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Ron Pfeiffer
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Afrika Korps

A look at one of Avalon Hills' earliest games dating back to 1964 and
certainly one of the Classics. For those of you new to the hobby or
too young to remember or to have even seen the game, Afrika Korps has
a long history of devoted players who, somewhat similar to chess
devotees, created and promoted Opening Gambits and Standard Counter
Openings which led to much discussion and debate as players strove
for the perfect way to play the game. AK was filled with specific
opening moves created by some of the famous developers of the times.
People who started the wargame industry. One of AK's first German
Attack Plans was developed by James F. Dunnigan, one of the founding
fathers of the hobby. Others to offer plans and counter plans
included Don Greenwood & Tom Oleson people from the beginning of AH,
who I can just see now, sitting in their offices in Baltimore,
spending time trying to figure out where each individual piece best
belonged . Plans like the Hazlett Gambit, Paleveda Gambit, Garbutt
Gambit, Newbury Variation, Paleveda Gambit Declined, Lockwood Counter-
opening were developed. Remember, this was not CHESS, this was a
board game. For years it brought out countless numbers of
strike/counterstrike positions. (One would wonder how many of todays'
games will ever have that kind of devotion, study and planning.
associated with them)


There was and is a caveat attached to all of those ideas. The game
has a very luck dependent element that perhaps by todays' standards
would have relegated the game to a lesser position in the hierarchy
of wargames. That element was SUPPLY. Specifically GERMAN supply. In
order to fight you need to have supply units. While the British
player has constant every turn supply the German has to roll for
his. The dice become an important ally of one side or the other
depending on how the German player does with his supply roll. Force
in Afrika Korps favors the German in direct proportion to the
frequency that he receives supply. I read somewhere in an article
regarding this game a pretty good description of the consequences of
poor supply and that was that "A force of TWO Panzer divisions
without supply for an attack have about as much value as a pinned
queen does in CHESS."

That being said the game was a favorite among war gamers for many
years. It was still being played and studied probably 20 years after
it was brought to market. How many of today's games will be able to
say that? Actually it's still a fun game to play today more than 40
years after it was introduced.

Afrika Korps brought to the table a realization that 3 factors are of
primary importance in any wargame. Space, force and time. The force
issue is discussed above with the supply problems being the crux of
how the conflict plays out. Space typically is the amount of room on
the board that one side or the other has control over so that freedom
of movement is unquestioned. At the beginning of AK the British
player has nearly unlimited freedom of movement while the German
player by virtue of a very mobile 21st Panzer Division has the
POTENTIAL to control large areas of the board after both his first
and second turns. It is this potential threat that forces the
British to respond. So the German player throughout most of the game
tries to restrict British movement and at the same time expand his
own, while the British player tries to respond quickly to any German
initiative and restrict German movement whenever possible.

Time, as in most wargames, is always critical. There is a fixed time
for either side to accomplish the necessary objective that lead one
side or the other to victory. Since the British player needs only to
deny the German his victory objectives in order to win the game and
since as time goes on the British player gains additional forces to
combat the German attack the weight of the time considerations falls
much more so on the Germans. The only advantage the Germans have is
that they move first so the ebb and flow of the game is somewhat
controlled by what that first move is. If the German player can
always force a British reaction to his moves the British players
freedom of movement is in fact restricted to reactionary and not
dynamic movement. A British player always on the defensive trying to
counter the German move inevitably loses to a competent German player.

Mid game and end game plays and suggestions (once again sounds like
Chess doesn't it!) abounded. How does one take Tobruch? How does one
deal with Alexandria? Which escarpment areas need to be protected?
How does one deal with particular areas of the map ( the Salum Pass
for instance which is an infamous bottle neck area on the map)


Examples of the kind of thought that was put in to playing the game,
and to the countering of a specific plan by showing weaknesses that
might be a part of the plan, abounded. A player would suggest moves
(gambits) Then players would critique those moves showing whatever
weaknesses might be inherent and then offer counter moves of their
own. Which would of course be followed by counters to those counter
moves.


Volume 7 #4 of the General had a opening done by William Searight In
it he attempts to try and utilize the 21st Panzer Division in the
best way possible to give the Germans a powerful movement possibility
and also to create a strong threat to Alexandria (the far eastern
objective of the Germans) but as many writers eventually pointed out
he tied down the very important Rommel piece (Rommel helps other
units move further than they ordinarily have the capability of moving
by moving some part of his movement allowance with another unit)
to the job of helping pieces move further through the desert when
actually those pieces were much better off on the coast road (again
for those of you who have not seen the game board there is a coast
road that runs along the northern edge of the continent and travels
the entire length of the game board).

Other openings attempted to insure German freedom of movement while
posing a threat to Alexandria and allowing the Italian allies of the
Germans an ability to reach the battle areas via the much quicker
coast road. (movement of course is sped up along that road). Players
constantly tried to figure out how best to play both the middle and
end game. (another Chess like comment)

The fall of Tobruch is an important part of the game but it can come
down to one lucky die roll! How to counter that as best as one can.
Alexandria can become a very tough nut to crack . The Qattara
Depression can under the right circumstances determine the final
outcome of the game. During this time the famous (infamous) soak-off
method of attack was part of the wargaming genre. (Soak-off for those
you that don't know was a method where you sacrificed one of your
units at terrible odds in order to defeat another unit in the hex
because the rules stated that all units in a hex must be attacked.
You sent a very weak unit against a strong one in the hex at
terrible odds. That weak unit loses but then the rest of the units in
your hex all attack another opposition unit together at combined
higher odds winning and thereby weakening the position considerably)

I guess the whole point of this short article is to make people aware
that wargaming in its infancy was a pretty dynamic thing. Since there
were far fewer games to be had, there was much more time spent taking
those games apart, studying moves, trying to perfect either offensive
or defensive play. I'm not here to suggest if that was good or bad.
You decide that. I am here to say that this game like others of its
time gave one the opportunity, if one wanted, of delving as deeply as
one wanted into the game. Today I'm afraid, with so many choices few
if any of the wargames (or any other game for that matter) ever gets
that devotion.




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Greg Berry
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You brought out a very good point about a key point of the fun of the early war games. They gave you plenty of fun times pondering strategical and tactical problems even when you didn't have an opponent across the board from you. You could get out the board and set it up and imagine whole games played out in preparation for your next game with a favorite opponent.

Now days this plus is often turned to a minus because of the scarcity of opponents willing to spend the time to be worthy adversaries of a well thought out strategy. Not many people are available to appreciate the depth of daring or chance of a particular gambit. Computers certainly don't "appreciate" new strategies or value the romance of a flamboyant plan. Euro's are usually too lightly themed to allow you to savor the what-if historical possibilities of a new way of thinking about an old situation. Surprisingly to me Euros are usually more of an American McDonalds experience in gaming (get it done fast and move on to the next meal) while the old American war games are more of an old fashion European seven course gourmet meal (With the experience of the activity as important as the the gaming itself.) I am not thinking of the quality of the games themselves as many could easily point out that Euros usually have better quality pieces and just as much challenge in a shorter time frame. I rather am thinking of the fun that is to be had when the game is not actively being played. Some Euros have this as well but not many. It is in the "dying" AH classics that I will always go to get my gourmet meals.
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j b Goodwin

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Great review. I came into wargaming from Microgames, and my first "heavy" was PanzerBlitz, so I missed a lot of the earlier games because they were "old games."

Now, I've gone back and gotten several of the older games(now they're all older, so that would make these the older older ones), and I've found the same thing you talk about in your review: there are some thoughtful gems in the early days of the hobby. People nowadays do not talk about these games as having the best game mechanics, or lots of chrome, but games like Midway and Gettysburg and Afrika Korps (and others) have a lot of fun and play value that has not been outstripped by newer releases.

There is a lot of talk about games (and wargames in particular) "not aging well." At the risk of stirring controversy, I think this is a worldview that comes from the Eurogaming aesthetic, which is a consumerist view that tells us that the best game is the one that's being released next week, and when it comes out, the one we got last week will be outdated. I like new games, but one of the reasons wargames continue to thrive is the many different results you can get from different playing approaches to one game system. Go with the flow of history, or against the advice of the generals of the past.

To sum it up, you don't give up your first child for adoption just because you have a (second or third) child. You may be better at parenting after one or two, but it doesn't mean you've done a bad job.

[A Post Note added later: I just got Afrika Korps, mainly because of your great review. I'm looking forward to pure gaming satisfaction!]
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Jason
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this was my very first wargame ever

great times
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Lewis Pulsipher
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swandive78 wrote:


There is a lot of talk about games (and wargames in particular) "not aging well." At the risk of stirring controversy, I think this is a worldview that comes from the Eurogaming aesthetic, which is a consumerist view that tells us that the best game is the one that's being released next week, and when it comes out, the one we got last week will be outdated. I like new games, but one of the reasons wargames continue to thrive is the many different results you can get from different playing approaches to one game system. Go with the flow of history, or against the advice of the generals of the past.

To sum it up, you don't give up your first child for adoption just because you have a (second or third) child. You may be better at parenting after one or two, but it doesn't mean you've done a bad job.


Well-said. I call it the "cult of the new". The presumption is that newer is better. I wonder how much this has been manufactured by TV and advertising in general. "New" is often a "selling point" on foodstuffs and other everyday goods, even though the item often isn't new at all.

Lew Pulsipher
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Paul Dunne
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General 13/5 AK article
Hello all, new here. I picked up an old copy of this classic on eBay a while back, and have played it through a few times. Great fun! One thing puzzles me, though, and it's from a replay in AH's "General" magazine, vol 13 no 5. If you look at Germany's first move in that article, he gets Ariete (6 MP) all the way from Agheila to a besieging position outside Benghazi at H20. Even with road movement and the Rommel +2 MP bonus, I don't see how this is possible. The same with some Italian infantry (4 MP), who end up at J18. What am I missing? My edition is dated 1964; I don't know if perhaps the map board changed at all from edition to edition (the replay is from 1975)?
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Charles McLellan
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It's not too hard. Ariete moves from W-6, its start position, to W-9 (two hexes with Rommel and one road hex). Next Ariete moves four hexes overland from W-9 to S-9). Back on the road again, Ariete moves nine road hexes to J-3. Finally, two more off-road hexes from J-3 to H-3. The infantry moves the sam route, but stops in J-3 at the end of their road bonus.

Hope that this helps. I made the ADC2 module. It's free and available at this site; http://67.155.107.229/. Click on AH games at the bottom of the page and find Afrika Korps on AH's list. There are also several old articles from the General magazine there, so check it out even if you don't have ADC2.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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I played Afrika Korps a couple of months back, my first playing in over 30 years. I felt it hadn't aged well.

I too feel nostalgic for the time when there were fewer games, and most wargamers played the same ones, but the next time I get the urge to play a simple game on this campaign it will probably be PanzerArmee Afrika.
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Paul Dunne
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Re: General 13/5 AK article
Ah, when you explain it like that, how simple it is! Thanks Charles.
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George Haberberger
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Supply can be so hard on Rommel. I had a few hours to myself last night and I pulled this out. Rommel could not get supply to attack around Tobruk, ended up overextended with his best Panzers isolated, and couldn't get supply to break the isolation. It ended up a stunning Allied victory.
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Stephen Jones
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This review is why I keep coming back to BGG. I, too, have moved back to the enjoyment of a seven course meal after tiring of McDonalds. That was classic, and I'll use it often...

Anyway, I read this review because of an auction I saw. I have recently picked up Squad leader and Third Reich (both of which I remember from High School along with Panzer Blitz/Leader, Luftwaffe, and Magic Realm) but missed the bigger boxed games by a few years. Now I'll give it a shot, just because I know it will look good on my shelf- even if I'm the only one around that knows what can be found in this review. Great job.

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Jeremiah Lee
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Wonderful article, years old now, but quite relevant.

Anyone want to play this (PBEM) through VASSAL with me?
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Richard White

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If you are interested in reading about Afrika Korps game theory, go to this website:
www.maifile.com/dochtml/template.php?link=AFRIKA_KORPS_THEOR...

This May 2008 article covers this classic game in great detail. If you dig AK, you'll like this article - it's well done.

-I would like to play an email game of this, but I have never used any of the products out there for this. Contact me if you have an interest in playing.

-Richard
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Ulrich A
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gberry wrote:
Now days this plus is often turned to a minus because of the scarcity of opponents willing to spend the time to be worthy adversaries of a well thought out strategy. Not many people are available to appreciate the depth of daring or chance of a particular gambit. Computers certainly don't "appreciate" new strategies or value the romance of a flamboyant plan. Euro's are usually too lightly themed to allow you to savor the what-if historical possibilities of a new way of thinking about an old situation. Surprisingly to me Euros are usually more of an American McDonalds experience in gaming (get it done fast and move on to the next meal) while the old American war games are more of an old fashion European seven course gourmet meal (With the experience of the activity as important as the the gaming itself.)


Amen to all of that!!
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