Tuesday, October 9, 2018

PzB North Africa 1941: "Historical Heraklion" AAR

Operation Mercury commenced with an airborne invasion on May 20, 1941.  Fighting would last until June 1 and end with the surrender of "Creforce."
Panzer Battles North Africa 1941 is nearing completion.  The latest offering from Wargame Design Studio covers the fighting in North Africa and Crete.

My AAR for today covers the "Historical Heraklion" scenario included within the game.

Scenario Briefing:

Heraklion, Central Crete, Greece: May 20th, 1941. (Scenario Size: Regiment+ Head to Head or Human vs AI for either side. This scenario uses variable objective victory points) Oberst Bruno Brauer was tasked with capturing Crete's largest city, Heraklion. Like Sturm's assault at Retimo, Brauer's 1st Fallschirmjaeger Regiment had the dual task of capturing the city for its deep-water port and the airfield a few kilometres to the east. Like Retimo, Brauer's troops were part of the second drop of the day. Insufficient transports, heavy casualties amongst the Ju-52's in the first wave and dust rendering visibility to nil all delayed the planned afternoon assault. At both Retimo and Heraklion arrivals were piecemeal - delayed by over three hours. With four battalions' the assault on Heraklion had twice the forces as landed at Retimo, but unfortunately faced an over strength Allied brigade. The Fallschirmjaeger were initially successful breaking into the walled city but the landings around the airfield were decisively counter attacked and the German losses extreme. Ultimately, the delayed arrival and heavy casualties thwarted the best efforts of Brauer's troops.


I didn't know Crete was a mess for the Germans from the start.  Watching my German FJ battalions parachute into the countryside surrounding Heraklion looked and felt a lot like the 101st and 82nd jumps into Normandy.  Men were disorganized and fatigued, casualties were heavy (in the hundreds, but as a % of total strength high).  And just like Normandy, I began to attack the AI defensive positions where and when I could in a very disjointed manner.

As I learned in-game, Heraklion from the German perspective really is a tale of two battles.  The western side of the battlefield is a frustrating slog through hidden Greek positions in the darkness as you reorganize your men.  There is a ton of unit maintenance (combining platoons into companies, resting men, waiting for units to lose their disorganized label) before the battle gets going and then by the dawn, when things heat up near the objectives to the east, your western force is too far away from having any impact on the battle.

The eastern side of the battlefield though is full of small unit actions that are challenging.  There is a mad dash for the objectives with two German kampfgruppe's and some real choices to make.

It was there, with a limited force, and no armor, that I managed to fight to a draw against the AI.

Early on the German landing force at Buttercup field about 1km west of the airfield, began to move on the Nea and Barracks objectives.

A zoomed out view of the eastern half of the field.  My regimental HQ is leading reinforcements down a coastal road as II Bn engages Creforce units at East Hill.

Early on casualties are already high.

Western side of the battlefield:  Good luck fighting your way through this morass.

The battle for East Hill. Grabbing East Hill felt like a real victory after the frustration further west.

Half way through this 16 turn scenario, the "Barracks" objective has just fallen, but the Airfield is still in Allied hands. Those German guns along the road don't stand a chance against the Brit light tanks.

I've run out of time, and am unable to fight my way onto the airfield from any direction, though the Barracks and East Hill objectives are in my hands.

Last turn: A zoomed out view of the eastern side of the Heraklion battlefield.  
The final results screen.  

This is the first scenario I plan on blogging about from this title.  I loved the inclusion of Crete in this game, but I didn't love this scenario from the German perspective.  While it is historically accurate, I tend to prefer scenarios where both sides have a chance. With the inclusion of the western side of Heraklion, it felt like the Germans never had one.  A smaller scenario focused on the eastern side of the battlefield would be more to my personal tastes.

That said, the game is a pleasure to play.  I have played a few of the larger desert scenarios and they are interesting, challenging and fantastic.  The amount of effort, detail and research that went into this game is astounding.  So please, please stay tuned...


Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for the AAR, i see you have another one covering the Africa part of the title, i dont know if you are going to continue releasing more AARs or not but anything more is allways wellcome apart is allways fun read your AARs.

LessThanExpertRacing said...

Not sure I agree with you on this one. Granted, it's a challenge but I managed a minor victory on my first attempt despite spending far too long trying to get through the West gate.
One big red flag was when you started talking about reorganizing your Western force.
You don't have time. Move out immediately.
Moving a unit doesn't stop it from un-Disrupting, so there's no good reason not to move forward, even if Disrupted and heavily fatigued. Just stay within the HQ command range, and eventually it'll be ready for combat.
A disrupted unit still exerts ZOC. Which brings me to part two.
Find, Fix, Flank, Finish. Or in the PB series, substitute Flank with Surround, and you're golden. A surrounded unit becomes Isolated which drops it one morale-level.
Once it fires it also gets Low Ammo, dropping another morale-level.
The entire defensive position in the Barracks (incl. those pesky Matildas) can be surrounded with 3 platoons.
Use Disrupted/High Fatigue units to surround, then use your good-order units to assault. Once enemy units are Isolated and Disrupted, they'll surrender in droves.
MGs and the 20mm guns are your best friends. The mortars are nice, but don't depend on them. But 3-4 MG platoons at point-blank range will rip through anything.
Finally, don't attack units you don't have to fight. In the west, concentrate on clearing the roads, and just leave all those enemy platoons in the hills to enjoy the view. Most Commonwealth units are Fixed until dawn breaks, so why activate them?
Aggression wins, and definitely in scenarios with such a tight timeline. :)

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