Reviews of Obscure but Interesting Games XVI – Desert Steel

desert-steelOn the series of Obscure but Interesting Games it is time to have a look towards North Africa, and stay firmly on sand. Admittedly, because I missed the era of PanzerBlitz by some unacceptable margin (of course I played PanzerBlitz few times, so it is not that I would be entirely out of touch). GMT’s Panzer, another take on the similar level is a story untold. I always wanted to have a game that would concentrate on the armored combat in North Africa, and went out and got myself a copy of West End Games Desert Steel. That said, I do have ASL tuck up somewhere now with the North African stuff, but that does not really count – besides ASL is hardly obscure game.

Decision to acquire Desert Steel was influenced by the owner of said PanzerBlitz – a game that I found quite interesting but could not get at the time. Of course, same individual happened to be also one of few opponents in Desert Steel and I seem to recall that he was not entirely against the system.

So, once I got the copy, it saw disproportional table time and almost escapes my why that was so. Then I realized that this title was, by far, one of the more interesting of West End Games offerings, and I would lie if I would say that I didn’t like it. Incredibly fast pace of the game provided good investment/fun. There were some, minor issues with the art department – especially the British side of things (some of the artwork was borderline terrible, and some counter art was outright unreadable). As far as unique systems were concerned, Tank Leader – and especially Desert Steel was concerned were backed with unique – at least at the time.

First of all, Desert Steel was a fast paced game, secondly if was much more about command and control than many of the other period games – a feature that I like, or dislike greatly depending the way of execution. In desert steel the command and control was precisely the thing that kept the whole afloat. Unlike some other adaptations of CCC, it did not stall the game. Command and control was in fact, such strong part of the game that several battles started to go out of hand almost immediately. Of course, these were nearly always self made issues. It was a very nice system that flowed fluently and many times I thought that the biggest problem with the game was that the scenarios were too short.

Good grief, how many times has that thought coming up when playing at least moderately serious wargames?

Desert Steel may well be one of the titles that would be interesting to see surface once more in complete remake (yes, the art needs updating, and remade counters are available but some of the rules need updating too). I would like to see complete remake and not only because my copy of the game was lost during the Great Purge – a time when many games found their way out of my bookshelf.

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