game, like Tigers in the Snow reviewed last issue,
was first released some time ago but has only just been
reincarnated in the Transatlantic Simulations format.
The game comes packaged in a slim disk folder that contains
a fold-out rules sheet and the game itself. The game,
as its title suggests, concentrates on the North African
campaign in World War II. Although there are solitaire
and two- player options, you are restricted to playing
axis forces during solo games.
system uses true hexagonal movement, with all actions
by either side taking place in a series of clearly defined
segments, each of which are further divided into the
required number of phases. SSI pay a great deal of attention
to the most successful board game formats and this game
is typical of their 'traditional' approach in game mechanics.
Units are given standard identification markers and
range in size from Corps to Regiment. Supply for the
units on both sides is dealt with by a series of depots
available to specific forces. Depots may be captured
during the course of the game.
rules are fairly complex, not so much in terms of too
many rules, but the implications of the rules themselves.
Movement, supply, morale and various other factors have
been considered in great depth and the status of individual
units can have a far reaching effect as a result. One
thing is for certain, Knights of the Desert is
not a game for the inexperienced (unless they have particular
patience). A game could be played after just a few minutes
of reading through the rules, but many of the effects
would not he understood by any player who was not very
are six scenarios and each uses SSI's predictably complex,
but authentic, victory point system. Again, following
the example set with previous SSI games, the player
is provided with an order of battle listing along with
charts for combat losses, air losses, combat risks (loss
modifiers), defender odds, combat operation chart, morale
modifiers, unit cadre table and an airpower table. Not
that any of these are essential to play (though they
can suggest strategies by themselves), but SSI's attitude
towards the people who play their games is an extremely
healthy one. By providing the tables, they allow dissection
and examination of their own game design philosophy.
A pleasing addition that would be welcome from other
the game is hex based, it would not have been prohibitive
to include a joystick handling routine. The use of the
keyboard to the exclusion of any other input devices
makes play slower than perhaps it should have been.
Also, while there are plenty of rules, they are a little
unfriendly, and when reading through them, I had the
feeling that SSI expected to be dealing with a converted
audience and therefore ignored the beginner who may
be struggling to get to grips with the concept of wargaming.
This shows just a slight hint of elitism which isn't
proceeds at a rather slow pace throughout, and this
is mainly due to the attention to detail from the rules
system. It appears to be accurate and that is never
something to be underestimated (though there are complexity
levels and optional rules). But one of the best parts
of the game lies in the packaging. The fold out rules
booklet contains an historical essay called 'Brazen
Knights and Blazing Sands' which, despite the dodgy
title and a pretentious (and dare say it, warped) introduction,
turns out to be a fascinating account of the North African
campaign from the successful, but unsung, heroes of
Wavell and O'Conner who hammered out a crushing defeat
to the Italians for the bungling but popular Montgomery.
Throughout most of this time Rommel, of course, gets
a fair amount of attention.
anybody concerned with the historical context of the
game, the notes provide a coherent and essential reference
work. Not many computer war gamers have a vast library
of military history, and fewer still would be aware
of some of the circumstances surrounding the campaign.
In contrast to the rules, the historical notes provide
an entertaining backdrop which, despite the necessary
brevity and the fact that the campaign covered many
engagements over a couple of years, remains highly informative.