Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Rob The Desert Fox

Saturday Rob and I played Rommel in the Desert, a Columbia block game based on WWII in North Africa. This game is often cited as a classic, and I can easily see why. There are at least three great aspects to this game

Unit control: The designer really hit the sweet spot. You have a lot of freedom, but you always want to do a little more. The tension is great. I have found Battle Cry, M44, & Ancients to be a bit too restrictive, but Rommel seems to get it just right.

Supply: Watch your supply lines! Attacking and defending supply lines is crucial! Also, it's not good enough to have supply lines; you've got to have the supplies to flow along the lines. Supplies are controlled by your cards. While you have enough to get things done, it's far from infinite. You've got to carefully conserve your supply for just the right time.

Bluffing: Not only do you have the blocks and fog of war, but your supply cards are hidden, too. Furthermore, the amount of supply you allocate to a move is not revealed until afterwards. You can throw 3 supply cards (enough for a powerful blitz move), but use 2 duds. Your opponent, seeing this, might decide to withdraw from battle w/o a fight.

Rob and I played a quick learning scenario to get the rules figured out, then we took on a 2 hr scenario. I was the Axis and Rob the Allies. In this scenario, the Axis has a concentration position with a set of powerful elite armor. The allies have a much larger force and strong defensive position, but their army is very spread out. The axis must make immediate use of their concentrated power or be over-run by a zillion allies.

I was able to bring my elite armor into the front quickly with good success, and I pushed toward the fortress at Tobruck (sp?). Unfortunately, Rob was bringing up a bunch of units from the back field at the same time. We had some back and forth before the lines stabilized.

Rob commented that I had a "thick rear." Strange. Those words here were a great compliment meaning I was defending my backfield, but in another context that exact phrase...

Anyway, as the final turn loomed, I made a lunge with elite armor. The battle went pretty well, but at the end of my turn I looked at the board with horror. I had left my tanks too far out and they had tenuous, undefended supply lines! I hoped Rob didn't see it.

No such luck.

Rob made a blitz worthy of Rommel himself. He attacked a key position and brought my defense dangerously low, then swooped around behind my tanks and attacked the defenders again. I was saved from the Desert Fox only by luck: a single block held out with only a few CV left.

I surveyed the weakness of my position with dismay, especially considering that Rob had several cards left, and I only had 1 supply point. After considerable nail-biting, I finally decided how to re-inforce my position with my last supply card. I thought I might be OK, but I wasn't sure.

It was Rob's turn. He looked at the board, then his cards as he studied the situation.

Then he passed. He passed! He didn't have any supply either!

Talk about a surprise!

We were both out of supply, so we counted up points. I had won by attrition since I had more units surviving (elites count as 1.5 while all others count as 1).

What a game!


At 7:23 PM, April 04, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

I can't wait to play it. I'm bidding right now on a shrink-wrapped copy of Avalon Hill's Afrika Korps, which is an old-time favorite of mine...

At 9:34 PM, April 04, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

What a sweet summary. Makes me want to go back for more.

Sorry Simon...

At 11:38 PM, April 04, 2006, Blogger Simon said...

For what?

Sounded like fun! Damn Krauts...

At 8:40 AM, April 05, 2006, Blogger Jeff said...

Nice report, Ted!


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