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 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!
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.
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.
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.