A Guest Post by Bob Goddard

Back in January of this year, I announced that, among other changes to the future content of “Map and Counters”, I planned to begin adding an occasional “guest post” to accompany my own regular stream of game-related ramblings. Unfortunately, prospective contributors have been slow to come forward with their projects; something, by the way, that I understand completely: writing, after all, is hard work. This, I suppose, also explains why most of the early independent wargaming magazines had so much trouble coming up with new content, issue after issue. In any case, after a few months, I put this idea aside in the hope that it could be revisited later.

Enter Bob Goddard. Several days ago, Bob contacted me to see if I would be interested in publishing a “reminiscence” piece that he was writing about his very first wargame, AFRIKA KORPS. After a couple of email exchanges and a review of his finished essay, I happily took him up on his offer. Bob’s post is a brief and nostalgic tribute to a venerable old game that, in its day, was instrumental in first drawing many of us into the hobby of conflict simulations. There is, for those of us who have been in the hobby as long or longer than Bob, very little that is either new or unusual about his recollections. But that, I think, is actually the writer’s point: his memories are all familiar or at least evocative of similar episodes experienced by most of us in the course of our many years playing wargames. Also, Bob’s description of his interchange with a fellow gamer located halfway around the world is, I think, a perfect reminder of the special connection that exists, even to this day, among the hobby’s grognards wherever they are found. – JCB III

My first wargame was AFRIKA KORPS. I bought it at a local department store for $5 on Sunday, February 7, 1971. I skipped school the next day to learn how to play it. I still have the game – or what is left of it. The surviving pieces have endured hundreds of hours of playing time, at least ten changes of address and long, lonely stretches at the bottom of game stacks, squashed and neglected, but never forgotten.

There have been periods of revival and rebirth. In the eighties, I played several AK PBM games, as evidenced by the penned-in grid mark on the map board and notations on the Time Record Chart. In the nineties, a friend created the entire order of battle for the war in North Africa 1940-43, complete with homemade AK style counters. We only used these pieces a couple of times, but I still have them. Along the way, I got a new set of counters, new rules and just recently, a new map board.

And then there is the game box. The box is now in pieces, and these have been glued to a sturdy mailing carton in order to protect the whole shebang much as you would to preserve an important historical document.

Each revival has been an experience thick with nostalgia. As I would open the box and examine the components, I would always rediscover some extra game related item I had forgotten about: an AFRIKA KORPS PBM pad, an old Avalon Hill General with an Afrika Korps Series Replay, the homemade map extension eastward to Cairo and westward to Tripoli and Tunis. It was always fun to just to look and reminisce.

"Bob" and "Dad"  permanently inscribed
on the Time Record Sheet.  Looks like I took Rommel.
The most recent rebirth occurred in early 2011. This latest episode was prompted by my plans to attend the WBC and enter the AFRIKA KORPS Tournament. Two things came to my attention when I lifted the remnants of the box lid. First, I noticed on the original Time Record Sheet there were two games with the notations “Bob” and “Dad” scrawled in my 13 year old printing (in ink!). My father was my first opponent for AFRIKA KORPS. He was a WWII Army Air Corps veteran and had served in the New Guinea, as well as the Philippines and Okinawa campaigns. He really did not have any interest in these games; he was just spending time with his youngest son. It is funny, because for years I remembered only playing one game of AK with my father.

The second thing I saw was a map board that was less than presentable. It was stained in a several areas and marred by the aforementioned grid markings. In addition, the eastern quarter had separated from the rest of the board. There was just not enough charm here to make up for its abysmal condition. I needed a new map board.

I posted on that I was looking to purchase a new AFRIKA KORPS map board. While you can get a complete player’s copy of the game at Consim Marketplace or on eBay for $20-$25, I just wanted the board.

One person responded. Here is the email he sent me:

Hi Bob

My name is Gary Vesper. I am an 'old grognard' and I have been playing wargames since the early '70's also. Man, those were the days - no job, played games all weekend every weekend - good old days, huh?

AH always had a special place with me - the games weren't the best historically-wise but then who cared? We had lots of fun.

I have a spare Afrika Korps Board. It’s in great shape. My son (who I converted to wargames from Xbox) has a complete copy with the third edition rules, etc. and somehow I have this spare board. I might be able to find some counters/rules if you want them. Alas, the box has departed this world.

Anyway, it’s yours, just let me know where to send it.

Cheers mate

Gary Vesper

West to Tunis, the homemade mapboard extension.
I offered to pay Gary for the board and the shipping (Gary lives in Australia), but he insisted that I accept it as a gift “from one grognard helping another.” I accepted Gary’s generous offer and promised to “pay it forward” to another gamer when the opportunity presented itself.

With Gary’s board, I now have a presentable copy of AK for WBC. I’ve since changed my mind about entering the tourney, but I still plan on bringing the game with me to this year’s WBC Convention and will play it in the open gaming area. I promised Gary I would send photos of his board in action at WBC.

AFRIKA KORPS was first published fifty years ago and people are still playing it. I see no reason why it won’t be around for another fifty years. To be sure, the elder generation of wargamers – the original grognards – are aging and our numbers will eventually dwindle. Nevertheless, a good game is a good game however old it is, and as long as there are players like Gary Vesper who are willing to share their passion for the classics, a gem like AFRIKA KORPS will always have a following.


  • Yes! A classic game. Great little article.
    Looking forward to more!

  • My "first" was the old AH "Battle of the Bulge". I remember my dad bought it for himself, and I tried to play it. I was clueless. Very sophisticated game for a 7-year old. ;-)

  • Greetings Preston:

    When 'BATTLE OF THE BULGE' first appeared in 1965, I and my few wargaming friends pretty much gave the game a "pass": the box-art was just too big an obstacle to get by! Later, in college, I gave the game another, more serious look and discovered that -- whatever its flaws -- I really liked the overall scale and play of the game; in fact, there was probabaly no title that I played more during my Junior and Senior years at college!

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Sure,Bob skips school to play the game for the first time-A true Grognard in the making!Nice review Bob ;)

    AK was in the next batch of 2 AH games bought for me at X-mas. My first AH classic's were Waterloo & Gettysburg.

    I don't know how many times I read tha darn story line on the box cover.It sure wasn't anything fantastic art wise but sure got yoyur attention.

    AK has stood the test of time for gamers to enjoy a true gamers game.One of the best games still out there for drama and playing tight game.

  • I skipped school the next day to learn how to play it.

    This made me smile. I did the same thing with my first "real" wargame: PanzerBlitz in 1973.

    You're right about the classic status of Afrika Korps. It was a favorite with my high school wargame club.

  • Panzerblitz was also the first game I bought, when I was 13, in 1976. Played the heck out of it. (Also bought Luftwaffe at the same time, and recall playing it only once.)

  • Kim, I remember my mother not being too happy about me staying home from school that day. But in the next sentence, I said "I mastered the game I bought yesterday." And she said, "That's good, Bob!" Of course she was preoccupied with fixing supper and I was lying. And I'm still a long way off from mastering this game. A couple of butt-kickings via PBEM with an opponent who HAS mastered the game taught me that this summer.

  • Panzerblitz? For me, that was about a year after AK. In the meantime, I discovered a kid a block from my house who played Midway, Guadalcanal and D-Day. He was already working on a homemade blow up of Midway for the entire Pacific. Man, those days were just... what's the word? Like magic, I guess. And forty years later, we are still friends. And of course, he was the one who introduced me to PB. It seemed so radical and new. At the time, I thought Hummel and Wespe were some kind of wonder weapons of the Third Reich.

  • My first real wargame was Midway -- purchased by mail
    In March, 1969 -- but I soon discovered that a stationary store in the city next door carried AH games. Afrika Korps was one of the first games I bought there. AK and Midway have both aged gracefully, largely because they're great GAMES, tense and strategic. I may pull AK out tomorrow and give it a whirl!

  • Greetings Seth:

    I couldn't agree with you more! Both games -- despite their well-documented historical lapses -- still manage to capture the true essence of their respective campaigns. In fact, when it comes to MIDWAY, I would say that none of the many titles that have followed in its wake (BATTLE OF MIDWAY, FAST CARRIERS, CV, etc.) have ever succeeded in matching the original Avalon Hill game when it comes to simplicity of rules and excitment of actual play. Truly, at least in my opinion, these two games (AK and MIDWAY) are a pair of genuine ageless "classics".

    Best Regards, Joe

  • AFRIKA KORPS, whether we want to admit it or not, has been programmed into the grognard genes. Most of us old enough to have played it will always compare any game on a similar subject to it, and it still inspires some designers to come up with North Africa games that are as clean and elegant as this one. Certainly AK still has a strong, albeit dwindling, following, and the quality of play we see in the tournaments (such as at WBC) is extremely high as one would expect for a game over a half century old....

  • Greetings Eric:

    Yes, AFRIKA KORPS -- for all of its faults -- still occupies a special place in the wargame libraries of most of the "grognards" that I know. And yes, the body of play-oriented knowledge that, over the years, has come to be attached to the game is truly impressive.

    In the end, the "classics" certainly all have their various shortcomings, but inept, uninspired play on the part of their true afficiandos is not among them.

    Best Regards, Joe

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