Western Desert Force:
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
When Western Desert Force fell out of print a few years back, we didn’t reprint it right away. I thought about it, but each time some other game jumped ahead of it. A couple of years rolled by and I realized that I wasn’t going to order it back into existence. It’s an excellent game, and not very large as games go, but it stands alone.
That calls for a different marketing strategy than our series games, and I knew that with so many of the series demanding attention, I wouldn’t be able to give Western Desert Force or other stand-alone games (Defiant Russia and They Shall Not Pass) the love they deserved and needed to thrive: Daily Content, expansion books, Golden Journal theme issues and the like. So we’re letting Defiant Russia and They Shall Not Pass fall out of print, and won’t reprint Western Desert Force.
Instead, we’ve added Western Desert Force to our Gold Club’s Premium Content. It’s a complete, downloadable game: map, pieces, rules and charts. And at no extra charge - it’s included in your membership.
Western Desert Force is a great game. It sports full-color play aids and a fine Guy Riessen map. Designer William Sariego used the same engine that powers Defiant Russia, with some alterations to suit it to the 1940-1942 campaign in North Africa. Combat is based on rolling sixes (and sometimes, fives and sixes) to get hits; enough hits will reduce or destroy enemy units. But you can’t attack very well without supplies, and supplies are hard to come by. So that depot waddling along in the wake of your advancing armor is the most crucial piece on the map.
It’s easy to play; just like Defiant Russia, it’s the sort of game you can play with your 12-year-old little brother. Smooth game play fits nicely with the situation, one well-known to wargamers. The game opens with the Italian invasion of Egypt in 1940, and continues for 23 turns. The Allies are trying to kick the Italians (and later their German friends) out of North Africa. The Axis are hoping to take Alexandria and with it, the Suez Canal.
The fighting takes place across one of the finest maps we’ve ever produced. Guy Riessen turned in a beautiful rendition of the Western Desert at 15 miles across each hex. Of all the maps we’ve made – a number that has to top 100, though I really have no idea – this one was my favorite to date. And then there are the play aids: full-color cards for Axis and Allied set-up, reinforcements and other important game information.
Units are regiments and brigades for the most part, with the small two-regiment Italian divisions represented by just one piece and the German tank battalions showing up with their own pieces, too. British and Italian armor (there are no British Empire armored units) are brigades and regiments, respectively.
The pieces represent the whole colorful array of the armies that fought in the North African desert. On the Axis side there are the Italians (including some Colonial and Blackshirt divisions) and the Germans (who are all German regular army). The Allies are mostly British, but include Australians, Indians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Free French, a Greek brigade, a Polish brigade and a Jewish battalion.
All of that adds up to a fairly simple game to play, but given the wide spaces and scarcity of units there’s a lot of strategy involved (that’s why the theater remains an enormously popular topic). The best part, though, is that if you’re a Gold Club member, it’s already yours.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and NASA Journalist in Space finalist, he has published countless books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.
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