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Monday, March 24, 2014

Road to Rome, the Allies in Italy 1944-45 Review

By, The WWPD Crew

Today, the WWPD team is happy to bring you our review of the first of two compilation books for Flames of War late war play in Italy, Road to Rome: The Allied Assault on Italy January 1944 - May 1945, along with our first impressions of the two book set.

Road to Rome and Fortress Italy, Overall Impressions

"Stubborn defense characterized the German Italian Campaign.  They made full use of the difficult Italian terrain, criss-crossed with river valleys, hills and mountains.  Each Allied push was met with equally determined defense." Excerpt from Fortress Italy

Road to Rome and Fortress Italy are a two book compilation from the original Dogs and Devils and Cassino books.  Wayne Turner is credited with compiling, editing and adding new material along with a host of other contributors.  Fortress Italy is a hardbound, 181 page, full color book covering both the Italian and German forces, in the Italy campaign, from January 1944 through May 1945.  Road to Rome is also hardbound and full color, but is 245 pages and covers the British, American, Polish and French armies that participated in the Italian campaign during the same time period.

The lay out of both books is visually superb. They present not only the basic army lists for building your force, but also contain detailed campaign maps with force movements for the many battles fought during this time period. The multiple Axis lines of defense as well as the Allied operations by land, sea and air to complete the conquest of Europe's soft underbelly are well illustrated in detail. Complete overviews of these engagements provide great reading and can establish a solid basis for the Flames of War player to create fantastic scenarios.

The overall graphic design and layouts of the books is visually appealing and, despite some surprising editing flaws, the extraordinary number of well designed pictures of miniatures speak volumes to the quality and thought that was put into these projects.  Both books have a solid table of contents that allow you to quickly reference which force, special rule or warrior you wish to review.

There are several new forces, new warriors and myriad revisions to some favorite lists from Dogs and Devils and Cassino that are sure to appeal to everyone. So without further ado, please enjoy part one of WWPD's review of Road to Rome and Fortress Italy.


“The stubbornness of the German defense at Cassino and on Monastery Hill was already a byword, for although the Monastery had been bombed, and the town of Cassino was a heap of ruins, the Germans still held firm and blocked the road to Rome. I realized the cost in lives must be heavy, but I realised too the importance of the capture of Monte Cassino to the Allied cause...”

~ Polish General Wladyslaw Anders comments on the situation at Cassino, March, 1944.

British and Commonwealth
If you are a British or Commonwealth player Road to Rome is the book for you with nine lists included in the book.  Also, added for some good flavor are three heroes: Kamal RamSandy Thomas, and Ernest "Smokey" Smith.   Smith is probably the most interesting as, in a Canadian Infantry company you can purchase him as a single team or  his own separate Tank Hunter platoon which looks pretty salty.  The new Allied special rules are pretty cool. Allied Artillery allows all spotters of the allied side to spot for Allied Artillery and Dixie Air Support allows your AOP to coordinate with ground attack aircraft and re-roll failed range in attempts.

Rifle Company (Confident Vet and Fearless Vet) 
This list represents the British 78th Infantry Division and the 4th and 8th Indian Divisions.  With three divisions represented there are a lot of options on the chart.  The most interesting thing is the  Infantry combat platoons that are allowed to take APC support of LVT, Kangaroo or Defrocked Priest with a variety of MGs attached.  Under the Indian options you're able to take Gurkha platoons which hit on 2+ in assaults, very nasty.  The support platoon choices are dazzling from Polish and British Armor to American Tank Destroyers.  And speaking of Destroyers they can even get Navy Destroyers under the 78th option.  The Anzio units get Field Fortifications as an options as well.  I will be spending a lot of time making lists off this one as there's tons of good stuff in the list.

Commonwealth Rifle Company (Confident Vet)
Representing The New Zealand 2nd Division and the 1st Canadian Infantry Divisions.  Both Canadian and New Zealand have their respective National special rules that should be familiar to most. This list also has the APC option upgrade for the infantry platoons but not quite the stunning array of support platoons, but its close. The Maori option is available to the NZ 2nd Division which is always a favorite. Both have unique support choices to choose from like the New Zealand Divisional Cavalry or the Canadian Tank hunter platoon mentioned above.

6th Armored
Lorried Rifle Company (Confident Vet) 
Covering the 1st and 24th Guards Brigades, 6th Armoured and 6th South African Armoured Divsions.  Its a standard British Infantry configuration with the Guards ability to re-roll morale checks if you choose that option. You can also trade in the Guards  trucks for LVT Water Buffalos, which is a great upgrade (ed: Really? I'm going to hold you to that). The Guards get a variety of American support as well.

Recce Squadron (Confident Vet) Comprising the 78th Division and 1st Canadian  Recce Squadrons.  Here is where you will find your ton of Armoured Cars.  This lists combat platoons contain Humbers or Otters and Universal Carriers in great numbers. They get some solid Tank and Infantry support as well plus US light tanks which, most of the Brit lists do not get. For an Armoured Car list it has a lot of good support.

Divisional Cavalry Squadron (Confident Vet) 
The 2nd New Zealand Divison's Cavalry Squadron has always been a gamer favorite.  A new trick in their book is a pregame swap out of one of their Recon Platoons for a Utility platoon of Pioneers and a Staghound.   The basic combat platoon consists of Staghounds which are not a bad vehicle in the recon realm.  Their support options are not as good as other recon outfits but they do get two tank slots and two infantry slots so what else do you need?

Tank Squadron(Confident Vet) 
Brings you the heavies of the 21st and 25th Army Tank Brigades. Its Churchills all day with some unique Sherman mixes we have not seen a lot of before.  You can mix Shermans and Chruchills of all varity in the platoon.You can back stop the weak Churchill gun with a support choice of Achilles or M10s which nice and gives them some punch. The list also has recon Stuarts and some good infantry choices.

Armoured Squadron(Confident Vet)
Puts together the 6th Amoured , 2nd New Zealand, I Canadian Corps, and 6th South African Armoured.  With 4 different units depicted, the combat platoon choices are pretty varied including 76mm, and firefly choices for the different divisions.  Even beyond the combat platoons there are unique weapons platoons available to the 2nd New Zealand.  All of units have a good recon choice of Stuarts or Scout Cars and M10s.  The infantry and artillery support has all the goodies, even american artillery options.

Motor Company (Confident Vet Infantry Company)
All the infantry components of the Armoured Divisions listed above are represented with the Motor Companies.  The small team count of the Motor Platoon combat platoons are made up for by the firepower of their upgrade to MG teams.  The South African version is large but rated Rifle/MG team.  If you like 6 pdrs this might be the list for you they get two platoons of 4 of them.

Armoured Car Squadron (Confident Vet) 
Representing the 1st Household Cavalry, 27th Lancers and the Royal Canadian Dragoons.  Here we have the Staghound list of the book coming in with a variety of Staghound configurations.  The list has a couple of unique support choices of Infantry and gun half tracks.  With two tank options, the list can have some real backbone and it looks like a lot fun to play.   Not much infantry choices but the artillery options are all there that everybody else gets.

Road to Rome includes the II Polish Corp and, interestingly, Battlefront did something a little different with this list.  They changed the training rating based on time, meaning April to August 44 the Polish are Trained but after August they are Veteran.  Pretty cool way of doing it.  The Poles are organized along British order of battle and equipment but still a unique force. Just have a look at their hero Wojtek the Bear.  For special rules, the Poles get company morale check re-rolls, dixie air support and allied artillery mentioned with the British.

Wojtek, your friend.
Kompania Piechoty (Fearless Tained or Vet Infantry Company)
The standard British infantry configuration with all the support you are used to seeing with Brit Rifle Companies.  The real difference is in their Fearless ratings.  The list gets two tank choices that include both British and Polish options along with a Polish M10 platoon.  The usual artillery and AAA units are there as well.

Szwadron Rozpoznawczy (Fearless Trained or Vet Mechanized Company) 
An armoured car company with bizarre mix of armored cars.  The Poles must of have got a little from all the depots with Staghound, Otter, and even Humber variants.  As with other British type armoured car organizations the scads of Bren Carriers are also an option.   The list also has two infantry slots, one tank and one M10 slot. So the support is there to do battle for the Poles.

Szwadron Pancerny (Fearless Trained or Vet Tank Company)
Comprises the Polish Sherman tank company.  The basic combat platoon has 3 Shermans with an option of adding a Firefly for some salty anti-tank.  The list has good recon Stuarts and two infantry slots.   It can also get armoured cars and Bren carriers for total of 3 recon slots so nobody is sneaking up on these guys.  The M10 and artillery choices round out the list and make pretty good combo of tools for the job.

By 1944 the US Army in Italy had some really good Divisions in it and Road to Rome captures that flavor nicely.  With nine lists in the book you get variety of choices for the Americans and some of the best infantry the US has. The Allied Artillery rule, where an observer can spot for other nations artillery, is the only overall new rule for the US in the book.

Rifle Company (Confident Vet or Trained) 
Depicts the infantry of Fifth Army in Italy from the veteran 3rd, 34th, 45th to the trained 92nd and 88th.  RtR gives a good breakdown of the Divisions you can do and which options to use.  Our old favorites the 3rd ID and their special rules are back  with Sharpshooter and Medal of Honor winners along with some new tricks. The Anzio units like the 3rd get Field Fortifications and Naval Gunfire support choices which is new for them. I could probably spend two pages talking about all the different options and support for this list, its simply massive.  I will be spending a lot of time on this one looking at all the different combos.

Rifle Company Nisei (Fearless Vet or Trained) comprises the Fearless Trained 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Fearless Vet 100th Infantry Battalion. The 442nd get some really good special rules like passing morale checks on 2+ and having chance to keep assaulting after being pinned down. The list has two armor slots for tanks, light tanks, and either tank destroyers or assault guns. All the usual good US Artillery is here as well.

First Special Service Force (Fearless Trained) This list gets a ton of special rules as they are a US / Canadian commando unit, it is a sad thing these guys are rated Trained which really limits them (ed: I'd argue the historical veracity of that choice by the way).  They probably should have had at least the Polish double rating due to time. Oh well, the list does have some really good support of two tank and a tank destroyer options. The FSSF has recon and even Naval Gunfire options as support included also.

Ranger Battalion(Fearless Trained)
This list gives us the 6615th Ranger Force at the Anzio beachhead.  The Rangers got an upgrade to their rules as they're now able to hit on a 3+ in assaults which brings them more in line with their commando training.  They also get mission tactics, mountaineers, Truscott Trot through slow going, and I shall never fail my comrades rule. The list is pretty light on support choices with only one tank choice but they do get good artillery and Naval Gunfire. It's important to note that both the FSSF and the Rangers have had some interesting changes made to their rules; no longer hitting on a 2+ or solely counting Ranger/FSSF platoons for company morale checks.

Parachute Rifle Company (Fearless Veteran) The 504th Parachute Rifle Regiment are interesting in their make up as they are comprised of the mid-war organization with two smaller sized units led by two command teams rather than the later war single command team and mission tactics combo.  The Paras get a tank option and a tank destroyer option so at least these guys get some good armor support.  They also get a good recon choice and a British Infantry as a support option. The Anzio Naval Gunfire slot is also in the list along with several artillery choices.

Dismounted Cavalry Troop(Confident Vet Infantry Company)
Depicts the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron.  The 91st gets the special rule of mountaineers along with their boots and saddles rule which allows a lot of swapping out for heavy weapons in the combat platoons.  They get one armor box with a variety of choices, including a New Zealand tank platoon.  They also get an infantry choice that includes French and British Infantry and finally options for both American and British artillery.

Cavalry Recon Troop(Confident Vet Infantry Company???) 
This list is 91st Cavalry Recon Troop and, while I am not sure its supposed to be rated as an infantry company, that is what the book has.  This list is the basic late war US M8 Armored Car and Jeep combo patrols with two slots of Stuart light tanks. The list gets one tank slot and one infantry slot that includes French as well as US infantry.  The artillery choices include a Priest battery and corps artillery.

Tank Company (Confident Vet)
The 1st Armored Division gets an upgrade with this list to be more in line with their Northern European cousins, including the venerable Detroit's finest, Improvised armor, Tank telephones and Smooth Ride special rules.  Like other late war US tank combat platoons you are allowed to upgrade to Easy Eights and 76mm Shermans. You can also go pure 76mm Sherman.  Two light tank choices, assault gun, and tank destroyers round out the armor choices.  For infantry you have a large menu that even includes British platoons.  These guys have good recon and also the usual artillery with the Naval Gunfire option.

Armored Rifle Company (Confident Vet) 
Representing the Armored Infantry of the 1st Armored Division. Its pretty standard late war ARP combat platoons of the super tough veteran type.  The armor support has two tank or one tank destroyer option, and an assault gun option in the weapons platoon. They can also take cavalry recon options and a infantry slot that includes British choices.  The standard US artillery package is available again along with Naval Gunfire and British artillery options.

Road to Rome covers the French Expeditionary Corps (FEC) which consisted of 5 Infantry Divisions and their Corps support, all equipped and organized along US Army lines.  Some interesting formations and rules are found with the French.  The Whole Corps is rated as Mountaineer!  In other words, all the Infantry and Man-packed gun teams are mountaineers and even gun-teams get Pack Mules which gives them mountaineer as well.  Further special rules are the ability to re-roll morale checks from being pinned down, re-rolling assault counter attack rolls, and the old French Central Fire Control Rule. Additional special rules are found with the Goums.

Compagnie De Tiralleurs (Infantry Company Confident Vet)
This is standard US infantry organization with US equipment.  Notable differences at the Regimental level include the Cannon platoon being comprised of 75mm Pack Howitzers and the the inclusion of FEC Corps support choices along with allied US support.

Goum (Infantry Company Fearless Trained) 
Goums were rugged North African tribes men and as such they get the special rules of  3+ hit on assault rolls, Cautious Movement along with the FEC special rules. Gamers will play these guys cause they hit like trucks!  But overall the force is weak on Bazookas and extra Battalion support choices. They do get the standard FEC and US support however.

Escadron De Spahi ( Mechanized Company Confident Vet) 
This is the old US Reconnaissance Company organization, which is good one.  The basic two M3A1, Mortar Jeep, and a Recon Jeep fits well with the game much better than the Late War US organization of two jeeps and a M8.  They also get tons of Stuarts.  Where this force is weak is in the heavy AT area with only one Tank or TD choice, but they get two Infantry and plenty of Artillery in the Corps choices.

In our next installment of this exhaustive review we'll take you through the German and Italian forces in the Fortress Italy compilation and leave you with some final thoughts.

The WWPD crew can be heard putting more boots into Italy on the "WWPD: News from the Front Podcast" where Flames of War goes to dig-in.  

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