Thursday, 16 March 2017

An escarpment too far

Last night I dreamed I went to Sidi Rezegh again (a). I believe the details of the scenario are over at James' blog, but I haven't read it because it includes the British secret briefing. It was, as ever, an enjoyable evening although the Germans are in for the usual defeat; usual when being commanded by me that is. There are several reasons for this:
  • I don't know anything about the period. It was a time of rapid technological change and unless you know the difference between a III and a IV and an E and a G then you're on a hiding to nothing. I don't and, let's be frank, I'm never going to. It just doesn't speak to me. At one level this strikes me as odd because in my life I have known and spoken to several people who fought in the Libyan desert - indeed I was related to one - but then again perhaps it's not so odd after all.
  • I very much underestimated the firepower of the British infantry along the escarpment at the start of the battle or how impervious they were to artillery fire. (For the record I still don't understand that last bit). This is obviously related to my lack of feel for the period mentioned above.
  • I based my opening moves on the average distance that a tank command should move per turn before failing their command roll if moving is all they are doing (28" for Germans, 21" for British) under the Blitzkrieg Commander rules and as calculated by me making certain broad brush assumptions (mainly related to the placement of the commander) (b). In the event I didn't move as far, Peter moved further. Averages don't really mean anything over a couple of turns, but you've got to start somewhere when making a plan.
  • The scenario doesn't, in my opinion anyway, work. I quite like not knowing what is going to happen regarding possible reinforcements for the other side, but the ones that have already turned up mean that the Germans can't win. Given the move distances above there is no realistic way that the Germans could ever cross the escarpment via the wadi in the centre in the time allowed (averages do mean something over a greater number of turns); their only option was always to cross the gentler slopes to the east. The British now have that lined with hull down tanks. Given the way the rules work - in particular the need to concentrate fire in order to eliminate units - there are simply not enough moves left to dislodge them. In short, the game is too short to give the German commander a choice of options.
The rules themselves give an entertaining enough game. I am very much at ease with the uncertainty caused by the command roll mechanism. I don't really like the 'ganging up' element of the way that fire works, but it's not a big deal. The aircraft rules seem to involve rolling a lot of dice the importance of which is only understood by the umpire, but other than that are fairly simple. I thought that my use of the smoke and close assault from behind it went reasonably well and would have been a lot better if my tanks had dealt with the armoured cars like they were supposed to and if every man in the British army wasn't apparently equipped with a heavy machine gun of his own. I also don't understand why bren carriers are as invulnerable as a nuclear bunker despite - as far as I am aware - not having a roof, but like I keep saying, it's not my period.

(a ) Hat tip to Mr and Mrs Du Maurier
(b) For the record these are the numbers as I now calculate them. Originally I had misinterpreted the way that commanders themselves move and my plan was based on 8th Panzer moving more quickly.

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