Piercing the Gothic Line Axis AAR

This custom made historical based scenario by Chris over at The Sharp End Gaming pits elements of the Axis 4th Fallschirmjäger Division against elements of the Allies 85th Infantry Division is the inhospitable confines of the Il Giogo Pass during the Gothic Line Offensive which took place from August 1944 to March 1945. This scenario starts on September 12th and lasts approximately 2 ½ days.

I start with a force of 1,421 personnel, 101 non-armored fighting vehicles, 36 artillery tubes, an anti-personnel firepower rating of 829, an anti-armor rating of 533, a bombardment rating of 241 and an infantry value of 317. This force is situated on all the scenario objectives except for the principal one, Il Giogo Pass which is worth 25 Victory Points (16.7 on occupation and 8.3 on completion).

There is a robust reinforcement schedule provided with fast arrival times: 6 individual units will arrive on the first day of the scenario in various locations with the last one scheduled at 20:00. These reinforcements are a mix of paras and artillery. There is an additional reinforcement unit, a StuG III Brigade (9 armored fighting vehicles) which is slated to arrive anytime from D01 22:30 to D02 12:30. This fourteen hour window makes for some interesting potential outcomes.

First, if that force arrives early and is committed early, the enemy can have more time to attack it and thus reduce its overall combat effectiveness. Second, if it arrives late and is committed immediately it could be just enough to swing an objective back to the Axis side (if needed). Looking over the objectives and how they are constructed, the primary objective Il Giogo Pass offers the most Completion Victory Points at 8.3, so committing the StuG’s there would seem prudent.

D01 06:00 My initial orders are to spread out the artillery units at the top of the map in order to maximize their bombardment range rings on the available terrain. 1 Coy 4 FJ Pioneer Bn is ordered to move to the Il Giogo Pass Objective while the flak battalion in the fortress is moved down into the main roadway running through the pass.

D01 06:00 The LOS Area Tools reveals some rather optimal site lines from this position (better than what the unit had when deployed at the fort). If for nothing else, they will serve as cannon fodder to delay (albeit rather briefly) and Allied forces moving on through.

D01 12:31 4 (SP) Bty 5 Flak Bn arrives in the north along the main road and is ordered to take up a defensive position between the Monticelli and Mt. Altuzzo Observation Post objectives. The units 12 2cm Falkvierling guns are orientated in a SW facing in line formation with a Frontage of 900m and a depth of 100m.

At this point my intention is to utilize 5, 6 and 7 companies that are scheduled to arrive over the next eight hours to plug any holes that develop on some of the outlying objectives. If need be, I will collapse the forces defending those locations backwards into a sort of a manual delaying action towards the pass in order to suck some Allied forces into an ad hoc kill zone.

D01 16:02 5 Coy 12 FJ Regt arrives (all 62 of them) and is ordered to take up a defensive position just north of the Verucca Outpost Line Objective which has fallen to the Allies.

D01 19:08 6 Coy 12 FJ Regt arrives (71 personnel) and is ordered to take up a defensive position along an incline between the Mt. Altuzzo Southern Slope Objective and the Mt. Verucca Objective with the hopes of shoring up the repulse of the Allied concentration developing to the south.

D01 20:06 The remainder of the soft unit reinforcements arrive in the form of 7 Coy 12 FJ Regt (165), IG Pl II Bn 12 FJ Regt (2 7.5cm IG 18 guns) and Mortar Pl II Bn 12 FJ Regt (4 8cm GrW 34 tubes). This group is cobbled together to initiate a probe of the lost Verucca Outpost Line Objective. The group is ordered to form up in the light woods at the edge of the map and move east to west across your radio dial.

D02 00:00 The probe from 7 Coy on the Verucca Outpost Line Objective had wrestled control from the Allies several times through the late evening hours, so I believe if I can maintain the integrity of that effort (with applied artillery strikes) I may be able to spoof the AI commander into committing the bulk of his forces there.

D02 01:48 The final reinforcement has arrived, 1 Bty 11 StuG Bde (six StuG III G and three StuH 42 armored fighting vehicles). For me, this arrival time is a bit early so in order to preserve them for combat at end game, I decided to park them in the center of the line.

D02 06:00 All objectives have been achieved, however I am curious about the situation at the Verucca Outpost Line Objective, with 7 Coy 12 FJ Regt having taken it in the face of two Allied units with current sighting age and good reliability.

This takes me back to the BftB Game Manual as well as the Scenario Editor to see how the objective was constructed. For the Axis player (me), the Verucca Outpost Line Objective is a simple Defend type objective. For the Allied player (the AI), it is a more complex Secure type objective.

According to the game manual, to achieve a Defend type objective all the player has to do is to have at least one unit within the objective perimeter. To achieve a Secure type objective however, the AI player must have at least one unit within the objective perimeter but must also have a 10:1 superiority in Combat Power (not personnel) over the enemy within the perimeter.

It is interesting to note that the game manual indicates that there is no Defend type objectives used in the official scenarios. Being somewhat skeptical of this statement, I opened up the colossal HTTR expansion pack campaign “Red Devils Over Arnhem”, and sure enough there are no defend objectives for either side. They are mostly Secure objectives with a smattering of Secure Crossing and Deny Crossing objectives.

As a scenario designer this is something to evaluate for current and future projects.

D02 12:01 Things are not progressing well for the Axis forces as I have lost two minor objectives and have had several units destroyed. At this point I am hoping that the flak battalions sitting on the main road through the pass can inflict sufficient enough damage against the enemy as to allow me to sneak out the StuG’s to recapture one of the lost objectives.

D02 18:00 Fearing a breakthrough, I order 5 and 6 Coy 12 FJ Regt to move into defensive positions in the pass. My hopes of preserving the armor units for a late game Hail Mary are quickly fading as they are now the front door to the Il Giogo Pass Objective.

D03 00:00 I order 7 Coy 12 FJ Regt to shift from a probe to a simple movement to just inside the perimeter of the Verucca Outpost Line Objective. While this is certainly a gamey move, I do it without shame or remorse.

D03 06:00 With 5 and 6 Coy in position in the pass, I move the StuG Bde in a specific routing around possible enemy concentrations to a defensive position at the Highway 6524 Objective. The green sliver in the screen capture is the shortest route tool for motorized units to verify it can cross the stream (although at 1%).

D03 12:00 The American forces have shown their intent and with it my untimely move of the StuG’s to an outlying objective (which they did achieve) instead of holding them back to defend Il Giogo Pass (which was my original intent). I am forced to order 5 and 6 Coy to defend at that objective, knowing that I only have to have one unit within the perimeter of a Defend type objective.

D03 18:00 My array of forces on the Il Giogo Pass Objective have been completely knocked off. In an attempt to apply a Band-Aid to a gunshot wound to the chest, I order the StuG Bde (what is left of it) to race to the objective and tip it back in my favor.

After-action Report

D03 18:01 The StuG’s were held up by an inconsequential engagement along their route. For a brief moment 5 Coy 12 FJ Regt stepped into the perimeter and tipped its achievement back to the Axis side, but they were brutally swept aside by the contingent of Allied forces that had amassed there.

Review Final Situation

D03 18:01 The Americans placed 399 personnel at the Il Giogo Pass Objective, and although it was a Secure type objective for them requiring a 10:1 superiority in Combat Power, all they really had to do was remove my weak forces from the perimeter which they did quite efficiently. The StuG Bde was engaged with A Coy 338 Inf Regt along the main road and could not get there before the scenario ended.

Post mortem: This scenario was a challenge for me in that I am not used to fighting at the company and platoon level. My preference is larger ops which include regiments, battalions and the like. That being said, this is one of those offerings which can take you out of your comfort zone when the reinforcement unit you are depending on to turn the tide of battle is in reality 60-70 odd men in total strength. It is a real challenge to play tactically and not just pushing counters around.

Update 12/10/13

Chris updated the scenario file to make a minor tweak (no impact to the game if played with reinforcements active for the Axis) and I took the opportunity to just sit down and play it all the way through without worrying about an AAR, and the result was a crushing Decisive Victory for the Axis at a score of 100 Victory Points to 14.

Basically when the remainder of the soft unit reinforcements arrived in the form of 7 Coy 12 FJ Regt (165), IG Pl II Bn 12 FJ Regt (2 7.5cm IG 18 guns) and Mortar Pl II Bn 12 FJ Regt (4 8cm GrW 34 tubes), they were sent in a deep plunge south along the map and then hooked west to bring them into visual range of the HQ, supply and artillery units of the Allies.

At that point I pounded the hell out of those positions, setting some barrage durations to a full day just to witness the carnage that ensued. The Allies lost 1,008 personnel to only 232 for the Axis, with almost 50% of the casualties coming in the form of Bombardment causation.

After-action Report

Review Final Situation


  1. The AAR has been completed: constructive feedback is appreciated.

  2. Nice AAR. I never have the patience to produce any. I've played this as axis a couple of times and won decisive victories both times. One the first occasion I think no reinforcements showed up so be warned! I found it harder to win as allies - very happy with the casualties inflicted and had grabbed Giogo pass so at present an allied commander needs several other objectives too.

  3. Hi Ranger thanks for this AAR! I will add to the post about the scenario. Defend v. secure objectives is interesting. Something to mull over for sure.

  4. New AAR and RFS screen shots from a second round which resulted in a Decisive Victory for the Axis.


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