With ASL on hold, Jason Wert and I chose to dig into the desert with a trip to Egypt and Libya with Ted Raicer’s The Dark Sands: War in North Africa, 1940-42, from GMT.
Ok, so something here that I’m sure will seem a bit weird. The battle for Berlin in 1945 is my favorite WWII subject, but North Africa is my favorite theater. What’s weird is that despite my interest, I really didn’t know much about how it all went down. I knew of all the battles, and the fluid nature of this part of the conflict, but had never really put it all together into a timeline of where when and how. My North Africa gaming experience boiled down to a few scenarios set in the theater in Advanced Squad Leader. That said, I am collecting North Africa wargames.
I have limited experience with games outside of ASL. Zones of control and other concepts found in this kind of game were few and far between for me. Fortunately, The Dark Sands is easy to pick up, the rule book is fairly short, and counter density is low. Jason and I played the initial scenario “Operation Compass” to get our feet wet and after a couple of rounds we were moving right along.
This game uses three map sections: East, West and Central. To make the maps manageable with the immense distances involved, the central map has a different scale than the outer two. It works pretty well and presented no issues. This is also a ‘chit pull’ game. A first for me. I had played a few card driven games, but this presented a new method for me and also ensures a different game every time.
We start with Operation Compass. British and Commonwealth forces attacking Italian troops in Egypt. I have the Allies and need to get these Italians bagged in a couple of turns. Jason gets the legendary German 21st Panzer and the very highly regarded Italian Ariete on turn three, then the 15th Panzer and pieces of 90th Light on turn four. I need to get ready for them and can’t still be dealing with Italians when they crash into my troops. The Rommel chit can begin to be played on turn three while the Auchinleck chit appears around turn eight and the Montgomery chit turn fourteen. Once Jason gets those elite powerful German units on the board, reinforcements are slim for him while my reinforcements keep coming after about halfway through. Historically this was a back and forth affair, and this game appears to be no different.
Turn 1 and I have the initiative so get to pull the first chit. The player with the initiative can choose his first chit and the play here is the O’Connor chit which allows me to move and attack at the same time. The Italians are in their fortified boxes and should be easy pickings, but you know wargames, they never go like they are supposed to. I will try to get the forward-most Italians out of supply so they will be eliminated at the end of the turn. Being in and out of supply in this game is a huge thing. When the logistics chit is pulled, supply is checked immediately. So you never know when it’s going to pop up. There are two of them, these are the only chances to remove the ‘OOS’ (out of supply) marker. If it isn’t lost at the end of the turn, the units are flat out eliminated. No reduction, no combat penalties, no move penalties, just eliminated.
So, watch your six.
I will try to put those units OOS, give them a good smacking and get the 7th Armored out in the desert to wreak havok.
My attack got started as expected, but as usual, contact with the enemy never goes as you wish.
The immediate goal was to surround and eliminate 2 Libya and the armored unit with it, and also eliminate Cyrene, with the Commonwealth ZOC cutting off the coastal road and line of supply for the two 234 units furthest east.
The armored unit was eliminated and Cyrene got away. Not the effect I was hoping for.
Leaving the Italian infantry for the Commonwealth infantry and motorized units, I sent the 7th Armored West to stir up trouble.
I managed to get a couple of Italian units out of supply, (one of my encircling units was itself OOS). Eliminating them at the end of the turn.
I wrapped up turn one in pretty good shape. The Cyrene Division was being a pain in the butt. I couldn’t wrap him up in the introductory scenario either.
Jason’s job on turn one was simply to try to keep as many Italian units in the fight as possible, trying to hold Tobruk until 21st Panzer and Ariete arrive on turn three.
For Jason, his turn one reinforcements include the Pavia and Sabratha divisions and the Babini armored battalion, and are making their way to the Tobruk area along the coastal road.
Here is a look at the Chit Draw track, you can see how each game will end up different.
Turn two is coming up, I’ll have a report when it wraps up. We’ll see if I can get to Tobruk and get shored up to meet 21st Panzer.
Thanks for reading.