1942, Invasion-Malta Board game

Last week I found an unexpected copy of the World at War magazine in my postbox. Now I don't mind getting magazines for free so I quickly scanned through the contents of this WWII-themed magazine and my interest was soon caught by an article about the Axis Invasion of Malta, 1942; an invasion which never took place. “The war in Europe might've been much different had the Axis 'pulled the trigger' on their detailed plan to conquer Malta.”

Not only was the detailed article an interesting read, it made me think of the possibilities of transforming this very interesting 'what-if' scenario into a board game. Using the British august '42 situation on Malta and the Axis plans for Operation C3, as the plan was named by the Italian high-command, it is possible to form a surprisingly interesting scenario. What would have happened if the Axis had actually pulled the trigger? Well, give it a try!

Axis forces:
  • 5 Italian infantry divisions (sea-borne)
  • 80 artillery pieces (sea-borne)
  • A few dozen Italian assault-guns (sea-borne)
  • An Italian assault-swim battalion (sea-borne)
  • An Italian Marine regiment (sea-borne)
  • 2 Italian para-regiments (sea-borne)
  • 3 German Flieger regiments (air-borne)
  • 2 German Panzer companies (sea-borne)
British forces: 
  • 14 infantry battalions
  • 11 tanks 
  • 2 artillery regiments
The 'what-if'
From 1:00pm on the night of august 15th 1942 the first of two Italian regiments of paratroopers would descend from the sky, soon three German regiments would follow and attempt to set up a perimeter before their seaborne comrades would come ashore. They did not know what to expect when they landed, in fact had the original plan been carried out they had landed on top of the British reserve-brigade. But will the British player position his reserve-brigade on the same spot and where will the Axis player land his airborne-troops.
The same might take place on the “beaches” if Axis intel fails as it historically did. If an Italian division comes ashore directly in front of Fort Campbell on the northern shore of Malta it will be slaughtered.

Axis intelligence on the British troops defending Malta and its position were not very accurate. Thus gathering intelligence on the British strength and disposition can be an interesting addition to the game. Will your paratroopers land on top of a British brigade and be shattered?

But will it be an interesting board game to play? 
As the invasion never took place and so neither of the players is 'in the knows' about what the other will do. As neither side held a decided advantage and there were many aspects which could lead to failure or disaster for either side the game can hang in the balance for quite a long period. The initial invasion might be successful, resulting in a strong bridgehead for the Axis player  but if the Italian navy lives up to its reputation, and scampers after taking a beating, and fails to resupply the ground-forces it might all go awry just as well. Just as well the game might be decided early on for either side by a stroke of luck.

The Royal Navy was not lord and master on the Mediterranean sea, as they would be from '43 onwards, yet. Both players have to decide how to use their naval assets, the Axis has to deter the Royal Navy, stationed in Alexandria, from interfere but will need to support the landings as well.
The British fleet, although much weaker then their Italian counterpart, had two decided advantages, supply and morale. The Italians had to ration fuel and would thus be unable to use their capital-ships much more then a few days, choices will have to be made. Another fragile asset for the Axis player will be the morale of the Italian navy; a series of defeats and their fleet will withdraw to the safety of its harbours.

Malta is a very rugged little island. Landing 100.000+ troops on its rocky shores, as Operation C3 called for, would have been a hazardous and possibly disastrous undertaking. Let alone bringing ashore the German panzers and Italian self-propelled artillery necessary to bring the invasion to a successful end.
Which brings us to another difficult problem for the Axis player: supply. Not only fuel, food and ammunition but water will be in short supply from D-day +1.

The different aspects and phases of a Malta Invasion board game:
  • August 13, 14, 15 Axis intelligence gathering of British troop disposition 
  • August 13, 14, 15 British intelligence gathering of Axis intentions
  • August 13th British-player troop disposition
  • August 15th Axis-player chooses landing beaches
  • August 14 to August 30, Naval Warfare
  • August 15th the battle commences
  • An Italian Navy morale chart
  • Surprise factors for the Axis side
  • Terrain factors because of the rugged terrain

The question: make or not to make?
A bit of research turns up Invasion of Malta: 1942, a small bonus game to Avalon Hill's 1977-title  Air Assault On Crete. It seems however, detail is lacking (Fort Campbell is not on the map) as are many of the important side-aspects of Operation C3. This and the fact it would be hard to find necessitate a new Invasion-Malta board game; I would love to play it for sure.
Avalon Hill's Invasion of Malta: 1942

John Bell Hood and the Struggle for Atlanta

This book might be a nice little read if you just visited the Atlanta battlefields and want to know a litte more about them, just a little that is.
However, there's not much on Hood's fascinating character and why he made the descisions he made and fought the battles he fought to be found in this book. This makes me advice someone who wants to know more about Hood to read a full biography of the man, even if you want to know more about the Atlanta campaign as there's not a whole lot about these battles in this book either. 

After just a hundred pages there are 50 pages of OOB which might be in other books but are of no use in this, they just fill blank space. Almost a third of the hundred pages of the text on Hood and Atlanta is taken up by short biographies of the generals who took part in the battles, I guess there are more then thirty of these one page biographies. What is left is not much actually.

If you would like to read about Hood, get this book.

- John Bell Hood and the Struggle for Atlanta, best to be avoided: 2/5


King Arthur: the Druids Expansion; a Preview-AAR

I have just started writing an AAR about this soon to be released expansion for the RPG-RTS King Arthur. The game is a bit like the Total War games (as it has epic battles) set in a medieval-fantasy period. It far surpasses the TW series in several aspects: its well-made campaign map, number of units, very good Arthurian story and best of all the RPG-elements; units mature, heroes learn skills an abilities and your king decides to go on the path of good or evil and gain access to new units, skills and spells.

As said, I am writing an AAR about it which can be found here. Hope you will enjoy.


WITE and another Beta-AAR

After two month of being quiet due to some RL-issues which had to be handled I finally have some time to dedicate to my hobbies. At the moment I am franticaly trying to bring Operation Barbarossa to a good end with Gary Grisby's: War In The East which was released about a month ago. To be frank I already made a mess of things with my first attempt as the Axis and are currently being beaten back by the Soviets. The first winter is a brutal experience.
I will continue my current Grand Campaign but am already devising plans for a second attempt.

Shifting von Kleist's 1st Panzer Group, all the way to the south, close to the Black Sea, I will develop a new stagin area for an offensive in the second or third week of Brabarossa. With ample German infantry support von Kleist will drive deep into the Ukrain, bypassing Odessa, with the goal to reach the Dnepr as soon as possible without having to come to grips with the main Russian forces around Kiev.
At the same time, Guderian's 2nd Panzer Group, reinforced by an extra corps from the 3rd, will strike for the Dnepr east of Minsk and then turn south. The plan is thus to create a giant pocket around Kiev. Once this is cleared by the infantry, and it will take some time, I will drive for the Don-basin instead of Moscow. Botht he Soviet capital and Leningrad will thus be seriously neglected until at least early September. We'll see if it works.

Last month was also the time I wrote a new preview-After Action Report with the Beta of the game Cities in Motion. The small Finnish developping company performed a great feat if you ask me. I have always loved games like, and especially, Transport Tycoon. Being over ten years old the graphics are so-so. Thus I was more then happy when I saw the first screenshots of Cities in Motion. This game looks fantastic.

Moreover, it is huge fun as well. Altough there is a lot of room for further expansions and add-ons in the future the game will be stable and well worked out. Here you can find my complete AAR with as many as 20 chapter and (as I write this) 19,000 views. Apart from tons of screenshots I have also made a couple of short in-game videos. I admit it has nothing to do with military strategy and warfare but I hope you'll enjoy them.

The videos->