Memoir '44: The Invasion of Crete
Memoir '44: The Invasion of Crete is an eight page, six scenario Memoir '44 expansion booklet used at the 2011 World Boardgame Championships and later given away as a promotional item around the time of the Campaign Book 2 release. To my knowledge print copies are in short supply now but the PDF is still available (at time of writing) from Days of Wonder's website:
A little background...
The scenarios within the booklet are components of a campaign based on the Axis invasion of Crete, Operation Mercury. Mercury began on 20th May 1941 and comprised nearly 30000 German Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers) and Gebirgsjäger (mountain troops) being airlifted onto the island to wrestle it from the 40000 British, Australian, New Zealand and Greek defenders. Control of the island meant control of the Eastern Mediterranean, which meant control of the airspace above the Ploesti oilfields of Romania and naval control of the waters used to supply North Africa and the Middle East.
The operation began terribly for the German forces but due to aggressive and bloody attacks, combined with an Allied defense still reeling from it's evacuation from mainland Greece (and a few mistakes), the island fell to the Axis after a fortnight. The traditional view is that the early slaughter of the German airborne forces was the reason they were never used in another large-scale airborne attack for the duration of the war (although modern historians now believe German casualties were lighter than those stated at the time).
What's in the booklet
The six scenarios are;
- Maleme Airfield, based on the first day assault on the western, coastal airfield that would prove of vital importance to the German supply lines.
- Airdrop over Heraklion, based on the 20th May assault on the central 'capital' of Crete, which also had a small airfield nearby.
- Airdrop over Rethymno, based on the 20th May assault on a small town between Maleme and Heraklion, which would also give control of it's nearby airfield.
- Prison Valley, based on the first 48 hours near Chania, to the east of Maleme, and the attempts to knock out the Allied communications and anti-aircraft capabilities that would threaten Maleme airfield.
- Platanias, based on the 23rd May German actions to protect Maleme airfield from Allied counter-attack.
- Galatos, based on 25th-26th May battles around Galatos where the now organised German forces from Maleme met the now crumbling Allied counter-attacks.
Is it worth it?
The battles used as inspiration for the scenarios have been well picked as they form a cohesive narrative of the battles and shifting balance of power, and they will leave a good impression of the overall story of the operation but I believe they could be improved a little.
As standalone scenarios, all are decent and fun to play but as with all airborne operations they are light on armour (as is historically correct). If you prefer having massed tank formations to perform large scale punches in the enemy line, they may not be fun for you. The importance of the few Allied tanks on the island is well represented. The presence of Greek partisans is historically accurate and a good injection of variation.
Some of the suggestions I have could undoubtably change the balance of the operation so I can understand why they would not be included for a world championship but I'd like to list them anyway;
- There are no explicit campaign rules if you are playing the scenarios chronologically. It would have been really nice to model supply or troop numbers and the importance of the airfields and coastal landing sites that the Axis intended to use. The Axis planned to land troops on the coast but were denied by the Royal Navy and the airfields were the only way troops and supplies could land. The loss of Maleme airfield would have been catastrophic for the Axis.
- In some scenarios there are impassable river hexes used as coastline, it would have been nice to use the coastal board, although I admit this is cosmetic and the size of the land remaining would affect the balance. This may have been better with a Breakthrough board and some impassible mountains to limit movement inland? I admit I'm being very picky and I'm not totally sure of this idea myself!
- Likewise, it would've been really nice to have a Breakthrough or Overlord sized operation, possible spanning from Maleme in the west to Chania in the east, but again I'm being really picky and ungrateful (this is a free expansion after all)!
I have one suggestion that is purely aesthetic and shouldn't affect balance at all - the printed scenario maps use standard boards and terrain tiles but I would suggest using the desert board from Memoir '44: Winter/Desert Board Map and/or the desert tiles from Memoir '44: Mediterranean Theater with a standard board. A mixture of desert board with green tile features, or green board with desert tiles interspersed would better represent the mixed landscape of Crete (take a look at the satellite images on Google Maps to see the mottled yellow and green I'm talking about).
Overall, as with most promotional items, the content in this one is decent, especially if you have an historical interest in the operation but is probably not worth spending lots of money on, unless you're a completist or a millionaire.
So if you like smaller infantry scenarios, skip the expensive printed copy, download the PDF and print your own or view it on a tablet.
I totally share Your opinions on this.
Some years ago I played it on revisited maps more or less as you would. They are great scenarios.
Give a look at the image gallery!!!!
Give a look at the image gallery!!!!It would seem I'm not the first person with this idea!