Desert Rats is a classic computer game developed by Robert T. Smith in 1988. It is the second part of Smith’s World War II trilogy, which includes the games Arnhem and Vulcan. The game simulates the 1941-1942 North Africa Campaign, which begins with Rommel and the German Forces’ arrival in Tripoli and concludes with the historic Battle of El Alamein. According to history, Rommel was defeated at the Battle of El Alamein by Montgomery, but through this game, players can make his defeat come sooner or later.
The name of the game is taken from the group of soldiers that belonged to the 7th Armored Division, who adopted a gerbil as their military insignia. They are involved in the campaign that includes Crusader, Operation Battleaxe, and the Battle of Gazala. Other versions of the game includes two extra scenarios: the Battle of Beda Fomm and Operation Compass, both of which were conducted from December 1940 to February 1941.
The game makes use of a scrolling map and players take turns to select their units and give commands. Players can side with either Allied or Axis powers. They can give orders to assault, fortify, hold position, or move to another area. The gameplay grid is composed of rectangular cells, and units can move from one cell at a time to advance or change positions.