Thunder at Cassino!

I had the opportunity to playtest one of Grady West’s fantastic 1/285 adaptations of old Avalon Hill board games this past weekend. This one was Thunder at Cassino-a project he’s been working on for at least a year (and, to me, that’s a LOT of progress in a year’s time). Thunder at Cassino covers the campaign to break through the German defenses at Monte Cassino, and the particular scenario we played covered the third battle. Click here to look at the previous game I played in, covering Turning Point Stalingrad.

The Germans were fielding panzergrenadiers and fallschirmjagers, while the allies were a British and British Commonwealth force consisting of British regulars, New Zealanders, Indians and Ghurkas (GHURKAS!!)

I was on the allied side, and was nominated (read forced) to be the overall commander. My fellow allied commander was Ralph, and he took the New Zealander force, which would do the hard slogging through the town below the Monte Cassino monastery, while I took the British regulars, Indians, and GHURKAS!!

This game is platoon level, meaning that each counter/stand of infantry represents a platoon. There are rules encouraging company cohesion, but nothing addressing higher levels of command.


The Avalon Hill box cover art

The allies had the numbers, while the Germans had the edge in troop quality and a big advantage on the defense, due to the heavily rubbled terrain. The next couple of photos cover the preliminary allied bombardment, and illustrate why the terrain is so heavily rubbled!



Grady painted many a B-17 and B-25 to illustrate the rubble generating preliminary bombardment. This is a man dedicated to his art, as the bombers go away after the preliminary bombardment, never to return!


The allies do have another air asset, though…a fighter bomber group (or maybe it’s just a squadron…not sure on the scale of the air assets) that definitely got its licks in over the course of the game.


Hurricane in action


Ralph’s New Zealanders spread out into the town, watched over by Nazis in the castle above. There was a little armor on the table, but this was decidedly NOT tank country. Hard fighting ensued.


Many a bloody close combat was fought in the zones below the monastery…

This entire battle went really well for the allies. The Germans made a huge blunder in not moving to immediately occupy the monastery…instead they focused on counterattacking the New Zealanders down in the town. On turn two, my fast moving mountain climbing Ghurkas were able to sweep into the monastery virtually unopposed. Ghurkas are extremely good at close combat, and there was no way that even highly trained fallschirmjager engineers were going to dislodge them.


How sweet it is!

I’d like to claim that it was my tactical acumen that lead to our landslide of a victory, but really it was a mixture of the players not knowing the gaming system, and not fully grasping the vulnerabilities inherent in the initial setup. I will give us allies a little credit for fully exploiting them, though.


Not only did we take the monastery, but Ralph’s New Zealanders were able to storm the castle after a particularly heavy bombardment from his corps artillery tubes. This position had a commanding view of the town below, perfect for calling down artillery, but the Germans never really exploited it.


Just because I needed to show the Union Jack flying ‘over’ Monte Cassino.

This is an excellent set of rules, and Grady’s miniatures adaptation is top notch. We didn’t finish our game, but we had some extremely slow moving players, particularly in the first couple of turns. I don’t think the open-flanked Ghurka attack will be a problem again-Grady has stated that he will make certain the defenders are aware of the danger in the future.

If you get a chance to play this game at one of the conventions Grady will bring it to, I HIGHLY recommend it.


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  • Sparker  On 05/24/2016 at 6:49 pm

    That is just amazing terrain! Well done all!

    • arkiegamer  On 05/24/2016 at 10:35 pm

      It’s all the work of one madman! Take a look at the Stalingrad game he did a few years ago…there’s a link in the blog post above.

  • Pete S/ SP  On 05/24/2016 at 7:49 pm

    Superb terrain. Given they way the game went a rematch looks like it could be good to do.



    • arkiegamer  On 05/24/2016 at 10:36 pm

      Grady is still tweaking the scenario and setup-this was the first playtest, as he gets the game convention-ready. But, yes! This was a fluke allied victory.

  • colonelripper  On 05/24/2016 at 10:53 pm

    Looks fanastic. It appears he is using the counters with the minis correct? How much of the original rules is he using?

    • arkiegamer  On 05/24/2016 at 10:56 pm

      Yes, the counters are magnetically mounted behind the miniatures, and you can flip them over to the spent side after movement/firing.

      I think he’s been fairly faithful to the original rules, but I’ve never played it in board game form, so I’m not 100% sure.

      • colonelripper  On 05/25/2016 at 12:48 am

        Man, either way, great board. clever idea on the magnetics there. /me stares at ancients hexmap rules…

      • arkiegamer  On 05/25/2016 at 6:26 am

        Yeah, the magnetic system works really well. Sounds like you need to get to work! ;)

  • The model warrior  On 05/25/2016 at 6:48 am

    That’s some serious terrain. Is that slate on the sides of the hill ?

    • arkiegamer  On 05/25/2016 at 8:38 am

      I believe so…something readily available in this area. Thunder at Cassino is an area control game, and the slate is marking the edges of the various zones, especially on the mountainside.

  • tinpotrevolutionary  On 05/25/2016 at 2:47 pm

    Fantastic looking game and great photos!

  • John Bond  On 05/26/2016 at 2:55 am

    Wow, that’s some Terrain, like the arial bombardment and the replication of sheer height of the mountain, the allies had to scale and fight.
    How do you store such large terrain.? thanks for sharing,
    cheers John

    • arkiegamer  On 05/26/2016 at 6:25 am

      The board breaks down into (still large) chunks. I believe Grady plans to build cases for transporting the setup to conventions. As far as storage, I’d suspect that he rents a storage unit somewhere. That’s what I’d do, anyway.

  • daggerandbrush  On 05/31/2016 at 5:22 pm

    That is indeed some very nice terrain. I think in this scale one can really go to town (or Cassino) and give it this epic feel. Given it is a boardgame the counters are obviously needed, but visually speaking I would wonder if there is an alternative that does put the focus more on terrain and miniatures.

    • arkiegamer  On 06/01/2016 at 8:02 am

      The counters are very information dense, and I’m not sure there’s a convenient and elegant non-intrusive solution. That said, I haven’t put a lot of thought into it.

  • Tichy  On 06/16/2016 at 1:24 pm

    That miniature adaptation looks really epic. Played the Avalon Hill original once – great game of it’s time.

    • arkiegamer  On 06/16/2016 at 1:49 pm

      I like the rules-they didn’t seem too terribly antiquated.

      • Tichy  On 06/16/2016 at 1:52 pm

        I always had the impression that many, if not most Avalon Hill rules were born in the era of proper play testing and debugging. Feature very few abide these days. Of course, could have just been luck from my part.

      • arkiegamer  On 06/20/2016 at 9:09 pm

        I’ve had good experiences with most, if not all, of the Avalon Hill titles I’ve tried.

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