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David G. Cox Esq.
Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.
A Two-player Simulation of a North African Campaign Battle, February 1941
Designed by Frank Chadwick
Second Edition Published by Game Designers’ Workshop (1981)
They say that the truth is stranger than fiction. It must be hellishly difficult to simulate, in a game, situations to which that statement may apply.
In late 1940 General Archibald Wavell and his field commander, Richard O’Connor, were confronted with the situation of trying to defend Egypt from an invasion by the Italian 10th Army (over 150,000 troops) when they had only 30,000 troops at their disposal. Being outnumbered by 5:1 troop strength would appear to be virtually insurmountable odds.
Wavell and O’Connor felt that they didn’t have enough troops to effectively defend the border, therefore their only option was to attack. The initial attacks by the British and Commonwealth forces during Operation Compass were so successful as to send the Italian 10th army into a retreat all the way back to Tripolitania. The Italian 10th army was retreating quickly and blocking the coastal roads and Wavell and O’Connor were concerned that large parts of the Italian army may escape.
In early February 1941 a small British and Commonwealth force was sent across the desert with the task of getting ahead of the lead Italian units, blocking the road, and cutting off the retreat so that the main force of the Italian army could be captured. This ‘flying column’ set up their road block near the small town of Beda Fomm. This was to be the final engagement of Operation Compass.
Beda Fomm is G.D.W.s simulation of this battle. It is part of their ‘Series 120 Games’ (games which can be played in under 120 minutes and have 120 counters).
The scale of the game is that each turn represents an hour of real time (the game starts at 7:00 a.m. and goes for 14 turns). Units represent battalions, companies and platoons.
Victory is solely determined by the Italian player scoring points for exiting units off the map. Neither player scores points for eliminating enemy units.
Map – 17” x 22” non-glossy map. It is quite attractive with sand-fleck colouring for most hexes and light-brown for undulating hexes. Major and minor roads are marked in red and black while the eastern side of the map has quite a lot of blue hexes, which do not come into play, representing the Mediterranean Sea.
The Rule Book has nine pages of rules, 2 pages with combat and terrain tables and charts, and 3 pages of historical information related to the actual battle.
Counters – there is a small number of British and Commonwealth units in a light- brown colour and a considerably larger number of Italian units in a duck-egg green colour. The counters have a gloss finish and are very clearly marked and easy to read and to use.
As is usual with many of G.D.W.s war-games, they have put a lot of detail into the rules to make a serious effort at simulating the battle and presenting the players with some of the same problems confronted by their real-life counterparts. Morale was very important in the actual battle and is represented in the game by morale checks and changes in the morale level of units as the battle progresses.
There is differentiation in the capabilities of units. For example, armoured units may always enter enemy Zones of Control (ZOC), while personnel units (infantry, parachute, motorcycle, etc.) may only enter the ZOCs of enemy non-armoured units. During the battle the Italian army was trying to use its trucks to aid in the retreat. In the game trucks block up the roads but may be ‘parked’ so as to be out of the way.
There are several phases during combat. The first phase allows artillery units of both sides to fire a barrage at enemy units. A barrage may be either interdiction (this will affect enemy movement) or attack (this will, if successful, force the enemy units to take a morale check). Next comes the anti-tank phase when units of both sides may fire at armoured units. Finally comes the combat phase when only units of the active player may choose to attack adjacent units. At high odds there is a chance of eliminating units but the most likely result will be a morale check. The British and Commonwealth units have excellent morale – the Italian 10th army doesn’t.
The battle is an unequal contest and this is one of the fascinating aspects of the game. You have a large force that has low morale trying to break through a thin line made up of troops with very high morale. As the Italian you must try to punch through the enemy line so that you can get your trucks back on the road and heading Southwards. You know that you will suffer many losses but this is a price that must be paid for the benefit and survival of the many. As the Allied player you must spread your forces thin and still try to maintain a reserve force so that if a breakthrough appears imminent you have units with which to plug the hole.
I feel that with repeated plays the Italians may have very close to ‘zero’ chance of winning the encounter. The first few times that you play the game can be quite exciting. Some people who have played the game extensively feel that I underestimate the Italians and that it is the British who will have a hard time of the battle - that is what contributes to a good game; differences of opinion about game balance and strategy!
“Dead Men Tell No Tales – And They Don’t Waste Their Time Fighting In The Desert!”
- Last edited Wed Feb 27, 2008 11:24 pm (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Wed Feb 27, 2008 1:09 am
Long Eaton, Nottingham
Great Review, Looks like a great game