Counterus Hex

Hex and Counter games reviewed and discussed by an old Grognard.

Every board game enthusiast has at least one game which they hold dear to their heart. A title which, upon spying the box on their shelf or even an image on the internet conjures up fond memories of sessions or opponents. For me the power and poetry of  these recollections is very important, for they bring grace, and a small measure of happiness to an otherwise mundane and dark world. And though, with age, the faces of friends long since past have begun to fade, the good spirit remains waiting but for a trigger to be released.

And so it is that Afrika Korps by Avalon Hill Game company is the title which allows my Mind’s eye to wander and my face crack with a wee grin. This game above all others that have come since, has had the greatest influence upon my love and passion for our hobby. By today’s standards Afrika Korps is a rather bland old girl. The plain brownish tan box doesn’t scream out at you “Here is Rommel the Desert Fox” like so many more modern versions The cardboard counters in the cold war era blue and pink are somewhat uninspiring.

Beyond that, inside the flat box is a simple introductory war game with depth.

Originally Published in 1964 Afrika Korps, represents the battle for North Africa in World War II from Rommel’s arrival in March of 1941, through October 1942.  It is a strategic game but extremely simple to play and learn. 

My old copy circa 1964

The components are standard fare for early Avalon Hill productions, a mounted map board with hexagon overlay to control movement. The counters (i.e. playing pieces) are cardboard chits in the classic red/pink for axis and blue for allied with NATO symbols to represent Armor and Infantry divisions etc. There is a Time Record sheet which is used to determine reinforcements and replacements, and of course the ever famous Combat Results Table (CRT) printed on some good cardboard stock. Like I said standard fare for its time. You can buy specialized counter replacement units online these days to “spruce” up the appearance and feel of the game but I personally enjoy the nostalgic look of the original pieces.

Allied Order of Appearance set up.

The rules of play are rather simple. Place all units for both Armies in the corresponding Order of Appearance areas on the edge of the map board. These units will come in to play on the specified date printed. Then you lay out the remaining units on the board according to the Situation-March 1941 card. This card tells you what units go where at the very start. Basically set up is predetermined and orderly which makes it easy for beginners.

To win the German player must either destroy all allied combat units or control both fortresses and both home bases simultaneously for two consecutive turns by October 1942 on the Time Record Chart. (note I have never seen a German victory by controlling fortresses.)

The Allied player wins if he eliminates all German combat units, controls both bases/fortresses etc. or denies the German victory by October 1942.

The game is played in turns, with the German player always going first. The active player moves all of the units he wishes to move, then consults the Time Record chart to see if he is due reinforcements, if he is then he may place them immediately along with any supply units he may be entitled to as well. Next all combats are resolved one battle at a time. Then the Allied player completes all of his/her moves, replacements, combats etc. Play alternates back and forth with the Allied player checking off a box on the time record sheet at the end of his/her turn. 

Axis Order of Appearance set up.

Combat is resolved by counting up the attackers total attack strength (first number on the counter) and comparing it to the defenders total defense strength (second number on counter) along with any terrain defense modifiers, and then determining the odds. 

Example Germans attack some British infantry with two armor divisions, German attack strength is 11 British Defense strength is 5. So 5 into 11 goes 2 times thus the odds would be 2-1.

Once odds are determined the attacker consults the Combat Results Table (CRT) and rolls a single six sided die and applies the outcome.  

Movement during a turn consists simply of moving any of the units a player controls using the movement factor (third number on the counter). He/she can use all, none, or some of this factor during their turn. There are terrain limitations which adjust movement such as escarpments which make a unit stop immediately when entering, and roads which give a added ten hex bonus. The Rommel counter also adds a plus 2 movement factor to any units he is stacked with at the beginning of the turn.

Classic AH Combat Results Table (CRT)

The most important rule of all in the game is that of supply. No army can attack unless there is a supply counter within five hexes of the attacking units. A supply unit can support more than one attacking unit at a time but they all must fall within the five hex rule. Supply units are consumed i.e. removed from the board once the attack/attacks are resolved and the player must either bring up more supply to continue next turn or capture his/her opponents supplies in the course of battle. (yes you can steal your enemy’s supplies).

German units in supply as they are within 5 hexes of a supply counter

Every Turn the Allied player receives one supply unit to be placed either at their home base or Tobruk if they control it. The German player on the other hand must roll a die each turn to see if he/she gets supplies that turn. The supply table on the back of the rules pamphlet is referenced and if the German player rolls poorly he/she may find themselves languishing out in the desert unable to attack. This mechanic is supposed to represent the sinking of German supply ships by the British navy.

There are other rules of course such as Isolation which eliminates units when they are cut off, soaking off, a combat technique, and replacements which come into play later in the game, but for now I think you get the gist.

Game play:
Game play is intuitive and solid. The objectives are clearly defined but there is plenty of room for the player to be creative in achieving his/her goals. As a German player you become acutely aware of “time and Space” as your supplies try to catch up with your advancing armies. As the Allies you play for time by delaying actions and holding defensive positions that hinder your opponent. 

Some say that Afrika Korps plays like chess, and though I agree, I think it has a bit more depth, in that the never ending issue of supply, time, and space create a level of tension I never felt in a chess match. 

Right, this has gotten a bit long, so I will leave off general strategies for the game for another day and will have to part with this.

Afrika Korps is a nostalgic title, though out done since its creation by other similar games, still has loads to offer, to both new war gamers and old. It is a wonderful exercise in the concepts of movement, defense, supply, and space without being dusty or boring.  For me, Afrika Korps has always been, and still remains, my all time favorite Avalon Hill title for its duality in simplicity and complexity as well as for the valuable lessons learned from playing it.

Not to mention the fond memories of friends smiling and arguing in an age long since past.


2 thoughts on “Afrika Korps

  1. Scott Duncan says:

    I agree that this game, of all the early AH titles, holds up about the best. I know some really like “Stalingrad,” but “Afrika Korps” Is my favorite. I thinks the early “perfect plans” for “Stalingrad ” discouraged me from caring for that game much. Perhaps it is also the supply constraint in “Africa Korps” that sets it apart in terms of the planning and strategy needed.


  2. Blighter says:

    I agree Scott it is the supply rule that gives AK its shine. Though I did also play Stalingrad a lot as well and found it fun but then again I wasnt playing in competitions or againgst players who researched those perfect plan set ups. AK was a present to me when I was eleven and from that moment until today my feelings for it havent changed.CheersAL


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