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Air Assault On Crete/Invasion of Malta: 1942» Forums » Reviews

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Michael Von Ahnen
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Dallas
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Air Assault on Crete is a wargame covering the German invasion of Crete. It is a unique topic, because as it turns out, the paratroops were pretty much on their own, which occurs in the game also. So it is a game of against the clock for the German player, get an airfield and get your reinforcements in before the Allied player escapes or chews up all of your paratroop units.

The game mechanics are the basic counter and hexes, with a lot of twists. But the basic mechanics are pretty easy for a wargamer that have experience. What has been added is airpower (air factors added to combat), ranged artillery, special armor effects, hidden initial placement, and of course the air landing rules. Another part of the game that needs to be noted is also the board layout. To allow the scale, but to cover all areas that the battle occured, the map is thin and long, with one of the boards offset. This is kind of a set up nightmare and a prime feline target, but for the most part, you don't really have to set the board that way, the areas are pretty much independent (except for the Allied withdrawl routes).

The game starts with the Allied player setting up all of his units inverted. This is kind of a beating, particularly if you are not all that dexterous with your fingers, but the saving grace is that the unit desity for the Allies is not that great (better for setup, not so good when you want to defend or counter-attack). What I have found that the most important part of this setup is where to put the artillery and anti-aircraft. You don't want to put your ground units where they get easily destroyed, but usually you have a turn or two to redeploy, the Germans have a couple other priorities on the first couple of turns. The games usually start pretty much the same, the Allied sets up to defend the most important positions and the Germans are forced to land in save positions.

The German sets up his paratroops at the desired drop location and then watches them scatter. The presence of Allied units and anti-air units increase the chances of the unit drifting from the drop hex. If the Allied player thinks he has book keeping issues with his hidden units, the German has at least the same level of book keeping trying to arrange his company level units so that he can combine them into more efficient battalions. This is probably the key "gadget" of the game, because if the German has all of his units organized, it is not going to be that much of a contest. But the Allied player can get an extreme amount of enjoyment out of killing off a HQ unit, which will prevent that unit from ever being combined into a battalion. I think it provides the feel of the confusion that occurs for the landing troops. It can take several turns to finally organize the paratroops into an offensive force ready to get the objectives.

I can really tell you about play balance, the appearance seems to be slightly weighted to the Allied side, but there are so many options, and I played my games primarily with one other opponent, so we probably did not explore all of the possible strategies. But the game is balance enough not to be distracting. I think this is the type of game that winning it is not the only thing that gives enjoyment. As the Allies, seeing your AA placement cause German paratroopers to drift out to sea and die or that attack that wipes out his chances to reorganize is very fullfilling. As German, to finally grab that airfield and to land you big mountain infantry that allows you to turn the tide seems like a victory, even if it it is not. There is something about a paradrop that is interesting, reguardless of the outcome.

As an added "bonus", Avalon Hill through in Invasion of Malta. It uses the same basic mechanics, minus the unit reorganization (probably a necessity give the unit density on the small board). Malta is easier to learn, probably more straight forward on strategy, and a heck of alot more bloody. Malta would probably be a better game to start with, in terms of learning the game system. Also, if you can dig up the Avalon Hill General issue, there is an even smaller game representing an invasion of Cypress.

This is probably not a game to play start to finish over and over again, but for a change of pace from the "typical" wargame, I would recommend it.
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Eric Tolentino
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Well done. Thanks for the review.
 
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James Cox
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Hear, hear.

You gave a good, fair review of the pluses (the only/bestest game ever to explore the intricate and unique problems of actual tactical airbone operations) as well as the minuses (small counter siz and stacks that get too unwieldy).

Definitely not a great game for noobs or novices, but a superb game for a veteran to explore the unique aspects of airborne opns.
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Peter Hindman
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Minnesota
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I played this game alot back in the late 70's and early 80's. As an ex paratrooper I really appreciated the drift, confusion and reorganization problems associated with vertical envelopment. AH IMHO nailed these issues in this design. Alot of stategy for both sides, and some very intense times. The Germans are most vulnerable after landing, and the Allies should hit them hard. Once the Germans capture an airfield (Maleme is the easiest) the Allies should head for the evacuation routes, but not forgetting that a quick counterattack against some weaker Axis unit(s) will pay off in casualty points. It will be 35 years this fall since I last played. I agree completely with your statement that "it is not a game to play start to finish over, and over again". I admit that I too got tired of all those 1/2" counters stacked everywhere, and the Allies being inverted. I found myself constantly checking my stacks to make sure of what I had, and that I was not missing something...but it was still a good if not great experience. I think it has to get to the table this year....should be interesting squinting with my cheaters and those small units!!
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Steve Carter
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skifast wrote:
I played this game alot back in the late 70's and early 80's. As an ex paratrooper I really appreciated the drift, confusion and reorganization problems associated with vertical envelopment. AH IMHO nailed these issues in this design. Alot of stategy for both sides, and some very intense times. The Germans are most vulnerable after landing, and the Allies should hit them hard. Once the Germans capture an airfield (Maleme is the easiest) the Allies should head for the evacuation routes, but not forgetting that a quick counterattack against some weaker Axis unit(s) will pay off in casualty points. It will be 35 years this fall since I last played. I agree completely with your statement that "it is not a game to play start to finish over, and over again". I admit that I too got tired of all those 1/2" counters stacked everywhere, and the Allies being inverted. I found myself constantly checking my stacks to make sure of what I had, and that I was not missing something...but it was still a good if not great experience. I think it has to get to the table this year....should be interesting squinting with my cheaters and those small units!!

Peter,
Since you'd like to get this to the table this year, sign me up.
I am playing a game right now on VASSAL (which by the way makes those stacks easier to manage, but the module implementation makes for a lot of email exchanges since each player can only move his own units and the air counters prevent the Allied player from accessing his units underneath the air counter). I would love to get a face-to-face game setup again. I usually play at the Source on Fridays with the 1st MN gaming group, but might be able to find a weekend day to play as well.
Hit me up whenever you'd like to take this on.

Steve (aka "Steve the Tall" at 1st MN)
 
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Peter Hindman
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Minnesota
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Sorry for the late response Steve, but I will keep your offer in mind. I will let you know when I'm available to put my "knees in the breeze"....just some ancient Fort Bragg humor!!
 
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