Friday, October 9, 2009

Death in the Desert

My friend Mark e-mailed me earlier in the week wondering if I was interested in a game and, of course, I was. Mark always brings over great games and I've had a lot of fun playing. Some games have been variations on one's that I have played before and some have been completely new. The game he proposed for Thursday was the Axis & Allies WW II collectible miniatures game. I knew about the game, and I had bought it's naval counterpart as well as a pile of nice plastic ships. I figured the game would be pretty simple as most CMG's were but when I played it it had some remarkable tactical depth.

Mark came over just before 10 am on Thursday morning, after I had dropped Matthew off at school. He brought all the stuff necessary for playing. His wife had recently gotten him a set of heavy card boards with hexes and terrain on them and they were quite nice. Mark always goes the extra mile on his games. The miniatures for A&A are pre-painted plastic, but Mark was not satisfied with the paint jobs. He repainted them adding weathering effects through dry brushing techniques as well as markings. They turned out very nicely. He also re-based the infantry which made them look a lot better and easier to use than the singly based originals.

The scenario was a breakthrough in the Western Desert, North Africa, circa 1941, with Italians vs. the British. The Italians were defending a pass that the British needed to get through. Victory was based on how many units the British could get off the opposite map edge from the one they started at in 10 turns. If IIRC the Brits started off with a Grant tank, two Crusader tanks, two Stuart light tanks, two universal carriers, a truck and four stands of infantry. The Italians had two Carro Armato M 13/40 tanks, 2 M 11/39 tanks, an armoured car, two anti-tank guns and a mess of infantry, including two machine gun teams. We played the game twice, swapping sides between games. I played the Italians first. I set up in the low hills on either side of the pass and awaited the British onslaught. Mark spread his forces out, probing for a weak point in my defences. One of my heavy tanks holding my left flank died quite quickly but the rest of the battle was hard fought, with my machine guns and AT guns doing a lot of the damage. The battle ended after an infantry close assault took out his Grant tank, the closest thing to a monster on the board. He managed to exit a Crusader, a damaged Stuart, and his truck sans infantry. When I played the Brits, I tried for a more concentrated attack down the road, avoiding the mass of infantry lurking in the hills. I found out that my armoured fist was more of a glass jaw to lead with, with both Crusaders quickly being damaged, which by their special rule meant they were know effectively unmoving pill boxes. I managed to take out most of the Italian armour except for one of the M 13/40's which actually won the duel with the Grant, knocking it out. My best move was the Stuart which managed to take out both AT guns in the same turn with its "All Guns Blazing" special rule and it survived. Unfortunately it was the only unit I got off the board. So, the Italians won both scenarios and Mark won overall. I think both Italian victories could be considered Phyrric though, with them taking considerable casualties in both games. We both learned that universal carriers (small, tracked troop haulers) are quite vulnerable.

It was a fun game and surprisingly subtle for a set of CMG rules. There was also a lot of dice rolling involved. I can only imagine what it would be like with some of the heavier tanks from later in the war, where you would be rolling 18 dice for one tank instead of 9.

It's great that Mark can come over once and awhile and help give me my gaming fix. I've posted some pictures from the game above.


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