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Subject: The News from London is Grim rss

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Jay Richardson
United States
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The bulletin released this evening by Allied High Command in London was short and to the point:

"The remnants of the Allied army at Anzio surrendered today as Axis forces reached the outskirts of Nettuno.

"The US 1st Armored Regiment was poised for a counterattack that might have restored the situation temporarily, but with the rest of the Allied line at the breaking point a German victory could only be postponed, not prevented. Believing that any further bloodshed would be pointless, the Allied commander crossed over to the German lines under a white flag and terms of the capitulation were arranged."

How could things have gone so terribly wrong?

The invasion of Italy started off with great success. A combined British-American force landed at Anzio against no effective opposition. British infantry advanced to the Moletta River to secure the northern flank; American infantry did likewise with the Astura River in the south. Mobile forces seized the key strongpoints of "the Flyover" and Conca village, and advanced to the Mussolini Canal (west branch) and the outskirts of Padiglione, where the first serious Axis opposition was encountered.

Perhaps the first mistake was the failure to assault Padiglione immediately. Capturing that village would have given the Allies a strong defensive position in the center of their perimeter. But the Allies chose instead to wait for reinforcements to arrive... which also gave the Germans time to move additional troops into the village. Faced then with the prospect of an assault that could well have caused heavy Allied casualties, and with intelligence reports telling of large numbers of powerful German units rapidly moving into the area, the Allies called off the planned attack on Padiglione.

As the Allies dug in to prepare to meet the storm of the approaching German counterattack, they committed their second blunder. The powerful Allied infantry regiments & brigades were concentrated behind the rivers on the flanks. This left the center of the Allied line, north of the Selva di Nettuno and along the Mussolini Canal, to be held by a mixture of various armored units and smaller recon, Commando, Ranger, and other miscellaneous units. This force proved to be unequal to the task of defeating the German attacks, while the infantry regiments & brigades sat unengaged along the river lines. By the time the regular infantry was pulled back from the flanks and sent to prop up the center, it was too late: the momentum of the German attack could not be stopped, and they too were overwhelmed.

But had the regular infantry been moved into the critical center of the line right from the start, leaving the defense of the river lines to the weaker miscellaneous units, the German commander would have found himself facing a much stronger defense.

In the end, however, correcting these blunders might not have made any difference... the Axis forces fought like demons, repeatedly attacking at low odds and inflicting heavy casualties on the Allied defenders while losing few of their own troops. With the exception of the garrisons surrounded at the Flyover and Conca, which the Germans had simply bypassed, the proud Allied invasion force had almost ceased to exist at the end.


Mark Goss (usa_patriot) led the Axis forces to victory; I suffered the defeat as the Allies.

We played the 1970 version of Anzio Beachhead, published in Strategy & Tactics magazine #20. At the time of its publication, the game was an interesting combination of the old and the new.

The CRT is similar to the original classic Avalon Hill CRT: 3-1 odds are needed to guarantee a successful attack, 5-1 odds are needed to avoid any chance of attacker casualties... and total unit elimination is used, so dead units pile up quickly.

But Anzio Beachhead was also one of the earliest games to experiment with breaking a turn into multiple phases. The six-phase turn sequence is:

Allied move & attack
German half-move (no entering ZOCs)
Allied move
German move & attack
Allied half-move (no entering ZOCs)
German move

The game also has an interesting rule that prohibits units that begin their move in an enemy ZOC from moving more than one hex. This rule makes it difficult for both sides to disengage units and send them running to some other part of the battle. Adjacent units are never required to attack in Anzio Beachhead, so by moving into the enemy's ZOC you can sort of pin them in place.

The combination of the multi-phased turns and the restrictions on moving out of ZOCs created a realistic movement of the front line throughout the game... despite the use of the simplistic CRT and total elimination of units.

The game play is a bit one-sided: the Combat Results Table could almost be renamed the German Attack Table! The Allies will have little opportunity, or desire, to attack. The CRT has many EX (exchange) results, and rolling an EX on an Allied attack is just helping the Germans. I rolled the die exactly once in this game, when Mark left a weak unit in a vulnerable position early in the game.

But I do think I should have attacked Padiglione as soon as possible, regardless of the risk of suffering heavy casualties. Capturing that village would have anchored the Mussolini Canal line, and left the Germans with a very narrow area (about four hexes wide) in which to launch their counterattack without facing double or tripled defenses. If I then put two 9-4 infantry units in each of those four hexes, the Germans would have had a much tougher time of it.

Mark had an unusual amount of good luck in his die rolling. Most of the German attacks were at 2-1 odds, where you would expect twice as many EX results as DE (defender eliminated)... but Mark had at least twice as many DE's as EX's, and only a single attacker retreat result. Had more EX and defender retreat results occurred, my Allies might at least have survived to the end of the game rather than surrendering on turn six!

This game is primitive when compared to modern wargames, yet it was fun to play and seemed to capture the feel of the battle well. One often reads comments about how superior modern wargames are to the "old" games... but Mark has asked to play this one again some time. Asking for a second playing is quite a compliment to pay to a 37-year-old wargame!
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