Totensonntag

Totensonntag : The First Battle of Sidhi Rezegh 2nd Edition by Lock’n’Load Publishing

Designer – Peter Bogdasarian.

Totensonntag is an entry level board war game that simulates the First Battle of Sidhi Rezgeh fought between the German/Italian and Common Wealth forces in the North African Campaign. The game simulates 6 days of fighting starting 19/11/41 and ending 24/11/41.

I will neither go in the mechanics of the game nor the historical details of the actual battle are very good internet sources are available on both subjects. I have provided some internet links below for those interested.

For details about the game system please see these two very good reviews

1) https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/284787/whole-lot-wargame-small-package-nicely-done-lnl

2) https://boardgamegeek.com/video/4730/corps-command-totensonntag/video-review

For more historical information about the actual battle please see

1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Crusader#Sidi_Rezegh

2) Desert War: The Battle of Sidi Rezegh by Peter Cox

Below in an play thru of the game in solitaire. I have described the events of each turn in a sort a war correspondents report style and of course a map of the situation is provided as well. I have also included some “analysis” for turns I felt necessary.

Initial Deployment of Troops on 19/11/9141

German and Italians

1) The Africa Division blocks the road Tobruk while the two of its weak infantry battalions occupy high ground around Sidhi Rezegh. (NW corner of map)

2) Recon elements of the 15th and 21st panzer division deploy to screen the approaches to Sidi Rezegh.

3) Rest of 21st panzer division has deployed at Gasr El Ared.

4) Italian Ariete Division is deployed in entrenched positions around Bir el Gubi

Reinforcements

1) 15th panzer division should arrive soon from the north in order to cover Sidi Rezegh or Gambut as necessary.

2) Two artillery groups will arrive from Tobruk later.

Analysis – Only the 15th and 21st panzer are fit for mobile offensive action. The Africa Division can defend well but the ability of the Italian Ariete Division to even defend entrenched positions is questionable.

Common Wealth Forces

British 7th Armoured Division in three columns

1) 22nd Armoured Brigade in SE below Bir el Gobi and Talb el Asem

2) 7th Armoured Brigade in center with the 7th Support Group behind it

3) 4th Armoured Brigade in SW at Gabr Saleh

Reinforcements

1) 1st South African Division should arrive soon (No Armour)

2) 2nd New Zealand Division will arrive much later (Only Infantry Tanks)

Analysis – The 7th Armoured Division is a very powerful formation though its has arrived spread out in three columns. The 1st South African Division is not motorised and thus may be good only for laying siege to the Italian Ariete Division at Bir el Gobi. The 2nd New Zealand division will arrive late, but is a reasonably strong motorised formation including infantry tanks and thus may prove to be the deciding factor.

Initial Setup

Initial Setup

 

Nightfall of 19th November 1941 (End Of Turn 1)

The British 7th and 22nd Armour Brigades make a push toward Sidhi Rezegh. Two Humber armoured car reconnaissance battalions (King’s Dragoon Guards & 4th SA Armoured Car Regiment) make a bold dash for unoccupied Gambut.

Meanwhile the 21st Panzer Division drives south from Gasr el Ared and attacks the British 4th Armour Brigade inflicting casualties and destroying the 3rd Royal tank Regiment.

Analysis – The British have decided on a swift attack to seize Sidhi Rezegh and Gambut before the arrival of German reinforcements, while the Germans are attempting the hold Sidhi Rezegh with the Africa Division and have pounced on the isolated 4th Armoured Brigade of the 7th Armoured Division.

End of Turn 1

End of Turn 1

Nightfall of 20th November 1941 (End of Turn 2)

The 15th panzer division arrives just in the nick of time to seize Gambut and destroy the 4th South African armoured car regiment, while the 21st panzer division gives a mauling to the British 4th armoured brigade, destroying the 8th Hussars and the 5th Royal Tank Regiment.

The British 7th and 22nd armoured brigades seize Sidi Rezegh and in the process destroy the 1/361 and 2/361 infantry battalions of the Africa Division. The 33rd reconnaissance battalion of the 15th panzer division and the 605th Panzer jaeger battalion are also badly hit.

The 4th Field artillery Regiment of the 1st South African Division arrives near Talb el Asem.

The Italian Ariete Division pushes up two of its Armour Battalions towards Sidhi Rezegh.

End of Turn 2

End of Turn 2

Nightfall of 21st November 1941 (End of Turn 3)

The British 7th and 22nd Armoured Brigades continue their attack on the Africa Division and destroy the 605th Panzer jaeger battalion and the 33rd reconnaissance battalion of the 15th Panzer Division. The Africa Division is close to being shattered and British are on the verge of capturing El Adem and opening the road to Toburk. Thus the Common Wealth Forces have already achieved some their campaign goals and are on the verge of complete victory.

To make matters worse for the Axis the entire 1st South African division arrives near Talb el Asem and may soon attack the entrenched Ariete Division at Bir el Gobi

However elements of the 15th Panzer Division arrive from Gambut and attacks the 22nd Armoured Brigade from the rear destroying 2nd Royal Gloucestershire Hussars & 11th Hussars. Now suddenly the British 7th and 22nd Armoured Brigades find themselves surrounded.

Two German Heavy Artillery Regiment also arrive from Tobruk to beaf up the beleaguered Africa Division.

The decisive action of the day is the 21st Panzer Division destruction of the 2nd Scots Guards Regiment and the 2nd Royal Horse Artillery Regiment, thereby completely destroying the British 4th Armoured Brigade. The 21st has won a great victory and brought the British 7th Armoured Division on the verge of being shattered.

Analysis – The 21st Panzer Division has attained full freedom of movement and is well placed to counter the any potential common wealth reinforcements (2nd New Zealand Division) or support the attack of the 15th Panzer Division against the British 7th and 22nd armoured brigades. The battle has decisively swung in favour of the Axis.

End of Turn 3

End of Turn 3

Nightfall of 22nd November 1941 (End Turn 4)

The Encircled 7th Armoured and 22nd Armoured Brigades try to break out in the direction of Tobruk. In heavy fight near El Aden the 7th Armoured Brigade destroys two infantry battalions (1/155 & 2/155) of the Africa Division and shatters the Africa Division but fails to take El Adem and the breakout fails.

Now the 15th Panzer Division attacks the British forces at Sidi Rezegh and in heavy fighting destroys the 7th Hussars, 1st King’s Royal Rifle Corps regiment & 2nd Rifle Brigade (7th Support Group) and thus shatters the British 7th Armoured Division. The 2nd Machine-gun Battalion of the 15th Panzer Division is destroyed, but its a very small price to pay for shattering the main British force.

The 21st Panzer Division is also rushing towards Sidhi Rezegh, in desperation the British throw the King’s Dragoon Guards armoured car regiment at it, and while the regiment is destroyed its delays the 21st Panzer Division.

No sooner had the 21st Panzer Division started moving again part of the 2nd New Zealand division arrived at Gasr el Ared and while most its moves towards Gambut one Motorised infantry Battalion (26/6/6th Brigade) peels off and in an almost suicidal move attacks the 21st Panzer Division. However as they say fortune favours the brave and not only does the attack manage to the delay the 21st panzer Division, one of its Panzer Battalion (2/5/21pz) takes some casualties as well.

Analysis – Things are looking good for the Axis. However there is still hope of the British, for if they can concentrate the remain armour of the 7th and 22nd Armoured Brigades against the 15th Panzer Division and crush it before the 21st Panzer Division arrives, then reinforced by the 2nd New Zealand Division they might be able to keep the 21st Panzer Division at bay and open the road to Tobruk.

End Turn 4

End of Turn 4

Nightfall of 23rd November 1941 (End Of Turn 5)

The British 7th and 22nd Armoured Brigades continue their attack of the Africa Division and destroy the 3/255 Infantry Battalion and capture El Aden. The road to Tobruk has been opened, but at great cost, the 7th and 22nd Brigades have been decimated in the fighting around Sidhi Regezh and the 15th Panzer Division is in rear of the British units.

The 15th Panzer Division now attacks the 22nd Armoured Brigade and destroys the 3rd and 4th County of London Yeomanry Tank Regiments. Sidhi Regezh also fall to the germans. The 3rd South African armoured car regiment attempts to assist the British 22nd Armoured Brigade and makes an suicidal attack on the 15th Panzer Division and is also destroyed.

Meanwhile the 6th brigade of the 2nd New Zealand division captures Gambut and in the process destroys the 15th Motorcycle Battalion of the 15th Panzer Division and the 33rd Artillery Regiment of the 21st Panzer Division. The 15th Panzer Division is now close to being shattered.

Elements of the 21st Panzer Division destroy the sole infantry battalion (26/6/6 Brigade) of the 2nd New Zealand division delaying it and move toward Gambut, but the 4th brigade of the 2nd New Zealand Division arrives to intercept them.

The 1st South Africa Division also has moved up to attack the entrenched Italian Ariete Division at Bir el Gobi.

Analyis – Even though the British have captured El Aden and opened the road to Tobruk, the Axis now seems to be firmly in command. For the British 7th and 22nd brigades have been so badly decimated in the fighting around El Aden – Sidhi Rezegh that they may not be able to hold out till the 2nd New Zealand Division (which has captured Gambut) arrives. However there is still a faint ray of light for the British, for if the they can shatter the 15th Panzer Division and embroil the 21st Panzer in a fight with the 2nd New Zealand Division then victory can still be theirs.

End Turn 5

End of Turn 5

Nightfall of 24d November 1941 (End Of Turn 6)

In a last suicidal charge the remaining armour of the British 7th Armoured Bridge crashes into elements of the 15th Panzer Division. In the ensuring melee the 2nd and 6th Royal Tank Regiment and the 60th Field and 4th Royal Horse Artillery regiments are destroyed. Thus the entire British 7th Armoured Division is wiped off from the face of the earth. However the British sacrifices are not in vain as the I/115 Motorised Infantry Battalion of the 15th Panzer division is destroyed and the 15th Panzer Division is shattered.

The British seem to be winning, though at great cost.

Emboldened by the shattering of 15th panzer division the 2nd New Zealand Division attack the 21st Panzer Division and destroys both of its Panzer Battalions (1/5/21Pz & 2/5/21Pz) thereby shattering the 21st Panzer Division.

Analyses – The British have managed to pull a rabbit of the hat and won the “First Battle of Sidhi Rezegh”, and even though the remaining german forces are strong enough to take on the 2nd New Zealand Division, more common wealth forces are on the way and thus the shattered 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions along with the remnants of the shattered Africa Division withdraw. The Road to Tobruk is open..

End of Turn 6

End of Turn 6

Final Victory Point Total

Common Wealth Forces gain +1 VP (Occupying Gambut) +1 (AD Shattered) +1 (15th Pz Shattered) +1 (21st Pz Shattered) for a total of 4VP and loose -2 VP(7th AD shattered) = +2 VP (Total)

Complete Victory for Common Wealth Forces.

Summary of my of first play thru of Totensonntag: The First Battle of Sidhi Rezegh in solitaire.

Let me state the most important take away first – that it was exciting and fun. The game is able to capture the feel of mobile armoured warfare in the desert – the ebb and flow of battle. It has in my opinion the most important ingredients of a game– “that feeling of immersion”.

Now for more detailed take away – Totensonntag is the first board war game I have ever played so reading the manual and initial setup took me over 40 minutes. In the first 2 turns I had to consult the manual on almost each step and so the first two turns took me almost an hour each. The manual is for the most part clear and concise. Some points about artillery and spotting were a bit confusing and I had to go online to figure them out. However as I played the game it all fell in place and by the 6th turn I was able to finish a turn in about 20 minutes. So it game is very easy to learn and play. Best of all it plays very well solitaire as well. Never once did I fell odd about playing both sides, in fact the system of activation/initiative (covered in depth by reviews) makes the flow of events unpredictable. This element also gives the game a lot of re playability. In fact in this play thru I played with aggression with both side as can be seen to heavy losses suffered by both. Next I will try the game with a more cautions approach for both sides, them maybe cautious for the British and aggressive for the Germans, you get the idea. Of course I will finally like to play against a real human opponent and see what happens, but I am sure it will be even more exciting.

So here is my suggestion, if you are newbie to board wargaming, then get this game, it is easy to learn and fun to play, plays well solitaire and gives a sense of immersion that is so important in a historical war game.

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