Desert Rats is the seventh volume in the Panzer Grenadier series, and the second to cover fighting in North Africa. Like Battle of the Bulge and Afrika Korps, it has fifty scenarios. Desert Rats is a stand-alone game; no other game from the series is required to play any of the 50 scenarios.
The 50 scenarios pick up where Afrika Korps left off, in late 1941 with the British offensive known as Operation Crusader. They continue until the late spring of 1942, ending with the Gazala tank battles. However, not all of them come strictly from this time frame. The game includes Indian, New Zealand and Italian Colonial units, and there are scenarios for their use from earlier in 1941.
There are two maps, each on sturdy paper and measuring 22 x 34 inches. They are compatible with the maps from Afrika Korps, and like those they are generic desert terrain but loosely based on actual locations, in this case Sidi Rezegh and Bir el Gubi. Many of the 50 scenarios take place at these locations just outside Tobruk, the scenes of intense fighting. Others take place across Libya, with a few from Eritrea and Somaliland in East Africa.
The Germans are of course present, and Rommel himself receives a counter. The Germans add the powerful "Mark IV Special" tank and the "Diana" self-propelled gun. The Italians add a number of new units. The M14/41 tank is very similar to the M13/40 seen in Afrika Korps, but sporting slightly better performance. The P26/40 medium tank, intended for use in Africa but not produced in time, is also included so that players can see how the Italian Army planned to fight its tank battles. Italy also receives several new types of armored car: the Lancia, AB40 and Fiat 611. And there's a new self-propelled gun, the powerful Semovente 90. Italy also brings powerful new anti-tank weapons to the game: the 90mm anti-aircraft gun, with performance very much like the famed German 88mm (Allied intelligence often confused the two weapons). And the Italian Navy makes its first appearance, with 102mm naval cannon adapted to an anti-tank role.
Colonial forces are also present: infantry and cavalry uniformed in Eritrean fashion, complete with red fezzes. The colonials also include irregular bande foot soldiers, with low firepower but impressive close-combat and cross-country movement abilities. The Indian Army has its own leaders, the Viceroy Commissioned Officers, who can command Indian but not British units. They also use British leaders. Among the Indians are the elite Gurkha infantry, with fearsome close-combat strength. New Zealand sends elite infantry, including the Maori Battalion. Reflecting their penchant for "acquiring" unauthorized automatic weapons in addition to their regular establishment, the Maoris have great firepower and, like the Gurkhas, a keen edge in close combat.
And a game called Deserts Rats has to add new British tanks to the inventory: Valentines, Grants and Stuarts. Plus the Bishop self-propelled gun. There are also some 18-pounder artillery units, and new armored cars. With 50 scenarios, the game is an outstanding value. And it's another example of why Panzer Grenadier has become the favorite tactical game system of players around the world.