Campaign for North Africa 40-43 Analysis (Full Version)

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Curtis Lemay -> Campaign for North Africa 40-43 Analysis (9/5/2009 9:44:26 PM)

Frustrated with the absence of any decent TOAW Article section anywhere since the one at GameSquad went AWOL, I've decided to just post re-prints of them as threads here on this board. This is the original Article except for a single post about the revisions since it was first posted.




Curtis Lemay -> RE: Campaign for North Africa 40-43 Analysis (9/5/2009 9:45:53 PM)

Campaign for North Africa 40-43 Analysis


By Bob Cross


I recognize that my ďCampaign for North Africa 40-43Ē scenario has a number of features that can make the strategy and tactics necessary to excel at it unfamiliar to even very experienced TOAW players. Those features include huge movement allowances, a low attrition divider setting, vast maneuver spaces with unsecured flanks, multiple shifts in initiative, well differentiated unit types, naval strategy, air strategy, etc.
Therefore, Iíve endeavored to draft an analysis of it, in hopes of easing the learning curve for those unfamiliar with it. Hopefully this will improve the play and enjoyment of all that try it, since there is surprisingly little margin (for a 242-turn scenario) to learn on the fly. The Axis player must complete Grazianiís offensive in the first few turns, and the Commonwealth player must make the most of the initial shock bonus in OíConnorís offensive. Failure to have all the necessary skills well in hand right at the start can be disastrous for either player.

Iíve attached a zip file containing five spreadsheet analyses of the respective forces in the full 242-turn campaign. They contain separate analyses of Armor, Infantry, Artillery, and Aircraft, plus an analysis of shock, air shock, theater recon, and force supply. These analyses should show the roots of the seesaw nature of the campaign. Readers should download this file and refer to its contents to follow the first part of the discussion.

After that discussion, Iíll then make use of game screen dumps from one completed test and one in-progress test between Jeremy MacDonald and myself. This will illustrate a number of tactical and strategic issues weíve uncovered in those tests. Note that the zip file also contains a spreadsheet analysis of the loss statistics from that completed game. It will be referred to at the end of the discussion on that completed game.

For an introductory view of the scenario, refer to its rugged defense page:

http://www.the-strategist.net/RD/scenarii/display_scenario.php?Id=45




Curtis Lemay -> UPDATES (9/5/2009 9:47:49 PM)

UPDATES


The scenario itself is available in the TOAW III WWII - Mediterranean scenario folder.

Note that the test games were played on ACOW version 1.04 using CFNA version 5. This article was originally written back in October of 2004 Ė almost five years ago. The scenario is now on version 9, designed for TOAW III version 3.2. This means that the scenario has been extensively revised since these tests (in fact, many of the revisions were due to these test results). Therefore, some of the principles discussed in the article no longer apply.

Grazianiís Offensive has been revised as follows:
1. The Axis choice to cancel the ceasefire must now be made on turn 1 and will be visible to the CW player.
2. The Italian rear-area forces that begin along the coast have been placed in reserve till OíConnorís Raid begins. They will not be available for Grazianiís Offensive Ė weakening it.
3. Arrival of the 2nd and 7th RTR tank units have been delayed. This facilitates the Italian capture of the required hexes.
4. The 6th Australian Division is released earlier at a cost of lower unit proficiencies (less training time). This will help stop an Italian juggernaut.
5. The original versions of the 70th Infantry, 6th Australian and 4th Indian Divisions are now motorized.
6. CW units now have some tracked carriers added to their TO&Es Ė Bren Carriers. Obviously, this toughens them a bit.
7. The CW now begins with some ďon handĒ equipment sufficient to cancel the expected losses to the frontier CW forces at the start of Grazianiís Offensive.
8. Those CW frontier defenders Ė most of which began sub-divided Ė now have their proficiencies lowered so that, if recombined, they will rise to normal CW levels.
9. The CW Theater Option to start OíConnorís Raid early is now available even if the ceasefire is canceled. It can thus be used as an emergency safety net, if the CW get into real trouble against Graziani.

These changes will somewhat blunt the power of Grazianiís Offensive.

OíConnorís Raid has been revised as follows:
1. The Arrival of the Ariete, Trento, and Sirte divisions and the 10th Brs. Rgt. have been delayed.
2. The OíConnorís Raid shock has been increased a bit.
3. The Italian player now has turn deadlines to hold Tobruk & Derna in order to retain the safe harbor inside 20 hexes from the western map edge that the Italians can retreat to. This prevents the Italian player from just cutting and running as soon as OíConnorís Raid begins.

These change will somewhat ease the execution of OíConnorís Raid.

Post OíConnorís Raid has been revised as follows:
1. The Tobruk minefield shock effects have been discarded. They are now replaced by physical minefield units.
2. The RN is no longer removed when El Alamein is captured Ė it goes into garrison instead. If El Alamein is recaptured, it is restored to mobile mode. It is not removed until Alexandria is captured.
3. The initial Rommel shock effects have been reduced.
4. Supply units now must remain on an Improved Road. This will make the ďbelow QattaraĒ option less desirable.

These changes will make Rommelís Offensives somewhat more difficult.

Keep these changes in mind while reading the game result conclusions noted in the article.

Significant changes that nevertheless wonít affect any of the article topics are:
1. MRPB is now set to 3.
2. The scenario now uses a modified equipment database.




Curtis Lemay -> Spreadsheet downloads (9/5/2009 9:51:51 PM)

Attached are half the spreadsheets referenced by the Article in a zip file. It is about 161KB total.




Curtis Lemay -> RE: Spreadsheet downloads (9/5/2009 9:53:43 PM)

And here are the rest in another zip file - about 173KB.




Curtis Lemay -> Spreadsheet analysis (9/5/2009 9:55:13 PM)

Readers should now have access to the spreadsheets.

Note that in devising them, I omitted all garrison units. This was because garrisons canít be used offensively, and can be destroyed under the most favorable attacker circumstances at minimal loss. So, in particular, the large Italian garrisons that start on the map donít figure into the calculations.

In addition, in most cases I assumed that withdrawn units would have 80% of their TO&E upon withdrawal. This particularly affects the Commonwealth numbers since they have most of the withdrawals. Note that this assumption may prove to be wildly inaccurate, as the owning player will try to minimize it while the enemy player will try to maximize it. Both will have tactics available to employ in that effort, and I can have no way to know in advance who will be more successful. So bear that in mind while viewing the spreadsheet charts.

Also, the analysis is entirely quantitative. In other words, no consideration was made for the quality of equipment or proficiency of units in the analysis. A tank is a tank whether itís an L3/35 or a PzKpfw IV-F2. This will tend to overestimate Italian strength and underestimate German strength. So bear that in mind as well.

Nor was any consideration made for release dates or method or distance to travel to the front. Units figured into the tables upon arrival on map.

Spreadsheet entries for each particular equipment item consist of unit arrivals and contributions from the replacement tracks. These are then summed to form a total (sometimes subtotals for type or nationality are included as well). Finally a difference of Commonwealth minus Axis totals is formed. Charts of each column are then produced. The rest of this discussion will focus on the final difference chart from each spreadsheet.




Curtis Lemay -> RE: Spreadsheet analysis (9/5/2009 9:57:20 PM)

Attached is the Armor difference chart. The blue line shows armored cars; yellow shows tanks; and red shows the total of those. Y-axis Gridlines are every 200 AFVs. The x-axis shows turns from start to 241 by two. The chart implies that the Commonwealth is better supplied with cars than tanks, but that is deceptive since Italian light tanks are no better than cars (but are counted as tanks due to the fact that they have tracks not wheels).

This chart probably illustrates the seesaw nature of the campaign better than any of the others:

Turns 1-5 favor the Axis (Grazianiís Offensive)
Turns 7-45 favor the Commonwealth (OíConnorís Raid)
Turns 47-77 favor the Axis (Rommelís First Offensive)
Turns 79-109 slowly shift the initiative back to the Commonwealth (Operations Brevity & Battle-ax)
Turns 111-141 favor the Commonwealth (Operation Crusader)
Turns 143-187 favor the Axis (Rommelís Second Offensive & Gazala)
Turns 189-241 favor the Commonwealth (El Alamein)

This clearly shows that Rommelís First Offensive is the most favorable time for the Axis and the Commonwealth player will be tested severely to survive this phase. If he does, the Axis player will probably have another (less favorable) chance to win between turns 143 and 187. If this hasnít been accomplished by turn 189, the jig is probably up for the Axis after that.

The chart also shows that the Axis player probably would be wise to accept the cease-fire after completing Grazianiís Offensive, since the armor situation will go against him quickly after that.

The Commonwealth advantage in OíConnorís Raid is probably enough to win before Rommelís First Offensive if only the rules allowed it, but they donít. And the Commonwealth advantage during Crusader is probably too short to allow game ending victory during that period (and, as we shall see below, other equipment ratios arenít so favorable during that period). Therefore, the Commonwealth player will usually have to make it to the El Alamein phase before reaching final victory. That will mean he will have to weather two significant phases favorable to the Axis to survive to that point. He will need the full suite of skills to do so. And therein lies the fun of the scenario.

[image]local://upfiles/14086/07A7B75697FF440D9F27F2D57F8EF503.jpg[/image]




Curtis Lemay -> RE: Spreadsheet analysis (9/5/2009 9:58:55 PM)

Attached is the Infantry difference chart. Y-axis Gridlines are every 1000 squads. The x-axis shows turns from start to 241.

The first thing one notices is that the Axis side starts with about a 2000 squad superiority. Needless to say, the Commonwealth player must carry out OíConnorís Raid successfully enough to erase that edge. Failure to do so will leave him in a very vulnerable position when Rommel arrives. Fortunately, a number of built-in advantages will make that more than possible. These will be discussed further down.

Assuming the Commonwealth player successfully achieves the above, the infantry situation is similar to the armor chart, with a few exceptions.

Turns 1-15 favors the Axis (Grazianiís Offensive)
Turns 17-47 favors the Commonwealth (OíConnorís Raid)
Turns 49-81 favors the Axis (Rommelís First Offensive)
Turns 83-139 favors neither side (Brevity through Crusader)
Turns 141-161 favors the Axis (Rommelís Second Offensive)
Turns 163-181 favors neither side (Gazala)
Turns 183-241 favors the Commonwealth (El Alamein)

The above periods mirror the ones for armor. But note that, unlike with armor, the Commonwealth gets little advantage in infantry during Crusader. And the Axis infantry advantage in Rommelís Second Offensive is shorter than with armor.

This again supports the same conclusions as the armor chart did. Axis should probably accept the cease-fire. Best Axis chance for victory is in Rommelís First Offensive with a lessor chance in his Second Offensive. The Commonwealth probably must wait for the El Alamein phase for a real chance of victory.

[image]local://upfiles/14086/C7D2A9372232433692972700B34F8B2B.jpg[/image]




Curtis Lemay -> RE: Spreadsheet analysis (9/5/2009 10:00:07 PM)

Attached is the Artillery difference chart. Y-axis Gridlines are every 200 guns. The x-axis shows turns from start to 241.

Similar to the infantry chart, it is obvious that the Axis side starts with about a 360-gun superiority. As with the infantry, the Commonwealth player needs to carry out OíConnorís Raid successfully enough to erase that edge. The same built-in advantages will help in that. But artillery may prove more difficult in that regard. Thatís because artillery, unlike Italian infantry, is motorized and will tend to be deployed in the rear areas. Those facts will somewhat facilitate their escape. This will prove to be a critical factor in the scenario outcome. Let too much Axis artillery escape OíConnorís Raid and Rommelís First Offensive will be very hard to stop.

But assuming that the Commonwealth player is successful at the above, we can see that the artillery chart is not so seesaw as armor or even infantry.

Turns 1-19 favor the Axis
Turns 21-49 slightly favor the Commonwealth
Turns 51-81 slightly favor the Axis
Turns 83-165 favor neither side
Turns 167-241 strongly favor the Commonwealth

There is still some slight advantage one way or the other a few times up to about turn 167. But up to that time the differences are not pronounced. After turn 167 things start to favor the Commonwealth strongly.

[image]local://upfiles/14086/5F41B9029D1F46129F3BC166B9D29B64.jpg[/image]




Curtis Lemay -> RE: Spreadsheet analysis (9/5/2009 10:01:32 PM)

Attached is the Airforce difference chart. Y-axis Gridlines are every 200 planes. The x-axis shows turns from start to 241 by two. The blue line is fighters; yellow is bombers; red is the total of those.

This chart is quite different from the previous ones. The Axis start with a superiority of 180 planes and this more or less steadily grows to a max of 605 on turn 129 (note that this is about the time of Crusader). It then steadily shifts back to the Commonwealth until parity is reached on turn 193. It then rapidly grows until reaching maximum superiority of 966 on the final turn.

Clearly, this is a major reason why the Commonwealth will have difficulty knocking the Axis out during Crusader. In fact, the Commonwealth player will have to rely on good strategic deployment of his air units to survive until the El Alamein phase of the game. How to do this will be discussed later. It also shows, as all the other charts did, that the jig is up for the Axis player by about turn 190.

[image]local://upfiles/14086/05A54BEF0FD84812957EB88A168B6A43.jpg[/image]




Curtis Lemay -> RE: Spreadsheet analysis (9/5/2009 10:03:08 PM)

Now we move on to the shock spreadsheet. This covers force parameters rather than equipment numbers. It has charts covering shock, air shock, theater recon, and force supply stockpile.

Attached is the shock chart. Y-axis Gridlines are every 10%. The x-axis shows turns from start to 241 by two. The blue line is Axis shock; red is Commonwealth.

During Grazianiís Offensive, Axis shock starts at zero then drops to -8% from turns 3-23. Upon the start of OíConnorís raid, it drops to Ė60% on turn 25, rises to Ė30% on turn 27, and rises back to Ė8% from turns 29-47. These shock penalties are part of the reasons why OíConnorís raid can overcome the Axis initial infantry and artillery superiorities.

When Rommel arrives the Axis side gains a +4% shock bonus until Monty arrives on turn 201. Coupled with the Commonwealth Ė4% penalty over most of this period, it makes this a dangerous time for the Commonwealth.

At the start of this period there are two deeper shocks representing the shock of Rommelís arrival (-10%) and the shock of the capture of OíConnor (-20%). Itís critical that the Commonwealth forces be well separated from the Africa Corps during these two periods, especially the latter one. Finally, there is a one time respite from the Ė4% shock on turn 123 (Crusader) which may help facilitate that offensive.

Note: These values are slightly different under version 9. Refer to the scenario documentation.

[image]local://upfiles/14086/E3EF8369BEAA4498B7F79487B3CD9BEF.jpg[/image]




Curtis Lemay -> RE: Spreadsheet analysis (9/5/2009 10:04:15 PM)

Attached is the air shock chart. Y-axis Gridlines are every 20%. The x-axis shows turns from start to 241 by two. The blue line is Axis air shock; red is Commonwealth.

The Axis air shock penalties on turns 3-47 are similar to the Axis shock penalties on those turns. The Commonwealth air shock penalties on Rommelís arrival and OíConnorís capture are also similar to the Commonwealth shock penalties on those turns.

The significant difference in this chart is the Axis air shock bonus on turns 177-181. This represents temporary Axis use of air assets that had been earmarked for the invasion of Malta after that invasion was canceled. Rommel wanted them used for his advance on El Alamein. They basically represent the last gasp of the Axis chances. But if the issue is close, this final boost may push the Axis over the top.

[image]local://upfiles/14086/EAC3488216AC4DBCBB1DDFBB049ED0E1.jpg[/image]




Curtis Lemay -> RE: Spreadsheet analysis (9/5/2009 10:05:33 PM)

Attached is the theater recon chart. Y-axis Gridlines are every 5%. The x-axis shows turns from start to 241 by two. The blue line is Axis theater recon; red is Commonwealth.

Just note that the Axis operates blind during Grazianiís Offensive and OíConnorís Raid, while the Commonwealth operates blind from Rommelís First Offensive to the start of the El Alamein phase.

[image]local://upfiles/14086/85330083560F472C93814D48DFFDE5A8.jpg[/image]




Curtis Lemay -> RE: Spreadsheet analysis (9/5/2009 10:06:41 PM)

Attached is the force supply level chart. Y-axis Gridlines are every 10%. The x-axis shows turns from start to 241 by two. The blue line is Axis force supply level; red is Commonwealth.

While the Commonwealth level progressively improves, note that the Axis level trends through good and bad periods. Unfortunately for the Commonwealth player, the period of his greatest danger (Rommelís First Offensive through Crusader) is one of the good periods.

In addition, note that during the period for Grazianiís Offensive and OíConnorís raid the Axis have a shorter supply radius and no supply units, in addition to the low force supply level shown. This is one more reason why canceling the cease-fire can be a bad idea for the Axis player.

[image]local://upfiles/14086/25B8E8E12DE547DC8F700E15F0D24B66.jpg[/image]




Curtis Lemay -> First Test Game - Axis Turn 4 (9/5/2009 10:09:31 PM)

I now want to illustrate some points from the completed game between Jeremy Macdonald and myself. Jeremy played the Commonwealth and I played the Axis. The game ended after 104 turns with the Commonwealth wiped off the map. In other words, the Commonwealth failed to survive its most dangerous period in the game Ė Rommelís First Offensive. Now that will be a very dangerous time for the Commonwealth player no matter what he does. But I want to illustrate how Jeremyís unfamiliarity with the scenarioís eccentricities helped bring about that result.

First, we need to set up OíConnorís Raid. This shot is of the end of the Axis turn 4. Note that the microscreen has been added in the upper left corner for orientation purposes. Sidi Barrani has just been captured. The Commonwealth is in no shape to retake it. Since I didnít select the TO to cancel the cease-fire, it will begin on turn 5. This, then, shows the end of Grazianiís Offensive.

Note that trying to stop the 10th Army from reaching its required objectives may have been a tempting strategy in earlier versions of CFNA. But it isnít anymore. In Jeremyís defense, we had started this game just to test that very question. This left him a bit worse off than if he had just retreated, but it was quickly made good via replacements and reconstitution. Plus, to his advantage, my ending position is far more exposed than it would have been if I had not had to fight for Sidi Barrani. Next turn the cease-fire will start and the Axis formations will be in garrison mode, unable to adjust from these ending locations.

[image]local://upfiles/14086/E7FC32F6ABAB43548BE5FCFBB56A96A8.jpg[/image]




Curtis Lemay -> First Test Game - Axis Turn 23 (9/5/2009 10:11:50 PM)

This is a shot of the start of the Axis turn 23, just prior to the start of OíConnorís Raid (Jeremy opted to use the TO to start one turn early). Note all the formations in Garrison deployment, due to the cease-fire. It shows the task the Commonwealth faces. Reinforcements that have arrived since the start of the cease-fire have been used to defend in depth on the flanks. Iím most concerned about a pincer drive from the south to the seacoast, pocketing the entire force. Thatís why Sofafi and Halfaya Pass are well garrisoned.

In the actual event, though, that wasnít Jeremyís strategy. He came from a different direction. Not only did the Commonwealth break though above Sidi Barrani and a few other places from the east, the shock penalty left the most valuable formations in reorganization. Little could be salvaged from the forward areas.

[image]local://upfiles/14086/033CFBA6AAA5473398BF52297C291A51.jpg[/image]




Curtis Lemay -> RE: First Test Game - CW Turn 27 (9/5/2009 10:15:02 PM)

The attached screen shot shows the start of the Commonwealth turn 27, shortly after the start of OíConnorís Raid. Note the microscreen in the top left corner. This is where Jeremy starts to have problems.

Some of this will be pretty basic to experienced players, but Jeremy seemed to have been less experienced with battalion-scale scenario tactics. In particular he was sometimes using units as if they were undifferentiated by type.

Jeremy has done a good job penetrating the Axis defenses and pocketing much of 10th Army, as any Commonwealth player must by this point. But note the artillery units Iíve circled in red. This is not the proper use of artillery units in this game. They do not belong in the front lines. In fact, Jeremy was including these artillery units in assaults, resulting in artillery losses he should never have incurred, and failing to benefit from their normal supporting effects. Also note the absence of most of the Commonwealth armor from this view. Most of it was out on the southern flank, serving as a shield. As a result, the pockets had to be reduced with infantry, resulting in more infantry losses than should have been incurred.

The absence of armor is particularly troubling because the pockets contain a lot of Italian armor. Commonwealth armor would have been much better at killing the Italian armor. These are 1940-vintage squads and they donít have AT weapons. Even AT guns are scarce and small-caliber at first. That will improve over the course of the game for the Commonwealth and Germans as empty slots for progressively larger AT guns are filled from the replacement tracks. But for most of the scenario friendly armor is almost essential to kill enemy armor.

Jeremy did eliminate the pockets, but at too high a cost in squads and guns. Not only did this leave him vulnerable upon Rommelís arrival, but also he was vulnerable to an immediate counterattack, that delayed and weakened him further. As a result, significant 10th Army artillery escaped and the high tide of OíConnorís Raid never even reached Benghazi. This allowed a more powerful Africa Korps to get started ahead of schedule, with serious consequences.

This illustrates my point that players need the full suite of skills right off the bat. OíConnorís Raid will probably be the first offensive moves of the Commonwealth player in this scenario. He needs to know all the tactics immediately.

[image]local://upfiles/14086/F0DE85CFA62A4098A4733618452A56CA.jpg[/image]




Curtis Lemay -> RE: First Test Game - CW Turn 27 (9/5/2009 10:16:20 PM)

It is important to understand that in this battalion-scale scenario, units have very different capabilities and need to be used in their proper function. Artillery should be held in the rear for both offensive and defensive bombardment purposes. Considering that your opponent will also be using artillery in this fashion, you will find that armor (including recon) makes the best shock troops, due to its immunity from artillery. Infantry should be preserved for holding ground, if possible. Of course, since armor can be in short supply, infantry will have to be the second choice for shock troops. But effort should be made, if possible, to mitigate their losses by disentrenching any in-range enemy artillery first (that knocks it out of support mode).

Artillery units should almost never be used in the shock troop role or in any frontline defense role. Think of them as gold. Preserve them at all costs. Destroy enemy artillery at any opportunity. Artillery superiority is virtually a prerequisite for offensive action. Always try to have your artillery in good defensive deployment at the end of your turn, with a defensive barrier of combat units between them and the enemy. Allowing the enemy easy combat access to your artillery is bad form.

This can be a complicated problem due to the random risk of early turn ending. It is usually best not to wait till the end of the turn to dig your artillery in. There is a lot of art in that decision since if you dig in too early, the large movement rates may result in the battle advancing beyond the range of the, now dug-in, artillery. But there is nothing worse than the turn ending early and all your artillery is in mobile mode. You will be defenseless in the coming enemy phase. One strategy is to place your artillery in a reserve mode so that they provide half-strength help to all attacks in range. The advantage is that they still can move if the turn continues, yet they can defensively support in that mode if the turn ends early. But if they have MPs left, they can also move right into the arms of the enemy attackers, getting decimated in the process. Itís a tough problem that requires high skill and luck.

Auxiliary unit-types, such as HQs, AAA, AT, and engineers will make poor shock troops because they incur higher hex conversion costs than infantry and armor. This is because of the high movement rates of this scenario. Each hex costs 10% of a unitís MP to convert, absent recon bonuses. Auxiliary units have been denied recon assets in this scenario to intentionally ensure that they will be poor hex converting units. Frontline units like armor and infantry, however, have been liberally supplied with recon assets, to make them very good at hex conversion. If in good health, they will never pay more than 1 extra MP to convert a hex. This has a very realistic effect on the play of the scenario. Frontline units tend to fill frontline roles and rear area units like auxiliary units and artillery tend to be unable to fill those roles, except defensively, and therefore tend to stay in the rear where they belong. In some TOAW scenarios you will often see auxiliary units like HQs and AAA units spearheading breakthroughs. They wonít be able to do that in this scenario and that is a good thing. Spearheads will be armor, recon, or motorized infantry.

And donít forget that HQs and engineers have special functions. HQs have support and command squads, the loss of which affects formation supply rates and formation proficiency levels. Engineers may be needed to repair bridges in the Nile delta. Both should be kept out of combat for those reasons.

The air formation base support units are worthless as combat units. They lack any active equipment. As such, they can be easily overrun by any combat unit, or even by other base support units. They should be held in the rear doing functions like converting hexes in bypassed areas (in fact, Iíve specifically left them in the game so they can perform that function). Occasionally they can be sacrificed to help combat units break contact with enemy units. But note that once destroyed they wonít return.

The supply units are equally worthless in any form of combat regardless of the defense numbers on their counters. They must be kept safely in the rear to preserve them for their critical supply extension function. To that end they must be kept more than 25 hexes apart to all remain functional.




Curtis Lemay -> First Test Game - Axis Turn 32 (9/5/2009 10:18:35 PM)

Hereís a screen shot of the end of my turn 32. Note the microscreen in the lower right corner. This illustrates the counterattack I mentioned at the last shot. Jeremy has almost finished off the pockets, but has yet to shift all those forces to this flank. Iíve exploited that. But note that it has foundered on the Matilda battalion (circled in blue) that Jeremy has broken up into companies. Other tank battalions on this flank have been destroyed, but the Matildas are too well armored.

As the Axis player, you will learn to hate Matildas. Practically nothing you have can kill them directly and the Commonwealth has lots of them. The one possible exception is the Stukas, but they should be used sparingly to save them for the Royal Navy (weíll get to that later). But what I eventually learned is that if you attack with enough mass against them, you can get them to move backwards. Then it just becomes a matter of cutting off their retreat path. Unfortunately, excessive mass in attack becomes fodder for the enemy artillery. So you have a choice of paying a high price or waiting till the guns have been knocked out of support.

Also, note the way Iíve dug-in my artillery units in the rear (circled in red), as centrally located as possible. This provides both offensive and defensive bombardment support as well as safety for the artillery units. This is the preferred ending condition of your artillery to strive for.

Finally, at about this time, Jeremy was sending his fleet back to Alexandria under the mistaken rational that doing so would speed up supply recovery for it. Actually, tests showed that naval units receive the same supply level regardless of location. The only factor that affects their supply recovery rate is whether they have moved or provided support in the previous turn. So returning them to Alexandria is actually counterproductive for supply recovery, in addition to denying the Commonwealth player the use of the fleet during the trip. The only reason to return to Alexandria is for safety reasons, which weíll get to later. But they donít apply during OíConnorís Raid.

[image]local://upfiles/14086/0E694A2F5DAA4F0CA844495BD05BF521.jpg[/image]




Curtis Lemay -> First Test Game - CW Turn 38 (9/5/2009 10:22:47 PM)

This screen shot is of the start of the Commonwealth turn 38. Note that the counteroffensive has been balked, and the Axis forces will soon have to run for it, salvaging what they can. (Ominously for the Commonwealth, they salvaged six artillery regiments totaling 216 guns and 12 other combat battalions of various types). Meanwhile, note that Jeremy is now employing his artillery correctly, as shown circled in red, but he lost a total of 167 guns post cease-fire.

[image]local://upfiles/14086/178AC3591444465BB9B5E04C6DCB77BC.jpg[/image]




Curtis Lemay -> First Test Game - Axis Turn 54 (9/5/2009 10:25:57 PM)

This is a shot of the start of my turn 54. Note the microscreen in the lower left corner. The remnants of the Italian 10th Army fell back to El Agheila, but reinforced by the Afrika Korps, are back with a vengeance. This shot illustrates how big a head start the Afrika Korps has gotten. Refer to the starting setup of the ďDesert FoxĒ version to see where the Afrika Korps was at this point historically. This is a fun part of the scenario. It's hard to find any other scenario that has any comparable situation. It more resembles a naval battle than your normal front vs. front deal. Itís filled with strategic decisions about how much force to allocate to various tasks and contingencies.

Also, this is the first time the Axis theater recon has been non-zero. Iíve finally gotten a glimpse of Jeremyís overall deployment in the microscreen. Note how deep into the desert he has stretched out his line. When I first saw this, I figured he was planning to let me pass near the coast and poach on my supply lines afterwards. That might have been interesting.

But it soon became clear that he was actually trying to secure his hanging flank on the southern map edge. This is a common failing of players new to the scenario. Theyíre not used to having a flank hanging in the air and want it secured against something. But, except for the El Alamein area, that just isnít possible. The desert is too deep and the forces too small. By spreading out in this fashion, his forces are too thin to achieve anything. Iím just going to punch right through them.

One of the exciting features of this scenario is that the need to stretch out to counter enemy flanking efforts is countered by the need to concentrate to counter enemy breakthrough efforts. Thereís no easy solution. It makes for very fluid, dynamic, and heart-stopping clashes. Players will have to learn to deal with it

[image]local://upfiles/14086/E753F47A2CFC4405A703229575EC08B9.jpg[/image]




Curtis Lemay -> First Test Game - Axis Turn 59 start (9/5/2009 10:30:06 PM)

Attached is the start of my turn 59 showing the situation just south of Tobruk. Note the microscreen in the lower right corner. Notice that Jeremy has just abandoned a one-turn delaying line (leaving a bit of flotsam & jetsam behind in doing so) and set up a new temporary position seven hexes to the east (marked in red). Fog of war obscures many of the units in this new line. The rational appears to be just to delay my rate of advance. He has already cycled through this procedure a couple of times further west, with similar results. Now that in and of itself is wasteful enough, but now weíve come to turn 59.

Part of his problem here is that he didnít get far enough with OíConnorís Raid, so that Rommel got a head start. Historically, the Axis spearhead would be in the area of Mechili at this time, not past Tobruk. That re-emphasizes how important it is for the Commonwealth player to execute OíConnorís Raid successfully and completely, so that the Axis are beyond arms-length from Tobruk by the time the big shock penalty hits.

Remember the shock chart. On turn 59 OíConnor is captured and the Commonwealth is socked with a 25% shock penalty (20% in the latest version). As I said, the Commonwealth player doesnít want his forces to be anywhere near the Axis forces when that penalty hits. Iím about to show why.

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Curtis Lemay -> First Test Game - Axis Turn 59 end (9/5/2009 10:33:21 PM)

This screen shot shows the situation at the end of the same turn 59. The red line is in the same place as the last shot. Itís actually worse than it looks, since the shock penalty has put a large fraction of Commonwealth units in reorganization, dooming them. Even the ones that can move will have a hard time escaping the noose closing towards Bardia. Over the next few turns the Commonwealth suffers a debacle on both sides of the penetration and beyond.

And it was so unnecessary. Part of this may have been that Jeremy was unaware of the shock coming or didnít know how bad its effect would be. And he may have been surprised by how far the reach of units with 65 MP extends or how quickly healthy units can be evaporated with an attrition divider of 4. But, even after the game was over, I still couldnít convince Jeremy that he was erring here. This is another common failing of players new to the scenario. They think territory is more important than forces. They would rather sacrifice equipment than succumb to the scorchingly fast territorial shifts so common in this game. I commonly see Commonwealth players trying to fight Rommelís First Offensive all the way from Benghazi or worse. After they lose they then wonder how anyone could win with the Commonwealth. Well, whether anyone can or not, they must at least follow a sounder strategy that that to have a chance.

I canít emphasize this enough: force preservation supercedes almost all territorial positions. The only territory the Axis player canít afford to lose is his reinforcement hexes on the far western edge of the map. Similarly the Commonwealth player canít afford to lose his reinforcement hexes on the far eastern edge of the map either. He also will be greatly harmed by the loss of Alexandria, and the loss of the El Alamein position will facilitate that loss, giving it special importance too. But other than those, all other territory can be abandoned at will multiple times, until the end of the game. Itís possible to completely convert the entire map at a leisurely pace in about 50 turns. Donít ever think you canít fall back. Especially since both players can expect to face conditions so lopsided that they have to have the maximum defensive benefits available to survive.

One little aside on this shot: note the air unit (circled in blue). This is another problem. Jeremy kept his air units too close to the front. That facilitated my destroying the Commonwealth airforce. But weíll discuss that in the air strategy section.

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Curtis Lemay -> First Test Game - Axis Turn 68 (9/5/2009 10:39:15 PM)

There is one exception to the above rule about territory. It is generally useful to defend Tobruk because the defensive benefits of its terrain usually reward the defender with a net plus in losses. This is especially true for the Commonwealth since there are special minefield benefits built into the game. Furthermore, the Commonwealth can expend units scheduled for withdrawal for that purpose, gaining even further. Just remember that trying to prevent or even delay (as in the previous example) the investment of Tobruk is a bad idea during the First Offensive phase.

This screen shot shows the defense of Tobruk at the start of the Axis game turn 68. Jeremy has chosen the 70th Infantry Division and the 18th Australian Brigade as the forces to be sacrificed in Tobruk. Considering that the 70th Infantry Division is scheduled to be withdrawn on turn 71 and the 18th Australian Brigade is scheduled to be withdrawn on turn 89, there is little consequence to the Commonwealth forces. In the actual assault, the defenders caused as great a loss to the attackers as they absorbed. Jeremy did a good job here.

Note that there was no need for me to use German units in this assault. At this point in the game, the Germans werenít getting replacement squads or tanks. They needed to be conserved for a more critical contest. German squad replacements donít start till turn 81. Tank replacements donít start till turn 121 (Pz IIIs) or turn 135 (Pz IVs). This makes the German units rather hollow till about mid-game. Use them as sparingly as possible.

Can a Crusader-like situation develop, with Axis forces attacking into Tobruk while Commonwealth forces try to link up in a rescue? In my opinion, not until near the Crusader period, and by then, Tobruk will be long lost. Iíve tried all sorts of different things to make Tobruk have a chance of surviving till Crusader. Nothing has worked. Iíve concluded that itís just a 20:20 hindsight problem. Rommel didnít realize how short his window of opportunity was to exploit his First Offensive advantage, so he dallied. No Axis player will make that mistake. They will drive hell-bent-for-leather for Tobruk. This gives the scenario a non-historical aspect in this one regard. Thatís wargaming.

Finally, note that the scenario has changed somewhat since this game was played. The Tobruk defenses now include fortified hexes and the minefield shock penalty has been scrapped. The optimum deployment arrangement may be a bit more constricted than shown in this screen shot.

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Curtis Lemay -> First Test Game - CW Turn 73 (9/5/2009 10:41:52 PM)

Well, if Tobruk canít stand, then the Commonwealth had better fall back. Where to?

Hereís a shot of the Commonwealth turn 73. Note the microscreen in the lower right corner. Jeremy has fallen back to a line in front of Mersa Matruh. It should be obvious that this is a pretty long line to defend. The total length is 26 hexes. Itís so long Jeremy only has enough units to man a single defense line, although he has been able to form a significant reserve, giving him some counterattack potential. But his artillery has been spread pretty thin. This may have been either a case of not wanting to part with some valuable territory or a theory that fighting for every hex is the best way to safeguard the El Alamein position. Regardless, I think it was a mistake. This was too far forward. Falling back to the line (marked in red) at the eastern end of the shot, near Fuka, would have shortened the line to 15 hexes, creating a stronger defense with a bigger reserve.

Nevertheless, given that one is to defend along this line, the defense is well structured. Breaking it will be tough. But I have a total of 676 guns at the front and 178 level bombers. Jeremy is defending with 267 guns and 58 level bombers. But his level bombers are mostly unusable due to my air superiority. Without the 216 guns salvaged from 10th Army, I would have had only about 460 guns. Itís difficult to say how much artillery the Commonwealth would now have had they suffered no losses during OíConnorís Raid or below Tobruk, because some of those lost would have been withdrawn anyway. But they would surely have had much more.

Note one other item. The (circled in blue) supply unit at the bottom is on a peak hex. That causes all hexes within 8 hexes of the peak to be observed. A friendly unit must be on the peak hex at some time during the turn to get that benefit. There are multiple peak hexes in the Qattara Depression area, the Jebel Akhdar area, and the Pyramids are peak hexes. Theyíre especially useful in those periods when your theater recon is zero. One final point about that same supply unit. Note that it is only 20 hexes from the other supply unit in the north (circled in yellow). It has therefore been disabled and is not extending supply, as it should. Be sure your supply units are more than 25 hexes apart at the end of your turn to keep them all operational on the next turn.

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Curtis Lemay -> First Test Game - CW Turn 74 start (9/5/2009 10:46:09 PM)

Hereís a shot of the situation at the start of the Commonwealth turn 74. Unfortunately (or fortunately from my perspective) Jeremy canít tell, due to fog of war that my turn has ended early and all my artillery and planes are out of support mode. My forces are as defenseless as they will ever be. Well, actually, he can get a slight hint at that from the one spotted artillery stack (circled in blue). But that evidently wasnít enough info for him to tumble to it. He didnít attack (except against the motorcycle spearhead unit near Minqar Qaim). Perhaps had his lines been shorter and therefore his reserve more concentrated he might have made a different decision. Regardless, it was an opportunity missed.

It was also a lesson for me about not pushing the turn too far. A lesson I seem to have to keep retaking.

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Curtis Lemay -> First Test Game - CW Turn 75 start (9/5/2009 10:48:22 PM)

This shot shows the start of the Commonwealth turn 75. Having learned my lesson about pushing the turn too far on the previous turn, I proceeded to DO IT AGAIN! Once more the turn ended early leaving my artillery (this time with a few exceptions) out of support mode. Worse, this time far more of the artillery is spotted and it has to be obvious to Jeremy that my turn was short. He decides to counterattack, including exposing part of the Royal Navy for the first time since OíConnorís Raid.

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Curtis Lemay -> First Test Game - CW Turn 75 end (9/5/2009 10:50:34 PM)

And the result is Ė disaster! His turn ends after one round. Most of his artillery is out of support mode; few of his defending units are dug in, and are mostly in minimize losses tolerance. The naval units are left in Stuka range. I canít fault Jeremy for anything here. He made the right move, but just suffered a very bad break, and I lucked out. How to employ your artillery is more art than science. No matter what you do, if you get a very short turn its going to be bad.

While weíre on this shot, though, this is a good place to discuss loss tolerance options. As noted, Jeremyís units ended in minimize losses tolerance. That was because Jeremy was using that setting during his attacks to ensure that the attack ended after only expending one round. The objective of this tactic is to attack, expending one round, advance and set up additional attacks, and then repeat this as often as possible. This is a pretty standard technique in TOAW, and most players are probably familiar with it.

However, I have found that it is not the optimum setting for this scenario. I almost universally use the limit losses tolerance setting for my attacks. The reason is that the Attrition Divider setting for this scenario is 4, not the default 10 that most players are used to. That means that combat in CFNA is 2.5 times as bloody as in any scenario using the default setting. The impact of this is that units attacking at limit losses tolerance will almost always end their attack after only one round anyway, which is the objective.

The problem with units attacking at minimize losses tolerance is that they commonly drop out of the attack even earlier. They can drop out just after the enemy artillery support phase, before even getting a chance to fire back. This is especially a problem when enemy artillery support is significant (in other words, most of the time). This often results in the ďtanks wonít dieĒ syndrome. Thatís a situation where all offensive losses are inflicted by the supporting artillery only (which canít kill tanks) and none by the ground assault forces, which drop out before firing. Iíve found that placing them on limit losses tolerance makes it much more likely at this AD setting that they will stay in the combat long enough to fire back. And thatís critical if armored defenders are being attacked, and useful in all cases.

Note that for defense, both Jeremy and I tend to stick with ignore losses tolerance. All sorts of bad things start when defenders are forced to retreat. Ignore losses tolerance minimizes the chance of that.

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Curtis Lemay -> First Test Game - Axis Turn 76 (9/5/2009 10:53:00 PM)

Here is a shot of the end of the Axis turn 76. The Commonwealth defenders have been decimated and the naval units sunk. For all practical purposes, this sequence of turns decided the game. Jeremy made no further mistakes and even pulled off some enlightening surprises with the fleet. These will be discussed further on. But it was too little too late. The combination of a learning curve during OíConnorís Raid, the debacle below Tobruk, and the bad luck near Mersa Matruh was too much to overcome during the dangerous First Offensive phase.

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Curtis Lemay -> First Test Game - CW Turn 79 (9/5/2009 10:55:31 PM)

But we still need to finish examining the El Alamein position. Shown here on turn 79 is the fall back position Jeremy occupied next. Note the microscreen on the right center. This line, anchored at Fuka, is 15 hexes long, thanks to the major escarpment extension at the southern end of it (itís the same line that was marked in red on the previous Mersa Matruh shot). Note that, despite being decimated a few turns before, Jeremy has been able to construct a much stronger defense structure at this site, due to the shorter line to hold. There are three lines of combat units dug in with a dense line of artillery behind that. His reserve is much smaller, however. Imagine if he had set up here first.

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