Long Range Desert Group Special Operations Against Rommel 1941-1942 Review
Review by David Lent
Long Range Desert Group is a $14.95 mini/microgame from Decision Games about commando operations against the Axis forces in North Africa. Each scenario requires you to retrieve a certain number of objectives and reach a minimum KIA level. You must purchase the appropriate units for a mission with a limited number of recruit points and group them into task forces based on the stacking limit for the mission. Each mission gives you a limited number of operations you can perform, so you must quickly achieve your objectives. Don’t worry; you can buy extra operations if you have some leftover recruit points. LRDG can be played as a single mission or all 4 missions in a row as a campaign game.
The components in LRDG are reasonably good, especially considering the low cost of the game. Included are a 4-page core rulebook, 2-page scenario rulebook, 40 counters, 18 cards and a point-to-point map.
The Commando series of minigames all use the same core rules. The scenario rules are what differentiate the games. Both rule sets are very low in complexity and only for solitaire play. They seem to be have prioritized smooth, fast and fun gameplay over historical accuracy. Many wargamers prefer this, but some prefer higher complexity and super historical accuracy instead.
LRDG’s included counters represent units, objectives, minefields and informational markers. The units have two numbers on them. The first is the number of dice the unit rolls in combat and the second is the number of spaces the unit can move. On the back of some of the counters is written the unit type such as recon, sapper, supply, etc.
There are 14 OPFOR and 4 mission cards in the deck. The mission card tells you how many leaders to start with (always 1), the stacking limit, number of recruit points, how many minefields and objectives to place, where to place the Afrikakorps marker (which makes a space non-traversable), the number of objectives to retrieve and what KIA level you must reach. OPFOR cards cause random events in LRDG. Some cause your forces to get attacked, some are sandstorms, some reveal objectives and most either cause you to gain or lose operations.
LRDG’s point-to-point map contains many tables and tracks. There is a random objective location table, recruiting costs table, amphibious insertion table, battle results table, terrain effects chart, recruit pool, air available pool, operation track and KIA track. The terrain and terrain effects chart seems a little messed up. Many of the locations are sand dunes according to the terrain key, but the terrain effects chart doesn’t have any information about sand dunes. Instead, it refers to the Sand Sea and Qattara Depression (where these dunes are located). I played this game under the assumption that the dunes must be that.
Setting up the game involves first drawing a mission card. You then mark the operation number on the track and randomly determining the locations of minefields and objectives. These are placed upside-down, so you don’t know whether it’s an objective or mine field. Next, you purchase your units and determine what friendly bases you wish to place your forces in.
The types of units you pick are extremely important. Sappers keep your KIA level from suffering ill effects if you enter a minefield. Wireless trucks allow you to call in airstrikes or air supply (if you purchased them). Recon capable units can reveal objectives when adjacent to an objective instead of having to enter a potential minefield unaware. Armored cars, heavy weapons and Royal Marines throw the most dice in combat. In addition, Royal Marines may take one unit with them and make an amphibious move if in a port. SIG forces are psyops capable and can be used to draw another OPFOR card if you draw one that you don’t like.
I found that my forces had to be based heavily on the stacking limit for the mission. In missions with a stacking limit of 6, I had sappers, wireless radio trucks, recon such as jeeps and 3 strong units such as heavy weapons or armored cars. I also purchased an airstrike and air supply to call in with the wireless. In missions where I had a stacking limit of 4, I did without the radio truck, air strike and air supply. Instead my task forces had a sapper, 2 heavy weapons and a recon unit. Interestingly, I found no use for the SIG unit because you actually need the “bad” cards to be played in order for the enemy to attack you so you can reach the KIA level needed to win.
The game play for Long Range Desert Group consists of 4 phases: movement, event card segment, combat and the objective segment. At the end of the 4 phases you reduce your available operations by 1. The first two phases are self-explanatory, but combat and the objective segment require some explanation.
Combat is abstract and occurs whenever an OPFOR card calls for it. The OPFOR card tells you how to roll for the number of enemy units and then you draw them blindly from a cup. If you are playing the campaign game, you draw one additional enemy unit for each campaign scenario that you have won so far. You line up the enemy forces from strongest to weakest and then line up your forces in any order you wish. At the beginning of each combat round, you roll to see which side attacks first. If you have a leader you may add +1 to your die roll. Each side takes turns firing one unit and immediately resolving the effects. The effects are either panic or elimination. Panicked units may no longer fight and if they get an additional panic they are eliminated. Combat continues until one side has lost all its units or they are all panicked. If you win, you can attempt to roll for a leader. If you roll a 6, you are successful. Every enemy unit you eliminate raises the KIA level by one. You reduce the KIA level by one for every one of your units that is eliminated. Air strikes can be used to assist one of your units and air supply can be used so that all of your units roll one additional dice. After aircraft are used, you need to roll to see if it goes to the air available or recruit box. Recruit points can be used to move aircraft back to the air available box.
The objective phase is performed when you enter a space with an objective marker. The scenario rules override the core rules and have you immediately reveal the objective. If you don’t have a sapper and it is a minefield, you don’t draw an OPFOR card and you roll a D6 for every unit you have. On a roll of 6, you reduce the KIA level by 1. If it is an objective, you draw an OPFOR card and resolve it. If you are successful, one of your units takes the objective and you increase your operation level by one. You must bring the objective back to a friendly base in order for it to count as successfully taken.
I found the following strategy to be the most successful. I send out one task force to take objectives and as soon as it is down a few units, I stop activating it. Next, I move another task force towards it and when I get near I move enough units to it to get it back to full strength. After that, I take the rest of the objectives and move back to a friendly base. Usually, I don’t have a high enough KIA level at this point to win the scenario so I send what units I have left out just so they can draw more OPFOR cards and get into combat and get more kills.
LRDG is easy to learn and fun to play. It has sufficient re-playability because the number of objectives depends on the mission card and they are randomly placed. However, the game is a little too easy once you have figured out the correct strategy and units to purchase. In addition, I do feel that the game is a little bit too simple. You are essentially just moving to objectives and resolving random events and attacks on the way. Some gamers may find the combat sequence too simple and dicey. I feel that OPFOR cards allowing the enemy to attack your friendly bases and make them unusable might spice up the game a bit. Overall, I do like the game though.
Buy your own copy here.
Watch the unboxing video below: