Michael Von Ahnen
Afrika Korps is a classic Avalon Hill wargame covering the battle for Libya and Egypt in World War II. The game spans the timeframe from the arrival of Rommel's Afrika Korps (hence the name of the game) until the battle of El Alamein. It is one of the "Classic" games from Avalon Hill and one of the few that were not completely revised (as with Battle of the Bulge and Gettysburg). These classics have relatively short rules, low component count, and a common set of basic rules. They also usually have "Tournament Rules" which are usually the rules that most players use.
The game starts with the Allies holding Bengasi, Tobruk, and all of Egypt. The Axis advance from western Libya with the goal of taken over the entire map board. The Axis has the big and fast units of the the Afrika Korps and the so-so Italian units. The Allies has smaller, slower units (than the German), but more of them and more reinforcements coming through out the game. Because of the unit strengths, the Axis at the outset will be on the offensive, but the unit density compared to the board size is very low, so the Allies has plenty of opportunties for counter attacks.
The driving factor of the game is supply. The Allies always has it and the Axis always needs it. You have to consume a supply to attack in a turn and for the Axis is not a given that you are going to get any more. So the game becomes a game of manuever, with isolating of enemy units as important as destroying them in combat. The trap the German player has to avoid is consuming his supply, which when gone, allows the Allied player a lot of latitude, knowing that the Axis player can not attack. The logisitics of the game gives you the feel of the problems that confronted the Axis in that theater of the war.
I have read many reviews of the game, with a lot of people who really like this game. I wanted to state this up front, because for me, this game is lacking the excitement of many other wargames and not one that would come to mind when I set down to play a game.
Probably one of the biggest issues of the game is how it can turn on a only a couple of die rolls. One that is usually mentioned is the invariable attack on Tobruk. The Axis player has so few units that he has to usually dedicate his biggest and best units to this attack. The problem comes that unless the Allies are complete fools, they have put significant forces in Tobruk. The result is that there is a pretty good chance of exchange or loss to the Axis forces. Unfortunately, they have so few, that the loss of only a couple units can pretty much cripple them for rest the game. The CRT is particularly bloody and for Allies, so what, they can throw a few units away without drastically changing the outcome of the game. If the Germans loose a couple of the German units, that will about do it for the game. And it is not even a play balance issue, it is just that a good player can loose whatever advantage he has acheived by a bad roll of the die. The Germans suffered defeats in the real war, only to come back and push the Allies to the brink of defeat.
This leads to the next issue, replacements. Having a blooding CRT is not a bad issue, assuming that you have hope of getting your units back. There is a replacement system in the game, but it does not kick in until a third of the way through the game. An early failure in the game causes you to have to bide your time until you can replace your key units and then continue on. While this might be historic, it does not make a very fun game. If one player has to set idle for a significant portion of the game, what fun is that.
Finally, luck in the supply portion of the game really can hamper the Axis. Some times not at all, other times to a ridiculous level. Just depends on the die roll. If the game had a supply system that allowed some way of enforcing an average supply to the Axis would make it much better. The game does have rules for capturing enemy supply, but frankly, this happens very rarely (in my experience). And the effect can be a game turner. When the Axis is out of supply, the Allies have so much more freedom, that very ahistoric things can happen. And while the Axis were frequently without supply, the Allies did not have knowledge of this to the point that can happen in the game.
Finally, the balance of the game is an issue. Not so much in terms of win versus loss, but in terms of who gets to do what. The Axis player has pretty much all of the choices of the game. The Allied player reacts to these. A good game should give all the players choices of what to do. Even in defense, a player should have choices in how to react. I have just found that the Axis player has the initative and when he doesn't, the game is over.
One general comment about the Avalon Hill classic games. They tend to have particular strategies that are the optimum and significant deviation from these strategies mean that you will probably loose. I don't find enjoyment in playing a game by a recipe, the fun of a game is putting your creativity into it. So if a game forces you to follow a prescribed strategy to be sucessful, then it is fundamentaly flawed.
Hello Michael, I found this REVIEW to be relatively of decent 'quality' for being informative. I am quite familiar with the game and its lack of 'substance' in regards to many items. I'd also suggest for others desiring something more 'expansive' than this, to find and obtain a copy of "The African Campaign" by 'Jedco', or maybe even "The Desert Fox" from S&T(TSR) and then "Trail of the Fox"~S&T(TSR) for those wishing to get even MORE into this 'Theatre'. Here's the 'pics' of them then:
I shall point out that with the 'Jedco' game, it has plenty of innovative ideas and concepts, such as 'Breakdown/Buildup' and 'Step Reduction' Units, MINEFIELDS, 'Airpower Units' for BOTH sides, the Starting of THIS 'Campaign' with the 'Italian Fiasco' of December, 1940, and THEN introducing 'Rommel', PLUS some others.
With the S&T(TSR) Games, they can be COMBINED for one HUGE "all across the VAST expanses of North Africa 'Campaign'!" kind of game, if this is what YOU care for!