PANZER ARMEE AFRIKA is a historical simulation of the decisive period during the early years of World War II when the Axis and British fought over control of North Africa. This title was designed by James F. Dunnigan and originally published in S&T #40 (Sept-Oct 1973) by Simulations Publications Incorporated (SPI). The boxed version featured in this profile was republished by The Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC) in 1981.


On 26 May, 1942, Erwin Rommel, with 332 German and 228 Italian tanks, attacked the British forces in the “Gazala Line.” This Allied defensive zone stretched approximately forty miles inland from Gazala on the Mediterranean Coast to Bir Hachim in the Libyan Desert. The Gazala-Bir Hachim Line, besides being long, was also a ten mile deep integrated system of minefields and defensive “boxes” (strong points). Each fortified British box was occupied by a brigade with its own artillery and other heavy weapons, and with sufficient supplies to hold out for ten days if isolated.

The operation did not begin particularly well for the Afrika Korps. After nearly running out of fuel on the second day of the offensive, Rommel’s armored forces found themselves very precariously placed. Fortunately, Axis troops finally managed to defeat the British infantry in the center, and the commander of the Afrika Korps was able to restore a supply line through Trigh Capuzzo to his exposed tanks. Slowly, the tide of battle began to turn in Rommel’s favor. After holding out against repeated Axis assaults for ten days, the Free French Brigade was finally driven out of Bir Hachim. British armor renewed their counterattack on June 12 and 13 in a last desperate effort to halt the Axis advance, but after two days of fighting, the surviving 70 British tanks — now outnumbered by German and Italian tanks more than two-to-one — were compelled to retreat. Rommel had won the Battle of Gazala, and on the 18th of June the British Eighth Army was forced to begin a complete withdrawal back towards the Egyptian border. After more than a year of campaigning, the greatest prize of all, Tobruk, fell to the Axis just two days later, on 20 June, 1942.


PANZER ARMEE AFRIKA is a battalion/regiment/brigade level simulation of the most critical twenty months, from April 1941 through November 1942, of the North African campaign. For both the Axis and the British Commonwealth, the stakes were high. Egypt, and with it the Suez Canal, was the ultimate prize: British control of the canal maintained an essential supply line to Britain’s East Asian possessions; a German victory in Egypt could well lead to Axis control of the entire Mediterranean Basin, and open up a new German front against the oil-rich Russian Caucasus. The Western Desert was perfect for the tank, and the German general who commanded the Panzer Armee Afrika, Erwin Rommel, proved time and time again, that he was a master of the armored battlefield. Mobility, sweeping maneuver, concentration, and surprise were all the hall marks of his style of desert warfare. It is these features of combat in the Western Desert that PANZER ARMEE AFRIKA attempts to simulate.

Each game turn in PANZER ARMEE AFRIKA is equal to one month of real time and consists of two symmetrical player turns. The game turn sequence proceeds as follows (the Allied player always moves first): Supply Determination Phase; Movement Phase; Combat Phase; and Replacements and Reinforcement Phase. The Axis player repeats the same sequence of phases and the game turn marker is advanced on the turn record track. Several unique design features set PANZER ARMEE AFRIKA apart from other games on the same topic. First, there is the movement range of the different counters: this varies from 40 to 60 movement points, depending on the nationality of the unit. Second, severe (and random) movement restrictions are placed on the British combat units by the game’s command and control rules. This often leads to important Commonwealth units being frozen in place, just when they are needed most. The third feature that sets this game apart is the role of supply units and their transport. Supply is immobile; it must be transported by truck units or, in the case of the Allies, also by rail. Supply units need not be consumed to supply either defensive or offensive combat, but if an attacking player does elect to expend a supply (maximum attack supply), then any units within range of the expended supply are DOUBLED on attack. The fourth interesting wrinkle in this game system is the ability of units that survive an enemy attack to counterattack at a multiple (depending on their nationality) of their basic strength. This last feature, when combined with the effects of maximum attack supply, tends to make set-piece battles bloody, harrowing affairs for both sides.

The turn sequence and mechanics of PANZER ARMEE AFRIKA are simple enough that they can be easily learned; but mastering the game, given its unorthodox design elements, is another thing altogether. Over the years, I’ve played quite a few different games dealing with the North African campaign, but none, in my opinion, does a better job of modeling the extreme swings and strategic ebb and flow of the war in the Western Desert than PANZER ARMEE AFRIKA.

PANZER ARMEE AFRIKA offers several 'Optional' rules that reflect the strategic alternatives available to both sides during the course of the North African Campaign. The Axis, for instance, may opt to invade Malta: if successful, the Axis reinforcements and supply situation improves, but if it fails, then the Axis player will lose units that he otherwise would have had. The Allied player also has several reinforcement options available to him. These reinforcement alternatives, however, come at a cost: victory levels are directly affected by these options, so a player should consider carefully before deviating from the historical game. Several other optional rules are offered that can increase realism and/or improve play balance: reaction movement, during which the defending player may attempt to reinforce a hex under attack; and Italian infantry reliability, which (not surprisingly) diminishes as Italian losses mount.


PANZER ARMEE AFRIKA is an interesting, if somewhat unorthodox treatment of the North African Campaign. It is also a surprisingly enjoyable game to play. The large movement ranges of the various units — combined with the British command restrictions, combat routines, and supply rules — all combine to make for a unique gaming experience. I have to admit that the 'Chess player' in me chaffs at the capricious and totally random British movement rules, but I nonetheless find that the game’s innovative design consistently makes for a free-wheeling and sometimes surprisingly accurate simulation of the actual campaign. This game is probably not for everybody, but for those players with a special interest in the World War II Battle for North Africa, it probably is a MUST OWN.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 1 month per game turn
  • Map Scale: 12 miles per hex
  • Unit Size: battalion/regiment/brigade
  • Unit Types: armored infantry, armor, reconnaissance, infantry, parachute infantry, glider infantry, trucks, supply, and information markers
  • Number of Players: 2
  • Complexity: average
  • Solitaire Suitability: above average
  • Average Playing Time: 2½-4 hours

Game Components:

  • One (map-fold) 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Board (with Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, Terrain Effects Chart, Combat Results Table, Supply Effects Chart, Variable Reinforcements Option Chart, (British) Command Control Chart, two Cadre Boxes, and two Replacement Tracks)
  • 260 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8” x 11” Rules Booklet (with Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
  • One 5½” x 8½” Terrain Effects Chart
  • One 5½” x 7” Customer Response Card
  • One 8½” x 11½” x 2” bookcase style cardboard Game Box

Recommended Reading

See my blog post Book Reviews of these titles; both of which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.


  • I agree. Panzer Armee Afrika still has what it takes. I played it in the 70's and I'd play it again in a heartbeat.

    Wargames are moving toward consumer nexus-- hardware, software, and wetware. Virtual Life Expression business futures offer untold opportunity and challenge. How do you feel about immersive wargames ? Have you seen:


    and scourgeofwar : Gettysburg ?

    We've always shared tabletop games-- how do you feel about software wargame DRM's ?

  • Greetings:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments on PANZERARMEE AFRIKA; I found them quite interesting.

    In so far as the newer, internet-based, game design architectures are concerned: while I can admire many of them on a purely technical level, I find that I am personally not comfortable with any of them as a "player." My own somewhat eccentric tastes in game design --- deeply entrenched after over forty years in the hobby --- have left me with a strong bias towards traditional "map and cardboard counters" game systems. This bias, I confess, is purely personal and has nothing to do with the cleverness, playability, or historical detail of any of these newer designs.

    Computer games, particularly, I find unsatisfying because of my individual preference for being able, both to survey the entire playing area at a glance, and to manipulate the playing pieces physically. Moreover, many of the subroutines (the busy work)that the newer computer programs do so well, I actually prefer to do myself. I guess that you could say that this is a product of the "chess player" in me; I just can't bring myself to relinquish control of any aspect of the gaming situation. For this reason, I find that, although I continue to play a lot of PBeM games, I still cannot even bring myself to use VASSAL software, despite its convenience and its wide-spread popularity among many players in the hobby.

    Thanks again for your thoughts, and please feel free to comment on any of my posts, whether you agree or disagree; I always enjoy the contributions of readers who are knowlegable about the hobby, particularly when they illuminate issues about which I personally know precious little.


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