I aimed for a slightly larger game this time, featuring about a healthy regiment sized formation on both sides. The scenario involved the British trying to force a passage through a narrowing feature on the open desert flank (not that there were many of those, hence my somewhat hazy definition of the terrain :) ).
The table was dominated by a largish gently sloping hill in the centre and featured two rocky outcroppings at the edge of the table, one on either side of the hill. There was also a small village located in the open desert some distance away from the hill. The rest of the table (90%) was featureless desert, only broken up by a few bits of rocky rough going here and there.
Both sides were around 2500 points in size, with the Germans having a bit less than that, and the British a bit more. The German force consisted of a rifle battalion with some AT and artillery attached (the former included one of the feared 88mm AA/AT guns), and what amounted to most of the Afrika Korps’ armour at the time (the game was set some time around Operation Crusader, i.e. August 1941) — about a strong battalion’s worth (a PzIV company, three PzIII companies and a PzII company, if you must know). The Germans started the game with the infantry and attachments deployed on table, with the panzers expected to arrive some time soon. Kurt took on the role of Lt. Colonel Heinz Stacheldraht, commander of this motley collection.
The British had a Motor Infantry Battalion, a battalion of Crusader II’s and a battalion of M3 Honeys to tackle Germans with, plus the odd attachment. Alan played the British, with me driving the tanks when they had arrived and I no longer needed to be umpire, and was allowed to choose the entry point for these three battalions and the order in which he wanted them to arrive (though not the exact turn). His orders were to clear a path through the German defense of this pass.
The game started with the German rifle battalion deployed in a wide arc around the central hill, which itself was occupied by some odds and ends and the 88. A detached company with some support found itself deployed in the village, a position they would come to regret the moment the British player started his first turn: the three scheduled artillery missions of the British were all plotted to land on the village, so the troops in it had to endure three rounds of fire from three 25pdr batteries — not a good place to be, that village. Consequently, the German troops in the village never featured in the game, loosing some of their number to artillery fire and, more importantly, having the HQ with them knocked out by artillery fire in turn 2 meant that they could not be ordered throughout the game. 1-0 to the British.
Alan chose to bring on his infantry first, followed by the battalion of Crusaders and finally that of Honeys. The infantry duly came on in turn 1, with two companies dismounted and the rest in trucks and carriers. They were welcomed by a storm of fire from the Germans, who had nothing else (yet) to shoot at so could concentrate all fire on the advancing infantry. Alan quickly found out that it is not a good idea to leave infantry sitting in their trucks when they are likely to come under fire. The British advance never got very far, with most of the battalion knocked out by the end of the game, not having advanced more than 10cm or so.
Things started to look really bad for the British (as opposed to only moderately inauspicious, what with the loss of only an infantry battalion so far), when the German armour came on table before any of the British tank boys did (well, technically, the battalion of Crusaders was already on table, but its commander could not be bothered to move them down range to where they could be useful - damn command rolls :) ). Luckily, Kurt made the mistake of getting over eager with the armour and advancing to attack the Crusaders (of which he knocked out a few), in the process presenting his flank to the battalion of Honeys that chose that particular turn to make an appearance.
The game ended soon thereafter, when the Honeys proceeded to make short work of the pride of the German armour, leaving over half of the panzers as burning wrecks on the desert while the Germans high tailed it back to the coast (lesson learned: flank shots are deadly). A British victory!
I think all players had fun with this game, and it has proven to us that Blitzkrieg Commander works well at this scale (scale both in miniatures and size of forces). It also produced an interesting (I hesitate to use the word realistic, as I really have no idea of the nature of WWII desert warfare in reality) rendition of fighting in the Western Desert theatre, with the forces and the game balance seesawing across the table: one moment the British seemed to be winning, the next the Germans seemed about to wipe out all opposition. The sweeping tank movements were also quite impressive, as was the dust they kicked up.
Which brings me to a house rule I introduced, that also inspired the title of this entry: dust clouds. I had the players roll randomly for wind direction, and placed a big blob of cotton wool to represent dust down wind from any vehicles that moved during their turn (the dust was placed at the end of the turn). To give an idea as to size, the dust cloud produced by a battalion sized formation of armour was about a foot to a foot and a half square - not to be laughed at (well, sneezed at perhaps). The effect of the dust was the same as that of smoke.
Next time, the Italians make an appearance!