Scenario Preview, Part Three

I’ve always been much more interested in the story a game tells, than in the procedures it uses to tell it. Zones of control, gunnery modifiers, lines of sight – I know what these words mean, and I’ve written plenty of rules about them. But they do nothing to excite me.

While I have very little desire to tinker with a game’s mechanics after it’s been released, I almost always want to tell more of the story. One of the counter-intuitive things we’ve discovered in making and selling games is that when you cram too much into the box or Playbook, sales actually decline. I suppose it becomes intimidating at that point (“I’ll never play 80 scenarios!”) instead of exciting. That actually lines up with a lot of consumer psychology studies: too much choice is not always a good thing.

The story-arc format we’ve adopted for most of our games, using the scenarios as a vehicle to move the narrative along, kind of requires a lot of scenarios. Our Campaign Studies let us add more scenarios to the story, and sometimes pull in maps and pieces from other games.

Panzer Grenadier: Parachutes Over Crete doesn’t have many British pieces; we couldn’t make them fit in the game. So Parachutes Over Crete: Heraklion lets us tell the story of the epic stand by the British 14th Infantry Brigade and two Greek regiments as they fought off German attempts to capture the capital of Crete and the island’s only concrete runway. It draws on Road to Dunkirk for its British pieces, with everything else coming from Parachutes Over Crete.

Mike Perryman crafted nine scenarios, organized into three chapters, each with a battle game to link the scenarios together. Let’s have a look at the final third of them.

Chapter Three
Southeast of Heraklion
These three scenarios cover the German effort to secure the area southeast of Heraklion.

Scenario Seven
East Hill
21 May 1941
On the late afternoon of the 20th the 1st Battalion and the Regimental HQ of the 1st Parachute Regiment had dropped near Gournes, a beachside town a few miles east of Heraklion. Col. Bruno Bräuer established his regimental headquarters in Gournes by 1900. With no word yet from the 2nd Battalion, tasked with securing the airfield, Bräuer dispatched Lt. Wolfgang Graf von Blücher and his platoon westward to establish contact. They reached a position known to the British as East Hill before encountering enemy resistance.

Unable to dig in the hard and rocky soil and unable to penetrate the Scottish position, Blücher's men found what cover they could and waited for help. Shortly after dawn the rest of 1st Battalion arrived and attempted to reach their position from the east. Survivors of the 2nd Battalion aided with an attack from the south. Despite heavy fighting the Scots held their positions and by noon the Germans had assumed a defensive posture to repeal the expected counterattack that never materialized. At 1530 Blücher's men surrendered.

It’s a close-quarters brawl between the Black Watch and German paratroopers, but at some point, the Scots will get a tank to help them. It’s just one tank and it’s at reduced strength, but the Germans can’t do much to stop it besides throw rocks at it.

Scenario Eight
Extensive Raid
23 May 1941
While the Germans utterly failed to secure any of their objectives in the Heraklion sector, they did manage to drag some mortars onto the saddle of Ames Ridge southeast of the airfield. From there, they rained down mortar bombs on the British troops below. To remove that annoyance, 14th Infantry Brigade sent Company B from the 2nd Leicestershire Battalion for what was termed an “extensive raid.” The battalion added another of its companies that morning, and the combined force moved forward during the afternoon.

Calling this operation a “raid” seems to have been an after-action rationale for a failed endeavor. There would be no point to driving the mortars from the ridge only to return to friendly lines; the mortar teams would simply slip back into their firing positions once the British retired which is exactly what happened here. According to the Black Watch the attackers suffered between twenty and thirty casualties caused by a small number of paratroopers wielding a large number of machine guns.

This is a small scenario, with about a company and a half of Brits trying to track down and wipe out a German mortar platoon, with a weak company of German paratroopers helping to defend the mortarmen. This is a little different form your standard “take objective X’ scenario, since the mortar can move and slip away from the angry Scots.

Scenario Nine
A Greek-Like Struggle
26 May 1941
Apex Hill, also called Hill 296, sat about a mile and a half south of East Hill and allowed whoever occupied it an unobstructed view of the airfield and surrounding terrain. After the Germans drove away the platoon of Australians atop the hill, the Greeks organized an assault to take it back. While the Greek regiment had plenty of men, they would be backed by very few heavy weapons.

Most of the Germans who had attacked earlier had headed east and joined their comrades bogged down outside Heraklion. The few who’d been left behind turned back the Greeks, who attacked with more enthusiasm than skill. During the attack the Greek commander fell wounded and the regiment suffered a large number of casualties rendering them unfit for further offensive operations. During the night they withdrew to Spilia to the west of Heraklion and Archanes to the south, where they went over to the defensive.  

The Germans are holding a hilltop with just a small force – maybe a company’s worth of paratroopers. A whole horde of Greeks come charging up the hill, with no artillery support and next to nothing in the way of heavy weapons. The Germans have a slight edge in morale, but not by much as the Greeks are very very angry.

And that’s the story of Heraklion.

You can order Parachutes Over Crete: Heraklion right here..

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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and NASA Journalist in Space finalist, he has published a great many books, games and articles on historical subjects; people are saying that some of them are actually good. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children, and his Iron Dog, Leopold.

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