Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sidi Rezegh... A Western Desert scenario

The battlefield, looking due west.  That small mosque-like building
in the centre marks Sidi Rezegh. 
Tobruk is some distance off the top right corner.  the area represents
 roughly 6 miles north-south, by 7 miles east-west.
I found the idea for this scenario on the 'Honour' Forum associated with Sam Mustafa's war games.  I have to admit to a strong temptation to get hold of a copy of the Sam Mustafa Rommel rule set, another of the Operations level games that I have been exploring.  To 'fit' my own kit and caboodle, I made several changes to the design, some of them organisational (halving the number of playing units), and the rest adapting the 12 x 8 6"-square grid set-up to my 11-12x15 hex-board.

I set up the terrain as pictured, each hex cell representing an area roughly half a mile across.  The area is slightly distorted, but not unreasonably so. The escarpments were made from polystyrene or foam rubber, depending upon what was available, and represented difficult going crossing any hex-side that contained a slope. Those hex-sides blocked line of sight.  I have to admit to planning to improve on the escarpment design - not quite satisfactory.  There were some stretches of escarpment (Point 175 and Belhamed) which formed hills with slopes all around.

The two buildings you see mere indicate locations upon which an isolated building stands, and do not represent built up areas as such.  Those hexes still count as open.
21st Panzer Division
The situation I shall describe more fully in another posting, but will state here that elements of the Allied 7th Armoured Division, in their drive to relieve the Tobruk garrison and help their breakout, begin the action in possession of the area around the Sidi Rezegh Mosque.  Infantry and anti-tank guns of 7th Support Group are 'dug in' - as best they might in such unyielding rocky ground - along the escarpment along and either side of the Belhamed feature.  The Artillery Regiment (RHA) has taken up a battery position close by Sidi Rezegh itself.  Behind the escarpment, the 7th Armoured Brigade awaits events.

Approaching the battlefield from south and east respectively, the 22nd Armoured and 4th Armoured Brigades are expected to arrive during the morning hours.
361st 'Afrika' Regiment
The Germans, of course, have no desire to allow the Allies to retain the ground they had recently seized.  Apart from anything else they wanted that airfield behind the escarpment above Sidi Rezegh.  They also needed to impose rather more distance between 7th Armoured and the Tobruk garrison sortie.  Hastily gathering elements of 21st Panzer Division and the 361st 'Afrika' Regiment, with artillery support, the commander of Afrika Korps, General Ludwig Cruewell launched his attack from the north, some time before the remainder of the 21st Panzer could arrive.  Off to the east down the Trigh Capuzzo elements of 15th Panzer Division was expected to arrive a little after mid-morning.
Elements of 15th Panzer Division
The forces comprised:

Deutsches Afrika Korps:
HQ: General L. Cruewell, kubelwagen, SP=1
Supply Column: truck LOG=4
21 Panzer Division:
     5 Panzer Regiment:
          I/5 Battalion PzIVF1, SP=4
          II/5 Battalion PzIIIH SP=4
          Recon PzIIF R, SP=2
     104 Schuetsen Regiment 
          I/104 Bn, 4 stands, 1 Sdkfz 251, SP=5
          II/104 Bn, 4 stands, 1 truck, SP=5
     Elements 39 Panzerjager Abt:
          1x5cm PaK38 AT gun, SP=2
     155 Artillerie-Regiment
          1x 10.5 cm howitzer, SP =2

361 'Afrika' Regiment:
    I, II, III Battalions each with 4 stands, 1 truck, @ SP=4
(The lower SP value is due to the ill-equipped nature of this formation at this time)
    Attached:  Artillery regiment, 1 x 10.5 cm Howitzer, SP = 2

15 Panzer Division (elements only):
     8 Panzer Regiment:
          I/8 Bn, PzIVF1, SP=4
          II/8 Bn, PzIIIH, SP=4
     15 Infanterie Brigade (elements)
          I/115 Infantry, 4 stands, half track, SP=5

Total DAK: 15 units (incl HQ), 52 SP.

7th Armoured Division.  The infantry transports were
scratchbuilt around resin cabs; the 2pr gun and portee
scratchbuilt from cardboard, balsa, and skewers.
 The Crusader IIIs are standing in for Crusader Is.

Allied 7th Armoured Division:
HQ: Major General W Gott, jeep, SP =1
Supply Column, truck LOG = 4
7 Support Group:     1/ King's Royal Rifle Corps, 4 infantry stands, truck, SP=5
     2/ Rifle Brigade, 4 infantry stands, truck, SP=5
     Anti-tank 2pr gun portee, SP=2
     3 RHA, 1x25pr, SP=2
7 Armoured Brigade:
     7 Hussars, 1 x Crusader, SP=4
     2 Royal Tank Regiment, 1 x Cruiser tank, SP=3
     6 RTR, 1 x Cruiser tank, SP=3
     11 Hussars, 1xHumberII armoured car, R, SP=2 (attached from Div)

22 Armoured Brigade:
     2 Royal Gloucester Hussars, 1 x Cruiser tank, SP=3
     3 County of London Yeomanry, 1 x Crusader tank, SP=4
     4 CLY; 1 x Crusader tank, SP=4

4 Armoured Brigade:
     8 Hussars, 1 x M3 Stuart (Honey), SP=3
     3 RTR, 1 x Honey, SP=3
     4 RTR, 1 x Honey, SP=3

Totals: 15 units (including HQ), 47 SP

The forces are fairly evenly matched in terms of units and strength points, but there are a number of minor additions I would probably make to both another time (Specifically, an extra Artillery regiment on the Allied side, together with an infantry battalion (Scots Guards) attached to 4th Armoured Brigade; and on the German, an extra 'machine gun' battalion (2nd or 8th), and a medium artillery group 'Boettcher', with a 15cm howitzer SP=3)  Such changes will alter the balance very slightly in the German favour, possibly, but since the Germans are attacking with the view e.g. to seizing the airfield, that might nort be a bad thing.

What is interesting, though, is the balance between all arms on the German side, compared with the armour-heavy British, with or without the amendments.

I played this out in two ways:
1.  As a Portable Wargame, slightly amended for the scale (the only 'distant' shooting was by the artillery).
2.  As a Hexblitz game.
How each went will be for another posting...

To be continued...


  1. Looking forward to the game reports!
    As a bit of a North Africa nut I have to point out that neither of the Panzer divisions had their PG in halftracks; all were lorry borne. Sdkfz 251s seem to have been used mostly for command vehicles. The 2x MG btns in 5th Leicte had around 10 each but it's not clear if they were used for troop transport or command. It's not until Tunisia when 10 Panzer appears with "gepanzert" PG.
    I also think you need to consider amending the SPs of the CW armour. By this stage, all had suffered considerable attrition; 22 AB had lost nearly 1/3 of its strength attacking Ariete (around 45 tanks lost). 4AB was badly dispersed and had suffered losses; Crisp indicates his troop of 3 were all that arrived of 4AB. IIRC 7AB had suffered considerable attrition from breakdowns as a lot of their tanks were older cruisers (A9, A10 & A13).
    I will have a dig for more info.
    Sam Mustapha's Rommel. I have a copy. I have read bits but like all his rules I'm left a bit underwhelmed. Rommel suffers from the influence of play testers; the original idea was for battalion stands but this has become "reinforced companies". Having seen comments made by some of these play testers, I think most have failed to make a transition to the mindset of "operational level" rules. This is combined with a "anything by Mustapha is great and I'll play it" attitude (something I have heard is common among the SM "crowd"), means what has emerged is OK but not mindblowingly great IMHO.
    Personally I have more hope in Frank Chadwick's yet to be published "High Command" (current title).

    1. Thank you for your response, Neil. Some onfo there I didn't know about. As for the strengths of the Armoured Brigades, my SP allocation was somewhat arbitrary, though more based upon technicalities than actual strengths.

      If I were to amend the SP values, I'd probably beef up the German panzer battalion SPs rather than reduce the British. with 90 tanks remaining to 22 Arm'd Bde after their encounter with Ariete, I guess the base SP should be 2SP for each the 3 Regiments, +1 each for 'veteran' status (?), +1 for the Crusaders, -1 overall for the unreliability of the equipment (I was being a bit generous there). So 3,3,2 rather than 4,4,3. The Honeys were reliable, but I tended to downgrade them for their 37mm pop-gun.

      In my view popular history has tended to depreciate the 2-pr AT gun and tank guns unfairly.

      Interesting you should mention Frank Chadwick in the context of this level of WW2 game. For years I was a fan of Command Decision, and still think highly of that game system. But after a lot of years with little interest evinced among my acquaintances, I have been forced to move on.

      I have listed to a couple of Mr Mustafa's podcasts on Rommel, in which he allows that the game system is sufficiently flexible that one can make amendments to suit one's circumstances 'without breaking the game'. That might be enough to persuade me to look into it. Unfortunately, the likely expense gives me pause.

      At any rate, the Hexblitz version of the game was pretty intense and exciting - bally hard to go past that!

      All that said, I am still inclined to use multiple small stands for battalions rather than single larger stands. The effect is precisely the same. The areas I have most difficulty with is in the roles of AT guns and battalion or brigade-level equipment; and on top of that getting the effects right in tanks vs infantry encounters. I'll touch on these in my AARs.

  2. Some more info:



    22AB should not be classed as Veteran; they were brand new to the desert and while impetuous and possibly overconfident, lacked experience. 4AB had "seen the elephant" in Greece, although how much that benefited them is questionable. 7AB was a mix of desert veterans and new replacements, so all in all it's debatable whether any of the British armour should be veteran, with a good case for much of it being keen but green. The tanks in Tobruck may be more likely to be veterans.
    Well as an old CDer I have a lot of time for FC. Unfortunately CD is just too "picky"; I don't want to spend time tracking the ammo supply of an infantry gun section or tying to coordinate battalions with 4 different types of stands.
    Most people of my acquaintance simply couldn't get on with CD, as it required investment to play.

    1. Hence my question mark at 'Veteran' for Brit Armour. I had my doubts, for sure. 'Trained' will do, though the 22 Arm'd attack on Ariete seems a bit naive even for 'Trained'. Infantry, OK.

      The odd thing about FC generated rule sets is that I am - or was - fond of CD, but for some reason 'Volley and Bayonet' and I just did not get on. I found the game mechancs and conventions peculiar to say the least.

      I agree that CD required investment. My armies still bear the mark of CD, and that makes adjustments to other rule sets problematic. The trouble is that if one hasn't played the rule set for a long time, one has to 're-invest' i.e. relearn the game. In the end it was too much.

      Thanks for those links, Neil. What I'll probably do is write up the battles I had, then look to redesigning the scenario.


  3. I started a post which disappeared for some reason.
    I had a look at FC's "Benghazi Handicap" which has a scenario for Sidi Rezegh.
    In addition to 4 RHA (off table), 60 FA with 25pdrs is present.
    7 AB consists of 7 Hussars and the composite 2/6 RTR each with an HQ and 1 SQN.
    22AB has all 3 units but each are HQ and 2 composite SQNs.
    KRRC + RB total 4 coys.
    3 RHA at.

    KG Knabe
    II/155 art 2x batt 105mm (off table)
    KG Stefan
    2x panzer bans +HQ
    Battery 105mm
    Battery 88mm flak
    Engineer coy
    Group Boettcher (off table)
    3 batteries 10cm K18
    3 batteries 21cm morser

    FC's operational set are now called "Road to victory" or something like that. Formations are divisions with around 5 elements with options for specialist stands. 3 turns per day, one of which is a night turn. May be offered as a kickstarter.
    Sound interesting.

    Unlike you I am quite taken with VnB (1st edition) as it harks back to older simpler rules, but with a more modern twist.
    I know saving throws put people off.

    Looking forward to your write up.

    1. Thanks for this info, Neil - I did have something of the composition of KG Stefan (Col Stephan according to von Mellinthin, with Pz Rgt 5 [21 Pz Div], 12 field guns and 4 x 8.8cm FlaK), and Boettcher - (heavy artillery) but not so much on KG Knabe. Your list fills some gaps.

      What i did was simply to take the scenario designed in the Honour group forum and halve everything, except the German panzers, which I cut back even further.

      It wan't all downside, though: the games were exciting enough!

      Interested in the FC Div thing. I was looking to adapting the Chris Kemp NQM system with Units/formations comprising 3 rifle/smg/lmg stands, 1 MMG stand, 1 Mortar/infantry gun stand, and 1 infantry Anti-tank stand (ATR, ATRL, 20-25mmm AT gun, with a possible, single figure command/HQ stand. I thought I had 'invented the idea of a Soviet tank or mechanised brigade comprising 1 tank 'stand' and 1 or 2 rifle stands. Turns out someone else already had the same idea!

      I shall have to keep yiz all waiting for the Sidi Rezegh AAR, but. There's a little Napoleonic diversion in the pipeline...

  4. Ion,
    No problem.
    Having re-read the hints given on the FC operational rules, it looks like divisions with battalions as the stands. A useful summary is here:


    I have also been 're-reading Rommel. I'm still not convinced about some of the design decisions, but am not as negative as I felt on first read through. It looks as if I could use my Commands & Colors Holz hex mats as they are an extra hex in each direction (13x9 instead of 12x8). Downside is hexes are 4" as opposed to 6" squares as recommended. This will necessitate some tinkering as the rules have battalions made up of "units" described as roughly company size including all support weapons, so a German tank battalion is made up of say 1 each Panzer II, III and IV. This may appeal to you as I note you use several CD elements per btn. Each unit involved in a combat in a square contributes points to a total combat factor. Obviously a smaller grid reduces what can be "stacked" in a combat, with 1/72 in a smaller grid being the most distortive. Troop scale/size is not mentioned apart from 15mm being crowded in 4" squares, but most pictures show smaller scale figures.
    I'm not sure what company sized units actually contribute aside from possibly aesthetics, as there seems to be little in the way of command and control (handled vis the "Ops dice" on the "Command post") and this is one of my problems. Nominally players take the role of division or corps commanders, yet are concerned with manoeuvring company stands. This to me seems to violate the axiom of a commander issuing orders to one level below, and being aware of a level below that. This would suggest battalions as the unit / stand but was rejected because of artillery not fitting? The game appears to be that classic compromise of being Napoleon while also forming squares.
    I think I will have to fudge battalion stands in 4" hexes. Unfortunately this will play havoc with the combat mechanisms, requiring either multiplying combat factor or accepting lower casualty levels and no doubt results.

    1. Some very illuminating links there! One thing though, anent a comment made in respect of the FC project: I still want to use 1:76 scale kit. I do have some 1:300 scale stuff - quite a bit actually, suitable for Italy or NW Europe - but I have never cottoned to the scale. I have no idea why.

      Totally inconsistent. of course: don't like the figure scale, but all for some enormous ground scale such as 3" to the mile, or something such.

      Years ago I was very pleased with finally completing a CD British Armoured Regiment of 13 tanks (representing 61): 1 HQ Sherman with 4 squadrons of 1 Firefly and 2 Shermans OR 3 squadrons of 1 Firefly and 3 Shermans (it seems that both 'types' of regiment served. 3 of the Fireflies were Matchbox, the 4th is Airfix with a swappable Sherman or Firefly turret).

      These days I am looking towards Div/Corps/Army level games, with 'Units' represented by collections of 'sub-unit' stands. The core of the idea has been the 6 or 6.5 stand infantry unit which might be a battalion, regiment, brigade or (Soviet) Division. Unfortunately, of course, scaling does prevent the subdivision of armour in my own preferred 4-inch/100mm grid cell.

      What about 'free board' then? It seems to me the 3-4 stand armoured battalion would look kinda spiffing. A DAK Panzer Bn of late 1941 might comprise 1xPzIIF, 2xPzIIIH, 1xPzIVF1. That was what I originally had in mind for 21st Panzer in the Sidi Rezegh game. Maybe I should have stuck with it!

      The 4" grid is too restricting to permit this. I also abandoned for the purposes of the Sidi Rezegh game the 6-stand idea as I wanted to include the transport vehicle with the group, yet have the whole contained entirely within the grid cell. The only permissible exception was to be towed weapons. At any rate the 4 stands plus vehicle formed a single unit, with losses accruing to the unit, not the individual stands. I can see that mounting the lot on a larger stand would have its conveniences, but I like the look of looser arrangement.

      On the matter of how 'granular' the game is, while I can understand the notion of homogeneity beyond two command levels below the nominal overall command, I still prefer to represent minor tactics down to the level of the figure, if possible. I do that with my Army level Napoleonic games, permitted by the figures being based individually or in pairs, only. So units can be depicted in square, or advancing in column with skirmishers flung out in front. I like the look. But I take the attitude that I am not only Napoleon at Waterloo, I am the whole Armee du Nord.

      WW2 is too difficult to render in such a way, of course, so the grain is less fine. The stand could indeed represent something about company sized, but would have no independent existence, except in the case of specialists like pioneers or recon units.

      Overall, I'm looking to a game set that can be adapted to any level from Div up, with the scales changing accordingly, but using the same basic units for armour, artillery, recon and infantry. The trick would be to adjust the ancillary equipments to 'fit' the scheme. At the lower and, a single StuG might represent a panzerjager company or abteilung, but at Army level, have to be ignored altogeter, or perhaps amalgamated with other such units to form a Div, Corps or Army-level asset. It's the 'Divisional slice' thing. A StuG company might simply be unrepresentable at Army Corps level. But if there are several such companies - one per Division, say - there might be enough StuGs in numbers to warrant some kind of representation.

      I really must collate all these conversations into a posting or series of postings. When or how, I'm not sure. I have an increasing backlog already!

      I am enjoying this conversation, Neil, which has taken me in all sorts of places and been most revelatory.

  5. Ion,
    I recall been drawn to operational level games but finding myself recoiled by the lack of fine detail.
    Having had a go a writing a set (the bare bones of which worked OK) I have a much better appreciation of what needs to be sacrificed in order to make things playable. Difficult areas (such as artillery) can be "fudged" more easily when things are abstracted.
    I have bought and perused more sets of operational rules than I care to mention to see how others have handled things, with the idea of stealing what bits I liked for my own rules.
    I soon came to the conclusion I'd be better just using them as written.
    The link to Bill's pages shows there is another one of us searching for the "perfect set". He posts on the CD TOB forum which is where we have gleaned the hints about FC's set. From what I can gather, FC's test games at US conventions are with 15mm models. FC likes bigger scale (54mm for VnB!) so you can bet they will cater for all sizes but will be written with 15/20mm in mind. BBB WW2 are designed for 1/300. Bill is also a big micro fan, hence the emphasis in the link.
    Like you I have no real affinity for the scale; maybe 25 years ago I started collecting GHQ for Arab-Israeli. After buying the wrong type of Patton, I remember playing a game in which I managed to straff my own infantry! Neither event enamoured me with the scale. Recently I have laboriously converted 1/87 Roco for a 1967 Israeli army and enjoyed every minute! I have enough stuff for the entire IDF, Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies in 1967 at Megablitz scale. While I have recently stalled (the IDF needs almost every vehicle converted) it's a labour of love and I will have a unique force when complete.
    I have unpainted 15mm desert stuff, designed for use with CD. However my aspirations changed as I was collecting it and I also started collecting 20mm (late war), even duplicating desert stuff but this time designed specifically for Megablitz.
    I've been looking at Rommel in earnest and am now wondering about using the 15mm for that. Stacking limits for attacks is 3"units" which are effectively company stands. I suspect the company stands are to allow mixed armour and infantry and also to tempt FOW players (if I'm being cynical). On a further read, there are some interesting bits. I'm still not 100% sold on them as they don't feel complete; the support and free stuff on the website goes someway to alleviate this, but I still have doubts.
    Your 'design goals' of using 20mm and fitting it in a given area are both reasonable and achievable. I'm working on table size; I figure I'm more likely to play using the available kitchen table as I lack a dedicated room, the garage simply being too full of "stuff". With a limited area, but no desire for micro scales, makes you focus on what can be achieved. C and C provided a revelation that a standard 13 x 9 4"/100mm hex mat would fit with room to spare on a 3' table led to exploring those various systems. Further investigation of Hexblitz and Rommel, partly prompted by your experiments has confirmed the viability of this approach. A benefit is limiting army size which (partly) contains normal megalomaniac impulses, by focusing on base sizes. I reckon you are limited in practical terms to around 80 square mm per hex give or take, so either 1 big stand or 2-4 smaller (say 40mm square). Megablitz btns would work, although you would struggle to get more than 2 armour in a hex. These stands of course could be anything from a platoon to a Corps if you use a variable scale.
    Still working this out.
    It's nice to know however that there are like minded individuals who are looking at this but also agonizing over details rather than just the "game"; aside from Bill there's also Steven (Balagan) who thinks about this way more than is healthy! As you say a stimulating conversation....