Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Final test for the Galatas demo

We had our final run for our WinterCon Chain of Command demo game, the Battle for Galatas, last weekend. Scenario designer Andrew, Jason, myself and host John set up the table as it will look for the first of two scenarios for Galatas, the last ferocious battle in the German air invasion of Crete that effectively sealed the fate of the Allied Creforce.  I have to pay tribute to the stoicism and resilience of the scenario designer Andrew who suffered the loss of ALL of his beautifully made terrain boards for the game in a sudden deluge the week before.  After all that work it would have brought a lesser man to despair but he gamely soldiered on and with John's help has come up with some very serviceable terrain for both games.

The sleepy little village of Galatas outside of Canea before the coming battle...
We've managed to iron out the few bugs, particularly the mechanics of the air drop and it ran very smoothly with the TwoFatLardies 'Chain of Command' rules. I think this and the Pegasus Bridge (D-Day scenario) games will provide a spectacular and enjoyable treat for those hardy gamers prepared to battle the Canberra winter! (Made it to just 7 degrees C today and promises the same next weekend!)

JU52s thunder over to make the 1st drop in the fields outside Galatas
At first I thought the Germans had too much advantage given their fire-power, particularly compared to the poorly armed Greeks - and the fact there are so many of them (three planeloads with 2 to 3 sticks of paras each in two waves) BUT apart from the element of surprise (at least for the 1st wave of drops) the Germans do low-level drops (under 500 and sometimes at barely 300 metres) with no control over their chutes (from which they dangle helplessly) they have only sidearms, knives and grenades until they can get to their weapons canisters which are dropped at the same time. You pick your drop zone and dice for direction and distance from the drop point for each stick and then each canister.  Its pure luck if they both land exactly on the drop zone together (I've somehow managed it just once for one stick in each game so far!)  Most of  the time men and weapons are scattered some distance apart.

Kiwis in the woods await the Germans they've just seen dropping into the fields
The German's first move is to race to get their weapons usually under fire from by now thoroughly alerted Allies (the Kiwis are very good shots too!) The only mitigating factor is if some of the Fallschirmjaeger have disobeyed standing orders and jumped with their MP38 SMGs. To determine this you count up the number of MP38 equipped paras per section (usually 3 or 4) and on a D5 or 6 they have jumped with their weapon. I've never managed to get more than two per section in three games AND between a third and half jumped with none at all!  Unless they have dropped on top of the enemy (with a usually fatal result) even with SMGs they are still at the disadvantage against rifle and LMG/HMG fire being only a short range weapon. So, although German paras are hideously well armed, they've got to get there first!  So far in two Crete tests most have managed to survive and get gunned up BUT I have a funny feeling this luck may not last a third time. The demo next weekend could be a very different story!

Rifle-armed Greek platoon sections in Galatas with an LMG team on the roof behind.
Greek section on Monastery Hill engage the paras just landed in the fields
Under fire from the para's howitzer gun, the Greek's 75 and Vickers HMG (their only heavy weapons) try to eliminate the Germans in the open field in front of them.
One Greek section valiantly tries to bayonet charge the now fully equipped Germans who just landed behind them in the vineyard next to Galatas
The Greeks outside the Monastery come under either mortar or artillery barrage.
The game quickly hotted up with my HQ and howitzer sections landing in the open field some distance from their weapons canisters which were almost under the noses of the Greek heavy weapons support - a Vickers HMG and 75mm gun.  Both came under immediate fire and began to suffer casualties. I took a gamble and landed one stick just outside the village in the vineyard.  Both weapons and men landed apart with the paras luckily just near the table edge. Had they have landed off table, they would have been deemed to have drifted some distance and would take not have appeared until after the second turn.  They landed behind a Greek section manning a wall outside the village and the weapons container halfway between both. A few grenades and an SMG (in the back too!) just annoyed the Greeks who bayonet charged me. Here I got lucky again as my command rolls (rolling well throughout the game for a change!) enabled me to activate and get to the weapons before the Greeks could get to me. Unfortunately for Andrew's courageous Greeks, they were just a few inches short and the paras, by now fully armed, turned their awesome firepower on them and wiped them out.  The two survivors were disarmed and told to bugger off  (hey, we're Prussian types - not nasty Nazis!)  The para section then immediately assaulted the town before the rest of the Greeks (who otherwise outnumbered them about three to one) could react.  As they charged into the town square they ran straight into the Greek's HQ section which included the Greek command and his Kiwi advisor. A brief firefight pinned them then a hand-to-hand wiped out all but the two officers who were taken prisoner. The Greek rifles were no match for German firepower, particularly at close range and after loosing their LMG and more men, with their command captured, Galatas fell to the German's and Greek morale broke with the survivors fleeing the table.  
Under heavy fire, the German gun exchanges fire with the Greek heavy weapons support, the 75mm gun and Vickers HMG.
Jason's HQ section gets caught in the open and pinned by accurate and deadly Kiwi fire from the woods opposite
The Greeks in Galatas now come under heavy fire from the assaulting  Jaeger
The Greek commander desperately tries to rally his men.
The German's take their main objective (Galatas) and the war is over for the Greek CO and his Kiwi advisor.

Despite the German's success, it didn't go all their way as outside Galatas the German command was under heavy fire from the moment they landed and together with the mountain gun and crew, suffered casualties and were in danger of being annihilated right up until the Greeks opposite finally broke.  The Greek gun scored hits from the start but their Vickers HMG was disappointing. Shooting with nine dice instead of ten due to lack of familiarity with the weapon (most of the Greek army on Crete was poorly trained as well as lacking in equipment), they still only managed to inflict one or two casualties in three rounds of shooting against a target in the open.  The courageous para gun crew, reduced to three men, still kept Greek heads down with an accurate counter barrage. After Galatas was captured, they then turned their gun on the remaining Greeks on Monastery Hill to great effect.

It didn't go all the German's way at the start on the Monastery Hill side of the table. John's Greeks gamely tried to engage Jason's Germans before they could arm themselves but the Germans were lucky in that they had cover from the many stone walls criss-crossing the landscape and most made it to their weapons canisters without too much trouble.  John's Kiwis had better luck, bringing the paras under some accurate fire. Jason's HQ section in particular came in for close attention, caught out in the open and pinned.  Ah, the fickle fortunes of war - had the Greeks managed to wipe out both German HQs - as they had both pinned under fire at varying times during the battle, things may have turned out quite differently.  

German artillery and Stuka bombardment of the monastery defences was intense. The Stuka's two 250 and 500 lb bombs all found a target.

But in the end German numbers and firepower ground the Kiwis down and they were never able to engage the paras effectively enough to be of help to the increasingly beleaguered Greek defenders in the monastery. The Greeks on Monastery Hill came under intense bombardment as the Germans played their ace card - calling in a Stuka for air support. This enabled them to avoid what would have been a costly frontal assault on the heavily defended hill across open ground. Once the Kiwis withdrew, the surviving Greeks on the hill (the relentless bombardment from the mountain gun and Stuka taking out most of the rifle sections defending the monastery) had little choice but to surrender. Yet again air support provided crucial success to German para operations - its been the case in every game we've played so far, just as it was historically.

 Greek resistance on Monastery Hill finally collapses: as the German ground assault begins the defender's morale breaks and the surviving Greeks surrender.

All the explosions in the photos are made from cotton wool wrapped around tea-lights and sprayed with black paint. I got the idea off someone's blog and they turned out pretty well I think.  Well, that's about it until the demos next weekend.  Look out for the world first debut of RifRaf Miniatures WWII Greeks.  A nice and varied selection of rifle armed Greeks in greatcoats (bit warmish for Crete but nevermind!) and also coming with a variety of French and British LMGs and HMGs - Hotchkiss and Vickers - and an unusual sit-on trench mortar (you'll have to see it to know what I mean)  There are also two guns: a Krupps 75 and a Schneider mountain gun, together with crews.  All in all, quite a reasonable selection.  We'll have to see how they go against the fearsome Fallschirmjaeger!

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