Tuesday, 21 August 2012

AAR - FAB Sicily 19-Aug-12

FAB Sicily
Sunday was our second run at the 5-turn tournament scenario covering July 10, 1943 through to July 19, 1943. I took on the Axis forces against the combined efforts of GaryB (US forces) and AndyA (British forces).

Axis Setup

I knew that I'd be handing the Axis defence this week and read-up a little on some play-testing set-ups conscious that the Allies may elect to try the Alternate Landings instead of the Historical Landings used in Game #1. Unfortunately I was running late on the night and much of what I'd read was forgotten in my rush to get the game started. :)

There was however some method in my madness as I expected the British to deploy in the B2 through B6 landing areas (line A) to put pressure on the Port at Syracuse and the Port at Catania through Lentini, so I left Modica (point E) unpopulated. Elsewhere I constructed my own "Maginot line" (point I) as a strong fallback position should the Allies go for the Historical Landings.

(1) Axis Setup
Otherwise the random untried Italians were on coastal defence (to gain Field Works markers) and fairly spread out along some of line B as well as lines C and D. Looking back, I can see some clear weaknesses, especially around the Port of Palermo from points G and H, but the Allies didn't choose to exploit those in their set-up.

I also didn't consider placing any units around Messina (red area F in the picture). There are a lot of potential victory points here for the Allied player, but I felt that I could route the more mobile armoured units there if I needed to.

Allied Setup

Having considered my Axis setup the Allies chose the Alternate Landings option and placed their British forces in A4 and B1 through B4, with their US forces in D10 through D13 as pictured below.

(2) Allied Invasion Setup
From an Axis point-of-view I was quite pleased with their choices and felt that I could manage my forces well enough to cope. Turn one would be a bit of a wake-up call for this early optimism.

Turn #1

The Allied landings were an almost complete success and only one untried Italian unit survived the beach assaults vs. the US 1st Infantry in Monti Sicani (point A below). The Allies claimed an undamaged Port Syracuse and claimed their first Fading Italian Morale chit for the draw bag.

View after Allied turn #1
My untried units mostly failed their morale checks and generally rolled poorly against the mighty invasion forces, in fact my only success was to eliminate the US 82nd Airborne who dropped straight into combat with the two Livorno Mobile Infantry units at Canicatti (point B above). This airborne unit was worth 1VP to the Axis.

During the Admin Phase of my Axis turn I damaged the Port at Catania (point A below), blew bridges on the Simeto River (point B below) and built defensive field works in Val Di Catania, Vizzini and Caltanissetta (orange dots below). Meanwhile the Allies were using the British 3rd Commando asset to perform a flanking invasion at Lentini (point C below). These commandos survived and would remain awaiting Allied reinforcements.

View after Axis turn #1
A Panzer IV
During movement I brought the HG Armoured Panzer Division forward to Sortino to try and halt the Allied advance (movement D above).

The beleaguered green Italian unit in Monti Sicani was also reinforced by a strong Assietta Mountain Infantry unit (movement E above) and I reserve moved the Elite 15th Panzer Grenadier to the centre of the island in order to support the VP in Caltanissetta (movement F above). +7 NET VPs to Axis

Turn #2

Could the Allies exploit a gap in the Axis lines?
As we entered turn #2 I was sure that I'd made a mistake and opened the door for the Allies by leaving a gap in my lines at Mussomeli. To protect the VP at Caltanissetta I blew bridges across the Platani and Salso Rivers.

Allied infantry did indeed move through the Mussomeli Gap (movements A and B below) and re-engaged the strengthened Italians at Monti Sicani (point D below). These advances and assaults would prove a devastating failure for the US forces.

A critical passage of play.
Firstly their assault at Monti Sicani met with stiff resistance from the Assietta Mountain Infantry and the US 1st Infantry sustain heavy losses with both units reducing down to one strength each.

Worse was to come however as their drive to exploit the gap in the Axis lines had created one in their own between Canicatti and Agrigento (Axis movement D in the picture to the left). My Livorno Mobile Infantry units moved in picking up 2 VPs from the unprotected beachheads.

I felt pretty bad for not warning them during their Movement Phase, but it was something that we'd covered in our first game. This is WAR after all! :)

Victory Points by turn.
These turn #2 losses, combined with another lost airborne unit saw the Axis forces move into a +10 NET VP lead moving into turn #3. A sudden death victory could be called after 4 turns if the Allies were on +2 NET VPs or the Axis were on +8 NET VPs, so my position was beginning to look almost comfortable.

Turn #3

Stung by the events of Turn #2, the Allies had to respond choosing to complete their breakthrough on the Axis lines and threaten both Termini Imerese (point B) and halving the distance to Messina itself (point C) with the Elite 45th Infantry.

The Allied Fightback
The US also withdrew two units back to the coast and assaulted the brave Livorno Mobile Infantry cutting off the Axis supply line in to them in the process (point A).

Meanwhile the British forces were struggling to make huge progress, but still threatening to capture the airfield at Niscemi. Generally the Allied battles were more successful in Turn #3, but they didn't manage to capture either Termini Imerese or Cattolica Eraclea despite significant Axis losses.

Allied 45th caught and destroyed at Nicosea

In the responding Axis turn I reinforced Termini Imerese (point B below) and sent an elite PG armoured division to deal with the breakaway US 45th Infantry unit at Nicosea, en route to Messina (point A below and in right-hand picture).

Axis Clean-up.
Our evening was drawing to a close and Turn #3 ended with the Allies losing their breakaway unit to give the Axis a +11 NET VP total. The Allies conceded defeat at this point.

Final Thoughts

Tonight's game really brought the game to life for me and although we are still getting the odd rule wrong, our pace has picked up considerably and we better understand the general flow of play. I was a little fortunate this evening, turning a genuine mistake into an opportunity to score two VPs from the US beachhead markers, but generally I was happy with how I handled the Axis forces.

I'd like to give the original fast action battles game "FAB Bulge" a try now and hope to pick-up FAB: Golan '73 when it comes out.

Next up is the full 9 turn campaign game via VASSAL.


  1. During the second try of this excellent war game I felt much more comfortable with the rules though I  am not sure that this particularly informed my actions during the game. We played through the turns a lot quicker than we did the first time though still we ate up the available four hours of game time to complete four turns of the tournament scenario. This was sufficient time to decisively conclude the winner but I was a a little disappointed that we were not able to get through the whole five turns in the four hour window.

    I read the comments GG made re: surprise with my setup and while the results cannot be disputed I don't think that it was a bad decision to setup my four US landing zone in the south of the island to the west of the historical beachheads. My plan was to hit the main roads towards Palermo and Messina and drive some sort of wedge between the Axis forces. Given my end position I believe that this is a perfectly workable plan and the failings were due to the execution and not the concept.

    The landings themselves went very smoothly and the italian coastal garrison folded nicely without much in the way of damage to the invading forces. I sent the elite infantry in on the centre of the invasion at Agrigento and my single armour unit in at Monteciago positioning them to charge up the road to (48) when supported by the second unit of armour on turn 2. The rest of my landing forces were arrayed to the west and were essentially there to hold the line during the first couple of turns.

    The gap left by the Axis forces was somewhat of a trap that I fell into. I moved the elite infantry in to this territory with the intention of supporting the main attack at (48) expecting the paratroopers I had dropped into (40) to hold for the turn that would allow the armour to roll up the road. When these paratroops and another batch I dropped in turn 2 were summarily executed this left a gap in my lines that allowed the italian forces to sweep in and seize two of my beachheads. This was a costly miscalculation and through the two italian units would be dangerous surrounded and most likely sacrificed in turn 5 it was sufficiently damaging to my strategy to prevent me from achieving my goal of taking the Palermo/Messina Line.

    My eventual desperate charge towards Messina was dramatic but doomed from the offset . I did get to see the wrath of a concerted German attack with all available assets which was fairly devastating to say the least.

    My analysis of the game was that the Germans have a easier job than I suspected from my playing of them in the first game. The Allies need to save their assets for a concerted push into the key defended regions particularly high in the island were the terrain favours defense.  Played well the Axis are a serious challenge and it was clear that GG was very comfortable with the rules.

    The next challenge will be playing the full game over VASSAL. We will post a AAR after we finish.

  2. Thanks for the comments Bingers :)

    My comments around the Allied setup were mostly ones of relief, as I'd thought (post my own setup) that my coastal protection around Palermo was weak. I was happier with what you both had selected as it better fitted what I'd set-up for.

    Another thing I missed was your potential to exploit those roads to Palermo/Messina. A little more luck with the airborne units and better protection of the US beachheads and the result could have been completely flipped!

    I guess that's another thing I like about the game and a lesson for me not to be complacent ahead of our VASSAL game. :)