Italian Campaign Introduction
Available from Collins Epic Wargames
After the conclusion of the North African Campaign, it was decided to invade Italy. This was done to sooth the irate Russians who demanded the Allies open “the second front” in Europe. The Allies decided to invade the “soft underbelly” of Europe to appease the Russians and in an effort to drive the Italians out of the war. Sicily was invaded on July 10th, 1943 and the last Germans were evacuated on August 17th. The next step was the invasion of the mainland itself. The British Army invaded the “toe” of the Italian “boot” on September 3rd, 1943. The invasion had its requisite effect, the Italian government surrendered on September 8th. The Germans disarmed the former “Allies” and brought in more units in place of the discredited Italian troops. The American invasion began on September 9th, at Salerno, in the face of strong German resistance.
Frontline General is a hybrid wargame. By this I mean the basic game is an operational level game played on a mapboard, with a hexagonal overlay to facilitate movement and combat. The hybrid part comes into play at the tactical level. Tactical level combat is played on a tabletop utilizing 15mm miniatures and a set of miniature rules. The designer states that the tactical rules can also be played using the unit tokens that are employed for the operational part of the game. This introduction contains only one scenario and the necessary pieces to play the overall game. The scenario included in this set is the capture of the Airfields at Foggia. While the historical participants of this battle were the British and the Germans, the Introduction set contains German and American units so that the American units will “stand-in” for the British in this scenario. British units will be part of an expansion of the system in the near future.
In the Introduction box you will find 415 American and German units represented by pre-cut stickers to be applied to the plastic hexagonal markers provided. Additionally, there are 495 “cards” representative of each unit, as well as, a Command Decisions and an Event deck. The “cards” which represent each Infantry unit, Tank, Plane and Artillery unit, are for informational purposes. Each card is placed into one of the provided card “sleeves”, onto these “sleeves” will be stuck “Experience Stars” and other information “Tags” during the course of the game. All of the components of the game from cards to unit tokens to rules are available online at www.frontlinegeneral.com to be downloaded and printed on your home computer. The commercial set of components retails for $79.99 from the above website.
The designer notes in his explanation for the game that additional scenarios will be forthcoming in the not too distant future, along with British units to complement the historical makeup of the forces that invaded Italy. These scenarios will be available on the website for downloading when they are issued. Further design plans are to expand the system into other theaters of the war, along with the units.
The unit cards are two-sided, showing the units at full strength and after losses have been incurred during combat. Each card contains the information needed to play the game. In the “Mechanics” area are the values for Movement, Defense and Endurance(Hit Points). Under the photo on the card is a section for armament, these are the weapons carried by the squad or affixed to the vehicle. These weapons have a attack factor, a Damage Index, Weapon Range and Allowable Targets. By Allowable Targets is meant that a basic Infantry Squad cannot kill a Tank with their rifles. The next section down is the Special Attributes, these are the special functions that each unit has, for instance, Combat Engineers can clear minefields. In addition to the units attributable to the combatants, there are “Neutral” units. These consist of Barbed Wire, Minefields, Bridges and Airfields, which can be constructed by either side. There are fifty-two Event cards, consisting of two each of twenty-six different events, from a Bridge Collapse to a Communications Disruption to additional Local Resources and increased Intelligence. The Active Player rolling a ten-sided die puts these Event Cards in play during the Event/Income Phase of the Turn Sequence. The drawn Event card is resolved immediately. The layout of the Event card is almost identical to that of the Unit cards.
The active sections are Focus (which units are affected), Duration (how many turns will this be in effect) and Effects (what happens). There is also a Command Decisions deck consisting of forty cards. There are five each of eight different commands. You the General control these cards. Command Decisions span the gamut from Inspiration, to Deployment, to Withdrawal and Surrender. Command decision cards are drawn at the beginning of each Operational Phase of the Turn Sequence. A General may have no more than 5 Command cards in his hand at one time. Cards are played whenever the General feels they will best affect the current play and the effected units meet the necessary requirements to allow play. The important sections are Affects (who), Purpose (the end in view) and Description (what happens). There is included in this Introductory set a package of currency. The expenditure of this currency is used for keeping your units in supply; purchasing new units and purchasing Experience Star die rolls, thus influencing the experience level of on board or incoming units. Currency is received during the Operational turn. Currency is generated by your Forward Command HQ and any additional Command Posts you have on the map.
The Operational Turn Sequence consists of these six phases: Income/Events, Production, Supply, Movement, Combat and Deployment. Income/Events is when the player receives his income for the present turn and rolls for the possibility of drawing an Event Card. Production Phase is the purchase of new units; the purchase of a Tank also requires the purchase of a crew to man it. Production only occurs every five Operational Turns, these would be turns 1, 6, 11, 16, etc. Next is Supply, this cost is 10% of the original cost of the deployed units currently on the board. If supply costs cannot be paid, a supply deficit is invoked, this is whatever supply is not paid is multiplied by 10 and that number of unit cost is considered out of supply until the next supply phase. These units “out of supply” cannot move, fight or perform any special functions while out of supply. If the “out of supply condition carries over to the next Operational Turn, the units current OOS cannot be outed a second turn, new units must be declared “out of supply”. Movement of any unit, in supply, is entirely voluntary and no unit is required to move. Combat is also a voluntary action for the phasing player. The final phase of the turn is the Deployment of previously purchased units. This is conducted every five turns starting with turn 5. Units are deployed in various locations dependent upon the type of unit involved. For instance, Planes must be deployed on an airfield controlled by the player trying to deploy the unit; land units must be deployed at a controlled shipping facility.
Movement of units consist of moving the actual unit itself, transporting of smaller units on vehicles and the towing of artillery pieces. Units that have a Movement factor printed on the card my move individually, while units without any movement factor must be towed by a vehicle capable of doing so. Infantry units can move separately, but may combine with a vehicle that will transport them considerably further than their own movement factor can. Damaged units generally have their movement cut in half. Terrain features have a influence on movement. Certain types of terrain are not enterable by some or all units. Other types of terrain require die rolls before a unit can enter that particular hex, such as units crossing a river without the assistance of a Combat Engineer Squad or the use of a bridge. Terrain has no advantages or disadvantages during combat.
Before getting into the Combat sequence, I feel something needs to be said about the scale of the game. In the Operational game each 5/8-inch hexagon represents 8 ½ miles of terrain, thusly, to initiate combat units must be located in adjacent hexes. The phasing player declares which of his units will engage the defending units in combat, taking into account legal targets. The defender, in turn, will declare which units will retaliate. Both players will roll a ten-sided die to determine whom shoots first, the Attacker receives a 2-point attack bonus, which is added to the die roll. The higher number gets first shot. To resolve combat a 20-sided die is rolled for each individual combat. A “hit” is scored for each roll, which is equal to or higher than the Attack Rating printed on the unit card for the weapon being used. A roll of 20 is a critical hit and the unit is automatically destroyed. A roll of 19 doubles the damage intensity, which ultimately causes more damage to the Defender. A roll of one causes the weapon to malfunction. Intensity is rolled on a ten-sided die and is added to the weapon Damage Index. This total is subtracted from the Defense value of the defending unit, the result is the damage done.
This net damage is compared to the Endurance factor, if the Net Damage is equal to of greater than half the Endurance; the unit is turned over and is now considered Damaged.
A second attack resulting in sufficient damage to match the remaining Endurance leads to the elimination of that unit.
Win Conditions for a scenario are usually Objective driven. In other words, the capture of some designated objective, whether it is a City or some terrain feature, is the overall condition for a win. By agreement between the players, a Time Limit may be set or a Score Total may be arbitrarily set as the Win Condition. In a Standard game, there are usually one Primary and two Secondary Objects designated to fulfill the conditions. Score Totals may include the capture or destruction of enemy units, the obtaining of certain non-objective advantages, etc..
The Operational level game can provide hours of gaming fun, but the designers have included rules for the resolution of important engagements on a Tactical Level utilizing miniatures. There is also an admonition to not fight out each and every engagement at the Tactical Level due to the length of time involved.
The Tactical Level resolution of an engagement must be agreed upon between the combatants. These rules are played out on a table approximately 72 inches by 72 inches, is space permits. A smaller table can also be used. A hexagon in the Operational games is approximately 8 ½ miles from side to side or approximately 15,000 yards across, using the Tactical Scale of 1 inch equals 200 yards. Time scale in the Operational game is 1 to 3 hours per turn, in the Tactical 1 to 5 minutes.
Setup of a miniatures battle works under the assumption that the defender already controls the terrain in question, and therefore sets up just about wherever he wants to on the Battle Table still allowing the Attacker to advance into the “hex” from the side of the board he is attacking from. The terrain of the battlefield should match as closely as possible the overall terrain of the hex under contention, including roads, rivers and other major features. After these features are in place, both sides may emplace subjective terrain, alternately. By subjective terrain we mean houses, farms, fences, gullies and other features not discernible from the hex. After terrain is placed and both sides have their units in the starting positions, the battle begins.
Under the Tactical rules there are some changes in the way a battle is conducted. Terrain now effects not only movement but also Line of Sight (LOS). Intervening terrain features may prevent an attack by units who cannot “see” their targets. A group of trees may prevent you from attacking an enemy squad even though you would be in range or prevent you from bringing artillery fire down on their heads because of LOS. Movement was by the number of hexes at the Operational level, at the tactical is measured by the number of inches. Combat is conducted much as at the Operational level, with the exception that Initiative is rolled for on each Combat Round. The facing of the unit is most important in the Tactical, as this dictates whether a unit can Attack another. Facing is determined during the Movement phase of the turn. The biggest changes are in the aircraft rules. Altitude and maneuvers are taken into account, so that fighters may dogfight or attack formations of bombers over flying the Battle table. The airplane is the only unit that must make a movement during the Movement Phase of the turn.
I have barely touched on the possibilities of this game. I foresee great possibilities for this system and am looking forward to further expansions. The only drawback I can see is the fact that you must own, or have access to a computer, with Internet access. If you decide to download all of the components for the game, you are going to have to tie up your printer for quite some time as the rules and components are very extensive. If you purchase the boxed Edition (which I recommend) you don’t get a hard copy of the rules but you do get all of the counters, cards and money items printed for you on quality paper. The rules for the Introduction are included in the box on a CD disc and the designer advises that all components are available online and that future expansions will also appear online and I can only assume as a printed option. This is a different type of game and game system is very intriguing and engaging. I think it will gather a nice dedicated following of those who are interested in the Italian Campaign. I can see customers adding scenarios to this gaming system, expanding and extending its vision and capabilities. Frontline General – The Italian Campaign is a unique game system that will provide gamers with hours/weeks/months of “Happy Gaming”!