1/30/11

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

3 comments:

  1. If you're willing to try this on a computer and want a top-notch engine for simulating the "what-ifs" of a Malta Invasion, I highly recommend Matrix Games' "Conquest of the Aegean." Very realistic and highly challenging AI.

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