Thursday, 27 September 2012

Off The Shelf - Shifting Sands

We're building up a head of steam in our "Off The Shelf" series, having covered Hammer of the Scots and Twilight Struggle already. Our latest dusty game is Shifting Sands, by MMP games. Shifting Sands represents MMP's first attempt at the popular card-driven-game format and covers the war in North Africa from 1940 through 1943.

“Sweat saves blood, blood saves lives, and brains saves both.” - Erwin Rommel

Shifting Sands
#3 Shifting Sands

Designer: Michael Rinella

Publisher: MMP Games (2006)

Players: 2

Playing Time: 4 hours

Type: Point-to-Point / CDG / Wargame

Ranked: 119th in the wargames category on (BGG)

Historical background & Overview

For the Allies, the strategic significance of North Africa and specifically control of the Suez canal simply couldn't be overstated during World War II. They had few military successes to celebrate in the early war years and although the Battle of Britain (July-Oct 1940) proved to be a real shot-in-the-arm for morale, Churchill knew that they would need to control in North Africa in order to ultimately exploit the "soft underbelly of Europe".

The Nazis were well aware of this potential threat and Hitler assigned Erwin Rommel, one of his finest Generals to turn the tide of fleeing Italians in North Africa. Rommel arrived at Tripoli in early 1941 and succeeds in pushing the Allies out of Libya and back into Egypt, indeed only the heavily fortified Tobruk would hold out in a stalemate that would last until November 1941.

On November the 18th 1941, the British 8th Army pushed West into Libya, but are almost undone by a German counter-attack to their rear. Heavy fighting ensues and the British hold on, but can't prevent the Axis from holding open a coastal corridor allowing most of their at risk units to escape. By early 1942 a German convoy arrived in Tripoli and Rommel's counter-offensive was imminent.

They British are forced back to the east, with Rommel taking Ganzala and Tobruk finally being held up at El Alamein.

Rommel's push deep into Egypt stalls at El Alamein (July 1942)
  On October the 23rd, 1942, General Montgomery launches the second battle at El Alamein and after 12 days of heavy fighting Rommel retreats west with the 8th Army in pursuit. The British take the Libyan capital Tripoli on the 23rd of January, 1943, moving across the Tunisian board a short time later.

Operation Torch saw further Allied ambitions come to fruition as they landed units along the Moroccan and Algerian coast, leaving only a small pocket around Tunis in Axis control. Despite one final major offensive in the Kasserine Pass, Rommel is finally defeated. The Allies declare victory on the 13th of May 1943 capturing 275,000 prisoners of war.

An Allied victory in N.Africa
Shifting Sands lets you play through some of these struggles and create some new ones of your own. It tries to keep the flavour of the period through the many event cards, used to drive play.

In The Box

Inside The Box
One thin map (22" x 32")
36-page rulebook including 18 pages of rules and the rest of examples of play and card notes.
Two countersheets - one 5/8" and one 5/8" and 1/2" mixed
2 decks of 55 cards - one allied and one axis
2 player aid cards
Some dice

Sample Counters

German and British Decks
The components are generally good, although I would have liked a better quality map.


Special Ops #1 (Summer 2011)
At the time of writing version 1.03 is the latest release on the living rules for Shifting Sands.

You can also find a video introduction here, although I plan to cover some rules points in my first AAR.

Additionally the designer, Michael Rinella, has published an excellent article on Shifting Sands "To The Pyramids" in MMP's Special Ops #1 Summer 2011 magazine.

Given the recent increase in KoffeeKlub numbers it's likely that our first game of Shifting Sands will be fought out over VASSAL. This is not a bad thing, but it's always nice to catch-up face-to-face and see the whites of your opponent's eyes!

Try these links for VASSAL and the Shifting Sands module.

Shifting Sands through the online VASSAL engine
AARs will appear on the site shortly to cover our progress and provide some comments on how the game plays.

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