Playing to Win
By Brian L. Knipple
Alamein is, as far as I know, the first game ever
published covering all aspects of the battle
of Alamein. Lost somewhere between the earlier
desert battles of maneuver and the later,
inter-allied operations in Tunisia, it is
often discussed but seldom gamed. With the
publication of Alamein, that has changed.
game provides players with the opportunity
to examine a unique engagement where the initiative
completely changed from one side to the other
and where, for a few weeks, the British Empire
came closer to disaster on the battlefield
than at any other time in the Second World
Axis Tactical Strategy
The most powerful formations in your arsenal
are the two German panzer divisions. With
plenty of excellent tanks and a powerful infantry
regiment, each is capable of obtaining multiple
positive combat odds shifts in almost every
situation, making them all but unstoppable.
Their weakness is insufficient infantry to
hold the ground taken. The 9th Light Division
comes close but lacks the armor. With plenty
of infantry, it can do what the panzer divisions
cannot, hold an extended front. With tank
support it can take it as well. The 164th
Infantry Division is powerful, but better
suited to holding ground than taking it.
two Italian armored divisions are not the
equal of their German counterparts, but can
attack if supported by sufficient artillery
and not opposed in great strength. Like the
German armored formations, they are not capable
of holding much ground in the defense. The
101st and 102nd Infantry Divisions are weak
in infantry with only two regiments, but can
stand if in good defensive positions and well
supported by artillery and anti-tank weapons.
The remaining Italian infantry divisions are
good for little more than defending opposite
weak Allied formations or for slowing a determined
attack. The two parachute divisions are excellent
formations and with tank support can attack.
In defense, the two are nearly unmovable.
Attacks must be tuned to the Allied units
being attacked. Outside of defensive positions,
a German armor-infantry attack with three
or more artillery battalions, an infantry
regiment bonus or two, two morale shifts and
at least one armor shift makes for an extremely
effective combination. Enough infantry must
be involved and in nearby hexes to ensure
that the advance isn't on so narrow a front
as to allow a British counterattack to regain
the ground taken or trap the advancing units.
When attacking, engage adjacent units in zones
of control and threaten them with being surrounded.
If available, use artillery to bombard adjacent
British positions not being attacked. If adjacent
British units can be disrupted, an advance
after combat may force the British player
to fall back elsewhere to avoid presenting
a weak point to attack. The better Italian
formations can be included in attacks and
are always good for securing your flanks.
It is dangerous, but almost always necessary
to stack two or more battalions in a hex in
the advance after combat, but if a leader
is present it may present an opportunity too
great to pass up. The British artillery and
their lavish supply of ammunition are the
greatest threat and can turn a powerful formation
into a disrupted or demoralized rabble.
On the defensive, mix the German and Italian
units because many of the Italian formations
are unable to defend effectively alone. Do
not mix units of different Italian divisions
unless absolutely necessary (and it will be
sometimes), but sprinkle German units throughout
in order to allow for a higher morale on the
defense and to reduce the possibility of surrender.
Axis Operational Strategy
Entering the map in pursuit of the British
Army fleeing after the fall of Tobruk, the
Axis formations are already seriously understrength.
Speed is your friend and step losses your
enemy. With the exception of the 2nd New Zealand
Division’s two brigades, the Allied
formations holding the Mersa Matruh position
are also weak and, at least initially, unable
to move. The first and best chance for an
Axis victory lies in trapping a significant
number of the British units in the Mersa Matruh
position before they can retreat into the
the two British armored divisions took a pounding,
the remnants of the 10th Indian Division all
but destroyed and the New Zealand division
almost trapped. By boldly advancing and attacking,
you can force the British player to retreat
faster than he planned and hopefully catch
some units before they can take flight. To
achieve this will require running some risks,
and herein lies the real difficulty.
The difference between a brilliant advance
to trap one of the New Zealand infantry brigades
and putting one of your panzer divisions into
the hangman’s noose to be destroyed
can be as little as a hex or a free unit able
to counter a British move. All your formations
are seriously understrength and in a stand-up
fight lasting several turns can easily be
worn down. When attacking it is important
to have at least one free unit nearby to counter
an advance or trap units committed to trap
or counterattack your lead elements. This
and your ability to accurately estimate your
opponent’s willingness to stand and
fight rather than run can be the difference
between winning and losing. The Allied player
will willingly trade both New Zealand brigades
for the destruction of two of the German divisions.
You cannot afford to lose even one unless
the bag of British units is BIG.
Presuming that you are able to trap some of the units at Mersa
Matruh, but not so many as to completely undermine
the defense of the Alamein line, you will
need to follow up the retreating British and
prepare to attempt the breaching of the defensive
positions. Against prepared positions backed
up by artillery, you will have to attack in
strength and suffer losses. Attacking the
Alamein line along the coast keeps your flanks
to a minimum, but will be the most difficult
to penetrate due to the fortifications and
heavy concentration of artillery available
to the South Africans. Attacking in the center
of the line is easier, but requires the leaving
of flank holders to secure the corridor you
will be making (do not expect the British
to retreat from the position easily). Attacking
in the south is easier still, but brings with
it a host of supply and extended flank problems
that quickly become serious.
While mounting your attacks keep an eye on
your supply points as they are your bloodline
and squandering them needlessly will result
in your formations being unable to react to
British attacks or counter intensive air operations.
If you are unable to break the British line
early, you will need to build up your formations
with replacements, build defensive positions
(improved positions, fortifications and minefields)
to allow your weaker formations to hold the
line while the better ones are rebuilt; all
the while building up your reserves of supply
points and artillery ammunition.
Regardless of the situation, take every opportunity
to attack weak British units. Eventually the
growing strength of the Eighth Army will become
irresistible and every battalion you destroy
without loss to yourself will delay the day
that the British offensive begins and give
you that much more time to prepare your defenses.
Allied Tactical Strategy
Allied formations vary little in quality with the Dominion
troops (Australian and New Zealand) being
the best and the rest good, but not great.
Initially your tanks and infantry will not
work well together and only gradually get
better as doctrine improves. You should rely
on anti-tank guns and infantry to blunt attacks
and artillery to weaken the attackers and
force them to withdraw.
lower morale and generally weaker units, you
need to ensure your positions enjoy whatever
advantages can be found. Attacking are possible
only against weak Axis (read Italian) units
or in conjunction with massive artillery firing
in support and on barrage missions. Combat
odds shifts are mostly in the form of brigade
integrity (keep your brigades together) and
your superiority in artillery and artillery
ammunition (keep your artillery positioned
to provide support to the greatest number
of frontline positions).
Because your formations suffer when attacking
together, it is essential to keep then separate
and distinct, recognizing that early on this
may not always be possible. Luckily you have
a large number of independent units and these
can strengthen a weak brigade or hold an extended
flank. If your supply of anti-tank guns runs
low, don't be shy about breaking down some
of the 25-pounder battalions into anti-tank
companies. Remember that you have a large
pipeline bringing you replacements and several
large formations due as reinforcements.
Unlike the rapier, two-stack attack by the
German panzer division, a British attack may
consist of six to nine battalions of infantry
making up at least two complete brigades and
supported by one or two tank battalions and
six to 10 battalions of artillery. What you
cannot get in combat odds shifts can be had
by getting the attacker side of the ratio
as high as possible and bombarding the defender
prior to the attack.
artillery is quite literally the “queen
of the battlefield.” You have both a
large number of artillery battalions and sufficient
ammunition to fire them lavishly when needed.
If the Axis player stacks two battalions'
worth of units in range of more than one of
your artillery units, bombard them.
While your replacements are many, they should
not be needlessly squandered. With many eliminated
or reduced infantry units at start, it will
be necessary to rebuild them.
Above all else, be patient. You must first
weather the Axis assault. The early attacks
on your positions will be strong and you will
lose units and expend much artillery ammunition
defending against them. Once the Axis attack
has been held, begin a careful program of
saving artillery ammunition and supply points
for the day when you attack. You should plan
on needed enough supply points to operate
2/3rds or more of your army in a prepared
condition for 10 days and sufficient artillery
ammunition to fire all your artillery units
continuously for those 10 days. When you attack,
the cost will be high, but you have the formations
and replacements to trade even or worse in
step losses and still break the Axis line.
Allied Operational Strategy
Axis attacks will usually inflict losses
on your defending units, but if you can keep
your line more or less intact, artillery barrages
and counterattacks (later in the game) can
force long-term unsustainable losses on your
South African Division must hold the coastal
region and 2nd New Zealand Division the center.
Divide the majority of your tanks between
the two formations. It is important to get
the 50th Infantry Division back up to strength
as it will be needed in the front and with
its two brigades can very effectively hold
four to six hexes of it.
Due to their low initial strength and slow
reinforcement rate, the Free French brigade
is not suitable for significant combat operations
and if left in even a slightly vulnerable
position, will be targeted by the Axis player.
If you can keep from losing the 18th Indian
Brigade, it will be a welcome addition to
the long-term defense of the line, just remember
that it is the best brigade to sacrifice if
one must be lost.
As soon as you can muster an extra infantry
brigade and some artillery ammunition, you
will need to attack thinly or weakly held
portions of the line. The regular Italian
infantry divisions make excellent targets
and bleeding them forces the better Axis units
to be regulated to a defensive role.
The one area in which you are never on the
weak side is the air war. It is essential
that you maintain pressure on the Axis. Depending
on the current situation, you can tailor your
air missions to most effectively interfere
with Axis operations. If you believe the Axis
will conduct attacks against your units during
the upcoming day, assign aircraft to the harassment
mission so as to interfere with movement.
It is never a bad thing to place aircraft
on the supply interdiction mission in order
to reduce the Axis pool of supply points and
artillery ammunition as it is your opponent’s
Click here to order Alamein right now!