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Saturday, March 28, 2015

HAVOC 2015 Games I Played - Part One

When Olympus Trembled: 

Engagement at Lake Doiran - 1941


Friday, 27th March, 2015


This well-presented and enjoyable game was hosted by Vic Gregoire at BattleGroup Boston's 2015 HAVOC in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. This is how he describes the scenario in the official convention announcement: 

"Putting plans for Barbarossa on hold, on April 6th the 2nd Panzer Division began its drive into Yugoslavia headed for Greece. Meeting only minor resistance they pressed on into Greece. On the 8th they ran into their first real resistance, the men of the 19th Motorized Division, ready to fight!"

I was fortunate to be able to play in the game and was given the command of the Greek  defenders with Vic serving as both GM and C-in-C of the attacking Germans. Vic proved to be, as always, a thoughtful gamemaster as well as a worthy opponent. 

The rules used were a simplified version of Command Decision, Test of Battle 4. The charming and effective layout that Vic created made for an attractive backdrop for the action while the vehicles and figures are nicely rendered using 1/76 and 1/72 models.

Facing a spearhead of the invading German army two days into Operation Marita was the Greek 19th Motorized Rifle Division. It guarded the approaches to Thessaloniki that the Germans wanted to seize. The game is modeled on a local clash between the defending Greek division, which needed to delay the German invaders for as long as possible, and the German advance guard that were tasked with clearing path for the main follow-up units to move towards Thessaloniki.

In the game, the Greeks can deployed on the table a motorized unit (4 stands) and a force of partisans (2 stands)- both on the left tray. Reinforcements (featuring Boyes A/T rifle-armed carriers and 2 towed 47mm Bohler A/T guns) would enter successively from Turns 2-4 without the need for die rolls.
German Force: two infantry units, a tank unit (2 Pz III. units and 1 Pz. II unit), a towed 37mm A/T gun unit, etc. The Germans also had 2 batteries of offboard 105mm fieldguns but these never fired during the game.
A view of the table from the German side. 

The Germans were able to enter on their left (Kolindra Road) or right (towards Akritas Town) edges. 

A railway line runs parallel to the Kolindra Road. 

The meandering river(s) presented a serious hindrance to German movement.
Greek forces - another look.
Another view of the table top. 

My objectives were Akritas (top right in photo) and/or the central hill (center left - covered by Greek unit trays at the moment). 

The German objectives were Akritas, the central hill and the edge of the Kolindra road (bottom left in photo)

In the background (above Akritas) is Vic the gamemaster and German commander.
Two units of entrenched Greek partisans and a roadblock I chose to place at the T-junction
Another view of same
A view of Akritas Town with the Greek infantry deployed at its outermost edge facing the German advance. 

The town is a Victory Location for both sides.  As I can win the game if I keep either the town or the central hill (or both) my plan is to sacrifice the infantry defending the town in order to delay the Germans as much as possible. Yet this force proved much more stalwart and successful than I originally thought...
Motorized Greek reinforcements began to enter on Turn 1. I raced them offroad to the hill in the center.

My overall plan was to  build up a formidable defense on the hill with the bulk of my reinforcements while retarding the German advance with delaying forces in Akritas town (above) and along the Kolindra road (i.e., the roadblock at the T-junction, entrenched partisans and a detachment of reinforcements to guard the road exit, see below).
Things seemed very quiet when looking down from the hill.
Germans pressed their attack on Turn 1 - veteran infantry advanced cautiously towards Akritas...
Greek offboard artillery (2 x 75mm Skodas) hit the vulnerable German infantry advancing in the open. The targeted command unit of the right-hand-side unit was forced back off the table; the German command on the left was targeted but unscathed. The artillery fire pinned all the German infantry in the field. The Greek infantry in Akritas - also veterans like their opponents - held their fire.
Second Turn - Vic's German infantry unpinned and made a hasty advance to reach the edge of Akritas until they were within spitting distance of my units.The Greek infantry opportunity-fired, pinning some German companies and turning back others. My die rolls were not the best at this point but then neither were Vic's.
Even as firing by both sides did almost no damage to each other, it had the effect of pinning everybody in place. 

The only exception was the fate of the hapless German engineers riding in the Sd.Kfz.251/1: they were eliminated by the fire from the Greek LMG stand. I did not expect for this to happen.
Also during the Second Turn, the Panzers entered on the German left flank and proceeded off road due to the roadblock ahead.
Beginning with Turn 2, entering Greek forces reinforcements headed directly for the central hill. Upon reaching it they took cover in prepared entrenchments. This build-up would continue through the game. I kept one recon unit in their vehicles and held it as a mobile reserve at the back of the hill.

I also detached one reinforcement group - the other motorized recon unit - to guard the road exit to Kolindra. It is one of the three Victory Locations for the Germans. I might delay the Germans further if Vic's Panzers, his most potent force, that was nearing the T-junction could be tempted to turn to engage this group. But Vic maintained their course for the hill and my little group remained untouched in their entrenchments until the end of the game.
Fourth Turn (?) - There were some back-and-forth firefights on the edge of Akritas during this turn but no significant German advance. On the other side of the map, when the German tanks turned back onto the road after by-passing the roadblock by the T-junction, the entrenched partisans attacked the two leading units in the flank. [Vic told me the partisans performed impressive superman feats during the test game but I remained skeptical they would do quite so well for me. In the event, I was half right...]
A desperate close assault by one partisan group on the leading Pz. III unit managed (rather miraculously) to pin it; these partisans even managed to survive the turn and pass their morale check so that they could try again in the next turn. 

The second group of (still entrenched) partisans opportunity-fired on the following Pz. II unit to no effect and was eliminated by its return fire. 

I guessed it really paid to be daring rather than cautious in this case.
Turn 5 - The German Stuka decided to join the battle at long last (after Vic finally flipped the right card) and got ready to strafe the massed Greek forces atop the central hillock. I felt okay about this as all my forces were by then in entrenchments.
The Stuka machine-gunned a Greek recon command stand and two adjoining 47mm guns stands but to no effect. Taking into account all the modifiers, Vic needed to roll a 1 on a d10 (!) and he didn't get it.
Turn 5  (Last Turn Played) - I chose not to disengage my infantry at the edge of Akritas and pull them deeper into town. Instead I kept them in place to face off another attack (or die in the attempt). Either way they have already done their part in this battle by holding up the Germans.

The German infantry having regrouped and fixed their bayonets made ready to assault Akritas for a second time. The Greeks opportunity-fired at point-blank range at their exposed enemies and unlike before I threw my dice well this time. Stands from both German units were either eliminated outright or were forced back with no loss to the Greek infantry.

Vic called the game at the end of this turn and judged the outcome to be an unqualified Greek victory. In the game the Germans advance units were being held up longer than they were in reality. In fact the entire Greek 19th Motorized Division quickly succumbed to the Germans who captured Thessaloniki on 9th April so the game's outcome yielded a somewhat contrafactual result. 

It was a most pleasant occasion and while there was the satisfaction of winning the battle what I enjoyed the most was the opportunity to chat and learn from Vic who clearly put a lot into researching/presenting the background and putting together this game.

Another game held at the same time slot as the one I played: Late War Germans (I spotted some King Tigers) versus Soviets somewhere on the Hungarian plains (?).
Yet another Friday night HAVOC game: Turks and Anzac infantry slogging it out at Çannakale.


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