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Inferno sugli Altipiani, 1916» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Burning Mountains AAR rss

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David Schoepke
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This effort represents the 1916 Spring offensive by the Austro-Hungarians against the Italian northern frontier in an attempt to inflict a decisive, quick victory. It plays straight forward enough, but the special mountain, artillery, and CRT based on step magnitude rules lend a innovative touch to the mechanics. It plays deceptively simple but there is enough to challenge both sides.

There are enough subtle differences in this game to seperate it from a standard second or third generation hex and counter game. Combat results in losses in Attack Effectivenes, or LPs, and 3 losses by one unit flips it to its weaker side. Once this happens, the unit may never revert to its full strength side. Units recover attack effectiveness when they spend 4 MPs in place more than 2 hexes from an enemy unit. This is where some interesting decisions must be made.When, for example, do you recover Attack Effectiveness lost in combat which reduces a unit’s attack and defense strength by 1 or 2? Also,where is artillery best deployed? When and where are the major battles initiated?

As far as battle density, anything equal to or over 7 steps involved becomes a large battle and casualties can soar. Most units have 2 steps so any time 4 full strength units attack and defend in one battle it is a large battle. These types of attrition battles are best employed against VP hexes, while the smaller battles are best fought as skirmishes hoping to flank the defender. Flanking is simply occupying 5 of the 6 hexes around a defender with either units or their ZOC, unless negated by a friendly combat unit.

The major determinating dr in any battle is the third, or LRT/artillery roll, result. This can distinguish a skirmish from a conflagration. In this game the Italians lost most of their artillery early, so the issue became dire for them. (Artillery, in either move or deployed mode, cannot retreat.)

There is some nice “chrome” integrated into the rules. Flanking, for example, affects both the CRT and the LRT (Loss Result Table) die rolls. The LRT makes a distinction between Unable to Fulfilll Retreat Guidelines and Unable to Retreat; the former means no retreat thru unoccupied hexes in an EZOC. In both cases, units do not simply disappear, they have dr modifiers applied to their LRT. This represents the defenders holding their ground and taking their lumps from the enemy artillery. Nicely done.

All of this takes place on a map that is rich in terrain variety; from clear terrain to various levels of mountain heights to mountain peaks. Elevation levels affect combat unit attack and artillery strengths. And, of course, mountain troops have an advantage of an extra strength point against regular infantry in the higher elevations. The IT have bicycle troops marked with a DOT in black. They are valuable because they are fast yet brittle.

The end result of this game was a comfortable AH marginal victory with 44 points. The fighting
toward the last turns was especially brutal as both sides wrestled for VPs. Small towns are worth 1 VP, large towns are worth 5, and peaks are worth 3 VPs. Finally, actual unit casualties are tallied by both sides, most of them in the form of reduced combat units.

The AH drive toward Arseio in the center went well initially, then bogged down into a “Verdun” in the Italian mountain pass. No less than 4 attacks were made against the town and the Italians suffered horribly from the AH artillery, but held on. The town of Ala on the far west map edge fell to the AH on the last game turn. What is innovative in the combat results is that there are only minimal chances (on 2 dice) of obtaining a retreat result. At 1-1 odds, for example, there is only a 33% chance of forcing the defender to retreat. Thus in many situations, if the LPs cause significant damage, it may be judicious to just retreat during the owning player turn.

The use of “flanking” attacks should be applied early and often. This shifts the CRT 2 columns to the right and adds ferocity to the LP roll. By mid-game, with the constant influx of Italian reinforcements, the battle lines become more linear.

Finally, one must be aware of unit differentiation. The well-trained mountain units, for example, can wreak havoc on regular infantry at a lower elevation. The Italian bicycle units can be used to harrass the AH flanks. In this game they tried to cut AH supply lines by driving toward Lavarorne in the AH rear. They failed due in part to the strategically placed AH forts to the east of the town.

I would strongly recommend this game to any serious WW1 affaciado, as well as anyone who enjoys moderate complexity operational games. The Combat Results mechanics are very innovative. Overall: concise, compact, and FUN! Bravo Andrea Brusati!

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Joe R

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Not to be a nitpicker, but the word is "aficionado."

But on a more elevated plane, great review. I would never have given this one a glance assuming (obviously incorrectly) that mountain warfare in Italy in 1916 would be "just" a slog back and forth.
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