Cardboard Wars

War is the continuation of politics by other means

Marita-Merkur: The End of the Campaign


I played out the April I 41 turn of the Marita-Merkur campaign, and the Greeks continue to tear up the Italians, with more powerful British Commonwealth units closing in on the front.

The Italians have had enough. It is only a matter of time before the Allies overrun Albania in its entirety. Maybe that would be enough to encourage the Yugoslav military into staging a coup and breaking away from the Tripartite Pact. Any way you look at it, Hitler is invading the Soviet Union with the British sitting on his door step (and at the back door in the west).

To be frank, this game did not go as I remember games in the past going. The Italians made it much further into Greece than I remember, and it was much harder for the Greeks to drive them out. However, I think this made for a much more fun game as for a long time, I wasn’t sure if the Allies could win it, because the Italians were so far ahead and refusing to budge.

If we were to finish the game all the way through, the Greeks would eventually pass the Italians in victory points and win the game, but it was very close.

But it also shows that in this game, the Allies have a lot of control over whether the Germans intervene or not. Had historical events paralleled the events of this game, I’m sure the Germans would not have sat passively by and allowed the British to gain a foothold in Greece. Would Barbarossa been delayed further? I don’t know, but it might have, depending on how badly the troops diverted to the Balkans were needed.

One thing that I discovered about mid game, and began to implement towards the end of the game, is that a bombing campaign can potentially shut off the flow of supplies to the front. This is not true for most of the Europa games, in fact, it is not true for any other game except for this one.

Of course, this tactic is wholly dependent on the bombers hitting their targets, a 1 in 3 chance per bombing mission. If nothing else, this mission would keep the two Greek engineer units busy, preventing them from building airbases and forts in the mountains.

But if such a campaign were successful, even if it only cut off supplies to the western end of the Greek line, the ramifications could be huge, and the Italians could potentially break through there and send the Greeks scrambling.

In fact, I think that is the only way the Italians could even hope to win this game.

The strategy that I undertook with the Italians in this game was one of if you want to move me, you have to move me. The Italians were not going to give anything that they had captured up easily, and only when they absolutely had to.

This strategy scored them a lot of victory points, but they were not able to win the game, because this strategy ended up destroying their army, and the Germans stayed out of it. Does that mean that is was a bad strategy? I don’t think so. I think it gave the Italians a chance to win. After the calendar turned from 1940 to 1941, the Greeks started to get on a roll, so to speak. They didn’t get better than 2:1 odds, but they rolled high more often than not, eliminating whatever Italians were in their path. The only real mistake that I think I made with the Italians was the ill-fated attack that netted the Italians an attacker half eliminated result. Things went from a slow, orderly withdrawal scenario to a run for your lives scenario.

Up to that point, I had been saying that the Italian offensive punch was gone, but I hate not being able to attack. I felt that even though the odds were low, I still had a 50-50 chance of pushing the Greeks back so that I could open up a wider escape route for my troops in the salient.

It didn’t quite work out that way in the end.

The other thing that I learned was that artillery, except for mountain artillery, should be kept on the roads until the snows have passed. They can move through the mountains, albeit slowly, while the weather is poor, but become immobilized once the snows start to fall. This makes them prey for any attacks that may come their way.

I don’t think there are a lot of adjustments that I need to make for the Greeks. After playing a lot of attacks on the optional table (the one that turns no effect results into exchanges), I think it is in the best interest of both sides to stay away from that table. The results are more like those that you found during the First World War. Both sides take heavy casualties. So, even as much as a no effect result is a pain in the backside, the results are preferable to taking casualties as the attacker.

The air war is something that the Italians can dominate, one of the few areas that this can happen. The Greeks don’t have much of an air force to begin with, and the British don’t send much to help until March, 1941, and even then, Blenheim bombers were not exactly top of the line. By this time, Rommel and the Germans were arriving in Libya, and the British had to hold on to all of the assets in Africa that they could to fend him off.

But the Italians have five decent fighters, one of which can carry a bomb load, two bombers and a dive bomber. For those who are unaware, the Italians had more aircraft than that during the campaign. The notation of “five”, for example, refers to the number of counters, not the number of actual aircraft.

While the dive bomber has a relatively short range, they can still do a lot of damage to front line troops, or transportation lines that they can reach. The other two bombers can make deep penetration raids, and hit transportation lines closer to supply sources. This also has the added effect of slowing down units moving along these transportation lines.

The bombers should be able to fly without escort, as they should be able to easily fend off Greek fighters. However, limited escort is available if needed.

This overwhelming air force is a primary reason the Allied player is afraid to use their air force for anything. The Italians score 10 victory points for every Allied aircraft shot down, and this makes it less likely that the Allied player will use their air force for anything. That, and that their old, antiquated bombers only have a bombing strength of 1.

I haven’t really noted a lot of adjustments for this game as I have for games in the past. I think I may be getting back into the groove where these games are concerned. We’ll find out soon. I need to take a short break for a few days in order to set up and review the rules of the next endeavor, The Damned Die Hard, the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. There are some new rules that I need to review and learn how to do, particularly the naval and amphibious rules.

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9 thoughts on “Marita-Merkur: The End of the Campaign

  1. 29delta on said:

    Thanks for the sharing. It was especially educational to watch how you analyzedthe victory points to control the game. I don’t remember every doing that when I studied it. You schooled me with that.

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    • Thanks for the reading. I think that there are always things that can be learned from the old games, and I post this to not only help myself, but hope that others can glean things from it as well. The next one should be interesting, though. It is the first time I will have ever actually seen the game. But I am looking forward to it!

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      • 29delta on said:

        Would you be up for posting imagery of the game as you peruse it prior to play? I have never seen a map or counters or even the box art. Thanks for the consideration.

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        • I don’t see why not. I was intending to put up some photos as I go through the planning process.

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          • 29delta on said:

            Good news and thank you….

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            • Stephen on said:

              I have TDDH but never really managed to make it work – very difficult for the Japs to achieve their historical advances. Philippine units perhaps too strong. It will be instructive to see someone have a go!

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              • I am in the process of setting it up now and seeing the American/Filipino dispositions for the very first time. It should be interesting, because most of the maps curl up on the edges because they are too big for the box. Let me get a run in, since I’ve never played this game before, then after that, if you feel up to the challenge via email/Jet, we could go head to head and see what happens. Those games are more fun and unpredictable.

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  2. Mark on said:

    I think what you say about not using the Optional CRT is interesting. I am trying a game of Marita Merkur right now in which the Greek strategy has been to make lots of 1:2 attacks on the optional CRT as much as possible, hoping to avoid that dreaded “1” for an AE. It’s Jan II and they did take some AE’s early on, but have lately been rolling better. Yes, it’s high attrition but when you have those HX results it’s not so bad because, this being MM, the Greek units aren’t mountain units and therefore are halved – meaning, in turn, they they usually are on the “winning” side of the HX even though they calculated odds are 1:2. Plus, in usual Europa fashion, if one coordinates the attacks just right, one can get some kills from making Italian divisions without cadres retreat through ZOCs on a DR result. So they can eliminate lots of Italians with proportionately smaller losses. The only issue is that the Italians got a mechanized force based on the light armored division supported by the motorcyle regiments “dug” in on rough hex on the road on the western coast and that keeps racking of VPs. The Greeks can fight them out because they can’t seem to mass enough troops to get a decent odds, given the dreaded -3 they’ll face attacking the stack (-2 two for AECD and -1 for the rough hex).

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    • Making 1:2 attacks gives me the willies, but I see where you are coming from. Early on in the game, I think I made just enough optional table attacks to wear the Italians down just enough that it became easier to defeat them on the normal table as time went on, until such time as they had nothing left to fill the line with.

      I agree about the mechanized forces. I would not attack them until they were forced back into the mountains where they are easier to kill.

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