Luiz Cláudio Silveira Duarte
Quartel-Mestre da Confraria Lúdica
I'm always looking for new wargame partners. I have for years managed to get many people interested in boardgames, but seldom does one of them goes further to sample wargames.
During last year, I struck a friendship with Thiago, a fellow graduate student. He got his master's degree two months ago. His graduate research mainly involved the development of a logistics boardgame (think industry logistics, not military logistics). I had the opportunity to present him a few boardgames that were helpful as inspiration for his game, and we have since talked a lot about games.
Some months back we played a quick three-player game of The Napoleonic Wars, and that was the extent of his knowledge of wargames. He has only a superficial knowledge of military history.
Recently, Thiago was one of the participants in the 3rd Retiro Lúdico, a gaming event which I organized. During the event, he mentioned that he was very interested in learning to play a really serious wargame, preferably one that involved military logistics. He insisted that he wanted to dive right at the deep end.
Well, he didn't have to insist. I considered a few options. I like to start new wargamers in the North African theatre --- the counter density is usually low, there is room for sweeping maneuvers, and as a bonus logistics is even more decisive than usual (at least in the good games).
I almost went with DAK2. In the end, I decided against it. I didn't want to play a small scenario (and, apparently, neither would he like it), and I feel that the campaigns in DAK2 can have a somewhat slow pace. Besides, although I like the system, I haven't played an OCS game in ages.
In the end, I decided to teach him the Europa system, using War in the Desert with Wavell's War rules. I quite like the Europa games, and I'm very familiar with the rules. In this way, perhaps I will even be able to play Second Front with him in the future...
I chose the Graziani's Offensive campaign, starting with the Italian advance into Egypt in September 1940. I assigned Thiago to command the Italian forces, and I was quite candid about my reasons for it. The Italians can't go very far, and they can't even attack efficiently at the start of the campaign. But at least they're the active force at this stage, and they got the initiative for some time. It would be more interesting for a new player to try to do something, than simply watching while I played. And, since he did want to feel the bite of the logistics system, nothing better than try to mount an offensive with the early-war Italian army.
Yesterday was the day. He arrived early in the afternoon, while I was finishing set-up. I taught him the basics --- unit sizes and stacking, unit symbols and their function, how to move units, how to conduct an attack, and so on. I also covered the main modifiers of the Europa system, such as artillery support, attack supply, and armor effects. I purposely omitted the more esoteric rules, such as overruns (which the Italians would not be able to do at start anyway), and I warned him that I would touch on these rules during the game.
Thiago was a bit overwhelmed, but he soon got the basic ideas and we were ready to start. The Italian offensive started and he sent a mixed group deep into the desert to face the combat elements of 7th Armored Division, which were southwest of Mersa Matruh; at the same time, he marched a sizeable contingent along the (unfinished) coastal road.
He was expecting to attack the exposed 7th Armored. When the first combat phase started, I flew some deffensive air support out of Matruh to the British forces, and he then noticed that his planes were badly positioned and only a few ineffective CR42 fighters were in range. Further, he neglected to join an artillery regiment to his battle group, and the lack of support halved their attack force (the artillery was two hexes to the north). And, to top it all, the attack supply was too far back and the forces would be halved again for lack of ammunition. He wisely called off the attack.
In this and the following turns, I just reinforced the Matruh position, while I slowly built up the 7th Armored group. As O'Connor did, I was biding my time and preparing for Operation Compass (which I scheduled for early December).
Meanwhile, Thiago noticed that he had advanced too far beyond his supply line. He also had his construction engineers building a fort just south of Bardia, so it was late October before they could start building the coastal road and thus advancing his supply line.
The realities of lack of supply were very apparent to him, and so he concentrated in bringing attack supply and combat units from the rear areas to the front. He also decided to use his other construction engineers to build a fort in the coastal road, some six hexes east of Tripoli.
In the very first turn, he managed to mount a credible attack on Malta, and he was able to bring some supplies and combat units from Europe to Africa unhindered. But bombing Malta wasn't high in his list of priorities, so the Malta engineers managed to keep the island somewhat effective throughout the game.
When December started, I executed Operation Compass. The fort he had built south of Bardia created some difficulties, but the Compass forces defeated the Blackshirt division inside the fort and from there rolled on to an empty Tobruk. In the ensuing regular turn, 7th Armored dashed through the desert and reached El Agheila, effectively putting all of the Italian 10th Army out of supply. At the same time, I brought some troops from Alexandria to Tobruk by ship.
In his turn, Thiago threw caution to the wind and 10th Army attacked everywhere. Most attacks were ineffective, but he did manage to take Tobruk back. Three infanty division attacked 7th Armored in El Agheila, and they got slaughtered to the last man. Should I ever get some fuel to the division, the road to Tripoli was wide open.
We ended the game then. It was already early evening, and Thiago didn't want to get home late. He was very satisfied with the experience, and so was I. We spent a few minutes in debriefing, with me pointing some concepts to him --- for instance, the need to garrison critical rear area facilities, rather than throwing everything in the front line.
All in all, I think it was a splendid learning session. Thiago is already burning for a rematch, which I find rather stimulating. He is a smart player, and so with a little more experience he will offer a real challenge --- and that's where it gets to be really fun to play a wargame.
We will switch venues, however; playing Europa through ZunTzu is much easier. I'll post our future games here.
A couple of days ago I told Luiz Claudio that Wargames wasnt "our thing". Now with this teaser article I definetly have to re-think that... Room for a new learner? Lol
Congrats on the article!
Rio Grande do Sul
Excelente texto... Agora sendo bem sincero se o objetivo é estimular os wargames no Brasil e angariar interessados o texto DEVERIA ser em português ou pelo menos ter versão. Com certeza do Bg-Br pra cá muitos vieram, mas menos do esperado leram por conta do inglês.
Digo por que me interessa, gosto muito de wargames e é raro ver os bichos na mesa, hoje nem invisto mais em jogos desse estilo por conta disso.
Daniel Cedro Gomes
Excelente texto e concordo com a tradução para o Português.