Edelweiss: Bloom and Grow Forever
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
The saccharine song that shares our Panzer Grenadier supplement's title isn't authentically Austrian, it's purely the work of Rogers and Hammerstein, but our game is as accurate as we can make it. There are 32 scenarios depicting combat ranging from the Greek campaign of 1941 through early 1945. All of the scenarios focus on German mountain troops, from both regular army and Waffen SS divisions.
Edelweiss is currently in its fourth iteration, this time as a full-sized book with 161 extra-fine laser-cut pieces and 32 scenarios. It's been a popular supplement in each version.
The heart of any Panzer Grenadier product is the scenario set. We've made it our practice to provide a lot of them, of many types and sizes, and Edelweiss should not disappoint. Here's a look at some of them:
Shadow of Olympus
18 April 1941
Having driven through the Greek Second Army with little trouble, the Germans found a different proposition once they ran into the ANZAC Corps digging in just west of Mount Olympus. Gen. Ferdinand Schörner of 6th Mountain Division ordered his officers to "act with the utmost severity" to encourage the troops through difficult terrain — showing why he would become famed as the most hated commander in the German Army. After picking their way across "impassable" ridges, the jägers found a mixed Australian-New Zealand force dug in behind the Pinios River. They immediately moved to attack.
Note: This scenario uses boards from Eastern Front and Road to Berlin, and pieces from Afrika Korps.
The German 143rd Mountain Regiment feinted with one battalion while striking across the river with another, penetrating the Australians' right flank and rolling up their position. The Diggers had been shocked enough to find the mountaineers arriving so quickly, but it soon became apparent that they had dragged along a battalion of mountain artillery as well. The Australian 2/2 Infantry Battalion was overrun and destroyed and the Allied position badly broken as the entire corps pulled back.
Mountain troops make an assault across a river, with a flanking attack to come in at some unknown moment. With a dug-in opponent with morale as good as their own, this is a difficult task.
18 April 1941
Having forced the Pinios River, 6th Mountain Division pressed the retreating ANZACs along with 2nd "Vienna" Panzer Division. Chaos followed, with the Australian and New Zealand units becoming tangled and contradictory orders flowing from brigade, division, corps and expedition headquarters. Near the town of Larisa, the 4th New Zealand Field Regiment — without orders — turned to offer battle and cover the retreat with its 25-pounders.
Note: This scenario uses boards from Eastern Front and Road to Berlin, and pieces from Desert Rats and Afrika Korps.
Maj. R.H. Dyson's Kiwi gunners conducted a fighting retreat, leapfrogging their batteries steadily backwards while the infantry made their panic-stricken way to safety and shamed anti-tank crews added their firepower to the gun line. "The officer stood out in the open directing the fire, the crews crouched behind the shields and fed and fired the guns while everything the enemy had was being pelted at them," an Australian infantryman recalled later. "They looked like a drawing by someone who had never been to a war, but the whole thing was unreal."
Having spent so much time on Battles of 1866, the tactical situation caught my eye as very similar to that at Königgrätz, with artillery forced to hold the line and make a sacrifice so the broken infantry can escape. It's a difficult task for the Kiwi player but with high morale and powerful weapons it's not impossible.
18-19 April 1941
Undetected by the ANZACs, a reinforced company of the 143rd Mountain Regiment swam the Pinios River, managing to float their machine guns across as well. By nightfall they had reached a key crossroads near Larissa and proceeded to ambush repeated truck convoys rushing away from the front. A confused night action developed as Australian and New Zealand infantry sought to dislodge the Germans, who they believed had to be paratroopers.
Note: This scenario uses a board from Battle of the Bulge, and pieces from Desert Rats and Afrika Korps.
Exactly what happened at the crossroads is difficult to say. The Germans definitely shot up numerous ANZAC columns, claiming them to have included ammunition convoys, armored car platoons and infantry. The New Zealanders admitted to falling into the ambush, but in turn claimed that several hospital convoys had been destroyed. Eventually a scratch force drawn from one New Zealand and three Australian battalions combed the area for the swimming mountaineers, who pulled away easily before they could be overwhelmed.
This is one of the more unusual scenarios I've designed for the Panzer Grenadier system. The Germans are hidden in a forest, coming out to ambush ANZAC convoys as they race past. When they've jumped enough of them, a much larger force starts sweeping the woods to look for them. With all sorts of random allotments and arrivals, it's a lot of fun for face-to-face play and it's a fast-playing one, too.
Hunters of the Plains
25 June, 1941
With no mountainous regions in the Soviet Union's borderlands, the German XXXXIX Mountain Corps advanced into the plains of southern Poland across the same ground covered by the Austrian mountain corps in 1914. As they moved on Lvov, they faced a determined counterattack spearheaded by powerful new vehicles not listed in the pre-war intelligence reports. The gunners of 44th Anti-Tank Battalion had “borrowed” a handful of the new 50mm AT guns and ammunition and now saw their theft rewarded.
Note: This scenario uses boards and pieces from Eastern Front, and a board from Road to Berlin.
German 37mm shells bounced off the giant tanks, and the Soviets surged into the jägers' positions. The 8th Tank Division was considered one of the Red Army’s better formations, with good troops and modern tanks. But they lacked the more mundane instruments of war, and had left their infantry behind for a lack of trucks to move them. This allowed the jägers to close with the tanks and destroy them with grenades, Molotov cocktails and other improved weapons. The Soviets pressed their attack but this only caused losses to mount, and soon 8th Tank Division withdrew.
While the Soviets have the main burden of attack, the Germans must advance against them rather than lying in wait for the tanks. Both sides have to push the enemy off the ground where they start — the Soviet player without infantry, the German without tanks.
29 June, 1941
After a week of slogging up to the Soviet border from their stations in Norway, two German mountain divisions began an attack along the Arctic coastline with the goal of seizing Murmansk. The Austrians of the 137th Mountain Regiment (formerly the “Erzherzog Rainier” Regiment of the old Imperial Army) ran into fierce resistance from the very start but had a secret weapon ready for such circumstances.
Note: This scenario uses a map from Afrika Korps and pieces from Eastern Front.
The Salzburgers cleared the bunker line with the help of their engineers, but not without heavy fighting and significant casualties. The divisional history hints that they did so using poison gas, but does not specify the type and this may have been a field expedient. With the first barrier broken, the Austrians believed the road to Murmansk lay open. They were mistaken.
National Socialist Ardor
This is one of three scenarios in the Panzer Grenadier system featuring poison gas rules (the other two are found in White Eagles and Arctic Front). The German player must attack rather than stand off and blast the Soviets with artillery fire, and take the Strongpoints with infantry assaults.
2 July, 1941
Formed in eastern Germany from Nazi political activists, the SS Division “Nord” had little military capability. Small arms training for the infantry consisted of firing their weapons out the windows of railway carriages while on the way to the front. The artillery battalions had fired their weapons once, and the officers had only a short course of lectures and no practical experience. Nevertheless, the division attacked the Soviet fortified line at Salla in central Finland as ordered.
Note: This scenario uses boards and pieces from Eastern Front, and boards from Road to Berlin and Battle of the Bulge.
The SS attack utterly failed, with no Soviet positions falling. Many stragglers fled the battlefield, showing-up far in the rear area. Corps HQ issued a sarcastic order of the day congratulating SS Nord’s commander, Karl-Maria Demelhuber, for his troops’ behavior while regular army troops took over the offensive.
I think I've used the title for at least one other scenario — it's a favorite phrase of a former wargame publisher whose admiration for the Herrenvolk was always a little disturbing. But this ridiculous phrase perfectly captures the absurdity of Nazi self-regard.
4 July, 1941
Following their disastrous baptism of fire, Demelhuber’s shaken SS men rested for two days. The corps commander wanted them out of the line, but his superiors at Army of Norway would not countenance declaring a division unfit for combat after only a few hours of war and knew what Berlin expected. The division would not only remain at the front, it would attack. But before the SS could return to the offensive, the Soviets struck first with a spoiling attack.
Note: This scenario uses boards from Road to Berlin and Battle of the Bulge, and pieces from Eastern Front and Sinister Forces.
Tank attacks and artillery barrages panicked the SS men. Demelhuber, in the same report that detailed the effects of Soviet artillery, claimed that his own artillery could not respond effectively because of the smoke from forest fires. Once again, terror-stricken Aryan conquerors ranged through the rear areas, some of them using their motorcycles to spread panic.
I really do enjoy writing scenarios featuring this division, because I really do hate Nazis and this gaggle of goose-stepping buffoons proved the Nazi ideal of an "elite" to be totally ridiculous. Unfortunately, the lesson that ideology and competence are rarely found together would have to be re-learned by other nations in other places.
Black Day of the Rainier Regiment
15 July, 1941
As the advance on Murmansk became over-extended, the Soviets launched a furious series of counterattacks. On a rocky hilltop dubbed the “Ura Sattel,” the Salzburgers faced repeated assaults by the Red Army’s veteran 14th Rifle Division. Wave after wave stormed the hillside, and the Austrians fought them back with rocks, bayonets and their bare hands.
Note: This scenario uses a map from Afrika Korps and pieces from Eastern Front.
After savage fighting, the Salzburgers held their positions at the cost of severe casualties. The Murmansk offensive would never be resumed, and the front became static. With typical Austrian cynicism, the troops named all the local features after the regiment's bloodiest encounters, won or lost, in the Great War. They'd come to know them well over the next two years.
I've always been conflicted about having designed and published this particular scenario. My grandfather watched his childhood friends die on the Ura Sattel that day, and was given medals for it because they had to be pinned on someone who was still alive. I don't think I'd publish this again, given the choice, but it's already out there so there's not much point to removing it now.
The Litsa Line
3 August, 1941
While the German command had decided to suspend its offensive, there still remained a number of Soviet positions to eliminate before the jägers could rest easy. Chief among these was the Soviet bridgehead on the west bank of the Litsa River, a constant threat to the German lines. Accordingly, the Tirolese of the 136th Regiment with a Finnish company and some bicycle troops set out to drive the Red Army back over the river.
Note: This scenario uses boards and pieces from Eastern Front, and pieces from Arctic Front.
The Soviets put up terrific resistance, refusing to yield ground and exacting heavy casualties for every yard the mountain troops advanced. Where elsewhere at this time German troops rolled over the Red Army, here in the north they faced long-service professionals with wily leaders and dedicated political officers. Finally the 136th pushed the 325th back over the Litsa, but it was not a fight anyone on either side cared to face again.
I probably could have filled the entire book with "rocky tundra" scenarios from the Arctic campaign, but while I find them fascinating I'm pretty sure the fans want more variety.
4 August, 1941
With more experience, SS Nord’s performance became slightly less abysmal, though top Nazis in Berlin continued to indulge their delusions of adequacy. When transferred to the Kesten’ga front under Finnish command, the SS men were assigned secondary tasks such as reducing a surrounded Soviet regiment. Their troubles continued.
Note: This scenario uses boards and pieces from Eastern Front.
The SS men launched repeated attacks, but despite heavy casualties could not reduce the Soviet positions. The Finnish corps command indulged in a calculated insult, "corseting" the SS troops with Finnish battalions. After the SS failure, a Finnish unit took over the offensive and quickly reached their objectives.
My favorite armed clowns are back, this time stumbling around in a different sector. While other SS units were just as bad — in fact, most of them were, see our Sinister Forces book for details — they didn't have veterans writing apologia after the war proclaiming their "elite" status.
6 August, 1941
As part of the same operation that sent the 136th to clear the Litsa bridgehead, the Salzburgers of the 137th Regiment tried to push back the Soviets from a hilltop near the Litsa rivermouth. A strong patrol led the way until a Soviet sniper killed its commander, Oberleutnant Mayer. At that point the jägers lost all control, charging madly into the enemy positions and bayoneting anyone wearing a Soviet uniform. Meanwhile, a grenade-tossing Kommissar whipped his own men into a frenzy, and a swirling fight developed with no quarter asked or given.
Note: This scenario uses a map from Afrika Korps and pieces from Eastern Front and Arctic Front.
After intense hand-to-hand combat, the Soviets gave way and retreated to the coastline, where patrol boats tried to pick them up. Crazed Finnish infantrymen chased them into the surf, continuing the firefight in the freezing ocean waters. Veterans of the battle called it the most intense fight they had ever seen.
My grandfather was here as well,
at a battle where everyone lost their senses. With berserk
Finns, berserk Russians, berserk Austrians
and a gunboat, it's kind of hard to delete
a scenario like this.
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