To address its shortcomings, however, I suggest the following changes:
1) Operations Card "Panzer IV Ausf. E" (019/038) should be in play. This reflects the fact that the standard Pz IV unit from the base game is broadly based on the Ausf. F2-J variants with long-barreled 75 mm main guns that were much more powerful than the short-barreled, howitzer-like 75 mm guns of the Ausf. D-F1 variants represented by this Operations Card--and the longer-barreled variants did not appear until late 1943. This scenario is set in November 1941.
2) Come up with a scenario-specific alternative to the reinforcement deployment rule-as-written. I didn't have time to brainstorm multiple options or play-test any possibilities, but the immediate idea I came up with was to allow the German player to deploy reinforcements during the Status Phase of any Round after Round 2, if the British player has blocked one or more reinforcement hexes, rather than lose these reinforcements altogether. Narratively, the rationale could be that those Brit units blocking the reinforcement hexes could be seen as providing a rear-guard screening action that delays the German units--but the Brits can't leave all their units blocking these hexes and still expect to exit any trucks. One might also add a wrinkle that allows the Brits to block these reinforcement hexes for only one or a few rounds, and then must move them. ToI has plenty of scenario-only special rules, so doing this would align with precedent in that regard.
3) Apply the Next Wave optional rule to disallow trucks from capturing Command Point Objectives. I played this way in all my iterations because I generally agree with both the logic behind it--"most trucks lacked radios, and drivers were not trained to call for artillery. Trucks cannot establish LOS for any purpose, and may only occupy friendly objective markers"--and that allowing trucks to zip across the map using roads and overtake key hexes on their own seems excessively gamey to me--outside of a Hollywood movie, there's no way in the real world a convoy of supply trucks would race behind enemy lines to "capture" key objectives. I also recall reading some discussions on Board Game Geek (or elsewhere) on this topic (though I can't readily find them now), so I know other players agree that trucks should not be able to capture objectives on their own.
4) If squads are not going to be used, also discard the "Disrupt Food Supplies" card. An existing optional rule in this scenario is for each player to add an equal number of squads. If players do not use this optional scenario rule, then the "Disrupt Food Supplies" card in the German players' Disruption I Strategy Deck should be removed--otherwise, it's useless and a waste of a drawn card.
The designer indicates that the scenario was play-tested, so it's surprising to me that the obvious oversights were not identified--for example, Operations Card 019 was part of the Days of the Fox expansion, and so the designer and play testers should have used it. These oversights also were not addressed in the January 13, 2009, FAQ and Errata document .
- This one seemed to favor the Germans.
- A gamey strategy for the British would be to place their units on the reinforcement entry spaces, so the Germans wouldn't get any back-up. I think this would break the scenario.
- An unusual race-and-chase scenario. It's very difficult to get any trucks off the board when the defence is determined.
- Race-and-chase element gives lots of fun. It's also quite quick thanks to lack of infantry.