Kim Kanger is a fantastic designer and we have had a great time with his others games including Nemesis 44. When I saw that he was working on a new East African WWII game, I immediately reached out and asked his some questions on the design. He obliged me and we have this interview for your reading pleasure.
Grant: What historical event does La Primogenita cover?
Kim: It covers the northern part of the Allied offensive to conquer Italian East Africa in 1941. La Primogenita is the invasion from Sudan into Eritrea where the Allied goal was to reach and take the port of Massaua in order to remove Italian naval threat to Allied shipping to and from Egypt.
Grant: What is the thesis of your design and overarching design goal?
Kim: I wanted to test out my new Order System and see how it holds up in a WWII theater such as this. This new Order System is designed to create some fog of war and provide opportunities for surprise. Each turn, players will secretly choose 4 orders each and reveal them simultaneously. These orders each have an assigned priority and higher numbers will go first. I felt like this would be a good match with this new system. Players will have to choose wisely depending on what forces they have at hand, in what order they wish things to happen, and depending on what they suspect their opponent will choose.
Grant: What sources did you consult to get the facts about the campaign correct? What one must read source would you recommend?
Kim: I can recommend reading East Africa 1940-1941 by Marek Sobski. It is very good and filled with hard to find facts on the battles. It is also worth reading The First Victory by Andrew Stewart. Then there are good sources on the Internet available in both English and Italian.
Grant: What do you feel is important to model from the history of the period?
Kim: One of the most important aspects to include in this particular campaign was the harsh terrain in East Africa that made it very difficult to supply troops. The terrain changes the way that men and material can move and fight and must be highlighted to create a realistic simulation of the events.
Grant: What is the scale and force structure of units used for this game?
Kim: Units are Brigades with some auxiliary Battalions. A hex is approximately 10 miles / 15 kilometers across.
Grant: How many maps are used in the game? What does the map look like and what area does it cover?
Kim: There is but a single map and it covers the area between Kassala by the border in the west to Massaua by the coast in the east. The terrain is fairly flat around Kassala, but as one travels eastwards, the landscape becomes increasingly rough as it rises to a high flat plateau where Asmara is (the capital of Eritrea). It then falls abruptly down to the coastal flats. There are altitudes printed here and there in order to give players a feeling of how the landscape rises and falls.
Grant: What are the areas of major concern in regards to the terrain?
Kim: The main concern for the invading Allied forces is that there is only one road that leads up to the highlands. There are a few tracks as well but they are less suitable to advance along in force. For the Italians, they have to plug all these entrances to the highlands and juggle units between them while the Allies try to break through.
Grant: What is the anatomy of the counters? What special units are included?
Kim: The counters show their strength, movement and stacking values. Each unit is either mobile or foot (while some foot units are march-capable that can move farther than other units). Artillery units are able to bombard which is a separate kind of combat. Some Italian units are elite.
Grant: What does a game turn look like?
Kim: First a pre-phase where all Order chits are flipped back to their front side. Also, from game turn 6, some victory points are automatically deducted (bad for the Allies). Then there is an Operation phase where there are two operation segments. Both players choose orders during these two segments and execute them. Finally, there is a Supply phase. This is when units may get rid of low or no Supply markers they may have. They may also suffer attrition. At the end of the phase, one checks to see if either player has won or not. If not, then the game continues.
Grant: How is victory determined?
Kim: Victory points are added when the Allies occupy towns. If the Allies reach 20 VP at the end of any game turn, then the game ends and the Allies win. If it happens in the last game turn, then it is a marginal Allied victory. If earlier, then it is a great Allied victory. If the Allies fail to reach 20 VP at the end of the game, it is a marginal Italian victory. If the Allies falls down to only 7 VP from game turn 6 and onwards, then the game ends with a great Italian victory.
Grant: What is the reason for the Deduct Victory Points Segment? What does this represent from the history?
Kim: The Germans invaded in North Africa and there was a strong pressure to finish the campaign in East Africa and send both Indian divisions up north. Italy was convinced that the axis forces in North Africa would eventually defeat the Allies there. So their main goal in East Africa was to fight for time and keep the Allied forces there as long as possible. So there is a certain victory point deduction each game turn from game turn 6 and onwards. If the accumulated victory points falls to 7 at the end of any game turn from game turn 6, then the game ends with a great Italian victory (the Allied offensive halts in Eritrea).
Grant: How do Orders operate? Why did you feel this was the best activation method for your design goal?
Kim: Why have a game turn with fixed phases? If you want to fight before you move, or dig in after you bombard, or bring in reinforcements the first thing you do, or perhaps the last thing you do, then why not? You have a large set of different Orders to choose from. Each Order on both sides have a unique priority number which means you always know which one is executed first whenever two Orders are presented at the same time. During an Order segment, both players secretly choose 4 Orders each and reveal them simultaneously. These 8 Orders are placed on a track in descending order, priority-wise, and then executed one by one. There are two segments like this, so each player gets to execute 8 Orders during a game turn.
Grant: What different Orders are there?
Kim: You have the Main Orders which are a set of different move orders, assault orders and bombardment orders. Then there is a set of Combination Orders that you can execute together with a Main Order. Finally, there are Minor Orders like reinforcement, dig in, air bombardment, stragglers, surrender call, etc., etc.
Grant: Why did you make the decision to allow only 4 Orders to be chosen per turn?
Kim: To force the players to have to make a difficult choice. What is the most important Order right now? Is it important that the Order has a good chance to be executed before whatever the opponent will choose? And so on.
Grant: How are Combination Orders different and how are they best utilized?
Kim: Combination Orders can only be executed together with a Main Order. But they still need to be chosen (among the 4 Orders you may pick) to be available to be executed. So you need to acquire them ”in advance” to use them later on. Each such Order enhances the Main Order that is executed, or, in the case of some of the Italian Combination Orders, decreases the value of Allied Assault Orders.
Grant: How important is supply to the game?
Kim: Very important. Supply sources have a certain range measured in movement points, making them able to reach farther along roads and tracks than off-road. Not only is supply necessary to avoid suffering attrition, you also need supply to support a Main Order. Unless a unit gets support, it will receive a Low Supply marker if it participates in a Main Order. If it already has one, it will receive a No Supply marker instead. Having one is bad news for a unit. So, you can be beyond supply range as long as you do not participate in any Main Order, or at least until you reach the Supply phase when every unit is checked.
Grant: How do Supply Dumps work together with supply?
Kim: Supply Dumps are simply supply sources that can move. Supply sources on the map can supply and support all friendly units within 8 movement points. A Supply Dump can only supply and support 2 units within 1 hex or 2 movement points. But they can move forward along with the troops.
Grant: What are the effects on units of No Supply?
Kim: A unit with a No Supply marker has half movement. It may not retreat (which is voluntary in the game). It will suffer 1 step loss during attrition or if it participates in a Main Order.
Grant: What is the Emergency Reinforcement Segment?
Kim: This happens during the Supply phase. This is when reinforcements turn up unless you have already executed the Reinforcement Order. So, reinforcements will arrive even if you do not execute this Order, but it will happen at the very end of the game turn, and they will turn up with a Disrupted marker (which is not good).
Grant: How does combat work in the design?
Kim: There are basically two types of combat. You can bombard with your artillery which may cause the target unit to become Disrupted and possibly lose a step. Then all units, including artillery, can assault. There are different Bombardment Orders and Assault Orders. What differentiates them is how many bombardments and assaults you may do, but also what priority number these orders may have.
Grant: What is the makeup of the CRT? Any interesting odds?
Kim: The CRT causes either or both players to lose a step. Some results can cause the defender to remove its Trench marker or lose an extra Artillery step. Then there are two extra effects: some results may include an option for the attacker to do a Push which is basically another assault but with specific rules. There are also results that offer the defender to do a counterattack against one of the attacking hexes. Retreat is a voluntary option for the defender under certain circumstances. The whole idea with this CRT is to give you a ”grinding feeling” but with options that may alter the combat.
Grant: How is Bombardment used in the design?
Kim: It is its own separate Order and is best used in conjunction with Assault Orders. Making an enemy unit Disrupted means it cannot move in some Move Orders and that it cannot assault or bombard. In addition, if any unit in a defending stack is Disrupted, then the attacker gains a column shift on the CRT.
Grant: What effect do trenches have on combat?
Kim: They are created by executing a Dig Order. If you have a trench marker, then you, as the defender, will gain a column shift to your advantage if you get assaulted or bombarded.
Grant: What are you most pleased with about the design?
Kim: I’m most pleased with the whole Order system. It works better than expected and creates some really interesting choices for the players while also providing an opportunity to use them wisely to great advantage.
Grant: What other games are you currently working on?
Kim: Nothing definite yet, but I am thinking of doing something about the battle of Kohima in 1944 where the Japanese fought a ferocious battle against the garrison there. This was the turning point where the Japanese invasion of India ended and the Allied counter-offensive to retake the whole of Burma began. Perhaps I will use some features from my other game; Dien Bien Phu, The Final Gamble.
Thanks for your time in answering our questions Kim and we look forward to playing this one when it comes out.
If you are interested in La Primogenita: 1941 East Africa Campaign, you can pre-order a copy for $45.00 from the game page on the Legion Wargames website at the following link: https://www.legionwargames.com/legion_LAP.html
The game currently has 140 pre-orders and needs 110 to make it to production (as of September 2022).