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North Africa

The Crumbling
A Total War Battle & Birthday Celebration

Written by Gísli Jökull Gíslason & Brjánn Jónasson.
Photos by Sigurður Örn Zöega.

When I was about to turn 40 years old I wondered how I wanted to mark the occasion. I decided that one thing I wanted to do was to host a Total War event with my gaming group, a Flames Of War playtesting group called Einherjar. I contacted Árbæjarsafn – the historical museum of the city of Reykjavík, and asked their historian Guðbrandur Benediktsson if he knew of a good venue to set up such a game. He was so impressed with my proposal that the museum loaned me a closed exhibition of the occupation of Iceland during World War Two – Iceland was occupied by the Allies from 1940.

Having now secured a venue to house the event I had two options, to set the battle in the Desert during Mid-war or in Late-war on the Eastern Front based on the armies available within my group. But there was no real choice since the Second Battle of El Alamein has its anniversary within days of my birthday I decided we would head out into the desert. With a little more research I found that the battle of Kidney Ridge (a misnomer since it is a depression) would suit my needs. The scene was set for an epic battle.

For the Desert I had roughly 4500 points on each side but needed to revisit the army lists and reorganise my forces. That also meant I needed to paint up a few platoons and in the final version there are 616 fully painted pairs of boots and their accompanying figures as well as tanks. I decided to field three companies to per side and that each company was limited to 1500 points. That meant that I needed almost all my models and that not all lists would be optimal. Not all lists would have artillery, for example, since I had a limited amount of models. A clear example is the 25pdr Battery that I decided was best fielded as Field Artillery with the Infantry rather than Royal Horse Artillery with the Motor Company.

Below: British Reserves waiting patiently.

British Reserves waiting patiently
Allied Forces
Core Units
Infantry Company of the 51st Highland Division.
Company HQ.

Rifle Platoon

Rifle Platoon.

Rifle Platoon.

Full Mortar Platoon.
Armoured Company
8th Armoured Brigde – Staffordshire Yeomanry 10th armoured Division
Company HQ (2 Grants, 1 Lee)
Heavy Troop (3x Shermans)
Heavy Troop (3x Grant)
Heavy Troop (2x Grant, 1x Lee)
Light Troop (2x Crusader II, 1x Crusader III)
7th Motorised Brigade
1st Armoured
Company HQ.
Motor Infantry Platoon.
Motor Infantry Platoon.
Heavy Machine-gun Platoon.

Scout Platoon - 2x Patrols (in effect 2 platoons).

6pdr Anti-tank Platoon.

Support Group
Full Field Battery Royal Artillery - from 51st.
2x Valentine Troops - from 51st or more likely 44 RTR.
'Honey' Stuart Troop (3x Stuarts) - from the 7th Motor.
Light Tank Platoon (2x Crusader III, 1x Crusader II) - from the 7th Motor.
Motor Infantry Platoon - replaces Royal Engineers - from the 7th Motor.
Limited Air Support - Hurricane IID.
Below: The Axis forces set in the wonderful surroundings.
The Axis forces set in the wonderful surroundings
Axis Forces
Panzerkompanie - 8. Panzerregiment, 15. Panzerdivision
Company HQ (1x Panzer III H*, 1x Panzer IV F2)
1. Zug (2x Panzer IV F2, 1x Panzer III J (late), 1x Panzer III H*)
2. Zug (3x Panzer III J (late), 3x Panzer III H*)
3. Zug (3x Panzer IV F1)
* = Panzer III H is used for all Panzers marked G to J (early)
Squadrone Esplorante - 2/ Compagnia 'Lancieri di Novara' 133° Divisione Corazzata Littorio
Company HQ - 2x L6/40
Light Tank Platoon - 5x L6/40
Light Tank Platonn - 4x L6/40
Armoured Car Patrol - 3x AB41
Battaglione Fucilieri - 102°Divisione Motorizzata 'Trento'
Company HQ
Fucilieri Compagnia - 3 Groups
Fucilieri Compagnia - 3 Groups
Mortar Platoon
Support Group
Carri Platoon - 5x M14/41
Self-propelled platoon - 1 Carro Comando, 4x Semovente 75/18
Bersaglieri Compagnia - 2 Groups
Light Anti-Aircraft Platoon
Anti-Aircraft/Anti-tank Platoon
75/27 Cannon Battery
100/17 Howitzer Battery
100/17 Howitzer Battery
Demolisher Platoon
Sporadic Air Support - FIAT CR.42 Falco
Below: The Einherjar Playtesting Group.
The Einherjar Playtesting Group.

We also decided to play using the General special rules for Rommel and Montgomery. These add flavor to the game without being imbalanced. The most important rule is Montgomery's Dogfight rule which gives the central objectives double the value in victory points for both players.

Learn more about Total War along with the Total Victory mission and the General special rules here...

On the day of the big battle my friends in Einherjar playtesting group had a surprise in store for me. Siggi asked me to come over to his house and pick up the boards that I was going to borrow from him. I did but in doing so walked right into an ambush. Most of the group was there and covered under a blanket there was a 240cm x 120cm [8'x4'] modular terrain board, a gift for my birthday. A fantastic gift from a fantastic bunch of guys and they caught me by complete surprise.

Armed with a new board we drove to the museum where the battle was to take place and set up the game. We used one additional board to expand to the gaming board to 240cm x 180cm to give the battle more depth. Siggi and Brjánn assumed the roles of Lieutenant-General Montgomery and Lieutenant-General Lumsden and I filled the role of Generalfeldmarschall Rommel. The Allied Commanders rolled to be the attacker, which means they placed their objectives and forces before the Axis, and would have the first turn. It had been decided beforehand to play out eight turns but if a clear outcome hadn't been determined then and the game was close we would keep playing.

The Allied Plan

The Allied players decided to use the terrain to their advantage, concentrating the 51st Highlanders on the left flank where the terrain would make it difficult for the Italian tanks to roll over them, ready to take an objective within easy reach. The Highlanders were supported by a platoon of tanks unsuited for the inevitable tank battle, and the Heavy Machine-guns from the Motor Company were positioned to give them covering fire. The Motor Company was spread out over the other objectives, supported by all the tanks we could muster. The artillery and the 6pdrs took the center of the table, ready to repel any tank attack on the main objectives. Most of the heavier tanks were concentrated on the right flank. Our plan was to advance and take one of the uncontested objectives with the Highlanders, but hold with the Motor Company and tanks, trying to lure the German tanks on to our defenses. The Universal Carriers and two light tank platoons were held in reserve. The Bren Carriers were to use the Recce Reserves rules to get on to the table from the flank to annoy the enemy, while the light tanks were to deploy to stop the Italian tanks from overrunning unsupported infantry.

Plan of attack for both sides
The Axis Plan

This was a second time I played the Total Victory Mission and last time I had managed to concentrate my attack. This time I had a similar plan, to use the Panzers as a spearhead to take on the British Armour while the lighter Italian tanks with infantry support tackled the other defenses. But straight from deployment I diverged from the plan in response to the Allied set up and put the lighter Italian tanks in a centre position rather than to back up the main thrust. My direction of attack was clear, I intended to go up the right flank with my Panzers and secure the left flank objectives each one in turn. On the right flank I planned to use the Fucilieri in a holding game.

Below: Setup and deployment.

Setup and deployment
The Allied Turn One: 2 Victory Points.

Each side scores Victory Points at the start of each turn in the step when you check Victory Conditions. One point is scored for each objective held. Montgomery has a special rule that doubles the points for each of the central objectives. The Allies advanced boldly and the 51st Highland Division secured the centre objective on the ridge. The Armoured Squadron focused their extensive fire on a forward "88" position but only knocked out one gun despite the volume of fire. Clever use of smoke blinded the Italian forward observers in the small town but at the end all they had bagged was the "88" and a single Panzer III.

Below: The British Limited Force advances to their objective.

The British Limited Force advances to their objective

The Axis Turn One: 2 Victory Points.

Cautiously the Panzers advanced into range with their guns and on the right flank the tiny L6 tankettes advanced against the Highlanders. Their fire with the addition of the Fucilieri proved devastating and seven infantry teams were destroyed from two platoons. The Panzers were even more successful along with the "88" and they took out three Grants and two Sherman tanks.

Below: The burning Grants and Shermans.

The burning Grants and Shermans
The Allied Turn Two: 6 Victory Points.

Having secured one of the centre objectives added four Victory Points to the Allied total which compensated for the loss of the tanks. The Allied commanders were concerned about their losses but were spurred on by one of their commanders, this was far from over. Using their support group tanks they lashed against the Italian tankettes and concentrated their fire against the remaining "88". They were rewarded by taking out the gun and brewing up four tankettes as well as the Panzerkompanie's 2iC in his hard-hitting Panzer IV F2. In addition sporadic fire destroyed the first Italian Infantry teams.

Below: The Italian L6/40 tankettes start to take losses.
The Italian L6/40 tankettes start to take losses
The Axis Turn Two: 4 Victory Points.

Since the Germans still had not advanced to capture the centre objective on the left flank they were behind on Victory Points and this needed to be remedied. But first the tank duel needed to be won and in this turn the Axis concentrated on damaging their enemy while on the right flank spurred on by the great casualties scored against the Highlanders the Fucilieri threw caution to the wind and advanced on a broad front. At the end of the turn the Axis had finished off the last Sherman and a Grant Troop as well as a few straggling British Infantry. Their attack was however across the entire front and lacked in direction.

Below: Numerable air attacks were made throughout the game, mostly solitary CR.42 Falcos but overall Air support had little or no effect.
Numerable Air Attacks were made throughout the game, mostly solitary CR.42 Falcos but overall Air support had little or no effect
The Allied Turn Three: 10 Victory Points.

Enter the Bren Carriers that could. The Allies rolled for their first reserves and a patrol of Bren Carriers arrived on the left flank of the Axis, their speed, half-tracks in the desert ensured they were able to take up a good position behind a 100/17 Skoda Artillery Battery. On other fronts the Allies secured their positions, the Italian light tanks thrust suffered more setbacks, including their Company Commander killed in action. The Heavy Machine-guns of the Motor Company, firing over the heads of the 51st Highlanders holding the centre objective, as well as the Highlander’s own mortar platoon dealt out punishment to the bold Fucilieri, effectively ending any further plans of conquest from their part. But is was the Bren Carriers that were the heroes of the day taking out three guns and ending their move in place to contest an Axis rear objective.

Below: The Bren Carriers make an impact on the battlefield.
The Bren Carriers make an impact on the battlefield
The Axis Turn Three: 5 Victory Points.

The Axis plans or lack of thereof, were in disarray. A glimmer of hope came when the M14/41s arrived from reserve and in position to tackle the Bren Carriers. In other places the wide offensive had faltered and found making any further headway very difficult. Since the Axis was trailing on Victory Points, drastic measures were called for. The Panzers had been cautious so far and yet to claim the left flank centre objective, and the now suffering Italian tanks were in place to contest the objective held by the 51st Highlanders. The Axis armoured units pressed forward claiming or contesting both for now. But misfortune befell when the Italian M14/41 tanks as they failed to hit a single Bren Carrier and they were left unmolested to continue to wreck havoc on the hapless rear artillery.

Below: Despite there timely arrive the M14/41s are unable to strike back.
Despite there timely arrive the M14/41s are unable to strike back
The Allied Turn Four: 12 Victory Points.

This turn the Allies only got points for their rear objectives but this time the German Panzers had advanced far enough for the 6pdrs to begin their work and they quickly dispatched the lead Panzers leaving the centre objective free. It was harder to dislodge the Italian tankettes and a hopeful assault against them by the infantry failed to materialise even though they were spurred on by the Company Commander. More Bren Carriers arrived from reserve and begun to harass the Axis right flank but to little affect, their brothers on the Axis left flank however continued their success and wiped out a lighter 75/27 Battery to a gun and then retreating into a small wood.

Right: Victims of the 6pdrs.
Victims of the 6pdrs
The Axis Turn Four: 6 Victory Points.

The Panzers had failed to concentrate their forces and were being destroyed piecemeal trying to capture the centre objective. A bolder move was required and this time all the remaining Panzers advanced. Smoke covered many of the 6pdrs and shooting saw the destruction of so many Allied tanks that the Armoured Squadron was down to a single platoon. Meanwhile the Italian thrust was doomed and the brave Italians attempted to stand their ground and hold on to the bitter end. Now the Italian Autoblindo Armoured Cars arrived from reserves and with the M14/41 tanks attempted to end the running success of the Bren Carriers, who fled from the shooting and managed to avoid the worst of the fire but were now within range of an Italian 20mm AA gun. The gun let loose but only managed to destroy one and bail the two others.

Below: Smoke envlopes the 6pdrs.
Smoke envlopes the 6pdrs
The last troop bravely take on the Panzers
The Allied Turn Five: 14 Victory Points.

Unexpectedly the second of the Montgomery special rules, Gather Round, came into effect when the Armoured Squadron failed their motivation test but were saved by the re-roll . The last Troop acted boldly and drove against an advancing Panzer Zug. On the Allied left flank things were going well and now the supporting tank units cleared the centre objective of Italian light tanks and this brought the Squadrone Esplorante down to a single platoon and with the loss of their commander this meant the end of the Armoured Cars as well. The amazing Bren Carriers remounted but couldn't go far this turn.

Left: The last troop bravely take on the Panzers.
The Axis Turn Five: 8 Victory Points.

It was now turn five and the Axis had yet to claim a centre objective and much of their offensive firepower was lost, still they would not give up the fight and the now seriously depleted Panzers made one final push to try and claim victory. The Armoured Squadron was burning as was a platoon of Valentines but the Panzers were by now too weak to tackle the almost intact Motor Company and their 6pdrs. Yet again the Axis forces failed to destroy the heroic Bren Carriers, even if they were now down to a lone bailed out Carrier.

Right: The strong Allied centre.

The strong Allied centre
The death of the Panzer IVs The Allied Turn Six: 18 Victory Points.

Still the Armoured Squadron remained and now imparted their vengeance on a platoon of Panzer IVs had failed to destroy them in an earlier turn and it was destroyed in return. The last Grants and Lee were making the Germans pay for their insolence. On the Allied left flank the units were content to reorganise with their position now that it was more or less secure. The last Bren Carrier moved to contest the rear Axis objective rubbing salt into the wound.

Left: The death of the Panzer IVs.
The Axis Turn Six: 9 Victory Points.

It was painfully obvious that any hopes of a German Victory had now been quashed. There was no chance to reverse the fortunes of this battle. A few shots were exchanged this final turn but to little effect, even the last Bren Carrier was unharmed. With no prospect of pulling victory from the jaws of defeat the Axis players conceded at the end of Turn Six and the remaining forces attempted to withdraw.

Final Score

Allied Victory Points: 18.
Axis Victory Point: 9.

Below: Fun was had by all.
Fun was had by all
Allied Command Notes

Well, the battle was much closer than the final score would suggest. The Allies won the day, but the cost was high. The battlefield was littered with burning tanks, and the Highlanders took heavy casualties securing their objective. We stuck to our plan, took the important objective and held the ones we started with. Our tanks managed to hold their own in a duel against the German Panzers and “88s”, and in the end the Panzers did not have the strength to deal with the Motor Company to take our objectives. The heroes of the day were the crews of the three Bren Carriers who boldly flanked the entire Axis army, single handedly destroying two artillery batteries and occupying valuable Axis reserves.

The Italian line

Axis Command Notes

I am personally responsible for losing the game. Before the battle I had a plan but during deployment I forgot it. The German Panzers performed valiantly but unsupported they could never match both the Armoured Squadron and Motor Company. I failed to focus my attention and I and my sub-commanders suffered for it. No fault can be placed with them they all carried out their tasks bravely.

This is my second Total Victory Battle and the first I have lost and I will take with me a lot more lessons learned from this one. Concentration of force and boldness is the key to success. Also you must not be afraid to take causalities, you must think big and not act in penny packets, in order to win you must be ready to take losses.


"Montgomery told the commander, Brig Currie, that he was prepared to take 100 per cent casualties in order for the brigade to reach the Rahmen track."

- Ken Ford, page 86.
El Alamein 1942, Osprey Campaign Series 158.

Allied Armour


Much like in the real Battle of Kidney Ridge it was the 6pdrs that broke the back of the German attack. And very like the real action the Axis attacked in penny packets too small to break the Allied line. That is one of the great things about Flames Of War; even if the rules are simple the results often are close to what they were in real life.

Total Victory is a great mission for gaming groups to come together to do something big. There was a lot of anticipation in the days before the battle and we all left satisfied with the outcome. The depth of the board worked well, in particular for the Bren Carrier that could, who was without any doubt the heroes of the day. I think the length of the board was a little too narrow however. These were 3 complete 1500 point armies to a side and 240cm [8'] isn't enough to allow room for maneuver it quickly becomes a match of attrition. I think 120cm (4') per 1500-2000 points is better and I think we will go with 360cm (12') next time.

I was more than satisfied with the day, playing in such great surroundings, period music playing in the background, a great table and fully painted armies all combined to make the day memorable and enhance the enjoyment of the game and made me look forward to the day we come together for the next Total Victory battle.

The Battlefield one last time

Last Updated On Friday, December 10, 2010 by Blake at Battlefront