Tag Archives: thunder at cassino

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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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Hurricane in action

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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