The Three Stages of Shock: How Desert War models mechanized warfare in North Africa

By Joe Robinson 13 Mar 2018 0

When tanks first started to appear on the battlefields of World War 1, the initial terror and surprised they instilled allowed this new weapon to create unprecedented breaches and breakthroughs where millions of infantry and artillery shells had failed before. After the ‘surprise’ wore off, the Tank and other forms of mechanized warfare never lost it’s potential for shock and awe and would go on to redefine warfare.


Desert War 1940-42, the upcoming WEGO hex wargame from Matrix Games, holds Tanks and the concept of ‘shock’ to be a core part of their game. In a new dev diary released today, the designers have shared their thoughts on the idea of ‘shock’, how it influenced warfare and how they’ve translated it into their vision of the North Africa campaign;

So…how did armored forces create this “shock” effect during the early stages of WWII? Simply put, they employed speed, unexpected directions of attack (especially from the flank and rear), and overwhelming firepower at the decisive point to destroy (kill, capture, or cause to cower) units within the enemy’s command--which in turn reduced, eliminated, or frustrated the options available to the enemy commander.

How did we model it in Desert War 1940-42? In three ways. Successful mechanized force commanders employ three key ingredients to achieve victory on the battlefield—rapid mobility, overwhelming firepower, and shock/surprise. Desert War strives to replicate these ingredients and their interactions in game play.

Mobile Warfare

The majority of the combat units found in Desert War are mechanized and barring a couple of exceptions (like HQ’s), these units can move to a factor of 12 or 15 provided they are fully supplied. There are non-mechanized infantry units, namely standard leg infantry divisions and parachute infantry brigades – these guys move to a factor of 8.

If you look at the below table, you can see a list of the units in the game, their symbols, and crucially any natural shock value they have (not many have natural shock potential). Since ‘Shock’ mainly affects the combat factors, you can get advantages through other means such as flanking or surrounding enemy units so making the best use of your mobile units is key.

Desert War Table

We won’t go into too much detail regarding the Firepower part of the equation – the dev diary has some unit examples and comparisons of stats between Axis and Allied forces. We’ll instead look at the last and most important bit – shock itself.

There are some general rules that cover how Shock works in the game:

  • Shock only applies when attacking an enemy in open terrain. Non-clear hexes remove shock.
  • There is a fairly involved equation that is needed to determine a “shock percentage” and a final Attacker Shock Value (which is ASV minus the Defender’s Shock Value.
  • If the final result is positive, the attack odds are increased by that number. If it’s negative, it reduces the odds by that same number.
  • Any Ground unit with a shock value can shift the combat odds of an attack in favour for their side. Units with a SV of ‘0’ don’t enter the percentage equation (which is good) apart from foot infantry (which is bad).

Here’s how the Shock Percentage and the ASV/DSV calculations work:

The Shock Percentage is calculated for both Attacker and Defender. To determine a side’s Shock Percentage, find the engaged unit (on your side) with the highest Shock Value. Reduce this value by the percentage of stacking points that have no Shock Value (i.e. non-mechanized, foot mobile infantry).

Shock Values are halved if the unit has Readiness or Strength below 30%, or they are considered 'Encircled' or 'Isolated'. SV's are then 0 if the unit has Readiness or Strength below 10%.

Shock Table 5


An attack consists of:

  • an armored (Shock 4) unit of stacking size 4
  • a motorized (Shock 0) unit of stacking size 2
  • an infantry (No Shock) unit of stacking size 2

The maximum shock value of any unit in this attack = 4 (from the armored unit).
The stacking size of shock units (the armored and Motorized unit) = 6
The total stacking size of all units = 8
The percentage of shock units = 75% (6 as a percentage of 8).
75% of the maximum shock value (4) = 3
If the defender has no shock value, the Final Attacker Shock = +3 combat odds shifts.

There’s a second example you can look at within the diary. The idea of ‘counter-shock’, i.e., making sure you have a good SV of your own as the defender to neutralise the attacker’s SV is key to maintaining a robust defence and stopping enemy thrusts, but you've also got to make sure you're using the right combination of units in your offensives - you don't want to reduce your shock value too much!

The devs recommend stacking Tanks and AT weapons together, although generally if you can operate across non-clear hexes, you can side step the issue entirely! We're pretty excited for Desert War, and we've already got newcomer Karri working on a review - we're really hoping the WEGO mechanics take off.

Desert War 1940-42 will be releasing on March 22nd and will be available direct from the Matrix Store.



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