Chapter 4 Greece & Yugoslavia
Conquest of Greece
The Commonwealth starts the war with a good navy, some land units, and a scattershot of air units. For the air units, the Allied player has to decide whether to assign pilots to carrier air, fighters, naval air, tactical bombers, or strategic bombers. Even with the two extra pilots G got from interning the Polish air units, he still had too few pilots. Therefore some Commonwealth air units had to be placed in reserve. Over the course of the war the Commonwealth can build more units to supplement its starting forces. The selection from which to choose is wide and the available build points never enough.
Depending on how the Allied player sees the future year of the war going, he can build land units, air units, pilots, or naval units. Since G planned on using strategic bombing to reduce the number of build points generated by the European Axis factories, strategic bombers were on his wish list. So were pilots. G also likes to use the Commonwealth carriers against the Italians, meaning more pilots needed to be built. Like most players of war games, he likes to pick on the weakest opponent - the Italians in this case.
G notes: An important goal for the Commonwealth in 1940 is to take out as many Italian ships as possible to protect the Med and help conquer North Africa. Keep in mind that the Commonwealth needs to move ships in late 1941 and 1942 to counter the Japanese in the Pacific. So taking out the Italian navy before then is crucial. If the Italian player keeps his ships in port then Commonwealth carrier planes need to fly port strikes. The 3 naval factor carrier planes should come in separate waves, 1 at a time each impulse, to hopefully get through the AA and fighter interceptions. Port strikes are all about the surprise rolls each side gets.
The biggest decision for the Commonwealth is where to deploy their land units. The choices range from Norway and Denmark in the north, to support in France and the Lowlands, to the Balkans, and down to North Africa. There are also demands for units to defend the United Kingdom from German invasion, and to garrison India, Burma, and Malaysia against partisans. Since land units can arrive in any Commonwealth home country, naval transports are needed to pick up new reinforcements from Canada, South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, and any of the Commonwealth controlled minor countries around the globe (where territorial units may arrive). Dragging land (and air) units across the oceans to the combat zones takes planning - and remembering to execute those plans.
One crucial decision is what to do with the 2 HQ units with which the Commonwealth starts the game. One is in the United Kingdom, and G took him across the English Channel to help out France. The other HQ starts in Egypt. He could have been sent to France for additional support. Or he could have led a charge through Libya, heading to Tripoli (an Objective city in the game). G decided to have the second HQ spearhead an invasion of Greece. Athens is also an Objective city, as indicated by having its name in Red.
G notes: The decision to attack Greece was very risky, but had several advantages. If the Allies can land 4 corps in Greece AND take Athens, then Yugoslavia aligns with the Allies. Aligning Yugoslavia with the Allies in early 1940 causes problems for the Axis when they are concurrently attacking France. The Axis always has a hard time helping Greece while Yugoslavia and Bulgaria are neutral. The other nice benefit is that Athens is a victory city and once the Allies are in Greece, it is very hard for the Axis to push them out. I should add that this encourages the Italian navy to sortie to assist Greece, giving the Commonwealth the opportunity to sink Italian ships at sea. Weather in the Med has a better chance of being clear during the winter months than in France and Poland. That provides the best possible weather for land attacks in Greece.
Figure 4-1 shows Greece prior to begin invaded in Nov/Dec 1939. The first wave of invaders were the divisional units. Because we were playing with the optional Amphibious rule, sea-borne invasions could only be performed by: (1) marine corps aboard transports or amphibious units, (2) infantry corps aboard amphibious units, and (3) divisional infantry units aboard a surface ship (e.g., a battleship or a cruiser). The Commonwealth has no marines and no amphibious units. That means until those units were built and arrived as reinforcements, infantry divisions had to perform all sea-borne invasions of enemy controlled hexes. Actually, paratroop units could do airborne invasions, but alas, the Commonwealth doesn’t have any of those units at the start of the war either.
Both France and the Commonwealth declared war on Greece, which chose to align with Germany. The Commonwealth 1-4 division in the Eastern Mediterranean and the French 1-3 division in the Italian Coast are threatening to invade. The Axis has two Greek corps to place on the map. One of them is a mountain unit, whose defensive strength in a mountain hex is tripled (the defensive strength of regular infantry units in mountain hexes is only doubled). Take note of the other Commonwealth naval units in the Eastern Med 3 section box (that’s where the HQ Wavell is). They have a lot of shore bombardment factors. Once the land units get into position to attack Athens, the shore bombardment factors can almost double the total attack factors.
Figure 4-2 shows the progress of the invasion of Greece. The time line begins in the top left, goes across the top, switches to the bottom left, and goes across the bottom.
I placed the Greek defenders to hold Athens and Peloponnesos. Once the Allies capture Athens, Greece will be conquered and their land units removed from the game. Getting corps units ashore is very difficult. Unless they are invading, they can only land in friendly ports or in a hex occupied by a friendly HQ. Every hex in Greece has a notional defending unit worth 1 combat factor. That is reduced by 1 during the surprise impulse. It is increased by 1 if the hex is a city or if the hex is in the zone of control (ZOC) of a friendly corps sized unit.
The positions of the Greek corps in the upper left screenshot exert ZOCs into Patras and Kalamai. Those ports have a notional value of 1 (i.e., 1 + 1 - 1). Since Salonica is a city, it also has a notional value of 1. On the other hand, most of the Greek coastal hexes have a defensive value of zero during the surprise impulse. That makes them easy pickings for the Allied divisions. A defense of zero means certain success for any invader. Invading takes all of a unit’s movement points - they stop in the invasion hex and can’t move until the next friendly impulse.
In the top center screenshot you can see that the Greek mountain unit moved to help defend Athens from the north. Meanwhile the Commonwealth landed 3 corps, including the HQ. The British divisional unit first moved into Salonica to make it Allied controlled. That let the two motorized corps land there. In the top right, the two opposing sides met. Note that some of the Allied units are disorganized (orange status indicator), caused by moving into mountain terrain during Rain.
By the time Jan/Feb 1940 rolled around, the Greeks had gotten their reserve unit reinforcement and placed it in Athens. That’s shown in the lower left. They also moved the 4-3 Inf alongside the 4-4 mountain unit. The extra exertion to reach that hex disorganized the 4-3. What happened to the British 6-5 motorized unit? It broke down (voluntarily) into the 1-5 and 2-5 motorized divisions at the end of the Nov/Dec 1939 turn. The Jan/Feb 1940 turn was extremely short. The Axis moved first, the Allies moved, then the Axis moved and ended the turn (10% probability). 3 impulses total!
So we advance to Mar/Apr 1940 in the center bottom screenshot. The Allied divisional units are filtering around the Greek western flank. In particular, the French division changed control of Patras from Axis to Allied. By the end of the turn, the Commonwealth had landed a 7-3 Inf in Patras. That threatened to attack Athens in the next Allied impulse. Although there would only be two British attacking units (the 7-3 and the 1-4), their attack factors of 8 would be doubled by shore bombardment and possibly even more by air ground support. The little 3-2 Greek militia unit might be swept out to sea! Having just one defender in a hex is never good. It isn’t that hard to kill off a single defender and capture a hex.
Advancing to May/June 1940, as shown in Figure 4-3 (top left screenshot), the Greeks have pulled back so two units are in Athens. In the top right screenshot you can see the result of the attack the Commonwealth launched on Athens. It did not go well despite having a 64% chance of success. The Greeks lost the 3-2 militia and the Commonwealth lost the 2-5 motorized. In the bottom left screenshot the Greeks have pulled back both their corps into Athens. That meant there wasn’t room for the 3-2 Militia unit to arrive as a reinforcement. But 8 defensive factors is better than 7. Regardless, by the end of May/Jun 1940, the Commonwealth had taken Athens. The screenshot in the lower right shows the conquest of Greece. Some British units have returned to Salonica to stave off the Germans soon to descend through southern Yugoslavia. The conquest of Yugoslavia is next.
Conquest of Yugoslavia
As mentioned in a previous post, Germany felt compelled to declare war on Yugoslavia so it could align Hungary. That let it bring in the Hungarian units and halt the wanderlust of the Polish units. As shown in Figure 4-4, G chose to place the Yugoslavian units one to a hex. He says: This is a cheap trick but a single unit can cause a lot of havoc if not taken out.
Partly that was to leave room in the cities for the impending reinforcements - as shown having arrived in Figure 4-5. By then Germany had also aligned Rumania and brought down some of the excess German units in Poland. Italy is also drifting over some corps units. Moving motorized and mechanized units through the mountains costs 3 movement points per hex in Fine and Snow weather. Other weather doubles the cost. It takes time for the Italians to move adjacent to Zagreb, their target destination. I should add that aligning Rumania in 1939 was a big mistake on my part. If I had delayed that action until 1940, the Axis would have gotten the Rumanian HQ and an air unit, with pilot, as reinforcements at zero cost. Building them later cost 9 build points. The slight offset was the Rumanian ZOC prevented the Commonwealth from using a resource point for production. Nevertheless, the early alignment was a terrible decision.
Figure 4-6 shows the Axis beginning to surround Zagreb and Belgrade . Each of those cities contains a factory so they both have to be captured to conquer Yugoslavia. This is similar to Poland. Leaving single Yugoslavian units alone in a hex is dangerous for the Allies. The Germans can build up a pretty fierce attack against single units which have 4 or less combat factors.
In Figure 4-7 the Axis has pulled closer to the cities, despite the previous impulses bad weather. By late in Mar/Apr 1940 (impulse #10) the Allies have brought air units into Yugoslavia. Mostly they are positioned there to perform strategic bombing missions against German factories. In combination with strategic bombers flying out of England, virtually every German held factory and oil resource needs fighter protection. That’s from Lille to Stettin to Lodz to Vienna to Ploesti. G says: Another reason to take Greece is the threat to the Rumanian oil by the Allied bombers.
Figure 4-8 shows the noose tightening on Zagreb. Paris has just fallen and the Germans have started rebasing bombers - the Stuka Ju 87D is within range of Zagreb. By the first impulse of July/Aug 1940, (Figure 4-9), Zagreb has fallen. The Germans were able to rail the von Bock HQ into Rumania before the May/June turn ended. Then he was reorganized at the end of the turn and be available for the attack on Belgrade . As is my normal practice, I took my time attacking the two Yugoslavian factory cities, taking one per impulse and making sure the attack odds were overwhelming. The Axis can’t afford losses if they are going to have enough units for the USSR.
G says: If France had held out longer [e.g., by not having two “end the turn then start the next turn” by the Axis], the Yugoslavian battle would have been harder for the Axis. With the Allies coming up through Greece, it would have been an interesting “Churchill” Balkan scenario. The first “end the turn then start the next turn” occurred in Nov/Dec 1939 to Jan/Feb 1940 letting Germany conquer and occupy all of Belgium. The second occurred in Mar/Apr 1940 to May/June 1940, letting Germany rocket into France and move adjacent to Paris.
Lastly, Figure 4-10 shows Belgrade taken and the Germans threatening to liberate Greece. In reality, I had no intention of fighting through to recapture Athens. The British navy was too strong. We were playing with defensive shore bombardment, so a couple of Commonwealth units in Athens would have been doubled. Again, I did not want to lose any German units.
As happened historically, the Balkans were a sideshow. In this case the Allies held onto Athens (an objective city and a victory point). But a couple of Axis units positioned north of Athens discouraged the Allies from venturing any farther. Yugoslavia fell on schedule, giving the Axis time to move the units fighting there east and up to the Rumania-Russia border. In the long run, the Yugoslavian and Greek resources added to the German build point total every turn thereafter.