Some hints about FSTR mechanics - translation by Giuseppe Tamba
It sounds a little odd to discover a game about Italy Campaign in WW2 with only ten game turns. To tell the truth, every turn is divided in a variable number of impulses, every impulse is divided in two phases, one for the Allies and one for the Axis, and Initiative is variable too.
FSTR has a really versatile frame. It was inevitable, because I think a campaign with stricted turn structure and rigid mechanics, keeping an eye with ground scale and troops level I chose to use, may result in a boring and endless affair (yes, I know this was the reality of the Italian campaign…) and in a frustrating kind of experience for both players.
In my opinion, the worst game experience!
The focus of the game is the OPERATION concept.
Every time a player wants to move, fight, use Intelligence, move Reserves at long range, prepare landings, launch air assaults, use air missions, in short for almost every activity is necessary to launch an Operation.
Every Operation is constrained by the number of Activation Points the players may use.
These points are few, so is of paramount importance to have plan, and to follow this plan, till it obtains the results you desire.
Or it may be a disaster, and you need to change direction dramatically.
Generally speaking, the most common Operation is about moving and fighting with ground forces.
But even the simplest operation asks for some hard decision: is better to active one or more Corps at once in order to launch a potentially decisive big Operation, or is better to active just one or two divisions and move on carefully, saving Activations points for later?
Both choices have perks and flaws. The former I may expend all my Activation points, but I gather a good attack force. The latter I may win just a little local breakthrough, but I have resources to active again the same divisions in the next impulse, and to push them forward farther and farther.
So basically you must balance between two options: move, let’s say, 6 or 7 division for one or two Impulses within a turn, or move, within a turn, 2 or 3 divisions only but for 3 or 4 Impulses…It’s hard choice!
Military burocracy and Rivalry wants its toll too: Until Monty is leaving to join Overlord, The V US Army and the British VIII Army has no common Activation points! A big headache for the Alexander’s player! The Kesselring’s player smiles instead…
Map and Terrain
From the Allied point of view, the terrain is a nightmare! It’s a real hell, when you try to move North, mountains get higher and harder, the roads for supply more jammed and narrow, the rivers you have to cross are more and more, and they always cut your path….and if the German player did a good job, Cassino and the Gustav line are waiting for you…
Play FTSR and realize quickly how impossible is to use large armored formations!
More, add the Wheather!. Rain and poor weather between October and March is very frequent. This means Mud, traffic jams, troops bogged down, grounded air forces…welcome to “Sunny Italy”!
In all seriousness, I hope to have achieved a good result with the map and it should give the right mood for an interesting game.
The armies in FSTR are asymmetric: they reflect two different doctrinal approaches, and they are different in strength and composition.
Allied forces generally are Regiments for US or brigades for the British, so a standard division has 3 infantry counters and 6 steps. Support tank formations are independent, and they are at battalion level. Very old school.
All german mobile divisions are composed by infantry batallions (with recce and engineers) and kampfgruppen of 15-25 tanks. So let’s say a panzer grenadier division may absorb more losses (teorically, 6 or 7 step for Infantry and from 2 to 4 steps for Tanks, but they are often understrength), and, more important, it may divide in order to cover a wider area, or concentrate quickly when it is needed.
German mobile forces have an other advantage, the Reaction Number (It’s the boxed yellow value on the counter)
How does it works? It’s easy, if an enemy unit is inside the reaction range of a unit with this special capability, the reacting unit may move during the enemy impulse phase, before other enemy unit move. It’s a kind of Interrupt!
So, the German may disengage while the Allies are moving, but not without blowing that key bridge for your advance….Yes, it’s not easy to force the Germans to fight. During the early phases of the campaign, the Allied didn’t manage to pin the retreating german forces. In other words, the german player has a wide range of options for when and where to fight. But…he cant’t retreat forever…!
When the frontline becomes static, the german infantry divisions start arriving. They have the traditional structure of 2 or 3 counters (regiment)s for every division, and no Reaction number at all, like the Allied forces.
But thinking the Allied player is slow and clumsy is a big mistake: he has by his own side air and artillery superiority, and may hinder enemy moves through Interdiction. More, he may achieve strategic surprise by amphibious landings and – with limited extent- by para air drops.
Here the lack of proportion is clear: the Allies have a far greater superiority on planes, ships and guns. It’s OK. But shelling a mountain hex, garrisoned by a fistful of troops inside an hamlet won’t let you win the Campaign!
But if a formation moves to attack , exposing itself…well, this a different matter.
Artillery has often the chance to act, if not activated before, during enemy impulse, shelling the moving columns with devastating effect…
Winning the game
The Allied player win a decisive victory as soon as he gets control of Roma (and has Napoli in his hands), with supplied forces; more, a certain number of enemy steps must be eliminated within the first Impulse of the last game turn (more or less before, June, 6….after that Clark lose his chance for Glory and the Italian front became a sideshow in front of Overlord).
He wins a marginal victory if he just controls Roma (don’t forget Napoli) at the end of the tenth turn.
The German player wins a decisive victory if the Allied losses are above a determinate threshold, and a marginal victory if the Allies does not fulfill any one of their own victory conditions.
Victory conditions are still work in progress and need some fine tuning, in my opinion. I’m working on these.
About the title
At the beginning, the title of the game was Kesselring’s option. I opted for From Salerno to Rome, in order to save Kesselring’s option for my favorite scenario. This is a “what if” scenario, and it depicts a german armoured force, coming from Northern Italy, counterattacking in direction of Foggia. Among them, the fearful 1st SS Panzer Division. It needs some playtest, but it is a very strange and different scenario. Probably I will add an optional rule in order to incorporate it into the campaign, and the german player will have to flip a coin to decide if OKW trusts Kesselring and send him strong reinforcement or not…. We’ll see!