Piercing Fortress Europa AAR Part I
I am learning the ropes for a game I think is highly under-rated, and largely forgotten by digital wargamers: Piercing Fortress Europa. Below is an AAR covering my recent play of the Italian campaign, during the winter of 1944.
Situation January 2, 1944: The Allied Left: The Oak Tree Division and the US 36th Infantry (Texas Division) swing into action against the German right flank.
The attack fails, despite having nearly a 2 to 1 advantage in troops. The Liri and Garigliano rivers coupled with mountainous terrain and a prepared, German defensive line of fortifications, the “Gustav Line,” are enough to turn the attack back.
Six days later: A new attack is forming on the left. The British 5th infantry, part of the British X Corps, attacks against the same portion of the line the 46th failed on. Twenty four kilometers east of them, the French 3rd Infantry Division, a mountain unit, is attacking Cassino and twenty four kilometers east of the French, the US 45th Infantry division also attacks. I level the combat air support for each division to 3 (max level) in the hopes influencing ground operations. I also shift my airpower points to favor ground attacks (airpower points are allocated on a sliding scale. The player assigns priority to air interdiction, air superiority and ground support). I haven’t assigned replacements yet to any unit, for fear of disrupting one of them prior to my planned attack, a nuance of the game that I think is really interesting.
January 20th: Attacks against the German right flank are failing. General Mark Clark, US Fifth Army commander, shifts the attack over to the French Expeditionary Corps. Their Alpine troops might be just what is needed to end the stalemate. Behind them I am feeding replacements into the units that attacked during the first two weeks of January. The German High Command is too, for the units the Allies face seem to have replenished their manpower. The German 71st Infantry division moves behind the Gustav line, a fresh formation Allied planners are none to happy to see. The snow and German defenses repulse the French attack.
On the east coast of Italy, Eighth Army under Montgomery, wants the ball. Replacements, and reserve units stream towards Ortona, where Montgomery is headquartered. The Canadian 1st Infantry Division “amphibious moves” behind the German 1st Parachute division. While further west, the New Zealand 2nd Division attacks the German line. The ease of Operation Baytown, the landings at Taranto in southern Italy, are a distant memory. The fighting is tough.
It grinds on for weeks. Snow and rain, ground air support. The Canadians are hard pressed and nearly encircled, with the Adriatic at their backs. Replacements flow, including the US 34th Infantry division, which joins the 8th Army. Montgomery wanted X Corps back, but only got one American infantry division in return. Privately, Churchill considers replacing Montgomery, but thinks the better of it; Imperial General Chief of Staff, Alan Brooke, has come to Montgomery’s rescue.
The 1st Canadian Armored brigade joins the 1st Canadian Infantry Division on the beaches north of Pescara. Monty brings up the tough, 4th Indian Division to bolster Eighth Army’s attack, diverting them from going to the “unimaginative” Mark Clark’s Fifth Army. Rumors spread that Monty has one too many bottles of red wine and a sumptuous dinner party after that triumph.
But combat supply points are running low, and so he is forced to prioritize his attacks with the hopes of freeing the Canadians. An amphibious withdrawal of the Canadians would be a blow to the overall effort in Italy, and so Monty tells them to hold on.
The Red Eagles, under BG Harry Dimoline, attack up the coastal road against the 1st Parachute division. Given Air Priority 3, and nearly full strength, much is riding on the attack.
Further West, British X Corps, still part of the US Fifth Army, finally crosses the Garigliano river, but runs out of combat supply. Attacks by two French divisions, X Corps and the US 45th division have all failed to root out the Germans from Monte Cassino. But while 15th Panzergrenadier clings to their positions, the Germans have suffered setbacks on that fortress’ flanks.
Privately Monty is fuming, because while Clark has made progress in the West, a German counterattack has erased the gains he has made with the 4th Indian division; the Canadians are encircled again, and he has had to move up three fresh divisions into the line, the 6th South African Armored division, the Polish 3rd Infantry division and the 10th Indian Division.
What will March hold for the Allies, I hope you wait and see…