once more behind the sand dunes
with the grognards...
Greg Smith (left) maneuvers
his Allied troops against the Afrika Korps of Mark Gutfreund
during the Pre-Con.
Over 40 years after its release,
there are still a row of Afrika Korps games being played
... only at WBC.
Although attendance did not approach last year's record level
for this most enduring of the Grognard classics, Afrika Korps
still maintains its reputation as "the unforgiving game",
in which a single mistake can end the game for either side if
properly exploited. One such match during the early Swiss rounds
occurred between 2002 champion Jonathan Lockwood as the Germans
and two-time champion Bruno Sinagaglio as the British. Lockwood,
employing the same opening that Bert Schoose had successfully
employed against him and defending two-time 2006 WBC champion
Vince Meconi two years earlier, exploited a weak point in Bruno's
lines near Tobruch with an automatic victory using 21/5 Panzer
(boosted by Rommel bonus), then exploiting the gap with Rommel
and 21/3 Recce to take Tobruch on the May I 1941 turn! A stunned
Bruno, exclaiming that this was the first time in the 42 years
he had been playing the game that ANYONE had done that to him
so early in the game, then bought drinks for all of the Grognards
assembled in the room (nonalcoholic, of course). Sufficiently
distracted, he then promptly returned the favor to Lockwood by
retaking Tobruch on the British turn with a 1-1 surrounded counterattack.
Lockwood countered by sealing off Tobruch and driving east against
a weakened British force, eventually taking Alexandria in early
October and staving off an attempted British breakout from Tobruch
during the next two turns to seal the victory and earn another
trip to the semi-finals. Joining Lockwood there would be last
year's runner-up John Popiden and 4th place laurelist Bert Schoose.
Making his first appearance at the WBC aemis would be Bill Morse.
The semifinal match between Popiden and Lockwood was in fact
a rematch of their initial meeting earlier in the Swiss rounds,
where Popiden's Germans had beaten Lockwood's British by successful
use of a 1-2, 3-1 combination attack against Tobruch, then remorselessly
grinding down Lockwood's forces to take Alexandria, despite abysmal
supply luck. The semi-final match between the two followed the
same pattern early on, with Popiden again sending 21/3 Recce
down the coast road in Cyrenaica to prevent Lockwood from using
his favored Paleveda Gambit defense, which sends a supplied blocking
force of two 2-2-6s into Cyrenaica to hamper German movement.
Lockwood shifted into a modified Standard defense, then began
a successful delaying campaign to take full advantage of Popiden's
once again horrendous supply rolls (he would lose nine supplies
before the match was over). The game ended in November II 1941,
but this time with a British victory, as Popiden's forces were
unsuccessful in their last ditch assault against Tobruch on October
II 1941 with an unorthodox 1-2, 5-1 combination using a 7-7-10
and an Italian 2-3-4 on the 1-2! Unfortunately the combination
used the last remaining German supply on board, and Popiden was
forced to surrender following sunk supplies during the next two
turns, sending GM Lockwood to his third Final.
The other semi-final between Morse and Schoose was likewise
a rematch of their earlier encounter during the Swiss rounds,
as Schoose's Germans had easily handled Morse's British in that
contest. Not wishing to repeat that experience, Morse opted for
the Germans this time, and would be rewarded with above average
supply luck during the match, losing only four supplies to the
British navy. Unfortunately for Morse, Schoose's British forces
were up to the challenge of harassing the Afrika Korps, starting
with a successful 1-1 on May I 1941 that eliminated 21/2 Recce.
Schoose then successfully delayed towards Alexandria, encouraging
Morse to expend his supplies. Morse expended supplies heavily
in his efforts to wear down the British, at one point expending
two supplies on the Jun I 1941 turn to drive the British into
Tobruch and force a British retreat towards Alexandria. Morse
would pay for his heavy supply use when his Alexandria drive
stalled, forcing him to chance a 1-1, 2-1 combination attack
on Tobruch on the Nov I 1941 turn. Afrika Korps then demonstrated
again why it is "the unforgiving game" when Morse executed
his 2-1 attack first, rather than the 1-1. Morse got an A back
2 on the 2-1 attack, which would open up an escape corridor for
British forces from Tobruch with their Nov I 1941 reinforcements.
This made Morse's subsequent D Elim with the 1-1 of no consequence,
since British forces came out and surrounded the Afrika Korps,
compelling Morse's surrender and sending Schoose into the Finals
against Lockwood. Executing the 1-1 first would have kept Morse
in the game.
The Final was a fast moving affair, with Lockwood taking full
advantage of perfect early supplies to drive the British into
Tobruch with no casualties and begin a swift drive towards Alexandria.
Opting to eliminate the delaying units opposing him, Lockwood's
Germans had stormed up to the El Alamein line by June II 1941,
where he established a 3-1 proof defensive line with the Afrika
Korps facing a smaller British force and awaited the supplies
to catch up before beginning the final push into Alexandria.
Unfortunately, those supplies would not arrive for another six
turns, as the British navy successfully hamstrung Lockwood's
forces and left him open to low odds counterattack. Realizing
that his only chance at this point was to kneecap the Afrika
Korps by eliminating the 7-7-10 Panzer regiments, Schoose unleashed
a series of 1-1 counterattacks to drive back the Germans. The
first 1-1 counterattack was a D Back 2 on 21/5 Panzer. Lockwood
fell back and reestablished the 3-1 proof line. Schoose was rewarded
on the next 1-1 counterattack with an exchange on the 7-7-10.
Trying to regain the initiative, Lockwood counterattacked with
his last supply at 4-1 to eliminate several 1-1-6s, but this
left Lockwood's Germans without supply and still vulnerable to
counterattack. Schoose followed up on the August I 1941 turn
with a 4-1, 1-2 combination attack which eliminated 21/3 Recce
and compelled Lockwood to retreat to Tobruch. After receiving
supplies in early September, Lockwood would later hurl the Holy
Hand Grenade of Antioch (1-1 assault on Tobruch) in a desperate
attempt to regain the initiative. This attack failed, and Schoose
denied Lockwood's bid to become the fourth two-time Afrika
Korps champion, while taking his own first crown. He so enjoyed
the experience, he added two more championship plaques before
the week was over.
2008 PBeM Tournament
The Second BPA
PBeM Afrika Korps tournament drew 26 grognards some 44 years
after this game was first published. After 26 games, only the
GM Bruno Sinigaglio and the defending champ, Ed Menzel, remained.
Bruno resorting to his old tricks, took the Allies and trusted
to his navy to sink Axis supply, leaving defending champ Menzel
in command of the Germans.
In April 41, Germans 21 Panzer occupied the escarpments southwest
of Bir Hacheim while the Italians starved the Brits in Benghazi.
The 21/3 Recce drove as far west as R31, forcing the Allies to
string out from the K18 escarpment all the way to L36. The Malta
force sunk the only Italian convoy attempting passage in April.
In May, Rommel landed two supply convoys and brought in the
15 Panzer. On May II the 21/3 Recce moved further west into the
escarpments south of Matruh while the Afrika Korps hammered to
death a 2-2-6 on G23 at 6-1 with Bologna surviving a 1-3 soak.
The Recce unit near Matruh forced the Allies to send two infantry
brigades east to counter the threat to the home base while a
4-4-7 demonstrated outside Tobruk.
Rommel decided that the bait was easy pickens and attacked
the 4-4-7 on H25 at 3-1 surrounded and a 1-1-6 on H26 at 3-1
while Bologna soaked against the rest at 1-5. The big 3-1 went
well with a D Elim, unfortunately Ed rolled an exchange vs the
1-1-6 and Bologna could not resist the offer of spaghetti and
wine by the Brits and deserted. At the end of June I, the Brits
were hunkered down in Tobruk and screening Halfaya Pass while
all else retreated east. The Malta dudes were doing their share,
as Ed landed only enough supply to replace the two used in attacks.
On Jun II, the Afrika Korps swung around Halfaya into the
escarpments. Bruno countered by falling back out of attack range
with most units while leaving a lone brigade at Halfaya, another
as a nuisance at K49 and one that was too slow to escape and
thus acting as good counterattack bait at R53.
Rommel landed supplies on Jul I and being at full strength
decided to isolate the lone 1-1-6 at Halfaya while killing the
blocker at K51 and the bait at R53. At the end of July, the unit
at Halfaya would starve and Ed would be bearing down on El Alamein
with 24 factors while Bruno would be holding with 15 factors
at most plus the four scheduled for August. So on Jul I Bruno
sent the Recce unit south to enable a 1-2 surround vs 21/5 Panzer
on Q52. A two was rolled - it is always better to be lucky than
good - the Brits lost four one factor units and the Germans lost
a 7-7-10. Ed landed another supply on Jul II and then waited
in good defensive positions until the Brit at Halfaya crapped
out. On Jul II the Brits dropped all the way back to the El Alamein
- Ruweisat line with only ten factors alive.
On August I, the Afrika Korps was at full supply, but could
not garner a good attack due to the previous hold up at Halfaya
and the fall back by the chicken hearted Brits. On August I four
more British cannon fodder brigades strengthened the El Alemein
line to 14 factors. At this point, the bad luck rolls by Ed at
Tobruk and the good luck roll by Bruno vs the 7-7-10 posed a
dilemma for Ed. The Afrika Korps could possibly take the home
base before Nov I, but two consecutive supply convoys would need
to survive on the Sep I and Sep II turns - the odds were against
Ed. So on August II, the Afrika Korps dropped back to Tobruk
for the "Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch" and rolled an
exchange vs 18 factors. Thus the Afrika Korps ceased to exist
and the forlorn wops hanging around at the end of turn surrendered.
Bruno finishes first. Ed finishes second to follow up his
win in the previous BPA PBeM Africa Korps tournament.
Another BPA Afrika Korps PBeM tournament will begin soon.