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SR: Rommel in the Desert 4/1/05

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  • mobetterpossum
    I sat down with Mark Kolenski for some Rommel in the Desert. We both owned the edition released by Columbia Games back in 1986 or something. I downloaded
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 2, 2005
      I sat down with Mark Kolenski for some 'Rommel in the Desert.' We
      both owned the edition released by Columbia Games back in 1986 or
      something. I downloaded the latest edition rules from BGG.

      The block system used in the game is well known enough, but the
      implemenation for RitD is very tricky.
      1) Action management is somewhat randomized via a 'supply card' draw
      with a 2/3 chance for a real supply (as opposed to a dummy), and
      various player options vary from a pass or withdrawal (zero supply
      expended) to a Blitz turn (3 supply). The standard move and combat
      round takes one supply.
      2) The other 'supply' is maintained on the mapboard, where each unit
      must be able to trace back to its army's supply center on opposite
      edges. Each player must be sure to have units allocated to maintain
      supply lines and make sure they don't get cut!! As with any North
      Africa game, this keeps the brunt of the action close to the road
      network along the Mediterranean coast.

      My experience with the game is that in most scenarios one side is
      pushed to the critical limit and ends up being destroyed because of
      the mapboard supply rules. While this is ahistorical, it makes for a
      tense gaming situation that can be resolved in a single sitting.

      Mark and I played the 3 turn Crusader scenario twice, where we
      switched sides. Historically, Operation Crusader was the first Allied
      counteroffensive against Rommel in the winter of 1941/42. All I can
      say of the first game was that we got a lot of mistakes out of our
      system, and discovered that the reputation of the old edition rules
      being very uneven is well justified. The new edition contains a
      number of clarifications and examples, and I would recommend using it
      for whichever edition of the game one plays.

      The rules are still pretty fiddly, but my impression is that they
      represent the game choices very well: In other words, its one of those
      systems where once familiarity breeds respect.

      I should also mention how the strengths and weaknesses of the Axis
      army are represented. The German units are quite strong, and
      generally the Germans are more mobile, especially as they get a
      so-called 'Rommel bonus' on one move a turn. On the downside, they
      simply don't have the resources available to them that the Allied
      armies have in terms of supply cards and fortress capabilities. This
      can leave them in a precarious situation as the feared German tanks
      can literally run out of gas, and helplessly watch their supply lines
      get cut.

      Anyway, in the second game Mark and I had a bit more confidence in
      ourselves, even though mistakes in play and in rules understanding
      were still occurring. Playing the Axis, he executed a number of
      attacks that pinned and largely decimated my holding forces, while I
      did a little probing. I kept a strong reserve, however, and the Axis
      army did indeed run out of supply cards just as the Allied line was
      ready to break. Sitting on a reserve of supply cards and units, my
      Allies moved forward and pressed a brutal attack on the Axis weak
      point. A valiant defense thwarted severe damage from being done by
      the Allies. The saving action by the Allies was a seemingly minor
      attack out of Tobruk succeeded in eliminating the flimsy Italian
      defense, and blocked the supply road there.

      With both armies running on fumes, there was much manuevering along
      the German mapboard supply from this point on. A concerted assault
      against Tobruk by the Axis was successful largely becaue the
      above-mentioned attack left the defense of that fortress sufficiently
      exposed to finally wither under the onslaught of the German panzers.

      Then the scenario ended! I had succeeded in setting my positioning up
      to virtually eliminate the Axis army by cutting their supply, but that
      would have required the advancing of a fourth turn. In a similar
      vein, Mark couldn't realize the full benefit of taking Tobruk because
      I still had sufficient proximity to the fortress to have it considered
      'besieged' under the rules. In the end, the Allies and the Axis lay,
      exhausted, panting, and half destroyed, with the former squeaking out
      an ever so minor edge because there were barely more formations still
      on the mapboard.

      Anyway, it was a great experience, and I look forward to a chance to
      hone skills via a replay or three.

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