once more behind the sand dunes
with the grognards...
Greg Smith (left) maneuvers
his German troops in one of a record 43 games played of the 1961
John Sharp (left) faces Bob
Jamelli in the preliminaries. John would win his first WBC wood,
but At Sea, not on the sands of Afrika.
Thanks to a shift to the Swiss Free Form system and its incorporation
into the Grognard PreCon, the venerable Afrika Korps tournament
reached an all time record number of entrants. The Swiss Free
Form allowed players to play as many matches as could be arranged
during the Pre Con and WBC until the Friday 11pm cutoff, after
which the four players with the best "three game" scores
(including bonuses for strength of opponents defeated) made it
into the single elimination semi-finals on Saturday morning.
Play balance was not a significant issue with 20 British wins
in 43 contests. The four veteran semi-finalists advancing to
the Saturday morning elimination rounds were defending champion
Greg Popiden , Bert Schoose (last year's runner-up), GM and 2003
champion Jonathan Lockwood, and 2004 champion Vince Meconi.
The first semi-final match was a rematch between 2005 finalists
Greg Popiden and Bert Schoose, and was a surprisingly short affair.
Playing as the British this time, and perhaps also not desiring
a repeat of their long 2005 slogging match, Bert unleashed a
surprise 1-1 counterattack on April II 1941 against 21/5 Pz (7-7-10),
which resulted in an exchange. At any other time, this would
effectively kneecap the German attack early; in this case, however,
it simply left Tobruch wide open for occupation by the Germans
on May I,1941, resulting in an early British surrender.
The other semi-final match between Vince Meconi as the German
and GM Lockwood took on a more chesslike demeanor. Meconi, being
well aware of Lockwood's use of the infamous Paleveda Gambit,
which sends a supplied blocking force of two 2-2-6's into Cyrenaica
to hamstring the Germans positionally, preempted Lockwood's use
of the Gambit by sending 21/3 Recce along the coast road at maximum
speed on the first move, leaving Lockwood little room to deploy
the 2-2-6s. Lockwood shifted into a modified standard defense
and began a successful delaying defense towards Alexandria. However,
Meconi's Germans were better supplied than average this time,
and soon were approaching the gates of Alexandria. Lockwood feinted
first in late July 1941 with an apparent reployment of his heavy
armor out of Tobruch (replacing them with 1-1-6s), hoping to
draw Meconi back to Tobruch. When Meconi didn't go for the feint,
Lockwood went to a 2-1, 1-2 combination attack out of Tobruch
in August I 1941 with arriving August reinforcements and the
Tobruch garrison against the two Italian 2-3-4s. Had the 2-1
succeeded (67% chance), Lockwood would have had an excellent
shot at splitting the Afrika Korps in two in a breakout from
Tobruch, as the Germans had only one supply to the east with
the Afrika Korps, and almost no forces to the west except for
the Tripoli garrison. But it was not to be, as the 2-1 resulted
in an A back 2, resulting in the German capture of Tobruch on
Aug II 1941 and a British surrender thereafter..
The championship match between Meconi and Popiden was one
of the all-time classics, lasting for ten hours! Popiden, as
the Germans, had supply trouble early against Meconi's British,
with 11 (!) supplies sunk between Apr-Dec 1941. Once Popiden
realized that Alexandria would not fall before the arrival of
the British November reinforcements, he doubled back from Alexandria
and hit Tobruch with a 1-2, 3-1 combination. Popiden was rewarded
with a D back 2 on the 1-2, ensuring the fall of Tobruch, but
then suffered an exchange on the 3-1, losing 8 factors that were
promptly made up by the German November reinforcements. Popiden
then resumed his eastward drive, smashing Meconi's Brits back
one hex row at a time towards Alexandria. Seeing the handwriting
on the wall in March 1942, Meconi unleashed a 1-1 counterattack
against a German 7-7-10 stacked with an Italian 2-3-4 and was
rewarded for his daring with a Defender Eliminated. This enabled
Vince to go on the counteroffensive until the 7-7-10 was replaced.
Popiden then struck back in July II 1942 with a 3-1 against a
British 4-4-7 on an escarpment that eliminated it and trapped
a second 4-4-7. However, Popiden had made a fatal mistake, in
that his combination attacks required virtually his entire force
to carry them out, leaving his flanks exposed and undefended.
Meconi then counterisolated the entire German force on his move,
compelling a German surrender on the July II 1942 move, ending
a marathon match that Vince rated as his favorite AFK game of
all time, and Popiden agreeing that it was one of his best as
well. Vince now joins Bruno Sinigaglio and Greg Smith as the
only two-time champions of this event.
2003 PBeM Tournament
The First Afrika Korps BPA Play by email Tournament
has ended. Veteran wargamer, Ed Menzel, defeated a very tough
opponent, Doug Burke, for the championship. The Single Elimination
Tournament started with 26 entrants and lasted 20 months. Ed
finished 5-0, while Doug went 4-1. There were no easy games for
either of these gentlemen. Ed defeated Richard Van Vugt, Dan
Tierney, Greg Smith, Jonathan Lockwood and finally, Doug. Smith
and Lockwood have a total of three WBC Afrika Korps plaques.
Doug defeated Bruno Sinigaglio, Mark Gutfreund, Vince Meconi
and Randy Heller - dudes who collectively own four WBC Afrika
The Championship - Ed Menzel (Axis) versus Doug Burke (Allies)
The Axis made the standard opening drive toward Tobruch. The
arrival of the 15th Panzer Division forced the Allies off the
escarpment blocking access to the Tobruch heights. On II May
41 the Axis attacked the Tobruch perimeter driving the Allies
back. The two recce units were diverted to the south to block
two Allied brigades attempting to reach the Axis rear supply
lines. On I June, the Axis AV'ed the brigade occupying the last
hex outside Tobruch plus another blocking brigade in the pass
east of Salum.
The Axis drove toward Alexandria leaving Italians to guard
the Tobruch garrison. Over the next two months, several Allied
brigades that were harassing the German rear areas and blocking
the coast road were eliminated through isolation. A 1-1-6 astride
the coast road was isolated rather than attacked, because the
Axis did not want to use a Supply unit to eliminate one factor.
On the other hand, the Allies didn't want the Axis nailing two
units with one supply. The 1-1-6 was positioned so that, while
it blocked the road, it didn't prevent units from going around
While the Axis were busy isolating this unit, the Allies decided
to get in a first strike before the Axis could hit their main
line. Thus an Axis 3-3-10 was attacked at 3-1. The result of
the attack was a DB2. Though at the time, it didn't appear to
be that critical, in hindsight this attack pretty much dictated
the crucial events of the next couple of turns. It turned out
that it was essential for the Allies that the 3-3-10 be eliminated.
Had it died in the attack, even via an exchange, subsequent moves
would have been altered quite a bit. Four 1-1-6's that were eliminated
on the next turn, might not have been attacked and coupled with
the exchange of Ariete, it would have been impossible for the
Axis to get a 3-1 versus Tobruch.
On I Aug, the Axis attacked the Allied defense line around
Fuka. The Allies were aggressive and counterattacked Ariete getting
an exchange. But in doing so, they weakened the Tobruch garrison
so that the Axis could scoot west and get a 3-1 on the fortress.
The Axis had a choice of continuing the assault toward Alexandria
or taking Tobruch. It is a difficult choice, as the Allies are
weak enough that there were good prospects of taking Alexandria
before the horde of Nov reinforcements arrived.
Rommel finally decides to go for Tobruch. But the Allies fight
hard taking out 10 Axis factors in exchange before Tobruch falls.
In addition, the Allies exchange out an Italian blocking the
coast road. The Axis is now down to six units. They are able
to muster one more attack on II Oct and then fall back to a north-south
defensive line around Matruh to await their own November reinforcements.
On I Dec, the Axis again attack the Allied defensive position
around El Alamein eliminating four brigades with AVs. Because
the Axis can concentrate their forces better, they have excellent
prospects of being able to grind down the Allies in a war of
attrition even though the two armies are essentially even in
strength. Realizing this, the Allies launch a desperate counter-attack
including two 1-1s on the 7-7-10s. Both result in AE, and the
Allies graciously surrender their now hopeless position.
It was a tough exciting game, well played by both sides. Lady
luck was fairly even-handed. Supplies were not a problem for
the Axis, although they attacked sparingly and used isolation
to starve out a number of Allied units. The Allies had some poor
luck, as they could not get any DEs with their attacks on Ariete
and a couple other units. But the Axis got hurt rolling two exchanges
on two 3-1 attacks on Tobruch. All in all, an exciting game befitting
the end of an enjoyable tournament.