Friday 23 October 2020

WW2 Campaign: Operation Compass

The 3rd and final new campaign is set in WW2 and based around Operation Compass in December 1940. My original project involving this operation was to play various historical scenarios and although enjoyable enough, as with the other periods felt it would benefit from a campaign setting.

Blitzkrieg Commander IV rules will be used. The 'Operation Compass' book by Osprey Publishing helpfully provide an air force orders of battle for both sides. This was a good excuse to include an air warfare element to the campaign using Bag The Hun rules. 

The map I used was taken from the old Avalon Hill game 'Afrika Korps'. 

I added detail to this including more settlements, roads, tracks and the site of several Italian camps:

Campaign movement rates are pretty much as per the AH rules. The British are heavily outnumbered which would make it supremely difficult in wargame terms to have any chance of victory over the Italians. 

To make it more balanced I had to look at how I could recreate the deficiencies of the Italian army at this stage of the war. Poor leadership, communication and morale with a propensity to surrender en-masse needed to be handled but in such a way that it would not be a pushover for the British.

Within BKCIV rules I made most of the Italians 'green' troops with some decent units among them. I gave them a 'rigid' tactical doctrine (a smaller command radius) rather than the 'normal' as recommended in the army lists. Each battalion would only have one HQ - the battalion HQ. For the British, battalions would be assigned company HQ's in addition to battalion and an overall higher command rating. And finally, any Italian green troops would automatically surrender if defeated with higher quality troops rolling a dice to determine if they followed suit.

There will be one air combat phase per turn with participants decided on the roll of a dice. The Italians have 18 squadrons split evenly between fighters and bombers to the British 6 squadrons also evenly split. The British have higher quality pilots and planes but will nevertheless be up against it. The consequences of air actions, particularly if either side gains air supremacy, will determine what is available for ground support. Each model will represent 3 aircraft to avoid the need to collect too many more.

Continued -

By way of a prelude and an excuse to try out the new Tiny Wargames sea mat complete with hex grid, I played a small air air combat. This involved 5 Fiat Cr42 Falco biplanes of 10 Gruppo intercepted by 4 Hurricanes of 33 Squadron.

Only a handful of photos were taken with most not coming out well. The sea mat is more blue than in this photo and the aircraft colours are not quite so bright. 

In the game itself the Hurricanes made heavy weather of overcoming the Cr42's. A shock for them came when an Italian sprog pilot, in his only burst of fire in the game, shredded a Hurricane sending it plunging into the sea along with its pilot. 2 Cr42's were downed so a victory for the RAF but the attrition rate is bad news. They will need to do better to experience overall success.

Initial dispositions followed broadly that historically immediately prior to the commencement of Operation Compass.

The British plans are also along the lines of that historically with Selby Force striking along the coast and the 7th Armoured Division with the 4th Indian Division delivering a left-hook through the desert.

Although beginning the campaign along historical lines what follows will depend on tabletop events. 

Turn 1 with the advance of the 7th Armoured and 4th Indian Divisions across the desert. Selby Force has made first contact along the coast engaging the Italian 1st Libyan Division at Maktila.

Before playing this action, in the air phase 2 British fighter squadrons have intercepted 3 Italian fighter and 2 bomber squadrons. This will be the subject of the next update for the campaign.


  1. Yet another very interesting campaign that I'm very much looking forward to following its progress. The Osprey book is great. IIRC the Italian artillery performed particularly well, literally sticking with their guns to the last. I'm not sure the best way to represent this, but I'm sure there are some options at the back of the book. Your lack of commands for the Italians feels right to me, ditto the flexibility of the British in comparison.

    The air side of the campaign looks fun and never having played Bag the Hun, I look forward to seeing how this plays.

    1. Many thanks Steve. Italians are strong in artillery and potentially the main threat for the British. I have given them an average rating. Just finishing off the last of the figures for the first land battle and will then be good to go.

  2. I have fond memories of Afrika Corps! It will be interesting indeed to see how this plays out, Jon!

    1. Thanks Peter. This game has not seen the light of day for many a year so good to give it a new lease of life.

  3. Gosh, so many interesting campaigns for you to play out and us to enjoy, vicariously. I really like the preview of the planes over the ocean.
    Regards, James

    1. Many thanks James. The benefit of running several campaigns being that it enables me to switch between periods as the mood takes. Keeps the painting table fully occupied too!

  4. All interesting campaigns Jon, for me just glad things have settled and that you are keeping the tiles and playing 6mm again.
    The tiles would have cost me a lot of money if you had sold them....

    Regards Peter

    1. Many thanks Peter. Lol. I have to admit I am pleased I did not sell them. Having completed the conversion of the road system to 6mm for WW2 it was all too obvious that it would have been difficult to replace with mats.

  5. Hi, this is amazing, how do you determine the make up of the tabletop Forces and the air battles? I play BTH and the BKC/CWC series and a frustrated campaigner.. any advice is welcomed

    1. Many thanks Steve. For the tabletop battles, I have drawn info primarily from the Osprey 'Op Compass' book and 'The Benghazi Handicap' Command Decision book by Frank Chadwick which can be found here

      The CD is particularly helpful and although they are designed for that ruleset it translates very easily to BKC. Increasingly now there are BKC orbats for those forces involved now in Wargame Vault.

      The Osprey book has a rough guide on how many aircraft of each type were available and that has been my primary guide for Air Orbats. Whereas BTH is based on a ratio of 1:1 I have changed that to 1:3 for the campaign, primarily because of the numbers required.

      Hope this helps and please feel free if you have any further queries.

  6. Thanks Jon, excellent help. How do you determine what aircraft missions and each sides composition for the air phase. And ( sorry for all this). You mentioned that the success ir failure determined if the ground battle has support. Once again.. how? Thank you in advance. You have opened a whole new vista for me. I already play using exactly the rules you do and honestly I have exactly the same armies in 6mm. ( actually a bit spooky).

    1. "I have exactly the same armies in 6mm. ( actually a bit spooky)." Lol. They are interesting periods to wargame.

      On deciding aircraft missions and intercepts, I have kept it very basic as it is really just an add-on to the main land element. I have copied here notes that I made in determining the composition of each force -

      Each turn dice to determine how many and which aircraft are involved in an air combat.
      For the Italians use a D8 and the British a D4 (this denotes the number of squadrons)

      Then roll the appropriate number of D20 for the Italians and D6 for the British (Italians have 18 squadrons, British 6) to determine which squadrons are involved. Bombers cannot be unescorted so if only 1 squadron then replace with a fighter unit. If more than one and no fighters included then exchange one for a fighter squadron.

      Both sides cannot deploy bombers in same action. The side that has the highest proportion of fighters to bombers discards its bomber squadrons and becomes the intercepting force (note the bombers are not replaced by fighters – they are simply discarded). If both sides equal than each side rolls a D6 with the highest discarding its bombers.

      Hopefully that makes sense. Effectively one side is on a bombing mission and the other an intercepting force of fighters.

      With regard to ground support dependant on the outcome of an air combat, it very roughly works out like this. An outright victory for one side will result in the ground forces for that side being able to call in or schedule air support. If a draw or narrow victory then both sides can call in support. I have left this rather fluid so if feel that the defeated side is still relatively fighting fit then they can provide support. The benefit of playing solo!