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Tom H
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Basil Hilder KIA Lone Pine, Gallipoli
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Game: Afrika 2nd Ed - SCS
Publisher : MMP
Designer : Dean Essig

I’ve had Afrika for about a year and played a few time solo. Recently I’ve had some luck getting it on the table with a friend via Cyberboard. During these sessions I really felt Afrika came into its own….



WHO

Dean Essig, the prolific game designer who ran The Gamers and now works for MMP, designed Afrika, which won a CSR Award for Wargame of the year in 1993. The 2nd Edition was reprinted in 2006 and tidied up some details of the rules and tried to simplify things a bit to match the Standard Combat Series (SCS) of games that Dean has written. The 2nd Edition was nominated for a CSR Award itself in 2006. This is supposed to be the beer and pretzel’s version of his game, and sit below the OCS (Operational Combat Series) of games that he was written, such as DAK, etc. in terms of complexity.



WHAT

Afrika is a an old style hex and counter game that simulates the war in North Afrika between 1940 and 1942. It covers the Italian invasion of British North Afrika, Wavell’s counter attack, and Rommel’s arrival and campaigns. The game has a wide range of scenarios that break these various campaigns up, but also allow the players to run the entire campaign. Including all that there are 5 short scenarios and 2 campaign scenarios included. This was one of the reasons I bought the game – the inherent flexibility.

The counters are standard wargame counters with unit designations, colour coding for Brits, Kiwis, Aussies, Poles, Indians, Italians and Germans. There is not a lot of differentiation between the nationalities except that Italian units count as 2 units for supply (all the pasta, wine, coffee and gold braid that needs to be brought up for them!). There is a wide range of units such as AT, AA, tanks, armoured cars, motorbike units, infantry and even a camel unit. The good old LRDG even makes an appearance. Combined arms (ie combined armour and infantry attack) allows a column shift in favour of the units. Units have their own attack, defense and movement numbers which describe their capabilities. eg AT unit will have low movement, low attack, but high defense. Each unit has up to 3 steps which are taken off each time a unit takes a loss. The unit slowly gets weaker as it takes losses. Another capability that some units possess is the ability to exploit (ie move twice in a turn) and conduct overrun attacks – these are attacks in the movement phase which then allow other units to keep moving, or to attack again in the combat phase.



Combat is resolved as a separate phase in a move. The attacker adds all of their attack factors and then works out the odds against the combined defense values. The ratio is then looked up on a Combat Results Table (CRT) which has standard results like attacker loses 1 unit, defender loses 1 and must retreat 2 hexes, etc. Columns may be added by using air units, artillery, combined arms, using all the components of the same units, eg 15th Pz Div or lastly by using leaders such as Rommel or Wavell. These leaders also help non exploit capable units become exploit capable. All very good although you must dice roll for them each turn to see if they are captured, sick or on holiday!

The map is on good quality paper and a beautiful rendering of North Afrika with all charts, etc printed on it. It also contains a number of holding boxes for Alexandria, Tripoli, Tobruk, etc. Looks great and includes all terrain features, roads, tracks, wadis, etc! Looking at it I feel like I could drive around North Afrika with it in the car.



HOW

How does it play?

Really well actually. The rules are simple, although there are complexities and nuances that must be worked through slowly, like the overrun attack. There are only the standard SCS rules (8 pages) with an additional rule and play book for Afrika (16 pages).

Another complexity is the supply system. I have played a number of North Afrika games that use a variety of mechanism from cards, supply lines, etc, but this system while adding some complexity feels really authentic. You must actually move supply points up using trucks and ships, and they must then be used to feed to troops. Supply lines are critical with out of supply units taking step losses, halving movement and defense points and quartering attack values. Not nice. Each turn you must bring up more supplies from Alexandria / Cairo or Tripoli.

One thing I particularly like is the ability to capture supply points from your enemy. You can raid their supply dumps and if lucky get them before they can burn all the bully beef and tea. Feels great!

The exploitation and overrun capabilities of armour mean that these can make very long ranged attacks, although you must be careful not to outrun our supplies.

The leaders as mentioned earlier add a bit of flavour and chrome and are a good addition to the mix. There are specialty units like the LRDG, artillery, AT guns, etc that also add flavour to combats and to a degree have their own special abilities.



There is also variable reinforcements and shipping capabilities to simulate the effect of Malta and the respective Italian and British Navies and Air Forces blocking supplies and convoys. This always keeps you guessing and makes each game different.

As I’ve said earlier the game plays very smoothly and you can see that the designer has really thought about how the game plays and taken out all the verbage. The addition of the chrome is not heavy handed and fits in easily with the system.

WHY?

Why play North Afrika?

Another good question. This is an excellent period with lightning fast attacks, deep penetrations, sieges, logistic nightmares, dashing leaders, yet all done in a strangely respectful and chivalrous environment. Reading accounts of the battles, sieges, troops, etc it was definitely war but war in an old fashioned way. Prisoners were looked after, doctors from each side kept working to save the wounded – Axis or Allied.

And as Churchill pointed out before Alamein we never had a victory, after Alamein we never had a defeat… not quite right but you get the gist.



North Afrika 2nd edition seems to capture some of the feel of this, and yet remains accessible and an easy entry to the campaigns. The game is quick, challenging and simple…. but with just enough chrome to add something special. The range of scenarios and campaigns presents a mix of challenges and play times. The leaders, variable reinforcements, port and shipping capabilities make for some important dice rolling… this doesn’t dominate the game but certainly adds spice.

WHEN

When am I going to play again? Soon I hope! (if you hadn't guessed I think this a classic and definitely a keeper)

PS – recently saw a 2nd hand copy for $145. Considering I paid less than US$40 this shows how much the game is appreciated. Maybe a 3rd edition is on the way!










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Rob Arcangeli
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Excellent review! I absolutely love the map to this one.
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Colin Hunter
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Nice review, this is a superb game.
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Ben Delp
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I ALWAYS recommend this game when someone asks for a WWII suggestion.
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Jon
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Nicely done. Thanks for doing it.

Bill (billyboy) and I are in the home stretch (Turn #22) of a PBEM VASSAL game and we are both enjoying it. The Allied hammer blows are starting to fall now.

As the Axis, I am finding that the supply subgame is THE game. Without a solid supply footing, the Axis will be in difficulty. Unfortunately, I did not anticipate my mid to late game supply needs early on and my poor troops are almost totally dependent upon newly arrived SPs each turn. Lack of supply also hampered my push eastward midgame...

....and I am loving every aspect of it!
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Mark Christopher
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In the wonderful game, Bonaparte at Marengo, this is how to get nasty Frenchies out of a village.
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I'd love to play the 2nd edition. A friend and I played the campaign in the first, and my Axis forces stretched their supplies far too much and collapsed back across North Africa even faster than Rommel did. Supply's a killer in that game! Damn Malta...
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mochara c
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Thanks for the write up - good stuff!

Supply --- I struggled with your description of this as "complex", but I was thinking purely from a rules difficultly viewpoint. As such, the supply rules are not particularly complex...pretty easy to grok, really. But upon further reflection, yes, managing supply is indeed a complex task, for the Axis player, anyway. Every turn is a puzzle, and not unlike managing a household budget on a limited income -- you never seem to have enough to do everything you'd like to do!

I've made it my business to avoid games that lean heavily on supply as part of the game-engine. Oddly, I found the supply phase an enjoyable aspect of Afrika II, rather than something I had to do. Realizing this freaked me out a little!

I'm still not gonna play OCS, though...
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Nathan James
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moly19 wrote:
Oddly, I found the supply phase an enjoyable aspect of Afrika II, rather than something I had to do.


Could this be because the supply phase in Afrika is important all the time, as opposed to almost never is some other games?
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Tom H
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Interesting notes about supply.

This isn't too complex mechanistically as mentioned but the actual practical playing out is the deep part. It is like there are actually 2 games present - the "wargame" and the "logistics" game. These are inseparable if you want to succeed. This is where this game excels in mirroring the campaigns.

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mochara c
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Right...more "deep" than "difficult".
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Captain Nemo
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tomster wrote:
And as Churchill pointed out before Alamein we never had a victory, after Alamein we never had a defeat… not quite right but you get the gist.


This gets quoted all over the internet. It inconveniently misses the prefix when he said it might almost be said.
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