I’ve mentioned Joni Nuutinen before, he’s a wargame developer currently releasing a number of wargames on the Android platform, using his Conflicts engine to cover a variety of eras and theatres. A month or two ago (around the time I was locked in a struggle of wits with the Red Army in his Operation Barbarossa game) I was reading about the siege of Tobruk, and would love to have seen what Joni could do with the North African campaign in his Conflicts engine.
Well, that wish has come true, and Joni released Conflicts: Rommel and Afrika Korps (RAK), and I must say he’s done a sterling job simulating the enormous struggle with limited units, supply, and the spoiling activities of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), that Rommel had to overcome as he thrust forward across the desert towards Tobruk and Alexandria.
On with the game!
Here’s the information you get as you begin:
You begin with a small force garrisoned at El Agheila, your only source of fuel and food supplies. As you can see from the map, your goal is to capture all those large squares on the map going from west to east, to eventually secure Alexandria and Cairo, and push into Egypt and the Middle East to secure the vast oil supplies for the Nazi war machine. If Rommel can secure these resources, Hitler will have an easier time of it fuelling his army as they push further east into Mother Russia.
Rommel’s (and my) main concern is that to fuel a push so far, I have to maintain a supply route to El Agheila. Apart from Tobruk itself (currently in enemy hands), my starting city is the only place fuel is shipped in. Even if Tobruk falls, it can only provide a limited amount of fuel per turn, because of Allied interdiction on the seas and their ability to strike from Malta. In order to maintain supplies, Rommel has two invaluable tools available to him, supply depots – effectively moveable stores of fuel, and Opel trucks for ferrying fuel from the depot’s to the front line troops. A delicate juggling act is necessary to keep supply depots stocked up, and in motion to and from El Agheila, as well as managing the convoys of Opel trucks to and from these moving depots out to the Panzer divisions and Motorised troops pushing forward. Like worker bees cycling between the hive and the Queen, the links in the chain are all fragile and susceptible to enemy action. Not to mention the harsh realities of desert travel in a very hostile environment.
The Initial positions of your troops centered around El Agheila, with a limited amount of armour, and some Italian infantry to begin the push.
We also have at our disposal Luftwaffe dive bombers, the feared screaming Ju-88 Stuka! These air units can’t move as normal over the desert, they have to be transported between make-shift air fields, captured from the enemy. Your air unit has to be fuelled, and then they can use a turn to move to a new airfield if it is in range. Effectively you have to use these airfield “stepping stones” to push air support forward. Moving an air unit, exhausts it for that turn, so you can’t provide air support when on the move.
You can also see our supply depot (an oil drum) that should be stocked with a maximum of 70 units of oil. And an Opel truck, which can carry 10 units of fuel. So a single depot can supply 7 runs of the truck to fuel hungry units. Each hex moved by armour/motorised vehicles (except trucks) requires 1 unit of fuel! So you can see, getting your offensive steel hulks to the front line is going to take a fair bit of logistical mastery. A tank without fuel, even with plenty of movement points, can’t move nor fight! A Useless metal husk in the desert! Infantry units don’t require fuel, unless you convert them to Motorised units.
You can currently see the front line delineated and the British control behind the line. First things first, is to begin the move east, slow and steady, and try and capture that air field to push our air support up.
Joni’s Conflicts engine is really easy to use, tap a unit, see it’s movement radius, tap where you want the unit to move to hex by hex. Move into an enemy hex to make an attack. If you can encircle enemy units, you cut them off from their supply, and they start to wither and become very weak, this is a key tactic you should employ. However, be careful because the AI is not averse to doing the same thing to you. And a seemingly well planned encirclement, can go bad quickly and leave your overstretched troops out in the open, cut off from your own supply!
Every turn, there is a chance to get Resources, which are basically card-like bonuses you can deploy onto units to help. Effects such as Emergency Fuel Rations, to help a stranded vehicle, or Motorise an Infantry Unit, lay a minefield (these usually sap enemy units movement points as they move into the hex that’s mined), boost a unit’s fighting ability with Special Ops bonus, add anti-tank ability to a unit etc. As you can see, once the game starts rolling there are often many important decisions and actions to be made, in between executing your manoeuvre warfare and trying to maintain supply lines and fuel.
For the first few turns I push forward as best I can destroying the weak British troops hiding in the sandstorms.
By Turn 10, I’ve made significant headway eastwards, but had to split my forces early on to try and secure both Agedabia and El Haseiat. I know this is a mistake, but I need to at least secure the ‘elbow joint’ of the roadways moving North Eastwards, and if I can push the British back just enough, I’ll spot any incursions into my rear hopefully in time to react to them.
I send my main armour North, with the supply depot. Southwards goes a smaller contingent, with only a single armour unit, and a truck following behind ready to top her up. The yellow/orange explosion symbols on the unit’s top right signifies how much battle fatigue is present, both my German Recon and my armour have been in conflict. If fatigue goes over 100%, you lose movement points to force the unit to rest and reduce fatigue. Ideally, you want to rest the units naturally and maintain your control over it’s movement points.
Looking Northwards towards Benghazi (a city with a large horde of Victory Points!) the road dog-legs back on itself, and we have Allied resistance seeming to come from Msus. These are both major capture points on the coastal road, and we need to pour our armour and troops forward, and keep the fuel run short between truck and depot. The depot is stationed at Agedabia, and I’ve just topped up the armour’s fuel reserves. My Italian infantry moves slower than the amour, but I’m trying not to overextend too much, so they’re following close behind.
Finally, on Turn 10, I’m informed I have a set of infantry re-enforcements arriving at El Agheila, along with another Supply Depot!! So I start to push them forward to Agedabia, and to join in the fight. This new supply depot, will allow me to rotate with the other one, so whilst one is out in the field filling trucks, the other can be on it’s way back to El Agheila to be topped up.
See how my push to Benghazi goes in the next installment.