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Strategy In 'Bitter Victory'
Scenario One: 'Operation Husky'
Part 1: The Landings
By Doug McNair
December 2006

With the debut of Bitter Victory, our game of the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily, our family of chit-draw-driven games now has its first amphibious member (and you thought cloning was no fun). In addition to the challenges found in our Gazala 1942, Alsace 1945 and Red God of War games, the Allied player in Bitter Victory must use pre-planned amphibious invasions and airborne drops to outflank the Axis defenders of Sicily.

In addition, the mountainous Sicilian terrain provides a whole different set of tactical challenges from our previous chit-draw games, and gives the outnumbered Axis forces a good shot at keeping control of enough of Sicily to win — if the Axis player can keep the Italians from throwing in the towel.

Strategic Considerations

The main factors driving play in Bitter Victory are:

Terrain

Sicily is a nearly-perfect natural fortress. There are so many hills, mountains and rivers that Axis units give up little by retreating — every time they leave a strong defensive position there’s another one just up the road. The terrain actually gets more defensible the farther the Axis units retreat, so if the Axis player can keep the supply lines open between his HQs and his units, his armies can fall back in orderly fashion while forcing the Allied units to take massive losses every time they attack a hill or mountain stronghold.

This is why the Allies’ ability to launch amphibious landings and airdrops is so crucial to their chances for victory. A well-placed incursion behind Axis lines can cut off large numbers of Axis units from their headquarters, causing them to become Unsupplied or Isolated. Such units have their combat strengths and movement allowances greatly reduced, giving the main Allied invasion force a better chance of breaking Axis lines and linking up with the newly-landed units for the drive on Messina (the sole Axis supply source and evacuation route).

Supply and LSTs

Units must be supplied to operate at full strength. The port of Messina on Sicily’s northern tip is the sole supply source for all Axis HQs. If the Axis player can keep the supply lines open between Messina and his HQs, then his or her HQs can supply their units and keep the defense of Sicily strong. But the Allies have to establish their own supply system on Sicily when they invade.

The initial invasion force that landed before game start brought enough supplies to keep itself going for two turns, but it also appropriated all of the Allied landing craft (called LSTs) in the Mediterranean for the expedition. All LSTs in the game are on-board at game start, and as of Turn 3, the Allied invasion force will need more supplies, which can only land on LSTs (or LSTs flipped to their Port side to increase their capacity to land supply points). The Allied player must keep a good number of LST/Port counters on the board to provide a steady stream of supplies coming into Sicily.

The flip side of this is that units cannot mount an amphibious landing unless they’re accompanied by one or more LSTs. LSTs on the board cannot be part of an amphibious invasion, but at game-start all LSTs are on board. If the Allies want to launch amphibious invasions they’ll have to withdraw some LST counters from the board and place them on the turn track in the box corresponding to the turn when they’ll land new units on Sicily.

Removing LSTs like this reduces the number of supply points the Allied player can land, so the Allies will be constantly walking a tightrope between maintaining their supply stream and supporting future invasions. This is complicated by the fact that each supply point is either American or British and can only be used to supply an HQ of its own nationality. This means each HQ must be careful to keep a supply line open to its own beachhead, as it can’t beg for supplies from an ally should its own supply line get cut off.

Italian Morale

Before the invasion of Sicily began, the Italian armies in North Africa were defeated decisively, along with their German allies. This caused many back in Italy to start rethinking their support for the war, and the arrival of Allied troops on Sicily just drove the point home that they were on the losing side. This has a direct effect on the game.

Every time a force containing Italian units either attacks or defends, the Axis player rolls one die before combat and either adds to or subtracts from the die roll depending on how well Axis forces have fared thus far. The higher the modified die-roll result, the greater the chance that some Italian units will surrender before combat even begins.

This, combined with the aforementioned defensibility of Sicilian terrain, makes it crucial for the Allied player to launch side expeditions to capture important Sicilian objectives like Palermo. Each captured objective adds to the surrender dieroll, as do high Italian casualties and Isolated Italian units. On the other hand, if the Axis player manages to overrun any Allied LSTs or Ports, that increases Italian morale and subtracts from the surrender dieroll. This gives the ongoing strategic situation on Sicily a heightened importance for every individual battle on the island.

Game Summary

With that, here begins a turn-by-turn replay of Scenario 1: “Operation Husky.” This is the historical scenario — the invasion as it was actually launched. The Axis player scores victory points for destroying Allied units, repelling amphibious invasions and airdrops, and keeping control of hexes in Sicily by the end of the game. He loses VPs when Axis units are destroyed and when he loses control of important ports like Catania and Messina.

The game runs from July 11th through August 13th (each turn is three days). The Axis player wins if he or she has 10 VPs or more at the end of the game. If the Axis VP score is –25 or less at the end of play, the Allies win. Any score in between is a draw.

Allied Deployments

As the game begins, the British and Canadians have landed on Sicily’s southeastern beaches with four LSTs, 13 infantry brigades, three commando battalions and a glider brigade. The Americans have landed on the southern beaches with four LSTs, eight infantry regiments, three commando battalions and an airborne regiment. Both forces are backed by warships and air power, and as the Allies capture Sicilian airbases their available airpower will increase.

There are many units in the Allied Units Available box which can be brought in as reinforcements or included in preplanned amphibious invasions and airdrops. Of particular importance are the Allied HQs, which the Allied player must land on Turn 1 so his units can activate on Turn 2 and beyond. More reinforcements will become available as the game progresses.

Axis Deployments

Most Axis forces on the island are Italian, and they’re spread quite thinly at game start. A good number of Axis forces occupy the southeastern quadrant of the island (roughly southeast of a line from Misterbianco in the north to Caltagirone in the south). But the area directly northwest of the American beachhead is all but devoid of Italian forces (just the motorized Italian 4th Infantry Division is strung out along the highway from Caltanissetta to Canicatti), and the strongest Axis forces west of the Americans are way out near the western tip of the island.

Due to poor preparedness, Axis units have movement restrictions on the first turn, so the #1 priority of the Axis player on Turn 1 will be to move whatever units he can into strong defensive positions on the hill roads north of the American landing beaches.

Turn 1: July 9 – 11

Initial Segment: The weather is clear on the first turn, so the Allies will get two air points this turn while the Axis get one.

The Allied player must begin by making airdrop accuracy and drop-and-landing disruption rolls for most of his units (to see how many casualties they took in the drops and landings before game-start). The results are as follows:

Americans: The 505th Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division drops on target north of the river at Gela and takes no casualties. All regiments on the beaches land safely as well.

British: The 69th Brigade of the British 50th Infantry Division takes a step loss due to disruption and local defense forces while landing at Avola. All other British forces land safely.

The Allied player decides not to preplan any airdrops or landings yet (he wants to see how things develop on the first turn), and he can’t land any supply points on Turn 1.

Scenario instructions say that on Turn 1 only the chits for both Axis HQs plus the Allied AMPH/PARA chit (which will activate all Allied units) may go in the cup.

Play proceeds to the first impulse, and the first chit drawn is:

Italian XVI Corps: The Axis catch a break — they get to activate their HQ on the eastern half of the island, near the Allied beachheads. Unfortunately, due to poor preparedness, only Axis units relatively near Allied units can activate, so that leaves out anybody north of Misterbianco.

All available units move south and pile two-high into forward hill and rough hexes, setting up a line of zones of control (ZOC) directly opposite the invasion beaches. This will slow the American advance. No Axis units attack — they want to let the Allies throw themselves against their defensive positions and take step losses, then withdraw in orderly fashion. XVI Corps HQ moves south to provide support against the Americans; the lines near the British to the east are too weak to risk moving there.

Italian XII Corps: The Axis catch another break and can activate their other HQ before the Allies. But since no Allied units have moved, very few unmoved Axis units are left which are near Allied units. The two Italian units west of the American invasion beaches (near Agrigento) consolidate their position in the coastal foothills and wait to see what the Americans do.

Allied AMPH/PARA: All Allied units activate. The fact that all Axis units activated first means they had no choice but to spread out and block all possible Allied routes of advance. This means the Allies can choose a few points where they can strike hard and force breaches in the Axis lines.

British: The Brits start by sending their battleship to a point offshore between Augusta and Syracuse, and then sending four infantry brigades north across the river at Syracuse to strike the Italian 75th Infantry Regiment (supported by a German infantry battalion) in the rough terrain to the west. The 3rd Commando Battalion supports them with an attack north across the river at Floridia, and the remaining British and Canadian forces march due west to attack the Italian Recon, Coastal Defense and Infantry units guarding the hills and roads near Ragusa.

The attack on the Italian 75th west of Syracuse has a base odds of 6:1. Support fire from the British battleship off Syracuse adds a +2 column shift, but the rough terrain the defenders are in gives a –1 column shift. The total column shift is +1, so the attack goes in at 7:1 odds.

The Italians pass their morale roll, but the British roll a 5 and take no damage while inflicting three hits! The two weak Axis units have only two steps between them, but only half of all hits taken must be taken as step losses, and (luckily for the Axis) defenders can round fractions down. The Italian 75th dies bravely (–2 VPs for the Axis), and the German support battalion satisfies the remaining two hits by retreating two hexes westward, ending up in the town of Lentini. The four British brigades advance and pursue the Germans, with the commandos crossing the river behind them from Floridia.

Three hexes to the south, the central British thrust has seven brigades attacking two Italian regiments in the hills northeast of Ragusa. The base attack odds are 12:1, reduced to 10:1 by the –2 column shift for hill terrain in the defending hex. But 10:1 is as good as it gets . . . except when the Italians make their morale roll and the Allies roll a 2. Once again they score three hits, and the weak Italian 76th Regiment dies (–2 VPs for the Axis), leaving the weak-but-fast MG-D Recon regiment to skedaddle west and block the highway to Vizzini. The Brits advance and pursue.

The last attack on the eastern tip of Sicily sees all three brigades of the Canadian 1st Infantry Division plus the British 40th and 41st Commando Battalions attacking an Italian coastal defense division supported by a recon battalion just east of the town of Scicli. These Italians are stronger, but the Allied player wants to save his air support for the Americans (who have much tougher opposition). So, the attack goes in at odds of only 2:1 (base 3:1, –1 for rough defender’s terrain). Once again Italian morale holds, and the Allies roll a 3, which yields a result of . . . no hits! As bad results go, that’s probably the least-bad, since the Italians will have to withdraw next turn on account of their crumbling lines to the north.

The British have no mechanized units on the board, so in the Mechanized Movement Phase they land their XIII Corps HQ on the LST east of Pachino, and the powerful 4th and 23rd Armored Brigades on the two LSTs in the road hexes adjacent to Avola. The armored brigades will be of particular use in clearing the way to Messina next turn.

Americans: The Germans and Italians are holding a concave defensive line around the American beachhead, and because of the first-turn Axis movement restrictions the eastern and western flanks of the Axis line are relatively weak. The Americans would prefer to head northwest, break the line and cut off the Axis units on the west end of Sicily from their east-end brethren. But with the Italian 4th Division’s two regiments now in the same hill hex at Canicatti, they have divisional integrity and their combat strength is doubled to 12. An attack on them would be suicide, so the Americans decide to hit both flanks of the Axis line and go defensive in the middle until their armor support arrives.

The Americans post two infantry regiments each on the roads running west and northwest from their beachhead, plus a regiment and two commando battalions guarding the northern approaches near Piazza Armerina. The two regiments on the western road hit the Italian 207th Coastal Defense Division and the 177B Motorized Infantry Regiment east of Agrigento. Italian morale keeps holding, so the Allies commit one of their air points to boost the attack, and it goes in at 2:1 odds after adjusting for rough defensive terrain. The Americans roll a 4 and both sides take one hit. The attacking Americans have to take a step loss, while the defending Italians can round the hits down and retreat to Agrigento. The Americans advance west to expand their beachhead.

Then, leaving just one commando battalion to guard their northern flank against two regiments of the Hermann G_ring Mechanized Division, four American infantry regiments try to break out to the east. They attack the Italian 18th Coastal Defense Division and the MG-G Recon Regiment on the road east of Gela. The Italians just barely hold morale, and after spending another point of air power the attack goes in at 4:1 odds. The Americans only roll a 2, and once again they have to take a step loss while the Italians can just retreat east to Vittoria. But, that lets all four American infantry regiments advance east across the river, giving them a shot at linking up with the Brits next turn.

There are no American mechanized units on-board, so they land the II Corps HQ on the LST at Licata (far from G_ring’s friends), and all three regiments of the U.S. 2nd Armored Division on the three other LSTs to the east. If those three regiments can get together in the same hex, their divisional integrity bonus will give them a total combat strength of 26 — enough to send G_ring’s buddies packing in a hurry.

All chits have been drawn. As the first turn of Operation Husky ends, the VP score is –4 and the Brits have shredded the Axis lines south and west of Syracuse.

But that’s still a long way from Messina, and with Patton posting only minimal gains to the west it’ll be Monty’s show on Turn 2. Will he sweep the enemy from his path and blaze a glorious trail north to Messina? Or will the Axis get the initiative again and set up new defensive lines along the rivers west of the Brits? Or will Patton’s armor break him out, cut the two Axis HQs off from each other, and send him surging northward to beat Monty to the prize? Will Luke ever forgive himself for using an experimental drug on Laura? Tune in next time and find out!

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