first to five in the sand dunes
Frank Cunliffe plays the Grognard
scorekeeper, Bill Morse.
Vince Meconi and Charles Drozd ward
off kibitzer John Sharp.
The four survivors of the Preliminaries gauntlet featured
three former champions and one veteran still in the hunt for
his first AFK title as the grognard tourney remained a
closed society with the top five laurelists all adding to their
totals. In the first playoff match, four-time champion Vince
Meconi's Germans opposed Ed Menzel who had bested him in the
qualifying rounds. In contrast to their earlier game, the Germans
steadily gained momentum after several supply setbacks during
the early going. Vince was able to seal off the British in Tobruch
with three attacks. In so doing, he absorbed the loss of two
Italian units in soakoff attacks, but exacted a toll on the Brutish
during his advance on Alexandria. Desperate to halt the German
advance, Ed tried the British version of the Holy Hand Grenade
with a 1-1 attack against Vince's two 7-7-10 units, which failed
with calamitous consequences and Ed's pursuit of a first AFK
title would have to wait for another year.
The other semifinal paired two-time champion Bert Schoose's
Germans versus 2003 champ Jonathan Lockwood. Jon declined to
use his favored Paleveda Gambit defense (sending two 2-2-6s along
with a supply unit deep into Cyrenaica to act as a blocking force
along the coast road surrounded by escarpments), because he hoped
to inflict more German casualties around the Tobruch escarpment
by having those two units available. Bert subsequently lost two
Italian infantry divisions while sealing off Tobruch, which bode
well for the defense of Alexandria.
As the game progressed, however, it became apparent that even
if the German offensive against Alexandria stalled, Jon faced
the prospect of either a long grinding battle of attrition near
Alexandria, or of having Bert heave the Holy Hand Grenade in
desperation at Tobruch (the Holy Hand Grenade is the Grognard
term for the 1-1 assault against Tobruch; a "1" or
"3" takes Tobruch with no losses, a "5" or
"6" eliminates the attacking force, a "2"
takes Tobruch, but with a costly exchange result that usually
finishes the Afrika Korps, and a "4" is an Attacker
Retreat 2). Jon sought a "knockout punch" that would
end the game quickly. Fortunately, Bert had provided that opportunity
by leaving only two Italian infantry divisions guarding against
a potential breakout by the Tobruch garrison. However, by throwing
in his August reinforcements along with the 9A/18 (2-2-6) brigade
that he had withheld from the July reinforcements, the British
could stage a combination 2-1 and 1-2 attack against the Italian
divisions, giving them a 67% chance of a successful breakout.
At the same time, however, the British retreated to a final defensive
line in front of Alexandria consisting of a double line of 1-1-6
infantry brigades. Because the Germans had only two supply units
left in Egypt at the time, he would not be able to get through
to Alexandria without using all remaining supply, leaving him
vulnerable to isolation. The rest of the British army put to
sea from Alexandria and headed for Tobruch, where they would
land and act as the exploitation force to cut off the Afrika
Korps in Egypt if their breakout succeeded.
Jon was rewarded with a 'defender retreat' result on the 2-1
attack. Even though his supporting 1-2 attack drew an "Attacker
eliminated", it did not matter. The breakout was underway!
Bert retreated his two Italian divisions to the western escarpments
to protect his home base in Tripoli. Leaving his 21/5 Panzer
Grenadier (3-3-10) at El Alamein to contain the Alexandria garrison
from advancing west, he began retreating from Egypt in an effort
to drive back the breakout force. The British exploitation force
landed at Tobruch on August II and began driving east and south
to form a defensive line to seal the Afrika Korps in Egypt. Four
British infantry brigades were sent west to form a line in front
of the two Italian infantry divisions. After one unsuccessful
2-1 attack against his units holding the escarpment near the
coast road, Bert was left with only one supply unit in Egypt.
Realizing that he would not be able to seal the British off before
the Operation Crusader reinforcements arrived in November, Bert
conceded in September 1941.
This left two familiar adversaries still standing whose games
have taken on a familiar pattern over the years. Jon took the
British, per his usual custom, and Vince promptly advanced his
2-2-12 as far as possible along the coast road to prevent the
Paleveda Gambit defense (per his usual custom!). Jon then adopted
a modified version of the standard British defense, and was able
to inflict some casualties on the German forces before Vince
was able to drive his forces into Tobruch and seal off the garrison.
Vince was hampered by poor supply, which enabled Jon to both
delay his advance and erect a strong defensive line around El
Alamein. Unfortunately for Jon, it also put Vince in the frame
of mind to use the Holy Hand Grenade against Tobruch at his first
opportunity, which he did in September, taking Tobruch in the
1-1 attack. In years past, a successful 1-1 attack against Tobruch
would elicit a quick British resignation. However, Jon is made
of sterner stuff and believes that this just sets the stage for
a subsequent British version of the Holy Hand Grenade; a 1-1
attack against the 21/5 and 15/8 Panzer (7-7-10s!) at the earliest
opportunity when the Germans advance on Alexandria. A "1"
or "2" result takes out the 7-7-10s, and effectively
kneecaps the Afrika Korps. Jon used a smaller version of the
Holy Hand Grenade in September with a 1-2 attack (hoping for
an exchange result), but was only partially rewarded with a D
back 2. Vince counterattacked in October, destroying several
British infantry brigades. Jon brought up his remaining reserves
and counterattacked again, destroying both German Recce Battalions
(2-2-12). However, a much shorter supply line with the possession
of Tobruch, enabled Vince to counterattack again on October II,
destroying several more infantry brigades and compelling a British
retreat to El Alamein where a delaying force would enable him
to receive his November reinforcements. Vince continued his offensive
in November, taking the Ruweisat ridge and driving south of Alam
El Halfa with 21/5 Panzer. Lockwood's Crusader reinforcements
landed in November, and he counterattacked with two 1-1 attacks
along the coast road, destroying two more Italian infantry divisions
and just falling short of destroying two more, including Ariete
(4-5-6). Unfortunately for him, Jon was unable to maintain these
counterattacks without eventually leaving himself open to an
overrun counterattack, which Vince executed in December to take
Alexandria and an unprecedented fifth Wood!
Ed Menzel falls to Vince in the semifinals.
Vince wouldn't bite on Jon Lockwood's
Palevda Gambit in the Final.