Halfaya Pass Conclusion: Scenario 2 Sandstorm

Halfaya Pass Conclusion
The last of the British Commonwealth offensive in the North is crushed on Turn 6. German fighters down a Spitfire leaving the tactical bomber doomed. Turn 7 sees German Reinforcements (a Panzer IIIJ is purchased) and an 88 anti-tank gun is provided. Unless reinforcements arrive, Axis forces should sweep the board.22 - Turn 6 - A torched offensive23 - Turn 7 - an 8824 - T7 More Command Points25 - T7 Big Picture

On Turn 8 there are reports of a British unit attempting to swing to the West and capture Sollum. But the victorious forces in the North are rapidly moving South and should easily destroy this probe. Turn 9 witnesses the easy destruction of the single British unit. 26 - T8 South27 - Turn 9 South part 128 - Turn 9 South Part 229 - Turn 9 Overview

This attack and counterattack highlights a poor design choice in this series. Enemy zone of control is clearly highlighted with 100% precision on the map. This identifies the exact position of lead elements which makes counterattacks far easier in conditions of poor scouting far, far too easy. It would be better to either make the zone of control invisible until scouted, or make it a uncertain hex radius so you have reports of an incursion, but no clear identification of enemy unit position.

On Turn 10 a second unit was discovered which followed the exact track of the earlier probe. This mild surprise is easily destroyed. Halftrack mounted infantry and Italian forces have captured all British supply points excepting one by the end of Turn 11. However, a fuel shortage hits which stops the counter-attack cold.30 - T1031 - T11 Second infiltrator killed32 - Fuel Shortage

Turn 14 dawns with renewed fuel supplies and a massive combined arms Axis attack ending in total victory on Turn 15 (of 20). This was an easy victory for three reasons. First, the British advance in the North had two columns which did not guard each other’s flank. Second, the attack in the South was piecemeal. Third, the zone of control design issue discussed earlier makes it easy to pinpoint lead enemy units giving better intelligence than merited by the situation.  Germany finally gets enough research points to purchase scrambling. 33 - T14 Back in Supply34 - T15 Victory35 - Scrambling Tech

Hitler is pleased and presents Rommel with a Field Marshall’s Baton. Rommel’s wife Lucie wrote that the baton “is the gaudiest stick in the Reich.” Mussolini sends an extra cargo ship full of Italian Wine to his North African troops to commemorate the victory. Nazi Batonmussolini

Halfaya Pass – Scenario 2 OOB: Sandstorm

The Axis react to a British offensive in the Halfaya Pass scenario. British Commonwealth forces attack on two fronts: in the South close to Halfaya Pass and in the North close to Sidi Azeiz: a big Axis supply point. The Axis defends in the South for several turns while immediately counterattacking in the North.1 - Objectives

Because the powerful British attack in the North poorly protects their flanks, a reasonable Axis strategy leads to an easy win. The attacker in the scenario moves first, so initially I’m reacting to the British attack.  I focused on mobility when selecting which troops to deploy. I chose my two Panzer IIIs, two halftrack mounted German Infantry, my truck mounted German Engineer, my primary Italian Armor unit and an unmounted Italian infantry unit. The Engineer rushes to defend Sidi Azeiz while the slow Italian infantry unit is moves South to eventually reinforce defenders there. Everything else is counterattacking. The Panzer IIIs and the Italian Armor use a wedge formation to protect the more vulnerable mounted infantry.2 - Starting Position4 - T1 Moving Towards Brit Advance

Commonwealth forces hammer the Italians in the South. The Italians retreat and reinforce and Halfaya Pass falls.3 - Turn 1 Attacks in South7 - T2 - Retreating in the South

In the North the Brits have two unsupported columns. The East column seems to be composed of a medium tank, a light tank and a scout car. The West columns composition is unknown. The Engineer moves directly to Sidi Azeiz while everything else attacks the West column. The counterattack destroys the light tank, isolates the medium tank, and falls just short of destroying the scout cars. 5 - T2 End of British Turn8 - T2 - Counterattack in North

Victory in the North: Turns 3 to 5

Attackers in the North moved out of scouting range.  Having no air force means a lot of uncertainty.  The medium tank retreated to the West column and the scout car initially moved due South out of contact.9 - T3 - Where is the enemy

This poses a problem.  If you move into unscouted territory you risk blundering into a prepared defense.  The worst case is a key armor unit unexpectedly encountering an anti-tank gun.  But if you move only to the limit of scouted terrain your advance is tiny.  I compromise.  Italian armor chasing the scout car goes full movement because the scout was almost destroyed last turn.  My armor advances into the first unscouted hex which spots enemy forces. 11 - Staged Advance Turn 3Armor smashed the scouted anti-tank gun and my infantry moved to prevent encirclement ending Turn 3 in the North. 12 - Turn 3 Final PositionsItalians in the South retreated and reinforced.

10 - T3 More Retreating in the South

In the North the British on Turn 4 moved their infantry to contact and halted. They soon learn their forces are tremendously exposed to encirclement. The attack opens with the halftrack mounted infantry cutting off the British column from supply. Armor attacks the two infantry units doing damage and forcing retreat further North away from their supply source.16 - North Start of Axis Turn17 - T4 Initial Northern Attack18 - T4 Final Northern Position

Small number of British units in the South launch unsupported attacks Reinforced Italian troops make two successful counterattacks. The Luftwaffe finally appears with two fighter squadrons. 14 - South Brit Counterattack T415 - Turn 4 - Successful Italian Counterattack13 - Turn 4 Fighters Scrambled19 - T4 Big Picture

Turn 5 dawns with the Axis mopping up the remnants of Commonwealth forces in the North. Several units are detached to reinforce the Italians in the South. 20 - T5 End of Turn North21 - Turn 5 Big Picture

 

Libya Conclusion

Scouts report all Tobruk approaches are covered by minefields.  Tobruk has many impassable ridge lines. Infantry and the scout car probe to find the minefields.  Tanks and mounted infantry cannot spot mines.

Engineers cannot remove mines quickly. Engineers have a one hex per turn movement off-road. Removing the mines themselves takes a full turn once the Engineers are adjacent.  Engineers occupy the minefield after removal and cannot attack. This means engineers creep up to minefields, get hammered by every artillery piece in range, are exhausted and battered after mine removal making them easy targets for an infantry or armor counterattack.  At Tobruk engineers usually get mauled removing a guarded minefield making them ineffective for duty for several turns.  Usually it is more cost effective to blow the mines with a scout car or infantry while taking some damage. 27 - T15 Slowly Penetrating Tobruk Defenses

My armor and mechanized infantry prevented full reinforcement of Tobruk, so after the mines were blown it is just a matter of time to torch the interconnected forts, anti-aircraft, artillery and heavy infantry defenders. After the area is surrounded, the Port is the supply point. This allows the attacking Axis to occasionally isolate units from supply making the attack easier. Tobruk fell on turn 18 (out of 30). 28 - T17 Mopping Up Tobruk29 - T18 Tobruk Falls

The remaining defenders are a static fortification, three heavy infantry units, two scout cars, one anti-tank unit and an artillery. The Brits have no air cover. I have a lot of time and the Brits cannot cover their flanks. The fortress stood alone by Turn 23. I continued to pound it with my two artillery units and my dive bomber until the last turn in a fit of power-gaming to build unit experience. 31 - Power Gaming to Build Artillery & Dive Bomber Experience32 - Victory on Last Turn

I’m saving up research points to learn scrambling. Scrambling tech allows fighters to move half distance and fight with some effectiveness on the turn they takeoff. My Bf09s only have eight turns in the air and scrambling probably increases their combat effectiveness by about 25% in terrain with limited airfields. Unfortunately, scrambling technology costs ten research points so I’m off to the next scenario.

Libya Part 2: Sandstorm AAR

Turn 2: El Agheila Captured and New Orders
A British scout car attacked the Italian scout car damaging both during the AI’s turn.  The British scout is attacked by dive bomber, followed by an Italian infantry assault (which does not advance after battle) and was destroyed by the rearmost German Armor taking El Agheila. This gives new objectives and additional land command points for both Italy and Germany.  My forces advance North on the coast road spotting a captured Italian Armor unit further North. 11 - Turn 2 Bombing the Scout Car13 - T2 Advance North

New primary objectives are capturing Benghazi and connecting El Agheila and Bardia. New secondary objectives are capturing Tobruk, capturing Sollum, and causing 10 damage with German fighters. Achieving all objectives means taking all major towns and destroying all enemy units.  The Italians purchase an armor and an infantry unit. Germany buys two infantry units. Newly purchased units cannot move until turn 3.

14 - T2 Advance & Reinforce

Turns 3 to 6:
The captured Italian armor closed with my lead units. On the axis turn, the enemy armor was attacked with the dive bomber, followed by the rear German Armor and finished off by the Italian Armor and Scout Car. All three fighters attacked a British Fighter almost destroying it. The army continued pushing North on the coast road. My air force spotted British Infantry, anti-tank, and an armor unit.15 - T3 Attacking Brit Armor16 - T3 Conclusion

Turn 4 presents major risks and opportunities. I’m splitting my advance with armor and mechanized units turning East with the infantry and artillery continuing North to Benghazi. This opens a gap. I must ensure the mobile units do not get cut off from supplies by the British – a skill the AI is effective in employing. Running out of supplies delays advancing by multiple turns. In dozens of playthroughs of the Libya scenario, turns 4-5 are often highly dangerous to the Axis.

The strategy was successfully executed! Benghazi fell on Turn 5. Attacks on turn 6 prevented the British from cutting my supply lines. The forces cutting through the desert rapidly advanced and a large combined arms force was spotted close to the East Coast. 17 - Turn 4 Dangers18 Turn 5 Force Split19 - T6 Successful attacks

Turns 7 to 13: British Retreat Cut Off and Tobruk Probed
A large British combined arms force occupies Mechili. My approaching scout car located and detonated a mine field. The defenders are supported by an anti-tank gun.  AT guns are deadly when supporting adjacent defenders.   Fortunately, the infantry and dive bombers accompanied my armor and destroyed AT gun.  My goal is cutting off the retreating British before they can reach the fortress of Tobruk. 20 - T7 Minefield21 - Turn 7 Big Picture

Foot infantry and artillery move East along the coast destroying encountered units. The mechanized force is screened from encirclement by the escarpment and grinds through British defenders. By the end of Turn 8 the British are in a precarious position and should retreat everything towards Tobruk. 22 - Turn 8

The retreating British are encircled on Turn 10 and the airfield was captured.  Both are significant. Movement, attack and defense are severely degraded for out of supply units. The screenshot shows an Italian armor unit capturing the airfield and immediately attacking and destroying a heavily damaged infantry unit in the city.  The airfield was captured and vacated in the same turn. This is a coup for the Axis. Dive bombers are slow. If the airfield had not been quickly captured the dive bomber would have been forced to refuel at the Benghazi airfield – taking it out of action for around 6 turns.23 - T10 Encirclement & Airfield Capture

General O’Connor was captured as the British pocket was reduced on Turn 12. On the same turn my armor probed the British defenses around Tobruk. Tobruk is heavily defended by mines, fortifications, heavily artillery, anti-aircraft and infantry. But the defense is static without armor for counterattacks. Capturing Tobruk will take time. Infantry and artillery must catch up. Aircraft must be refueled and rearmed. 24 - T12 O'Connor Captured25 - Turn 12 Tobruk Defenses26 - T13 big picture

 

Sandstorm: An Order of Battle WW2 After Action Report (AAR)

The first Sandstorm scenario is Libya, March 1941. The British captured almost all of Libya from the Italians. Germany sends Rommel to Africa with limited troops. This AAR comes from completing the entire Sandstorm campaign multiple times on the Lieutenant level and once on the Captain level. I’ve played the first scenario: Libya, March 1941 at least a dozen times testing different strategies and army configurations.1- Libya Scenario

A huge decision throughout Sandstorm and critical to the first scenario is how to best use the Italians. Germany has significantly better men and equipment in almost every category excepting artillery. But Italians are fifty percent or more of your army. Players should carefully decide where to spend precious German command points.

Libya 1941 opens with preplaced troops of one German and one Italian artillery unit, one German Armor (Panzer III), one truck motorized German engineer and one truck motorized Italian infantry. You must purchase the remainder. Starting command points (limiting maximum land, air and naval units fielded) are Italy 19 land and 3 air points; German 10 land and 10 air points. There are 460 Italian and 600 German resource points to purchase units. Unit costs vary considerably with armor and air units much more costly in resource points than foot infantry.2- Initial Objectives4 - Front Line before full deployment

Choosing air units is easy and ground units devilishly hard.

Germany has a superb tactical bomber unmatched by Italy. Italian fighters are pretty good. Tactical bombers are devastating on ground units but mincemeat for fighters. Your air force needs enough fighters for at least parity in the air. Tactical bombers are excellent ground support units. I bought the best available Italian Fighter (MC200 Saetta), two Bf 100 F German fighters and a Ju 87 B tactical bomber. My last German air command point purchased a recon plane completing my air force.

With only ten command points, German land purchases are limited. Germany has vastly superior medium tanks, much better infantry, somewhat better scout cars, and roughly equal artillery. In 1941 Germany has two types of armor: one designed for anti-tank superiority and the other more focused on infantry support. My strongest need is knocking out other tanks so 6 command points are spent on a Panzer IIIJ with the remaining 4 points purchasing a halftrack motorized infantry. Halftracks are more expensive than trucks but have some mounted offensive capability and much better mounted defense. Halftracks also have better off-road movement.

The Italians have limited resource points after purchasing the MC200 Saetta. The Order of Battle series AI excels in outflanking and isolating your units. Libya has a lot of open space and I need Italian Infantry to hold my flanks. I buy 3 inexpensive, Italian foot infantry, the best Italian armor available (mediocre and expensive compared to German armor) and a recon unit.

The two points spent on the recon unit could have truck-motorized two Italian infantry. I chose the recon unit for several reasons. When mounted in trucks, infantry is highly vulnerable to attack. Trucks are expensive and some Italian resource points are held in reserve to replace casualties. Recon units have several advantages. First, they are fast and can detect mines. Second, they can choose phased movement. Last, they quickly retreat when taking damage making them hard to destroy. The disadvantages of recon units are they cannot take objectives, are relatively expensive, and have minimal offensive punch. 5 - Units purchased and deployed

Looking at the map, Libya has a paved coast road connecting all major cities and airfields. Because Libya juts into the Mediterranean Sea, unpaved desert roads give armor and motorized infantry the potential to cut-off many coastal objectives.
Thus, my overall strategy is sending Italian foot infantry and both artillery units along the coast road to capture major cities, ports and airfields before Tobruk. All armor, motorized infantry, and the recon unit will take the desert roads attempting to encircle British and Commonwealth forces. Foot infantry is just too slow away from the coast roads. 3 - Libya

I get Rommel! Rommel is the best leader I’ve seen in all Order of Battle games. His command radius is huge, his impact on both his unit and surrounding units is excellent. I attach Rommel to my lead Panzer III to encompass as many opening battles as possible.
I’m not going to discuss the initial objectives since they will quickly change.

Initial Offensive Turn
If you have read my other Order of Battle AARs you will remember that I seldom provide detailed, step-by-step instructions on how I ran a turn. Turn 1 in Libya is highly constrained by limited space. My choreographed sequence gets most out of your first turn.

First, the German engineer advances and attacks the British anti-tank gun. Do not advance into the space. Next, the lead Italian infantry hopefully destroys the damaged unit. If you don’t finish it off, your fighters should be able to follow up, strafe and kill. Italian infantry advances to take the space.6 - Part 1 of attack

Second, Italian artillery moves two spaces and fires on the British Infantry. Do not advance to where the artillery mounts the trucks and cannot fire. Then fire the German artillery. Last, use your dive bomber to airstrike the British Infantry. This sequence is critical for maximum effectiveness.7 - Part 2 of Attack

Third, German mechanized infantry attacks weakened British infantry and does not advance into the space if successful. Keep the space open for the next attack wave.8 - Part 3 of First Turn

Fourth, rearmost Italian infantry attacks flank of British Artillery. Infantry does not advance after the attack. The rearmost German Armor then advances (and hopefully) destroys the British artillery. Armor advances into the space if successful.9 - Part 4 of First Turn

Fifth, your lead Italian infantry attacks and destroys the two heavily damaged British units and advances into the open ground. The lead German armor (with Rommel) takes full movement down the road as does the Italian armor. The recon car takes the lead.
If successful, the only visible opponent is a scout car. This strategy works about 80% of the time as shown. Sometimes fighters must mop up the damaged anti-tank gun. Worst case, your final German and Italian armor units destroy the heavily damaged British units and your recon unit is far in advance of the rest of your forces. On higher difficulty levels these initial moves work, but you don’t advance quite as far, and your scout car is far more likely to be exposed far ahead of your other units.10 - Part 5 of First Turn