once more behind the sand dunes
with the grognards...
1994 champ Joe Beard (left)
returned to WBC after a 14-year absence. His game wasn't very
rusty althugh he fell to Bert Schoose in the semi-finals.
Over 40 years after its release,
there are still a row of Afrika Korps games being played
... only at WBC.
If there was a descriptive phrase to capture the semi-finals
of this year's tournament, it would be "tournament of champions."
Although the field for the Grognard Pre Con and free form Swiss
rounds was smaller than in years past, the quality was arguably
higher, as all four semi-finalists had won at least one title
previously, with a couple of two-time champions gracing the field.
In all, eight of the former 12 champs were present. Would this
be the year for the first three-time WBC AFK champ? Surviving
the cut were two-time champion (1993,1994) Joe Beard, returning
to championship play after a long hiatus; two-time champion (2002,2006)
Vince Meconi, 2005 champion John Popiden, and defending champion
The first semi-final pitted Joe Beard as the British against
Bert Schoose. Although Joe managed to avoid early trouble by
not falling for Bert's infamous "down and out" maneuver
that can take Tobruch on May I 1941 against an unwary player,
Bert still maintained the initiative by driving the British back
into Tobruch and mounting the customary offensive towards Alexandria.
As November I approached, however, Joe unleashed the strategy
which has become his hallmark. He withdrew all of his heavy armor
from Tobruch, leaving just 1-1-6s to hold the fort against the
Italians. Although Tobruch could now be taken by a determined
German assault, the Germans would have to abandon their eastward
offensive to do so, giving the British time to consolidate their
armor with the Crusader reinforcements in November. And although
the Germans would now have Tobruch, the British would have enough
concentrated power to hit a 7-7-10 in the open at 3-1 odds, given
careless positioning by the Germans. Joe had also prepared a
series of defensive lines in front of Alexandria, starting with
the El Daba line, that he would use to maximum effect to delay
the German advance. Against most German players, this strategy
proved effective. Bert, however, countered with a methodical
grinding advance that utilized his shortened supply lines and
substantial reinforcements to push his way through Joe's defense,
never giving Joe an easy shot. The result was an eventual German
victory, as Bert's Germans won the battle of attrition, sending
him to keep a date in defense of his championship.
The other semi-final saw Vince Meconi's Germans take on John
Popiden. Vince took a leaf from Bert Schoose's book and used
a 7-7-10 to overrun a 1-1-6, and the 21-3 Recce took Tobruch
on May I, 1941. Two Captured Supplies were taken, and both
sent to sea. Popiden responded in his May I turn by isolating
the 7-7-10, surrounding Tobruch, and holding the G18-H17-K18
line. They could not attack on May I because their nearest
supply was at their Home Base. On May II, the Germans continued
to bring up their troops but did not launch any attacks; they
had to land one supply unit in Tobruch to prevent isolation.
On the Allied May II they abandoned the G18-H17-K18 line and
abandoned the isolation of the 7-7-10, but hit Tobruch at 3-1
surrounded and scored a D Elim. Vince counterattacked on
June I and eliminated a 2-2-6 but lost a 2-2-4 in a soak-off.
At this point the Germans had succeeded in re-isolating Tobruch,
but were no better off than had they not taken Tobruch, and may
have been worse off, having lost the 2-2-12 Recce unit.
(They did however have one remaining Captured Supply unit.)
The Germans slowly pushed the Allies toward their home base,
but in September it became obvious that they could not take the
Home Base before November. The Germans raced back and hit
Tobruch (garrisoned with a 4-4-7, a 2-2-6, and a 1-1-6) at 1-1
vs. the 2-2-6/1-1-6 and a 3-1 vs. the 4-4-7. The 3-1 was
an Exchange and the 1-1 was an A Back 2. The Germans were
now down 12 factors but had enough units for the Holy Hand Grenade
of Antioch (1-1 assault against Tobruch), now occupied by a 4-4-7,
a 3-3-7, and a 2-2-6. It resulted in an indecisive A-Back
2. The next turn's Holy Hand Grenade yielded a very decisive
A Elim and the Germans surrendered in October, 1941 with just
four factors on the board
The Final was a rematch of the 2005 match between Bert Schoose
as the Germans and John Popiden as the British. Bert opened with
his customary "down and out" opening once again. And
surprisingly John, who had lost Tobruch on May I 1941 versus
Vince, against this same opening, almost allowed Bert to take
Tobruch on May I again! He saw the error of his ways before
finishing his turn and decided to just drop back to the
outskirts of Tobruch on the April II turn. Tobruch was besieged
quickly without any German losses and then the Germans headed
east, having left the Italians to watch the British garrison.
Unfortunately, what happened to GM Lockwood last year against
Bert happened to Bert in even worse fashion this year, as the
supply line dried up quickly. In total, the Germans only got
four successful supplies from the start of the game through November.
Taking advantage of the supply situation, Popiden counterattacked
and killed a 3-3-10 on a 4-1 attack. Seeing the handwriting on
the wall, the Germans headed back to try and take Tobruch near
November. Trying to force the issue quickly rather than engaging
in a methodical siege, the Germans tried not just one Holy Hand
Grenade attack against Tobruch, but FOUR, all over the next six
turns! But fate would have none of it - all four attacks resulted
in an A back 2, and the game ground on.
It was now the end of January 1942. Popiden's British kept
advancing westward with his Crusader reinforcements that were
coming extremely close to launching an attack on the Germans
that might have trapped them within a perimeter outside Tobruch.
Faced with the prospect of having to drive eastward once again
against a substantially strengthened British force, even if he
should manage to take Tobruch on one last desperation assault,
Bert conceded the match to John at that point, making John Popiden
the fourth two-time champion.
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.