My First Real Campaign: The Dark Sands (Part 3 and Final Thoughts)

Welcome back to the third and final part of my solo campaign with GMT Game’s “The Dark Sands” by designer Ted Raicer. If you missed the first two episodes you can find the second part here, or start from the very beginning. Part two ended in the middle of Turn 14. The allies are in a bit of a “Hail Mary” situation with the Axis hoping to delay any western advance. The game ends at turn 17, and unless the Allied forces can take some combination of Bardia, Sollum or Tobruk it’s going to be an Axis victory.

Turn 14

Good luck with the chit pulls allowed the Axis to slink back slowly anytime the Commonwealth got close enough to attack.

What Happened

The Allies had a tough time doing any serious damage this turn. It’s true they have better numbers, but anytime I get them in position to launch a serious attack the Axis managed to pull a “Move” or “1/2 Move” chit out of the mug!

What I Learned

The “88” guns the Axis can attach to a unit during combat are great for a German attack…but their +4 defense makes them absolute world beaters in this situation. Anytime I was able to get the Commonwealth in a good attacking position (and the Axis didn’t scurry one hex back) the attack odds were quickly shifted in favor of the defenders. Seriously those things are wild.

Turn 15

Tried to scoot the Allies “down and around” but couldn’t quite turn the flank.

What Happened

The Commonwealth was able to push the Axis off the East map, but an attempt to turn the Axis flank fell flat.

What I Learned

I haven’t thought about that rail line in a while but as I looked at the situation at the end of the turn I realized how crucial it was going to be to make a “two prong” attack happen. Even if the Axis cut off the rail supply, there’s also the trail system that could be used. That’s another benefit the Commonwealth has over the Axis, because the German and Italian units are not allowed to use the rail line when tracing a supply line.

Turn 16

I pulled the first two chits of Turn 16, and that was enough. The part of my brain playing the Commonwealth turned toward the part of my brain playing the Axis and said “Good show, and good luck once the Americans land”! The British just weren’t able to make any progress, and even with the very bloody Assault CRT that they can use during the last few turns there was no way for them to even reach those VP locations, let alone actually take them. I really had planned to finish this one out. I just wasn’t interested in playing out a game that had become purely academic. But this campaign has been incredible fun to play.

Final Thoughts

  • This is (probably) the last North Africa game I’ll buy for a long time. Now to be fair, that’s because I’ve already bought a lot of them. But this game is just so good, and I still have the historic scenarios to check out. I had another North African Campaign game on preorder and I actually canceled the order because I just felt that the Dark Sands campaign checked all the boxes for me.
  • When I do come back to North Africa I really hope to do a comparison of how certain games systems compare with each other. I have most of the “Battles for North Africa” series as well as “The Legend Begins” on my game shelf.
  • The “Dark” chit pull system is incredible. I can’t rave enough about it, and I am very curious to see how it works in the upcoming “Dark Summer” D-Day game. There is also a Bulge game in the works. Seriously if you are a solo gamer and you haven’t checked out some of the games that Ted has designed with this system, do yourself a favor and pick one up! I also have “Case Yellow” on my shelf and while it’s not the exact same system my understanding is there’s a lot of similarities.
  • This is the first time I have ever sat down and read the entire rule book before putting a chit on the map and I’m so glad I did. There’s just a lot of special situations that come up. I don’t think you should try to memorize the whole thing, but that once over really helped jog my memory when things like infiltration and naval movement came up in game.

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