Assault on Castle Hill
I recently decided to give Avalon Hill’s Thunder at Cassino a try. I started with the introductory scenario, Assault on Castle Hill. In this scenario, portions of the German 1st Battalion, 4th Parachute Regiment are charging downhill from Point 236, through an Indian platoon and on up to Castle Hill where they were historically repulsed by elements of the 5th Indian Brigade and a few men of the Essex company.
To help you visualize the following narrative, you can think of the playing area as a diamond. The Germans start at the top (area 44) , the Indian platoon is in the west (area 34), the Castle Hill itself is at the bottom of the diamond (area 9) and there is an empty area 35 on the eastern point of the diamond. To win the Germans need more combat units on the Castle Hill then the allies have and there are two basic approach routes, either through the Indians at 34 or through the empty area at 35.
The Germans sent one company against the Indian platoon and their other two companies through 35 to directly assault the Castle Hill. They were unable to clear either area on turn 1. On turn 2, (it’s only a two turn scenario) they cleared 34 but the units involved were unable to continue on to the Castle Hill where some very ineffective close combat had caused no casualties on either side. This left the two German companies on Castle Hill out-numbered at the end of the second turn, a loss.
OK, learned two things on that first attempt. First was that both sides start with exactly the same number of combat units, so victory is going to depend on getting a positive exchange rate going and/or keeping some of the other guys off the Castle Hill. Second was that artillery looks like it could be quite effective, but only if you hold off the assault movement long enough to let it fire.
So the Germans opened with an artillery barrage on the poor platoon in 34, which failed utterly. So they gave up the Tactical Advantage chit for a re-roll, killing two units this time. The Allies pushed a unit up into 35, thereby making it impossible for the Germans to even get to Castle Hill on the first turn. The Germans pushed more units into 34, and then in the close combat phase cleared the area.
Thus the second turn opened with the Germans in 34, poised to assault the Castle Hill and having three more units left in the game than the Allies. But by giving up the tactical advantage they had given the Allies the option to move first in this turn. The Allies fed a couple of units into 34. Now the Germans had a problem. You can’t move from an enemy occupied area to another enemy occupied area, so to even assault the castle they were going to have to clear 34 first. They tried to do so with one company firing, but when they missed it became apparent that even if the Germans managed to clear area 34 in the next impulse they would not have enough uncommitted units left to get into area 9 and outnumber the Allies. Another German loss.
Germans open with an artillery barrage on 34, causing no casualties. Allies push two units into 35, again denying the Germans easy access to the Castle Hill. Germans have one company and a MG fire on area 35, no casualties. Allies pass and Germans move all uncommitted units into 35. Allies re-inforce area 35 with most of remaining units from the Castle. Close Combat kills one allied unit but the turn ends looking grim for the Germans.
Germans open turn 2 with an artillery strike on area 34, this time killing all three units there, and re-opening the path to the Castle. Allies move three units from 35 to 34 to close off the path. German company and MG in 44 fire on 34, killing all three recent Allied arrivals and re-opening the path. But the game is over anyway, the only uncommitted Germans are in 35 with Allied units and they can only go one area and not into a new enemy occupied area so once again the Germans cannot even get to the Castle.
Germans consider sending everybody through 35 to 9, but the defensive fire they would face seems likely to cause too many casualties. So instead, they send one company along that route. Allies ignore this company for the moment and send one MG unit up to 35 to block anybody else from coming that way. German artillery falls on the hapless area 34, killing one unit and retreating another to 35. Allies fire within area 9, killing one unit from the German assault company. Germans move both other companies into 34, and clear it during the Close Combat phase.
Second turn begins with Germans moving all units from 34 into area 9, where they now enjoy a three unit advantage. The Allies bring back the units in 35 to 9, reducing the German advantage to one unit. Germans pass with no target for their artillery and all units in area 9. Allies fire all uncommitted units in area 9, forcing one German to retreat. All even now. Germans kill two in Close Combat, while only losing one themselves, for my first German victory. By one unit.
Each of the above took 10 to 20 minutes, so total time investment is maybe 90 minutes to read rules, punch counters, set-up and play four iterations of the introductory scenario. Probably not a great scenario to return to over and over again, but it did what it’s supposed to do, got me used to the rules and thinking about tactics. I'm hooked and looking forward to the next scenario, Counter-Attack at the Roundhouse.