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No Retreat 4! Italian Front: 1943-45» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Operation Diadem: advices to commanders. rss

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Loïc Boué
Val de Marne
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After one solitaire playthrough of the Operation Diadem, I came up with a list of advices for the commanders.

The session report is here:
If you read it, you will notice I could have used those advices. The Germans took more losses than they should have and could have been more astute in falling back "just" in time. The Allies on the contrary could have been more agressive.


The Operation Diadem scenario offers few strategic options to the Allies: Shingle has already been played, and the turn 12 « Allies in Rome » event urges you to conquer Rome ASAP. This makes this scenario very good for solitaire play.

Campaign Strategy:

“Strategy” in a wargame is driven by the victory conditions. They emulate what was in the allied commanders mind rather well. I won’t elaborate on the strategic value of the historical campaign goals.

If Rome is taken in time, Allied victory is almost secured. If not, Allies must move to the northern map as fast as possible to conquer 4 Cities/Towns before the end of the scenario.
As soon as you realize you won’t take Rome in time, switch to this secondary objective and focus on crippling the German army as much as possible to make the fight on the Gothic Line easier. Try to surround robust units before they can fall back to this line. Failure to take Rome will create a leader change on turn 12 (sudden death) from Alexander to Clark. This will allow you to keep US 6th Corps for the coming battles (Clark special ability).

“Taking Rome” is not a yes/no situation: hexes in opposite units EZOC don’t give VP. Possible results range from +3 to -3 Event VPs, creating a whole array of intermediate situations. If the Allies get enough VP from "Allies in Rome" event to win the scenario without taking 4 Cities/Towns, we are in a “Rome is taken in time” situation.

Germans strategy mirrors Allied strategy: Rome must not fall. However, you can’t afford to lose your army in the process or you’ll be defeated on the Gothic Line. Be sure to detect when Allies will change objectives from taking Rome to surrounding part of your army.
After the fall of Rome, the historical Gothic Line is the best place to fall back (do not use the "Gothic Line" scenario set-up, the initial Gothic Line was around Rimini), be sure to build it as soon as you get a “Line” card. Allies can move very fast, and if you forego an opportunity to build the Line, you might be overwhelmed in no time. Your goal is to protect the Line at first, then Bologna although it has no good defensive terrains, and then Ferrara, Modena and La Spezia: build your forts accordingly. However, you must also keep a closed line in front of the Allies, or they will just break through and take anything they want behind your troops. If you can slow the Allies advance to one hex per turn, you’re good.

For this second part, Allies strategy will have to adapt to the Germans dispositions: focus on the Cities/Town you have the best chance to conquer. You can easily switch your units from one objective to another from turn to turn, something the German army will have more and more difficulty to achieve. Only very peculiar Germans dispositions would allow the “draw” condition to occur (a line from North to South, but without taking the 4 Cities/Town needed for a win).

I’m not sure a Naval Invasion on Genoa is still possible at that time. That would make no sense in a campaign game (VP loss for just one VP) but would bring an additional City. It would have to be garrisoned with a strong robust unit.


The operational tempo is pre-set: Operation Diadem on turn 11, Operation “Whatever” on turn 13, Operation Olive on turn 15. Operation “Whatever” must be planned, be sure to have kept a 3 week operation in your hand. The same for turn 15, although using Operation Olive would give the double shock marker bonus. Turns 12/14/16 are for preparations (if operation went well) or mop-up (if not).

Operation Diadem objective is to take Rome, and failing that destroy part of the German army. Allies will succeed in this IF they manage a breakthrough from the Anzio beach-head AND around Cassino.
Breaking from Anzio will need luck: good combat cards, good rolls, and no good German combat cards. It’s very easy for the Germans to reinforce their line after each combat, and the beach-head is so constricted that attrition might become dangerous for the Allies. You can supply all US units but only 4 SP worth of British units in the beach-head. You are also crippled by Allied (lack of) Cooperation rule. Worse, if you lose one beach-head or the port, it becomes a lost cause. Obviously, the Germans must seize any opportunity to do just that.
“Luftwaffe Raid” could achieve the same result in one card play. I house-ruled that the port/beach-head destruction effects have already been used when Operation Diadem starts.
Breaking around Monte Cassino can be achieved thanks to the French units’ mountaineer ability, although it might take some time if you never roll 5/6. Not much else to do here. Also breaking through is not enough, there is still a long way to reach Rome in time, or even the Anzio beach-head.
“Alphonse Juin” in Allied hand during the strategic phase is HUGE as its combat effect will last during the whole offensive. I guess Carl loves France. However, if this card comes later, it’s useless (it’s not a combat card). I would probably house-rule it into a combat card (same effect but just for one battle).

The main operational choice during Operation Diadem is with 8th Army. It could move up north, contributing nothing to the capture of Rome, but stretching the German line thin. It could move down toward Rome, with no hope to reach it in time, but threatening the whole German line with encirclement. Patton would qualify the first option as “bold” and “decisive”. Montgomery would call it “unwise” and a “dead-end”. You can also decide to deprive 8th Army of the excellent Canadian units to bring them to bear somewhere else. It can be a good choice if attrition goes high on the Gustav Line, but you have no control on that (EX and EX/CR occur when they occur).

Turn 12 “sudden death” check will shape the coming operations.
If Rome was not taken, Alexander will most probably be replaced by Clark, and US 6th Corps will not leave at the beginning of turn 13. Without it, the Allies will have more difficulties to breach (or even reach) the Gothic Line, but they will probably get a VP victory. Good play balance mechanism.

Operation “Whatever” (turn 13) has three objectives:
- finish the conquest of Rome, if not done already (in that case, Allied victory is almost secured).
- destroy/surround as much German units as possible.
- move as close to the Gothic Line as possible.

Operational choices are in the German hands here. They don’t want the Allies to reach the Gothic line but the defensive terrain is not so good and the risk of being surrounded is high. They can either commit their strong units and stops the Allied advance, at least for a while. Or they can preserve their strong units and just slow down the Allied advance with their weaker units (worth no VP if surrounded). The first option is the best, but only IF the status of forces is not too unbalanced (depends on Clark being or not in command).

If the battle for Rome was bloody, Allies have a good chance to reach the Gothic Line well in advance, don’t let it slip and push relentlessly. Spread your forces on all possible axis of advance, and try to surround those robust units. The threat of encirclement will increase your advance anyway.

Operation Olive
objective is all about the scenario win conditions. Germans have to cover Cities/Town while keeping an unbroken line. This will have been prepared in advance by constructing the Gothic Line and manning it properly (using out/in reserve movements). The best situation for the Germans would be to have the Allies not in contact with the Gothic Line when Operation Olive starts, but it can’t be done at the expanse of manning the line. The Gothic line is not as good as the Gustav Line (less mountains, wider line) and the Allies can apply more pressure and switch their units with more ease. The Line will hold if the German have enough units in reserve to reinforce weakening spots, otherwise the Allies will manage to focus on those spots and eventually burst the line open. If the line is breached, the focus will shift on Bologna, Ferrara and Modena, in 8th Army area. With many tanks available, rivers will then become a major feature in tactical dispositions.

La Spezia is also a possible target, as the US can still be very strong if 6th Corps was kept (with Commandos too). Like 8th Army in the Diadem Operation, they could also veer on their right to help their British friends. In that case, 8th Army numerous units will be cramped in a narrow space, which means than improving units back to full strength is not that useful: do more CB.

With the scenario ending on turn 16, German units can be burnt to slow down the Allies to no more than one hex per combat phase, and even less than that.

Tactics (Allies):

Those advices, arranged from Maréchal Foch principles of war, do sound a lot like WWI advices, not surprisingly.

Economy of forces:
- Spare blood: don’t do single stack attacks on Forts. You’ll have 1/3 chance to inflict a step loss and 1/1 chance to take one. You can’t afford that level of attrition for long without eroding your capacity to concentrate.
- Manage your artillery: using shock markers for shift in the columns between 1/3 and 2/1 is a waste. The good results there are EX, EX/CR and CB and a shift doesn’t change that much. Even 3/1 with only 1/6 chance of a DS is debatable, as shattered units will come back later.
- Manage your assets: most of your combat cards have a “one shift” effect, and could have been used instead for a CB or to improve one unit back to full strength. Like shock markers, don’t use them just because you can. Also don't forget to use Alexander special ability when you draw a “meh” card (but keep it if it was worth 2 discards).
- Manage your resources: rebuild your RP between offensives; you’ll get 4 cards next turn anyway. Be sure to anticipate RPs gain from objectives and cards in your calculations.
- Manage your troops: distribute step loss to keep the combat value of a stack higher. However, don’t get Poles, or commandos, killed needlessly. Supply/Nationality issues must also be taken into account in the Anzio beach-head.
- Tidy the battlefield: the Allied (lack of) Cooperation shift is bad; it shouldn’t be where you want to breakthrough. Commandos and French must fight in mountains.
- It’s a Coalition: you must share objectives between US and British, or you’ll lose RPs.

Concentration of efforts:
- Attack in numbers: pile up two or if possible three stacks to attack the flank of a strong point. Even better do this on both flanks. The strong point will surely counterblow, but you will still have one good attack going on.
- Give it all in the first attack (Général Mangin): you want those 4/1 or higher odds; pile up your strongest units with shock target, shock marker, commandos/mountaineers bonus and a combat card to reach those odds. Don't forget that a CB result when the shifts were in your favor is resolved on the blue CRT. Also a red result means no mandatory fort loss, and it will also force the surrender of a surrounded unit.
- Attack relentlessly: a hex that was attacked during your combat phase must be counterblowed during the German combat phase. There are no terrain or fort effects in CB (only fort strength bonus). You must anticipate those CB and keep cards accordingly (you’ll have the leader free CB). CB from battles are bonus, don’t count on them. Remember that brittle units can’t CB though.
- Exploit: your CB have a 1/6 chance to result in a CB on a German stack. It can then be attacked in your turn with no terrain or fort effects. This is why your CB are so useful.

Obviously all this requires strong units (not brittle!) and cards, hence the economy of forces. But even then, you need those at the right moment, introducing the next principle.

Freedom of action:

- Reinforce success: a decisive breakthrough can occur from an unpredictable EX/CR, a succession of CA/CR results, culminating in a CA1. You want to have a shock marker available when this happen. Having a shock marker handy during the German combat phase will make your CB all the more dangerous.
- Don’t reinforce failure: Germans will use CB and forces you into useless attacks with no hope of success. Let it be: even if you manage so snatch an EX/CR, Germans don’t CB with weak stacks and you’ll get nowhere. You need to keep your shifts for other battles.
- Surprise: try to lure your opponent to use his cards where it doesn’t matter. You prefer one battle with your card and one battle with his card, than one battle with both and one battle with none.
- Be safe: don’t uncover your supply lines or let your units be surrounded. The Germans will almost never attack, but if they do they have better chance to advance than you do. This is especially true around Anzio.
- Manoeuver: encirclement or the threat of encirclement will bring you further than frontal assaults. The German forces can’t afford robust units to be forced to surrender.
- Plan ahead: some of your cards must be husbanded to be unleashed just when they will have the optimal effect. You can afford to keep a card in store.

Tactics (German):

Economy of forces:
- Spare blood: use the Tenacious bonus only to good effect, either to take you down from high odds column (each shift is one less red result), although 3/1 is not bad if you plan to withdraw, or down from columns with EX/CR results. Otherwise, better to keep your options open, either to withdraw or to let a weaker unit take the loss, or even a fort if the position has become untenable (however brittle units can’t take the loss in a D/DR, only EX).
- Manage your artillery: you have just ONE Blitz, if the weather is not sunny. Keep it, all the time, until that battle you didn’t see coming where it will save your ass.
- Manage your assets: most of your cards have good effects, especially the combat cards; they are worth much more than a step loss. Use them for their card effect. You don’t need cards to counterblow with Kesserling two free CBs.
- Manage your resources: RPs sitting in reserves have no use, your cards are much more valuable. Draw as much cards as possible. You’ll get RP from the OKW when you lose objectives anyway.
- Manage your troops: units with less than 3 SP give no VPs when they surrender. Don’t sacrifice them just because you can, but don’t be shy using them for that, you’ll never have enough cards to rebuild all your loss. Shield your robust units with weaker units to keep them around as long as possible. Improving them back to full strength will be almost impossible after a while. Once a KG is revealed, use it to shield other units from loss. Rebuilt units are a liability for the whole duration of an offensive unless you can spend one more card (and you can’t), but it doesn’t matter if you rebuild them during the last week of an offensive.
- Tidy the battlefield: always have a tenacious unit where it matters and mechanized units where tank shifts could happen. Remember that the shift for attack against rebuilt units occurs only if all units are rebuilt, so don’t leave them alone. If you can, put that 0 KG somewhere so it is never drawn again after an EX/CR just destroyed your robust unit (you'll understand when it happens...).
- You have a boss: remember to build back units before the turn they are supposed to leave, or it will cost you VPs.

Concentration of efforts:

- Forget about attack: Allied units can almost always fall back with no effect, why risk an EX or worse a CB on one of your stack. Arguably this can panic a nervous opponent, but you’d rather have a reckless opponent.
- Punish mistakes: sometimes, Allied units can’t fall back because they will lose a beach-head in Anzio or get surrounded. If that happens, attack decisively if you can (or don’t attack if you can’t). Remember that Allies can take a step loss instead of retreat just like you do, and that beach-head gives the Tenacious trait.
- Counterblow from a position of strenght: a CB should turn one high odd battle into two low odd battles. If that is not the case, you’re in trouble. Make sure the counterblowing stack is not exposing itself to a concentrated attack (no fort or terrain effect, although you can have a shock counterblow shift). If you must absolutely avoid that high odd battle to prevent a disastrous outcome, it means the position can’t be held in the long run.

Freedom of action:
- Don’t lose it: ALWAYS keep at least one unit in reserve to block an unforeseen breakthrough. If you can’t do that, make better use of the two first principles. If you still can’t, your opponent used those principles better than you whistle
- Don’t be surprised: don’t use your cards in non-decisive battles. You don’t have a lot of card draws, so you can always keep a card for later. Be aware that Naval Outflank or Commando raids can turn your line, at no VP cost for the Allies.
- Be safe: don’t uncover your supply lines or let your units be surrounded. You will have to fall back from time to time to avoid that situation. If you don’t, you’ll lose your Army. Remember that with EX/CR, it’s quite possible to lose 3 steps in a single battle. Don’t get cocky.
-Manoeuver: know when to fall back. Not being able to CB because counterblowing would make it worse is a good hint that you should fall back.
- Plan ahead: build the Gothic Line while you still have time. Don’t spread forts between Lines.
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Carl Paradis
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Great stuff!

You should make a Strategy article and publish it in GMT's C3i magazine. meeple
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