Dune; desert planet; Arrakis. No, this is the wrong planet. This is HPS Tobruk ’41. A game created by John Tiller and published by HPS simulations. Although, it very well could be since both planets share a common denominator: sand.
But the similarities don’t stop here; there are the factions, of varying degrees, all vying for the same piece of real estate known as Dune, or, North Africa, as well as the two powerful Houses known as House Atreides and House Harkonnen, or in our case: the Axis and Allies.
Panzer Campaigns offer an extremely intuitive approach to fighting an operational war. Straightforwardness of the interface, commonsense rules, and very little micro-management makes all the Panzer Campaign games enjoyable as well as informative, and educational.
Keep your uncertainties in mind as we cross the threshold of a concurrent chronology of the fighting across the vast desert terrain of North Africa.
Below is the Starting Scenario for HPS’s Tobruk ’41, and a report follows after each of the 8 turns required to complete the mission.
For this scenario we will be using the Fog-of-War (FoW) feature, and no explicit supply. It’s a beginner’s scenario so we don’t need to confuse new players at the get-go.
Several of the units are in ‘fixed’ position to be released at a prescheduled time.
“Sand… Sand… und mehr Sand.” Dietrich feverishly wipes away the sand-infested air filters of Generalleutnant Rommel’s staff car.
“Quit beschwerend, Dietrich, ist es vorbei bald genug. Jene Briten werden vermutlich Tee trinken, wenn wir ankommen.”
Rommel stands amongst his desert troops, sweat already beading down their faces, as he glances at his time piece: 0330. Time was not on his side, and neither was this ungodly heat. He was handed the Release Schedule via the Menu Bar which showed a staggered release of reinforcements.
Some would arrive two hours behind them (0600), and then the final release two more hours after that (0800). But there were no guarantees of either.
“What is my air support?” the Desert Fox commanded.
Once again the Menu Bar was consulted to show (2) flights available for CAS with the arriving, staggered, reinforcements scheduled. “So we lead. Just how I like it… I would pay a king’s ransom to see Montgomery’s face when we take our objective (25pts) and then wave goodbye to their burning wreckage. The Fuehrer expects great things from me.”
The sand dunes to the south are beginning to waft from the hot wind.
Rommel enters his squad car and raises his binoculars towards the 25pt objective. He then lowers them and stares across the unforgiving desert. He raises them again but fixates towards the north where a report of British activity was seen.
“We begin operations at 0400,” he said with full confidence. “Tell the Italians to screen those desert rats. We have played games enough with them.” He taps the hood and his driver returns him back to HQ.
Turn 1 0400h 30 March 1941 – Axis Turn
Task 1: ‘Mouse trap’ – Clear those annoying rats up north so the rest of the 5th Light Division can use Travel Mode to proceed to the 25pt objective unimpeded.
Task 2: ‘Seize the objective hex’ – With the FoW, it will be hard to ascertain what lies ahead, but capture it I must, and use all my available assets.
Back at his HQ, Rommel scans over the Victory Conditions with a close eye on his Recon Spotting and Supply. ‘I cannot allow Montgomery to exploit a weakness in my supply lines.’
Rommel relays his orders to eliminate the northern combatants, using the Italian assets as cannon fodder, while the rest of his group drives northeast along the sandy trail toward grid hex 15.8.
The Italian 3/III Bers assaults elements of the British 2nd Armored Division with surprising results. With 150 screaming mad Italians going up against at least 10 vehicles, the odds swayed towards Luige’s finest (?). Rommel gave it a nod and then proceeded to issue the “move out” order.
The Italians were directed to keep that disrupted British unit pinned, and possibly destroyed if possible, while the rest of the group made haste to grid hex 15.8; the 25pt objective hex. The 1/aufk.3 (x6), since they were designed for recon, would be used to scout ahead, report their findings, and hold out until the main force could join them. Using ‘hex by hex’ movement, since ‘drag and drop’ would surely precipitate embedding themselves in some form of minefield set up by the British, would be ‘a more prudent course of action’, or at least that’s what Rommel was thinking.
All (6) recon units were put into Travel Mode and crept forward down the uneven dusty trail. Axis eyes were scanning for even the slightest tell-tale sign of a minefield, or tank trap. The sand dunes to the south need watching carefully, for the British were a devious bunch.
And then, what Rommel suspected, finally manifests; a minefield, and an ambush. Just a few short kms along the trail one recon unit explodes into fiery burning metal scraps from opportunity fire. ‘Montgomery!’
The one aufk.3 was put into Travel Mode and the other aufk.3 in Deployed Mode, and sent expediently to aid the recon units. The four 105mm 3/1 Artillery 75 use indirect fire against the devil British 2nd Support group causing Fatigue. How much, is indeterminate.
The rest of the Light Division made haste up the trail to show the British a good time.
By next turn I will be in a good position to assault these bandits and continue down the yellow brick road.
The Italians, via opportunity fire, successfully eliminated the ‘rats’ in the north. Also, German opportunity fire also reduced the 2nd Support Group down to <10 guns. Perhaps my artillery did more damage than expected?
With Task 1 complete, and Task 2 well in hand, it seems the primary objective, setting aside the fact that the Exit hex still is the ultimate goal, will soon be secured.
However, lady luck plays both sides of the card table, and neither side is willing to fold. All in all, I feel I have the better hand, and will keep my cards close to the vest when I need them the most. (Eat that Kenny Rogers!)
Turn 2 0600h 30 March 1941 – Axis Turn
Task 1: ‘Displace 2nd Support Group’ – having eliminated a vast majority of 2nd Support’s assets, a meager <10 strength still linger. Swat the bothersome flies and continue onward.
Task 2: ‘Air Support’ – Use the air assets I received via the reinforcement dialog and take out that artillery battery that just reared its ugly head midway up the trail.
A gentle reminder
A lesson learned here in Turn 2 was: all roads consist of mines. I find this rude behavior from those bloody British, who have nothing better to do than offer calling cards of varying yields, annoying. Rommel was livid when the report came in but gave me an air of confidence to continue to press the attack, and reach our objectives.
The Italians are an eager lot, and to satisfy their want I ordered them to make haste and bolster the leading edge of the forward element, and steer clear of the main road. This unit earned my respect for screening, and eliminating, the ‘rats’ on the western flank. So it was befitting that I include them once more in this effort.
My one concern at the moment is the non-availability of my artillery. I will speak to their commander after this is ‘all said and done’.
My first wave of reinforcements arrives in due course, and is immediately pushed to the fore with the rest of the group as a ‘show of force’. Once again my commanders made a tactical error and remained on the main trail, subjected to more effects from land mines. Incompetence will not be tolerated!
The golden goose was just a mere 6kms from my leading edge assault group. When the report came in that my first wave reinforcements had arrived I could feel some anxiety lift from the stifling-hot HQ tent. Knowing full well that I have available air assets to utilize, it was time to put them to use, but only the recons at first. I want no more surprises!
Besides my own Deutschland units, two more Italian infantry units arrive, 300 men strong, and sent to the right flank of their countrymen who were already in a committed fight. Here the plan revision was to take place, and hold until 0800h when the last of my reinforcements arrive to mop up.
And now to use the recon air unit(s) I have available…
I will hold back a few recons once I am clear of the 25pt objective just in case the British decide to throw a wrench in my designed strategy. I do have a sinking feeling this plan will be revised beyond (A). The main force will follow through if the Italians can pin down the British on the main trail, which shows a force of >100 strength. If need be, I will use my CAS to ‘soften up’ this obstacle. I would hate to waste it on this ‘annoyance’ but I still have time on my side, assuming I do not get bogged down in hex grid 10.11.
But nothing is for certain…
And as expected, air recon did reveal what I had already suspected. Now, how reliable this recon’s intelligence is has yet to be seen. In my experience, there’s more than meets the eye, and that of a fast moving airplane. I would surmise that British elements may also be hiding along the northern flank near the objective, I know I would.
Turn 3 will tell the tale of whether or not these reports are inaccurate or not, and what, if anything, I can do to circumvent them.
Turn 3 0800h 30 March 1941 – Axis Turn
Task 1: ‘Plan Revision’ – Bring the newly arrived reinforcements (4x 105mm artillery guns & 3x 37mm AT guns plus 197 strength motorcycle unit ) to the frontline in a two-pronged attack pattern.
Task 2: ‘Get off the damn trail’ – Knowing full-well the Brits like to lay mines is cause for this action. “I will allow no more Disrupted vehicles!”
Task 3: ‘Get moving’ – Self-explanatory.
With my final release of reinforcements, the plan revision will now be put into action. My frontline commanders informed me that several enemy units have ‘disappeared’ in the desert. My estimation is that they are reorganizing for an assault….somewhere. Devil Rats, as they are!
The Assault: With a strength of 297 men, comprising 1st & 2nd Ber Italian regiments, and the 2 aufk.3 German regiment, the assault on the British 2nd Support mortar unit <10 seemed, at first, a sure thing. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. A friendly reminder is in order here!
With that being said, the main drive towards the objective, and taking it, was a complete surprise. En force we drove and perhaps the very sight of our war machine was enough for the British to rethink their mortality. Those garrisoned there immediately took flight in separate directions. However, I have seen this maneuver time and time again, and fall prey to it
But 8 vehicles and 58 men versus >100 strong on the left flank and at least 100 strong on the right flank doesn’t equate very well. Something sinister is going on and I think I know what it is. I will play a hunch though, and pray I am wrong.
I have been informed that my field commanders have suddenly ‘felt more energetic and refocused’ at the task they must accomplish. I am humane at discipline; the Fuehrer is not. And I am sure they just now realized that.
As ordered, the trail leading to the objective was left for the ‘less-informed’ to deal with; a lesson well learned previously.
Personal note: I cannot emphasize it enough that our brothers-in-arms (the Italians) have performed better that I had anticipated. I will make a note of this in my field report. Perhaps this will increase their subpar Morale ratings; Perhaps.
In viewing the Victory dialog, I see I have only acquired 17 points out of the 25 I need for a Minor victory. But High Command expects; demands the 50 points for reasons known only to them, no matter the cost. But I have been known to disobey before, and to waste men and materiel is just foolish.
Well, they sprung their trap as I expected. In sending in the HQ unit, both British flanks open fire in my garrisoned objective hex. Foolish gesture, doomed to failure of course.
As my forces try and reach the objective, I am informed that several units are low on fuel and ammo. Logistics will be severely reprimanded!
This has suddenly turned for the worse! If need be, next turn I will pull what units I can out of harm’s way and outflank the right flank annoyance.
Turn 4 1000h 30 March 1941 – Axis Turn
Task 1: ‘Hold out’ – With everyone bottlenecked, it’s a slugfest now especially since there are no more reinforcements.
Task 2: ‘Outflank’ – Easier said than done, but I have no other options here. I have no artillery to use, and no CAS.
It’s just a battle of attrition now, but if I can break out somewhere, and maneuver, perhaps all is not lost. It is time for Plan Revision B!
Whatever that is…
Moving the HQ did make some difference here as most, if not all units, that were out of command and low on fuel and ammo, seem to have recovered. These checks are relegated to a system check at the beginning of the Turn. Whatever the case may be my units seem to have what they need for the ‘rabbit-out-of-the hat’ trick I have yet to design and implement.
My Victory points have taken a severe hit: -6
Game note: “This turn was all about posturing forces and showing each side what kind of noise they can make.”
Turn 5 1200h 30 March 1941 – Axis Turn
Turn 5 was yet another round of gunpowder envy. My trepidation is that Turn 6 will be a more deciding dynamic in the conclusion of this stalemate. With their (British) HQ isolated, I feel the odds are slighted in my favor, if my Plan Revision B, which has yet to be invented, is initiated. It will give me the leverage to flank those bastards!
Mostly, this turn has been all about opportunity fire and nothing more.
Turn 6 1400h 30 March 1941 – Axis Turn
Task 1: ‘Plan Revision B’ – Code name ‘Wheel of Fortune’ calls for a southerly shift and then redirection towards the Exit Hex. The idea is to get as many units as I can off the map and try to settle for a Minor Victory.
Task 2: ‘Delay Action’ – Sacrifice a sparse group so that the rest can escape, or as Spock would say: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
It’s clear to me now that this ‘bottleneck attrition’ thing will just wear me down and nothing will be gained from it. I may as well resign myself to the fact that a complete victory is far from my reach and at least a Minor Victory should be feasible, depending upon whether the British will ‘cooperate’.
Air recon showed the northwest area clear….so far. My units are beginning the ‘wheel’ portion of the plan but I wonder how long it will take the Limeys to figure out what I’m doing? Yet more opportunity fire prevails here again.
Some units, unfortunately, will have to cover for the rest of us to get clear.
It’s a matter of survival now.
Elements of my Light Infantry, with Italian Ber regiments, slammed the Brit HQ, eliminating at least 21 men from their ranks but still not good enough to send them to the infernal regions. My HQ did get free and clear.
Turn 7 1600h 30 March 1941 – Axis Turn
Task 1: ‘Get off the damn map’ – So far (3) of my units have escaped unmolested, and a third unit is one hex away to exit on the final turn (T8). As it stands now my Victory points show me at a DRAW. But I feel I can get a few more out this turn.
Task 2: Hold onto objective hex’ – This seems to be a no-win situation here but my options are very limited in what I can do maneuver-wise.
Some units in the southern flank just couldn’t keep.More units have made it off the map, and it is my hope again that the boys at the objective hex fight with gallantry. There’s no way for them to get off the map in time, so their sacrifice will be remembered with honor. A true Klingon would appreciate that!
A lesson here has been learned: bypass the enemy whenever you get the chance, especially if you are pressed for time.
My commanders have fulfilled what I had envisioned and all seems to be working according to plan. But the British can’t make this easy for me, can they?
Nevertheless, I will take what they give me, and exploit it.
Judging from the distance the southerly units have to travel, it seems to me that they will be left behind by the 8th and final turn. All I can do now is watch as my objective hex fades into obscurity from opportunity fire. I suppose I should let them ‘check out’ as heroes and assault the least strengthen British unit. (Hindsight: Bad move!)
It seems I will not reach my aspired goal of 50pts but in war, nothing is certain…blah, blah, and blah.
Turn 8 1800h 30 March 1941 – Axis Turn
I knew that British bastard was hiding something! So, he shows his hand, does he? Well, time to stick it where it hurts, Limeys! Another Wehrmacht unit away! And another! And another! And still more! Okay, I had my doubts, BUT, a vast majority of my units have exited the map. I swear FoW is a bitch!
The semi-final tally of units I could get off the map, and as I suspected, the other units would have to ‘take one for the team’.
Disaster…! I knew this would happen but I didn’t have enough Move points for those units, and now my final victory points suffered. Although, I did mention that I would settle for a Minor victory than a draw, or worse, defeat.
The first pane shows my segment of the 8th turn; the other shows what he did in his segment.
The keys I need to concentrate on are: supply and HQ ranges. I really feel I lacked, or just plain disregarded, those essential rules to win a complete victory. This motivates me enough to do this scenario again and correct the mistakes I made just to see what happens. I will NOT AAR that replay! This alone was 29 pages the better of my MG ’44 AAR.
I swore I would make this a shorter AAR than MG ’44 but, as you can see, that didn’t happen. I think I will put aside WW2 and try my NGP ’85 starter scenario. That’ll be fun!
For any who read this, I hope you enjoyed it as much I did pulling my hair out. I made some costly mistakes, so that makes me eager to read up on those subjects again. I can’t emphasize enough about Supply, Travel vs. Deployed mode, and HQ. If any of these are mishandled, or disregarded, then you are in a heap of trouble, especially if you’re new to Panzer Campaigns.
Until the next AAR, I bid you a good day!