‘The End of the Beginning’ – El Alamien Megagame.

A few weeks ago the usual gang (Brian, Chris, Evan and myself) went along to the Royal Armouries in Leeds for another Megagame session.

(Megagame? Think of it as a kriegspiel meets a double blind board game, look at Jim Wallmans site for more information: http://www.megagame-makers.org.uk/ )

Brian, Evan and I were grouped together as one team of Germans; the forces under our control were located in the middle (Kampfgruppe Mitte), that said we were playing a condensed version of the battle. Due to a smaller number of players present in Leeds from when it was first run in London the southern half of the battle was not gamed; any action between the protagonist there was handled by the umpires/ control. This did lead throughout the course of the day to a stream of reinforcement coming up to help their Northern Comrades. It was up to the 5 man Army/Corps level of control to parcel out these to what they felt was the most deserving Kampfgruppe at the time….

As for Chris: he ended up as Chief of Staff for the British, something to do with dealing with supplies and replacements. Given the nature of the game it wasn’t possible to chat with him during the day.

Our starting forces on the map, these positions were fixed and were not necessarily where we would have deployed. Note the neatness of the map annotations.

Our starting forces on the map, these positions were fixed and were not necessarily where we would have deployed. Note the neatness of the map annotations.

The whole of the gamed area. The blanks bits are the other Kampfgruppes' areas, boundaries are the long red lines.

The whole of the gamed area. The blanks bits are the other Kampfgruppes’ areas, boundaries are the long red lines.

Here we have been hit hard by the British and pushed out of our front-line positions. We pushed as many of our reserve units in as we dared (Brian and Evan were keen to push more in but as the nominal overall Commander I overruled to try and husband what we had, not know what, if any, extra assets the higher HQ would give us.) Fuel was an important consideration in the game for the Axis forces.

Here we have been hit hard by the British and pushed out of our front-line positions. We pushed as many of our reserve units in as we dared (Brian and Evan were keen to push more in but as the nominal overall Commander I overruled to try and husband what we had, not know what, if any, extra assets the higher HQ would give us.) Fuel was an important consideration in the game for the Axis forces.

I sneaked a photo of the higher HQ's overall map, it was at their table whilst they handed over control of 21st Panzer to my area. I was original to use it to push the Allied forces back but this turned into an attempt to blunt the tip of their spears as they launched a major offensive that turned into a breakthrough.

I sneaked a photo of the higher HQ’s overall map, it was at their table whilst they handed over control of 21st Panzer to my area. I was original to use it to push the Allied forces back but this turned into an attempt to blunt the tip of their spears as they launched a major offensive that turned into a breakthrough.

A blurry but hopefully informative shot of the control map at games end.

A blurry but hopefully informative shot of the control map at games end.

The sad end of 21st Panzer- reduced to 20% strength after only a few attacks....

The sad end of 21st Panzer- reduced to 20% strength after only a few attacks….

21st Panzer trying to blunt the Armoured Brigades tanks (represented by blue disks). Also by the end of the game our red pen annotations got increasingly frantic as we dealt with all the information coming in, often contradictory.

21st Panzer trying to blunt the Armoured Brigades tanks (represented by blue disks). Also by the end of the game our red pen annotations got increasingly frantic as we dealt with all the information coming in, often contradictory.

The game went pretty much as expected really. The Germans were hit hard all along the line, then an overwhelming force smashed through in the north between the middle and Northern KGs, it was to this blunt this attack that 21st Panzer was sacrificed. The major success of the British was a small breakthrough in the south that was dealt with heavily by HQ at the time, fearing that it would be used a a jumping off point to split us from the Southern units off map. However in dealing with this it left us all a bit short when it was needed at the end of the game. It was interesting to see how well the Italians did, often holding the line by themselves, the typical wargamers’ jokes falling somewhat short when a mixed bag of Italians took a battalions worth of Australians POW. Ultimately we fought until we were spent and HQ had saved enough fuel of us to retreat with (I hear Tunisia is nice at this time of year).

I always enjoy the format of the megagames, it’s really at a different level if like me you mainly play tabletop games with figures, in fact I try and get a few of the vague ideas across to other games I do for myself. I would be interested to know if the game was meant to be just a straight re-fight of the battle (with invariably the same result?) with our measure of success being able to hold out slightly longer than our real world counterparts 72 years ago, or whether there were enough tweaks to the forces to allow a radically different outcome to occur.

The Somme is lined up as the theme of the first Leeds based megagame next year and I can’t wait.

Cheers,

Pete.

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4 comments on “‘The End of the Beginning’ – El Alamien Megagame.

  1. Jim Wallman says:

    Great account Brian. In general we design the games to have the range of possible outcomes that are within the range of historical possibility. There are choices, and the main measure is against the historical prototype. It would take such a vast number of unhistorical tweaks to, for example, allow the possibility of the Germans throwing the 8th Army back into Egypt, that it would cease to be recognisibly the Battle of El Alamein, and would be come a fantasy battle instead. There’s nothing wrong with fantasy battles, of course, but the interest for us is to explore the historical events. That said, megagames are never mere re-enactments, and can got very differently. As is often said “No game survives first contact with the players”.
    In a battle like Alamein there are fewer variables at the strategic/operational level, so the interest will usually come from lower level handling of the battle, and doing the best with what you have, ‘reading’ the battle and the enemy and doing your best (in the German case) to survive. And yes, I guess seeing if you can last longer or inflict more damage than your historical prototypes did.
    Cheers

    Jim

    • Pete S/ SP says:

      Thanks Jim that does make sense.

      At least your maxim ensure that the same scenario is infinitely re- playable with just varying the cast list.

      Looking forward to the next one.

      Cheers,

      Pete.

  2. Curt says:

    Wow, I’d absolutely love to take part in one of these events – amazing stuff. I’ve always liked kriegspiel-style gaming as it relies more on creative narrative than dispassionate (and sometimes silly) dice mechanics. The Somme event sounds brilliant – I’m officially very jealous.

    • Pete S/ SP says:

      They have provided some of my favourite gaming experiences of recent years, a different perspective from my usual skirmish efforts but most importantly a great day’s fun.

      Cheers,

      Pete.

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