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Robert "Smitty" Smith
It really is a Blitzkrieg! Who needs 1941 in Russia? Turn 1 set up.
With this being the Centennial period of the First World War, the war to end all wars, it only seems right and fitting to focus on the lesser-known aspect of the First World War. Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia is the sum of knowledge for we suspect a number of folks about the First World War in the Middle East. Throw in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence's book and the movie Gallipoli, and that squares it up, right? Then prepare to have those assumptions challenged in Schtuze's Game Allenby's Blitzkrieg (AB). As Schutze's website states "This is a 2 player game on the last great horse cavalry campaign in history. The game covers the first 48 hours of the offensive launched by General Edmund Allenby's army on the 19th September 1918 in northern Palestine". In September of 1918, Allenby unleashed the first real blitzkrieg on the Ottomans and their thin corset of German troops and officers. Allenby in this campaign exceeded the best drives of any panzer unit in 1941, that's how fast he moved and why the topic is of such real interest. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yuZ4vowQJc to get a sense of the impact of this. Lest one think of the Ottomans as inept, I'd recommend The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East which will give you some pause in any hasty generalizations of the Ottoman soldier
I love maps. It used to be counters I'd turn to first. Since modern graphics programs have enabled almost to produce quality counters - minus the Chinese who still have issues for some companies - counters lost some of their glamour. But maps, well maps were the basis of over half of my life. Maps often matter for the recreation we choose while hiking. Maps, good maps actually seem very difficult to do when you consider all that goes into them. Look at the area AB encompasses - Syria, Jordan and Syria primarily. You could be lazy and just do a sandy overgloss of the map's hexes and most won't care. Tim Allen's map is a beauty to behold. It is among the best maps ever of its type of trying to evoke a feel of maps of the period. His use of color is phenomenal. The font used is big and easy to see and in an easily readable script. AB's counters are 5/8" thick, and dismount without a hitch. The allied counters are color coded to facilitate set-up. Overall, the counters are pleasing and look great on Allen's map. There is also one Player's Aid card for AB, with the Terrain Effects Chart, Bombardment Table, Combat Results Table and Aircraft Availability Table all in one place. If you go the Schutze Games website you can download five alternative Turk counters. https://sites.google.com/site/schutzegames/product-list2/all...
Turn 3 - the wall crumbles
The rules are an easy read at slightly under seven pages. Within not more than twenty-five minutes the gamer will should have a good solid feel for how the game plays and be ready to play. I had no issues on my first play through. However, the only place where the Turn Sequence is listed in the rules. It's not on the backside of the Player Aid Card or even the back cover, which instead has the historical setup hexes. This omission of an easily accessible Sequence of Play on a cardstock card with nice big font was an easy fix.
AB is a frantic ten-turn game. In those ten turns as the British player you are pushing forward at every opportunity. Fortunately, there is little the Turks can do to strike back at you. As the Turk, think of the little Dutch Boy with his finger in the dyke - except you have water slopping over the top. That analogy sums up well your near hopeless position for the Brits are simply going to pound you and race off to the north of the map. It's the careful manipulation of what you have to slow up the supporting units while trying to slow down the seizure of cities that is the key for you.
Looking at the Ottomans you feel like you're the Poles in 1939 or the Soviets with their Command and Control issues in 1941. You're under gunned, outmanned, suffering quality and your mobility is often non-existent. Good luck holding out with the Ottomans. Your positive is the series of trench lines on the map. However, the Trench line on the far side of the map starts 45% of the way towards the north of the map already. Moreover, this is the costal from Jaffa to Haifa, so it's not hard to see where the obvious British Axis of Advance is aiming. The free set up is a bit awkwardly worded but this allows the Ottoman the opportunity to see how much better they can do - it can't be much worse.
The British goal is off course to integrate air, artillery bombardment and mobility to open a gap for the fast units to push through and allow the infantry to hammer the Turks. As many Turk garrisons can't move, they are sitting "furniture" but the fact remains, they need to be reduced or eliminated to garner victory points. With only ten game turns, the Brit must focus two turns ahead as to their moves and how to coordinate the slower elements coming up to attack. The British Player should always end up with a minor victory on victory points but since so few British units will be eliminated, this is essentially meaningless. But the British player should strive to capture all victory point towns. To secure an automatic major victory, you need to control every town. That's the fun part of the challenge here, trying to achieve that, which is why this makes such an excellent solitaire game.
The use of artillery for both players is essential but the British has overwhelming superiority in this arm. The Turks will use it mainly for defensive fire in support of their units. Wise use of the bombardment table for either set can set the other player back. This bombardment table is however generally deadly for the Turks. The more units that are in a hex, the greater the chance of an adverse result on the table. It's an ugly choice for the Turk, risk losses to artillery early on or have your defensive line blown apart due to not being really strong in any hex. In this campaign, the RAF hammered the retreating Ottomans, disrupting their ability to rally.
The Ottoman Army is PONDEROUS
The game AB is historically unbalanced but rightfully so. But if we fairly examine that statement, aren't many game topics? To manipulate this campaign otherwise would require some incredible sleight of hand if not downright fudging by Schutze Games. Instead they delivered a game that feels historically right, is lovely to look at and plays with few hitches. It's an incredibly satisfying gaming experience, reminiscent of any desperate 1941 Soviet struggle to hold back the onrushing Panzers and might of the Third Reich. Game play is smooth and fast, allowing for it to be played back to back, comparing how your game play fared vs. that of your opponent's. AB is hard to find and perhaps an obscure title but it's a game I'll keep.