Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Battle for Crete (1) - "Cementery Hill"

Exciting start of the autumn-winter season at our club: a Crete skirmish campaign. We played last Sunday the first scenario "Cementery Hill" and I will post today a battle report. I played on the Greek and Commonwealth side and therefore my comments are from this side of the hill.

Some reference information first: we play with "Troops, Weapons and Tactics" (TWT), one of the Lardies'  sets that we have extensively used and trained since mid-2009. The campaign is based on the excellent Skirmish Campaigns series booklet "Crete-Stalemate in the East".   As backgound reading (for those interested) I recommend Anthony's Beevor "Crete: The Battle and the Resistance".

Map features and Allied forces

The map depicts a valley crossed by a main road, cut between a dry river bed and a wall of stone. The landscape is typically from this Mediterranean island, dotted with extensive olive orchards, thin woods, rock outcrops and srub brush. The valley is dominated by the prominent cementery and chapel on the top of the hill in the Northern side of the table, both of which were the subject of a bloody fight for its control between the German fallschirmajager troops and  the Greek army forces.

As mentioned, I played the Greeks, made up of a sort of a motley crew of understaffed rifle sections together with the security troops attached to the Greek 6th Regiment HQ (camped in the Cementery), reinforced by a Bren gun team and a New-Zealander squad  (4 rifles + Bren gun) that coincidentally camped across the valley in the southern-most area of the table. The Greek troops were "green" level, lacked powerful Big Men (mostly Level 1) and have no grenades.

The photo below is a view from th south edge of the table used for the game (6" x 4").

The Allied troops deployed first, hidden to the German player.

  • The New Zealand squad was deployed in foxholes in the large scrub area that can be seen in the photo above. Unknown to the Germans, they were not allowed to move beyond the line depicted by the dry river bed. Their mission was therefore to cause as many casualties as possible during the Geman paratroopers' landing phase and to try maintaining engaged  as many troops as possible in the drop-zone area for as long as possible, weakening their attack on the north area.

  • As for the Greek forces (see  photo below), a rifle section and the Bren team deployed along the cementery walls, another rifle section (8 men) in the light wood inmediately to the left and a third rifle section in the light wood to the left of the latter, along the secondary road. 

  • The mission of the Greek forces was to maintain the cementery area under control.

Battle development
Germans opened the game,  its first wave of troops dropping...
 ..along with the supplies containers (white box in the photo below) at the bottom of the valley.

The German player initial landing was extremely accurate, fairly concentrated around the main road crossing the valley and almost with no casualties. The worst jump was undertaken by the platoon's HQ section, landing just in front of the New Zealanders' position in the southern scrub area.


Caught in the open and overwhelmed by the "kiwis" firepower, this German unit almost desintegrated in a couple of turns,  surviving just the Big Man and the section's snipper. Miraculously both were able to disengage and moved towards the main group of German troops.

After the landing of the second wave of German fallschirmajager (also unopposed and with light casualties), the Germans spent several turns in the area gathering the content of the containers scattered around, creating the first serious trouble to the New Zeland squad when a support mortar (a light 60mm) crew found the ammo container  and put some supressive fire on them. 

At this stage most of the Germans squads had reformed and gathered behind the wall along the main road, taking advantage of the coverage offered by the large olive orchard there.

The only exception was one fairly large German squad that landed at the edge of the drop zone, just on the dirt road leading uphill to the north (see map at the beggining of the post).

This unit was erranding in the open collecting some containers, but (unknown to them) in  the line of sight of the main Greek force still hidden in their initial positions. In the meantime, at the end of turn one the Greeks were reinforced with an additional Bren gun team, moving under the cover of a blind until deployed at the edge of the northernmost olive grove .

This German squad was the second to fall to the fire of the allied troops  (this time the Greeks). And with this,  what I consider the first phase of the battle ended... and looking pretty good to the Germans (at least from our perspective)!.

A positive balance for the enemy: the Germans achieved a more than decent and accurate landing, collected most of the containers, put in operation a dreadful mortar and, worst of all, could disengage from the New Zealand troops, focusing their sights now in the assault of the cementery.

The second part of the battle began with the Germans moving uphill north,  planning for the assault of the Greek positions around the cementery. Some lucky  high dice rolls allowed the Germans to move most of their troops out of the olive grove towards the north,  facing the walled cementery perimeter in little time.

At this stage the Greeks decided to rearrange their defensive lines and to further concentrate their meagre forces for the last stand against the (now) exuberant Germans: 
  • One rifle squad was sent to reinforce the cementery permiter
  • The second rifle squad was sent to occupy the first's squad positions

  • Finally, the Bren-gun section in the olive grove to the right of the map, was relocated to put some flanking fire on the German squads attempting to reach to the Greek position at the cementery.

The third (and final) phase of the battle saw the attack on the cementery positions. The German forces comprised two large elite squads, well stuffed with LMGs, hand grenades and submachine guns, under the leadership of highly-ranked Big Men (levels 3-4) and supported by a mortar section.

But the spirit of attack faltered from the very beginning. When we thought (Greeks) the assault was inminent, the Germans decided to remain in their positions and instead to exchange fire with the Greeks. In this exchange the Greeks were not at significant disadvantage as they had two Bren-guns and the rifle sections (despite being green) were fairly large and could roll up to 4 dice.

It took a while for the Germans to understand that this was leading to no significant tactical advantage; and then the assualt order was given on the Greek section entrenched in the light wood next to the cementery wall. Our understanding was that the Germans wanted  first to mop-up the wood and afterwards assualt the front and flank of the cementery.

Here we were, a German section running to close in; and despite suffering reactive fire at its front and  flank (a GreekBren gun), they could finally get close enough (4") to the Greek squad... and  a bloody struggle began.

Although the Germans were outnumbered in men. this was significantly more than compensated by the difference in training level, assault weapons and initiatives used to reinforce the assault.

Tension were running high on the table as the dice are rolled.....Greeks win!!!!!! Got two '6s' vs one of the Germans!... Germans rejected!!!...

But wait... Weren't they elite status???... Read the rules: elite troops ignore defeat by 1 and refight again!!!... Another attack, another chance!!.... And the Greeks acumulating 5  wounds!!..........
Dice rolling............... Greeks!! They did it again!! 2 more casualties on the Germans vs none on the Greeks!!!!!!  .... Germans thrown back 12" and the squad in shambles, a lame duck!!!!

Failing to achieve their first tactical objective, and with only one squad left, the referee advised the Germans to accept defeat, and they reckon that there was little to do now. Even if they managed to attempt and win a second assault, their forces were going to be fully depleted in the attack.

In conclusion, first game a full victory for the Allied forces and a truly bloody defeat for the Germans... but this is just the beginning... next encounter on 26th September

That night at the cementery...

"What a noisy neighbourhoood!!... Where's the bloody idiot that said "rest in peace now"?? Positive, I´m  moving to Maleme..."


  1. Looks like a fun time and a great looking table. What size are the miniatures and who made them? Keep the posts coming.


  2. Hi Paul. We play 28mm. It's more expensive than other scales but as we play skirmish encounters with a limited number of minis, the economic effort is bearable... and the visual impact on the table is stunning. In our club we are a dozen (and growing) group of dedicated Lardies and what we did was to specialize each in a different army.

  3. Forgot to say that we play with a mixed of Crusader, Artizan and Warlord