13 October 2022
Words by Brendan Wheatley. Photos by the Author & Editor
I have been a wargamer for over fifty years now and have always enjoyed not only the games but also making and painting models and scratch building scenery. The other part of the hobby I enjoy is writing my own sets of rules for personal use. Playing solo games has always been a fun part of the hobby as I am sure it is with many gamers. Short, small one hour games as well as full campaigns are all grist to the wargamers mill. For some time I had been contemplating the idea of short one hour games which could develop into a series of connected games, a sort of mini campaign but not involving a huge number of figures. The rules were to be simple to remember with as few charts as possible and a certain amount of character development. Most importantly they were to be a solo game with multi player option as opposed to the other way around. The dilemma was what period and what scale.
THE EUREKA MOMENT
It started on celluloid. How many gamers get inspired by watching a film? My Seven Years War project was inspired by the film Barry Lyndon and my Sudan game by The Four Feathers and so on. The film which inspired me this time was Sea Of Sand with Richard Attenborough released in 1958. I had never seen it until a few years ago when it was a free DVD in a newspaper. I was immediately hooked and wanted to find out as much as possible about this amazing unit called The Long Range Desert Group.
After reading several books about their history and exploits I began to formulate a few ideas. The units involved were not big and there was a lot of action. I knew this was exactly what I had been looking for. Two years later – and after lots of play testing with friends and their encouragement – I decided to publish the rules and called them DAK ATTACK
IN THE BEGINNING...
First off, I’ll lay out a brief history of The Long Range Desert Group. It was the brain child of Major Ralph Bagnold. Between the wars Bagnold had been a geographer and desert explorer. He and his fellow explorers had gained extensive knowledge of desert travel, survival and navigation in the vast desert of North Africa. When Italy joined the war in 1940 Egypt was under serious threat. Britain’s commander in Chief at the time was Sir Archibald Wavell. Wavell desperately needed intelligence of the Italian dispositions and Southern Libya was out of range for arial reconnaissance. So when Bagnold offered Wavell his assistance using the skills and techniques gained through years of desert travel Wavell gave him six weeks to recruit volunteers to form what was originally called The Long Range Patrol Unit [LRP]. The call went out for volunteers “who do not mind a hard life, scanty food, little water, lots of discomfort and possess stamina and initiative”.
The first patrol was formed almost exclusively of New Zealanders. After early successes other patrols were added from the Coldstream Guards and the Scott’s Guards. They then became known as The Long Range Desert Group [LRDG]. Later they expanded further to include the Southern Rhodesian and British Yeomanry patrols. Their main duty was “road watch”: deep behind enemy lines they would observe all enemy traffic, noting numbers of vehicles, type and unit insignia, all of which was then radioed back to Head Quarters. This was tedious – and extremely dangerous – work with two man teams taking turns twelve hours on and twelve hours off, twenty four hours a day for days on end only a few meters from the road, all the while camouflaged, in extreme heat during the day and freezing cold during the night. They did at this time also undertake some offensive operations such as destroying railway lines and even attacking Italian held Taku forts. The vehicles used at this time were Ford trucks armed with machine guns, mortars, Boys anti-tank rifle and even a Bofors gun.
FAST FORWARD TO LATE 1942
By this time they had changed vehicles from the old Fords to Canadian made Chevrolets and the ubiquitous Jeep. The normal organisation would be a Half Patrol although this might change depending on the mission. A half patrol would consist of two Jeeps, one for the officer in charge – perhaps a lieutenant – and the other for the second in command; usually a sergeant.
Then there would be four Chevy trucks. One truck would be designated a fitter or repair truck one the radio truck one would contain the Breda heavy weapon plus a fourth truck and all took part in any action. The armament on the vehicles had been vastly increased with Vickers double barrelled ‘K’ machine guns, Browning heavy machine guns and captured Italian Breda quick firing 2cm auto cannon. With this amount of fire power they had become a formidable fighting unit. Although unable to take on heavy armour in any sort of pitched battle they were now “up gunned” sufficiently to undertake more aggressive actions.
Their main function was still “road watch” but on return journeys they would undertake “hit and run” actions or what they called “beat ups”. The biggest threat to the LRDG on missions were air attacks and German or Italian patrols specifically sent into the desert to hunt them down.
VEHICLES & FIGURES
For the LRDG half patrol, as I described, you will need two Jeeps and Four trucks with crew plus half a dozen figures on foot. An essential part of the game is the Axis (German or Italian) patrol consisting of an armoured car such as the German Sdkfz 222 or Italian Autoblinda AS 42 along with a couple of motorcycles and a Kubelwagon or Italian equivalent. Minimally three squads of infantry each of ten figures including a machine gun team of three figures. Other vehicles or planes along with fuel dumps are used purely as targets for the LRDG to destroy.
Any scale of figures can be used. All measurements in the rules are in inches which are suitable for 20 or 28mm scale on a standard 6ft x 4ft table or larger. If using 15mm scale figures, I suggest the usual method of using the same numbers but in centimetres instead of inches. My own figures and vehicles are 20mm scale of various makes.
DAK ATTACK CAMPAIGN
Obviously, you’ll need a set of rules to play the scenario. They come with all of the card sets needed to play the campaign system. When using the rules, the first decision to make is on the length of the campaign. This could be anything up to ten or twelve games. The campaign is card driven and each card represents a twenty four hour period on the LRDG return journey back to base from a primary mission. One card is taken for each day you have chosen for the campaign to last. The cards taken are “blind” so you do not know what lies in store for any twenty four hours.
IT’S ON THE CARDS
Turn over the top card follow the instructions which will not only tell you your target but also indicate possible defenders which are drawn from a separate pack of cards provided. These cards contain blanks so you will never know the exact strength of the enemy or their position. At the end of the game add up points of enemy assets destroyed and also points (if any) lost from your patrol. That is day one. Now pick up the next card for day two and repeat the process using what remains of your patrol from the previous day. As you can see, day after day your patrol may take losses. When – or if – you get back to base, add up the points of all enemy assets destroyed and add up points lost. If you have destroyed 100% more of the enemy than you have lost then the mission has been a success.
For the demonstration games I decided on a solo seven day mission. My Half Patrol consisted of two Jeeps three Chevrolets and an older Ford truck. One was designated as the radio truck and another as the repair truck. These two trucks have a higher value than the others if lost. The repair truck in particular can make a huge difference in the outcome of the game.
The crews of the vehicles were then named and one of them was given the Explosives Expert special skill. This skill will ensure that all of the bombs he sets are guaranteed to explode. There are several other special skills available but I don`t like to give too many as they are already an elite unit.
Next we use the Mission Cards. After shuffling the thirty mission cards seven were taken, one for each day of the journey back to base. These cards are taken “blind” so the contents are not known. The top card is turned over to reveal what this day has in store for our brave LRDG lads! The card revealed was number nineteen: ATTACK AN OIL/PETROL DUMP. The instructions on the card are as follows:
Four fuel dumps and six soft skin trucks are the targets. The fuel dumps are inside a gated fenced area which must be broken into. Any bombs placed next to each oil dump will destroy it if it explodes. There are three buildings and the defenders are two squads plus two blank cards. Remove two cards. Test for returning DAK patrol after eight moves.
So now we have our instructions. After setting up the suitable scenery, take the equivalent squad cards to make up the two squads (six cards) and add the two blank cards as instructed. Shuffle the cards and remove two cards. Distribute the remaining cards equally between the buildings face down. We now have an unknown enemy in the buildings and some may even be blank cards.
THE BATTLE PLAN
As the officer in charge of the LRDG I now have to form a Battle Plan. The oil dumps are well protected and need to have bombs placed on them but are highly prized enemy assets. The trucks are not such a valuable asset but can be destroyed more easily. After playing many games over the years it became obvious why the LRDG used the tactics they did which was get in destroy as much as possible and then get out again quickly before the enemy can get organised or call for assistance. It sounds easy but in practice it is not so simple.
Having observed the targets it was obvious that getting into the compound to destroy the oil dumps was going to be tricky. Knowing that a returning Axis patrol could possibly turn up after eight moves also put on time restraints. Cutting through the perimeter fence and going in on foot would be too time consuming and being detected was also a possibility so this was not an option. The plan finally decided upon was to get in quickly before being detected, kill or suppress as many of the enemy defenders as possible and crash the gates into the compound. Although this may cause some damage to the vehicle it was worth the risk.
To achieve this I decided to split my force. I would lead from the front in my Jeep accompanied by one Chevy with Charlie – my explosives expert. The Chevy will crash the gates into the compound and place bombs on the oil dumps. The Breda Chevy will hang back and fire on the buildings from long range and be on standby if there is a returning patrol. The rest of us will shoot up as many vehicles as possible and keep the enemy under fire. There are eight moves available before an enemy “returning patrol may appear” so I decided we would have to be out and on our way by move seven at the latest.
We went in all guns blazing taking the enemy by total surprise. Because we were not detected we had priority firing. At this point we have to lay down our target markers for which I use match sticks. This is to prevent any change of target once firing has started. Once a target has been nominated the enemy card can be turned and the defenders revealed.
The Ford truck and myself opened on the house by the palm trees which contained an LMG along with its three crew plus three riflemen. We caused two casualties but the enemy passed it`s suppression test and returned fire. We were lucky as no damage was sustained to my forces. The Chevy fitter truck opened up on the centre building which contained only three riflemen as one card was a blank. The firing was dreadful and no casualties were caused so the enemy did not have to test for suppression and returned fire. Fortunately for us, the return fire – although registering one hit on the vehicle – caused no damage.
The remaining building was fired on from long range by the Breda which – again – caused no damage. Sgt Brown opened up with his K gun and the remaining Chevy which was the radio truck but also fired. The result was two hits and the enemy were suppressed which was good news as the building contained an LMG with crew plus three riflemen.
In moves two and three my Jeep and Paul’s fitter truck went through the gap between the two buildings to the gated entrance firing as we went. The others maintained their firing on the other buildings. By the end of this move we had virtually cleared out all the defenders but unfortunately not before sustaining two casualties. Bill and Di in the radio truck had both been wounded.
SETTING BOMBS & SHOOTING UP THE TRUCKS
In move four – while the other trucks finished off any enemy resistance – the fitter truck crashed through the gates into the compound. Fortunately it did not sustain any damage and two of the crew, armed with bombs, ran towards the oil dumps. In the meantime, I opened up with my K Guns on one of the parked trucks and destroyed it!
The bombs were laid on the first two dumps and fuses set for six moves time. While they were busy doing this the driver was shooting up another truck. In the next move bombs were laid on the other dump and the oil tanker. These fuses were set for five moves time and we continued to shoot up the trucks. By move seven all bombs had been laid and five trucks destroyed. Now we had to get out as quickly as possible and hope the DAK patrol did not appear before we got away!
Move eight no patrol appeared but the following move was a disaster: a German patrol arrived! After rolling dice and looking at the chart it was a lone Sdkfz 222 armoured car. It could have been worse, but not much. Another roll of the dice and it was deemed to appear on the table edge to our right front. It had priority firing and opened up on it`s nearest target which was the Ford truck. It was a hit and caused heavy damage but no casualties. Heavy damage means the truck cannot move. The brave crew of the Ford then returned fire along with one other truck (which was the only one with a clear line of sight). This caused light damage on the armoured car.
On move ten the truck with the Breda moved into a good position and we were lucky to get priority firing. The Breda scored a direct hit destroying the Armoured Car. It was then that the bombs exploded in the fuel dump. That is three out of four as one didn’t go off. The two bombs set by Charlie our explosives expert both exploded, of course, but one set by Tom did not.
The situation now is that we have two wounded men and a Ford truck that cannot move because of heavy damage. The decision made was to tow the Ford away and investigate later if it can be repaired and to see how badly wounded our men are. Then find out what lies in store for our next day.
HEALING & FIXING
Before revealing the next day’s card, we must refer to the rules to see if the men recover and if the vehicle can be fixed. It transpired that The Ford was repaired but Di is still wounded and Bill passed away. This left me with one Chevy with a driver and wounded gunner. This meant that crews had to be shuffled around. I moved Terry from The Ford to the Chevy – so now at least all vehicles had at least one fit gunner. All of this was noted on the vehicle profile sheet along with used ammunition (as you can see the rules are quite detailed! Ed.).
Looking on the points chart the result of the battle now meant that 355 points of enemy assets had been destroyed and we had lost a man, costing us 60 points. As for the tactics used by me... well that is for you to decide whether they were good or not! There was an enemy vehicle which was not destroyed but I did not think it was appropriate to fire on it as our own men were the other side and could have been casualties. There were more points available for destroying the houses with bombs but that would all take time that I judged I didn’t have. Perhaps bringing the Breda Chevy in to closer range at the beginning may have made it more effective.... Time will tell as there are another six days to go in this short campaign.
- Game Length: This game took just over one hour to set up and play. As you can see a full campaign could be played in a day or it is possible to ‘fix’ the cards. By choosing three or four of the campaign cards and shuffling them to add a bit of mystery, you should be able to play the games in an evening or at your club.
- Damaged vehicles: There are three levels of damage before a vehicle is destroyed. Light damage means the vehicle may still be able to move but can break down. It is also possible to repair it during a battle. Medium damage is the same but it is more likely to break down. Heavy damage means that it cannot move without being towed by another vehicle at half speed. Any damaged vehicle managing to get off the table could possibly be repaired for the next day. This is where the Fitter truck comes in because if you have one it will increase the chances of a repair being successful.
- Wounded men: Only LRDG personnel get wounds the enemy either survive or are killed. This is to give the LRDG Commander a few more decisions to make. Wounded men can still fire guns and move on foot but at reduced rates. Between games any wounded man may die from his wounds, fully recover or remain wounded. One of the special skills available is a medic which increases the chance of recovering from wounds.
The second campaign card was number twenty: Road Watch. Without going into too many details HQ has radioed in an order for your patrol to road watch for four days. These four days are extra days and do not count as part of your return journey. This does not require any setting up of a game but does involve some dice rolling. Each day of the road watch a dice is rolled and points are gained for your patrol. However if a one is rolled you have been spotted by an enemy aircraft which is exactly what happened on the third day.
Again this is resolved by dice and without needing to set up the game. Depending on the roll of the dice the aircraft could mistake you for friends and leave you alone or attack. You even have a chance of shooting it down. Unfortunately in this case the enemy decided to attack and after a few more rolls of the dice disaster happened and it was yet again the newly repaired Ford at the receiving end. It was completely destroyed and the two crew were killed. So not only was the Ford lost but John and Paddy as well. This whole process took about fifteen minutes to resolve.
Assets destroyed was still 355 but we had gained another 50 points at the road watch totalling 405 but now we had lost the Ford truck and three men totalling 240 points and I still have a wounded man. Things are not going too well for my patrol.
The first bit of good news was that Di has recovered sufficiently overnight to not be considered as wounded any more. The card drawn for day three was number thirteen which is the Convoy Shoot Up card. This card states that we meet an enemy convoy of four soft skin lorries and a staff car on the road This game also has a couple of added twists in that the staff car contains an Officer and the trucks may contain German troops. After opening fire on the convoy any truck not destroyed we dice to see if it contains any troops. If they do contain enemy troops then they immediately disembark test for being suppressed and if not suppressed may start to return fire. If we manage to destroy the convoy and the staff car the Officer always survives and can be taken prisoner. The down side is getting the prisoner back to base. He is worth a lot of points but has to be guarded constantly. This should be a short sharp game as the LRDG have the element of surprise but things can sometimes go horribly wrong.
We were now down to three trucks and two jeeps but all were fully crewed by fit men. The tactics for this game had to be fairly simple. The first thing to avoid was the chance of detection so we went straight in and started to open fire on move one. This meant we were only able to open fire on the first two vehicles, the staff car and one truck. My jeep along with Sgt Browns immediately opened up with our K guns on the staff car which was destroyed and crew killed (not the officer). The first truck was heavily damaged.
We knew that as we passed along the line of vehicles that any not destroyed would be targeted by our follow up Chevy`s the last of which had the Breda. By Move two it transpired that the last German truck in line contained a squad of infantry. They immediately debussed and tried to get into some kind of firing position. In this move we managed to destroy two more trucks including the one that had only been damaged. By Move three we saw that the enemy had formed up ready to open fire so I thought it was time to get out so we pulled away into the desert but our rear gunners managed destroy the final truck and cause two casualties on the German squad. Unfortunately the enemy did manage to get in some shots on one Chevy and it received light damage but managed to get away without breaking down. Tom was wounded so although the truck would be easily repaired we would have to see how Tom responded to medical treatment. I decided not to hang around and get the German Officer as a nearly full enemy squad with an LMG was too much of a risk. This game was played in about forty five minutes.
So this is a brief walk through of a running scenario game. In total, the games so far have taken about two hours playing time. With four more days to get back to base, things are pretty even with enemy losses at 557 points to our 240 points but we have to see if Tom recovers. That is as far as I have got with this solo campaign. I hope you have enjoyed the journey so far as much as I have. My big wish is that it has inspired enough interest in you the reader to make you want to learn more about the men and the heroic deeds of The Long Range Desert Group!
Ed’s note: Mr Wheatley is too polite to mention but I reviewed the rules a couple of issues ago and they are well worth chasing up: Go to dakattackgame.blogspot.com or Offensive Miniatures to get more info.