Home Boardgame Operation Merkur, The Invasion of Crete 1941 by Diffraction Entertainment

Operation Merkur, The Invasion of Crete 1941 by Diffraction Entertainment

Operation Merkur

Merkur web add

By Diffraction Entertainment

Background

(Taken from Wikipedia)

The Battle of Crete was fought during World War II on the Greek island of Crete. It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany launched an airborne invasion of Crete under the code name “Unternehmen Merkur” (Operation Mercury or Operation Merkur). Greek and Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, defended the island. After one day of fighting, the Germans had suffered very heavy casualties and the Allied troops were confident that they would defeat the invasion. The next day, through miscommunication and the failure of Allied commanders to grip the situation, Maleme airfield in western Crete fell to the Germans, enabling them to fly in reinforcements and overwhelm the defenders. The battle lasted about 10 days.

The Battle of Crete was unprecedented, as it was the first battle where Fallschirmjäger (German paratroops) were used en masse, the first mainly airborne invasion in military history, the first time the Allies made significant use of intelligence from the deciphered German Enigma code and the first time German troops encountered mass resistance from a civilian population. Because of the many casualties suffered by the paratroopers, Adolf Hitler forbade further large airborne operations. The Allies were impressed by the potential of paratroopers and started to build airborne formations.

Belligerents
United Kingdom
Greece
Australia
New Zealand
Germany
Italy (from May 27, after the battle was already declared lost by British command)
Commanders and leaders
Bernard Freyberg Kurt Student
Strength
United Kingdom:
15,000
Greece:
11,451
Australia:
7,100
New Zealand:
6,700
Total:
40,000–61,800 (10,000 without fighting capacity)
Germany:
14,000 paratroopers
15,000 mountain troopers
280 bombers
150 dive bombers
180 fighters
500 transports
80 troop gliders
Italy:
2,700
Casualties and losses
Total: 23,830
1742 dead
2,750 wounded
17,090 captured (incl. wounded)
Total: 6,698
370 aircraft destroyed or damaged

The Game

The TSWW (The Second World War) System covers the entire war in all of the theatres from 1939 to 1945. The European Theatre Series allows for the play of the entire war in the European and Mediterranean theatres, and also connects with Pacific Theatre series, covering the Pacific, China, Burma, and India. The rules and charts contained in the Global Rules can be used to play the game, and will constitute standardized rules set covering all Theatres and Commands.

The highest player position in this series is the Theatre Commander, while the lowest is Army or Fleet Command. Political decisions taken by higher levels are represented by requirements and limitations on the players within the rules for each nation, but players have limited control over national production policies, reflecting changes in requirements and the demands of the forces.

The game, Operation Merkur is designed to be played Solitaire or with two people. There are two ‘sides’ in the game: Axis (Germany and Italy) and Allied (Britain and the Commonwealth and their Greek allies). The players control the forces of the side on which they are playing. Generically speaking,

Friendly: These are all Nations, Hexes and Forces on the same side.

Enemy: These are all Nations, Hexes and Forces on the opposing side.

Components

The following are the components provided in the game:

  • 1 – Map (18” x 26”)
  • 1 – Counter Sheet of 280 Counters
  • 1 – 10 page OOB (Order Of Battle)
  • 1 – 22 pages of Charts and Tables
  • 1 – 55 page Rule Booklet
  • 2 – 10 sided dice

I must mention that all of the components of this game consist of high quality components and are a joy to play with.

Game Scale

The Map:

The map is a representation of the area in which the two sides will do battle and is sub-divided into hexes that are 15 miles in width for the land movement and, for naval movement or sea zones are 75 miles in width. Take a look at the graphic example below from a section of the map that provides a graphic illustration of the land/sea zone relationship.

Due to the dramatic difference in both scale and pace of naval operations, the Operational Naval System (ONS) utilizes a number of special game concepts. The Operational Naval System (ONS) introduces in-phase reaction movement, large scale sea zones, fog of war, and a time based mission system. There are four primary naval phases (two friendly and two enemy player turns) and a number of secondary elements to the system.

The Units:

Land Units

The Scale of Land units used in the game, range from a Battalion on the low end, to a Division on the high end. Units in Operation Merkur move just like units in other wargames by tracing a line from one hex to another. They follow a line to their destination paying the correct terrain penalties as they move. The unique movement issue you can note in the Sequence of Play is that the Phasing Players Movement is sandwiched between Non-Phasing Players movement segments of Air and Naval Movement. This allows the Non-Phasing Player to perform some reactions to their opponent but he could also place themselves out of position for future turns. The players must be aware of the Sequence and understand how it will affect their units.

Next, a unique feature of this game is its Stacking Rules. Each unit in the game has a stacking value. Repeating the organizations we had and the Stacking Points (SP) of units are;

Organization Unit Representation Stacking Points
Division XX 4SP
Brigade X 3SP
Regiment III 1SP
Battalion II .5SP

If we are looking at stacking in Operation Merkur, a “Clear” hex can hold 22 SP’s + 6 SP’s of Artillery. This means that we can place 4 Divisions, + 6 SP’s of non-Divisional units + 6 SP’s of Artillery in a single hex.

Air Units

Air units are identified as shown on the Unit Identification Chart. Air units may either be shown in the game as Squadrons (approximately 20 aircraft – half counters) or as Wings (about 40 aircraft). In the air combat and air administration rules the basic measure of losses and replacements is the Air Replacement Point (ARP). These represent around 20 aircraft of the model to be replaced or lost. ARPs are produced at aircraft factories, and appear via the production system and/or the OB/OA.

Air Unit Ratings:

The Attack Factor represents the lethality of the aircraft when attacking other aircraft. The Defense Factor represents the effectiveness of the aircraft in evading or preventing an enemy air attack.

The Operational Bombing Factor is the ability of the unit to attack “point” targets and the Strategic Bombing Factor defines the units to attack “strategic” or “economic” targets. Finally, the Range Factor represents the distance that an air unit may fly while using its optimum combat factors (normal range).

Naval Units

Naval units are identified as shown on the Unit Identification Chart. Naval units represent capital ships and very large merchantmen, and escort vessels individually, and smaller vessels in flotillas or groups as defined in the Naval Rules.

Ship Types:

Naval units are split into a number of different types and they are:

Capital Ships CV Fleet Aircraft Carrier
BB Battleship CL Light Cruiser, 6” guns or above
CLA Light Cruiser, Anti-Aircraft, 4”guns or above Escorts
DD Fleet Destroyer DE/TB Destroyer Escorts (Corvettes, Frigates or Sloops) and Torpedo Boats
LC Landing Craft LB Landing Barge
SSF Submarine Flotilla

 

Time Scale:

 

Turns: The game is played in a series of game turns, which represent approximately half a month (5 Days in the Five Day variant). Each game turn is divided into two player turns with the Axis player going first and the Allied player second. Within each player turn the Turn Sequence below is repeated.

Sequence of Play

Sequence of Play

Turn Sequence: EVERY player turn follows these steps, in this order:

  • A. Initial Phase.

I. Both players determine the general supply & isolation status of their units and assign air units to the Naval cooperation mission. Phasing player spends LPs/GSPs as necessary. Any special events required by scenario rules may occur.

ii. The Phasing Player conducts administration activities including by National Intelligence Means (Rule .G.8), and distributes attack supply to HQs or directly to units using GSPs.

  • B. Movement Phase

I. The non-phasing player flies airbase attack/operational/strategic/naval cooperation and transfer missions. If an airbase bombing mission is flown by either player it must be resolved prior to the owner of the target airbase launching any missions from that base other than interception of the incoming bombers.

ii. The phasing player moves naval task forces and the non-phasing player then moves naval task forces.

iii. The phasing player moves ground units and air units (including interception of non-phasing player’s air missions).

iv. The non-phasing player flies interception missions (but cannot intercept the phasing player’s interception missions).

  • C. Combat Phase

I. Non-Phasing Player Air Combat

1. Resolves all air interception combats against missions about to be executed.

2. Non-phasing player resolves all remaining / strategic / operational missions.

ii. Phasing Player Air Combat

1. Resolves all air interception combats against missions about to be executed.

2. Phasing player resolves all remaining strategic / operational missions.

iii. The phasing player declares attacks including the allocation of offensive CAS. These are declared individually and once declared MUST be resolved.

iv. The non-phasing player flies defensive CAS and interception of phasing player’s offensive CAS – at this time to the declared hex, or none can be allocated.

v. When all the phasing player attacks are declared, the phasing player can intercept non-phasing defensive CAS. Offensive and defensive CAS are intercepted and resolved separately from each other.

vi. Both players determine the isolation status of their units and hexes for special replacement purposes.

vii. Resolve all NGS and ground combats, hex order determined by the phasing player. Air units involved in ground and naval battles have their combat (air to air and AA) resolved first in each hex.

viii. The results of combat are applied in the following order:

1. The phasing player loses factors as required.

2. The non-phasing player loses factors as required.

3. Surviving non-phasing units execute retreats if required (or chosen) as possible.

4. Units that are required to retreat which cannot are eliminated.

5. The attacking player executes any movement after combat allowed or possible.

Reaction Movement Phase.  Non-phasing units allowed reaction (Rule 7.C.1.g) can move up to ½ their movement allowance.

Pursuit Phase. All NTGs may be moved: the phasing player first followed by the non-phasing player. The phasing player may move all ground units again using the tactical movement rate and rounding down any fractions.

I. Units in offensive supply: all motorized class units may use their full movement allowance; all other units may move up to ½ of their allowance.

ii. Units in general supply: all motorized class units may move up to ½ of their movement allowance; all other units may move up to ¼ of their allowance.

iii. Units out of supply at E1: all motorized class units may move up to ¼ of their movement allowance; all other units may move one hex.

Air Return Phase. All air units still flying missions return to friendly airbases. Units unable to land at a friendly owned airbase are considered eliminated over friendly territory.

At first glance, reading the full Sequence of Play can be very intimidating. The reality is you need to break down the Sequence to its simpler components so that you can gain a full understanding of the games nuances. The simpler Sequence is;

AXIS PLAYER

  • Administrative Phase
  • Movement Phase
  • Combat Phase
  • Reaction Phase
  • Pursuit Phase
  • Air Unit Return Phase
  • ALLIED PLAYER
  • Administrative Phase
  • Movement Phase
  • Combat Phase
  • Reaction Phase
  • Pursuit Phase
  • Air Unit Return Phase

Now, when you look at the full Sequence and see it from the simplified view of Axis and Allied Players, you can begin to appreciate the subtleties of the game.

Combat Efficiency Variable (CEV)

The CEV can be considered a measure of the relative efficiency of a nation during a specific period of time. The Combat Efficiency Variable (CEV) is a multiplier that looks at things from a global perspective and takes into consideration such items as science, leadership, training, doctrine, communications, morale, etc. It combines all of these factors into a single value that players will use as a multiplier in combat. The printed combat factors on the unit counter are multiplied by this value which may increase or decrease the combat power of the unit in question.

The Combat Efficiency Variable that is applied to the different units that are used in 1941 when Operation Merkur was executed are;

GROUND CEV Efficiency Variable AIR CEV Efficiency Variable NAVAL EFFICIENCY VARIABLE Efficiency Variable
Nation Nation Nation
Germany 1.5 Germany 2 Britain +1
Italy 1 Italy 0 Italy 0
Allied 1.3 British C.W. 2

CEV Ground

For example, if a German force (20 points) in August 1941 were attacking a Russian unit (10 points) the CEV would be 1.5. This means that you would multiply the German forces 20 points by 1.5 and they would have a total strength of 30 points. This would increase their attack from 2 (20 points) to 1 (10 points) odds ratio to 3 (20 points x 1.5 = 30 points) to 1 (10 points) odds ratio. So, as you can see, players need to keep an eye on their CEV Chart and take advantage and try to attack when their CEV are at their highest level to take advantage of the multipliers and gain more of a boost in combat.

Logistics

Logistics is the movement of supplies from the national source of supply to forces. There are two systems in the game, which retain similar concepts, the continental system and the overseas system. The list below is the general definitions of Supply. If you reference these definitions from time to time you will begin to understanding the Logistics (Supply) not only of Merkur but all the games in this series of games. The definitions used in Logistics are;

Ground Units Supply: Units may be in or out of supply. When in supply units may be in general or offensive supply.

Air Units Supply: Air units may be in or out of supply. When in supply air units may operate normally, otherwise they may not fly missions except transfer missions to a base that is in supply. If air units remain out of supply for more than 2 turns they are eliminated.

Naval Units: May be in full supply, extended supply, or depleted. See the Naval Supply system (Section Q) for full information on the naval system.

Supply Terminal (ST): A major supply base and tertiary distributor of supply, and a key component in the supply system as a whole.

Logistics Point (LP): A large quantity of supplies.

Corps HQ: Primary distributor of supply.

QM Unit: A unit that facilitates the distribution of supply and can also move STs or LPs. They provide a QM MSR or transportation for LPs/STs in the overseas system. Only Air QMs appear in Merkur.

National Supply Source: Where a nation’s forces ultimately receive supply from.

Continental System: Linked by a high capacity rail line to the national supply source.

Overseas System: Any location that is not linked by a high capacity rail line to the national supply source is on the overseas system. To distribute supply over large distances within the overseas system a QM unit must be emplaced in the same hex as an ST. This is a critical concept. Exceptions exist on a limited basis.

Line of Communication (LOC): An unlimited length route from a supply terminal via road or rail to the national supply source or, Overseas, an unlimited length route via road or rail from a unit to a supply terminal. In China Burma India (CBI) the route may also include an air element as defined in the OB/OA. The LOC may not enter an enemy Zone Of Influence or enemy owned territory, but in CBI may over fly enemy owned territory. See the Rail LOC Supply Element Chart for more information.

Main Supply Route (MSR): A limited length route from a supply terminal to Army, then Corps HQ, and finally to units. In overseas theatres the MSR also refers to the range of supply provided by a Quarter Master Unit.

Line of Supply (LOS): An unlimited overland line of supply to an ST or the National Source of supply, used solely to determine isolation.

General Supply: Limited unit capabilities.

Offensive Supply: Full unit capabilities.

General Supply Points (GSP): Fractions of LPs that can be used to supply units.

Restrictions:

Nationality: See the MSR Chart for any alterations to ranges of MSR.

EZOI Impact: Units cannot trace an LOC or MSR through an EZOI, but this can be negated by 4 SP of friendly non-support units in each hex in an EZOI on the LOC or MSR.

Key Points of the Logistics System

1. Continental Supply: Rail LOC to supply terminal, then 6 hex MSR to army, then 6 hex MSR to corps, units stacked or adjacent to corps (only way to get offensive supply). 6 hexes to LOC from unit (this allows supply of rear area troops which can never be in offensive supply unless provided with GSPs at a rate of 1 GSP per SP).

2. Overseas Supply (Standard QM method): Ship from a port to a port with ST. Emplaced QM has a 20 hex MSR (QM MSR). An Army HQ has to be located within a QM MSR to provide supply to units or Corps HQs. Then 6 hex MSR to a Corps HQ, units stacked or adjacent to corps, which is the only way to get offensive supply. If located within a QM MSR from an ST that has expended LP (or fractions of LP) for the purpose then units are in general supply.

3. General Supply Points (GSPs): GSPs are generated from LPs, fractionalized. They are distributed via transport (any type) to the unit, then the player spends 1 GSP per SP to get general supply, and spends another 1 GSP per SP to get offensive supply. Air units may also be supplied via this method.

4. Air on Continental Supply: Trace 6 hexes to a LOC to national supply source, units are then supplied.

5. Air in Overseas Supply: Within the MSR of an ST at which 1/3 LP has been spent for the purpose of supplying air units or defined GSPs have been spent at the rate of 1 per F, D, A and 2 per B, HB, T.

6. Supply Effects: E1-2 for overextended. U1-3 for isolated and out of supply. General supply is not full supply and is punitive in terms of evening out CEV and reducing capability. Offensive supply negates this.

Offensive Supply and General Supply

1. Effect of being in Offensive Supply:

a. Units may operate at their full printed strength.

b. Units may operate utilizing their full national CEV.

c. Units may operate using all their combat effect modifiers.

d. Units may pursue using their full pursuit movement point allowance.

2. Effect of being in General Supply:

a) Units may attack and defend at 100% of their printed combat strength.

b) Units defending may utilize their full national CEV and their full combat effect modifiers.

c) Units attacking have a base CEV of 0.75 for CEV calculations, Odds are automatically rounded down.

d) Units pursuing have their pursuit movement point allowance reduced by 50%.

e) Units attacking have their combat effects reduced by 50%.

For Example: If a unit has an ASE point value of 4, and a CEV of 1.3 when in offensive supply, if it is out of offensive supply it has only 2 ASE points and a CEV of 0.75.

Understanding the logistics of this game is a major key to understanding the game system. With its subtle feeling and approach supply is an important and integral part of the game.

Summary

Note: This review uses a lot of the rules of the game system to explain the different functions of not only Operation Merkur, but all of the games in The Second World War (TSWW) SYSTEM. The reason I used the different rules section, was not only to provide the readers with some examples of how the rules are written but these rules can better explain the overall feeling of the game than a straight review

While Operation Merkur may appear to be a complicated game, it’s really not. This game was designed to be an introduction to the TSWW (The Second World War) game system. Many gamers believe that a game with long rules is a complicated game and one to stay away from. Even though the rules for Operation Merkur are long, this does not mean the game is complicated. As a matter of fact, Operation Merkur was created as an introductory game to the TSWW system.

As I have previously said Operation Merkur can be thought of as an introductory game to the TSWW system of play. Learning the rules for this game will prepare you to learn the game system that Diffraction Entertainment has created. This game system is an enhanced version of the Game Designers Workshop (GDW) Europa series with the additional of Air and Naval movement and combat and a thorough collaboration with each other. It is this interaction between the different units and all of the combination of events that could occur that makes the rules long. The rules may be Long but they are not difficult is a key factor to remember when talking about Operation Merkur.

The games of this system are;

  • Game 1 – Blitzkrieg Version 2
  • Game 2 – Balkan Fury
  • Game 3 – Mare Nostrum
  • Game 4 – Madagascar
  • Game 5 – Operation Merkur
  • Game 6 – Singapore
  • Game 7 – Operation Battleaxe
  • Game 8 – Barbarossa
  • Game 10 – Operation Watchtower
  • Game 11 – Hakkaa Päälle
  • Game 12 – I Shall Return
  • Game 13 – Liberation
  • Game 14 – Kamikaze
  • Game 15 – The China Incident

I think that Operation Merkur is an introductory game to the TSWW (The Second World War) system of play. Learning the rules for this game will prepare you to learn the game system that Diffraction Entertainment has created. The best way to introduce yourself to this game system is to take a map, set up a few counters and just move the counters around following the rules.  Create examples of Combat, Movement, Naval Combat and Air Movement and Combat. If you take each rule and break it down into simple examples, you will learn the game system in no time at all.

Finally, keep in mind that just because rules are provided with the game, you have the flexibility of not using the rule until you are comfortable with some of the basic game premises. So for example, you can start by just using the ground rules and then slowly integrate the Air, Naval, Logistics and Political rules once you are comfortable. Adding each of these sections to your game in a structured manner will only increases your enjoyment of the entire system. As you learn the TSWW System, of which Operation Merkur is the 5th release, you will be well prepared for the additional games that will be forthcoming from Diffraction Entertainment.

For additional information on Operation Merkur or any of the other games in this series go to https://www.tsww-online.com/ and tell them you saw it on Mataka.ORG.

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