Monday, 1 November 2010

Battle for Crete (3): The Hornet's Nest

The third scenario of the Crete campaign was played today in our local club. Unfortunately a second defeat for the Greek forces, but again only after a fierce resistance that checked the Germans paratroopers for the most part of the game. An ill-planned counterattack of a Greek squad (and some very fortunate dice results of the Germans) broke the fighting capacity of the allied army that was bounded for a defeat in that same moment.

Map features and Greek forces
As in the previous two games, the map depict a typical Mediterranean dry landscape, a small village in the north-west side of the table surrounded by walled fields and large areas of tree copses.

The Greek forces included two regular army squads (green level) supported with a Bren-gun section as well as two irregular sections of civilians armed with a wide range of "weapons" (from butcher's knives to berber's razors and hunting shot guns) entrenched in the village. Facing the Greeks this time the fallschimjagers brought the "elite of the elite": their engineer squads, with the mission of mopping up the village (control 3 of the village's buildings). 

You may initially think that the game was totally unbalanced (civilians against German paratroopers). The reality os that these civilian sections were fanatic class (I will even say "berserker") and had several positive bonuses when fighting in close combat within the village. If anyone is familiar with the story of the  the Spanish civilians uprising in May 1808 in Madrid, well you have a good picture of the kind of fight ensued this morning.

 File:Goya - Second of May 1808.jpg

Battle development
But let's get back to the game. The following two pics show the playing table from the north and the south side respectively.

As stated in the scenario instructions, the civilians started hidden in the village while the Greek regulars deployed in the southern half of the table in blinds. Our plan was as simple as one could imagine: to move the blinds as fast as possible into the village, reinforcing the civilians garrison and to wait for the unavoidable assault of the Germans.

The first phase of the game developed as shown below

  • The two Greek blinds moved in several steps until the walled field located the south of the village was reached.
  •  A Greek reinforcement (a captured German LMG 42 section) also came into the table in trun 4, lookig for cover in the same walled field.

In parallel, the Germans deployed two assault sections and the HQ in the area to the east of the village...

...moved a mortar into the light woods to the south of the starting line...

... and sent another squad to the bridge (also in the south) with the clear intention of creating a threat to the  Grek flank.

The next phase of the game saw the Greek regulars clogged in the walled field and once put under fire, with their mobility capacity severly restrained (1d6!), while one of the irregular sections decided to step back from the front line into a building at the rear to avoid being fired by the Germans.

This is a general view of the table in this stage of the battle

The Germans saw the opportunity to inflct damage to the Greek forces bottled in the field and put fire with its medium mortar...

... but unlike in previous games with little effect  really as most of the fire went unobserved. Still as the Greeks were coming under fire, they hardly could move from that position, and one of the units that ried to reach the viallge nearby was caught in the open and almost wipped out.

The next decision of the GErman player was to initiate the assault whic hed did with an LMG team occupying the house nearby. This was the moment the enraged civilians were waiting and caught by surprise to the Germans unaware of the ferocity of the heoric Greek villagers, butchering every fallschirmjager in the vicinity.

But the German retaliated soon enough as the LMG's supporting squad was armed with a flamethower, probably too much for the civilian mob that got demorilised and flee for cover in the house to the rear. In this moment the German player make two mistakes: it moved the flamethower squad out of  cover with the idea of assaulting the house occupied by the other civilian unit and at the same got a mortar shell on theer own troops cutting short the German attack.

The Germans now suppressed received a hail of fire from the occupied building, enough to disband the section and end with the flamethrower threat. The situation was used by the Greek regulars  to move the remaining sections from the walled field into the village, except one Bren gun section left there to cover the flank.

The situation of th scenario was as illustrated in the following chart:

Time now to pay attention to the southern part of the battle. The German squad at the bridge located moved first to the walled field where the Greek Bren gun was quickly put out of action with... another flamethrower!.

The next step was to attack the house in the rear of the village which they successfully took... but luck run short and the third attack on the neighbouring building was rejected after three repetitions (elite units are allowed to repeat attacks when defeated by 1).

Despite the losses and the accumulation of wounds, the situation did not look desperate for the Greeks, as the Germans had only one building occupied and given how close were both enemies, the Germans were prevented from using their mortars.

The Grreks now controlled the house in the northern border of the table with an infantry sectionin good shpae, the house behind with a civilians section recovering from the wounds caused by the mortar in previous turns and the house to the south with a captured LMG section and the remaining civilians section.

The Germans now put in play their last reserve, a rifle section with an LMG support facing the east side of the village.

What followed was a exchange of fire between the different units on the table, wearing down fast some of the Greek sections due to the higher firepower of the Germans who also enjoyed a large stock of high-ranked big man to direct the fire.

It was clear to the Greeks that their only chance to win was to try to cause damage to the German's last strong unit sitting in fornt of them. Therefore the last Greek infantry unit decided to launch an assault on the Germans, all or nothing.. and nothing was.

On the one hand I think we launched the attack without enough preparation (few initiatives cards on the table to support our assault and few wounds accumulated by the Germans at that stage). On the other, the Germans had an extremely good dice roll this time: with a similar number of dice on both sides, we got only one "6" while the German player made a total of six. Defetaed by four or more, the Greek unit collapsed and went out of action.

The end of the game: the few remaining Greeks succumbed to the deadly German fire followed by ferocius assaults, the survivors scattering in the sorrounding hills... the fate of Crete is slowly being sealed... and hopefully we will have our four game next Sunday and could take some revenge!!!

Lessons learned
I'm not particularly dissatisfied with the tactical management of the forces available. It was clear from the moment I read the scenario guidelines that this battle was to be extremely bloody nad we made the Germans paid with a lot of blood their victory.

I reckon that we could have eventually reached a stalemate if we did not launched that last assault,. But that's looking with hindsight; the real attraction of TWT is that it is impossible to have the conditions of the field under control and that uncertainty (together with the pressure thta one feels playing these rules) sometimes drive you in the worng direction.... on the other hand the "ramdom luck" factor played this time on the German favour.

In any case, today once again I enjoyed a terrific  game and day. The combination of my dedicated club's mates & firends,  the highly solid  umpire and campaign-organiser Alfredo, a very reliable set of rules like TWT (thanks Richard Clarke)  and the excellent Crete Campaign Skirmish Scenario book made all it possible.

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