OPERATION CRUSADERis a tactical/operational level simulation of the intense fighting in North Africa between the Afrika Korps and the British Army in the time period: May through December, 1941. OPERATION CRUSADER was designed by Frank Chadwick and published by Game Designer's Workshop (GDW) in 1978.


After the failures of Operations Brevity and Battleaxe to lift the Axis siege on Tobruch, the taciturn General Archibald Wavell was relieved on 22 June 1941 by a disappointed and mistrustful Churchill, and replaced by General Claude Auchinleck. The frustrated Prime Minister was insistent that the new Commander-in-Chief Middle East make preparations to resume the offensive against Rommel's army as soon as practicable. Auchinleck placed Lieutenant General Alan Cunningham in command of the newly-formed Eighth Army and obediently set about planning for the next British offensive. On 18 November 1941, Cunningham launched his XXXth Corps across the southern desert with an ambitious two-part mission: first, to engage and destroy Rommel's armor, and then, in the second phase of the operation, to wheel north to support a planned breakout from Tobruch. The third Commonwealth offensive to relieve the besieged fortress, Operation Crusader, had begun.


CRUSADER is a complex tactical/operational treatment of the three distinct operations launched by British forces against the Panzergruppe Afrika commanded by Erwin Rommel. This title is intended for those players interested in a highly detailed and realistic examination of the North African Theater during this crucial period of World War II. The game's introduction makes the game system's level of detail clear: "OPERATION CRUSADER is a simultaneous movement game, designed for multiple players, with extensive unit type differentiation. Many of the mechanics used in the simulation are of a novel nature, but prepublication testing has shown that players will quickly become familiar with the bases of the system, as the options open to players very closely parallel actual operational decisions." Each game turn in CRUSADER is divided into four segments: the initial segment; the movement segment; the air segment; and the combat segment. Each of these segments, in turn, have numerous subroutines which cover topics as diverse as weather, movement plotting, logistical planning, aircraft and tank repair, aircraft operations, morale determination, indirect fire, anti-tank fire, and conventional assault fire, to name only a few. Clearly, this is not a game for the casual player, but for those players interested in an in-depth simulation of the war in the desert in 1941, this is probably a must own!

OPERATION CRUSADER offers four scenarios of varying lengths and levels of complexity: Brevity, Battleaxe, Crusader, and an additional scenario covering the Sidi Rezegh Battle. Because of the novelty of the game system, the designer recommends that players familiarize themselves with the game in stages. Brevity, the first scenario, requires only two map sections and lasts thirty-six game turns (0600 hours May 15th 1700 hours May 16th, 1941). Battleaxe also uses two map sections, but lasts sixty game turns. It is important to note that the game's counters are marked so that the units used in these scenarios can be punched and separated from those used in the third scenario: Crusader, which uses all five map sections, and runs from 0600 hours November 19th to 1800 hours December 8th. Sidi Rezegh allows players to experiment with a shortened version of Crusader covering only the opening stages of the battle.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 1 hour per game turn
  • Map Scale: 1½ mile per hex
  • Unit Size: companies/battalions/platoons
  • Unit Types (a GDW trademark is unit variation, and hence, this partial exposition): tank, armored car, halftrack infantry, motorcycle, motorized infantry, infantry, machinegun, engineers, self-propelled artillery, self-propelled infantry gun, self-propelled antitank, self-propelled heavy anti-aircraft, mixed reconnaissance weapons, field artillery, light anti-aircraft, heavy anti-aircraft, antitank, mountain gun, mortar, infantry gun, military police, headquarters, forward supply depot, supply column, leaders, air units, and information markers
  • Number of Players: two or more (team play highly recommended)
  • Complexity: expert
  • Solitaire Suitability: forget about it
  • Average Playing Time: for this opus, think in terms of weeks, not hours

Game Components:

  • Five 22" x 28" hexagonal grid Maps (with Insert Reference Map and Terrain Key incorporated)
  • 2400 ½" cardboard Counters
  • One 8½" x 11" Rules Booklet
  • One 8½" x 11" Scenarios Booklet
  • One 13½" x 22" Axis Set-up Chart
  • One 9" x 12" Axis Set-up Chart
  • One 13½" x 22" Allied Set-up Chart
  • Three 8½" x 11" Axis Column Composition Charts
  • Three 8½" x 11" Allied Column Composition Charts
  • One 8½" x 11" Master Plotting Sheet
  • One 8½" x 11" back-printed Terrain Effects Chart, Turn Sequence Guide, Conventional Fire/Assault Fire Results Table, Indirect Fire Results Table, Antitank Fire Results Table, and Percentage Loss Chart
  • One 8½" x 11" Formation Effects Chart
  • One off-board Airfields Chart
  • One twenty-sided die
  • One 4" x 6¼" Customer Response Card
  • One 11¼" x 14 ¼" x 1" cardboard Game Box


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