Still unforgiving after 50 years
Greg Smith and Mark Gutfreund battle
in the sand dunes.
Defending champ Jon Lockwood lost
his repeat bid in the semifinals.
The 50-year anniversary of Afrika Korps proved to be
quite memorable, as players vied to unseat defending champion
and GM Jonathan Lockwood in board gaming's version of "The
Unforgiving Game." Motivated in part by the incentive of
special commemorative shirts for the first 32 players who signed
up and completed at least one tournament game, a record 41 entrants
played, including the first female Afrika Korps player
in the history of the tournament, none other than 13-year-old
Victoria Reiff, daughter of "Plaque King" Bruce Reiff.
Victoria took on GM Lockwood as the Germans in her first tournament
game after he taught her the rules and showed her the best opening
moves for both sides before giving her the choice of side. Victoria
quickly earned the GM's respect as she drove the British into
Tobruch and mounted an all-out 1-1 assault on Tobruch (otherwise
known as the Holy Hand Grenade) in an effort to achieve a quick
concession from the GM. Alas, Victoria rolled a "2",
which resulted in a doubled exchange that took Tobruch, but with
twice the British losses, crippling her chances for taking Alexandria
before the Crusader reinforcements would arrive in November.
She chose to concede after the costly assault, but earned her
commemorative shirt and GM Lockwood's everlasting respect for
venturing into a previously "all-male" wargame domain
where her father fears to tread.
The semifinals opened with two-time champion GM Lockwood as
the Germans against John Clarke, who made the semifinals for
the first time. Despite average supply roll results, GM Lockwood
was able to exploit an early tactical misplacement around Tobruch
to seal off the fortress from outside reinforcements and compel
the British to leave only a token garrison in Tobruch to delay
the German advance. However, even though the Germans now had
taken Tobruch with no losses, the British had saved all of their
heavy armor for the defense of Alexandria, a development that
would later prove decisive. As Lockwood's Germans advanced on
Alexandria in full strength, he set up a line that he believed
would hold until he could get more supplies, which by this time
were down to just one supply unit. John Clarke then demonstrated
why it is called "The Unforgiving Game." Lockwood had
inadvertently left 21/104 (a 3-3-10) in a position where it could
be surrounded and counterattacked by the British. What Jon had
overlooked was that Clarke's additional British armor now enabled
him to execute a 5-1 surrounded counterattack on 21/104 to achieve
an Automatic Victory, opening a fatal hole in the German lines.
John exploited the hole with 7/7SG (a 1-1-7) to destroy Lockwood's
last remaining supply unit, isolating the entire Afrika Korps!
Lockwood then had to roll for his life for the next two turns,
hoping to get one supply unit before his entire force would be
compelled to surrender from lack of supply. This did not happen,
and Lockwood was sent to an eventual third place finish in the
Allied POW camps, as Clarke advanced to his first AFK
The other semifinal had two-time champion Bruno Sinigaglio's
Germans vs 10th-ranked Bill Morse as the British. The game progressed
in standard fashion as Bruno was unable to entice Bill into doing
anything unwise during the first six turns. Bruno made three
of the five supply rolls before July 1941 with a little too much
fanfare for Bill, which caused him to absent-mindedly sacrifice
one 1-1-6 too many in the reduction of Tobruch. Bill masterfully
retreated to the El Alamein line while Bruno built up supplies
for the assault on Alam Halfa Ridge. The Germans were able to
attack for three straight turns, July II, August I & II,
which devastated the British Army. However, a sunk supply roll
on August I granted Bill a brief respite. The ability for the
DAK to capture the British Home Base by Nov I hinged on the supply
rolls for August II, Sep I & II. Bruno needed two of those
supply rolls to land in order to have a chance it did not
happen. Only one supply made it safely. So after the Sept II
supply was sunk, Bruno's Germans fell back to Tobruch and kicked
Bill into the sea with a well placed Holy Hand Grenade on Tobruch
at 1-1. The antagonists thereafter traded punches evenly until
Feb 1942, when Bill rolled a costly exchange in a series of low
odds counterattacks. One attack killed a 7-7-10 via an exchange,
but the resultant losses to the Brits permitted an automatic
victory against their lines, which allowed the DAK to capture
the British Home Base.
In the championship match on Sunday morning, Bruno's veteran
Germans met John Clarke's British. However, weary from many days
of continuous WBC combat, Bruno sought a quick decision by mounting
the Holy Hand Grenade attack against Tobruch. In years past,
the dice would be with Bruno in these assaults. Such was not
the case this time though, as Bruno rolled a 6 for an Attacker
Eliminated, giving John Clarke his first ever Wood in the 50-year
anniversary tournament of Afrika Korps!
Robert Frisby and Bart Riggs
in the desert on the 50th avviversary of Afrika Korps.
Free shirts for grognards!