Panzer Armee Afrika (board game)
Panzer Armee Afrika is a board wargame that was published in 1973 by Simulations Publications, Inc. The game is a simulation of the campaign for North Africa during World War II, from the arrival of Erwin Rommel in April 1941 until November 1942, when the Second Battle of El Alamein took place in reality. The game was designed by Jim Dunnigan, with the system design and graphics by Redmond A. Simonsen and game development by Irad Hardy and Hank Zucker. It was first published in Strategy & Tactics #40, and later appeared in a boxed edition. It was republished by Avalon Hill in the mid-1980s.
This game provided a relatively realistic simulation of the actual campaign, with small numbers of units, rapid movements across the map, critical logistic effects, the ebb and flow of the forces, and the strengths and weaknesses of both the Allied and Axis formations.
This game was published using the compartmented plastic box that was common with many of the wargames produced by Simulations Publications. It included a 22" × 34" stiff paper map printed in various shades of brown, a set of die-cut cardboard counters, and the rules. The map is overlaid by a hex grid to standardize movement, with a scale of 12 miles per hex. Each game turn represented one month during the war, and the full campaign lasts 20 turns.
Only about half the total height of the game board is used for the actual map. The remainder is covered by various charts and tables used in the game. Along the bottom is the game turn track that lists the reinforcements for each side. There is also a chart showing the various effects of the different terrain types, a combat results chart for resolving battles, a summary table of the various supply effects, and tracks for marking replacements for allied and axis forces.
Most of the game map consists of the western desert of Libya and Egypt, and the various roads and tracks that were used for movement and supply. Important features include the array of escarpments near Tobruk, and the Qattara Depression - impassably rugged terrain south of El Alamein and northern Cyrenaica. The hexes containing Tobruk and Bardia are also fortified (the latter less so), aiding in their defense. At the start of the game the entire map is controlled by (thinly-spread) Commonwealth forces, who are deemed to have driven the Italians from Cyrenaica in late 1940, only for many of the Commonwealth forces to be withdrawn to fight in the Greek campaign.
The counters represent the major formations that took part in the campaign, including German, Italian, and British allied units. Each counter represented a battalion, regiment, or brigade-strength unit. The sheet is printed in different shades of brown for the different forces, with creme for Italy, tan for Germany, and dark brown for Britain and her allies (the latter are red in the Avalon Hill edition). There are also various markers used primarily to manage the supply rules.
Each of the military unit counters is printed with standard markings indicating the unit type, size, designation, and the combat strength and movement allowance. Typical movement allowances were 40, 50, 60, making for a highly fluid and mobile game. The types of units represented are infantry, paratroops, glider infantry, armor, armored infantry, and reconnaissance.
This is a two player game with one player controlling the allied forces and the other player the axis units. Each turn resolves allied actions first, followed by the axis. A player's turn consists of the supply determination, followed by movement, combat resolution, and the addition of reinforcements and the replacement of previously destroyed units.
The allied player also has a command control phase before movement, which restricts certain units from moving. Each hex on the map grid has a unique 4-digit number. Based on a random die roll, units on a hex with last numbers matching the three values on the command control chart values are unable to move. Thus, although the allied forces normally enjoy numerical superiority, typically 30% of them are stationary each turn.
Movement across the map is measured in terms of movement points (MP). Roads provide the optimal path for movement, and it only costs 1 MP to advance a hex through a hex side with a road. Track hexes cost 2 MP, open hexes 3 MP, and swamp or rough hexes and escarpment hex sides cost 10 MP. Only three friendly units can end their movement in the same hex.
Supply is a key factor in this game, as it was in the historical campaign. Supply is typically provided by supply units, which are indicated by markers on the map. Each side must have a chain of these markers back to a supply base, with each supply unit within 20 movement points of the next. Supply units can be captured or moved about by each player's truck unit, but both sides normally only receive one such unit. As the truck only has 40 MP and must move back and forth to carry the supply units, this can severely hinder the advance of a supply line. Additional truck units may be generated by immobilising combat units.
In order to be considered in supply, a unit must be within 20 movement points of a supply unit that is part of a supply chain. Unsupplied units are unable to move or attack, and defend at half strength. Supplied units can move and defend normally, and attack at half strength. Units within 8 MP of a supply unit receive a higher level of supply, and can attack at full strength. By expending a supply unit, the combat strength of units within 8 MP is temporarily doubled ("Maximum Attack Supply").
The six hexes surrounding the hex containing a unit on the map form a zone of control over which the unit exerts an influence. Units entering an enemy zone of control must cease their movement for the round. Units already in an enemy zone of control can not directly move to another enemy zone of control. Zones of control also block enemy supply lines.
Attacks can be made against adjacent enemy units. The player selects which units adjacent to the enemy will participate in the attack and adds up their combat strength. The combat strengths of the opponents units in the hex being attacked are also totaled, and the result is subtracted from the attack total. This determines the column on the combat results table to be used to resolve the combat. A six-sided die is rolled to determine the result.
The outcome of the attack is either no effect (for a low differential and a poor roll) or a number of the defenders strength points lost. The defender must eliminate enough of the units under attack to satisfy the losses, and then perform a counterattack after doubling (or quadrupling for the Germans) the surviving defender's combat strengths.
The game includes special rules for overruns (attacks performed during movement); sea movement; rail movement between Alexandria and Matruh and replacement points to rebuild destroyed units - the Allied player may use such points to augment his units beyond their initial strength. There are also optional game variants to cover the results of the off-map attempt to capture Malta (decided by a single die roll, with extra Axis reinforcements if the attack succeeds, but fewer if it fails) and the arrival of additional Allied units beyond the historical deployment (e.g. US reinforcements - in reality US forces fought in Tunisia but not in the Desert campaign).